I’ve been traveling, so I haven’t done a post for a couple weeks. Here are a couple articles I enjoyed since my return and below are some photos from my trip of historical/archaeological interest.
The myths of Ishtar, goddess of love and war. Well-written post about this little known goddess of intriguing tales. She is definitely not someone to mess with. The precursor to the Wonder Woman of the recent movie. Click here for “The Legend of Ishtar, the first goddess of love and war” in The Conversation
The history of the Hittites and Troy is never easy to uncover and often scholars dispute the evidence, sometimes in unseemly personal diatribes. There’s a new chapter in this tale. A translation of a copy of a copy of a now destroyed tablet from the period at the end of the Hittite Empire, 3200 years ago. It may describe one of the forces that destroyed the great kingdoms of the Late Bronze Age, so this is intriguing. If the tablet’s tale is true, a western Anatolian kingdom, Mira, along with a Trojan prince named Muksus, launched naval attacks on Ashkelon in what is now Israel, inviting speculation that they were part of the unidentified “Sea Peoples” who are often blamed for the fall of numerous eastern Mediterranean and Near Eastern kingdoms around 1100 BCE (including the Hittite Empire). The tablet was written in Luwian, a language only a very few scholars can read and write—and they only deciphered the language enough to translate it in the last couple decades. Luwian is the language used at Troy and on the western Anatolian shores of the Hittite world, now modern Turkey. It’s related to Hittite and Greek. The copy of a copy was found in the papers of Mellaart, a famous archaeologist who worked in what is now Turkey, after his death. He couldn’t read Luwian, but was working with scholars who could, to create a translation. But they started this work when the decipherment of Luwian was still in the process of being worked out and died before finishing. Mellaart’s expertise was in the archaeology of the people who composed the tablet, not their language. So the notes of Mellaart say. Now a Dutch expert in Luwian is about to publish a translation. Some people say Mellaart created a forgery, but others say he didn’t know enough to do so. The Luwian sounds genuine, apparently, not the work of someone who didn’t know Luwian. Indeed, the scholar who first made the copy lived at a time when Luwian hadn’t been deciphered sufficiently for him to make the forgery either. But it’d be nice to have some evidence for the existence of the original tablet outside Mellaart’s notes. But now you can imagine Troy as a powerful state with a fleet waging war as far off as the Levant under Prince Muksus. This may clash with your images of Troy as burnt to the ground by some Greeks after a ten-year war… Sometimes poets make things up. Click here for Live Science’s “3,200-Year-Old Stone Inscription Tells of Trojan Prince, Sea People”
I spent a week in Madrid, seeing many fascinating and beautiful things, but my favorite place was the the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. I discovered the Bronze Age culture of the Celtiberians. I’ll share some highlights here:
Before we go to the Bronze Age, I must first include the most famous figure from the museum, this 5th century BC lady with her elaborate, gorgeous head decorations, the Lady of Eiche. Whether she is divine or merely noble is, as I remember, under dispute, but she’s divine in the colloquial sense.
This haunting icon, front and back, representing an unknown deity.
A reconstruction of a burial made underneath the floor of a house. This occurs in Anatolian sites also, particularly of children. There is a heartbreaking story, keeping a child near even in death.
Some Hittite Stormgod figurines, that have traveled a long way to ancient Iberia, but there you have it, a small world even in the Bronze Age.
And golden treasures, a sword hilt, a diadem, and a bracelet with some serious bangles. These are all highly reminiscent of the Hittite and Mycenaean gold work on the other side of the Mediterranean a little bit earlier on the timeline, but culturally, it seems at the same point.