In this blog entry, I am posting a whole year’s worth of links to the online popular articles I have found most interesting recently, with a short block quote to pique your interest.
“Why No Truly Ancient Bible Writings Have Been Found,” Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz, April 26, 2016.
The oldest Hebrew manuscripts discovered to date are the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of the scrolls date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C.E., well into the Second Temple period. A few earlier Hebraic inscriptions, mainly on stone and pottery shards, have been found, but no extensive manuscripts have survived. Yet many scholars are convinced that at least parts of the Bible had been written down hundreds of years earlier, by the 8th or 7th century B.C.E. — or even earlier. We just don’t have any evidence because of the medium the ancient scribes used. The material upon which books were copied at the time, mainly papyrus and leather parchment, is perishable, and particularly sensitive to the humid climate in the Jerusalem area. That any fragments of biblical manuscripts from antiquity survived at all is remarkable, especially when you think of what happened to the writings of other civilizations.
“40 Maps That Explain the Middle East,” Max Fisher, vox.com, March 25, 2015.
Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.
“Could Our Ancestors See Blue? Ancient people didn’t perceive the colour because they didn’t have a word for it, say scientists,” Ellie Zolfagharifard, Daily Mail, March 2, 2015.
• Studies say language shapes what we see by making us focus on objects
• Blue doesn’t appear at all in Greek stories and other ancient written texts
• As a result, scientists believe ancient civilisations didn’t notice the colour
• Egyptians – who were the only culture that could produce blue dyes – were the first civilisation to have a word for the colour blue in 2500 BC
• The Himba people in Namibia do not have a word for blue and tests have shown they have difficulty distinguishing between green and blue
“Can You Buy Genuine Antiques in Israel?,” Marty Friedlander, Haaretz, January 12, 2015.
Israel is awash in ruins and plenty of tourists want to take a piece of history home – and they can, sometimes for little more than a history textbook would cost. There are plenty of authorized shops throughout Israel where antiquities are sold. Usually you can be relatively certain that the artifact is genuine, and that it is what the seller says it is. But don’t be surprised if he turns coy on details.
“On the Half of the World That Doesn’t Make Out,” William Jankowiak, Shelly Volsche, and Justin R. Garcia, sapiens.org, February 10, 2016.
Surprisingly few societies have romantic kissing in their repertoire.
“Western Wall wearing away? Discovery of extreme erosion process could guide new preservation techniques,” The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, ScienceDaily, August 11, 2014.
Researchers have investigated erosion in the different kinds of limestone in the Western Wall at the foot of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Stones made up of large crystals were almost unchanged in 2000 years, while limestone with small crystals eroded much faster and in some places had receded by tens of centimeters, potentially weakening the wall’s structure. The researchers describe an accelerated erosion process that explains why some rocks are more weathered than others, and showed that chemo-mechanical erosion extends down to the tiny micron scale.