31 October 2010

Looting the Holy Land

Great video produced by AlJazeera (thanks for the tip, Yo and Mo) about looting of cultural heritage in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. I wonder, is there a similar Israeli-produced video to give perspectives from the other side?

Filmmakers: Mariam Shahin and George Azar
Synopsis: Since 1967 countless artifacts have been unearthed and removed from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many are displayed in Israeli museums and private collections, while others are sold to tourists.

For Israel, archeology has been a key tool in buttressing its territorial claims to historic Palestine. Archeological findings are used to assert ownership and to rename the territories they occupy.

Palestinians see the cultural heritage of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza as a central part of their ancestral birthright and ownership is key to building an economy based on pilgrimage and tourism.

Is the removal of historic treasures from the occupied territories a case of cultural preservation or stealing a heritage? What role has the science of archeology played in the Arab-Israeli dispute?

Al Jazeera searches through the evidence, unearthing the facts and exposing a power struggle in which every stone has meaning.

More than just property, the control of a cultural legacy is at stake.

09 October 2010

Mosaic at the Met

Rather "old" news, but I'm a bit behind these days for good reason: new job and big move. Thankfully I will be moving closer to this new exhibition at the Met featuring a beautiful mosaic from Lod. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:
"In 1996, workers in Lod, Israel, were preparing to expand a road when they found something that turned out to be an artistic and archeological treasure: a Roman mosaic from about 300 A.D. Preserved just three feet below the modern surface, it was in nearly excellent condition.
On view beginning Tuesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through April 3), the mosaic—50 feet long by 27 feet wide—looks slightly larger than some Manhattan apartments. It is believed to have been used as an interior ground cover for an entrance hall at the home of a wealthy Roman, living in what would have been the eastern portion of the Roman Empire."
Being a mosaic buff myself, this work looks absolutely gorgeous and I hope I can see it in person sometime soon!

(Both images from Wall Street Journal)
Ever wonder how archaeologists and curators are able to transport mosaics? Likely in the same way ancient artists and craftsmen/women transported the mosaics from their workshops to be installed in the houses of the Roman aristocracy. What, you thought they worked inside rich people's houses for months or years to create these floors?

Watch this short video to learn all the details behind the discovery, transport, and conservation of this stunning mosaic from Lod. The video is featured on the Met's website courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority:

01 October 2010

Speak the words

Another great day in outreach efforts! The Daily Mail is reporting Assyriologists at Cambridge (that's people who study languages of the ancient Near East like Akkadian and Babylonian) have recently recorded and posted a small selection of Babylonian poems and epics on the university website. According to the article and website, Dr. Martin Worthington is the brainchild of this project that seeks, for the first time, to present these 2,000-year-old works of literature spoken in their native tongue. A lofty endeavor indeed as many scholars have argued for years about the proper pronunciation of these ancient/"dead" languages.

The Babylonian language written on a clay tablet (Daily Mail)
Right or wrong in their interpretation, I commend Dr. Worthington and his team for making the recordings freely available and "out there" for scholars and the public to enjoy, use, critique or discuss. I especially like one of the project's stated goals:
"The questions which students of ancient languages most frequently hear from laymen are: "How did they sound? And how do you know?". This website is meant to serve as an introduction to these issues, providing the public with some idea of how modern Assyriologists think Babylonian and Assyrian were pronounced."
I've included my favorite recording here, "Ammi-Ditana’s Hymn to Ishtar," read by Karl Hecker. Visit the Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature Archive website to hear all the recordings and follow along with the transcriptions/translations.

PS: Dr. Worthington I am free to redesign your website! Sorry, but it's a little on the "blah" side
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