Remembering Martin Bernal

Remembering Martin Bernal
by Alex Joffe*

Buried deep in the footnotes of Martin Bernal’s first volume of Black Athena is a reference to an undergraduate paper about the Sea Peoples. I no longer have a copy of that paper, nor do I remember what I wrote back in 1980. But as someone who took several classes with Martin at Cornell University during the late 1970s, his death has caused sadness and has set me to thinking about those days and his scholarship.

Officially I was a History major specializing in American Foreign Policy. Unofficially I took most of my courses in Near Eastern Studies and Classical Archaeology and worked in the Dendrochronology lab. Martin’s official appointment was in the Government Department (itself a strange artifact but that is another story). I knew that his primary field was China. But he had taken Ancient Near Eastern studies at Cornell by storm and I happily signed on. Continue reading

Near Eastern Archaeology in Malta

Frendo_Fig1. Tas-silg aerial

Aerial view of Tas-Silg. 

By: Anthony J. Frendo

The Maltese archipelago lies practically at the centre of the Mediterranean, roughly midway between the eastern and the western Mediterranean Sea, and between the island of Sicily to its north and Libya to its south. Given this unusual location – between the Near East and Classical worlds and at the epicenter of the Punic world – one would expect Near Eastern archaeology to be a long-standing academic discipline. This is not the case, at least not yet.


Malta’s location in the Mediterranean. Image from Wikipedia

Some of the current status of the field in fact stems from my own experiences in high school. When I was in high school on Malta, I remember being enthusiastic about the vibrant power of the Scripture that we had to study for our religious classes. I was completely awed by the literary aspects of the Bible which I saw as indivisible from the message it aimed to communicate. At that time, little did I know the tremendous role which literary analysis would play in contemporary Biblical Studies. I was then told that to study the Bible properly it would be appropriate to first read Near Eastern Studies with an emphasis on Semitic languages (Classical Hebrew holding the pride of place). And I also wanted a grasp of the New Testament. All this meant learning Greek and Biblical Aramaic. Continue reading

Trade and Trophy: Near Eastern Imports in the Sarmatian Culture

By: Oleksandr Symonenko, Institute of Archaeology, Kyiv, Glassman Holland Research Fellow

The main purpose of my project was the study of Near Eastern artifacts from Sarmatian graves. The Sarmatians were Iranian-speaking nomads who inhabited the territory stretching from the Altai Mountains up to the Danube from the 3rd – 4th centuries CE. The Near Eastern artifacts objects came to the Sarmatians in two main ways, as military trophies and as traded merchandise.

Spoils of war included Montefortino- and Pilos-type helmets and fragments of body armor found at Sarmatian sites. The helmets came to the Sarmatians during the Mithridates’ wars against Rome between 88 – 63 BCE. They were used by the Galatian soldiers of Mithridates’ army and were passed on from them to the Sarmatians. The Roman scale armors of the lorica plumata type, found in Sarmatian graves, were most probably seized by the Sarmatians during the war of 47 BCE in Asia Minor. Fragments of Parthian type armor were found in Sarmatian kurgans in the second half of the 1st  – early 2nd centuries CE. Such trophies fell into Sarmatian hands during their battles with the Parthians in 72 CE. Continue reading

Terracotta Oil Lamps from Qumran and Ein Feshkha (R. de Vaux’s Excavations, 1951-1958): Typology, Chronology and the Question of Manufacturing Centers

Jolanta MylnarczykBy: Jolanta Mlynarczyk, University of Warsaw, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow

The aim of my research at the Albright was to study an assemblage of ca. 200 oil lamps discovered at Qumran by archaeologists from the Ecole Biblique at the settlement itself and in the caves (1951-1956) as well as at Ein Feshkha (1958). The importance of this cluster of sites for our understanding of the late Second Temple period is indisputable, yet in the past many lamps have not been properly described within their archaeological context. Hence, the first stage of my research was focused on completing a description of the lamps and extracting the relevant contextual information. The second stage involved working out the typology. Conceived as a part of the general typology of the Qumran ceramics, the lamp typology consists of two series, each one dependent on a different technique employed in lamp-making: wheel-throwing and moulding. In the former group, the types have been distinguished on the basis of shape; and in the latter, the criterion of shape is combined with that of decoration. Continue reading

Chinese and Western Cultural Exchange in Archaeology: A Focus on Glassware

Geng_ShuoBy: Shuo Geng, Peking University, China, Noble Group Fellow

My project at the Albright Institute during the academic year, 2011-2012 was entitled “Chinese and Western Cultural Exchange in Archaeology:Focusing on Western Glassware Found in China from the First Century B.C. to the Sixth Century A.D.”  It was during this period that China initiated wide-ranging cultural contacts with the western world, resulting in large numbers of western artifacts being found in China at sites and in tombs, such as gold, silver, and glass ware, as well as pottery, brass objects, textiles, seals, and coins, etc. with glassware being one of the most important of these finds. Previous research on glass-ware has achieved significant results. Studies by Chinese scholars, however, have generally lacked in-depth research on the primary data of Western ancient glassware. Continue reading

Nomad Archaeology in the Near East

Cheng_JiafenBy: Jiafen Cheng, Jilin University, China, Noble Group Fellow

 My project involved using Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis with ethno-archaeological materials in researching the nomads in the Negev region in Israel with the aim of explaining the patterns of ancient pastoral and nomadic settlement in late antiquity. I chose two small areas in this region - Makhtesh Ramon and Har Karkom – as a case study.

With the introduction of the Negev Emergency Survey, a series of systematic field surveys of the entire Negev had been undertaken since 1978. Continue reading