This Week in the Ancient Near East

Sticky Fingers in the Valley of the Kings, or Howard Carter and the Case of King Tut’s Tomb

The upcoming 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb has us talking about the discoverer, Howard Carter, who seems to have had sticky fingers and a propensity to fudge the story of his find. Ethics? Morals? Does it matter? Look at all that nice stuff!

Introducing Opium, the Late Bronze Age Miracle Cure! Or, Smacked into a Trance in the Second Millennium BCE

New research shows that certain Late Bronze Age pots from Cyprus really did contain opium, which isn’t too surprising since they’re shaped like opium poppies. What’s going on? What was all this opium for? Was everyone in the past on drugs? Sure looks that way.

Cult of the Head or Cult of the Dead? Or, Human Sacrifice in the Neolithic, What? Eww!

A new article on Neolithic skulls raises questions, like just how did all those skulls get separated from the bodies? Were there human sacrifices in the Neolithic or were there “ancestor cults,” whatever those were? Our contestants must dodge the ick factor to get to the Truth.

The Archaeology of Finger Licking Goodness, or, Why Did the Chicken Cross the Planet?

New data that show the chicken was domesticated vastly later than previously thought have shattered the poultry paradigm. Moreover, chickens were elite pets for centuries before someone decided to toss them in a pot. The myths of the archaic bird die hard in this fast moving and delicious episode.

The Mystery of King Tut’s Sky Iron Knife, or, How Much Would You Pay for a Knife Like This?

A new analysis has shown King Tut’s knife was made of sky iron, that’s right, iron from the sky, you know, like from a meteor, the kind from outer space. What’s so special about iron anyway and what’s the deal with diplomacy and gift giving in the Late Bronze Age? And why are we talking about bellbottoms and personal computers?

The Secret Aramean or Maybe Assyrian Underground Cult Site at Başbük: Stairway to Heaven or Rec Room of the Gods?

The underground cult site at Başbük in southeastern Turkey has us wondering, why depict Aramean deities in an Assyrian style? Is this an Iron Age cult site or a rich guy’s rec room? Or is it both? Mukīn-abūa of Tušhan, you sly dog.

Feeding Spice Caravans in the Negev, or Midnight at the Oasis, Try the Oysters and Crabs

The discovery of oysters and crabs at Nabatean and Roman caravan sites in the Negev has us thinking, what’s going on here? What do we learn about trade and traders from food remains? Have we been too focused on the exports and not enough on the imports? One thing is for sure, you gotta eat.

The Archaeology of Big Giant Stone Heads, Sardinian Edition

The giant stone sculptures of boxers found in a first millennium BCE Sardinian cemetery have our contestants puzzled. Are these protective deities or just slightly oversized sports heroes? And why does every culture around the world first pile stones and then carve them? Didn’t they have anything better to do with their time?

Eau de l’antiquité, or, The Past is a Stinky Country

New research has begun to reconstruct the smell of ancient perfumes from Egyptian tombs. But rich folks always try to smell better. The bigger question is what did the past smell like as whole? Our contestants detect zesty notes of burning dung and a cloying variety of herbs and spices.

Take the Last Boat to Carthage and I’ll Meet You at the Tophet. Or, Who Were the Phoenicians and Why Did They Do Something As Dangerous as Sail West?

A Phoenician cemetery in Spain has us talking about, well, the Phoenicians. Who were they, where did they come from, and why do we even call them Phoenicians in the first place? Isn’t that sort of ‘othering’? And where does famed character actor Michael J. Pollard fit in?

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