Sunday, December 21, 2008

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Lots of Phoenician news today. First, a report on the progress of the Good Ship Phoenicia from UK:
Phoenicia Departs Port Sudan for the 'Pirate Zone'

The Phoenicia, seeking to rediscover and document the secrets of ancient Phoenician mariners while circumnavigating the continent of Africa, are just about to depart Port Sudan in the Red Sea, heading towards the Gulf of Aden and the 'Pirate Zone'.

They had planned to stay for just 15 days, but it has taken two long months to make the changes to the ship that they think necessary to continue the voyage. First, they wanted to rebuild the aft end to insert a new and much larger thwart (a transverse support spreading the gunwales) to take the rudders. They also wanted to look at putting a small engine that will enable them to be less reliant on tows in and out of harbours. Compared to the ancients, the crew is quite small, and they lack the numbers to adequately row the vessel.

Now 'Phoenicia' is ready once again to sail on the high seas. ...

he next leg for the ship, which is taking on some new crew members in the Sudan, is to head for the Port of Aden in Yemen at the head of the Gulf of Aden. With piracy hitting the international headlines frequently over the past few months, and the crew about to embark upon a passage around the horn of Africa, they have been receiving more and more enquiries about what impact this will have on the expedition.

They have been working with the assistance of risk management company Drum Cussac over the last 12 months and want to assure supporters that they are taking the risk very seriously.

One would hope so.
The trip so far:
The Phoenician Ship Expedition departed from Arwad, Syria in August, and sailed through the Suez Canal via Egypt to the Sudan. Later it intends to round the Horn of Africa and sail down the east coast. Negotiating the dangers of the Cape of Good Hope will be a critical point in the expedition. The voyage will continue up the west coast of Africa, through the Straights of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean to return to Syria. The circumnavigation will involve 17,000 miles of sailing.

The Phoenicia Expedition is attempting to prove that the Phoenicians were the first people to conquer such a feat. Led by businessman and adventurer Philip Beale, the expedition is recreating the voyage of a 600 B.C. Phoenician vessel. This will put to rest the popular belief that Bartholomeu Dias was the first to sail around Africa in 1488. Philip Beale has previous experience with such a journey. In 2003, he set sail aboard the Borobudur, a recreation of another historical voyage from Indonesia to Africa. Beale has used his enthusiasm to inspire his crewmembers and encourage businesses to sponsor the trip. However, it is the quest for historical truth that drives the voyage forward.
So far, so good. And it's not too late to sign up for the crew! Details here. If you send in an application, let me know. It would be nice to have a PaleoJudaica correspondent on the ship.

Background here.

Next, the BBC updates a couple of Phoenician stories:
Divided Lebanon's common genes

By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Byblos, Lebanon

On the brightly lit stage dancers in colourful costumes twist and swirl in dizzying moves.

Beirut's main theatre is packed: Lebanese have come in hundreds for the premiere of a play that explores parallels between them and the Phoenicians - the ancient people who once inhabited their land.

The musical called "The Rise of Phoenix" is about defying hardships and the ability of a nation to rise from its own ashes.

But it is also a criticism of the lack of unity which led to the fall of the Phoenicians, and which is part of Lebanon's political reality today.

"We inherited that Phoenician mentality," says Osama Rahbani, one of the creators of the play.

The Phoenicians were good businessmen, but they were selfish, they were not united. I think the main point of the play is to remind the people that we must learn from our own history," Mr Rahbani says.

Background here.

The article goes on to discuss the recent work on the "Phoenician gene."
Dr [Pierre] Zalloua and his team studied DNA data from more than 6,000 men across the Mediterranean, and used a new analytical technique to detect the genetic imprint of historical migrations.

The Lebanese have been particularly enthusiastic about the project, with dozens still queuing up every day to have their DNA tested. Many, it seems, are hoping to discover their Phoenician ancestry.

"I will be more than happy to have Phoenician roots," says Nabil, a student as he waits for his turn to give blood for the test.

Lebanese team of geneticists led by Dr Pierre Zalloua (standing)
Dr Zalloua says the project's discovery is a "truly unifying message"

"Phoenicians started the civilization, they are the ones who invented the alphabet, I would be very proud to be a Phoenician," he adds.

There is a good chance that Nabil is of Phoenician descent - the study has revealed that while one in 17 people across the Mediterranean carry the Phoenician gene, in Lebanon almost a third of the population have Phoenician roots.

Dr Zalloua says in Lebanon the Phoenician signature is distributed equally among different groups and that the overall genetic make-up of the Lebanese is proving to be similar across various backgrounds.

"Whether you take a Christian village in the north of Lebanon or a Muslim village in the south, the DNA make-up of its residents is likely to be identical," says Dr Zalloua.

"I think it's a truly unifying message, and for me its very gratifying. Lebanon has been hammered by so many divides, and now a piece of heritage has been unravelled in this project which reminds us that maybe we should forget about differences and pay attention to our common heritage," says Dr Zalloua.

Background here.