Monday, September 01, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lost Armenian monastery

EVERY PHILOLOGIST DREAMS OF THIS HAPPENING: Ani ruins reveal hidden secrets from below. New underground structures have come to light in Ani, one of Turkey’s most breathtaking ancient sites. History researcher Sezai Yazıcı says the ancient city’s structures should be promoted (Hurriyet Daily News).
“In 2011 while working on a United Nations project in order to promote Kars and to reveal its historical and cultural heritage, I came across some pretty interesting information. One of the most important names of the first half of the 20th century, George Ivanovic Gurdjieff, who spent most of his childhood and youth in Kars, had chosen [to stay in] an isolated place in Ani along with his friend Pogosyan where they worked for some time together in the 1880s. One day, while digging at one of the underground tunnels in Ani, Gurdjieff and his friend saw that the soil became different. They continued digging and discovered a narrow tunnel. But the end of the tunnel was closed off with stones. They cleaned the stones and found a room. They saw decayed furniture, broken pots and pans in the room. They also found a scrap of parchment in a niche. Although Gurdjieff spoke Armenian very well, he failed to read Armenian writing in the parchment. Apparently, it was very old Armenian. After a while, they learned that the parchments were letters written by a monk to another monk,” Yazıcı said, speaking about how he became interested in the underground structures.

“Finally, [Gurdjieff and his friend] succeeded in understanding the letters. Gurdjieff discovered that there was a famous Mesopotamian esoteric school in the place where they found the letters. The famous school was active between the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. and there was a monastery there,” he added.
HT Cornelia Horn on Facebook.

Some past posts on ancient Armenian are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And this story deserves a nod to The Rule of Four.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Acikyildiz, The Yezidis

The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion
Birgul Acikyildiz (author)

Paperback | In Stock | £14.99


The minority communities of northern Iraq are under increasingly severe threat from Islamic State jihadists. Among these minorities, the Yezidis have one of the most remarkable legacies of any tradition in the Middle East. Yet not just their religious and material culture but now their entire existence is in peril as entire populations seek refuge from their violent oppressors.

But who are the Yezidis (or ‘Yazidis’ as in much of the Western media)? The community has been misunderstood and oppressed for centuries. Predominantly ethnic Kurds, and the target of persecution over many centuries, until now they have succeeded in keeping their ancient religion alive despite the claim that they are ‘devil worshippers.’

This is the essential guide to a threatened tradition. It reveals an intricate system of belief influenced by Zoroastrianism and Sufism and regional paganism like Mithraism. It explores the origins of the Yezidis, their art and architecture and the often misunderstood (and now progressively life-threatening) connections between Yezidism and the Satan/Sheitan of Christian and Muslim tradition. Extensively illustrated, with maps, photographs and illustrations, this pioneering book is a testimonial to one of the region’s most extraordinary and ancient peoples.
Background here and links.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Arash Zeini's blog

ARASH ZEINI has a predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies. Some of his posts also pertain to ancient Judaism. Two of the latter (for now) are: Zoroastrian exegetical parables and To convert a Persian.

Review of As Above, So Below

ARAMAIC WATCH: ‘As Above, So Below’ Review: Deserves a Swift Burial (Dan Callahan, The Wrap). Excerpt:
Director John Erick Dowdle and cinematographer Léo Hinstin keep their handheld camera style shaky, rattling and rolling throughout, even though most of the movie is supposed to be footage shot by hapless documentary filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge), who is following dishy Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) around as she goes on a dizzy quest to find the mythical philosopher's stone, an alchemical substance that turns metal into gold and also gives its owner immortality.

“I am fluent in four spoken languages and two dead ones,” chirps the enthusiastic Scarlett, who speaks in plummy British tones that mask her heartbreak over her alchemist father's suicide. She doesn't speak Aramaic, however, though she assures Benji that she “knows a guy who does”: George, played by Ben Feldman, just as neurotic here as he is playing paranoid copy writer Ginsberg on “Mad Men.”

Though Scarlett once got them both stuck in a Turkish prison for a week, George is quietly smitten with her, so much so that he thinks nothing of breaking into a museum for her so that she can take down an ancient tablet, rub the back with ammonia cleanser, and light it on fire to see if it might reveal where the stone might be hidden. The tablet back tells her that the stone could be down somewhere in the Paris catacombs, a tunnel network underneath the city that houses the bones of six million bodies.
She just wants him for his Aramaic.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

52nd PSCO (2014-15)

Dear friends and colleagues,

I am delighted to announce that our 52nd PSCO — co-chaired by me, Matthew Chalmers, and Natalie Dohrmann — will explore "Formative Figures and Paths Not Taken: The Study of Ancient Judaism and Christianity between History and Historiography." In concert with the 2014-2015 Katz Center theme-year on "New Perspectives on the Origins, Context, and Diffusion of the Academic Study of Judaism," we will focus on key figures in the study of ancient Judaism and Christianity in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, situating them both in terms of their own modern contexts and in terms of their contribution to scholarship on antiquity. We are hoping to revisit formative contributions to scholarship but also to recover forgotten insights and interesting paths not taken — especially in relation to the interactions of Jewish studies and Jewish scholars with the dominantly Christian contexts of early research. In the process, we hope to bring historians of antiquity into conversation with historians of modernity so as to help situate our own scholarly endeavors as part of ongoing contextualized reflections and continually remade memories of ancient Jewish and Christian pasts.

Our opening session will be on Thursday October 2 (7pm-9pm) and will feature John G. Gager of Princeton University speaking on Jacob Taubes, Michael Wyschogrod, and radical Jewish approaches to Paul and “early Christianity." More details, suggested readings, etc., will be sent out closer to the date. We’re still working on pinning down the schedule for the rest of the year. Confirmed sessions to mark in your calendar = David Ruderman will speak on William Wotton (1666–1727) and the Christian recovery of the Mishnah in early modern Europe on Thursday December 11, and Bernard Levinson will speak on Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) on Thursday March 19th. Unless otherwise noted, all sessions will be held in the Second Floor Lounge of Cohen Hall at the University of Pennsylvania and will run from 7:00pm-9:00pm, preceded by an informal dinner. More details soon!

Many of the talks at the Katz Center this year may also be of interest; for the fall schedule, please see

All the best, Annette
In case you didn't know, PSCO stands for "Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins. Their website is here and their Facebook page is here.

Star of Bethlehem colloquium

CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY: Colloquium: The Star of Bethlehem, Groningen. The Star of Bethlehem: Historical and Astronomical Perspectives – A Multi-Disciplinary Colloquium, University of Groningen, October 23rd-24th, 2014. Follow the link for details.

Canaanite wine cellar excavated

IN BRONZE-AGE ISRAEL: World's Oldest Wine Cellar Fueled Palatial Parties (Megan Gannon, LiveScience). "Wild nights in Tel Kabri."

I don't usually cover Bronze-Age archaeology, but this seemed important.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Dovekeepers casting

TVLINE: Finding Carter's Kathryn Prescott Takes Aim at CBS' Dovekeepers Miniseries (Andy Swift).
The star of MTV’s Finding Carter has joined CBS’ upcoming miniseries The Dovekeepers, TVLine has learned, playing a teenaged tomboy named Aziza. Blessed with expert archery skills, Aziza disguises herself in her brother’s armor to join the male warriors of Masada — even managing to fool her lover Amram (played by 90210‘s Diego Boneta).

Obviously a rigorously accurate historical treatment of the story. Background on both the miniseries (due out in 2015) and the novel is here and links.

Phoenician shipwreck

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Phoenician shipwreck found off the coast of Malta could be the Mediterranean's oldest. But the exact location of the 2,700-year-old underwater ruin is being kept secret until research is finished.
By Emily Sharpe. Web only [The Art Newspaper]
Published online: 27 August 2014

Cargo from what may be the oldest shipwreck in the Mediterranean has been discovered off the coast the Maltese island of Gozo, reports the Times of Malta. Around 20 lava grinding stones and 50 amphorae of various types and sizes from the 50ft-long Phoenician wreck were found by a team of researchers from Malta, France and the US. Experts date the artefacts to around 700BC, when Malta was among several areas in the Mediterranean colonised by the Phoenicians.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jew and Judean Forum

MARGINALIA: Jew and Judean: A Forum on Politics and Historiography in the Translation of Ancient Texts. Have scholars erased the Jews from Antiquity? As promised.

This is an important discussion. I don't have time to read all the entries right now, but I may have comments once I do.

"Catharsis-vendors," cosmetics, and festivals in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: In the Days Between the Major Holidays, Little Clues to Jewish Ritual and Life. Talmudic rabbis debate professional eulogizers, trying to strike a balance between the holy and the mundane.
Tractate Moed Katan, which Daf Yomi readers continued to explore this week, is not one of the more glamorous parts of the Talmud. Where other tractates we have read in Seder Moed dealt with major holidays like Yom Kippur or Pesach, Moed Katan focuses on the middle days of the festivals, which are inherently less dramatic and important than the first and last days. The result, however, is that this tractate offers an unusually close look at the day-to-day life and work of Talmudic-era Jewish society. As the rabbis examine different occupations and activities, to decide whether or not they can be pursued on the intermediate days, they indirectly offer a kind of sociological overview, covering everything from burial rites to bed-making to beautification.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

More on Bar-Asher Siegel, Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic

SETH SANDERS: Is There a Text in the Class? The Babylonian Talmud’s Intertwined Textual and Linguistic Histories. With reference to the review by Aaron Koller at the Talmud Blog, noted here.

More Christian Apocrypha updates

AT APOCRYPHYCITY Tony Burke has been posting some summaries of texts translated in his and Brent Landau's forthcoming volume of More Christian Apocrypha. There are five entries so far:
More Christian Apocrypha Updates 5: On the Priesthood of Jesus
More Christian Apocrypha Updates 4: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (Syriac)
More Christian Apocrypha Updates 3: The Hospitality of Dysmas
More Christian Apocrypha Updates 2: Revelation of the Magi
More Christian Apocrypha Updates 1: Legend of Aphroditianus
Go and have a look.