24 November 2008

Colossus of Rhodes, Vegas-style

Back from Boston and on my way to Anaheim, I thought I would squeeze in some news: 

Along the same lines at the Giza pyramids or the Tower of David in Jerusalem for their cheesy light shows, the island of Rhodes will be recreating the Colossus of Rhodes out of melted down weapons and lights according to The Guardian. At 100 meters in height, once completed this
 will be the largest light sculpture in the world. All I wan
t to know is, how will 100-meter-tall beams of light affect, say, passing planes or other aircraft? Will the space station see it? Sounds more like the largest culprit of light pollution! At any rate, here is a fun 18th century engraving of the Colossus as imagined by the artist. Once one of the "Seven Wonders of the World" the statue collapse from an earthquake in the 226 BC.

As a sign of our times, Libya is slowly opening up to tourists and archaeologists alike according to Reuters. In case you don't know, there is a wealth of archaeological material in that country including tons of Roman sites. While they are opening their doors to foreign archaeologists, I wond
er what they are doing to improve the skills, training and funding for Libyan archaeologists?

Scholars from the Oriental Institute in Chicago are analyzing an inscribed flat stone or stela from Iron Age Turkey (1st millennium BC) that shows early evidence for belief in a "soul" that is separate from the body. They presented these findings in Boston this weekend, but unfortunately I missed out for one reason or another. At any rate, the inscription on the stela reads as follows:
"I, Kuttamuwa, servant of Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber(?) and established a feast at this chamber(?): a bull for [the storm-god] Hadad, ... a ram for [the sun-god] Shamash, ... and a ram for my soul that is in this stele."
This is not all that surprising since it has long been known/hypothesized that statues and other objects in the ancient Near East did not just represent the individual or god, but was actually the god. This exciting new find I guess solidifies our assumption! Congrats to a new acquaintence I made this weekend, Virginia, who actually found this thing.

Finally I will leave you with something pretty. Inside a Thracian tomb in Bulgaria that is 1,800-years-old archaeologists uncovered a bronze-plated four-wheeled chariot. Score. 

15 November 2008

Bulletpoint news

Sorry people, but I've been "hella" busy. Conference in Boston next week with photos to follow, I hope. I also hope that my body will be able to cope with the 50 degree temperature difference between here and there. I'm serious, it was 80 degrees F today. Freakin' beautiful (sorry Brian).
  • Artifacts from the Uluburun shipwreck, one of the oldest ever excavated, is going on display at the Met. I saw these wonderful objects in Bodrum when I was last there at the Underwater Archaeology Museum.  
  • Another wonderful example of how political museums can be: The British Museum will be launching a Babylon exhibition that criticizes the establishment of an army base at/on that ancient city by the U.S. government. If this is news to you, the army filled sandbags with the local dirt that, of course, contains archaeological material (pottery, etc.), built a helicopter landing pad inside the city and had huge trucks running in and out of the base everyday causing countless amounts of damage.
  • In case you didn't know, forgery is a big business and a lucrative one, provided you don't mention Jesus or the Jews
  • Fly through ancient Rome (circ. 320 CE) with 3D models on Google Earth! 

02 November 2008

Copper mines, writing and Ashurbanipal..oh my!

Lots of flashy headlines this week! Where do I even begin? How about with King Solomon's Mines. My old adviser has been working in southern Jordan forever now and being the media "mogul" that he is, I'm not surprised to read this story in the Times. The copper mines in that area were used throughout antiquity--I'm talking millenia here--so it is possible this could be one of the mines referred to in legend (though note: the mines from the 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines are in Africa not the Middle East). The main point to take away though, that despite what the biblical text says about Israel's neighbors during the 9th and 10th centuries BC, Edom was certainly a sophisticated tribal element if not a full-blown kingdom.

Speaking of ancient Israel, a flashy story in the New York Times last week describes the discovery of an ostracon (i.e. sherd of pottery with writing on it) that bears the "oldest Hebrew text ever found." It was excavated at an ancient fortified city southwest of modern Jerusalem and naturally, is fueling the already hot debate about the historicity of David, Solomon and the united kingdom of Israel during the 10th and 9th centuries BC. Alas no pictures yet of this proto-Canaanite script, though the article says it is most likely a letter. I'm surely going to laugh when it ends up saying "Jeremiah was here."

Finally there will be an Assyrian art show running at the MFA in Boston when I am there in two weeks..w00t!

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