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Literature and History is a free podcast, covering Anglophone literature from ancient times to the present. It includes summaries, analysis, historical background and original music.
I’ve now listened to a couple of episodes and they’re truly fantastic! While I would have expected a lot more focus on the literary, I’m actually even more impressed that Doug focuses so heavily on the history and context of the pieces as a means of gaining entry to them and the times from which they stem. What a truly phenomenal bunch of work he’s done!
The Enuma Elish and the Atrahasis, in circulation 3,800 years ago, were Mesopotamia's creation and flood epics, making them 1,000 years older than Genesis.
There are a few sections of these ancient texts which indicate that thousands (or more) were wiped out due to illness and disease that sound like a flu, a virus, or some other local pandemic. Gives pause to think about what the state of public health was at the time.
Enuma Elish and Atrahasis are indeed not well known, but I’ve actually seen quite a bit about them as the result of reading within the area of Big History.
I’ll have to do some digging but I’m curious if any researcher(s) have done synoptic analyses of these books and the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament. I’m sure there aren’t as many as there are of the synoptic gospels from the New Testament, but it might be interesting to take a look at them.
The obvious quote of the day:
The gods became distraught at the destruction they had unleashed. The midwife goddess, Mami, who helped raise the first generations of mankind, was particularly saddened, and “The gods joined her in weeping for the vanished country / She was overcome with heartache, but could find no beer”. Yes, it really says that.
As a side note, fermented beverages like beer were more popular throughout history than they are in modern America, because unlike now, prior generations of humans didn’t have the public health ideals or levels of clean drinking water that we do today. Thus beer and other alcoholic drinks were more par for the course because they were less likely to make you sick or kill you to drink them. Naturally the Mesopotamian gods must have been healthier for drinking them as a result too!
One of my favorite podcasts is Literature and History, launched nearly three years ago by a literature PhD from California named Doug Metzger. As the name suggests, the show is a history of literature - starting from the Tower of Babel origin myth and continuing on through Ancient Greece and…
Did someone say literature? history? I’m there! And best of all it looks like there are over 60+ hours of content to consume here!
I love his use of the word “ephemera” in relation to social media, particularly as he references his podcast about ancient history.
The 41st president took the helm during a moment of seismic change on the international stage and in the political order at home.
Where have all the good public servants gone?
📖 Read pages 75-102 of Chapter 3: Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Period of King David in In the Footsteps of King David: Revelations from an Ancient Biblical City by Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor, and Michael G. Hasel (Thames & Hudson, 1st edition; July 24, 2018)
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
Ancient cities of the biblical period did not include public areas comparable to the central forum in Roman cities, the piazza in medieval European cities, or the shopping malls of modern cities. Instead, the gate area was the heart of the city, as everyone who entered or left the city had to pass through it.
The city gate was where elders of the town sat and passed judgment on disputes brought before them.
Importance of the city gates
Movement through this inner gate could have been controlled, so that possibly not everyone who was allowed into the piazza could then proceed further into the city.
I’m reminded of theater design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in which lobbies are meant to physically hold everyone in a public space before they’re let into the actual theater space inside.
Tabun is an Arabic term referring to round overns used for baking, measuring around 0.5-1m (1 1/2-3 1/4 ft) in diameter and generally constructed of earth, though occasionally from a circle of rounded stones.
…four large stone steps (a rare find in itself, as built stone steps are seldom uncovered in excavations) descended into the main room.
To the best of our knowledge, drainage channels have not been reported in ordinary dwellings in biblical period cities–only in the city gates–so this came as a surprise.
“To the best of our knowledge” –I like the warning/caution they give here, though most may gloss over it. Small statements like this are small flags in the text that scholars should note for potential future research. Subtle flags like this pop up in math textbooks frequently, but often only the well-trained know to take advantage of them.
This demonstrates how the understanding of archaeological remains can change as an excavation progresses.
Another archaeology 101 example here. Keep in mind that something that may look one way at a point in the research may change fundamentally as one “digs” further.
A bench stood next to the entrance–a feature found only in cultic rooms.
…which we interpreted as a stable.
again another cautionary flag that might possibly take other interpretations.
One room (G) is unusual: it contained a bench…
G doesn’t seem to actually be labeled on diagram C3, but does appear on Fig. 28 of building C10
Pillared buildings are well known from the period of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel and were used as public storehouses for the produce collected as tax from farmers. The existence of such a building at Khirbet Qeiyafa clearly indicates central authority and administration.
We know that in ancient times urgent messages were communicated over great distances by sending signals using fire or torches. Evidence of this practice in the Kingdom of Judah comes from an inscription on a pottery sherd from Lachish from the time when Nebuchadnezzar was besieging the city: “we are watching for the fire signals of Lachish according to all the signs which my lord has given. The palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa would ahve been an ideal place for sending and receiving such torch-signals.
Nice documentation in the archaeological record for early long distance communication
…we can three phases of development in cities in Judah in the biblical period (Fig. 33).
Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably the first site constructed according to this plan. [urban planning in Israel involving a casemate wall with houses that incorporate the casemates as rooms. Several examples from the following centuries exist using a similar pattern.]
The excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa thus reveal another important aspect of the historical figure of David, and show that not only did he build cities, but also that a new concept of urban planning emerged during his reign.
… the city was built in several major phases. In the first phase, the site was cleared of earlier settlement remains and bedrock was exposed around the future city. In the second phase, stones were quarried and brought up to the line of the city wall. […] In the third pahse, the builders began work on the gates and their chambers. […] Construction of the wall itself commenced in the fourth phase. […] In the fifth and final phase, the private houses whose walls incorporated the casemates were constructed.
This was a good demonstration that the chronological dilemma cannot be resolved on the basis of pottery alone.
In the 2008 season we had discovered carbonized olive pits in the city wall and in rooms of the destroyed buildings in Area B.
The enormous tension that accompanied sending the samples via express mail resulted in the credit card with which we paid for the shipment being mistakenly packed inisde and sent to the laboratory at Oxford, along with the olive pits.
This could be a great plot point in a thriller version of this story!
One might think that with multiple samples, they might send them separately, that way if some are lost, then at least they’ve not lost everything!
A discovery made in our 2011 excavation season […] A jar containing some 20 olive pits was found in the destroyed city. […] which clearly indicate that the city had been destroyed no later than 980 to 970 BCE. […} Today, the dating […] is based on nearly 30 samples, probably the best radiometric dating we have so far for any level in a biblical city.
…determining the dates of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah is not a simple task, and the length of those of David and Solomon, exactly 40 years each, appears to be a literary device rather than reflecting historical reality. We therefore propose that the round number of 1000 BCE as the date of David’s accession to the through, though this is merely an approximation. […] But it is clear from the radiocarbon determinations that Khirbet Qeiyafa can be dated to the time of David or Saul, but no to Solomon’s reign, which is later than the results obtained. It will only be possible to decide conclusively if an inscription naming one king or another is found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. To be scientifically cautious, we accept the later date, to the reign of King David.
The “excavation dump” is the term commonly used by archaeologists in referring to the piles of earth and stones that they remove from the ground during excavation.
In 2007 it was possible to claim that nothing was known archaeologically about King David; ten years later the situation is very different, and archaeology can present two sites from his period in the Judean Shephelah.
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Albert Anastasia (born Umberto Anastasio, September 26, 1902 – October 25, 1957) was an Italian-American mobster, hitman and crime lord, and one of the most ruthless and feared organized crime figures in United States history. One of the founders of the modern American Mafia and the founder and boss of Murder, Inc., Anastasia was boss of what became the modern Gambino crime family. Anastasia is considered by the FBI to be one of the deadliest criminals of all time. According to former NYPD Detective Ralph Salerno, Anastasia murdered tens of thousands of people during his reign of terror, while former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom believes the number of people that Anastasia has killed is unquestionably in the thousands; however, the exact number is unknown.
Anastasia was unarguably the most dangerous and feared hitman of the Cosa Nostra's golden era, earning the infamous nicknames "The One-Man Army", "Mad Hatter" and "Lord High Executioner". Anastasia was also in control of the New York waterfront for most of his criminal career, including the dockworker unions.
The Christian faith is based upon a canon of texts considered to be holy scripture. How did this canon come to be? Different factors, such as competing schools of doctrine, growing consensus, and the invention of the codex, helped shape the canon of the New Testament. Reasons for inclusion in or exclusion from the canon included apostolic authority, general acceptance, and theological appropriateness for “proto-orthodox” Christianity.
This course approaches the New Testament not as scripture, or a piece of authoritative holy writing, but as a collection of historical documents. Therefore, students are urged to leave behind their pre-conceived notions of the New Testament and read it as if they had never heard of it before. This involves understanding the historical context of the New Testament and imagining how it might appear to an ancient person.
Some interesting questions about what is in and what isn’t in the Bible here. I love that he does the exercise of what early Christianity meetings would have looked like to a person of that time period.
About the Course
This course provides a historical study of the origins of Christianity by analyzing the literature of the earliest Christian movements in historical context, concentrating on the New Testament. Although theological themes will occupy much of our attention, the course does not attempt a theological appropriation of the New Testament as scripture. Rather, the importance of the New Testament and other early Christian documents as ancient literature and as sources for historical study will be emphasized. A central organizing theme of the course will focus on the differences within early Christianity (-ies).Course Structure
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2009. The Open Yale Courses Series. For more information about Professor Martin’s book New Testament History and Literature, http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300180855 click here.
Ran across this while looking at some podcasts on another topic and it sounds like an interesting overview based on some of my previous readings of Bart Ehrman’s works. It dovetails with the recent book on archaeology and King David I’ve recently started and some conversations I’ve had recently with friends.
📖 Read pages 1-52 of Preface; Chapter 1: The Curtain Rises on the Sorek and Elah Valleys; and Chapter 2: In King David’s Footsteps: Bible, History, and Archaeology In the Footsteps of King David: Revelations from an Ancient Biblical City by Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor, and Michael G. Hasel (Thames & Hudson, 1st edition; July 24, 2018)
So far a fascinating account of a multi-season excavation of a late 11th and early 10th centuries BCE city. They do an excellent job of teasing out of the biblical, mythical, and archaeological sources for setting the story of their work. They also lay out several alternate and competing contemporary theories surrounding their work.
For those who haven’t studied archaeology, they also do a great job of discussing the evolution of the topic and its application to their particular example, so you not only get the particular story they’re telling, but also a relatively firm framework for how archaeology is practiced in a modern setting.
This is a great example of science and humanities communication. I can’t wait to finish out the book.
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
The second tradition relating to the Sorek Valley tells of the Ark of the Covenant…
Traditions connected to the Elah Valley are preserved in the books of Samuel and Chronicles, which relate to Iron Age IIA.
Khirbet Qeiyafa is […] situated on the border between Judah and Philistia, […] The question then arises if and how the excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa contributes to our understanding of this tradition [of David and Goliath].
Hidden in the biblical story of the battle between David and Goliath is valuable geographical-historical information. […] Goliath the Gittite (from the city of Gath) […] Gath was destroyed at the end of the 9th century BCE by Hazael, the Aramean king of Damascus, and Ekron was destroyed in 603 BCE by the Babylonians. […] It is thus clear that the biblical author had access to historical information originating in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE.
However, the Elah Valley was an area of border conflicts only in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, and after the destruction of Gath entirely lost its earlier geopolitical significance.
I’m curious about the insignia pictured on David’s right shoulder. Does it mean something specific or is it simply decoration?
No other person is mentioned more frequently throughout the Old and New Testaments [than King David]…
David began his reign around 1000 BCE in Hebron, where he remained for 7 years before conquering Jerusalem and establishing it as his capital. Solomon succeeded him in c. 970 or 960 BCE. […] According to the Old Testament, following Solomon’s death the kingdom split into two separate political units: the Kingdom of Israel in the north , with its capital at Samaria, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south, centered on Jerusalem. The northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians after several waves of military campaigns which resulted in the final destruction of Samaria in 722 BCE. The Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians after a series of invasions, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BCE.
This was demonstrated on July 21, 1993, when the fragmentary Tel Dan stela was discovered in northern Israel. On it was carved an inscription, written in Aramaic, which refers to a battle and the subsequent defeat of the king of Israel and the king of the “House of David” at the hands of Hazael of Damascus.
Subsequent studies have shown that the same phrase, “House of David,” also appears on the Mesha inscription from ancient Moab.
…Jerusalem is a particularly difficult city for archaeological research for three main reasons. First, the modern city covers nearly all of [it]… Secondly, the nature of construction on such a hilly site meant that in many periods builders removed all previous structures when creating new ones and built directly upon bedrock, so that remains of buildings of certain periods are entirely absent. and thirdly, during the First Temple period of life in the city extended uninterrupted over a 400-year period until the Babylonian destruction, and buildings therefore remained in continuous use for a considerable time.
…several large architectural structures have been uncovered in Jerusalem [including] the “Stepped Stone Structure” [uncovered] as early as 1923-25 [in] an expedition headed by archaeologists R.A.S. Macalister and John G. Duncan exposed a portion of this impressive structure.
The date of these three monumental buildings in Jerusalem is very problematic, as they are not associated with settlement strata rich in the pottery finds that can enable the archaeologist to determine their time of use, and no organic finds appropriate for radiocarbon dating were discovered.
One proposal [for the chronology of the monarchy in Judah], known as the low chronology, maintains that urbanization, i.e., the transition from a rural society (the periods of the Settlement and Judges: iron Age I) to an urban society (the period of the monarchy: Iron Age II) occurred only at th end of the 10th century BCE, and only in the north, in the Kingdom of Israel. In this scenario, David must be regarded as a local tribal chief at most.
Tells consist of layers of settlement largely superimposed one upon the other […], so that it is often necessary to uncover finds from later periods first, in order to reach the earlier ones below, a time-consuming and costly undertaking.
Since archaeological techniques were then in their infancy, the methodologies used were often lacking in precision, and early excavators did not correctly differentiate between the various strata and attributed finds from different periods to the same one.
Alongside the large, stratified archaeological tell sites are so-called ruins (Arabic, knirbah; Hewbrew, horvah). Such sites were settled for limited periods of time and did not develop into deep, multi-layered tells.
Thus, for example, at Khirbet Qeiyafa we exposed 5,000 sq. m (54,000 sq. ft) or around 25 per cent of the settlement in seven seasons of excavation.
Interpreting the various finds from an excavation, such as pottery, stone vessels, metal tools, figurines, jewelry, and coins requires care: those from a particular layer of occupation reflect mainly the final phase of habitation in that layer–in other words, the final days, a moment before the destruction or abandonment of a settlement. But what if a settlement was established a hundred or two hundred years prior to the destruction? How can we ascertain that? This is a difficult problem and the result is that many excavators erroneously tend to compress periods of tens or hundreds of years into brief periods of a few years.
As a result, surveys will fail to identify the latter’s existence and a distorted picture of a “gap in settlement” will result; in other words, the surveyor will falsely conclude that during a certain period there was no settlement at a given site.
I’m enjoying the archaeological background that they describe in their extended example within the book. This book could almost be described as Archaeology 101: An applied example using an exploration of Khirbet Qeiyafa.
The conclusion based on such surveys that there were no settlements in Judah during the 10th century BCE and that a centralized kingdom did not exist at the time is therefore essentially flawed.
We must also remember that the dynamic hypotheses of identifying various sources, redactors, and editors of the biblical text are “constructions of modern scholarship” and that they continue to evolve and change.
One must accept, then, that modern scholarship has no clear and objective tool for dealing with the dating of the writing of the different biblical traditions. In the current stat of our knowledge, with the evidence available, the process of formation and transmission of the texts remains unresolved, as does the time and manner in which they took on their present form.
Perhaps information theory could be applied here to better tease out these questions?
According to the minimalist method [using Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar to study history] , two main conclusions may be drawn from this: first, that the Roman Empire should be dated to the 16th Century, and second that Julius Caesar is a purely literary character–both of which are patently absurd.
The weakest link in archaeological research […] is frequently the lengthy time that elapses between excavation and publication of the results. Archaeological excavation destroys what it excavates. It is therefore a scholarly and scientific obligation to publish all of the data on the excavation procedure and the findings for other scholars and the public at large.
In our view, archaeology finds should be independently dates; only then may attempts be made to connect them with historical/biblical figures, periods, or events.
This is the first site in Judah from the beginning of the monarchy to be dated using this scientific technique [radiocarbon dating]. The results unequivocally demonstrated that the city was established at the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 10th century BCE.
Scholars who attempt to apply findings from northern sites to the situation in Judah and Jerusalem are committing a methodological error. […] we refrain from using the term “United Monarchy,” which implies the existence of akingdom that also included the north of the country. Instead, we shall use here the term “Kingdom of Judah.”
The data are like pieces of a mosaic that can be combined in different ways to form different images; the pieces themselves do not change, but the images they form can be modified. Here we briefly summarize five of the conflicting paradigms regarding David’s kingdom, and their development.
* The biblical paradigm […]
* The mythological paradigm […]
* The chronological paradigm […]
* The ethnic paradigm […]
* The Kingdom of Judah paradigm […]
However the heavily fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, with its planning and public spaces suggests a centralized urban social organization rather than a dispersed rural population.
We believe Khirbet Qeiyafa is a Judahite site for six main reasons, which we summarize briefly here […]
casemate wall [is] a wall built of two parallel walls with the space between them divided by perpendicular walls into long narrow rooms called casemates.
The term “Hebrew” is familiar from the Bible, where it is used to describe populations particularly during the Patriarchal period.
The term “Jew” entered into use only at the end of the First Temple period and appears primarily in the biblical books dealing with the Second Temple period. […] Therefore, in modern research it is customary to use this term only in describing populations from the Second Temple period onward.
To summarize: the mythological, chronological, and ethnic paradigms are in reality variations of the same minimalist approach.
The original minimalist approach, as expressed in the mythological paradigm, was a consistent worldview that maintained that the history of ancient Israel should only be based on extra-biblical data. Both of the approaches that followed, the low chronology paradigm and the ethnic paradigm, were variations that attempted to solve questions that the previous paradigm could not answer.
What about future possible paradigms?
ossuary [is] a small stone chest for holding the bones of a dead person
Christopher Rollston suggested therefore that there could be some connection between the Arabic name Khirbet Qeiyafa and the name of the family of priests, Caiaphas, known from the New Testament, and that perhaps the family had a rural estate in the area of the Elah Valley, a memory of which is preserved in the Arabic name of our site.
[…] in the Elah valley […] the soil is not terra rossa but rather a type known as rendzina.
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The remarkable excavation of a previously unidentified city in Israel from the time of King David, shedding new light on the link between the bible and history
King David is a pivotal figure in the Bible, which tells his life story in detail and gives stirring accounts of his deeds, including the slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath and the founding of his capital in Jerusalem. But no certain archaeological finds from the period of his reign or of the kingdom he ruled over have ever been uncovered―until now.
In this groundbreaking account, the excavators of Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Valley of Elah, where the Bible says David fought Goliath, reveal how seven years of exhaustive investigation have uncovered a city dating to the time of David― the late eleventh and early tenth century BCE―surrounded by massive fortifications with impressive gates and a clear urban plan, as well as an abundance of finds that tell us much about the inhabitants. Discussing the link between the Bible, archaeology, and history In the Footsteps of King David explains the significance of these discoveries and how they shed new light on David’s kingdom. The topic is at the center of a controversy that has raged for decades, but these findings successfully challenge scholars disputing the historicity of the Bible and the chronology of the events recounted in it.
Purchased for $26.79 at Distant Land’s 30% discount/going out of business sale.
In this episode, Haley interviews Stephen Wolfram at the Ninth International Conference on Complex Systems. Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language; the author of A New Kind of Science; and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Wolfram talks with Haley about his professional journey and reflects on almost four decades of history, from his first introduction to the field of complexity science to the 30 year anniversary of Mathematica. He shares his hopes for the evolution of complexity science as a foundational field of study. He also gives advice for complexity researchers, recommending they focus on asking simple, foundational questions.
The killing of Jamal Khashoggi has renewed criticism of Saudi Arabia more broadly, including the kingdom’s role in the war in Yemen. It’s a war that has created what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world — and one that the United States has backed from the beginning.
A nice little overview of some of the history behind what’s going on in several portions of the Middle East.