Ancient Jewish scroll now legible


This video says about itself:

How to open an ancient scroll without touching it | Science News

21 September 2016

Researchers describe the digital steps it took to unwrap a charred, roughly 1,700-year-old scroll and read its ancient Biblical text.

Credit: Seth Parker, Univ. of Kentucky.

From Science News:

Digital rehab exposes Biblical roots of ancient Israeli scroll

Virtual unwrapping reveals Hebrew text inside fragile artifact

by Bruce Bower

2:00pm, September 21, 2016

Researchers have digitally unwrapped and read an ancient Hebrew scroll that’s so charred it can’t be touched without falling apart. It turns out the document contains the oldest known Biblical text outside of the roughly 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, the investigators say.

Archaeologists discovered the scroll’s remnants in a synagogue’s holy ark during a 1970 excavation in Israel of En-Gedi, a Jewish community destroyed by fire around 600.

In a series of digital steps, slices from a 3-D scan of the En-Gedi scroll were analyzed to bring letters and words into relief on a pieced-together, virtual page. Those images revealed passages from the book of Leviticus written in ink on the scroll’s disintegrating sheets. Radiocarbon results date the scroll to approximately 300, making it the earliest copy of an Old Testament book ever found in a holy ark, scientists report September 21 in Science Advances.

This computerized recovery and conservation process can now be used to retrieve other ancient documents “from the brink of oblivion,” the researchers say.

2,000-year-old skeleton found in Greek shipwreck


This video, recorded in Greece, says about itself:

The famous shipwreck that brought us the mysterious Antikythera mechanism has revealed a new secret: a two thousand year old human skeleton. The team hopes to extract DNA from the skull – a feat never attempted before on bones this old that have been underwater.

Read Nature‘s news article here.

Read about the Return to Antikythera project here.

19th September 2016

See also here.

World’s oldest fishhooks discovered


World's oldest fishhooks, photo National Academy of Sciences

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Fishhooks, oldest in the world, found in Japan

18 September 2016

Archaeologists have found the oldest fishhooks in the world in Japan. They were in a cave on Okinawa island and are estimated to be 23,000 years old.

The hooks are made from a sea snail‘s shell. From this discovery archeologists conclude that fishing techniques have existed already much longer than expected, and were used in more places in the world.

Eels and frogs

Okinawa was first inhabited around 35,000 years ago. Scientists wondered how people there survived all the time. The fishhooks have answered that question.

In Sakitari cave researchers found also remains of eels, frogs, birds and small terrestrial animals. They conclude from that these were also on the menu of the first inhabitants of Okinawa.

East Timor

Until now, scientists assumed that the fishhook was invented about 16,000 years ago.

They based themselves on a find in East Timor in 2011. In the northern part along the coast hooks were found which were made of shellfish.

Seventeenth-century poetess’ wedding ring discovered


Maria Tesselschade's wedding ring

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Experts agree: diamond ring is Maria Tesselschade’s wedding ring

Today, 15:34

A diamond ring and a shoe found during archaeological research in Alkmaar belonged “with probability bordering on certainty” to 17th century poetess Maria Tesselschade.

Her father, the ship owner Roemer Visscher, named her Tesselschade (“Damage on Tessel/Texel”), because he had lost a ship near Texel island on Christmas day 1593, three months before her birth.

Experts have established this. Almost certainly the ring was her wedding ring.

Maria Tesselschade [Roemer’s] Visscher (1594-1649) was part of the Muiderkring group, to which famous writers like Huijgens, Bredero and Vondel belonged. She is often described as the muse of the group.

The ring and shoe were found along with engraved glass fragments which had been previously established as Maria Tesselschade’s property.

Large fire

The finds were made in the Langestraat in Alkmaar, where she lived. The archaeological research there, where in the seventeenth century were the most expensive houses of the city, began in 2015 after a major fire during the New Year. …

From the shape of the cut [the experts] could conclude that the diamond ring was made in the 1620s. This corresponds to historical data: Maria Tesselschade married Allard Crombalch in 1623. …

‘Historic sensation’

Alkmaar Alderwoman Van de Ven today publicized the new discoveries. She calls the findings a historical sensation. “Apart from her preserved hand written correspondence so far no personal belongings of her had been found. The discoveries make a tangible picture of a very special woman.”

The archaeological finds will be on display from February 2017 at a temporary exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar.

Maria Teselschade’s most famous work is a 1642 poem about a nightingale. It concludes by saying how wonderful it is that such a small bird can sing so beautifully.

Ancient Egyptian emoticons


This video series is about the ancient Egyptian village Deir el-Medina.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Emoticons in Ancient Egypt

Published on 30 August 2016

The advent of script has never managed to eliminate the use of symbols. This is the finding of research carried out by Kyra van der Moezel on Ancient Egyptian identity marks. PhD defence 7 September.

Van der Moezel studied identity marks from the settlement at Deir el-Medina, on the west bank of the Nile. This is where some 40 to 120 workers and their families lived between 1550 and 1070 BC. These were the workers who built and decorated the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, where the legendary King Tutankhamen is buried, along with other pharaohs and elites.

Funny signs

More than three thousand years later Deir el-Medina reveals a wealth of archaeological information. An exceptional number of written sources have been found covering trade, the law, religion and literature. Researchers have also found a large number of identity marks, often imprinted on potsherds or as graffiti on the rock walls of the necropolis. For a long time scientists had no idea how to interpret all these symbols, so they were dubbed very unscientifically ‘funny signs’.

Pictograms

‘Under the guidance of lecturer Ben Haring we have now managed to interpret most of these symbols,’ Van der Moezel explains. ‘You can compare them to pictograms today, like information symbols at airports or product logos. They all have an inherent meaning, but are not related by any linguistic rules. The rules governing how words and sentences are formed don’t apply here. The symbols use other means of expressing information.’

WhatsApp

Van der Moezel and her colleagues distinguish different types of identity marks. Some symbols appear to be geometrical and use squares, triangles or circles, while others were derived from the written language. Finally, the Leiden researchers also found images of beings and objects that in terms of their function are comparable with the symbols that we use today in WhatsApp.

Jackals

‘These pictograms depict images of animals, objects or professions, for example,’ says Van der Moezel. ‘They were used in two different ways. First of all metonymically, whereby the symbol refers directly to what the person who drew it wanted to convey. The scorpion hunter of Deir el-Medina, for example, was represented by a scorpion symbol. The Egyptians also used the pictograms metaphorically. A well-known Egyptian metaphor is, for example, ‘as fast as a jackal’, which could explain why a worker is represented by the image of a jackal.’

Continued existence

Surprisingly enough, the identity signs continued to exist even after the workers started to make more use of writing. Van der Moezel: ‘People often assume that identity signs are ‘more primitive’ than written language, and that writing will slowly but surely take over from symbols. However, what we see is that writing and symbols continue to exist alongside one another. There is some interchange between the two, but symbols have never been ousted as a means of communication. Symbols continue to be useful because you can express a lot more in a single symbol than in a letter or a word.’

Symbolizing Identity

Van der Moezel’s PhD is part of a larger project entitled Symbolizing Identity. Identity Marks and their Relation to Writing in New Kingdom Egypt, managed by Dr Ben Haring. Haring was awarded a subsidy in 2011 by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to conduct this research.