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Monday, February 18, 2008

Jewelry and makeup in ancient Persia

Jewelry and makeup in ancient Persia
Sun, 17 Feb 2008 18:12:00
By Hedieh Ghavidel, Press TV, Tehran

Acheamenid Jewelry
Archaeological finds in Iran show that women and men applied makeup
and arrayed themselves with ornaments approximately 10,000 years ago,
a trend which began from religious convictions rather than mere
beautification motivations.

Archaeologists have discovered various instruments of make-up and
ornamental items in the Burnt City, which date back to the third
millennium BCE.

The caves of the Bakhtiari region, where the first hunter-gatherers
settled at the end of the ice age, have yielded not only stone tools,
daggers and grindstones but also several stones covered with red

Parthian goat-shaped vessel
As no cave paintings have been found in this area, researchers believe
the people of this era bepainted their faces and bodies with ocher.

Other caves in Kermanshah have also yielded several samples of animal
bones with traces of paint. Again, as the cave walls are undecorated,
it can be inferred that the residents used these bones as ornaments.

The tombs found in Kerman have all yielded white powder made of lead
or silver suggesting the people of this region were the first to use
white powder for beautification purposes.

Jewelry found in the Burnt City, Iran
Archaeologists also believe that both women and men used a red powder
found inside small saucer-like vessels unearthed in some tombs to
redden their cheeks.

The masks and statues unearthed at Haft Tappeh in Khuzestan, show the
people of the time blackened and extended their eyebrows, reddened
their lips and cheeks and lined their eyes up to the eyebrows.

Archaeological finds dating back to the first millennium BCE, show the
diversity and abundance of cosmetics and ornaments in this period,
suggesting that this era was the peak of the art of decoration and
makeup in Iran.

A Parthian Gold Bead
Ten thousand year old discoveries from a number of caves, especially
Mazandaran's Huto and Kamarband caves and Kermanshah's Bisotoun Cave,
reveal that women and men adorned themselves with pelts, shells,
colorful stones and the teeth and bones of hunted animals.

Metal, bone, shell, stone and glass rings, bracelets, armlets,
anklets, hair and dress pins, circlets, chokers, ornamental buttons,
various ear and fingernail cleaning tools are among the frequent finds
from this era.

Persian carnelian bead bracelet (500-300 BCE)
Agate, pearls and other semi-precious stones have been discovered in
the Burnt City, and the quantity of unearthed necklaces, bracelets and
rings show that the inhabitants were fully aware of the value of
ornaments and their application.

Archaeological excavations in central Iran at Tappeh Si Arg in Kashan
and Tappeh Hessar in Damghan have unveiled the same extent of makeup
materials and ornamental ware.

Decorative beads made from pearl, turquoise, copper, silver, gold and
unbaked or baked lime from 4,600 BCE to 1,800 BCE are the most
frequent finds at these sites.

Seal showing a Persian defeating a Grecian warrior
Rings, necklaces, crowns, earrings, foot ornaments, bracelets and even
metal beads adorned with what is thought to be family insignia all
testify to the mastery of their artisans.

Tappeh Hessar graves, even those belonging to children, all contain an
array of such objects.

Cave dwellers used water as the first mirror. Gradually as man learned
to melt and polish metals, he crafted mirrors.

A pair of Gold Earrings ( 500-300 BCE)
The oldest man-made mirrors discovered, which date back 4500 years,
have been found mostly in Ilam, Luristan and Azarbaijan and are
ornamented with mythological figures carved into their handles and

In the excavation of the Sassanid tombs of Azarbaijan, two sheets of
glass with tar and silver-coated backs were discovered, which
archaeologists believe were used like modern mirrors.

These sheets of glass/ancient mirrors like many other Iranian
treasures from the past have been housed in the British Museum.

An Achaemenid seal housed in the Louvre depicts a fully made-up
aristocratic woman looking at her reflection in a mirror while a maid
presents her with a hairpiece.

The first combs found in Burnt City excavations are as old as 4,700
years and are mostly wooden with embossed decorations.

Studies suggest the women of Sistan used combs for both decoration and
functional means.

Persepolis image
One ancient statue shows a queen with her hair collected behind her
head in a crescent.

Archaeologists believe women used the various springs found in the
tombs in Ilam's Poshtkoh cemetery to wrap their hair. Hair wrappers
with a bejeweled middle or outside rod have also been discovered in
Ilam's Chenar graveyard.

Persepolis images suggest kings and soldiers used extensions in their
beards and hair.

Achaemenid white agate bead necklace ( 550-330 BCE)
Parthians wore pendants, tiny pins, rings, circlets, perfume, precious
stones and clay or glass beads to banish ill omens.

Sassanid women were so attached to makeup and ornaments that they were
often buried with them. In this era, the use of semi-precious
ornamental objects became popular, an example of which is the belt
buckle adorned with pink agate which is housed at the Wisebaden

Sassanid carnelian stamp seal
Achaemenid jewelry was decorated with mythological, plant and animal
shapes. For example, bracelets were thin and the two ends were adorned
by lion, ram, goose, deer or snake heads.

The intricacy of some of the jewelry unearthed still amazes
archaeologists as to how people from ancient times designed and
produced ornaments of such delicacy.
pictures at site

Ancient City with Huge Population

Ancient city discovered in India
By Sandeep Sahu

Indian archaeologists say they have found remains which point to the
existence of a city about 7,000 years old in eastern India.

The remains have been discovered at Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar,
capital of the eastern state of Orissa.

Researchers say the items found during the excavation point to a
highly developed urban settlement.

The population of the city could have been in the region of 20,000 to
25,000, the archaeologists claim.

The excavations include 18 stone pillars, pottery, terracotta
ornaments and bangles, finger rings, ear spools and pendants made of

But some historians and archaeologists in Orissa have expressed
reservations about the claim of the researchers - they say it is too
early to say anything about the population or periodicity of the area.


RK Mohanty of the department of archaeology, Deccan College, Pune, who
is one of the two researchers involved in the excavations.

"The significance of this ancient city becomes clear when one bears in
mind the fact that the population of classical Athens was barely
10,000," he said.

Mr Mohanty, along with Monica Smith of the Cotsen Institute of
Archaeology, University of California, has been carrying out limited
excavations at the site every year since 2005 with the permission of
the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The latest round of excavations ended last Monday and the new
discoveries have been covered with special plastic material and earth
to preserve them before further digging is taken up in subsequent

The first excavations at the site were carried out by Prof BB Lal as
far back as in 1948.

On the basis of the architectural pattern and artefacts discovered
during the early excavations, Prof Lal concluded that this fort city
flourished between 3rd century BC and 4th century AD.

On the basis of the new findings, Ms Smith and Mr Mohanty claim that
the fortified city flourished from around 5th century BC and probably
lasted well after the 4th century.

"We have employed geophysical survey, systematic surface collections
and selected excavations in the 4.8km perimeter of the fortified area
and studied individual houses and civic as well as domestic
architecture to arrive at the figure of 25,000," said Ms Smith.

"If anything, it is a conservative estimate."


But some historians and archaeologists in Orissa have expressed
reservations about the claim of the two researchers.

"At best, it is a guesswork. Without excavating the entire area of the
fortified city, it is not possible to determine its population or
periodicity," said BK Rath, former director of the state archaeology

"The actual area excavated so far is only a minuscule part of the
city. How does one determine the size of the average family in a
period about which very little historical literature or evidence is

"Besides, the comparison with Athens is odious since it was not a
fortified city like Sisupalgarh," he said.

Mr Rath, however, gives credit to Ms Smith and Mr Mohanty for having
focussed attention on the problem of encroachment that is threatening
to engulf a large part of the fortified city.

The major portion of the land that constitutes the ancient city is in
private possession making an archaeological study difficult.

Besides, several urban settlements have sprung up in the vicinity of
the area in the last few years owing to its proximity to the city of

With a view to preserving this important archaeological site for
future research, the ASI is now contemplating asking the state
government for control over the land.


"This way, we can prevent further encroachment and develop the site as
a tourist attraction," said BR Mani, a senior ASI official.

There is also some concern about the preservation of the material
which has been found during the excavation.

Well-known historian Karuna Sagar Behera voiced serious concern over
the preservation of material unearthed from the site.

"Its is a shame that some gold coins and terracotta pottery found at
the place during the first excavation in the late 1940s were
subsequently lost," he said.

"Measures should be taken to ensure that all the material excavated
are properly preserved for future research."

The project is being supported by the National Science Foundation of
India, the National Geographic Society and the Cotsen Institute of
Archaeology, California.
Pictures at the Source

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ancient Discovery in Peru

With Climate Swing, a Culture Bloomed in Americas

by Christopher Joyce

Archaeologist Jonathan Haas
Photo Gallery: Explore the Excavation Site

A map showing the location of Norte Chico.

Alice Kreit, NPR

The mound builders settled in the arid, coastal hills of northwestern

Archaeologist Winifred Creamer works at an excavation in Norte Chico,

Archaeologist Winifred Creamer works at an excavation in Norte Chico,
Peru. Courtesy Jonathan Haas

All Things Considered, February 11, 2008 · Along the coast of Peru, a
mysterious civilization sprang up about 5,000 years ago. This was many
centuries before the Incan Empire. Yet these people were
sophisticated. They cultivated crops and orchards. And they built huge
monuments of earth and rock.

Archaeologists are trying to prove that an abrupt change of climate
created this new culture.

The culture has no official name yet. It flourished in a series of dry
coastal valleys called Norte Chico. The place is a moonscape --
desolate, misty, a place of rock and dirt, with the occasional cactus
and a few hardy trees along the few streams and rivers.

The Mound Builders

What drove people to settle here is something archaeologist Jonathan
Haas, of the Field Museum in Chicago, has puzzled over for years.

He doesn't know exactly why they built the mounds he has discovered in
Norte Chico. But he has been working on the problem since he first
made some unusual finds eight years ago.

"You get down on your hands and knees," he says, showing exactly how
he did it years ago, "and what you find is little pieces of seashell.
And then you go, 'How do I get little pieces of seashell out here?'
And I thought, 'Well, I don't know, I don't know, and I don't really
care.' "

But of course he did care.

"I puzzled and puzzled and puzzled over it, and I finally realized it
was the people who were building the mounds who were coming out here,
and I bet they were fishermen."

Fishermen who had come up from the coast about 10 miles away, bringing
shellfish. But why?

The story starts thousands of years ago, when people from eastern Asia
flowed into North America and then South America. On a local beach,
Haas tells the story.

"People are going where the good resources are," says Haas, a burly,
bearded man in his 50s with a wheeze from years of inhaling desert
dust. "Right down to this very beach."

This beach is called Barranca. Early Americans -- hunters and gatherers
-- came here to fish and collect mussels and clams. That worked fine
until about 3000 B.C., Haas says. "At around 3000, the environment
begins to change."

A Change in the El Nino Cycle

Haas suspects that what changed was El Nino, the cycle of warm ocean
water and torrential rains that regularly descends on western South
America. Some shift in the coupling of the atmosphere and the Pacific
Ocean made El Ninos more frequent. Haas doesn't know why it happened,
but he believes more frequent El Ninos had a drastic effect on coastal

"They were pushing out the cold-water fish," he says of the new El
Ninos, "bringing in warm-water fish, killing off local clams and

The fishing got bad, the weather unpredictable. So people moved
inland, to the desert valleys. It was only 10 miles or so, but it
might as well have been the moon.

One of the places they went is now called Huaricanga. The ancient
people built a mound here about 5,000 years ago. Haas' team is now
excavating it. His wife, a professor of archaeology at Northern
Illinois Univerisity, is in charge. Winifred Creamer is tall, lanky
and soft-spoken. She has a team of students in tow, ready to trowel
and shovel away the face of a "profile" -- a sheer wall of mound that
was created when local farmers dug an irrigation ditch through it.

What they are looking for in this layer-cake of dirt and rock are the
remains of floors and walls. There were hearths or fires, too, that
show up as dark, burned areas inside the mound. What the team has
discovered is that people actually lived on these structures over
successive generations.

Working conditions aren't ideal, Creamer says. "We're standing here
working outside somebody's house. We're on the edge of the highway,
and we're standing in a ditch that may or not fill with water, and the
area right behind where we're working is where people throw trash, so
it's not really the romance of archaeology, is it?" She laughingly
notes that it isn't the kind of place Indiana Jones would work.

A Balance Between Cultures, Old and New

Local people stand above and watch. Alvaro Ruiz, the Peruvian co-
director of the project, says these farmers are poor, uneducated but
curious about their ancient relatives. But they're also worried about
what the digging might do to their life-giving irrigation system.

"We don't want to cause any damage to their irrigation, because people
live here, they have many problems, they need to live -- that's the
point," Ruiz says.

Life was even harder 5,000 years ago. The mound-builders who abandoned
coastal hunting-and-gathering and came here had to learn how to grow
crops and irrigate them from the precious few rivers and streams. The
weather controlled life, especially El Nino.

Standing on a hill, Creamer says El Nino storms would have brought
life-giving water, but also destruction.

"You look up this dry wash that we're situated in, and imagine a 40-
foot-high wall of water rolling out of that," she says. "That would
have a pretty life-changing impact on everybody in this valley."

But people learned a new way of life here in the valleys. Culture grew
more complex. Trade flourished. Coastal people brought shellfish -- the
shells Haas found in the desert -- and took back squash and cotton. And
they brought their labor to help build the mounds. It was massive
architecture on a scale never seen before in the New World.

On a rare sunny afternoon in the Peruvian winter, Haas climbs into a
battered SUV and drives out to Porvenir. It's one of dozens of mounds
hidden in the creases of the valleys. It's at least 1,000 years older
than other mounds in the New World.

A Stone Birthday Cake

Past fields of sugar cane and a network of narrow irrigation ditches,
a narrow pass leads to a flat area surrounded by hills. The mound is a
pile of rubble, 30 feet high and maybe 200 feet across. Originally, it
was terraced, with a flat top, and was the product of enormous labor.

"You have to think of a large stone birthday cake," Haas says with an
almost fatherly pride. "And it would have been covered with plaster,
and you can have it pink, you can have it light orange." He says the
builders would have replastered it regularly, to keep it looking

Whoever these people were, they built these monuments even before the
Egyptians built the pyramids.

On the mound, there are pits dug by present-day looters. Human bones
and trash litter the ground. Haas has found precious little jewelry,
and this culture made no pottery. Nor has he found weapons.

"This isn't the coolest archaeology in the world in terms of the stuff
you find," he says. "There are no beautiful ceramics, no gold
masks ... our treasure is trash, residential architecture, and all of
a sudden those start bringing together this incredible picture of the
origins of civilization in South America."

Haas believes a change in climate started all of this.

"If you think about going from a hunter-gatherer society to this
highly centralized society with an organized religion, it's a pretty
dramatic change to take place over a very short period of time," Haas

There is still a lot of work to do to prove that. Haas is taking
sediment cores from a nearby lake that should tell him about climate
changes 5,000 years ago. He and colleagues in the United States are
studying the rings in seashells he has found. The shells should
provide evidence of how ocean temperatures changed during that period.

But whatever this society's genesis, Haas believes its way of life --
the mounds, sunken plazas, irrigation agriculture, religion --
eventually spread across South America, like a map unfolding.

"There's a very distinctive Andean pattern that starts here and then
spreads and forms the foundation for Andean civilization for the next
5,000 years. It's pretty cool," he says.

Source Story

Sneak Peak and Rough Draft

Comments/suggestions appreciated:

No Working Title

The giants stood upon a hill, gazing down at the valley. There were seven of them, and all of them were thicker of frame than any man that Nufta had ever seen. And though Nufta was a tall man, in fact the tallest man in all the hamlets this side of the inner sea, he would have had to stand on his tiptoes to look even the shortest of them eye to eye.
The giants were looking down upon the fields where Nufta's people had been working, reaping wild wheat from the bountiful fields that lay across the slope. Now the men stood still, faces grim and scythes held defensively braced before them, or before a woman near them. Some of the women were scurrying back towards the hamlet, and one just a second before had let out a disheartening scream. Beyond them, far off in the center of the valley, small pillars of smoke rose from clusters of huts, one of which Nufta called his home. The intruders had come just at the ending of the day, and the sun was beginning to set behind a further hill.
Dusk draped the tallest giant like a cloak. He was eyeing Maya, the girl who had screamed. She was running down the hill towards the smokey huts, her attractive skin glowing bronze in the fading light and her dark brown hair and garments flowing out behind her like wake in the wind. the giant looked satisfied; he looked like a man who had come home.
Nufta breathed in the Mana from the air. He visualized the energy swelling up around him. He saw his spirit rise above his body, saw it drop down into the body of the giant, and looked at his own body from the giant's eyes. Then Nufta imagined a brilliant chord of light, flowing from the center of his own chest to the giants, and flowing from the giant's chest to his. He allowed the rest of the world to fade away, so that only he and the giant existed, poised in time for a moment, seperate from the world...
But then the giant shook his head and thundered a roarous laugh down into the valley below. As it echoed among the hills, the other giants joined in, and the world came back into quick focus for Nufta. his magic had failed.
The giants words were strange to Nufta, but he understood them for the most part, being very close to the speech of the woodsmen who lived to the north of nufta's people. And in those days men had not yet fully learned to hide their communications with words.
"I have come to protect you," laughed the giant. "It is a wonder my people have not yet come to claim you. But you will harvest for ME, now, and we will keep them and all others at bay."

First Things First

First Things First
By: Jay D. Homnick

These pages have lately been the preferred venue for hashing out questions concerning the biblical and Talmudic view of Creation. A great deal of confusion tends to attend such discussions. The most menacing pitfall of all is when people begin mentioning particular figures, such as Darwin and Dawkins, and sparring with their contention that the processes of natural development could have occurred without being set in motion and/or guided by a supreme Creator.

Really, there is no more profound waste of time for a serious Jew than to engage such "theorists." It is just as absurd to suppose that the world existed on its own and developed through random evolution as it was when the Greeks maintained that it always existed in its present form without being created.

An honest, healthy mind, fearless of consequences, cannot look at this spectacularly complex world, made up of spectacularly complex subatomic particles, interacting in spectacularly complex couplings, without concluding it was designed to be just what it is. End of conversation.

What is interesting, not in any defensive, threatened or apologetic way, is to determine how closely the scientific information, gleaned through experimentation, mirrors the Torah concepts we have received through revelation.

First we need to establish perspective by seeing how the Oral Law processed the Bible’s presentation. One Mishna encapsulates the entire subject. It begins the 5th chapter of Avot: "The world was created by ten Divine statements. Why was this necessary? Couldn’t everything have been created in one statement? It must be to punish the wicked who destroy a ten-part world and reward the righteous who maintain a ten-part world."

In other words, the surprising part of the Bible’s Creation story is that it has phases. In purely religious terms, we would presume that the world was created at once, since an omnipotent Creator has no need for steps. Had Creation not been mentioned in Genesis, the natural assumption would be that it was done simultaneously. The purpose of the Bible story is to introduce a staged process. This somehow raises the stakes on the table of existence, making the righteous maintenance of the enterprise a more profound achievement.

We can extrapolate from this Mishna to the arena of time as well. The intuitive sense would lead us to think that all of Creation would be accomplished at once. Instead there is a span of development described as seven distinct days, with new components added each day until the full architectural vision is realized at the very end of this schedule. Not only are there stages within the development of matter, there are periods of time that chart signposts of progress.

Again, in the intellectual sense this version of events can be fairly termed more scientific than religious. The faith system not only did not "need" this information, it is to a significant degree undermined by it. As a thought experiment, imagine a Jew in a roundtable debate, about two thousand years ago, against a monotheist who denies the Bible and a Greek atheist who denies Creation. The monotheist will accuse the Jew of selling out to the Greek science. Why impose artificial limits on the Almighty and say He used stages and time periods? It is just a weird and uncomfortable idea to posit an omnipotent Creator who chose to limit the pace of His creating.

Even more mystifying is the insistence in the biblical text that a point existed at which no observer could glean an inkling of where all this was heading. By the eleventh word of Genesis, we have already been plunged into a dark world of chaotic images that defy any decoding.

"A man seeing this vista would be utterly confused by the havoc," Rashi (1035-1105) explains. (The Midrash says it would have been heresy to say this had it not been written.) Try explaining this to the monotheist who has reasoned that the Creator is all powerful and all knowing. What possible purpose would there be in forcing existence to pass through an amorphous state?

The point here is that the Torah is spending all its initial effort on teaching you science rather than religion. The first sentence would have been quite enough. "In the beginning the Lord created the heavens and the earth." Straightforward. Now tell me how to live my life.

Instead, the Jew is being forced to train his mind to relinquish simplistic constructs of how divinity meets humanity. The world was cobbled together, emerging in fits and starts, passing through realms beyond our ken.

To review, the concept of creation taking time was introduced by the Bible, only later – much, much later – to be echoed by scientists. The idea of creation having distinct "ages" along the track to completion was taught here first as well. None of these premises benefited the religious model; if anything, they imported new complications.

The next shock comes when the Bible teaches that all living creatures were somehow fashioned out of the preexisting stuff of inorganic matter.

Creatures of the sea are said (Genesis 1:20) to be spawned from the water. Animals emerge from the instruction (1:24) "Let the earth bring forth…" (The Talmud in Chullin 27b adds that birds combine both water and earth sources.) Then man was fashioned from "dust of the earth" (2:7). This point is important enough to review afterward (2:19): "And God shaped from the earth all the living animals of the field and all that flies in the heavens…"

Once again the basic religious impulse is stood on its head. Every time we are told that God made a new creature, the biblical text hastens to clarify that He used available matter as his clay. No new material is added to make the fish, the birds, the animals or even man. The introduction of life is somehow accomplished without the addition of a single new element. All the ingredients were built into the earth in its initial structure (as Rashi repeatedly reminds us in his commentary).

There is no question that without these verses it would be sacrilege to suggest such a scenario. How dare we suggest that God did not deliver these creatures fully formed out of nothingness?

Compounding this tendency, the Talmudic and midrashic tradition teaches that those instructions were issued by God to mediating forces granted a mind-boggling degree of autonomy in implementation. The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a, Chullin 60a) says each creature was created "willingly." Rashi explains in Rosh Hashanah: "They were asked if they wished to be created and they said yes."

The Midrash Rabba even posits the notion that the trees (or the earth producing the trees) deviated from the original plan in some detail. Rashi (Genesis 1:11) quotes this, explaining that the bark was supposed to have some of the taste of the fruit. The Midrash’s text implies the bark would have been somewhat edible. This language is carried as far as suggesting that the earth was later punished for this misjudgment.

The Talmud (Chullin ibid.) says the grasses derived some information about their own layout from the language delivered to the trees. Grasses were not told directly to divide into separate patches for each type, and could have grown on top of each other in unruly entanglements. When they heard the trees being told to grow in distinct areas for each species, the grasses decided that strategy worked for them too; perhaps even better, since trees had less potential for converging on each other.

Not only is the grass described as an intelligent force, an active force and an autonomous force, it is even presumed to have the right to implement a rule gleaned by deduction. Amazing concept: it can overhear an instruction to another, theorize an application to its own situation, then actually put its conclusion into practice.

Whatever all these things might mean literally, their message to us is clear. We are being taught that the creatures we see above the earth and below the sea are the result of some internal engine, some pre-programmed pulse, that somehow generated the inhabitants of the earth from the matter of the earth itself.

As startling as this approach must have been to the assumed orthodoxies in other religions and secular systems, nothing can compare in bombshell status to the biblically hinted, and Talmudically expounded, notion of prehistoric man.

The Talmud in Shabbos (88b) indicates there were 974 generations of prehistoric man. In Chagiga (13b) the Talmud sounds more like those generations were never actualized. The Midrash Rabba (Genesis 28) says they were wiped out.

While it remains somewhat unclear exactly what these 974 generations represent, this seems to be a matter of prime importance that is stressed in two verses (Psalms 105:8, Chronicles I 16:15). These verses point out that the Torah was given to the thousandth generation, which is explained by the Midrash to mean the 974 prehistoric generations plus the 26 from Adam until Moses.

Apparently, this highlights the high level of Torah – that it took a thousand stages in the creation of man, stages designated as "generations," before man could receive such exalted wisdom.

The Jews traveled through history for millennia studying the Talmud and Midrash, comfortable with a unique concept of prehistoric man, a concept that gave that creature (or idea) a 974:26 edge in pre-biblical generations.

If geology and archaeology have indeed yielded specimens that are indisputably prehistoric men (I am not expert enough to be certain of this), they are substantiating one of the most mysterious parts of the Jewish intellectual tradition. (The late David Brown makes this point in a work that received the imprimatur of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, zt"l, considered one of the supreme scholars of the last generation.)

Even many Jews are not aware that the dating system existed before the seven days of Creation. The tradition (Midrash Pesikta) is that the first day of Creation was the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month, so that man emerged on the first day of the seventh month: hence Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of mankind’s birth. What this suggests in terms of what existed before is left unclear.

Another point relating to time is in the area of compression. Sometimes time seems to accommodate much more than we would expect, as in the Talmudic tradition (Sanhedrin 38b) that Adam was created on the sixth day, Eve two hours later, and their two children were born an hour after that. On the other hand, we find early man living eight or nine hundred years. However these things are explained, the overriding message comes through: do not expect to compute the early time frames for events with great retrospective accuracy.

All this being said, there is one other Mishna which holds another very important key. That is in Chagiga (11b), where it states that the story of Creation should only be taught to one student at a time, not in the classroom. Creation is a matter that must be conveyed with great accuracy and subtlety.

The Talmud and Midrash explain that this is an area in which God hides more than He reveals. We are only getting chapter headings and general categories, not detailed descriptions. Anyone can see that the vast majority of the Bible deals with the life of the Jews after the Exodus from Egypt. Even Genesis itself devotes a great deal more space to the conflict between Joseph and his brothers than it does to the rudimentary sketch of Creation.

Furthermore, we encounter a phenomenon in the Creation story that is inconceivable in other biblical tales. There are entire sections of the presentation that are understood to be conceptual rather than actual.

The Talmud in Brachot (61a), Eruvin (18a) and Ketubot (8a) says the verse (Genesis 5:2) "He created them male and female" refers to a "prior concept" of Creation rather than to what happened in the end, where man appeared without immediately having a companion. Rashi (ibid 1:1) seems to go much further, understanding a Midrash to say that the entire first chapter of Genesis is communicating a conceptual model.

Once again, this type of interpretation is never applied to any other part of the Torah. It is clear that Creation is being transmitted in a unique system, where the principle – not the medium – is the message.

In summation, the Bible does not claim to be presenting a complete version of Creation. No one could possibly tell you for certain what exactly happened to the dust of the earth in the course of its becoming man. What we can derive from the first chapters of Genesis is a broad outline with a few critical high points. Those keystones tend to be supported by the clearer conclusions of science.

Long before modern science, we Jews said it took time to create the world. Long before modern science, we said it was created in stages. Long before modern science, we said living things were developed from preexisting matter.

Long before modern science, we said there was something encoded into the evolving planet to drive it toward perfection. Long before modern science, we said the most sophisticated creatures came last, with man as the climax.

The indications that these claims are accurate serve as a dazzling testimony that our revelation, counterintuitive though it was, was indeed the truth.

To get pulled into haggling over the small change of how long each segment of time was exactly, or how many stages intervened between the dust being dust and its becoming a living creature, is to miss the point by a wide margin, to miss seeing the forest for the trees. We are the ones splitting the atoms; the skeptics are splitting the hairs.

A scientific theory, to be confirmed, must be able to predict outcomes. In applying science to past events, it makes sense to require predictions of what the evidence will show when it is found. Our tradition, more scientific than reflexively religious as we have shown, has been borne out in a very big way, thousands of years after we publicized our assertions.

Those primitive religionists who mocked us have been upstaged. Those secular cynics who challenged us have been undermined. Our oil is still burning, long after it was predicted to go out.

Jay D. Homnick writes weekly columns on religion, politics and culture for The American Spectator and Human Events.

Jewish Press Article

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Medieval Waterworks

Thanks to peter Alaca of sci.archeolgy for providing us with a brief translation:

During roadworks last year in Brughes a valve of the old
public waterworks was found. The age of the valve is
unknown, but it is mentioned in the records of 1610.
The object on the right is the "key" to operate the valve

Already in the late 13th century waterworks made of lead
pipes existed in Brughes, bringing water from a pond (and
later from the moat around the city) to public wells and to
some businesses in the centre of town. They were called
"moerbuizen". A pipe in a different location can be seen in
photo 3.

Water was brought into the system with a peddle wheel
in a "waterhouse". The 14th/15c waterhouse can be seen
here in the first picture and in the second picture on the
Left in the second pucture is its 18th c replacement.
The system was in use until the early 20th century

Water Works
Water House

Saturday, February 9, 2008

40,000 year old Neanderthal tooth suggests mobility

40,000 year old Neanderthal tooth found in Greece suggests greater
mobility of Neanderthals than previously believed. That is, if you
believe 20 kilometers is proof of mobility.

Picture at the cite
A 40,000-year-old tooth is seen in this undated hand out photo
released by Greek Culture Ministry. Analysis of the tooth uncovered in
southern Greece indicates for the first time that Neanderthals may
have traveled more widely than previously thought, paleontologists
announced on Friday, Feb. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Greek Culture Ministry)

(AP) -- Analysis of a 40,000-year-old tooth found in southern Greece
suggests Neanderthals were more mobile than once thought,
paleontologists said Friday.

Analysis of the tooth - part of the first and only Neanderthal remains
found in Greece - showed the ancient human had spent at least part of
its life away from the area where it died.

"Neanderthal mobility is highly controversial," said
paleoanthropologist Katerina Harvati at the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Some experts believe Neanderthals roamed over very limited areas, but
others say they must have been more mobile, particularly when hunting,
Harvati said.

Until now, experts only had indirect evidence, including stone used in
tools, Harvati said. "Our analysis is the first that brings evidence
from a Neanderthal fossil itself," she said.

The findings by the Max Planck Institute team were published in the
Journal of Archaeological Science.

The tooth was found in a seaside excavation in Greece's southern
Peloponnese region in 2002.

The team analyzed tooth enamel for ratios of a strontium isotope, a
naturally occurring metal found in food and water. Levels of the metal
vary in different areas.

Eleni Panagopoulou of the Paleoanthropology-Speleology Department of
Southern Greece said the tooth's levels of strontium showed that the
Neanderthal grew up at least 12.5 miles from the discovery site.

"Our findings prove that ... their settlement networks were broader
and more organized than we believed," Panagopoulou said.

Clive Finlayson, an expert on Neanderthals and director of the
Gibraltar Museum, disagreed with the finding's significance.

"I would have been surprised if Neanderthals didn't move at least 20
kilometers (12.5 miles) in their lifetime, or even in a year ... We're
talking about humans, not trees," Finlayson said.

Source Article

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Royal Goddesses of a Bronze Age State

Royal Goddesses of a Bronze Age State Volume 61 Number 1, January/
February 2008
by Marco Merola

Its arms arranged in a gesture of prayer, the figurine at right
probably depicts a living queen worshipping the statuette of a dead
royal, left. (Courtesy Maura Sala)

It's been more than 30 years since Italian archaeologists found a vast
archive of 17,000 cuneiform tablets at the Bronze Age site of Ebla in
northern Syria. But the ancient city is still surprising those who
work there. Last year archaeologist Paolo Matthiae's team discovered
two almost perfectly preserved figurines that confirm textual evidence
for a royal cult of the dead focused on the city's queens. They also
found an unusual tablet that allowed scholars to reconstruct the
political climate that led to Ebla's destruction in 2300 B.C., when it
was sacked by Sargon of Akkad.

"We made the finds in two peripheral rooms of the great Royal Palace,
where we discovered the cuneiform archive in the 1970s," explains
Matthiae. "They were part of the zone behind the Court of the Audience
Hall, a sort of storage area which must have held the treasures of the
king of Ebla."

Initially the team avoided the rooms, assuming they had been emptied
when Sargon ransacked the city. "But we were wrong!" says Matthiae.
"Evidently the two statues were crushed into the ground and
miraculously escaped the pillage."

Both figurines are intricate representations of women, which are rare
in Near Eastern Bronze Age art. One, made of steatite and wood, is
depicted with her arms arranged in a gesture indicating prayer. The
second figurine holds a goblet and wears an ornate gold dress. Both
seem to have been used in a ritual mentioned in a tablet from Ebla
that describes how the city's dead queens became female deities who
were then worshiped privately by their successors. Matthiae suspects
the steatite figure depicts a living queen who would have prayed to
the gold-covered figurine, itself a representation of a dead queen who
had become a goddess.


This cuneiform tablet, ca. 2300 B.C., details arms shipments from Ebla
to allied states. (Courtesy Maura Sala)

In the same area, Matthiae found a cuneiform tablet which accounted
for weapons distributed from Ebla to allied cities during a war
sometime before 2300 B.C. "The military campaign the tablet mentions
is possibly the one Ebla waged against the state of Mari," says
Matthiae. Records indicate that Ebla defeated Mari, its great
commercial and political rival, just before it in turn was destroyed.

Matthiae thinks Ebla's military aggression alarmed the powerful states
of southern Mesopotamia, such as Akkad, because soon after its
conflict with Mari, Sargon launched his campaign against the city.

The tablet lists the number of spear points Ebla sent to each of its
allied states, a stark expression of the political influence and
military prowess the southern states feared. Nagar, today known as
Tell Brak was the biggest client, receiving 2,000 spear points.
According to Matthiae, this proliferation of weaponry may have
impelled Sargon to launch the preemptive strike against Ebla, which
ended the state.
Source Site and Pics

Doctoral student makes discovery on Neanderthal eating habits

The Hatchet
(George Washington University student newspaper)

Doctoral student makes discovery on Neanderthal eating habits
by Michael Moffett
Hatchet Reporter
Issue date: 2/7/08 Section: News

A doctoral student studying hominid paleobiology has pioneered a
method for analyzing reindeer bones from around 65,000 to 12,000 years
ago, an accomplishment that allows scientists to further understand
the eating habits of early humans.

Early humans flocked to reindeer meat when the temperature dropped, J.
Tyler Faith discovered.

"We see a steady increase in the abundance of reindeer, associated
with declines in summer temperature," Faith said.

Faith analyzed bones from the Grotte XVI archaeological site in
southern France in order to better understand the relationship between
early humans and animals, and how this was affected by changes in the

Faith's new findings help to understand the differences between
Neanderthals and the modern man. He said differences in hunting
behavior cannot explain why Neanderthals dropped out of existence
between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.

"Variation in the types of animals hunted and the parts of those
animals that were exploited and processed by the human and Neanderthal
occupants of Grotte XVI can be explained largely by environmental
change, rather than behavioral or technological differences," Faith

His study was called "important, insightful and innovative" by Donald
Grayson, a renowned Grotte XVI researcher and professor at the
University of Washington, in an interview with Discovery News.

Faith has previously worked to develop "quantitative methods for
measuring changes in how humans butchered and transported large animal

He has also done research at the Shompole conservation area in
southern Kenya, where he studied animal bones as a way to understand
living wildlife.

For his dissertation, Faith is researching the extinction of large
mammals in southern Africa. He hopes to determine whether human
hunting pressure or changes to the environment contributed to the
extinction of large mammals.

Including this study, Faith has been published five times in The
Journal of Archeological Science, and has also been featured in
Discovery News. He recently submitted work to the Journal of Human
Evolution. Faith said he hopes to continue researching in East and
southern Africa after he receives his Ph.D. and eventually hopes to
become a professor at a research-oriented university.

"I have had a great time at GWU - I couldn't be happier anywhere
else," Faith said. "I was excited by the many research opportunities
available here in my program and at the National Museum of Natural

6 Vicus Culture Pyramids Discovered in Peru!!

LIP-ir) -- It was announced today that a group of pyramids belonging
to the Vicús Culture were found by workers doing clean-up work in
Piura. Archaeologists from Peru's Institute for Culture (INC) were
immediately informed and confirmed the pyramids were a religious area
or a cemetery for Vicús Culture elite.

The archaeological complex consists of six pyramids - two large
pyramids and four smaller ones. It was reported that a high
concentration of vestiges have been found in one of the larger
pyramids as well as bone fragments and a human skull.

It is believed an important member of the Vicús Culture is buried 25
meters (82 feet) underground. A platform, where it is believed
ceremonies took place, has been found next to one of the larger
Source Article and Picture

Flying Pyramids Soaring Stones

History Explorer
Flying Pyramids Soaring Stones.
Tune In:
Sunday, February 10 @ 12pm ET/PT

How did the ancient Egyptians build the pyramids and lift obelisks?
These spectacular feats of engineering defy explanation. Theories
about ropes, ramps, ingenuity, and brute force abound. Even aliens
have been credited. But no definitive answer to this enigma exists.
Now, an extraordinary new theory is being tested. Expert sailors,
Egyptians used wind power on the Nile. Could they also harness the
power of the wind on land and use land sails, or kites, to help lift
heavy stones?
Read More on the California Technical Institute Website Kite Life Magazine

The Black Rat Cometh

The black rat seems to be part of the early spread of agriculture, at
least in Europe.

The Black Rat Cometh

By Cheryl Jones
ScienceNOW Daily News
6 February 2008
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA--Potentially fatal rat-borne diseases, such as
typhus and leptospirosis, are likely to spread farther around the
world, according to research presented here this week at the
Archaeological Science Conference 2008.

The findings come from a genetic analysis of the black rat (Rattus
rattus), the rodent that spreads the bubonic plague. Researchers led
by mammalogist Ken Aplin of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation compared DNA sequences from 170 urban
and wild black rats from around the world to create a family tree. The
data allowed the team to track the rat's prehistoric and modern
migrations and to investigate its impact on people. Black rats wreak
havoc on agriculture, especially in Asia, and remain a major source of
human disease.

The rodent is much more genetically diverse than previously thought,
Aplin reported. His team identified six lineages, each of which could
turn out to be a separate species. According to the genetic data, the
ancestral black rat group first appeared in Southeast Asia about a
million years ago.

Since then, the rodent has been on a global march. The study revealed
high genetic variation among Indian rats, suggesting that the pest
arrived there naturally, long before modern humans evolved. According
to Aplin's study, one group of Indian rats invaded the Middle East.
The black rat then colonized Europe, probably traveling with the first
farmers. Using Europe as a launch pad and sailing ships as transport,
the rodent spread to the Americas, Africa, Australia, and the islands
of the Indian Ocean and eastern Pacific.

Another two of the six lineages dispersed around Southeast Asia and
the western Pacific during prehistoric times and more recently made
landfall on other continents, the study showed. One of those lineages
lives as a rat ethnic minority, along with the dominant European
group, in California. That suggests a second wave of migration to the
Americas, perhaps during the gold rush.

The rats haven't stopped invading new territories. "We have evidence
that the lineages of black rats are increasingly on the move," Aplin
says. "They [continue to] cross oceans and borders in cargo, invading

That could lead to an increasing spread of the diseases that black
rats transmit, such as typhus and leptospirosis. The team's comparison
of known disease epidemiology and its own genetic results suggest that
each group of black rats carries its own disease variants. "Human
resistance to newly introduced disease variants may be low," Aplin
says. One such assault might have already occurred. Seoul virus, a rat-
borne disease well known in Asia, and which causes hemorrhaging,
turned up in California in the 1990s, killing several people and
taking medical authorities by surprise. "That's the sort of thing that
is going to happen increasingly as we see black rats move around the
world," Aplin says.

The study will provide the genetic data pest managers need to control
the spread of rats in rural areas, says Grant Singleton, a biologist
at the International Rice Research Institute in Manila, Philippines,
and an expert on rat ecology. The genetic groups are likely to breed
in response to differing seasonal cues--behavior that could be
exploited in the fight against them. "We now know that we cannot be
generic in our management," he says.

Romulus and Remus For Real?

More on the supposed discovery of the Lupercal, a
shrine with which Romans in historical times commem-
orated their legendary past:

"Does a cave prove Romulus and Remus are no myth?"

By Andrea Pitzer, Special for USA TODAY

The discovery of an ancient Roman cave has unearthed
a debate about its historical purpose and delved into a
deeper question for scholars: Can archaeology prove
mythology? The cave was found when a camera was
lowered through a hole in Rome's Palatine Hill during
restorations of the palace of the Emperor Augustus,
who ruled from the late first century B.C. until his
death in A.D. 14. The Palatine Hill was a seat of power
in ancient Rome; today it is home to the fragile remains
of palaces and temples.

The discovery of the vaulted cavern, more than 50 feet
underground and covered in mosaics, was announced in
November. Some believe it is a shrine of the Lupercale,
the sacred cave where Romulus and Remus, the legend-
ary founders of Rome, are said to have been suckled by
a wolf --lupa in Latin.

According to Roman mythology, the twin sons of a
priestess and Mars, the god of war, were set adrift in
the Tiber River. Instead of drowning, the infants
washed ashore.

Francesco Rutelli, Italy's Minister of Culture, says the
cave is the Lupercale celebrated in Augustus' time, as
evidenced by references in 2,000-year-old texts.

Archaeologist Andrea Carandini of Rome's La Sapienza
University calls the finding "one of the greatest discov-
eries ever made" and says the chances are "minimal"
that the cave is not the site revered by the Romans as
the Lupercale.

Carandini and others point to discoveries such as the
cave and earlier findings of ancient structures as evi-
dence that myths about the city's founding reflect
history, and say that the founder of Rome may actual-
ly have been named Romulus.

Subject to interpretation

But linking artifacts to legends is risky business, say
historians and other archaeologists.

"Everyone always wants to think that archaeology has
proved the Bible is true, or that there really was a Tro-
jan War, or that King Arthur was a real character,"
says historian T.P. Wiseman of England's University
of Exeter. "Archaeology by its nature can't provide
such evidence."

He says that when archaeologists interpret an artifact,
their expert perspective is essentially a best guess, be-
cause there's no means of confirmation.

Historian Christopher Smith of Scotland's University of
St. Andrews notes that even if artifacts clearly reference
the Romulus and Remus story, all they will show is that
the cavern is a place where first-century Romans cele-
brated the legend -- not that the story is real.

"It is tempting to argue that the finds support historical
events," Smith says, "when in fact they merely support
ancient beliefs about events."

Wiseman says everything we believe we know about
the ancient world must be treated as a hypothesis, one
that may be disproved by future finds. The only concrete
relationship between an artifact and a myth is "what
people create with their own will to believe."

Earlier discoveries linked to Romulus and Remus, who
supposedly founded Rome in 753 B.C., have divided

In 1988, Carandini discovered a section of wall in Rome
dating from the eighth century B.C., which he linked to
a boundary found in the legend: Romulus killed Remus
when he mocked such a wall. Other archaeologists and
historians have recognized the validity of Carandini's
find as an archaeological discovery but don't see it
giving credence to mythology.

The Capitoline Wolf, a bronze statue of a wolf suckling a
pair of infant boys, has come under fire. Long believed
to be a fifth-century B.C. Etruscan statue, it may be much
younger than that. Last year, Anna Maria Carruba, who
was involved in its restoration, published a book claiming
the process showed that the wolf was made outside Italy
during the medieval period.

If so, Wiseman says, the statue is no longer proof that
fifth-century B.C. inhabitants knew the story of Romulus
and Remus, which had added weight to the argument
that the legend might have historical roots.

Archaeologist Adriano La Regina, also of La Sapienza,
who was in charge of the city's archaeological excava-
tions from 1976 to 2005, is among those who argue that
the newly discovered cave is not the Lupercale. Ancient
sources, from the writings of Dionysius to Cicero, indi-
cate otherwise, he says.

Historian Mario Torelli of Italy's University of Perugia
suggests the chamber is only a grotto of the Palatine
palace, included in the historical record since the 16th

More to discover

Augustus saw himself as a new founder -- Romulus
and Remus combined, according to Stanford University
scholar Adrienne Mayor. And with written references
to an actual Lupercale site during Augustus' time, Mayor
believes it's fair game for scholars to try to find it.

Mayor says more study has to be done before drawing
conclusions about the underground chamber. Experts
ave been investigating the cave with endoscopes and
aser scanners, fearful that the grotto -- already partially
caved in -- would not survive an archaeological dig.

Still, Mayor is impressed that the ancient story of the
nurturing wolf has survived at least 2,000 years and has
meaning for people today. Trying to connect with the
past, "humans return again and again to archaeology to
confirm the reality of myth," she says. "It's a timeless

Contributing: The Associated Press

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mammoth Dig

Check out the cool mammoth dig in washington~!
Mammoth Dig

Peruvian Head Lice 15000 years old!

Researchers report that mummified Peruvian mummies also had mummified
head lice and DNA has been extracted from those head lice. The DNA
shows the head lice goes all the way back to at least 15,000 years ago
in the Americas. The story will appear in the Journal of Infectious
Diseases. Further tests may help show the exact location of the origin
of the lice and the year the lice entered the Americas with people.
The International Herald Tribune has the story here
Mike Ruggeri's The Ancient Americas Breaking News
Mike Ruggeri's Ancient Andean World
Mike Ruggeri's Andean Archaeology News and Links
Andean and Amazonian Archaeology Discussion Group


The Bible Scores Again!

Archeologist revises read of ancient seal inscription
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 4, 2008

A prominent Israeli archeologist said Monday that she has revised her
reading of an inscription on an ancient seal uncovered in an
archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David after various
scholars around the world critiqued her original interpretation of the
name on the seal.

The 2,500 year-old black stone seal was found last month amid
stratified layers of debris in the excavation under way just outside
the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat
Mazar, who is leading the dig.

Mazar had originally read the name on the seal as "Temech," and
suggested that it belonged to the family of that name mentioned in the
Book of Nehemiah.

But after the find was first reported in The Jerusalem Post, various
epigraphers around the world said Mazar had erred by reading the
inscription on the seal straight on (from right to left) rather than
backwards (from left to right), as a result of the fact that a seal
creates a mirror image when used to inscribe a piece of clay.

The critics, including the European scholar Peter van der Veen, as
well as the epigrapher Ryan Byrne, co-director of the Tel Dan
excavations, suggested in Internet blogs that the correct reading of
the seal is actually "Shlomit," also a biblical name.

Mazar said Monday that she accepted the reading of "Shlomit" on the
ancient seal, and added that she appreciated the scholarly research on
the issue.

....More on the

The three-year-old east Jerusalem dig is being sponsored by the Shalem
Center, a Jerusalem research institute, where Mazar serves as a senior
fellow, and the City of David Foundation, which promotes Jewish
settlement throughout east Jerusalem.Source Site

Friday, February 1, 2008

All Blue Eyed People Are Related

They've isolated the gene and tracked its lineage...Read About it Here