Friday, June 29, 2012

More of Tel Dan Temple is Unearthed

Steps leading to the temple platform.

Discoveries continue at the northern Israel site of “Tel Dan” near Mount Hermon and the location of one of the region’s greatest ancient temples. Late Neolithic people first settled the area as early as 4500 BC, and Bronze Age inhabitants constructed the world’s oldest known gated archway.
According to Popular Archaeology:
Known today as Tell el-Qadi, more popularly as "Tel Dan", the site is located near Mount Hermon in Northern Israel adjacent to one of the sources of the Jordan River. The 'Tel', or mound, was defined very early on during the Middle Bronze period when massive defensive ramparts were constructed, encircling the city. 
It was first identified based on historical records as the city of Laish, a town allied with the Phoenician Sidonians and later renamed "Dan" after the early Isrealite tribe of Dan, which conquered and settled it as documented in the Book of Judges. 
Thanks to a bilingual Greek and Aramaic inscription found at the site in 1976, this city name has been confirmed. Translated, that inscription reads, “To the God who is in Dan, Zoilos made a vow.”
Ancient Egyptian texts and cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia document Dan’s significance during the second millennium BC.  Later, during the Iron Age, Aramaeans, Israelites, and Assyrians battled over the city. Dan was a recognized cultic center even into the Greco-Roman period.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Talisman of God Bes is Discovered

Ancient Egyptians may have used a newly discovered bug-eyed artifact to magically protect children and pregnant mothers from evil forces.
The pale green talisman is made of faience, a delicate material that contains silica. It dates to the first millennium B.C. and is believed to show the dwarf god Bes with his tongue sticking out, eyes popping and wearing a crown of feathers. 
Carolyn Graves-Brown, a curator at the Egypt Centre, discovered the artifact in the collection of Woking College. It wasn't until she learned of a similar artifact in the British Museum that she was able to determine that it is a faience Bes bell, one of a very few known to exist.
"If you try to rattle it much it would (have) broken easily," she said. "Faience is very often used for objects that have a magical or religious significance in ancient Egypt."
According to
Making the find more intriguing is the quirky character of Bes himself. A dwarf god and protector of pregnant mothers and young children, Bes may look goofy to us with his tongue sticking out, however, his appearance, tongue and all, had a purpose. 
Graves-Brown explained that he would sometimes bare sharp teeth and "it's assumed, but it's not known, that this [appearance] was supposed to scare off evil spirits and evil entities.”
Flinders Petrie, an archaeologist who encountered items similar to this, wrote in 1914 in his book Amulets that bells like these were probably "worn by children against the evil eye."
Click here for the article.
Top photo is newly discovered talisman, lower is bas-relief of Bes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Were Neanderthals Earliest Artists?

Detail from the El Castillo Cave in Spain.

The unexpected old age of some European cave paintings raise the possibility that Neanderthals rather than Homo sapiens were the earliest painters ~ either that, or humans began painting earlier than previously thought.
“It would not be surprising if the Neanderthals were indeed Europe’s first cave artists,” says João Zilhão, an archaeologist at Spain’s University of Barcelona.
According to
Researchers led by Zilhão and Alistair Pike of the United Kingdom’s University of Bristol measured the ages of 50 paintings in 11 Spanish caves. The art, considered evidence of sophisticated symbolic thinking, has traditionally been attributed to modern humans, who reached Europe about 40,000 years ago. 
Traditional methods of dating cave paintings, however, are relatively clumsy. Even the previous best technique — carbon dating, or translating amounts of carbon molecule decay into measurements of passing time — couldn’t discern differences of a few thousand years. 
Instead of carbon, Pike and João Zilhão’s team calibrated their molecular clocks by studying mineral deposits that form naturally on cave surfaces, including paintings. The thicker the deposits, the older the painting. And as the reseachers describe in a June 14 Science paper, some of the paintings are very old indeed.
 “What’s really exciting about this possibility,” said Pike, “is that anyone, because it’s open to the public, could walk into El Castillo cave and see a Neanderthal hand on the wall.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Vote Against 2012 Mayan Apocalypse

A German expert says his decoding of a Mayan tablet with a reference to a 2012 date denotes a transition to a new era and not the end of the world.
Sven Gronemeyer of La Trobe University in Australia made his announcement less than a week after Mexico's top archaeologists acknowledged a second reference to the 2012 date in Mayan inscriptions, touching of another round of talk about whether it predicts the end of the world. Gronemeyer has been studying the stone tablet found years ago at the archeological site of Tortuguero in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
According to the Associated Press:
He said the inscription describes the return of mysterious Mayan god Bolon Yokte at the end of a 13th period of 400 years, known as Baktuns, on the equivalent of Dec. 21, 2012. 
Mayans considered 13 a sacred number. There's nothing apocalyptic in the date, he said. The text was carved about 1,300 years ago. The stone has cracked, which has made the end of the passage almost illegible. 
Gronemeyer said the inscription refers to the end of a cycle of 5,125 years since the beginning of the Mayan Long Count calendar in 3113 B.C.
"The date acquired a symbolic value because it is seen as a reflection of the day of creation," Gronemeyer said. "It is the passage of a god and not necessarily a great leap for humanity."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Earthquake Data Pinpoints Crucifixion Date

"Crucifixion of Christ" by Tintoretto, 1568.

Earthquake data ~ along with New Testament descriptions ~ points to Friday, April 3, in the year 33 AD as the day Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.
The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27, mentions that an earthquake coincided with the crucifixion:
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.”
The latest investigation, reported in the journal International Geology Review, focused on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea, located 13 miles from Jerusalem. Geologist Jefferson Williams of Supersonic Geophysical and colleagues Markus Schwab and Achim Brauer of the German Research Center for Geosciences studied three cores from the beach of the Ein Gedi Spa, adjacent to the Dead Sea.
According to Discovery News:
Varves, which are annual layers of deposition in the sediments, reveal that at least two major earthquakes affected the core: a widespread earthquake in 31 B.C. and an early first century seismic event that happened sometime between 26 A.D. and 36 A.D. 
The latter period occurred during “the years when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea and when the earthquake of the Gospel of Matthew is historically constrained,” Williams said. 
"The day and date of the crucifixion (Good Friday) are known with a fair degree of precision," he said. But the year has been in question.
All four gospels and Tacitus in Annals (XV,44) agree that the crucifixion occurred when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea from 26-36 AD. All four gospels agree that the crucifixion occurred on a Friday.

First Americans? Once Again a Mystery

A leading theory on when and how humans first arrived in North America has pretty much been discarded. The so-called “Clovis” theory was deemed credible until the last five years, when more indications have surfaced that humans were here earlier than Clovis postulated.
According to the New York Times:
For many decades, archaeologists have agreed on an explanation known as the Clovis model. The theory holds that about 13,500 years ago, bands of big-game hunters in Asia followed their prey across an exposed ribbon of land linking Siberia and Alaska and found themselves on a vast, unexplored continent. The route back was later blocked by rising sea levels that swamped the land bridge. Those pioneers were the first Americans. 
The theory is based largely on the discovery in 1929 of distinctive stone tools, including sophisticated spear points, near Clovis, N.M. The same kinds of spear points were later identified at sites across North America. After radiocarbon dating was developed in 1949, scholars found that the age of these “Clovis sites” coincided with the appearance at the end of the last ice age of an ice-free corridor of tundra leading down from what is now Alberta and British Columbia to the American Midwest.
 Disproving a long-standing theory does not automatically replace it with another, which is the current situation, as summed up in this article by Andrew Curry, a contributing editor for Archaeology magazine.
Painting by Charles Valsechi