Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carbon Dating of Cooper ruins in Jordan bolster biblical record of King Solomon

RuinsA massive copper smelting plant in the biblical land of Edom is at least three centuries older than researchers previously believed, placing it firmly in the traditional timeline of King Solomon, considered the greatest ruler of Israel, researchers reported.

The existence of Solomon 3,000 years ago has been questioned by some scholars over the last two decades because of the paucity of archaeological evidence supporting the biblical record and the belief that there were no complex societies in Israel or Edom capable of building fortresses, monuments and other sophisticated public works, such as large mines, in the 10th century BC.

"This is the most hotly debated period in biblical archaeology today," said archaeologist Thomas E. Levy of UC San Diego, who reported the new radiocarbon dates for the copper smelting operation in modern-day Jordan in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Critics, however, charge that Levy is overinterpreting the importance of the radiocarbon dates, because there is no evidence of habitation at the earliest dates to go with them. That suggests the site was operated periodically by nomads and not associated with any city or kingdom, much less an empire, according to archaeologist Piotr Bienkowski of the University of Manchester in Britain.

According to the Old Testament, Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba who brought Israel to its ancient fruition, ruling an empire that stretched from the Euphrates to the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. He is said to have built the First Temple in Jerusalem, amassed a fortune in gold and written the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs.

The current center of the controversy is a 24-acre site called Khirbat en-Nahas -- Arabic for "ruins of copper" -- about 30 miles south of the Dead Sea and 30 miles north of the famed archaeological site of Petra in Jordan. It is the largest Iron Age copper factory in the Middle East.

The most notable characteristic of the site is the massive accumulation of black slag produced during the ancient smelting process. The site includes more than 100 buildings, including a fortress. Mines and mining trails abound.

Because wood was used to produce the heat for smelting, charcoal samples are available for dating. Two years ago, Levy reported radiocarbon dates from the site indicating that mining was taking place in the 10th century BC. Finkelstein and others objected, noting that archaeological evidence in the nearby highlands of Edom showed no evidence of habitation before the 8th century BC.

To answer those criticisms, Levy's team excavated through 20 feet of slag near the center of the site, carefully documenting the location of each bit of charcoal and other artifacts. The charcoal was then dated by physicist Thomas Higham of Oxford University.

The bottom stratum of the site revealed a period of extensive mining that lasted for about 40 years around 940 BC and produced 9 feet of slag. There was then a major disruption in mining about 910 BC, followed by a resumption in the 9th century BC. the stratum associated with the disruption, they found an Egyptian scarab from the eastern Nile delta and an amulet linked to the Egyptian goddess Mut.

The "tantalizing question," Levy said, is whether these artifacts are associated with the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq I (known as Shishak in the Bible), who conquered much of Palestine following the death of Solomon.

Records in Egypt show that Sheshonq's troops occupied Hazevah, about eight miles from Khirbat en-Nahas.
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Coping with Fear: The Truth About Hell by Edwin Black

This article was originally written at the turn of the millennium and has been reprinted from time to time since then. I imagine it surfaced again now since Halloween is fast approaching. However, I found it very interesting because it points out how mistranslations of original ancient text have found their way into modern religious conceptions of things as basic as heaven and hell. I suspect few of the traditional followers of these religions even realize some of the teachings that have become fundamental to the doctrines they profess have such less-than-divine origins.

Coping with Fear

The Truth About Hell

by Edwin Black

Israel Topics - HellBelow the Old City walls in Jerusalem there is a ravine that begins as a gentle, grassy separation between hills, but then quickly descends south into the rocky earth. Eventually, the ravine becomes a steep, craggy depth, scarred on the far side by shallow caves and pits that vaunt hollowed-out chambers and narrow crypts.

Until recent years, everywhere one could see the scorches and smolder from trash fires. Rivulets of urine trickled down from open sewers at the cliffs above, watering thorn bushes, weeds and unexpected clumps of grass among the outcroppings. One could smell the stench of decaying offal, the congealed stink of putrefied garbage, and the absorbed reek of incinerated substances seared into the rock face. Crows circled low. Worms and maggots slithered throughout.

Listen. Imagine. Some cannot help but hear the tormented screams of babies being burned alive, the macabre incantations of the idolatrous in gruesome celebration, the agonized cries of helpless victims, and every other echo of death and disconsolation that dwells here so pervasively that not even the centuries can silence them.

Welcome to Hell. The real Hell. This is Jerusalem's Gei Ben Hinnom, the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom. The Valley was named for an alien non-Semitic family, the Hinnom clan that predated the First Temple period and immediately established the locale as a place of abomination. Gei Ben Hinnom became Ge Hinnom (Valley of Hinnom, and eventually Gehenna in English or Gehennem in Arabic and Hebrew.

Those who walked through the Biblical "valley of the shadow of death" walked here. Images of unending torture and fire as punishment for a life of evil originated in this hideous acreage. The prophets always understood that Hell existed, not as a hidden, allegorical place deep beneath the ground maintained as a fable of fear. Hell is on Earth, just a short walk from the path of righteousness that leads to the Temple Mount.

Perhaps it is fitting that the path to Hell begins delightfully. In recent years, the northern and unoffensive length of the valley has become a zone of chic gentrification: exquisite townhomes, landscaped parks, a concert bowl at the Sultan's Pool, and movie theaters. But, as the ravine carves deeper and deeper between the rocky hills, and as it rounds the corners of Mt. Zion into East Jerusalem en route to the Arab village of Silwan, Gei Ben Hinnom conjoins with the Valley of the Kidron. Here it traverses a stretch of depth that has become a sort of urban no-man's-land in the struggle between Arab and Israeli. As land that defies political peace, this is the only part of the Valley that Arabs cannot improve and that Jews dare not.

Therefore, little has changed here for centuries. Still visible are the original, deep angular cuts into the flat scorched stone seating the infamous Tophet, created hundreds of years before Christ. Tophet altars are said to be named for the noisy drum that devotees of the mysterious Molech would beat to drown out the ghastly cries of children immolated in sacrifice before their own willing parents. In the black rapture of their misguided faith, mothers and fathers not only witnessed the sacrifice, but glorified the act. Beneath the ancient Tophet altars, one can still see foreboding square entryways barely big enough for a human torso to squeeze through. Within those dark depths lay a complex of carved-out crypts, as well as chambers for ritual preparation in honor of Molech.

Little is known about the god Molech. Some archaeologists, using Tophet models in Carthage, speculate that the Molech idol in Gei Ben Hinnom was equipped with outstretched cantilevered arms that extended a small platform upon which the innocent baby was tied. Slowly the platform would swivel toward the consuming flames as the baby shrieked in helpless agony. No wonder this most hideous place has repeatedly been the focus of Biblical wrath:

"He defiled Tophet, which is in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech." II Kings 23:10.

"Therefore the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter." Jeremiah 19:16.

But how did a very authentic site of pagan abomination transmogrify into the concept of postmortuarial eternal punishment we call Hell? The tortuous course from reality on the ground to the murky mind of man has evolved along broken and jagged philosophical lines. Ironically, the concept of Hell developed less from the word of God, than by the mind of man. And its supposed physical locale was originally not in burning depths beneath the ground, but rather in a dark corner of heaven.- More

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

16th century Portuguese treasure found on Skeleton Coast

Archaeologist Bruno Werz holds astrolabes pulled from the seabed off Namibia where a Portuguese ship sank 500 years ago.ARCHAEOLOGISTS are racing against time to salvage a fortune in coins and items from a 500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found recently off
Namibia's rough southern coast. The project, in a restricted diamond mining area, is costing a fortune in sea-walling,
but the process of maintaining a dyke to keep the sea at bay will end
next Friday, surrendering what is left to the sea again.

"The vast amounts of gold coins would possibly make this discovery the largest one in Africa outside Egypt," Lisbon maritime archaeologist Francisco Alves said. The 16th-century Portuguese trade vessel was found by chance as mine workers created an artificial sand wall with bulldozers to push back the sea for diamond dredging, Namibian archaeologist Dieter Noli told reporters invited to view the site.

"One of them noticed an unusual wooden structure and round stones, which turned out to be cannonballs," he said.

The abundance of objects unearthed where the ship ran aground along Namibia's notorious Skeleton Coast, where hundreds of vessels were wrecked over the centuries, has amazed experts.

Six bronze cannon, several tonnes of copper, huge elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments and a variety of weapons, including swords, sabres and knives, have been pulled from the sand.

More than 2300 gold coins weighing about 21 kilograms and 1.5 kilograms of silver coins had been found, Mr Alves said. The ship's contents suggest it was bound for India or Asia.

"About 70% of the gold coins are Spanish, the rest Portuguese," he said. Precise dating was
possible thanks to examination of the coin rims, showing some were minted in October 1525 in Portugal.

About 13 tonnes of copper ingots, eight tonnes of tin and more than 50 large elephant
tusks together weighing 600 kilograms have also been excavated from the seabed.The copper ingots are all marked with a trident indent, which was used by Germany's famous Fugger family of traders and bankers in Augsburg who delivered to the Portuguese five centuries ago," South African archaeologist Bruno Werz said.

The copper ingots are all marked with a trident indent, which was used by Germany's famous Fugger family of traders and bankers in Augsburg who delivered to the Portuguese five centuries ago," South African archaeologist Bruno Werz said.

At one point it was thought the wreck was the ship of legendary Portuguese explorer Bartolomeo Diaz, the first known European to sail around the southern tip of Africa in 1488.

Around 1500, he and his sailing vessel went missing and were never found.

hope that the Oranjemund find might resolve the mystery ended when it
was established that the coins on the shipwreck were put into
circulation 25 years after Diaz's disappearance.

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