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

The Tel Burna Archaeological Project

Uziel_JoeBy: Joe Uziel, Israel Antiquities Authority, Ernest S. Frerichs Fellow

 In 2009, Dr. Itzhaq Shai and I initiated a long-term archaeological project at Tel Burna.  The site is located in the Judean Shephelah on the northern banks of Wadi Guvrin.  While described by a number of scholars over the years as a prominent ancient site, it is one of the last tells in the Shephelah to be excavated.  Since 2009, an ongoing survey, including several different methods has been conducted alongside excavations.  Thus far, 21 squares have been excavated in three different areas, uncovering a sequence of five strata spanning the Late Bronze Age IIB through to the Persian period. 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! 2-1-13

Six different Israeli ministries invested nearly $2 million to repair damage, much of it irreversible, after unknown vandals in October 2009 assaulted the site of Avdat, designated by UNESCO (United Nations Science and Culture Organization) as a world’s cultural heritage.

The preservationists of Timbuktu’s centuries-old artifacts have been holding their breath for weeks, waiting for the moment when the French military would seize back Mali’s ancient northern capital from the Islamic militants who have occupied it for 10 months. Now that that’s happened it still isn’t clear how many of the city’s historic manuscripts have survived, but most of them may be safely hidden away.

A recent study of pottery remains from Indus valley sites shows that the origins of curry are a lot older than most people think in this article about the development of curry. Continue reading