This Week in the Ancient Near East

A Resurrected Date by Any Other Name Would Still Taste As Sweet, or, Jurassic Park in the Judean Desert

Resurrection genomics sounds fancy, even a little scary, but in this case it means cultivating date trees from ancient seeds and then sequencing their genes. What do we learn about the antiquity of this ever-popular fruit? And if dates are so great, how come the tree is the symbol and not the fruit? Our panelists are torn, yet characteristically sweet and sticky.


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Researchers Sequence Genomes of Revived 2,000-Year-Old Date Palms

The Strange Story of the Roman Era Half Lamp, or A Sconce to Light Their Way

The chance find of a strange Roman period half lamp in Jerusalem and the even chancier discovery that the other half is in Hungary has shocked the archaeological world. What is this strange light fixture and how can its separation lead to some high-class speculation about lamps, symbolism, and ancient psychology? What is light anyway, and why is it so darned good? Our panelists are incandescent in this episode.


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Matching half of 2,000-year-old lamp found in Jerusalem said located in Budapest

Solomon: Portrait of an Iron Age Onassis, or How to Have a State without Really Making a Statement

A recent study proposes that the Biblical King Solomon orchestrated maritime trade across the Iron Age Mediterranean. Is there really evidence for this? And why didn’t the kingdoms of Israel and Judah create monumental art and architecture like their neighbors? Or, for that matter, write much stuff down? Our panelists are intrigued but not confident.


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Was King Solomon the ancient world’s first shipping magnate?

Which is the Best Bronze Age Note-Taking App, or Why Did it Take the Alphabet a Thousand Years to Catch On?

A tiny inscribed potsherd dating to the first half of the 15th century BCE from Lachish in southern Israel has six little letters. Is this the earliest alphabetic inscription in the southern Levant? Does it change the story of the alphabet? And who breaks nice pottery to write a note? Our panelists are puzzled, but not necessarily surprised.


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‘Missing link’ in alphabet’s history said unearthed in Israel on Canaanite sherd

Boozing in the Bronze Age, or, Narmer, He’s the King of Beers

The discovery of an industrial scale beer brewery at the early Egyptian site of Abydos demonstrates the role of alcohol in ancient societies. Was drinking your dinner on the ruler’s tab a way to keep workers fed, or maybe just to keep them from asking questions like ‘why are we building this stupid pyramid for this so-called king?’


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Abydos beer factory: Ancient large-scale brewery discovered in Egypt

Desert Caves Yield Ancient Faves, or, A Tisket, A Tasket, a 92 Liter Basket

New excavations in caves along the west side of the Dead Sea have revealed fragments of Biblical texts along with astonishing prehistoric remains. They raise the question of how people were getting and out of these caves, hundreds of meters above the Dead Sea, and more importantly, why one of them brought along a basket the size of a minivan. Our panelists offer learned if contrasting opinions.


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Bible scroll fragments among dazzling artifacts found in Dead Sea Cave of Horror

Mummy Murder Mystery, or, Hyksos Hippo Protestation Spells Egyptian Cranial Molestation

King Seqenere of the 17th Dynasty has some gruesome head wounds. Fighting the hated Hyksos might have been the cause of death for Egypt’s version of Sonny Corleone, but what about the snoring hippos? WHAT ABOUT THE HIPPOS?!

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Egyptian royal mummy shows pharaoh wasn’t assassinated—he was executed

The Mysterious Case of the Purple Shmattas in the Desert, or, Snood Indigo

Around 1000 BCE, purple dyed textiles were the in thing at the Negev copper mining site of Timna. But how did textiles dyed with purple made from Mediterranean snails get there and who wore them? Were they fit for a king or just glad rags for nomads? And how does Vandelay Industries figure in? Our contestants are frankly baffled.


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Biblical ‘royal purple’ found at Timna offers look at King David wardrobe

Underwater Olive Adventures, or, From the Mediterranean to Martinis

The discovery of a 6,600 year old cache of olives off the shore of Israel raises questions: Olives? Underwater? What? Who was the first person to eat an olive, and how does the Assyrian Empire (eventually) figure in? And why do our panelists keep talking about fat tailed sheep and the history of writing?


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Israeli teams discover ancient olive-eating practices below the sea


The Other Kind of Throne, or, So What’s the Deal with Toilets in the Iron Age?

Archaeologists rarely speak about toilets, mostly because there isn’t that much evidence. We’ve got plenty of pits, lots of pots, but only a few carefully carved stone seats. Which is fit for a king?


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Toilet Found in 3,000-Year-Old Shrine Verifies Bible Stories Against Idol Worship

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