Herodotus Returns

Oldest Hebrew writing discovered, may change writing date of Bible
January 9, 2010, 7:04 am
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A pottery shard excavated in the place where David supposedly slew Goliath, may be inscribed with the oldest known Hebrew writing, dating back 1000 years before the Dead Sea scrolls.

A 3,000 year-old inscription discovered at a site where the Bible says David slew Goliath has been deciphered, showing it to be the earliest known Hebrew writing, Israeli archaeologists said on Thursday.

The pottery shard with five lines of text in the proto-Canaanite script that was used by Hebrews, Philistines and others in the region was discovered 18 months ago.

The writing was decrypted by Gershon Galil of the University of Haifawho “has shown this is a Hebrew inscription,” said a statement from the university.

“The discovery makes it the earliest known Hebrew writing,” the statement said.

Carbon-dating has shown the inscription dates back to the 10th century BC, making it about 1,000-years older than the Dead Sea scrolls.

“This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans,” said Galil, adding that both the words and the concepts used were specific to the Hebrew language and society.

The shard was found near the gate of a site known as Elah Fortress, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) west ofJerusalem, in the valley where the battle between David and Goliath is said to have taken place.

Finding such an early example of Hebrew makes it possible the Bible could have been written several centuries before the current estimates, the statement said.

“The inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures, but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text, the statement said.


Babylonian Tablet: Noah’s Ark Was Circular Raft, Made of Reeds
January 2, 2010, 6:26 am
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A text recently translated from ancient Babylonian is the first to give a physical description of the ark.

According to newly translated instructions inscribed in ancient Babylonian on a clay tablet telling the story of the ark, the vessel that saved one virtuous man, his family and the animals from god’s watery wrath was not the pointy-prowed craft of popular imagination but rather a giant circular reed raft….

“Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions And save life! Draw out the boat that you will built with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same.”

The tablet goes on to command the use of plaited palm fibre, waterproofed with bitumen, before the construction of cabins for the people and wild animals.

It ends with the dramatic command of Atram-Hasis to the unfortunate boat builder whom he leaves behind to meet his fate, about sealing up the door once everyone else is safely inside: “When I shall have gone into the boat, Caulk the frame of the door!”

More on the ark-raft.

Vatican Publishes Book From Secret Archives
January 2, 2010, 3:10 am
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The Vatican has published a collection of documents from its secret archives, including correspondence from Genghis Khan’s grandson, Hitler, Mary Queen of Scots, and Mozart.

The Holy See’s archives contain scrolls, parchments and leather-bound volumes with correspondence dating back more than 1,000 years.

High-quality reproductions of 105 documents, 19 of which have never been seen before in public, have now been published in a book. The Vatican Secret Archives features a papal letter to Hitler, an entreaty to Rome written on birch bark by a tribe of North American Indians, and a plea from Mary Queen of Scots.

The book documents the Roman Catholic Church’s often hostile dealings with the world of science and the arts, including documents from the heresy trial against Galileo and correspondence exchanged with Erasmus, Voltaire and Mozart. It also reveals the Church’s relations with princes and potentates in countries far beyond its dominion.

In a letter dated 1246 from Grand Khan Guyuk to Pope Innocent IV, Genghis Khan’s grandson demands that the pontiff travel to central Asia in person – with all of his “kings” in tow – to “pay service and homage to us” as an act of “submission”, threatening that otherwise “you shall be our enemy”.

Read the rest of the story here.

Mayan hieroglyphs tell story of high priest
December 31, 2009, 10:54 pm
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Mayan hieroglyphic text from 8th century AD  reveals day-to-day story of a high priest.

Experts are studying the first Mayan hieroglyphic script dealing with the life of a high priest, his blood sacrifices and acts of penance, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said.

The text consists of 260 glyphs carved into a series of seashell earrings and manta ray stingers found inside a burial urn….

“It is the longest Maya hieroglyphic script ever found to date in Tabasco” and the first relating a high priest, instead of a Maya ruler and his wives, INAH said.

The text covers 14 years in the life of a Maya priest who lived in the eighth century A.D. It includes references to blood sacrifices and acts of penance preceding the spring solstice.

Maya priests used manta ray stingers to pierce their earlobes, tongue, forehead, penis and other parts of the anatomy, in painful, bloodletting sacrifices to induce a hallucinogenic state in which they believed they could talk to their gods, INAH said.

More on Mayan high priest.