This Week in the Ancient Near East

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.’

Tattoo Who? Or, From Egypt with Ink

The discovery of tattoos on an upper class woman from ancient Egypt has us asking, are these magical, medical, or a right of passage? But what about the tattooed criminals in ancient Greece? Maybe this tattoo thing goes different ways. The main thing is that people in the past looked more like modern Brooklynites than we realized.

The Xbox of the Early Bronze Age? Or, All That’s Left is a Board of Stone.

A stone game board from Oman has us puzzled. Is this rare find a signpost in the evolution of human cognition or a flat rock with divots? What are games anyway? New ways to think or old ways to kill time? It’s all a game to you people, isn’t it?

A Crusader Mass Grave at Sidon, or Blunt Force Trauma Makes the Man

A mass grave of Crusaders at the Lebanese site of Sidon raises many questions about identity, mobility, and warfare in the 13th century. But it fits right in with our understanding of human cruelty, what with the beheadings and all, so at least there’s that.

Two Synagogues at Magdala, or, was Mary in the Multipurpose Room?

Magdala had two synagogues, or did it? How many did they need and how often did they go to synagogue anyway? Is this just a post-Enlightenment conceit about pre-Enlightenment religiosity? But which is more important, the room with the services or the one with the bingo?

Garbage Dump of the Gods

What happens when a temple, say, Hatshepsut’s New Kingdom temple at Deir el Bahari, throws out offerings? Are there good and bad types of garbage? Let’s face it, archaeologists will take what they can get. But isn’t “precious rubble” the name of one of Barney and Betty’s kids?

The Strange Case of the Neo-Assyrian Armor in the Chinese Tomb, or The Ballad of the One Off Wonder

Neo-Assyrian leather armor? In a Western Chinese tomb? It’s a classic, what’s up with that situation. Is it really Neo-Assyrian? How do we know? If so, how did it get there? What can we make of a sample of one? Why are we talking about Ricardo Montalban? It’s an episode so filled with questions that we’re literally bubbling over.

Even More New Amazing Iron Age Finds from a Cult Site West of Jerusalem, or, To Gaze Upon the Knees of God

A slightly lopsided Iron Age cult site just outside Jerusalem? Little human figurines, big silos, and now the stone legs of a cult statue? What’s going on beneath the highway overpass at Motza? But why is anyone surprised about another temple in Judah? Wouldn’t surprise be an indictment of our entire educational system?

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