Bible Archaeology

Iraq Museum to Reopen

In November:

Following a looting spree during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the famous Iraq Museum was shuttered and sealed. But Iraqi and U.S. officials say the Baghdad repository of 5000 years of Mesopotamian history will reopen by year’s end.

That’s good news for archaeologists. “It’s a great idea,” says John Russell, an archaeologist at Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art and Design. “The museum has good security and Baghdad seems fairly stable.”

Founded in the 1920s by British adventurer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell, the museum contains more than 100,000 objects and is considered one of the world’s finest collections of ancient artifacts. But when U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad in 2003, looters ransacked the offices and storerooms, stealing thousands of objects. Many, such as the 5000-year-old stone mask called the Lady of Warka, were returned, and other priceless pieces had been hidden by museum officials before the invasion. But more than a thousand objects, including small and portable cylinder seals, remain at large.

Iraqi officials told media in Baghdad last week that the institution will reopen in November, and U.S. embassy officials there confirmed that the Iraqis intend to allow the public access within the next 2 or 3 months. The United States contributed more than $9 million to renovate a dozen halls in recent years, and the Italian government also contributed to the renovation effort. New climate control and security systems will protect the collection.


Bible Archaeology

Why Did Moses Go Up Mount Sinai Twice?

The Middle Eastern practice of dual proceedings in reaching important deals, agreements or covenants may provide and explanation.

The Jerusalem Post explains:

There have been many attempts to clarify why Moses went up Mount Sinai twice. Recent archeological research likely provides a correct answer to this question and testifies to both the originality and the antiquity of the biblical text.

The giving of the Torah to Israel on Mount Sinai, whether oral or written, was the most momentous event in the Jewish people’s history. The once-wandering Israelite tribe that had just escaped from Egypt created, under the leadership of Moses, a new kind of society. Josephus, in the first century CE, defined this as a “theocracy,” or “placing all sovereignty in the hands of God.” Centuries later, our sages understood this as “taking on the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Berachot 2, 2). The text of the principles and laws of the newly created nation was deposited in the specially prepared and decorated Holy Ark.

Josephus explains that Moses went up Mount Sinai for the first time to bring back “a happy method of living for the people, and an order of political government, a short history of the Patriarchs and Egyptian slavery, and a Decalogue.”

But, he continues, “on the following day the multitude came to his tent and desired to bring them, besides, other laws from God.”

So Moses went up for the second time, and after 40 days, “he showed them the two tablets, with the ten commandments engraved upon them, five upon each tablet, and the writing was by the hand of God.”

Josephus mentions that during these 40 days Moses spent on the mountain, “fear seized upon the Hebrews,” but he fails to mention the Golden Calf.

Philo Alexandroni wrote that Moses went up for the first time to bring to the Jewish people the “jurisdiction concerning things which are most necessary for human welfare, namely food,” and he ascended the mountain for the second time “for all other urgent needs of his people.” He mentions that those who made the Golden Calf during his absence in imitation of Egyptian worship were subsequently heavily punished.

There is no doubt that Moses’s ascension was to bring the people a covenant, a signed agreement between the God of Israel and His people. It is also likely that the attending sacred ceremony was conducted in the spirit and the manner of his time. It is therefore most likely that he followed the traditional ancient Middle Eastern practice of reaching and verifying an important agreement.

The fact that Moses, according to all sources, went up the mountain twice and made the tablets twice suggests that he was acting in accord with the prevailing Mesopotamian legal practice…

There’s more. Read it in full here.

Bible Archaeology

Assyrian Language: What Is It?

Assyrian is a dialect of Akkadian, an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia.

The Telegraph has the short piece:

It was in use for 2,500 years but has not been spoken for more than 2,000 years.

The Assyrian dialect of Akkadian was spoken in the Northern areas of Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq. The Babylonian dialect was spoken in central and southern Mesopotamia, Mariotic in the central Euphrates, and Tell Beydar in northern Syria.

There have been different phases in Assyrian’s development. Old Assyrian was spoken between1950–1530 BC, Middle Assyrian between 1530–1000 BC, and Neo-Assyrian between the years 1000–600 BC.

Assyrian served as the lingua franca during much of the Old and Middle times, and was extremely popular.

During the first millennium BC, Akkadian progressively lost its status. Neo-Assyrian received an upswing in popularity in the 8th century BC when the Assyrian kingdom became a major power.

But after the end of the Mesopotamian kingdoms, which fell due to the Persian conquest of the area, Akkadian disappeared as a popular language, however, the language was still used in its written form.

The latest identified Akkadian text comes from the 1st century AD.

Also related to the above is: Scholars complete dictionary of lost language after 90 years. That’s here.

The project to create the Assyrian dictionary, based on words recorded on clay or stone tablets unearthed from ruins in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, began at the University of Chicago in 1921.

The language had not been spoken for more than 2,000 years.

Over several generations scholars from Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Berlin, Helsinki, Baghdad and London travelled to Chicago to work on the endeavour.

The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is now officially complete. It contains 21 volumes of Akkadian, a Semitic language, with several dialects, including Assyrian, that was in use for 2,500 years Gil Stein, director of the university’s Oriental Institute, said: “The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world’s first urban civilisation.

“Virtually everything that we take for granted has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing.

“If we ever want to understand our roots we have to understand this first great civilisation.” Robert Biggs, professor emeritus at the university, devoted nearly a half-century to the dictionary, uncovering tablets on digs in the Iraq desert.