Middle East Archaeology

Syria’s Ancient remains in ruins

“Damage to the heritage of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its identity”, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

War and journalism make for very dangerous partners but in the middle east they are often together.  Conflict gives rise to war reporting. War reporting does a great job at exposing the human life lost in a conflict but under-reports on the cultural heritage lost.  A good example of this is the ongoing crisis  in Syria in which through the media we are told of the human loss ( more than 100,000 people died) but we are not  told about the loss of  cultural heritage. Gunfire and falling bombs and  is a higher priority for reporters than archaeology. I can appreciate this but we must not forget the heritage.

Syria has a rich historical past with having had influence from people like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. My mind boggles at the thought of so much of this history going up in flames. Syria of course is just one example of a war torn country’s lost heritage. Much heritage has been lost in places like Iraq and Afghanistan also rich in history.

Conflict in Syria taken from NPR

 

Beautiful Crusader Castle in Syria taken from PRI

Many Syrians are using centuries old castles as hiding places and fortresses from the enemy. The ancient cities of Aleppo and Palmyra are being  pounded constantly by  tanks. They have suffered enormous damage. Palmyra known as the Bride of the Desert was the most visited tourist site in Syria given its impressive Roman ruins and its previous state of excellent preservation. I still remember seeing it on my television screen back in early 2000 when travel show Getaway was filming a segment there.

The presenter was mesmerized by the city. Fast forward now to 2013 and im certain that presenter would be horrified at what he would  see. Apart from ancient cities, museums in Syria are being looted for their treasures. With war comes poverty and unemployment  so many Syrians are trying to sell relics to make money. Their number one goal is survival. UNSECCO is doing all it can to protect as much heritage as possible with the resources it has. Often its very difficult as its representatives risk death entering a war zone.

The Great Citadel of Aleppo taken from monuments of Syria

 

Palmyra taken from National Geographic

I have great admiration for Balázs Major, an archaeology professor from Hungary’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University. He  has been researching in Syria for 15 years.  He has made it a mission of his to do what he can to preserve the heritage.

Currently amongst the chaos he is exploring the site of Margat, one of the biggest medieval Knight’s  castles in the Middle East. Earlier this year Euronews journalists caught up with him to find about his work. He started excavating this castle in 2006 and is still involved in its excavation. Previously he had a team of volunteers with him, many Hungarian and Syrian students but now with the conflict he is a solo worker. He hopes that they return one day when it is safe.

Fortress of Margat taken from Time Magazine

Extra information;

http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/10/the-cultural-cost-of-conflict-syria-s-ancient-treasures-in-ruins-/ with videos of damage

http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1073    –  UNESCO  Red alert list of 6 heritage sites in danger

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Leave a comment

Syria’s Ancient Remains in Ruins

“Damage to the heritage of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its identity”, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

War and journalism make for very dangerous partners but in the middle east they are often together.  Conflict gives rise to war reporting. War reporting does a great job at exposing the human life lost in a conflict but under-reports on the cultural heritage lost.  A good example of this is the ongoing crisis  in Syria in which through the media we are told of the human loss ( more than 100,000 people died) but we are not  told about the loss of  cultural heritage. Gunfire and falling bombs and  is a higher priority for reporters than archaeology. I can appreciate this but we must not forget the heritage.

Syria has a rich historical past with having had influence from people like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. My mind boggles at the thought of so much of this history going up in flames. Syria of course is just one example of a war torn country’s lost heritage. Much heritage has been lost in places like Iraq and Afghanistan also rich in history.

Conflict in Syria taken from NPR

 

Beautiful Crusader Castle in Syria taken from PRI

Many Syrians are using centuries old castles as hiding places and fortresses from the enemy. The ancient cities of Aleppo and Palmyra are being  pounded constantly by  tanks. They have suffered enormous damage. Palmyra known as the Bride of the Desert was the most visited tourist site in Syria given its impressive Roman ruins and its previous state of excellent preservation. I still remember seeing it on my television screen back in early 2000 when travel show Getaway was filming a segment there.

The presenter was mesmerized by the city. Fast forward now to 2013 and im certain that presenter would be horrified at what he would  see. Apart from ancient cities, museums in Syria are being looted for their treasures. With war comes poverty and unemployment  so many Syrians are trying to sell relics to make money. Their number one goal is survival. UNSECCO is doing all it can to protect as much heritage as possible with the resources it has. Often its very difficult as its representatives risk death entering a war zone.

The Great Citadel of Aleppo taken from monuments of Syria

 

Palmyra taken from National Geographic

I have great admiration for Balázs Major, an archaeology professor from Hungary’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University. He  has been researching in Syria for 15 years.  He has made it a mission of his to do what he can to preserve the heritage.

Currently amongst the chaos he is exploring the site of Margat, one of the biggest medieval Knight’s  castles in the Middle East. Earlier this year Euronews journalists caught up with him to find about his work. He started excavating this castle in 2006 and is still involved in its excavation. Previously he had a team of volunteers with him, many Hungarian and Syrian students but now with the conflict he is a solo worker. He hopes that they return one day when it is safe.

Fortress of Margat taken from Time Magazine

Extra information;

http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/10/the-cultural-cost-of-conflict-syria-s-ancient-treasures-in-ruins-/ with videos of damage

http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1073    –  UNESCO  Red alert list of 6 heritage sites in danger

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Tags: | Leave a comment

From Jericho to Jerusalem

Jericho and Jerusalem are two of the world’s oldest cites and hence are a pot of gold for archaeologists. They have yielded thousands of  finds of huge historical value. For journalists they are a pot of gold as well as these finds have been covered by them as well in numerous media like BAR magazine.

Now from 23 Oct 2013 to 6 April 2014 an important collection of artefacts from these cities dating to the Bronze (2300-1200 B.C.E)  and Iron age (1200-550 B.C. E.) is on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art  at the University of Melbourne. These artefacts were found on the excavations of archaeologist, Dame Kathleen Kenyon(1906-1978). She made headlines back in the 1950s for her work in Jericho and then in the 1960’s for her work in Jerusalem. In Britain many reporters followed her findings closely.

This exhibition showcases terracotta figurines, loom weights, spindle whorls and many pottery vessels from tombs at Jericho, excavated by Kenyon from 1952–54, and from her 1967 excavations at Jerusalem. These objects were used in daily life and are beautifully made.  These objects were given to the University of Melbourne as a teaching collection in return for the financial support for Kenyon’s excavations. Below is a short video of the exhibition ;

Over 100 remarkable ceramics (pots) are on display from the digs. The curator of this exhibition Dr Andrew Jamieson, said as well as showing important archaeological objects from these cities the exhibition tells the story of Kenyon’s contribution to Middle Eastern archaeology.

He said, “Best known for her excavations at Jericho and Jerusalem, she helped train a whole generation of archaeologists, including Australian scholar Basil Hennessey, who went on to become Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Sydney.

“Kathleen Kenyon’s work continues to resonate throughout the archaeological world. Her field methods and scientific techniques strengthened the discipline of archaeology. She is often credited with popularizing archaeology,” Dr Jamieson said.

 

Extra info;

http://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/melbourne_details.php?id=58981#.Unsr1-KMWSo

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Tags: | Leave a comment

Syria’s ancient remains in ruins

“Damage to the heritage of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its identity”, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

War and journalism make for very dangerous partners but in the middle east they are often together.  Conflict gives rise to war reporting. War reporting does a great job at exposing the human life lost in a conflict but under-reports on the cultural heritage lost.  A good example of this is the ongoing crisis  in Syria in which through the media we are told of the human loss ( more than 100,000 people died) but we are not  told about the loss of  cultural heritage. Gunfire and falling bombs and  is a higher priority for reporters than archaeology. I can appreciate this but we must not forget the heritage.

Syria has a rich historical past with having had influence from people like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. My mind boggles at the thought of so much of this history going up in flames. Syria of course is just one example of a war torn country’s lost heritage. Much heritage has been lost in places like Iraq and Afghanistan also rich in history.

Conflict in Syria taken from NPR

 

Beautiful Crusader Castle in Syria taken from PRI

Many Syrians are using centuries old castles as hiding places and fortresses from the enemy. The ancient cities of Aleppo and Palmyra are being  pounded constantly by  tanks. They have suffered enormous damage. Palmyra known as the Bride of the Desert was the most visited tourist site in Syria given its impressive Roman ruins and its previous state of excellent preservation. I still remember seeing it on my television screen back in early 2000 when travel show Getaway was filming a segment there.

The presenter was mesmerized by the city. Fast forward now to 2013 and im certain that presenter would be horrified at what he would  see. Apart from ancient cities, museums in Syria are being looted for their treasures. With war comes poverty and unemployment  so many Syrians are trying to sell relics to make money. Their number one goal is survival. UNSECCO is doing all it can to protect as much heritage as possible with the resources it has. Often its very difficult as its representatives risk death entering a war zone.

The Great Citadel of Aleppo taken from monuments of Syria

 

Palmyra taken from National Geographic

I have great admiration for Balázs Major, an archaeology professor from Hungary’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University. He  has been researching in Syria for 15 years.  He has made it a mission of his to do what he can to preserve the heritage.

 

Currently amongst the chaos he is exploring the site of Margat, one of the biggest medieval Knight’s  castles in the Middle East. Earlier this year Euronews journalists caught up with him to find about his work. He started excavating this castle in 2006 and is still involved in its excavation. Previously he had a team of volunteers with him, many Hungarian and Syrian students but now with the conflict he is a solo worker. He hopes that they return one day when it is safe.

Fortress of Margat taken from Time Magazine

Extra information;

http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/10/the-cultural-cost-of-conflict-syria-s-ancient-treasures-in-ruins-/ with videos of damage

http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1073    –  UNESCO  Red alert list of 6 heritage sites in danger

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Leave a comment

The Spade and the Bible

spade taken from feature pics

I believe no journalistic report on middle eastern archaeology would be complete without a discussion of the Bible. Biblical archaeology Review, a monthly magazine is testimony to this as many of the articles are written by journalists. The articles combine the Bible, archaeology and journalism. It makes for interesting reading. I first started reading it back in 2007 when i was 15 years of age as that was the time i decided i wanted to be an archaeologist.  I  started reading so many books and magazines on the subject. Biblical Archaeology Review, known for short as BAR caught my eye at my local newsagent and despite being expensive at $10.95 especially back then i was curious so i bought it. Despite not understanding every single term and phrase at 15 years old i liked it and from then on bought it regularly and still do now. Its gone up to $14.95. I could read it online for cheaper but im old fashioned preferring the paper format.

Despite secularism in the media, the Bible still makes its presence felt especially in Israel where  there is so much sensationalism in the media about discoveries linked to famous biblical  people like Jesus, Joseph, Mary etc. Israeli and American media  tend to make  archaeological discoveries  linked to the bible very big as in the case of the tomb of James, brother of Jesus.  This was a high profile case covered in depth by both American and Israeli journalists. It centered around Simcha Jacobovici an Emmy-winning journalist who has made several several films about  finds that apparently reveal the true history of Christianity.  His 2002 film James, brother of Jesus introduced the world to the James ossuary, a bone box with an ancient Aramaic inscription translated as James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. Many scholars claimed and still do that the inscription is a fake. Below i have uploaded Jacobovici’s documentary. I leave you to decide the verdict! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJzhkZfpfvo

I believe that although journalists need to be objective as its part of their creed, we often see biases coming through when it comes to religion and politics. Unlike Australia which is highly secular the states and Israel are not as secular as religion is woven into their constitutions.  Thus this would influence the reporting of places linked to the bible.

I strongly  believe that  the bible is a great and useful artefact as since World War 1 so many discoveries have confirmed the biblical records at many points.  It has proven a wonderful GPS for locating cities like Babylon and people like the Hittites who were only known through scripture before the spade proved their existence. One needs not to be religious to appreciate this historical book. In recent years archaeologists have located the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Scripture states that God turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of stone  for looking back. Archaeolgoy can never prove this but can prove the city’s existence. Although tricky for some people of faith including reporters one can separate God from archaeology.

Extra info;

http://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/how-do-you-explain-lots-wife-being-turned-into-a-pillar-of-salt-what-is-the-logic-or-scientific-explanation/

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Leave a comment

Archaeology in the Land of Black Gold

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Tintin in the middle east taken from wikipedia

Oasis of Middle East taken from themoryboard

Middle Eastern archaeology also known as Near Eastern archaeology is a field of study  in the area of the Fertile Cresent, the region between the Nile Valley (modern Egypt) , Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and the Levant the area adjacent to the east coast of the Mediterranean. The southern region which is  Israel and part of Jordan formerly known as Palestine   (Ancient Roman name)  also comes under this field.

Some scholars also  include Iran, the Arabian peninsula and its islands, Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), Cyprus and North Africa west of Egypt as part of this field. Its debated amongst them. Much of this region is rich in oil that some westerners call  it Land of Black Gold. Herge popularized it in one of his Tintin stories which saw Tintin on a report in  the middle east. The story is Land of Black Gold.

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Map of Middle East taken from Wikipedia

The middle east  with its vast  history has made media coverage more for its controversial politics than its  archaeology. Most journalism from this region concerns itself more with the politics as in the Syria crisis.  I would love to see more of the archaeology on the news than the endless wars and bloodshed. Back in 2003 one of my lecturers in my undergraduate degree at La Trobe University  Dr. Anne Gardner expressed that the modern day conflict in this region mirrors that of the ancient conflict. Indeed the archaeology has proven the existence of the wars mentioned in the Bible through artifacts, burnt cities,  written documents etc.


Middle East warfare taken from foreign policy

Doomsday prophecy taken from Before its news

The archaeology of this area originated from  the 19th century discipline of Biblical archaeology.  Many 19th century Europeans  were sticking spades in this region to uncover evidence of Biblical stories. Much archaeology in this region is still influenced by this discipline, however the last three decades has witnessed archaeologists moving their work  away from the Bible.

 

 

 

After all this region has so many layers of different civilizations like the Semites, Arabs, Egyptians,  Persians, Greeks, Romans etc. The deserts and sands in the region contain all these layers. No doubt there is so much more waiting to be discovered hidden beneath the sands and deserts.

Biblical archaeology  which is quite a big field in the United States, not so much here deals with the regions mentioned in the Bible like Assyria, Babylon, Sumeria etc. Due to the historic interest in this area there are a large number of organisations dedicated  to its  archaeology like  American Schools of Oriental Research .    

The middle east  is seen by many scholars to be  the cradle of civilisation.  To date  the latest research shows that this region gave us the first forms of farming, agriculture, writing, the wheel (seen by many to be the greatest invention of humankind), centralised  governments, law codes  and empires as well as social stratification, slavery and organized government.It was here as well that the earliest forms of astronomy and mathematics appear.

Picture of farming taken from Nick Grantham

Wheat in bloom taken from sky journal

Centralised government taken from US Consulate

writing image from Axal Writing Services

Evolution of the wheel from ED Tech 365

Since i was 15 years old ive had a fascination with the ancient city of Sumer. Sumer was a city  located  in southern Mesopotamia in what is modern Iraq. Most scholars believe that it is the earliest known civilisation in the world. It arose in the  late six millennium BC and lasted through  the fourth  millennium BC. People lived in mud-brick huts,  practiced fariming and had formed government and cities. These cities had Zigurates (temples to the gods).  They were in the form of pyramids with steps rising towards the sky.

Sumerian Ziggurat from The miniaturespage

Sample of Sumerian writing from Ancient Scripts

statutes depicting Sumerians from ancient visitors blogspot

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Leave a comment

From Jericho to Jerusalem

Jericho and Jerusalem are two of the world’s oldest cites and hence are a pot of gold for archaeologists. They have yielded thousands of  finds of huge historical value. For journalists they are a pot of gold as well as these finds have been covered by them as well in numerous media like BAR magazine.

Now from 23 Oct 2013 to 6 April 2014 an important collection of artefacts from these cities dating to the Bronze (2300-1200 B.C.E)  and Iron age (1200-550 B.C. E.) is on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art  at the University of Melbourne. These artefacts were found on the excavations of archaeologist, Dame Kathleen Kenyon(1906-1978). She made headlines back in the 1950s for her work in Jericho and then in the 1960’s for her work in Jerusalem. In Britain many reporters followed her findings closely.

This exhibition showcases terracotta figurines, loom weights, spindle whorls and many pottery vessels from tombs at Jericho, excavated by Kenyon from 1952–54, and from her 1967 excavations at Jerusalem. These objects were used in daily life and are beautifully made.  These objects were given to the University of Melbourne as a teaching collection in return for the financial support for Kenyon’s excavations. Below is a short video of the exhibition ;

Over 100 remarkable ceramics (pots) are on display from the digs. The curator of this exhibition Dr Andrew Jamieson, said as well as showing important archaeological objects from these cities the exhibition tells the story of Kenyon’s contribution to Middle Eastern archaeology.

He said, “Best known for her excavations at Jericho and Jerusalem, she helped train a whole generation of archaeologists, including Australian scholar Basil Hennessey, who went on to become Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Sydney.

“Kathleen Kenyon’s work continues to resonate throughout the archaeological world. Her field methods and scientific techniques strengthened the discipline of archaeology. She is often credited with popularizing archaeology,” Dr Jamieson said.

 

Extra info;

http://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/melbourne_details.php?id=58981#.Unsr1-KMWSo

Categories: Middle East Archaeology | Leave a comment

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