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Archaeological findings, and wonderings

I love stories like this one, from today's Spiegel-on-line, about archaeological digs in Thuringia revealing a very large Bronze-Age building ca. 1380 B.C., and giving historians things to wonder about, not least how did the man buried nearby accumulate such wealth. If given another life to live, I might like to be an archaeologist....


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Maybe he was a Bronze Age hedge fund manager, profiting from enormous tax breaks? (and indeed, are we sure it was a "he?")

Is there indication as to whether the Thuringians at that time were Germanic or Celtic? I would guess Celts, but it is a guess.

If I may make a suggestion, I think you would enjoy the Biblical Archaeology Review. In the most recent issue I learned a number of things. Here are two samples. Surveys of animal bones suggest that in the Near East it was not only the Israelites who avoided pork. The Philistines ate pork when they arrived about 1200 BCE but gradually changed their eating habits thereafter away from pork. So the absence of pig bones does not indicate an Israelite settlement. The other is this. Samaritan synagogues have been found. The differ in that they are oriented to Mt. Gerizim, the Samaritan's holy place.

Thanks for the suggestion. I already subscribe to "Archeaology," which is fascinating, every issue.

This is vaguely related, since we're peaking of finding old things. An apparently authentic portrait of Jesus by Leonardo da Vinci has been found. It's the creepiest picture since his St. John the Baptist! I wouldn't have it in my house.

I always wanted to be a paleographer after hearing one from UNC-Chapel Hill speak at the medieval conference. Seemed to combine the best of archaeology, literature, art history, bookmaking, and librarianship--all the things I seemed to have a knack for. I did enjoy reading Geraldine Brooks' "People of the Book," the only novel I know about a paleographer. Ann, yes, very creepy. See any resemblance to Mona Lisa?

Jean --Yes! Looks like Mona Lisa in drag. Same dress with same neckline, same corkscrew curls only exaggerated, eyes looking to the side, weird little knowing smile. My initial reaction was that it was some sort of joke or characature -- especially the half-mustache, the fake looking beard, and the really ugly hands which are so untypical of daVinci's hands in other paintings -- most of them are quite beautiful. And the eyes are so ugly! The whole thing strikes me as blashemous. but daVinci did receive the Sacraments at the end, so I suppose he wasn't an atheist, and so wouldn't do a blasphemous picture. Unless he was scared at the end and repented.I wonder what the critics will say. I'd love to have some background on it.Dan Brown will have a field day with this.

Oh, oh -- the picture that accompanied the article I just posted is apparently a picture of one of the copies of the original.Here is another version -- also said to be the original, and very different from the weird one I described above. There are still similarities to the Mona Lisa, but I wouldn't call the picture irreverant by any means. If you compare it with the first one you'll see that the second one has a crown, and the beautiful eyes look straight ahead. The hand isn't typical, though.

This is about twenty miles from the place where the Himmelsscheibe von Nebra was found, and from approximately the same time.

Sorry, that second address didn't work. Here's another.

Fr. K, here's a link to the website of the Westchester Chapter of the AIA. We have found their lectures and activities of interest. Some of their programs are held at Manhattanville College, which, for the convenience of those north of us in the Hudson Valley, is not far from Rte 684. They also sponsor trips to local museums. One such in September will be to the Brooklyn Museum which has a great Egyptian collection.

I was reading a history of Irish culture a few months ago, and the author made a fascinating argument--that Celtic culture across Europe in the pre-Christian era was in most respects identical to rural Hindu culture in India in the past century. From what is now Ireland to what is now Bangladesh, there was essentially a single material culture--one with the same strategies for inheritance, tribal structure, marriage ritual, worship of the divine, etc. It seems counter to our intellectual instincts--after all, we bemoan the flattening elements of globalization--but there was (according to this author) a remarkable continuity of culture over a third of the landmass of the earth.

Fr. Keane --That is surprising. But maybe it shouldn't be. If Sanscrit roots are easily identifiable in many, many Latin words, why wouldn't a system of laws and other factors also be retained. In fact, there are Sanscrit roots all over the European languages.Here's a fun site that lists some proto-Indo-European roots. While lots of connections are obvious, some words don't sound at all like the original, though the pedigree of those different sounds can be traced, and, surprisingly, some meaning does persist. I read somewhere else that even Japanese has a number of words with roots that are identifiable with some Sanscrit roots. One has to wonder if there was a common ancestor there. Ah, the persistence of memory, as S. Dali might say.

For those interested in archaeology, some of those working papers at that Santa Fe Institute loOk very interesting. Lots about Amerindians.


About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.