ASOR Fellowship: The Beginning of a Grand Adventure

By: Nate Ramsayer, M.A. student in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East at Brandeis University, 2012 Heritage Fellow

Nate at the Giza Pyramids before the dig in Israel, living the dream.

My participation in fieldwork was entirely predicated upon receiving a Heritage Fellowship; it allowed me to buy a plane ticket to the Middle East. Had I not been granted an award, you’d find a much grumpier, much more naïve Hebrew Bible student still sitting at Logan Airport in Boston, probably with a cup asking for change, trying to figure how in the heck he’s gonna make it overseas in time for next summer’s season!

The financial help ASOR provides students is incalculable in its impact. Continue reading

Geographical Factors in the Defense of Judah and Israel

Keimer_KyleBy: Kyle Keimer, University of California, Los Angeles, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

My research focused on describing the varying strategies for defense of Israel and Judah in light of each kingdom’s topographical realities and the changing political situation over the course of the Iron II. I began with two basic questions: 1) how, in military terms, did fortifications work? and 2) where were they placed and in response to which circumstances? My goal was to reach an understanding of the function of fortified sites both on a regional and inter-regional level. Assessing defensive networks and answering the preceding questions, however, required broader considerations, such as where people want to go and where they can not go. Also, what kind of enemy is being defended against? When all of these questions were considered in conjunction with the topography and the type and distribution of fortified sites, it was possible to address their defensive function and strategy. Continue reading

The Platt Fellowship’s Impact

By: Andrew LoPinto, 2012 Platt Fellow

Being selected to receive the ASOR Platt Excavation Fellowship has profoundly impacted me and my career in numerous ways.  On a practical level, the support of the Platt Excavation Fellowship made it possible for me to join the staff of the Pennsylvania State University expedition to Mendes for the 2012 season by covering the cost of my airfare to Egypt.  For many students who have chosen to work in Egypt, the cost of airfare can limit or entirely exclude individuals from participation in field work.  When combined, airfare, room and board, ground transit, baggage fees, and other miscellaneous expenses to undertake field work in Egypt can cost thousands of dollars.  Mitigating even one of those factors can take a potential field season from being cost-prohibitive, to being possible.  Continue reading

The Emergence of Social Complexity: Changes in Animal Management Strategies between the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age in the Near East

Hill_AustinBy: Austin C. Hill, University of Connecticut, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age transition in the southern Levant has long been considered a threshold event in the development of social complexity in the Near East.  Societies are argued to have shifted from small scale, village-based chiefdoms to true “urban” or city-state level societies. Nevertheless, much recent criticism has focused on the accuracy of this long held characterization and the degree of social change that occurred between these periods. Studies of animal economies, however, can offer direct insight into political and social systems, but have rarely been used to look at social change in this key period. The types of species raised, how and when animals are slaughtered, and the parts of animals that are consumed are all directly affected by the degree of hierarchically organized production and distribution. Rigorous faunal studies, therefore, are a vital line of evidence in studying the emergence of social complexity. My research at the Albright focused on extending our understanding of faunal economies in these critical periods by analyzing new material, and synthesizing published material. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 3-1-13

A brief article on some really interesting uses of ‘cyber-archaeology’ at Petra, including terrestrial LiDAR and balloon photography.

More than 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of kings of Greek descent, someone, perhaps a group of people, hid away some of the most valuable possessions they had — their shoes.

The Sustainable Preservation Initiative’s project at the Moche site San José de Moro in Peru hopes to be a model for others looking to create sustainable community development and heritage preservation. Continue reading

From Code to Discourse: The Semantics of Ancient Near Eastern Ritual

Feder_YitzhaqBy: Yitzhaq Feder, University of Haifa, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

My fellowship at the Albright Institute provided me with the opportunity to make significant progress in my large-scale inquiry into the origins of ritual symbols and their sociological and political functions in cultural discourse. This project builds upon the recognition of the foundational role of concrete imagery in processes of human conceptualization and expression (as elucidated in ‘embodiment’ theory), particularly as reflected in the languages and rituals of the ancient Near East. In implementing this project, I distinguish between codes (the repertoire of symbols) and discourse (the systems of thought regulating the use of these codes). The case studies which I examined during my residency at Albright aimed to shed light on different aspects of the relationship between ritual codes and cultural discourse. Continue reading

Metal Implements and Tool Marks from the Levantine Second Millennium BC

Blackwell-NicholasBy: Nicholas Blackwell, Bryn Mawr College, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, AIAR Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The primary purpose of my Spring 2012 fellowship at the Albright Institute was to compile an extensive dataset of metal tools from the Levantine second millennium BC. This research began to round out the previously-incomplete Levantine category of a tool database assembled for my dissertation on Middle and Late Bronze Age metal tools from the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia (Bryn Mawr College, 2011). Furthering this study through reading excavation reports from Syro-Palestinian sites and visiting museums in Israel, I was able to add a considerable number of tools to my database. The updated data has proven useful by 1) revealing patterns of tool distributions and regional preferences within the Levant, and 2) providing some context and comparison for implement types and trends in the broader Mediterranean and Anatolian worlds. The result is a more informed investigation of cross-regional interaction as indicated by tool choices and depositional practices. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-22-13

news_bentpyramidFrom a distance, it looks as though an animal has burrowed around the 4,000-year-old Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III. But thieves dug these holes. And Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna calls that “a catastrophe.”

Chemi Shiff’s analysis of the significance of the Nabataean site of Avdat in Israel and how different approaches to the site over time have alienated local Bedouin groups.

The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China’s largest desert-the Taklimakan in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The temple features murals executed in a Greco-Buddhist art style, which was seldom seen after the 6th century. Continue reading

To Unify and Distinguish: The Making of “Crusader” Art

Mahoney_LisaBy: Lisa Mahoney, DePaul University, National Endowment of the Humanities Fellow

The crusades to the Holy Land defined all of western Christendom during the 12th and  13th centuries, even if this was not continuous and did not affect all of Christendom at the same time. In the Holy Land, however, once cities had been conquered and loca sancta “freed,” the military component of this enterprise was superseded by other matters—the creation and maintenance of a new, identifiable community despite the cultural dissimilarity of its members and the remove of their origins.  Although an endeavor never articulated in available journals, guides, or historical accounts, that is, in tidy passages that can be excerpted and pointed to, I contend that it was the central factor determining artistic production in the Latin occupied territories.  Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-15-13

The Israel Museum on Tuesday opened its most ambitious archaeological exhibition and the world’s first devoted to Herod, the lionized and demonized Rome-appointed king of Judea, who reigned from 37 to 4 B.C.E. and is among the most seminal and contentious figures in Jewish history. But the exhibition, has also brought its own bit of controversy.

According to reports coming out of Peru, archaeologists have unearthed a previously undiscovered, 5,000 year old temple at the famous El Paraiso pyramid site, located not far from Lima, the capital city.

Researchers have created software that can rebuild protolanguages - the ancient tongues from which our modern languages evolved. To test the system, the team took 637 languages currently spoken in Asia and the Pacific and recreated the early language from which they descended.
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The Philistine Remains at Tell es-Safi/Gath: Their Regional and Transcultural Connections with the Aegean and Cyprus

Hitchcock_LBy: Louise Hitchcock, University of Melbourne, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

My sabbatical semester at the Albright resulted in a preliminary analysis of the stratigraphy, finds, and architecture from Area A2, in the early Philistine sector of Tell es-Safi/Gath, in collaboration with Prof. Aren Maeir and specialist members of the excavation team. The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project is a long-term collaborative project begun in 1996 under the direction of Prof. Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, Israel as a consortium involving foreign research partners.  It is aimed at studying the archaeology of one of the largest and most important multi-period sites in Israel, which was the location of Gath, one of the five capitals of the Philistine Pentapolis. For the last four years, I have been directing excavations in the early Philistine part of the site, Area A2, where I lead the largest Australian project in Israel with support from the Australian Research Council. This collaboration emerged as a direct result of time spent at the Albright as Annual Professor in 2007. Working at the Albright provided me with easy access to the library and my collaborators. Continue reading

The Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age (EB) Transition – Investigation of a Weak Link

By: Eliot Braun, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

 My tenure as an NEH Fellow at the Albright was exceptionally productive as it freed me to direct virtually all my energies into research and writing related to the above project.

I was able to complete an article in which I challenge some scholars’ interpretations suggesting there was no Late Chalcolithic occupation at Ashqelon. In it, I demonstrate that Chalcolithic and EB I settlements occupied hilly ridges and troughs between them. Since the area was bulldozed flat prior to excavation, only low-lying occupation debris was left to be excavated.  Thus, remains of both the Chalcolithic and EB I periods were often encountered at virtually the same absolute elevations, leading to published accounts suggesting all sequential deposits were actually contemporary, when in fact Stratum 1 at one location might be Chalcolithic, while nearby Stratum 1 might be dated to the Early Bronze Age.  Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 2-8-13

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan. Continue reading

The Source of Sin and its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature

Brand-AIARBy: Miryam T. Brand, New York University, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow

My fellowship at the Albright this year has enabled me to further develop the topic of my dissertation with the aim of producing a book for academic readers: Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature, to be published in the Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplement series. The aim of my study has been to examine how sin, specifically, the source of sin, is presented in Second Temple literature, including Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These texts are examined according to their genre: prayer texts, narratives, wisdom literature, and covenantal texts (introductions to legal rules). Continue reading

Kinyras: The Divine Lyre

By: John C. Franklin, University of Vermont, AIAR Annual Professor

Kinyras is the legendary king of Cyprus, generally known only for his incestuous seduction by his daughter Myrrha (Ov. Met. 10.298–502). Yet a large body of scattered references—never completely assembled—ranges from Homer to Byzantine poets and scholars, and even the sixteenth-century Franco-Cypriot historian Étienne de Lusignan. Homer knew Kinyras as a Great King who treated with Agamemnon (Il. 11.19–23). The lost epic Cypria dealt with Kinyras’ faithless promise to join against Troy. Alcman’s ‘moist charm of Kinyras’ (3.71 PMGF) connects him with a Cypriot perfumed-oil industry going back to the Late Bronze Age. Pindar, invoking Kinyras as an exemplum for Hieron, has ‘Cypriot voices much resound around Kinyras’, makes him ‘cherished priest of Aphrodite’, and ‘golden-haired Apollo’s gladly-loved’ (Pyth. 2.15–17), and recalls an ancient Cypriot thalassocracy when he refers to the ‘blessed fortune . . . which once upon a time freighted Kinyras with riches in Cyprus on the sea’ (Nem. 8.17–18). All of these sources accord with Kinyras’ great proverbial wealth (Tyrtaeus 12.6 etc.). Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 1-25-13

New findings from the 2,600-year-old grave of a Celtic woman in Germany suggest the ancient Celts were much more sophisticated than previously thought. The entire tomb was removed from the ground for further excavation in a laboratory and is continuing to reveal new surprises.

A team of researchers led by the UAB has found the first ancient remains of a calcified ovarian teratoma, in the pelvis of the skeleton of a woman from the Roman era. The find confirms the presence in antiquity of this type of tumour - formed by the remains of tissues or organs, which are difficult to locate during the examination of ancient remains. Inside the small round mass, four teeth and a small piece of bone were found. Continue reading

Basalt Connections at Zincirli Hoyuk

Basalt lion from the castle gate at Zincirli Hoyuk, in the Pergamon Museum

By: Leann Pace and Eudora Struble

When Eudora and I began graduate school together at the University of Chicago, I don’t believe either of us was planning to work on a long-term archaeological project in Turkey. Eudora was very involved with archaeology in Jordan and my limited experience led me to believe that I wanted to work on excavations in Israel. However, we were given the opportunity to join what would become the Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli. This journey began in 2006 and we are eagerly anticipating another great season in the summer of 2013. Obviously we are hooked on working at the site and on being part of the larger research community working in Turkey. Continue reading

Ethics, Archaeology, and Open Access

By: Eric Kansa

The issue of open access to scholarly works recently gained renewed attention following the tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist charged with felony computer and intellectual property crimes involving the mass download of articles from JSTOR. ASOR uses JSTOR as a repository for the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) and Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA)*.

Eric Kansa, a member of ASOR and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) wrote the following opinion piece regarding the implications of Swartz’s death for scholarly communications in archaeology. The following reposts Eric’s discussion and a response from Fred Limp, President of the SAA. Both were originally posted here:
http://www.alexandriaarchive.org/blog/?p=891 and here: http://www.alexandriaarchive.org/blog/?p=899

Eric directs Open Context, an open data publication service for archaeology. He originally discussed open access issues in NEA (2007) with his colleagues Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Jason Schultz. He also co-edited (with Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Ethan Watrall) Archaeology 2.0, an open access book about new modes of scholarly communication published with the Cotsen Institute Press (UCLA). His most recent contributions exploring open access in archaeology are published in a special of World Archaeology (2012) edited by Mark Lake, and in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies (in press). Continue reading

The Gordion Furniture Project

By: Krysia Spirydowicz, Associate Professor, Art Conservation Program, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, CANADA and Senior Conservator, Gordion Furniture Project, Ankara, TURKEY

Figure 1. Inlaid Table from Tumulus MM (E. Simpson, Gordion Furniture Project)

The ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion in central Anatolia was first explored in the early 1950s by a team from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Located approximately 100 km southwest of Ankara, this impressive site consists of a flat city mound with occupation levels dating from the Early Bronze Age to Hellenistic times and nearby clusters of burial mounds or tumuli. Rodney Young, the first director of excavations, explored three of the largest tumuli (Tumulus MM, P and W) as well as sections of the City Mound.  Over 40 pieces of ornate, inlaid furniture dating to the eighth century BC were discovered in wooden burial chambers located deep inside the large earthen mounds. Continue reading

Archaeology Weekly Roundup! 1-11-13

Years of conflict have exacted a heavy toll on centuries of history in the Gaza Strip. While traces of its rich past remain, the race to preserve what is left beneath the surface of this battle-scarred land is fraught with problems.

A mysterious “snake goddess” painted on terracotta and discovered in Athens may actually be Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest, and come from a 7th century BCE shrine.

More on the ongoing destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage sites.

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