Mar 05 2017

4,000 Year Old Dolmen Found in Upper Galilee

(Photo credit: GONEN SHARON / TEL HAI COLLEGE)

(Photo credit: GONEN SHARON / TEL HAI COLLEGE)

An unusually large Bronze Age dolmen, or megalithic tomb, has been discovered by Dr. Gonen Sharon of Tel Hai College’s Galilee Studies Program. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, this dolmen is unique due to its size, its surrounding structure, and rock drawings engraved on its ceiling — the first art ever evidenced on a dolmen from the ancient Near East.

Dolmens are well evidenced globally, from the U.K. to Asia, including those with known or suspected astronomical alignments or markings. For example, dolmens have been found in North Korea decorated with cup marks corresponding to various constellations, with many such marks aligned toward the direction of the sunrise at winter solstice. (1) In the Middle East, thousands of dolmens have been found, including concentrated areas known as “dolmens fields”.

Archeologists from Tel Hai College, the Antiquities Authority, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem published a study on the find in the Upper Galilee last weekend in the scientific journal PLOS One.

At this point, there have been no specific archeoastronomical findings related to this dolmen. I will update if any new information is published.

To read the full Jerusalem Post article, please visit this link.

To view several other dolmens in the Middle East and beyond, please click here.

(1) Yang, Hong-Jin. 2014. “Astronomical Aspects of Korean Dolmens”. In Clive L. N. Ruggles, Ed. Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy. Springer, pp. 2149-2156.


Jun 28 2016

New publication: Divination as Science A Workshop on Conducted during the 60th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Warsaw, 2014. Jeanette C. Fincke, Ed.

divinationasscience

 

This new book on the scientific nature of divination in the ancient Near East was recently released (June, 2016) by Eisenbraun’s. Reviews and comments are very much welcome.

Bibliographic details:

Divination as Science
A Workshop on Conducted during the 60th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Warsaw, 2014
Edited by Jeanette C. Fincke
Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale – RAI 60W1
Eisenbrauns, 2016
Pp. xi + 172
ISBN: 1-57506-425-1
ISBN13: 978-1-57506-425-3
Your Price: $44.55

Description 

There is no doubt that Ancient Near Eastern divination is firmly rooted in religion, since all ominous signs were thought to have been sent by gods, and the invocation of omens was embedded in rituals. Nonetheless, the omen compendia display many aspects of a generally scientific nature. In their attempt to note all possible changes to the affected objects and to arrange their observations systematically for reference purposes, the scholars produced texts that resulted in a rather detailed description of the world, be it with respect to geography (the urban or rural environment on earth, or celestial and meteorological phenomena observed in the sky), biology (the outer appearance of the bodies of humans or animals, or the entrails of sheep), sociology (behavior of people) or others. Based on different divination methods and omen compendia, the question discussed during this workshop was whether the scholars had a scientific approach, presented as religion, or whether Ancient Near Eastern divination should be considered purely religious and that the term “science” is inappropriate in this context. The workshop attracted a large audience and lively discussion ensued. The papers presented in this volume reflect the focus of the sessions during the workshop and are likely to generate even more discussion, now that they are published.

Table of Contents for Divination as Science

Preface

Abbreviations

Bibliographical Abbreviations

Divination Between Religion and Science, JoAnn Scurlock

Bias in Observations of Natural Phenomena made for Divinatory Purposes, Ulla Susanne Koch

“Šamaš, great lord, whom I am asking, answer me with a reliable ‚Yes!”: The Influence of Divination on the Result of War, Krzysztof Ulanowski

Sheep Anatomical Terminology in the šumma immeru Omen Series and Additional Texts, Yoram Cohen

Some Remarks about the Old Babylonian Libanomancy Texts, Maria Stella Cingolo

The Oldest Mesopotamian Astronomical Treatise: enuma anu enlil, Jeanette C. Fincke

Divination and Religion as a Cultural System, Paul Delnero

Indexes

General index

Index of texts

For more information, or to order, please visit Eisenbrauns.


Nov 05 2015

Special session: ‘Astronomy in the Ancient Near East’, November 10th at the SEAC conference, Rome

Courtesy of the Agade listserv and Dr. Lorenzo Verderame, the following special session on the ancient Near East will take place on November 10th, during the SEAC (Société européenne pour l’astronomie dans la culture / European Society for Astronomy in Culture) annual conference on Astronomy in Past and Present Cultures, to be be held in Rome, 9-13 November 2015.

More information available at http://www.brera.inaf.it/SEAC2015

———

Special session: ‘Astronomy in the Ancient Near East’, November 10, 2015

8:00-9:00 Posters Mounting

9:00 – 9:20 J. A. Belmonte, M. C. Pérez Die, L. Díaz-Iglesias Llanos Shrines of Ram-Headed Divinities and Canopus: Skyscaping at Herakleópolis Magna

9:20 – 9:40 A. C. González-GarcÌa, J. A. Belmonte, A. Polcaro A diachronic analysis of monument orientation in the Levant: the Jordanian paradigm

9:40 - 10:00 S. Gullberg The Babylonian Astronomical Diaries: A Graphical Analysis of their Implied Reference System

10:00 – 10:20 A. Jones Eclipses in Greco-Roman Egypt: Trends in Observation, Prediction, and Interpretation

10:20- 10:40 D. Nadali, A. Polcaro The sky from the high terrace: study on the orientation of the ziqqurat in ancient Mesopotamia

10:40 - 11:00 E. Orrelle Identifying transition in ritual power in the Neolithic of the Levant

• 11:00 Coffee break

11:15 – 11:35 S. Pizzimenti The Kudurrus and the Sky. Analysis and Interpretation of the Astral Symbols as Represented in Kassite Kudurrus Reliefs

11:35 - 11:55 E. Ratson Ideal Lunar Velocity

11:55 – 12:15 A. Rodríguez Antón, J. A. Belmonte, A. C. González-Garcìa Romans in Near East: Orientation of Roman towns and forts inmodern Jordan

12:15 - 12:35 S. Shinnar Rabbinic Standards for Accuracy in Lunar Observation: Regulating the Calendar in the Mishnah Rosh Hashanah

12:35 – 12:55 J. Steele Evidence for the Practice of Astronomy and Astrology in the “House of the ašipu’ in Uruk

12:55 – 13:15 L. Verderame Pleiades in ancient Mesopotamia

 

 


Oct 15 2015

Article: ‘Decoding the Star Charts of Ancient Egypt’

Nut (top), the Egyptian sky goddess Photograph by Ferit Kuyas; courtesy of the University of Tübingen Museum

Nut (top), the Egyptian sky goddess
Photograph by Ferit Kuyas; courtesy of the University of Tübingen Museum

Courtesy of the Agade listserv, this fascinating article in Scientific American Volume 313, Issue 4, available for purchase here.

Preview:

Decoding the Star Charts of Ancient Egypt
Mysterious tables of astronomical information have been found in 4,000-year-old coffins. What in the world was their purpose?

By Sarah Symons and Elizabeth Tasker

The Egyptian town of Mallawi is not on the main tourist beat, given its location 260 miles and a seven-hour train ride north of the temple complexes at Luxor. But one of us (Symons) traveled there in May 2013 with Robert Cockcroft, a postdoctoral researcher in her laboratory, hoping to see one of the oldest astronomical records in the world. The record, which had been described only vaguely, was indeed there, but to their astonishment, it was not the only one.

“I can see writing!” Cockcroft exclaimed. At that moment, he was crouched beside a display case that enclosed a coffin in the central room of the Mallawi Monuments Museum, craning his neck to peer at the underside of the propped-up wood lid. Symons flicked the beam of her flashlight to illuminate a thin batten-a cross piece-that held the flat panels of wood together. The batten’s surface was painted with graceful hieroglyphics representing star names, and Symons and Cockcroft immediately realized that the cross piece was part of yet another ancient astronomical record. Until that moment, no one had recognized the batten’s significance; it had been attached to this particular coffin by mistake [....]

[Click here for full purchasable full story, with charts].


Oct 31 2014

Book review: Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature

ancientjewishsciencescover

As promised, my review of the 2013 publication Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature, edited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth L. Sanders. New York: NYU Press.


Sep 17 2014

5000 year old lunar monument identified in Galilee

lunarmonument

 

Hebrew University Ph.D. candidate Ido Wachtel has discovered compelling evidence that a crescent-shaped stone structure located in the Galilee was not part of a fortifying wall as previously thought by scholars, but was a lunar monument.

According to Wachtel, and as cited by Livescience:

The shape may have had symbolic importance, as the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin, Wachtel said. [. . .] An ancient town called Bet Yerah (which translates to “house of the moon god”) is located only a day’s walk from the crescent-shaped monument Wachtel noted.

This is an exciting finding in Levantine archaeoastronomy, shedding light upon the context pre-dating the Hebrew Bible — particularly its polemic against astrolatry, as found in Deuteronomy 4:19, Deut. 17:3, 2 Kings 17:16, and elsewhere.