Category Archives: Ancient Near East

Smarthistory: Khan Academy for Social Studies

Great Mosque at Damascus by G. Lewis, courtesy of Smarthistory & Flickr

Great Mosque at Damascus by G. Lewis, courtesy of Smarthistory & Flickr

Khan Academy is popular in math for its brief lectures and interactive modules. However, you can also use it in the Social Studies. Check out Smarthistory, a free multimedia platform for student and teacher of history, archaeology, museum curation, and art history.

It includes an interactive timeline, in-depth yet easy to understand articles, vibrant images, and videos about topics throughout history and around the globe. Check out “Teach with Smarthistory” for ideas on how to incorporate it into your classroom. If you are a historian, archaeologist, museum curator, or otherwise involved in the social science consider contributing an article or multimedia content. Additionally, Smarthistory contributes videos to Google Art Project.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 12.24.08 PMToday, Archaeology Magazine has rolled out its “Top 10 Discoveries of 2012.” The list includes (in no particular order):

Maya Sun God Mask

Neanderthal Medicine Chest

First Use of Poison

Aztec Ritual Burial

Caesar’s Gallic Outpost

Europe’s Oldest Engraving

The First Pots

Scottish “Frankenstein” Mummy

2,000 Year Old Stashed Treasure

Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat

 

New Research Suggests Carthage Baby Cemetery Not for Sacrificial Victims

One of the infamous characteristics of Ancient Carthage was, according to their Roman enemies, their prolific practice of child sacrifice. Many ancient historians mention the practice, the most colorful by Diodorus Siculus

Denis Jarvis; burial ground of Tophet

“There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.” Hist20.14.6

New research suggests that the child burials of Carthage may not in fact be evidence of the practice (or at least of it being wide-spread). Rather, they are burial sites for infants and fetuses that died as a result of premature birth. Infant mortality was high in the ancient world (in some cases, 40% of children died before reaching their fifth birthday). The loss of a child during pregnancy or birth was also a common occurrence.

Jeffrey Schwartz, Ph.D. asserts that the majority of burials found here represent children that died of natural causes and not from the horrific murder of infants to the God Ba’al.

To learn more about these findings, read the article at MSNBC or purchase the more extensive Academic Journal Article at Antiquity.

Should the Bamiyan Buddhas be Rebuilt?

The Buddha’s before and after their destruction (courtesy of Wikipedia).

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were monumental sculptures that stood in Afghanistan for 1,500 years. In March of 2001, the Taliban of Afghanistan succeeded in their efforts to destroy the statues in spite of wide spread protest. The Taliban government used the Islamic ban on images as justification for the extirpation of the monuments. The Times quoted Mullah Mohammed Omar as stating, “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to God that we have destroyed them.”

Since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2003, archaeologists and art historians have surveyed the rubble of the Buddha’s to determine whether or not they could be repaired or reconstructed. The overall consensus was that the damage was too thorough and pervasive to allow effective reconstruction. However, a small group – most notably the German International Council on Monuments and Sites – have continued to argue and push for the statues to be rebuilt.

The decision remains controversial and likely will be debated for decades. To read more about the debate, see the article at BBC News.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2011

This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights the top ten finds of the 2011 Field Season. The list includes:

The Sumerians Enjoyed Alcohol… Just not Beer

Alcohol is as old as civilization… in fact, some anthropologists have argued that civilization developed so that humans could better brew and ferment grain, rice, and grapes – in short, to produce alcohol.

Ancient Sumer, the world’s oldest civilization, has hundreds of cuneiform tablets focused on the fermentation of grains but key ingredients to beer, namely barley, was not part brewing process (or at least not in the records). So, while the Sumerians had fermented grains, technically, beer may not have been on that list.

Archaeologists Uncover Lovers Trinket in Jerusalem

Archaeologists working in Jerusalem have uncovered a small clay pipe with the phrase:

“Love is the language for lovers.” or, more literally

“Heart is language for the lover.”

These types of pipes were very common throughout the region during the Ottoman Period. To read more about the romantic discovery, see the article Archaeologists Uncover Lovers’ Pipe Dreams in Jerusalem’s Dig.