Aramaic is the lingua franca of the ancient Middle East, the linguistic root of modern day Hebrew and Arabic.
“Once you understand Aramaic,” says Karen Stern, “you can read anything. You can read Hebrew, you can read Phoenician. I always call it the little black dress of Semitic languages.”
Stern, 35, is an archaeologist and an assistant professor in the history department at Brooklyn College. Her passion is the tomb graffiti of the ancient Jews in what was then Roman Palestine. Graffiti has been “published, but sort of disregarded,” she says. “Whereas I think it is intimate, vocal and spontaneous, and adds to the historical record.”
In this, Stern seems to be supported by scholars: She is completing a yearlong fellowship at the W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.
City Of The Dead
An expedition to the Southern Galilee a few hours north ends at the site of one of the country’s richest burial sites: Beit She’arim. It is both national park and necropolis; a city of the dead dating back to the first century. There are more than 30 excavated tombs here.
“It’s amazing that what can seem like hills and fields is standing over the largest concentration of burials from the Roman and Byzantine periods in the entire region,” Stern says, while standing on the hillside…
NPR has more here.