June 18, 2013
My very own copy of Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VIII just arrived. You can get your copy at Eisenbrauns. The drawings are great, the photographic reproductions are much better than in the previous 6 (or is it 5?) Gezer volumes. The volume comes with a CD full of plans and photographs.
I was the area supervisor in Field II (area 4) in 1973. This much belated volume documents my work and that of many others who labored under the sun. Much of my own work that year focused on the excavation of wall 4026. A few years ago I wrote a couple of speculative posts about this wall. Joe Seger, Sy Gitin and Karen E. Seger address wall 4026 on pages 109 and 110. Here is, in part, what they say about my favorite wall,
The most likely interpretation is that Wall 4026 served as a defensive parapet or outer screening wall set on the edge of the glacis plateau. It would have thus formed a protective room or corridor along the foot of the MB fortification wall (that is, along Mcalister’s Inner Wall system). Wall segments positioned just outside the main wall line on the plateau of the glacis with the same putative functions were found in Field IV.
Joe was kind enough to send me a pre-publication draft on which I built my more speculative posts. So, none of this is a surprise.
I’m sure that Joe and the rest of the publication team will agree that the length of time that it has taken to publish this report is unconscionable! Many, more recent excavations have done better. As is often said, “To excavate is to destroy.” Without documentation, that destruction is permanent. Without timely documentation, the destruction might as well be permanent for those who do not out live the delay. No excavation should enter the field unless it has a clear, doable publication plan. Such a plan should, at worst, be able maintain a schedule measure in years rather than decades.
Still, it is good to see this volume and to remember those wonderful times and people.
June 16, 2013
After a multi-year diversion into divination, I’m back worrying about literacy and scribal practices at Ugarit and vicinity. Back in 2008 I speculated that KTU 1.79 and KTU 1.80 (RS 13.006 and RS 15.072) might have something to say on these issues. These two descriptions of sacrificial practice were both found in the Royal Palace at Ugarit. But, as Pardee argues, they do not reflect royal scarified practice. Internally, the texts locate these sacrifices in the hinterlands of Ugarit - certainly not in the Palace or the big city.
van Soldt, 292 tells us, “Five major archives were discovered in this Late Bronze Age building, among which a clear distribution of genre and consequently, of language and script can be established.” So I wondered about the exact find spots of KTU 1.79 and KTU 1.80. KTU 1.80 seems rather straight forward. It was unearthed at a depth of 0.82 meters in room 41 of the Royal Palace of Ugarit. I’m not sure that the situation with KTU 1.79 is so clear. The official inventory places its discovery at a depth of 0.80 meters in Courtyard I of the Royal Palace. I wonder.
The two tablets have much in common. Both are about the same size and color; both have the very unusual property of extending a line or lines from the obverse around the right edge and continuing it well across the reverse; both show the same peculiarities of ductus - for example, strange writing of the Š with two unusually oriented Winkelhaken; failure to rotate the stylus when forming vertical wedges. Both are on the same subject, have similar formal structures and refer to the same person (Ṣitqānu) and same place (the Ilishtami plantation).
Were these tablets kept more than 30 meters apart with neither of them clearly associated with a major archive? I somewhat doubt it. Room 41 is quite a ways from the find spots of other alphabetic tablets (of any tablets for that matter). The nearest archive is 25 meters or so to the east. Why would one keep such a tablet all by itself in Room 41 or, more likely, above Room 41? While a few other tablets were recovered from Courtyard 1, it is mid-way between the West Archive about 20 meters to the north, and the Annex Office Archive about 20 meters to the south. (Don’t worry about tablets found in courtyards, they likely come from the collapse of a second story.) Pardee, 428, makes an interesting observation about KTU 1.79, “The state of wear on the surface indicates that the tablet had to be exposed to the elements for a sufficient period [to cause that wear].” But when and under what circumstances? Pardee concludes, “We shall probably never know how these two tablets, which seem to have no relation to the palatial concerns, finally came to be separated by 30 meters.” While I think they were both written in the hinterlands, I wonder if perhaps they were both originally stored in Room 41 and became separated at some later (modern?) time. If so, they were both kept together in a part of the palace where few other tablets were stored. Pardee wonders if “ . . . the isolation provides an indication of fortuitous presence in the Palace.”
Is this important to the larger question I am investigating? I don’t know. It sure is a curiosity. In a future post I’ll discuss Pardee’s question concerning the possibility of one or both of these tablets being scribal exercises - as some scholars have suggested.
van Soldt, Wilfred H., “Private Archives at Ugarit,” in Bongenaar, A. C. V. M., ed, Interdependency of Institutions and Private Entrepreneurs, Proceeding of the Second MOS Symposium (Leiden, 1998) (Leiden: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul, 2000), 292 - 245.
May 28, 2013
Four thousand years ago, Egyptian society struggled with the downfall of the Old Kingdom, which brought an end to material success and introduced anarchy and chaos. Out of this period of crisis came such literature as A Dialogue between a Man and His Ba, Instructions of Meri-Re, as Weill as the story recounted in the volume, The Eloquent Peasant.
In this story, Khun-Anup, a poor peasant, was robbed, beaten, and scorned by Nemtinakht, who was well connected. Khun-Anup appealed to authorities for redresses but dad to make his appeals nine times. This compelling narrative recounts the peasant's struggle for justice. This fresh translation with notes provides an engaging entry in a story that has contemporary implications.
Loren’s translations are always clear and his notes concise. Loren uses his skills as a poet to inform his skills as a translator. You will be well rewarded by Loren’s translation of The Eloquent Peasant.
Because most Hebrew Bible students are not trained in the Egyptian language much that that language and culture might have to offer interpreters goes untapped. At the most recent Pacific Coast Regional SBL meeting, Chris Hays made this point in his comments during the Neo-Assyrian Insights on Ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible session. Yes, a person trained in Assyriology recommended the study of Egyptian at a session with Neo-Assyrian Insights in its title. He even channeled Mr. McGuire in the Graduate, “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. - Egypt.” No, I’m not going to take up Egyptian at this stage of my life. But I do think more students of the Hebrew Bible should. Failing that, I think we can all profit from fresh, fluid translations like Loren’s.
May 23, 2013
in ME Studies. See if YOU qualify.
May 16, 2013
Considering how long it has taken for this paper to see the light of day, I’m grateful that some life altering event like tenure did not depend on its timeliness. Still, it is great to see it out.
Here is the paper’s abstract,
Drawing on the Akkadian omen series Šumma Ālu and its predecessors, this essay argue for a Mesopotamian origin of Homeric bird-divination. Against the suggestion of Högemann and Oettinger that Greek bird-divination has its closest parallels with Hittite bird-divination, I argue that both in its function as a tool for divination and in its specific content, Homeric bird divination, if not all such ancient Greek divination, finds much closer parallels in Mesopotamian divination traditions than it does in Anatolian traditions. I suggest that the late 8th century B.C.E. and the decades before and after 1200 B.C.E. represent two periods when conditions were particularly ripe for the introduction of Mesopotamian bird-divination into the Aegean and that itinerant diviners, perhaps in the employment of armies, were the most likely conveyors of this particular form of divination.
Those abnormal readers who see the ancient world largely from the perspective of the Hebrew Bible may wonder what this has to do with our shared corner of that world. On the one hand, despite the fact that I cite the story of Noah releasing birds in a footnote, this paper has little to do with the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, in the context of the larger issue of cultural diffusion in the Ancient Near East and the eastern Mediterranean in the Iron Age (or is it in this case perhaps the Bronze Age?), I think this paper has a lot to say. If I am correct, a tradition of divination traveled from its Mesopotamian home across Syria or perhaps southern Anatolia arriving in Ionia no later than 7th century BCE and likely earlier. It is not at all difficult to image that this or similar traditions were available to the Biblical authors. But that question must wait for my paper on the snake in Genesis 3 to appear. I am in the process of consulting snakes and birds to determine just how long that will take.
May 14, 2013
The Duluth News Tribute reports,
Two adult bald eagles made an unplanned landing on the tarmac at the Duluth International Airport on Sunday.
The two birds had locked talons in mid-air and couldn’t get separated before they crashed to the concrete, said Randy Hanzal, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
In Odyssey 2:146-54 two eagles tear into each other above the assembled suitors.
[Zeus] sent forth two eagles, flying from on high, from a mountain peak. For a time they flew swift as the blasts of the wind side by side with wings outspread; but when they reached the middle of the many-voiced assembly, then they wheeled about, flapping their wings rapidly, and down on the heads of all they looked, and death was in their glare. Then they tore with their talons one another's cheeks and necks on either side, and darted away to the right across the houses and the city of the men.
Despite its lacunose nature, an Old Babylonian tablet from Ur published by Weisberg may reflect a similar motif.
šum-ma ši-[na] e-ru-ú
a-[x]-ma a-na pa-ni [ṣa-bi-im]
[x x]-lu-ma an-a [x x]
[ṣa-bu]-um a-šar il-li-ku
If two eagles [. . .] before the [army . . .] advance against(?), [. . .] the ar[my] will return safely whence it marched. (ii 36-41)
Based on other omens, Weisberg’s 90, 97, reconstruction of [ṣa-bi-im], “army,” is all but certain; less certain is the verb [it-]te-eš-ru from ešēru(?), “to make towards”; other lacunae totally resist reconstruction.
The Homeric two eagle omen has a positive portent while the Old Babylonian omen has a negative one. I suppose the Duluth airport omen turns out to be positive - both birds survived.
Via The Huffington Post.
Weisberg, D. B., 1969. “An Old Babylonian Forerunner of Šumma Alu,” HUCA, 40-41 (1969-70), 87-104.
May 3, 2013
Schwarzwalder quotes Leiter almost correctly, “[N]o one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion - that is, an argument that would explain why, as a matter of moral principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral [treatment - sic] to religious practices” (p.7).” Schwarzwalder omitted the rather important word “treatment.” After a little history lesson on the “oppression of Christians, “ Schwarzwalder responds, “The assertion that a ‘principled’ case for religious liberty remains unmade is so striking in its ignorance that it invites the derision a serious academic should find embarrassing [highlight added -des].” Leirter worries about religions toleration; Schwarzwalder worries about “religious liberty” throughout his review. They are not the same thing.
I don’t know either Bruce Leiter or Rob Schwarzwalder (I've exchanged an email or two with Leiter over the years) but I do know that Leiter wouldn’t just flat out change the subject and pretend that he didn’t. From reading Leiter’s philosophy blog I’m pretty sure he would be against “the persecution of the early church, the Inquisition, anti-Catholic violence, or the Holocaust” - part of Schwarzwalder irrelevant history lesson. I’m also pretty sure Leiter is well aware of “the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition and its contribution to the foundations of liberal democracy.” The quotation here is part of a more extended quotation from Joe Loconte in Schwarzwalder's review. That there is an important and influential “Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition” is beyond question (I do worry about what is exactly meant by “Judeo-Christian . . . tradition” but that’s another question.) I even think that one can make a strong case that the Enlightenment came out of that tradition. But the foundation of liberal democracy is a child of the Enlightenment and at the very best a grandchild of our western religious traditions.
I’ve read a draft paper that I think Leiter expanded into his book (while I've started reading his book, to my regret I haven't finishing it). This paper and what I've read of the book speak to quite different issues than Schwarzwalder seems to think the book does. He only speaks to Leiter 's book; he may not know the paper. It makes me wonder if he has really even read the book. On the one hand, Leiter addresses what Mark Twain was getting at when Paine quoted him as saying,
So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code. apud Paine, Mark Twain: a Biography
On the other hand, Leiter’s paper and his book (or as much as I've read of it) speaks to policy questions that would (and should) arise if we were to practice religions indifference rather than merely religious toleration. Leiter’s position has nothing to do with religious liberty as Schwarzwalder seems to wish it did. Leiter and, for that matter, I may well question the intellectual basis for religious beliefs but I'm rather sure that neither one of us would even be indifferent to the loss of religious liberty. I don’t know about Leiter, but I'm fearful about what might replace it. It might be Schwarzwalder's brand religion!
For another take on Why Tolerate Religion? check out R. C. Robinson at Choice Reviews Online.
De Gruyter has introduced their new Journal of Ancient History with a free online version. The free online version will not last long. I found several of the articles abnormally interesting - none more interesting than Marc Van de Mieroop’s, "Recent Trends in the Study of Ancient Near Eastern History: Some Reflections," Journal of Ancient History, 1:1, (May 2013 Online), 83–98. Here’s a sample.
There is thus an intimate connection between philology and history, which affects the practices and presentation of ancient Near Eastern history. On the one hand historical analyses regularly appear in what are primarily text editions. For example, the re-edition of the royal correspondence of Babylonian kings of the twenty-first century includes a radical reinterpretation of the role of Syrian nomads in the overthrow of their dynasty around 2000 BCE (Michalowski, Correspondence 2011). On the other hand, studies that present themselves as historical analyses habitually include philological editions of primary sources (e.g., Kleber 2008). This practice can impede communication between specialists on the ancient Near East and scholars of other periods of history. Because of the relatively small community of ancient Near East historians there are fewer syntheses of their scholarship than for other areas of ancient history and they have been less successful at passing on their new insights to a broader readership. The unfortunate effect is that when generalizing studies of topics in ancient history or world history appear, the information presented on the ancient Near East is often outdated.
April 25, 2013
Last night Shirley and I were watching a lecture on Stravinsky's "The Rite of Sprint" by Robert Greenberg. Greenberg mentioned Debussy's rather sarcastic comment on the Rite, "If you like it, it's primitive music with every modern convenience." Debussy's comment struck me as an apt metaphor for much that passes for Biblical interpretation. It is primitive, both as anachronistic and as uninformed. Still, it has all the modern conveniences. Like Stravinsky's Rite, much modern Biblical interpretation, nearly all of it that passes as hermeneutics, is detached from its ancient roots to make modern if misguided points.
No, I don't need to defend this. One, this is a blog. Two, look at any attempt to find guidance in the Bible as a whole or in any passage or set of passages with regard to some modern issue or moral dilemma.
April 6, 2013
My underlying question in this post is how much of the context supporting one portion of a word's semantic range is normally carried over into another context where the word has a somewhat different meaning. Note I am talking about one context of meaning being imposed, however slightly, on another context. If I say "Joe plays the piano" to what extent am also raising of the possibility that Joe might play football? When I use the word "play" to what extend am I drawing some relationship between making music and contact sports. Many punning jokes work by imposing of one linguistic context on another by way of a single word shared word.
Now for my real problem: In lines 12Sum and 12Akk of the bilingual treatise which Sjöberg called “In Praise of the Scribal Art” we read in Sumerian (12Sum) nam-dub-sar-ra dur-da-gan-KA-[x x] x nun me [x x x] which is rendered in Akkadian (12Akk) ṭupšarrūtu markas kulla[t x x] x i me [x x], “The scribal art is the bond of all of (markas kullat) [. . .]." It would be nice to know what was in the lacunae at the end of the lines. It is possible but only barely possible that the ME in both lines should be read "heaven," šamê in Akkadian (see MLS 14 91:71:7; CAD Š1, 339). But the fuller Sumerian nun me is more likely part (or all) of some kind of professional designation. Perhaps here it stands for a sage, a priest or an exorcist, an apkallu, but several other options cannot be ruled out. Neither the traces of the Sumerian or the Akkadian lines reasonably support reading an-ki / šamê u erṣetim, "universe / heavens and earth," in the lacunae, by the way, a reading I would very much like. Even so, Akkadian markasu (mundanely "rope") often signifies a link, an axis mundi, between the heaven and the underworld or between heaven and earth (CAD M1 283, K 505). While the lacunose ends of both lines 12Sum and 12Akk cannot be reconstructed in this way, the learned author of “In Praise of the Scribal Art” was certainly conscious at some level of the full semantic range of markasu.
My guess is that line 12 of "In Praise of the Scribal Art” should be understood as saying that the scribal art is the bond, the markasu, that binds together all the other professions. But who knows?
Sjöberg, Å W., “In Praise of the Scribal Art,” JCS, 24 (1972), 126-131.