Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction January 21-27

Here are some posts I enjoyed this week from around the web:

photo image Timna landscape

Timna landscape

In the annals of misinterpreting archaeological remains, a settlement in 10th century BC (King David’s time) Timna Valley, Israel was understood to be a slave encampment with walls to keep them in. Now this copper mining camp has a new interpretation. Remains of high value foods and other luxuries, and the need to protect the valuable copper mined here, means the walls are defensive. Even the donkeys used in the mines got a special diet including grape remains. They will need to rename this site, which has been called Slaves’ Hill. The techniques for copper mining that are being revealed at this site are also very interesting, but that’s not what this article talks about. A lot of intriguing news from Timna. Click here for Live Science “Sophisticated Defense System Discovered at Biblical-Era Mining Camp”


A study of children’s remains in Egyptian graves shows that they suffered from chronic sinusitis from the dust and sand they breathed. Also vitamin and mineral deficiencies, bad teeth from a carb-heavy diet and parasitic diseases like malaria. Most of the children died in the tough transition time when they stopped having breast milk and were vulnerable as they adjusted to solid diet only and the loss of protection they got from their mother’s milk. Tough growing up ancient Egyptian, it sounds like. Those are a lot of bad things to be able to see all in the bones of a three year old child. A lot of sadness if you translate all those physical problems into the emotional reality, which as a fiction writer I’m way too prone to do. I hope they had some good times also in their short lives. Reading bones seems a good way to develop empathy. It’s so up front and personal, somehow. Click here for Science in Poland “Polish Researcher Investigates the health of children in ancient Egypt”

Tablet of King Zimri-Lim from Mari, in Louvre

Tablet of King Zimri-Lim from Mari, in Louvre

Diplomacy seems to be having a bumpy time recently. From the ASOR blog, here’s a window into some ancient diplomatic interactions, which occasionally ended with a beheading of the king on the losing side of negotiations. This is a discussion of the tablets found at Mari, a city on the banks of the Euphrates at a time contemporaneous with Hammurabi, the 18th century BCE. The site was first discovered in 1933. Of the 17,000 tablets found 9,000 have been published. This article discusses in an approachable way a number of the topics and issues that arise in these tablets.



Two snippets caught my attention.

image of Mari, remains of Zimri-Lim Palace

Mari, remains of Zimri-Lim Palace

Some truly inappropriate behavior between rulers that comes in a direct quote from a tablet: “Once, this man sat by my lord and drank a cup (of friendship). Having elevated him, my lord reckoned him among worthy men, clothing him in garment and supplying him with a headdress. Yet, turning around, (Akin-Amar) dropped excrement into the cup he used, becoming hostile to my lord.”

The second is the author’s summary of one tablet about a dynastic marriage with some seriously intriguing but tragic backstory: “Particularly touching is the correspondence of two sisters married to the same vassal, resulting in the mental breakdown of one of them.”

Click here for the ASOR blog “Mari A Taste for Diplomacy”



Weekly Roundup of Archaeology, History and Historical Fiction January 21-27 — 2 Comments

  1. Interesting article about ancient Egyptian children’s health! Sad realities but also fascinating how this culture thrived so well in such an ancient time. Ancient Egypt is the time period I write, and early childhood death was quite common. *sad face*

    • I think early childhood death was common all over in the ancient period, but the actual causes switch by geography. I found the respiratory issues that the Egyptian dusty desert created interesting and the malaria and other pest borne diseases. Those kinds of specific causes must be incredibly useful for you when you’re writing–you know how to make a believable death. Unfortunately we writers are often killing off people, fictionally speaking.You might want to contact this Polish archaeologist directly because I think she must be full of information you’d find very intriguing. I’ve always found archaeologists very willing to share their knowledge in order to see the world they’re digging come to life with accuracy.

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