29 February 2008

*sigh*

I meant to post this yesterday, I swear. Life has just come at me pretty quick and hard recently, so I haven't been posting as much as I usually do. Sorry 'bout that. You'll have to settle with bullet points this time. Lately in archaeological news:

-The Shroud of Turin gets digitized.

-The British Army and British Museum officials will be helping to further document the condition of various archaeological sites and museums across Iraq that have undergone extensive looting since the US-led invasion of that country in 2003. Unfortunately the Army will not be lending security to these sites, which is desperately needed at this point.

-apparently there is a novel by William Dietrich called "Napoleon's Pyramids" that is centered around Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798-99. The sequel to said novel has been released entitled, "Rosetta Key" and is already getting a lot of buzz. Once I finish my ten million other unread novels on my shelf, I'll have to get to this one.

-finally, a nice history of February 29th and the Leap Year courtesy of the NY Times.


24 February 2008

They're digging in the wrong place

Back from a small break, this article is slightly old but especially for you Dad! He's always asking me to find the Ark of the Covenant so he (and I?) can retire a rich man. Well Dad I guess we should start looking not in Israel or Egypt, but Zimbabwe.

Tudor Parfitt, "a real life scholar-adventurer," says he has a big lead on how the Ark left Jerusalem before the fall of Israel to Babylon in 586 B.C. This story is partly interesting because most will argue the Ark went straight to Africa while Parfitt charts a more believable (?) course down to Yemen first via spice trade routes and then west to Africa.

Parfitt has previously researched with the South African Lemba people, who claim they are decedents of Israelite tribes; this was genetically confirmed in 1999. The Lemba apparently have a very interesting oral history that speaks of a drum-like object that holds ritual paraphernalia, cannot touch the ground or be touched by non-priests, and emits a "Fire of God." A sim
ilar object was discovered by Parfitt in a museum in Zimbabwe which he hesitantly thinks could be the Ark. It'll be fun to see how many scholars come out against his claim, but Parfitt's new book will probably be a good seller none-the-less.

In other news, excavators at Saqqara think they are close to uncovering the tomb of Imhotep. No not the Pharaoh's high priest who comes back as a mummy in the movie, but the great architect who designed and built the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser who ruled during the 3rd Dynasty in Egypt (pic on left).

The article doesn't give me any concrete evidence to think they are close, but many think that finding the final resting place of Imhotep will unlock some mysteries around pyramid building. I suppose everyone is hoping that he will have been buried with his architectural drawings but honestly, he probably destroyed them so no one else would be able to copy him!

Finally if you have ever wondered how archaeologists determine ancient population sizes at a given city or site, check out this short article by Juliet Lapidos.


14 February 2008

Writing break!

Before my hands fall off at the wrists from writing this dissertation chapter non-stop for I don't know how many days, I would like to share the following information:

Ancient Egyptian pharmacology might have been older and more complex than previous thought (think personalize prescriptions)...

Plans for a $175 million "Bible Park USA" are gaining momentum in Tennesse (what roller coaster would Jesus ride?)...

and..........

The Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer was released!!



11 February 2008

LEGO Indy

Been busy with a grant application, but wanted to at least spread the word about this: screen shots of the LEGO Indiana Jones game are out and they look fantastic!

For those of you out of the loop, Lucas Arts and Traveller's Tales released video games called LEGO Star Wars I and II a couple years ago in which the beloved characters and entire world of Star Wars was made out of virtual LEGO pieces. Playing as Luke, Leia, Han or even Chewy you got to blast your way throughout the galaxy playing through the plot of the movies.

Needless to say, the games were a huge success. Even B and I enjoyed hours of playing these games together. So the developers
went ahead and made a LEGO Batman (due out this spring) and are working on the Indy version.

You can also purchase Indiana Jones Adventure LEGO sets. Check out the "Race for the Stolen Treasure" set. Totally sweet! My favorite scene from my favorite Indy movie LEGO-ized. Perfect.


08 February 2008

Cave debate continues

I found an article in USA Today that highlights the continuing debate surrounding the latest discovery in Rome of a cave at the base of the Palantine Hill that some scholars claim is the grotto in which the mythical founders of Rome--Romulus and Remus--were suckled by a she-wolf (see pic to left).

Why I am blogging ab
out this again (and again) is because the article brought up some good points, as stressed by the opposition, that really get at the heart of this argument and furthermore transcend into other hot topics in archaeology, namely the search for Atlantis, the Trojan War and "proving the Bible."

I think historian Christopher Smith, as cited in the article, sums it up best when he says, "it is tempting to argue that the finds support historical events when in fact they merely support ancient beliefs about events." Myths are vocal stories that at some point get written down, translated into artistic form, etc. (or don't get written down at all!). We can sit here and argue about whether or not myths are based on facts or actual events that happened in history. The truth of it is, scientists and the general public seem to be constantly looking for "origins" and in this case, a lot is at stake.

The Romans, as coming out of the Greek tradition, are seen as the founders of Western civilization today so when we look for the roots of Roman society and culture, we are essentially looking at our roots. However much of the general public don't know that the Greeks and the Romans were influenced by cultures that were ancient even to them: Assyrians, Babylonians, Sumerians. So while everyone keeps harping on the origins of Classical society, I'll keep grappling with my research on the foundations of human society.


03 February 2008

Mutant blue eyes and ancestral kitty

I know these are a wee-bit old, but I just came across them today. They also happen to be 2 of my favorite things: blue eyes and kitty cats.

According to the New Zealand Herald, researchers have analyzed the DNA from over 800 individuals with blue eyes and determined that they all share the same tiny mutation in the gene that regulates the amount of melanin produced in the iris of the eye. Tran
slation: all blue-eyed people today can probably trace their ancestry back 10,000 years to a single individual from the Black Sea region. Apparently the "normal" color for human eyes is brown. So since I have blue eyes and am naturally left-handed, does that make me a super freak?

This other story is also about origins, but not with eyes. The website Science Daily reports that a study of 11,000 cats confirms they were originally domesticated in the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East. The article's definition of this area is pretty broad, but I always defined it as western Iran, northern and western Syria, and southeastern Turkey--essentially the territory that arcs around Mesopotamia or modern-day Iraq proper.

At any rate, archaeological evidence has shown that cats were probably domesticated around 5,000-8,000 years ago because of their abilities to catch mice and other pests that tend to ruin grain storage facilities, etc. The most interesting find of the study, I thought, was that pure breed Persian cats are not in fact from Persia (Iran) but are closer related genetically to randomly bred cats of Western Europe.


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