May 9, 2013 3 Comments
April 29, 2013 1 Comment
The transformative political events in the Middle East over the past two years have had, among many other unexpected outcomes, profound effects on the direction of research in Near Eastern archaeology. War and civil unrest act as both a carrot and a stick, forcing the cessation of fieldwork in some areas, while promoting new investigations in places that might otherwise have gone unexplored. The geopolitics of the post-Arab Spring world are changing where we are able work, and by consequence they will shape the research questions we investigate, as well as the regions where future generations of scholars will likely specialize. But the present moment of realignment is far from unique—our discipline has been shaped from the beginning by the tumultuous political history of the Middle East…
Worth a read over at The ASOR Blog.
April 29, 2013 Leave a comment
… The YouGov survey which Professor Linda Woodhead commissioned to inform the 2013 series of Westminster Faith Debates, and which BRIN has been reporting after each debate, is likely to prove a very valuable dataset for subsequent secondary analysis. To illustrate the point, Professor Woodhead, with statistical support from the Revd Professor Bernard Silverman, has used the poll (conducted online among 4,437 Britons aged 18 and over on 25-30 January 2013) to undertake a segmentation analysis of contemporary Anglicans (1,261 identified themselves as such in the survey). Her findings are presented in her article ‘”Nominals” are the Church’s Hidden Strength’ in the current issue (26 April 2013, p. 16) of the Church Times. This is only available online to subscribers of the newspaper.
The analysis proper, which forms the first part of the article, distinguishes four types of Anglicans:
Godfearing Churchgoers (5% of Anglicans) – These are Anglicans who attend church, are very certain in their belief in God, and who say that God is the main source of authority in their lives. They are also likely to score highly on other indicators of religiosity (such as prayer and Bible-reading) and to hold conservative views on many issues of personal morality, particularly sexuality (setting them apart with Baptists and Muslims rather than fellow Anglicans).
Mainstream Churchgoers (12% of Anglicans) – These have more in common with Non-Churchgoing Believers than with the Godfearers. Apart from their churchgoing, they differ in being a little more religious than Non-Churchgoing Believers on a number of measures and a little more morally conservative.
Non-Churchgoing Believers (50% of Anglicans) – These share a good many of the attributes of Mainstream Churchgoers, notwithstanding that they do not attend church. They all believe in God (although some prefer the word Spirit), and significant numbers practise religious or spiritual activities regularly. ‘These “nominals” are more than Anglican in name only: they believe, practise, and identify with Anglicanism.’
Non-Churchgoing Doubters (33% of Anglicans) – These Anglicans are also more than merely nominal. Only 15% are outright atheists, most being agnostic or unsure about God, and more than one-fifth claim to practise some religious or spiritual activity in private. They are the most morally permissive of the four groups.
The second half of the article is an impassioned – some may say occasionally idealized – plea for the Church of England to take more seriously non-churchgoing Anglicans in general, and Non-Churchgoing Believers in particular, rather than representing Godfearing Churchgoers as the ‘most real Anglicans’. Woodhead contends that the Church is in danger of becoming too clerical and congregationally-based, and of abandoning its sense of being a lay institution governed by monarch and Parliament, and responsible to the people.
The whole piece is here.
April 3, 2013 Leave a comment
The Herald Sun:
Archaeologists have opened the ancient ‘Gates to Hell’ in Turkey – and found it’s still a killer.
A group of Italian archaeologists have announced they have found the legendary “Pluto’s Gate”, a portal filled with foul-smelling noxious fumes which inflicted a quick death on any person or beast that was driven into its embrace.
The temple complex in Hierapolis, now the volcanic-spring restort town of Pamukkale, featured in many ancient legends and historical texts.
“This space is full of a vapour so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek historian Strabo wrote in 24AD.”I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
The archaeologists uncovered the ruins of a circular temple near a cave entrance, surrounded by Ionic columns. One of them held a dedication to the gods of the underworld – Pluto and Kore.
The excavated site of the Plutonium at the ancient city of Hierapolis, Turkey. Picture: Francesco D’Andria.
Discovery News reports the excavations have also revealed evidence of a nearby thermal pool and courtyard which was a gathering-place for priests and visitors seeking prophetic visions or to speak with dead loved ones.
A staired terrace overlooking the temple and pool would have held onlookers and initiates as eunuchs led bulls into the cave – and dragged them out, dead.
Francesco D’Andria of the University of Salento said the “visions” were probably hallucinations caused by breathing diluted fumes wafting up from the Gate to Hell.
And the portal is still a killer, he said.
“We could see the cave’s lethal properties during the excavation,” D’Andria told Discovery News.
A picture showing dead birds at the entrance to “Hell’s Gate”, an ancient volcanic cave. Picture: Francesco D’Andria.
“Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes.”
The site had been damaged by Christians in the 6th Century and the destruction was completed by later earthquakes.
“We found the Plutonium (Pluto’s Gate) by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring,” D’Andria said.
Rest here with video, maps and more pics.
March 27, 2013 1 Comment
New experiments show that the Shroud of Turin dates to 1st century AD.
New scientific experiments carried out at the University of Padua have apparently confirmed that the Shroud Turin can be dated back to the 1st century AD. This makes its compatible with the tradition which claims that the cloth with the image of the crucified man imprinted on it is the very one Jesus’ body was wrapped in when he was taken off the cross. The news will be published in a book by Giulio Fanti, professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at the University of Padua’s Engineering Faculty, and journalist Saverio Gaeta, out tomorrow. “Il Mistero della Sindone” (The Mystery of the Shroud) is edited by Rizzoli (240 pp, 18 Euro).
What’s new about this book are Fanti’s recent findings, which are also about to be published in a specialist magazine and assessed by a scientific committee. The research includes three new tests, two chemical ones and one mechanical one. The first two were carried out with an FT-IR system, so using infra-red light, and the other using Raman spectroscopy. The third was a multi-parametric mechanical test based on five different mechanical parameters linked to the voltage of the wire. The machine used to examine the Shroud’s fibres and test traction, allowed researchers to examine tiny fibres alongside about twenty samples of cloth dated between 3000 BC and 2000 AD.
The new tests carried out in the University of Padua labs were carried out by a number of university professors from various Italian universities and agree that the Shroud dates back to the period when Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. Final results show that the Shroud fibres examined produced the following dates, all of which are 95% certain and centuries away from the medieval dating obtained with Carbon-14 testing in 1988: the dates given to the Shroud after FT-IR testing, is 300 BC ±400, 200 BC ±500 after Raman testing and 400 AD ±400 after multi-parametric mechanical testing. The average of all three dates is 33 BC ±250 years. The book’s authors observed that the uncertainty of this date is less than the single uncertainties and the date is compatible with the historic date of Jesus’ death on the cross, which historians claim occurred in 30 AD.
The tests were carried out using tiny fibres of material extracted from the Shroud by micro-analyst Giovanni Riggi di Numana who passed away in 2008 but had participated in the1988 research project and gave the material to Fanti through the cultural institute Fondazione 3M.
Just in time for Easter of course…
February 2, 2013 2 Comments
A new study recently conducted by a well-known survey group reveals that the majority of America cities have little to no interest in the Bible.
As per the commission of the American Bible Society, the Barna Group has released the results of its study on the most and least “Bible-minded” cities in the nation. While some cities and regions of the nation were more “Bible-minded” than others, the nation in general ranked quite low. Out of the 96 cities that were surveyed for the study, 91 of them had very little Biblical interest.
The study is based on nearly 43 thousand interviews with citizens from across the nation.
“Individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches are considered to be Bible-minded,” the Barna Group explains, outlining how it came to its conclusions. “This definition captures action and attitude—those who both engage and esteem the Christian scriptures. The rankings thus reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible in the country’s largest markets.”
Read on here.
January 20, 2013 1 Comment
JSTOR’s archives of more than 1,200 journals is now open for limited free access. Anyone can sign up for a JSTOR account and read up to three articles for free every two weeks. This could be a helpful resource for last minute research or for those who lack easy access to major libraries. You can read more about it here or register with JSTOR here.
January 8, 2013 Leave a comment
India and the world were shocked and appalled by the vicious gang rape and subsequent death of an Indian medical student. Some are now asking whether the rape crisis that has so enraged India is partly the consequence of sex selection abortion. From a Time essay by Erika Christakis:
Growing evidence suggests that in countries like India and China, where the ratio of men to women is unnaturally high due to the selective abortion of female fetuses and neglect of girl children, the rates of violence towards women increase. “The sex ratio imbalance directly leads to more sex trafficking and bride buying,” says Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. A scarce resource is generally considered precious, but the lack of women also leaves many young men without marriage partners. In 2011, the number of cases of women raped rose by 9.2 percent; kidnapping and abductions of women were up 19.4 percent. “At this point, we’re talking correlation, not causation. More studies need to be done….[But] it is clear from historical cases and from studies looking at testosterone levels that a large proportion of unmarried men in the population is not a good thing,” says Hvistendahl.
No, it’s not. But sex selection abortion is not a good thing on its face, regardless of harmful correlations or consequences.