This Week in the Ancient Near East

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?

A ‘Dark Age’ Shipwreck Mystery, or When Your Cargo Absolutely, Positively Has to Get There Eventually Between the Byzantine and Umayyad Period Unless the Ship Sinks

A Late Byzantine/Early Islamic shipwreck off the coast of Israel has us donning our Speedos once again. Wasn’t this tramp steamer aware of the momentous political and social changes taking place on land? Who cares when you’ve got walnuts and broken glass to deliver!

Even More Strange and Wonderful Finds from Iron Age Jerusalem, or, You Brought Home Champagne! No, it’s Vanilla Flavored Wine.

Wine flavored with vanilla? Why would any self respecting Jerusalemite touch the stuff except to show off? Anyway, it pairs well with other weird stuff found in Iron Age Jerusalem like shark fossils, dried fish, and writing so why not?

Har Adir, Where the Iron Age Air is Clear, or How to tell a Fortress from a Bird Watching Sanctuary

The early Iron Age site of Har Adir in the mountains of the Upper Galilee is back in the news. Was this an 11th century fortress of a local polity or a bird watching sanctuary? How can we tell the difference? What is a polity anyway? One thing’s for sure, don’t get us started about ‘Dark Ages.’

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