Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction Dec 10-16

Some posts I enjoyed from around the web this week:

image Mesopotamia male worshiper 2750-2600 B.C

Mesopotamia male worshiper 2750-2600 B.C

I often get asked why the Hittites got forgotten so thoroughly when civilizations like Mesopotamia and Egypt have become so ingrained in our historical sensibilities. There are a number of reasons, both random and prejudicial (No one thought anything interesting was buried in Ottoman Muslim Turkey, for example. Boy were they wrong…). But Mesopotamia had Biblical connections that rang a familiar note, so that drove much of the 19th century enthusiasm to uncover this ancient region. I like this BBC article about Mesopotamia, particularly its point that the essential shared tradition in the mixture of cultures that we call Mesopotamia is writing—cuneiform. People used cuneiform longer than we’ve been using alphabets. Also astute in this article is the understanding of how many intermixed cultures dynamically influenced each other and contributed to the outward-looking strength of the area. No monolithic anything. Strength from differences and pluralistic viewpoints. We should take note, these days. What’s your first memory of learning something about Mesopotamia? Something fun? I bet you don’t have any parallel memory involving Hittites. Click here for BBC “The Ancient Place Where History Began”

I learned a remarkable thing today. Franklin and Jefferson got their ideas of religious tolerance and that key concept, separation of church and state, from none other than Genghis Khan (via a French 18th C best-seller about old Khan, in case you’re wondering). So we Americans are Mongols, more or less. That just seems so good to keep in mind these days. That we owe some of our fundamental principles to a man and culture very often disparaged in an ignorant way over the course of time. Ah, what a careful read of history can show you. All this from a book review in this past Sunday’s NYT Book Review section called “Empire of Tolerance.” No one’s using that title for the US these days, I notice. Stephanie Thornton, I hope you saw this. One of your worlds. Click here for the NYT Book Review “Empire of Tolerance”

Found: A lost Greek city dating from 500 BC through the 3rd century BC, 5 hours north of Athens in a part of Greece considered an ancient backwater. Given the size of fortification walls and acropolis, the backwater part may need revision. It’s being explored primarily by ground-penetrating radar and other non-intrusive techniques. Greece still has completely new tales to tell from archaeology. Click here for Archaeology News Network “Archaeologists Discover Unknown Ancient City in Greece”


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