Saturday, July 08, 2023

Interview: Aren Maier on Indiana Jones and everything else

CINEMA AND ARCHAEOLOGY: What Matters Now to archaeologist Aren Maeir: Indiana Jones’s new adventure. Working as a real archaeologist under the shadow of a Hollywood icon has been a mixed blessing for this actual prof, who explains how the field has evolved over the past 4 decades (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
“I think this has nothing to do with archaeology, and if anything, I would say it’s almost anti-archaeology in many ways, but it has brought archaeology to the public’s interest in a very, very significant manner and numerous archaeologists in the field for the last several decades have come to the field of archaeology because of the Indiana Jones movies,” said Maeir, the head of Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Archaeology and the longtime director of The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project.

After watching the new Indiana Jones film, “Dial of Destiny,” we ask Prof. Aren Maier, what matters now.

You can listen to this interview as a podcast or read the full transcription. Prof. Maier discusses Indiana Jones, but also many important current issues in Israeli archaeology and more broadly. A long read, but well worth your time.

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The case for a Davidic bureaucratic state?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Israeli Archaeologist Claims He Has Found David’s Kingdom, but Fellow Researchers Cry Foul. Prof. Yossi Garfinkel thinks a ring of fortified towns around Jerusalem proves David ruled over a substantial kingdom, but colleagues say those settlements may have nothing to do with ancient Judah (Ariel David, Haaretz).
Garfinkel’s study, published in June in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology, was greeted with reams of skepticism by many fellow archaeologists, who claim that his conclusions are based on assumptions and poorly interpreted data.

He does not aspire to fully validate the biblical account, which describes the United Monarchy of the Israelites as ranging from Egypt to the Euphrates River (2 Samuel 8). Garfinkel maintains that the territory David and Solomon ruled over was small, with borders lying maximum a day’s walk from Jerusalem. But a kingdom it was nonetheless, marked by a bureaucracy and standardized urban planning, the archaeologist concludes.


I have been watching this story for a while. This article has a good presentation of the thesis, the implications, and reactions by other archaeologists.

It would be nice to find some informative lapidary royal inscriptions of David or Solomon to go with the archaeology. One can hope. But in any case, as the article points out, the range of possibilities being discussed by archaeologists for the reality of the United Monarch has narrowed considerably.

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Friday, July 07, 2023

Review of Teague, New Testament Greek

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: New Testament Greek: a reading course, level 1.
Sally Teague, New Testament Greek: a reading course, level 1. Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2022. Pp. xvii, 347. ISBN 9780865168657

Review by
Jerry Green, University of Central Oklahoma.

... What sets New Testament Greek apart from other comparable introductory Greek textbooks is its attention to the experience of learning Greek from the student’s perspective. One sometimes gets the impression that the true audience of many Greek textbooks are other Greek instructors and scholars. But it is clear from the first page that Teague has written a book with the needs of the learner first and foremost in her mind. ...

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New head of UC's Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures

NEW APPOINTMENT: Timothy P. Harrison appointed director of the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures (uchicago news). (ISAC was formerly known as the Oriental Institute.)

Congratulations to Professor Harrison and to ISAC and the University of Chicago.

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Thursday, July 06, 2023

On Paul, Plato, Philo, and the Talmud

PHILOLOGOS (at Mosaic Magazine) has two essays about the possible influence of Plato, via Philo of Alexandria, on Paul of Tarsus and perhaps even on the Talmud. He promises a third essay as well. He opens with a reader's question about a passage in the Babylonian Talmud that could be taken to allude to a phrase used by Paul.

Were the Rabbis Riffing on Corinthians? Why is a phrase from a tractate in the Talmud so similar to one in Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians?

How Much Plato Did Paul or the Rabbis Know? A reader’s question prompts Philologos to turn up a crucial link between the three.

Mosaic is behind a subscription wall, but with free registration you can read two essays per month.

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Were There Jewish Gladiators?

THOSE DEADLY GAMES: Evidence ancient Jews watched but didn’t participate in gladiatorial games. If a Jews did occasionally fight, they would’ve probably opted to take on animals rather than people, according to a new scholarly article (Menachem Wecker, JNS).
A new scholarly paper finds “inconclusive” evidence that Jews participated in the ancient Roman gladiatorial games. But it is clear that they defied rabbinic admonitions and attended the games as spectators, wrote Haggai Olshanetsky, a University of Basel postdoctoral fellow in ancient civilizations.


The underlying article is in the open-access journal ‛Atiqot, vol. 111 (2023):
Were There Jewish Gladiators? A Re-Evaluation of the Available Archaeological and Textual Evidence
(pp. 119-147)
Haggai Olshanetsky
Keywords: Jews, gladiators, Judaism, arena, Colosseum, Roman Games

The participation of Jews in the arena, especially as gladiators, has received relatively little attention. The few articles written on this matter suggest that Jews were both spectators and participants. The present paper relates to all previously suggested indications for the existence of Jewish gladiators and also introduces new ones. Although the possibility that Jewish gladiators were active in the first–fourth centuries CE cannot be ruled out entirely, the evidence remains inconclusive, suggesting that their number was very limited at best. It is also suggested that if Jews had participated in the games, they probably preferred to fight beasts rather than men.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2023

IAA antiquites amnesty exceeds expectations

UPDATE: Israel’s Amnesty for Antiquities Looters Produces Treasures. The sarcophagus on the porch, an anchor, the army officer with glue, heaps of coins and jewels, grandkids with no appreciation of the finer things in ancient life: Here are some of the things the Antiquities Authority found when people were given a chance to hand over illegally taken artifacts from archaeological sites in Israel (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
“We received hundreds of inquiries from citizens and thousands of items were returned to the authority – among them large collections of interesting and special antiquities,” [IAA Director Eli] Escozido says by text. “To be honest, even we were amazed by the intensity of the response and the items that people kept in their homes.

“No less gratifying is the widespread response and the understanding that they must be returned to their rightful place. With us, in the state treasures, the sensitive items will be documented and preserved against the ravages of time. Some of them will go to exhibitions, and probably some of them, after research, will add information about the country’s past,” he says.

The amnesty is now over, but it seems to have been wildly successful. Background here and here.

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The discoverer of that "oldest known book"

THE DISCOVERER TELLS HER STORY: She discovered part of the 'oldest-known book in the world'. What happens next? Theresa Zammit Lupi says she hopes even older discoveries will be made (Jessica Arena, Times of Malta).
Maltese conservator Theresa Zammit Lupi has made a tremendous discovery in mapping the history of the production of books after she came across what has since been dubbed The Graz Mummy Book, it was announced last week.


Background here, here, and here.

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Update on that Jerusalem cave with mikveh & inscriptions

SPLEUNIC ICONOGRAPHY AND ARAMAIC EPIGRAPHY: Random Graffiti or Encoded Messages? The Mysterious Message in A Second-Temple Period Mikvah (unattributed,

This article is a summary of an article in Qadmoniot, a journal of the Israel Exploration Society which is in Hebrew and behind a subscription wall.

I noted the discovery of the cave in 2015 here and here. This is the first update I have seen. The most interesting new information concerns the drawings of ships. It mentions the Aramaic inscriptions, but does not discuss any decipherments. There are some good photos too.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Three Aramaic/Syriac conferences

THE ARAM SOCIETY FOR SYRO-MESOPOTAMIAN STUDIES at Oxford University has three conferences running over the next two weeks. You can view the programs for them at the links below.

Fifty-Second International Conference: The Aramaeans B.C.: History, Literature, and Archaeology
5-7 July 2023
(Venue: The Institute for Asian & Middle Eastern Studies)

Fifty Third International Conference: Syriac Christianity (including Syriac Christianity in Kerala)
10th – 12th July 2023
(Venue: The Oriental Institute, Pusey Lane)

Fifty-Fourth International Conference:Melkite Christianity (The Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem)
13-15 July 2023
(Venue: The Oriental Institute, Pusey Lane)

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch and Syriac Watch.

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More codex discussion

VARIANT READINGS: What Do We Mean By “Codex”? (Brent Nongbri). Apparently it's complicated!

Further to posts on a new candidate for the earliest surviving codex here and here.

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For July 4th

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: July 4 in USA — Lycian League — A Model for the Founding of the USA (Carl Rasmussen). Happy US Independence Day to all those celebrating!

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Monday, July 03, 2023

Muon imaging the Jerusalem tunnels

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Israeli Archaeologists Enlist Cosmic Rays to Unveil Underground Secrets of Jerusalem. Using method pioneered in studying the pyramids, researchers hope subatomic particles from outer space can reveal unknown underground voids, including near the flashpoint Temple Mount (Ariel David, Haaretz).
A team of Israeli physicists and archaeologists is now attempting to track the movement of subatomic particles called muons to map a complex array of ancient tunnels, cisterns and other underground voids beneath Jerusalem.

The method recently proved its worth by revealing an unknown chamber in Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. ...

I noted an earlier story about a "void" found by the ScanPyramids Project in the Great Pyramid here and here. The same project located the chamber mentioned in the above article this year. More on that here.

I have been saying for years that the way forward for studying the Temple Mount was non-invasive and non-destructive technologies.

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The MagEIA Center in Germany

A team of German university professors has set up a specialized center dedicated to researching and understanding ancient magic and magical texts, with a focus on the spread of that knowledge across ancient Egypt, the ancient Near East, and surrounding regions.

Dubbed “Magic between Entanglement, Interaction, and Analogy,” or MagEIA, the new center will spend at least four years and 3.5 million euros analyzing ancient magic and magical tests to determine how the texts and the ancient knowledge they contain originated and how they could spread from the Eastern Mediterranean to Egypt and Central Asia several thousand years ago. ...

To undertake such a comprehensive and as yet elusive undertaking, the team says that along with their respective areas of expertise, they have also enlisted the assistance of experts in classical philology, ancient history, and biblical studies. ...

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