Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction August 5-11

Here are some posts I enjoyed this week:

Göbekli Tepe, photo by Kpisimon Wikimedia Commons

Göbekli Tepe, photo by Kpisimon Wikimedia Commons

Detailed post on ASOR’s blog about Gobekli Tepe, southeast Turkey, which is truly one of the most intriguing archaeological sites in the world. It’s the oldest ritual space in the ancient Near East (where everything kind of started, so that’s saying a lot). Early Neolithic, the monumental structures seem to have been used for feasting and ritual. They included giant stone representations of humans. No one lived there on a regular basis. These were hunter/gatherers. Who built giant stone structures. And then buried the whole thing 10,000 years ago. Intrigued? Read on. Click here for the ASOR blog “Gobekli Tepe Neolithic Gathering and Feasting at the Beginning of Food Production”


Sarah Bond (one of my favorite classicists, though I’ve never met her) in Forbes on this summer’s archaeological discoveries. She highlights the Roman mosaics found in southern France, the genetic study of Mycenaeans and Minoans (& an excellent critique of that), the wooden writing tablet finds at Vindolanda, the Galilean synagogue mosaics of Helios and Jonah, the mass grave of manacled skeletons in Athens, and projections of reconstructed frescoes of Nero’s Domus Aurea and elsewhere to recreate the Roman experience. Click here for Forbes Magazine “Classical Archaeologists found a lot of amazing things this summer”

Early Egyptian Pharaoh was a giant? Seems like that might be the case. Scientists have studied a mummy discovered in 1901 that they believe is Pharaoh Sa-Nakht about 2700 BCE, the 3rd Dynasty. He was 6’2”. Even Ramses II, many generations later, and famously tall, was only 5’9”, so they don’t think plentiful food as a high born can explain the great difference between his height and most Egyptians of the time. So they studied the bones and found “exuberant growth,” which indicates the medical condition of gigantism, when the body generates too much growth hormone. Apparently short stature was the preferred and honored thing among Egyptians, so this Pharaoh might have been viewed with suspicion or dismay. Interesting how ideas about height/weight and leadership differ in cultures. Click here for Live Science “Ancient Egyptian First Human Giant”

A giant Iron Age statue of a woman found in Turkey near the Syrian border. She’s 9th century BCE, only the head and shoulders remain but she’d have been about 5 meters tall. She was found near the gate complex of a Neo-Hittite city called Kunulua in the kingdom of Patina (so part of the peoples who carried on with some of the iconography of the Hittites, but otherwise quite different and way less powerful than the Hittite Empire after the total and mysterious collapse of the Hittite Empire). Interestingly her face has been ritually smashed, with the broken bits still near by. Either invading Assyrians wanted to undo the power of a goddess statue (Kubaba maybe) or insult a female political leader or possibly some other explanation. I have to scratch my head a bit at the comment from the archaeologist: “The discovery of this statue raises the possibility that women played a more prominent role in the political and religious lives of these early Iron Age communities than the existing historical record might suggest.” It’s true this is Iron Age, not my Bronze Age Hittites, but powerful women appear quite regularly in the historical records I’ve read, both politically and religiously. I think we need sometimes to stop assuming the powerlessness of women in history. Often our assumptions and reality do not match and we’re blinding ourselves to the richness of the historical truth. Click here for the International Business Times “Enormous 3000 Year old statue of Mysterious Turkish Matriarch discovered”

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