Archive for the ‘Biblical Archaeology’ Category

The Ancient Near East as the Birthplace of Democracy

May 15, 2017

This is a bit of a rejoinder to Boris ‘Mugwump’ Johnson. Johnson, as a public schoolboy steeped in the Classics, believes that everything great and good began with ancient Greece and Rome. But a few years ago I put up a blog post about a book, The Origins of the Democracy in the Ancient Near East, which argued that the roots of democracy went further back, and further east, than ancient Greece. It began instead in the popular assemblies, which governed ancient mesopotamian civilisations such as the city state of Mari.

I found this passage about the democratic nature of ancient near eastern civilisation in the entry ‘Law (Mesopotamian)’ in Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Biblical World: A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (London: Pickering and Inglis Ltd 1966), 356-359. This states

The pattern of society in early Mesopotamia has been described as “primitive democracy”. There was an assembly (Sumerian ukkin, Akkadian puhrum) of the elders and young men with whom they chieftain or leader (antecedant of the later king) must consult. All major decisions were put to a vote. In addition, the cheiftain was obliged to give to his tutelary deity an annual account of his conduct of authority during the previous year. No doubt here also, as in the case of Egypt, there was drastic modification in practice especially in later years when, for example, such strong men as Sargon of Akkad, Hammurabi of Babylon or Sennacherib of Assyria ruled. But the principle remained in daily life as a unique characteristic of Mesopotamian civilization and spread into Syria and Anatolia as well. 356.

I don’t doubt that in the half century since the book was published, this view of ancient near eastern society as democratic has been revised. I think the book that came out about it a few years ago said that these states weren’t democratic. However, popular assemblies did exist.

Mesopotamia was the old name for the area that is now Iraq, and I wonder how much of its ancient history and precious archaeology has survived the western invasion by Bush and Blair, sectarian conflict and the destructive fury of ISIS. Nicholas Wood in his book, The Case Against Blair, describes how the Americans trashed Babylon when they chose to make it into one of the bases. And the barbarians of ISIS released a vide of them levelling Nineveh and destroying priceless antiquities in one of Iraq’s museums.

And their fury against anything they judge to be un-Islamic isn’t confined to the ancient past. They’ve also desecrated and destroyed Christian churches and the country’s Muslim shrines and mosques. And this is besides the horrific carnage and destruction which the war and its aftermatch have unleashed on the region and its people.

Iraq was one of the major centres of world civilisation, and the destruction of its ancient monuments and artefacts is a massive loss. And all because Bush, Blair and the Saudis wanted to steal the country’s oil and other state-owned industries for American big business.

Andre Vltchek’s Pictures and Plea for Understanding for Syria

April 13, 2017

On Wednesday, Counterpunch contributor Andre Vltchek published some of the pictures and comments about Syria from Yayoi Segi, a foreigner, who has been living and working there for three years, and is passionate about the country and its people. Segi states

“Syria is not what the mainstream media wants us to believe it is. One has to see it, to understand. Seeing is believing! It is an extraordinarily exceptional country. All that we have been told about Syria and its people is a lie.”

She talks about how the Syrian people are decent, warm people trying to get on with their lives despite the horrors and inconveniences of the war. She is also impressed by their manners and respect for education and culture.

“Syrians are the most hospitable, gentle people. When we meet, we never talk about the war, the conflict. It is a tremendous civilization… They always talk about their life, the future. They discuss their poets and their thinkers. People in Syria are very well educated. They know what is going on, on our Planet. Despite what some parts of the world have done to them, they are extremely respectful and polite to everybody. I never heard them speaking ill of others. They appreciate that you come and work with them, and they are confident.”

She also remarks that all of the international conferences and debates about the situation in Syria have carried on without reference to the wishes or ideas of the Syrians themselves.

“There have been so many seminars, conferences and meetings on Syria, yet the Syrian people are very rarely invited. All these events are ‘about them’ but without even inviting them, and without listening to them.”

Segi works for the national education system, and describes the system’s resilience and high quality compared to other nations.

“On the education front, the system was one of the best in the region, before the crisis began. Now, despite more than 6 years of horrendous war, the system is still standing and strong. Syrians know exactly what they want, and they have the capacity to implement their aspirations. Like in Aleppo; after the victory, the government immediately moved in and began opening schools.”

Her photographs show the devastation caused by war. But they also show people enjoying themselves in cafes and restaurants, as well as one of the great medieval fortresses and a sculpture, which looks like it may well come from the ancient past. Several of the photos are of schoolchildren. These show a mixed class of little boys and girls, smiling and dressed in western style clothing. There’s also what looks like a crowd of sports fans – football? – heading towards a match, and a sign with spells out in coloured letters ‘I heart Damascus’.

There is much that Vltchek writes with which I disagree. He’s of Czech-Russian ancestry, and is a film maker specialising in the Developing World. His fierce attacks on western exploitation of the undeveloped world is well meant, but sometimes he goes too far in attacking the Developed World and the needs and desires of its ordinary citizens. It’s also struck me several times that he has a far too optimistic view of the Soviet past. Russia and the eastern bloc did make some truly vast, impressive achievements under Communism, but this was at the cost of a vicious political repression which under Stalin resulted in deportations, massacres and a system of forced labour, which claimed tens of millions of lives. The Soviet Union also dominated and exploited the satellite countries conquered by Stalin from the Nazis during World War II.

But Vltchek’s article is in this case exactly right, necessary and welcome. Syria is a repressive state. Even in the 1980s it had something like eight different secret police agencies. But under the Ba’ath party it is a modern, secular state, where Christians and Muslims live in peace. As for its education system, a few years ago the BBC screened a documentary about the Syrian school system, following the pupils in one particular school through a school day. At the end of the documentary the Beeb informed viewers how they could join a scheme that would link schools in this country with those in Syria.

As for the high regard for its poets and intellectuals, several of the books I’ve read on Islam and the Arabs have said that poetry has a very high status in the Arab world, to the point where newspapers may be written in a distinct, half-poetic style. As for its antiquities, you can still walk down the Street called Straight, mentioned in St. Paul’s Epistles in the Bible. The country has monuments from a succession of ancient civilisations, such as Palmyra, going all the way back to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The tombs of some of the kings mentioned in the Bible have even been found.

It’s people are not monsters, and while Assad is a dictator, his government is surely better than the Islamist regime, which the rebels – al-Qaeda and ISIS – hope to impose. This would mean the destruction of ancient monuments, as has happened in Iraq and those parts of Syria, which fell under ISIS’ rule. Women’s rights would be attacked and withdrawn, the secular education system and rule of law swiftly dismantled. The country isn’t quite as tolerant in the religious sphere as it could be. From what I’ve heard on programmes about the country and its history on the Beeb, the Sunni Muslim majority is oppressed. But the Ba’ath party in Syria was founded as a secular, Arab nationalist party, which included both Christians and Muslims. If it is overthrown, the country’s tolerance of peoples of different sects and religions will also go, to be replaced by the type of vicious, genocidal persecution ISIS carried out in Iraq. Dan Snow’s programme on the country, broadcast by the Beeb, featured chilling footage of a foaming rant by an Islamist mullah calling for the genocide of the Alawis, the ruling Muslim sect. And as we’ve seen in Iraq, the Islamists not only persecute non-Muslims, they also viciously terrorise and butcher other Muslims for their religious beliefs. Historic mosques as well as Christian churches were destroyed and desecrated by ISIS in Iraq, and ordinary Muslims, whose only desire was to live in peace with their fellow Iraqis, were also murdered for not being what the Islamists considered proper Muslims.

I and many other bloggers have said repeatedly that the American regime and its western allies and lackeys aren’t interested in punishing Assad for his war crimes. This is all about geopolitics. It’s about making sure a Qatari oil pipeline goes through Syria, not one built by the Russians, and about removing a key ally of Russia and Iran. The American military-industrial complex has done its level best to overthrow secular Arab nationalist governments in the Middle East from the 1950s, as they were seen as being too close to Communism. Quite apart from the challenge they posed to western imperialism and its attempts to dominate and exploit the Middle East and its oil.

I therefore urge anyone, who has doubts about the justice of Trump’s attack on Syria, and the sabre-rattling of the western political class demanding regime change, to go and read Vltchek’s article and look at the pictures of Syria and its people. And look at the faces of the people, who will suffer if the oil lobby and the military-industrial complex have their way, and send American troops in. These are ordinary, decent people, who will be massacred by the hundreds of thousands, just like the people of Iraq.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/12/reflecting-on-syria/

ISIS Destruction of Antiquities and Respect for Archaeology in Iran

April 12, 2015

Nimrud Map

Map of Nimrud drawn in 1856 by Felix Jones

The Independent reported today that ISIS had released a video of themselves destroying the ancient Babylonian city of Nimrud. Its destruction was reported back in March, but this is the first time footage has been shown of it. The video shows the terrorists attacking the city and its antiquities with pneumatic drills, anglegrinders and sledgehammers. They then laid explosives, and blew the site up.

Irinia Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, the section of the UN that oversees the world’s cultural heritage, denounced the destruction, saying that the “deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime”.

I couldn’t agree more.

The Indie’s article can be read at: http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/isis-video-shows-complete-destruction-of-ancient-city-of-nimrud-in-iraq/ar-AAaTuAG?ocid=OIE9HP

I’ve already blogged about ISIS’ destruction of Nimrud, and the other cultural treasures of Mosul, and the Christian and Muslim shrines to the patriarch Seth, revered by Moslems as the prophet Sheth, St. George and others. ISIS have claimed that they are destroying these antiquities because they are somehow blasphemous or un-Islamic. In fact, they are attacking them purely because these monuments don’t conform to their own, extremely narrow religious views. They’re a deliberate, calculated assault on the cultural heritage and identity of Iraq’s people. ISIS fear them because they present an alternative, secular national and religious pluralist identity to the absolute conformity ISIS wish to foist on them.

It’s also been suggested that more worldly, venal motives were involved in Nimrud’s destruction. ISIS may have been looting the site to raise money to buy more arms by selling the antiquities illegally. They levelled the city to disguise what they’d done. So their claim that they were destroying the city for religious reasons may have been just a load of lies to disguise what they really are: a bunch of thieves and grave robbers.

Archaeology in Iran

ISIS’ contempt for the region’s heritage contrasts with Iran, where, with some qualifications, archaeology is still valued. John Simpson in one of his books described the way an angry mob was ready to destroy the depictions of the Persian shahs at Naqsh-i-Rustem in the 1979 revolution, but were prevented from doing so by the carvings’ guard. He stopped them by telling them that they were instead depictions of Hassan and Hussein, the two sons of the Imam Ali, the founder of Shi’ism.

In the 1990s there was a minimal Western archaeological presence in Iran, though I believe it has been expanded since then. I once bumped into one of the lecturers in the archaeological department at Uni nearly ten years ago, who had just returned from excavating an early Islamic city in Iran.

And a few years ago the British Museum loaned the Cyrus Cylinder, shown below, to the Islamic Republic.

Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder records the conquest of Babylonia by the great Persian king Cyrus, or Kourash, as he is known in Persian. After the conquest, he issued an edict permitting the peoples exiled in Babylon to return to their homelands, returned their gods, and assisted in the reconstruction of their temples. These included the Jews, who returned to Israel, for which the Persians are praised in the Bible.

I was taught at College that Islam similarly regarded Zoroastrians as ‘Peoples of the Book’, who, like Jews and Christians, worshipped the one God, and whose worship was therefore protected.

British Museum’s loan of the Cylinder to Iran was of major diplomatic and cultural significance. Firstly, it was party of a general thaw in relations between Britain and the Islamic Republic. Secondly, it also showed the confidence that the Museum in the Cylinder’s safety. The repatriation of cultural artefacts looted by Western scholars from the other cultures around the world is a major issue in archaeology and the heritage sector. Many nations and ethnic groups are rightly angered at the appropriation of valuable or important religious items from their cultures, including human remains. A few years ago, for example, BBC 2 screened a series looking behind the scenes at the British Museum. Amongst the Museum’s other work, it showed the delicate negotiations surrounding the repatriation of the remains of Aboriginal Tasmanians to their descendants.

Other items remain, and their retention is immensely controversial. The Elgin Marbles is a case in point.

The Museum has, however, a policy of not returning antiquities to countries where their safety can’t be guaranteed. The looting and destruction of ancient monuments and archaeological finds is a real problem, particularly in the developing world. And it isn’t unknown here either. There have been digs in Britain, that have been wrecked and the finds looted by Nighthawks. There have also been a number of curators and museum directors, who have been caught illegally selling off objects from the very collections they were supposed to be maintaining.

The loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, by contrast, showed that the British authorities had every confidence that their fellows in Iran would respect and value it, and that Britain and Iran could have good relations in the exploration of that nation’s ancient past and its treasures.

This is another excellent reason why the Repugs are stupid to want another war with Iran. Apart from destabilising yet another nation and brutalising its people, purely for the profit of the oil and arms industries, it could result in the same destruction of antiquities as in Iraq.

And as in Iraq, the world would again be much the poorer.

King David and the Foundations of Solomon’s Temple

September 12, 2013

Yesterday’s reading was 1 Chronicles 29:1-9. This describes how David gave some of his own great wealth to the Temple, and encouraged his leading courtiers, generals, and the wider Israelite people to do the same.

King David ruled from 1000 to 965 BC. According to the Bible, he established an empire stretching from the Negev in the south to the Euphrates in the north, comprising most of Palestine, transjordan, with the exception of the Philistine cities on the coastal strip, parts of Syria and some of the Phoenician coast. No contemporary texts exist for this period of Israel’s history apart from the Bible, and the archaeological evidence is sparse. It is difficult to date precisely buildings or objects to the beginning of the 10th century, and some of the buildings attributed to him may have been built by his son, Solomon. As a result of this, some of the Biblical minimalist historians have claimed that King David was either mythical, or if he existed at all, then he and Solomon, were merely pastoral clan chieftains rather than the rulers of a rich and impressive kingdom. This view was discredited by the discovery of the Tell Dan stele in 1993 and the decipherment of part of the inscription on the Moabite Stone by the French linguist, Andre Lemaire, in 1994. The Tell Dan stele had been put up by King Hazael of Damascus to commemorate his victory over northern Israel. In it Hazael claims that he defeated ”[Jeho]ram king of Israel and kill[ed Ahaz]yahu son of (gap) [I overthr]ew the house of David”. The Moabite Stone was put up by King Mesha of Moab to celebrate his successful rebellion against Israel’s king Ahab, during which Mesha had sacrificed his own son to the Moabite national god, Chemosh. The Stone was broken up into small fragments by the bedouin, who found it in order to gain more money from European archaeologists. Studying a 19th century copy of the text before it was smashed, Lemaire found a reference to the ‘House of David’. Literary examination of the Biblical texts shows that much of this was written either in David’s or Solomon’s time, and so represents a reliable witness to the events of their reigns. Although the archaeology does not support the image of King David as the founder of a great empire, it is consistent with Biblical accounts of his reign, which do not describe him as engaged on any great building operations.

The philistine town of Megiddo, stratum VIA and the Canaanite town of Tell Qasile stratum X were destroyed by fire, possibly by King David. The first half of the 10th century BC saw the Israelites establishing an urban culture. A number of small village sites have been attributed to David’s reign. There was a roughly circular settlement at Khirbet Dawara defended by a casement wall. Stratum VII at Tell Beer-Sheba consisted of several dwellings built around an open area. New types of pottery also appeared at this time, with different shapes and a distinctive hand burnished red slip.

David also conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites in 995 BC. Jebusite Jerusalem was situated on the hill of Ophel, between the Kidron Brook and the Tyropoeon valley. Excavations on the eastern slope of this spur above the Gihon spring revealed a ‘stepped structure’ with walls surviving to a height of 16.5 metres (c. 49 1/2 feet). This may have dated to the tenth century. It supported a monumental structure, which has not survived. The Israeli archaeology Yigal Shiloh showed that this was built on top of ruins dating from 1300 to 1200 BC. The ‘Stepped Structure’ itself dates from the 10th century BC. In 2005 another Israeli archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, ,discovery a large stone building at the top of the Hill of Ophel associated with the ‘Stepped Structure’. Pottery found with this building dated to the 10th century BC or earlier. This indicated that the building may have been the ‘Fortress of Zion’ occupied by King David after he took Jerusalem.

David appealed to the Israelite people to donate to the Temple’s construction, not because it needed more money, but so that as many people as possible would be involved in its construction. This truly made the Temple of the Jewish people, rather than a place built purely for the service of the monarchy. It was a practical demonstration that God’s call is not just for the few, but to all.

The Temple later built by King Solomon was a massive rectangular structure of 50 x 100 cubits, about 25 x 50m. This is larger than any known Canaanite or Phoenician temple. It was also very tall, at 30 cubits in height. Its walls were 12 cubits in width, similar to the Middle Bronze Age temple at Shiloh. The interior was divided into three sections: a porch, ulam, the sanctuary, hechal, and the Holy of Holies, debir. The entrance to each of these was along the Temples central axis. On either side of this was a series of auxiliary chambers, which probably acted as the kingdom’s treasury. In its plan and interior decorations, the Temple was similar to other, pagan temples in Palestine and the Ancient Near East, particularly those at Ebla, Megiddo, and Tell Mumbakat and the Bit Hilani palace and its attached temple, the last two both in north Syria. The use of cedar wood was similar to the Philistine and Canaanite temples at Lachish and Tell Qasile. The Temple’s cult objects included the sacrificial altar and and the ‘molten sea’. This was a huge bronze basin supported by 12 bulls. These can be reconstructed finds and depictions from Phoenicia, Cyprus and Palestine. The Temple’s two columns, Jachin and Boaz, are similar to column bases at the Late Bronze Age temple at Hazor and those on the pottery model of a similar shrine found at Tell el-Far’ah. The cherubim which sat above the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies were very different from our modern view of cherubs. Instead of chubby, cute babies, these were sphinx-like, with the body of a lion or bull, wings of an eagle and head of a man. This was a well-known figure in Canaanite, Phoenician and Syrian Bronze Age art. The Temple was also decorated with palmettes, network designs, fringes and chains. These also appear in Phoenician images of the 9th and 8th centuries BC. Many art historians consider the 10th century BC a Dark Age in the art of the Ancient Near East. The only example of monumental arat from this period is the sarcophagous of Ahiram, king of Byblos, in modern Lebanon. The Bible’s description of Solomon’s Temple is thus important evidence for the existence of monumental art in the 10th century BC.

Sources

James K. Hoffmeier, The Archaeology of the Bible (Oxford: Lion 2008).

Kathleen Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, 3rd Edition, (London: Ernest Benn Ltd 1970)

Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000 – 586 B.C.E. (New York: Centre for Judaic-Christian Studies/ Doubleday 1990)

The Historical Accuracy of the New Testament

July 10, 2013

You regularly hear attacks on the historical accuracy of the Bible, and particularly the New Testament. These consist of statements like ‘You can’t believe all that. It’s all made up’. The opponents and critics of Christianity have been arguing like this since ancient Rome. There is, however, a lot of evidence supporting the Gospel’s historical accuracy. These are a few of the arguments. Whole books have been written defending the Gospels. I’ve tried to make this as short as possible, so that they can be printed and distributed on a single sheet of paper as part of church activities or private study.

Trusting the New Testament

The Gospels are bioi, Graeco-Roman biographies. St. Luke begins his Gospel in the way Greek and Roman authors began serious historical or scientific texts – stating that they have examined the previous sources and then compiled their own account.

The Gospels were written between AD. 64 and the 90s, when many of the witnesses to Christ’s life and ministry were still alive.

The Gospels provide four independent accounts of Christ’s life and ministry. They were composed earlier, and there are far more copies of them, then contemporary secular Roman biographies of the Roman Emperors. Indeed, some of these are known from only a single coin. A fragment of John’s Gospel has been dated from the late 1st century to c. 125 AD. It has been suggested that it may even have come from the scriptorium of the Evangelist himself. This contrasts with the earliest extant copy of one of the biographies of the Caesars, which dates from the 9th century.

The New Testament frequently refers to named individuals, who were still alive at the time they were written. Graeco-Roman culture distrusted purely written accounts of events and facts, and preferred eye-witness testimony where possible.

Ancient Jewish culture stressed the importance of memorising texts. Rabbis’ disciples were expected to memorise their masters’ teachings.

Anthropological evidence states that the dates when the Gospels were written is too soon after the events for mythological or legendary material to have entered the Gospel stories.

The Gospels also reflect 1st century Jewish life. Many of the questions put before Christ are about issues discussed and debated in contemporary Jewish society, such as the question of divorce. Christ’s commandment ‘Hear, O Israel, you shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind and with all thy soul, and thy neighbour as yourself’ is a kelal, a rabbinical short summary of the Law. One of the questions asked during 1st century rabbinical debates was ‘Can you summarise the Law while standing on one leg?’ Christ’s commandment above is an example of the answer to just such a question.

The description of Jerusalem in St. John’s Gospel corresponds to the layout of the town, especially the Pool of Bethesda and the Temple forecourt as revealed by archaeology. Furthermore, types of the tomb in which Jesus was buried, which were closed by a stone have also been discovered. Christ is also described as deidaskalos – teacher – which is also known from archaeology to have been used of 1st century rabbis.

The Sacrifice of Isaac: Francis Wheen Spouts Mumbo Jumbo

June 3, 2013

You may remember that way back in the last decade there was a spate of sceptical books attacking what their authors saw as pseudo-science. These included various New Age beliefs, and very often also Creationism and Intelligent Design. These books included Bad Science, by the Roman Catholic writer and science jounralist, Ben Goldacre, and How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World, by Francis Wheen. Wheen’s a left-wing journalist, who has, I believe, written for the Guardian. He is a frequent guest on the News Quiz, a satirical panel show about the news on BBC’s Radio 4. In his introduction he stated that part of his purpose in writing the book was to defend the Enlightenment. These revivals of what he considered irrationalism threatened it. He confessed his admiration for the Enlightenment and its values, including its secularism.

Strange Days and Paranoia, Terrorism and Psychiatric Abuse of Dissidents in the 1970s

Now Wheen is an excellent writer. His book on the paranoia and chaos of the ’70s, Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia, is very good. It begins with Nixon and Watergate, and expands to include the fear surrounding Mao and the Gang of Four. He traces the way Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare formed the template for that decades western urban terrorists, including the Provisional IRA in Britain, the Rote Armee Fraktion or the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Maoist terrorists in France. These latter emerged following the failure of the 1968 uprising to topple French capitalism, and drew intellectual inspiration and support from radical academics. One of these latter appears to have done little except march around his university campus disrupting the classes of other lecturers he considered to be bourgeois and reactionary. He also discusses the murky events surrouding Harold Wilson’s prime ministership and the preparations to remove him in a coup by those who suspected him of being a KGB agent. One of the most fascinating, and relevant pieces in the book is his description of how Soviet psychiatry came up with a new mental illness that would justify the forcible incarceration of dissidents. This was done under the pretext that they must be insane to challenge the great, Soviet workers’ paradise. The Soviet political abuse of psychiatry strongly influenced the BBC SF series, Blake’s 7. In the series, the totalitarian Federation used mind control, including drugged food and water, and the conditioning, brainwashing and psychiatric brutalisation of dissidents to maintain its brutal and corrupt rule. This particular episode in Soviet history should be particularly alarming and provide a stark warning to people of faith concerning some of the pronouncements made by contemporary atheists. Some of the New Atheists, like the Rational Response Squad, made it clear they thought religion was a psychiatric disorder. Even now some professional neurologists have stated that they look forward to the day when neuroscience will be used to cure radical or dangerous religious beliefs. Blake’s 7’s fictional federation also closed churches. Science Fiction has been described as the literature of warning, and Blake’s 7 provided a fictional treatment of the Soviet psychiatric persecution of dissidents. The Soviet medicalisation of religion as a psychiatric disorder is one that some atheist scientists now seem to be following on their own. They’re either unaware of or unconcerned by their totalitarian predecessors.

Wheen’s Mumbo Jumbo and the Sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis

Much of Wheen’s book on ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ is unremarkable. It tackles some of the bizarre New Age beliefs. It shows his own left-wing views in criticising Thatcherism and her pursuit of the free market. Wheen is, however, an atheist. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, to which Wheen has contributed, has joked about how Wheen called him an ‘irrational theist’. The book makes it clear that Wheen views religion as not just wrong, but dangerous. It shows the effect of 9/11 and the subsequent jihadi attacks on atheist opinions towards religion in general. Wheen does not consider them the action of just one religion, or even or a movement within that religion, but due to religion as a whole. He specifically blames the patriarch Abraham and the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, for causing suicide bombing. God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is, in Wheen’s view, a demand for the blind faith and for believers to give up their lives in the service of their God. It is the origin of the blind faith of the suicide bombers. He then rants about how Abraham was a barbarian who should be excluded from the tables of civilised people.

This is profoundly wrong. Wheen misses the point about the sacrifice of Isaac completely. His Comments do, however, say volumes about received atheist opinion towards religion. Mostly, this is that many prominent atheists actually aren’t concerned about the basic facts behind religious events and phenomena before they utter their opinions.

Abraham and God’s Mercy: God Unlike Pagan Gods, Does Not Demand Human Sacrifice

For Jews, Abraham is not a symbol of fanaticism and blind faith, but mercy. This is shown by his conversation with the Almighty concerning the number of good people, who would have to be in Sodom before the Lord destroyed the city. This goes down to about ten, showing that even if only a minuscule number of righteous people are present in a place so steeped in evil that the outcry against it goes up to the Lord Himself, God will withhold His anger from it. As for the sacrifice of Isaac, that has to be seen in the context of the pagan religious practices of the Ancient Near East. Human sacrifice was an accepted part of the ancient Near Eastern religions. It’s found in the law codes of the Hittites. In ancient Phoenicia, Canaan and Carthage infant children were burned alive as sacrifices to the pgan gods. The tophets, the sacrificial altars on which these poor mites were killed, have been found in the remains of Carthage itself. The remains of these sacrifices have also been found in ancient Canaan. The point the story of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac makes is that the Lord does not want people to sacrifice humans to Him. Yes, He rewards the faith that makes people wish to fulfill His commands, even to death, but does not want them to make that sacrifice. Abraham does indeed make the pyre and prepare to sacrifice his son, but this is halted by God sending a ram, caught in a thicket, for the patriarch to sacrifice instead. The whole point of the story is against suicide bombing.

Wheen Ignorant of Scholarship on Ancient Paganism and the Meaning of Isaac’s Sacrifice

Few people are experts in Ancient Near Eastern culture. But you don’t have to be. I remember studying the sacrifice of Isaac in RE (Religious Education) at my old Church of England School. Wheen went to one of the British public schools, which in this case, for transatlantic readers, means that he went to an elite private school. Despite having a very expensive education, he clearly either didn’t study this part of the Bible in RE, or simply wasn’t paying attention when they did. Even if they didn’t study that part of the Bible, Wheen could still have tried to understand it simply by consulting a commentary. There are a number of good commentaries on scripture, some of which are available online. But Wheen didn’t. He simply assumed that the apparent message he read into the text was the correct one. His failure to consult a commentary or what Christians and Jews actually historically believe and say about this event also shows a completely dismissive attitude towards their beliefs. He appears to beleive that traditional Jewish and Christian views of scripture are of so little importance, so automatically wrong, that an atheist should not even remotely consider studying them before making their pronouncements.

The Marxist Origin of Suicide Bombing

As for suicide bombing, although this is now a favourite weapon of militant Islam, it was first used by the Tamil Tigers. As Marxists, they were atheists, who clearly wre not following a divine command, still less of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ. But this is not mentioned by Wheen. Possibly he didn’t know about it. It does, however, show the deep antipathy of part of the atheist Left towards Judeo-Christian religion. There’s also an element of the secularist belief that all religions are somehow the same. If that is true, then therefore all religions must be equally violent. Thus Wheen sought to find the ultimate origin of the contemporary jihadist attacks not in today’s politics, or the violent theology and ideology of the terrorists themselves, but further back in Abraham’s lifetime, so he could blame and disparage all of the three Abrahamic faiths. Wheen’s other book are well worth reading, and much of his book on Mumbo Jumbo is too. Rather than being a product of reasoned thought and careful consideration, Wheen’s views on the sacrifice of Isaac in the Old Testament are merely the product of atheist ignorance and anti-religious bigotry.

Jeremiah and the Babylonian Conquest

May 2, 2013

Another set of readings from the Old Testament last year were taken from the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was deeply involved in the politics of his time, and vainly tried to persuade King Zedekiah against siding with the Ancient Egyptians against the Babylonians. Like Amos, he also preached against growing injustice in Israel and its people’s failure to maintain the Covenant Law despite their deep knowledge of it.

Political Background

Jeremiah was preaching during a period of turmoil, when the Assyrian Empire was collapsing and the Babylonian and Egyptian Empires vied for domination of the Levant and the Middle East.

In 627 BC Judah was a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire. After the death of the emperor Ashurbanipal around that year, the Assyrian empire collapsed into civil war. Its capital city, Nineveh, was sacked in 612 BC. The last Assyrian emperor lasted two years longer at Harran. The Egyptian Pharoah, Necho, marched into Canaan and Mesopotamia to support the Assyrians. He was attacked by Josiah, the king of Judah, at Megiddo. Necho overcame the attack, and deposed and killed Josia. The people of Judah then chose as their king Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz. Necho deposed him, and replaced him with his brother, Jehoiakim.

Necho in turn was defeated by the crown prince of Babylon, Nebuchadrezzar, at the battle of Carchemish and the Egyptians were forced to retreat. Judah now became a Babylonian vassal. In 604 BC the Babylonians conquered Syrian and Palestine, subduing Ashkelon. Three years later in 601 BC they launched an unsuccessful attack on Egypt. Jehoiakim had submitted to the Babylonians in 605-4 BC, but turned to Egypt for aid against them. The Babylonians finally subdued Syria in 598 and attacked Judah. Jerusalem fell the next year in 597. Jehoiachin died before he could be captured. His son, Jehoiachin, was taken into exile by the Babylonians with some of his people. Zedekiah was placed on the throne of Judah, although Jehoiachin was regarded as the king in exile.

Necho’s successor, the pharoah Psammetichus, attempted to persuade Syria and Palestine to enter into alliance with the Egyptians. This led to the formation of a pro-Egyptian party at the Judean court, which included the prophet Hananiah. They were denounced by Jeremiah as false prophets. Nebuchadrezzar summoned Zedekiah to Babylon to report on the situation. Zedekiah appears to have pledged his loyalty to the Babylonian king. The power of the pro-Egyptian party in Judah became dominant with the accession of the Pharoah Hophra in 589 BC. Zedekiah finally rebelled against Nebuchadrezzar. The Babylonians invaded and besieged Jerusalem in 587. The siege was lifted for a few months when the Egyptian army appeared. Jeremiah was unable to persuade Zedekiah to submit to the Babylonians. The siege was renewed, and Judah conquered. Zedekiah was blinded and taken to Babylon, along with thousands of his people.

Life of Jeremiah

Jeremiah’s life is better known than any other propher. He was born near the end of the reign of Manasseh in Anathoth. He was still very young when he began his prophetic career five years before the discovery of the law book in the Temple and the revival under Josiah. He came from a line of priests, possibly from a family attending the shrine of the Ark at Shiloh. He looked forward to the day when Judah and Israel would be reunited and would worship together at Zion.

He attacked the contemporary religious cult, which had not returned to Israel’s ancient faith. There was a deep knowledge of the Law, but reluctance to hear God’s Word. The priests were offering peace to those who had committed serious crimes against the covenant relationship with the Lord. Josiah’s reforms had proved superficial, and the demands of the Covenant had been lost behind external religious observances. Jeremiah thus prophesied that Israel would suffer divine judgement. Israel’s defeat in 609 was an illustration of Deuteronomy’s theology. God was going to send a ‘northern people’ – the Babylonians – to destroy Israel. As a result Jeremiah was hated, verbally abused and there was more than one attempt to assassinate him. Jeremiah himself suffered attacks of angry recriminations, depression and even suicidal feelings. He wished to leave his ministry, but always found strength to carry on.

He continued to preach the destruction of Israel after 597. In 594 he denounced the hope that Jehoiachin would return. He wore an ox yoke to show that God had made the Babylonians a yoke for the nations, to whom everyone had to submit. At Judah’s final rebellion against the Babylonians he declared that God was fighting against His people and advised the Judean soldiers to desert. As a result, he was thrown in a dungeon. He was released by the Babylonians, who thought he was on their side. They offered him the choice between staying in Israel and going to Babylon. He chose to stay behind, but was forcibly taken to Egypt by a group of Jews fleeing Egypt after the assassination of Gedaliah.

Archaeology

A large number of towns were destroyed and did not recover, including Beth-Shemesh and Tell Beit Mirsim. Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple sacked. Excavations in the city from 1961-7 to revealed the ruins of houses dating from the seventh century on the city’s eastern slopes. Amongst debris around an Iron Age defence tower was found a small number of arrowheads of Babylonian type, which testify to the intensity of fighting when the city fell.

Excavation of Lachish found a layer – level three – where the town had been totally destroyed. During this phase of the city an enormous shaft 70 feet deep had been cut into the rock, but never completed. It may have been part of the water supply. The extent of the destruction is shown in the amount of debris covering this level of the city. At the town gates there was eight feet of debris between the floor of this level and the next, succeeding phase of the town. The palace-citadel had been razed. There was a mass of burned, calcined bricks above its foundations.

The excavation also revealed a row of shop near the palace, which still contained everyday items such as storage jars, for corn, a weaver’s workshop. Outside the city was a mass grave, into which 2,000 bodies had been thrown through a hole in the roof. Some of the bones had been partly burnt, which suggested that the bodies had been pulled away from burning buildings. The grave had possibly been built during cleaning up operations after the town was taken by the Babylonians. Some of the skulls had battle injuries, but a group of three skulls had been trepanned. This may have been battle field surgery on head wounds, but unfortunately the patients had all died. Lachish was rebuilt with a few houses and new gate on top of the eight feet of debris, before being once more destroyed by fire.

One of the most exciting finds at Lachish was the discovery of the Lachish letters. These were found in a guardroom, and show certain points of contact with the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah states that before Jerusalem fell, there were only two towns still standing against the Babylonians. These were Lachish and Azekah. Some of the letters were written by a military officer, Hashayahu (Hosea) to his commanding officer in in Lachish, Yaush. Hoshayahu in letter four states that he was watching for the fire signals from Lachish, but they were no longer visible from Azekah. This suggests that Azekah had fallen, and dates the letter to the period just after Jeremiah reported that Azekah and Lachish were still standing.

Of nine names mentioned in the letters, five are typical of those of Jeremiah’s time. These are Gemaryahu, Yaazanyahu, Yirmeyahu, and Neriyahu. The people with these names in the letters are not the same as those with the same or similar names in the book of Jeremiah, however. The names Tobyahu and Mitbtahyahu also appear in Aramaic papyrii in the Elephantine delta, an area of Egypt in which many Jews had settled.

Jeremiah’s secretary, who wrote down his prophecies, was Baruch, son of Neriah. Amongs the bullae that have been recovered from Jerusalem is one inscribed ‘Belonging to Beruchiah the son of Neriah’. Beruchiah is a longer version of Beruch, so this seal is almost certainly that of Jeremiah’s scribe.

In 1935 archaeologists discovered another seal inscribed ‘(belonging) to Gedaliah, who is over the household’. ‘Who is over the household’ is a well-known Old Testament term for a chief steward or major domo. The Gedaliah mentioned in the seal has been identified as Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom Nebuchadrezzar appointed governor of Judea after the conquest of Jerusalem.

The fall of Jerusalem and the capture of Jehoiakim is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicle. The German archaeologist, R. Koldewey, working in Babylon from 1899-1917, also found the records from the rab-samin, the ‘oil purveyor’ of the Babylonian court, stating the amount of oil given as rations to the exiled king Jehoiachin.

Jeremiah was thus a major figure in the events leading up to the Babylonian invasion. Isloated at court, he could not, however, persuade Judah’s king not to provoke the Babylonians into conquering their nation by allying with the ancient Egyptians. An opponent of the corruption and disregard for Law in the Judah of his time, he could only warn them of their coming conquest by the Babylonians, and the exile of Judah’s rulers and leading citizens. There are not only archaeological finds, which are probably connected with the prophet and other major figures in Judah, but the horror of the Babylonian invasion is also shown in the remains of the destroyed cities and massacred people. Nevertheless, God was to lead His people out of their captivity in Babylon, and ancient Israel would revive and the Temple be restored.

The Life and Career of the Prophet Amos

May 2, 2013

Another set of Old Testament readings a little while ago were from the Book of Amos. This was written sometime during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam, c. 760 -750 BC.

Israelite Military Revival and Conquests at the Time of Amos

This was a time when Assyria had crushed Syria as a threat to Israel, but had not attempted to conquer the Palestinian states. This only began with Tiglath-Pileser in 745 BC. King Jehoash (802-786) had reconquered all the cities lost by his father, and recovered lost Israelite territory west and possibly east of the Jordan from the Aramaeans. His successor, Jeroboam II, completely defeated Damascus, and further recovered Israelite territories in Syria. He placed the frontier near Hamath where it had been during Solomon’s reign. He also conquered Aramaean territory in the Transjordan, establishing the frontier with Ammon and Moab by the Brook of Arabah near the Dead Sea. King Uzziah of Judah repaired Jerusalem’s defences, reorganised and outfitted the army and introduced new siege devices. He also imposed his control on the Edomite and north-western Arabian tribes. He rebuilt the port of Ezion-Geber (Elath). A seal belonging to his son and co-regent, Jotham, has been found there. He also took Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod from the Philistines and established a series of forts in the Negeb. Archaeological investigation has revealed that Arad, Hurvat Uza and Tell Beer-Sheba were fortified during this period. Arad had been a small village in the 10th century. During the 9th and 8th centuries it became a royal fortress and a military and administrative centre protecting the road from the Judean hills to the Arabah and Moab. Judah established another fortress at Hurvat Uza, which guarded the road to the Dead Sea and Transjordan. The defences were also built around the settlement of Tell Beer-Sheba. Archaeological evidence also suggests that Tell el-Kheleifah was also possibly a Judean fortress, which in the 7th century passed in Edomite possession. A seal belonging to Jeroboam’s servant, Shema’, was found in 1904. This was engraved with the image of a roaring lion and the inscription lshm’ ‘bdyrhm ‘Belonging to Shema”. The seals of two of King Uzziah’s servants, Abiyau – Abiah, and Shebniyau – Shebnaiah, have also been found. These were both inscribed ‘servant of Uzziyau – Uzziah’.

Material Prosperity at Time of Amos

It was a period of great prosperity. The 8th century was the period when the population of Israel and Judah reached its greatest density. The trade routes through Israel and Judah revived. Apart from the fortresses, the Negeb was extensively settled and developed agriculturally. Some industries, such as weaving and dyeing at Debir, also flourished.

Life and Teaching of Prophet Amos

Amos himself was the first of the great reforming prophets. He was a herdsman and a grower of figs in Tekoa. His prophetic career may only have lasted a few months. He attacked Israel’s enemies for seizing and enslaving Israelites and Judeans. He also condemned the increasing decadence and injustice in Israelite society. Rich merchants were making loans to the poor, who used the money to buy seed. When they were unable to repay the loan, their children were seized and forced in slavery. The merchants also seized part of the peasants’ land, when they were unable to repay the debt. The result was that a class of previously independent independent peasants became tenant farmers. Amos not only condemned this, but also denounced the way the merchants were using false weights and measure to defraud their customers, and bribery and corruption in the courts. He also attacked the dishonest merchants for the way they made lavish sacrifices at Bethel and Gilgal, despite their corruption and exploitation of the poor. Amos declared that the privilege of being God’s people also carried with it the consequence of more certain and severe judgement. There was no distinction between crime and sins against God. Wrongs to fellow humans were also an infringement of the Lord’s Law. He believed that a false, hypocritical observance of religion led to social decadence. God did not want large and expensive sacrifices, but justice and good deeds. Amos contrasted Israel’s poor moral state with that of the Covenant Law. Israel’s privileged status as God’s chosen people did not carry with it a guarantee of protection. Indeed, Israel’s moral decline was so great that even the Egyptians and the Philistines at Gath were morally superior. No sanctuary would be found at the horned altars used at the time, for their horns would fall off.

Luxury, Pagan Revival and Growing Gap between Rich and Poor

There was a revival in the worship of Baal at this time. Examination of the names recorded on ostraca in Samaria show almost as many people with names that included Baal as those, whose names included Yahweh. It appears to have been an age when the gap between rich and poor was increasing. Excavation at Tell el Far’ah has uncovered both a rich and a poor quarter. The rich quarter consisted of a group of large houses. These were composed of a courtyard surrounded by buildings on three sides. A long, straight wall divided these from a group of smaller houses huddled together. The types of houses in Hazor also show evidence of a rigid social hierarchy. The larger and more elaborate houses were located close to the city, while the smaller, poorer homes were more to the south. In his attack on the luxury of the upper classes, Amos mentions ‘houses of ivory’. A building excavated in the acropolis at Samaria contained a hoard of carved ivory. These were probably inlaid in furniture, as described by Amos when he referred to ‘those who recline on ivory beds’.

A large stone altar, similar to that described by Amos, was also discovered at Beersheba by Yohanan Aharoni in 1973. This had been demolished and its sandstones blocks used for the construction of a store room wall. When the stones were removed and placed together, they formed a horned altar five feet high. One of the levels excavated at Hazor –stratum VI – had been destroyed by an earthquake, which was probably the same as that described by Amos and Zechariah.

The period of Amos’ ministry was therefore a time of Israelite military strength and regional power. This led to growing material prosperity for the wealthy, who, although generously giving to the temples and shrines, nevertheless exploited the poor. Some sections of Israelite society were even turning to Baal and paganism. All this was against Israel’s covenant with the Almight, and it was Amos’ mission to call Israel and Judah to return to the Lord and warn them of Israel’s destruction for its sins.

History, Archaeology and the Book of Kings in the Bible

May 2, 2013

One of the readings a year or so ago was 2 Kings 18. 13 to the end of the chapter. This chapter documents the attacks on Judah and the threat of assault on Jerusalem itself by the Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib, as he moved against King Hezekiah. A number of archaeological remains and artifacts have been found dating from Hezekiah’s reign, and Sennarcherib himself also recorded his campaigns against Israel.

Archaeology

The tunnel dug by King Hezekiah to supply Jerusalem with water through the hill of Ophel has been found. At the centre of the tunnel is an inscription stating that it was simultaneously dug from the east and west until the two tunnels met in the middle. The style of script dates it Hezekiah’s reign.

Several bullae – lead seals – have also been found for Hezekiah. One is inscribed ‘Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah’.

A section of wall was excavated in east Jerusalem after the 1967 war. This was also dated to the late 8th century BC – the date of Hezekiah’s reign. Underneath the wall were houses which had been destroyed by Hezekiah in order for the wall to be built. This corroborates the statement in Isaiah that Hezekiah tore down houses to strengthen the wall.

Sennacherib’s assault on the city of Lachish is recorded on a bas relief at Nineveh, now in the British Museum. The siege ramp built by the Assyrians has also been found, and is the only one that has yet been discovered.

500 jars have been found throughout Israel at this time bearing the stamp ‘lmlk’ – for the king, including a number in Lachish. These were part of a nationwide food supply system set up by Hezekiah to maintain the town during the Assyrian siege. One of these jars is even stamped with the name ‘Hezekiah’.

Archaeologists have also discovered that a number of other towns were destroyed at the same time by the Assyrians. These are Timnah, Ramat Rahel and possibly Gezer. The Israeli archaeologist Y. Aharoni also believed that Beer-Sheba and Tell Bit were also destroyed. A letter written on a potsherd at Arad written to a fortress commander called Malkiyahu also talks about conflict with Edom.

Sennacherib gives his own account of his campaign against Hezekiah, where he ‘shut him up in Jerusalem like a caged bird’ along with his other campaigns in a hexagonal prism.

According to one estimate of the value of the tribute levied by the Assyrians, it would have been worth £730,000 in 1986. Another estimate places its value at £2,350,000.

Assyrian Terms for Officials

The chapter also includes a number of Assyrian terms used to describe the officials Sennacherib sent with his army to Jerusalem.

Tartan – Akkadian for ‘second-in-command’, referring to commander-in-chief of the army.

Rabsaris – a high military official.

Rabshakeh – possibly a high civil official.

The Biblical account of this episode of the history of ancient Israel is therefore supported by archaeology and the independent historical testimony of the Assyrians themselves.

The Age of Abraham and Israel

January 3, 2008

One of the most contentious areas in the archaeology of the Ancient Near East today is the debate between the ‘maximalist’ and ‘minimalist’ archaeologists regarding the foundation of Israel. The maximalists consider that the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – is a more or less accurate description of the history of the Hebrew people and ancient Israel. The minimalists, on the other hand, largely reject the accuracy of the Old Testament narrative, viewing it as too late and ideologically tainted to be an accurate representation of events. Thus, archaeologists like R.B. Coote and K.W. Whitelam have deliberately adopted a policy of ‘minimal recourse to Biblical texts’ in the words of another leading minimalist, Norman Gottwald. 1 A crucial part of this debate has been over the nature of the emergence of Israel in the late Bronze Age. Although most archaeologists thirty years ago considered that Israel emerged through the settlement of nomadic tribes c. 1200 BC, this consensus was seriously challenged in 1979 by the Marxist scholar, Norman Gottwald. 2 Gottwald instead considered that ancient Israel was the product of a revolution by indigenous peasants against the domination of the Canaanite city states.

In 1985 Gottwald’s ‘Peasant Revolt’ model was attacked in turn by the Danish scholar, Nils Lemche. Lemche was particularly critical of Gottwald’s assumption that sedentary farmers and nomads stood in opposition to each other. He noted several examples where some nomads settled down, so that the settled peoples and nomads of an area were actually related to each other. He also cited examples of where cities and villages were part of a continuum with mutual interaction, and concluded ‘that there is no instance in teh anthropological literature of the existence of the type of opposition between peasants and city presumed by Gottwald.’ 3

Lemche himself is certainly no maximalist, and is strongly critical of the historical accuracy of the Bible. Not all scholars share this view, however. The German scholar Udo Worschech in 1983 used the results of anthropology to argue for the historical reliability of the traditions about the patriarch Abraham. 4 Interestingly, despite his opposition to the historical reliability of the Bible, Lemche’s demonstration of the lack of a opposition between city dwellers, farmers and nomads actually supports an ancient date for the composition of Genesis.

I was discussing the date of Genesis with a friend a little while ago, who pointed out that the type of semi-nomadic lifestyle described in Genesis was typical of the type of society depicted in the Mitanni texts. The Mitanni were a people situated roughly northeast of present day Syria, whose civilisation reached its zenith between 1450 and 1350 BC before being destroyed by the Hittites and Assyrians. 5 Although some of the names of the towns mentioned in Genesis belong to a later period, the society described is the same semi-nomadic culture as that of the Mitanni, and there are technical legal terms in the Hebrew that also belong to this period. Contrary to the minimalist hypothesis, which saw Genesis as a late development projected back into the past by the Israelites to support their nationhood, the similarities between the culture of the Mitanni and the semi-nomadism of Abraham and his descendents indicates a very early origin for the book of Genesis. The accuracy of this depiction would seem to be supported by Lemche’s own observation of the lack of a dichotomy between sedentary and nomadic peoples. Thus, paradoxically, Lemche’s observations in this area could actually support the historicity of the Bible, despite his own rejection of the Bible as an accurate record of historical events.

Notes

1. J.B. Martin, ‘Israel as a Tribal Society’ in R.E. Clements, ed., The World of Ancient Israel: Sociological, Anthropological and Political Perspectives (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1989), p. 114.

2. J.W. Rogerson, ‘Anthropology and the Old Testament’, in Clements, ed., Ancient Israel, p. 27.

3. J.W. Rogerson, ‘Anthropology and the Old Testament’, in Clements, ed., Ancient Israel, p. 29.

4. J.W. Rogerson, ‘Anthropology and the Old Testament’, in Clements, ed., Ancient Israel, p. 31.

5. ‘1380-1200 The New Hittite Kingdom’ in Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann, translated by Ernest A. Menze, maps designed by Harald and Ruth Bukor, The Penguin Atlas of World History – Volume 1: From the Beginning to the Eve of the French Revolution (Harmondsworth, Penguin 1978), p. 35.