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