Archaeology and Antiquities


December eyes are fixed on Bethlehem, which has been an inspiration for artists over many years and indeed centuries. On this Christmas day, take a look at Bethlehem as it might have looked more than a century ago.


Left hand element of a stereoscopic photograph of the Bethlehem region circa 1900. Courtesy of Glenn Bowman.


Approaching Bethlehem. Source: Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee.

The following two illustrations of Bethlehem can be found on the website (Jerusalem in 19th Century Art) put up by James E. Lancaster.


Bethlehem Tinted lithograph printed by Day & Son, after David Roberts, published about 1855.

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[Webshaykh’s Note: This study is perhaps a bit dated and overstretched, but it can help explain why Iraq and Syria still matter (well, sort of…). I sort of doubt all the handsome men were farmers back then… or could it be that handsome Turks turned the eyes of lassies in Ireland independent of their farming expertise?]

Most Britons descended from male farmers who left Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago (and were seduced by the local hunter-gatherer women)

By David Derbyshire for MailOnlineUpdated: 13:37 GMT, 20 January 2010

Most Britons are direct descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago, a new study has shown.

After studying the DNA of more than 2,000 men, researchers say they have compelling evidence that four out of five white Europeans can trace their roots to the Near East.

The discovery is shedding light on one of the most important periods of human history – the time when our ancient ancestors abandoned hunting and began to domesticate animals. (more…)


The Prince of Wales and group at the Pyramids, Giza, Cairo, March 1862 Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Prints from first photographed royal tour go on show at Buckingham Palace. Click here to see ten images.


Listen to the Oldest Song in the World: A Sumerian Hymn Written 3,400 Years Ago

Open Culture, July 8th, 2014

In the early 1950s, archaeologists unearthed several clay tablets from the 14th century B.C.E.. Found, WFMU tells us, “in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit,” these tablets “contained cuneiform signs in the hurrian language,” which turned out to be the oldest known piece of music ever discovered, a 3,400 year-old cult hymn. Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, professor of Assyriology at the University of California, produced the interpretation above in 1972. (She describes how she arrived at the musical notation—in some technical detail—in this interview.) Since her initial publications in the 60s on the ancient Sumerian tablets and the musical theory found within, other scholars of the ancient world have published their own versions.

The piece, writes Richard Fink in a 1988 Archeologia Musicalis article, confirms a theory that “the 7-note diatonic scale as well as harmony existed 3,400 years ago.” This, Fink tells us, “flies in the face of most musicologist’s views that ancient harmony was virtually non-existent (or even impossible) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks.” Kilmer’s colleague Richard Crocker claims that the discovery “revolutionized the whole concept of the origin of western music.” So, academic debates aside, what does the oldest song in the world sound like? Listen to a midi version below and hear it for yourself. Doubtless, the midi keyboard was not the Sumerians instrument of choice, but it suffices to give us a sense of this strange composition, though the rhythm of the piece is only a guess.


Aleppo from the Citadel before the recent destruction

New high-resolution satellite image analysis: 5 of 6 Syrian World Heritage sites ‘exhibit significant damage’

September 19th, 2014, Archaeology News

In war-torn Syria, five out of six World Heritage sites now “exhibit significant damage” and some structures have even been “reduced to rubble”, according to new high-resolution satellite image analysis conducted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AAAS analysis, offering the first comprehensive look at the extent of the damage to Syria’s precious cultural heritage sights, was completed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Penn Cultural Heritage Centre (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian heritage Task Force. The National Science Foundation funded the analysis, which provides authoritative confirmation of previous on-the-ground reports of damage to individual sites.

“Only one of Syria’s six World Heritage sites‒ the Ancient City of Damascus‒ appears to remain undamaged in satellite imagery since the onset of civil war in 2011,” said Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project at AAAS. Historic structures residing at the other five sites, including ancient mosques, schools, and civilian as well as government buildings, have all been damaged, and in some cases, destroyed, AAAS reported. Wolfinbarger added, however, that “the Damascus site also could have damage not visible in satellite images.” (more…)

The online collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale du Royaume du Maroc is well worth checking out.

I recently across a copy of The Christian Herald from December 1, 1915 and the lead article by John Maynard Owen Williams is on a recent trip he took to Syria and Iraq. The images are from a century ago and I attach a few excerpts from the article. For the first part, click here, for part two, click here, for part three, click here.

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I recently across a copy of The Christian Herald from December 1, 1915 and the lead article by John Maynard Owen Williams is on a recent trip he took to Syria and Iraq. The images are from a century ago and I attach a few excerpts from the article. For the first part, click here and for part two, click here.

to be continued

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