Excavating Egypt in Lexington

Okay, here are the pictures I promised from my trip on April 24, to the Singletary Art Center at the University of Kentucky.  To refresh everyone’s memory, UK is running a nice Egyptian exhibit from March until June, called “Excavating Egypt.”  It has already toured other cities in the United States, and this is the last stop before the collection returns to the Petrie Museum in England.

The museum and the collection are named after Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942, also just called Flinders Petrie), the greatest Egyptologist who ever lived.  What made Petrie special was that he established the methods used today for carefully documenting an archaeological dig, like photographing each object in situ before it is removed from the ground.  Before his time, there wasn’t really much difference between archaeology and treasure hunting.  In addition, he developed the method used by archaeologists to get a ballpark figure for the age of a site, by comparing the styles of pottery found there.  Finally, I believe he was responsible for laying out square grids over digs, to keep track of the exact location where each artifact turns up, and for sifting each shovelful of dirt through a screen, to catch the smallest artifacts.

However, Petrie also did quite a bit of digging in his own right, at several key sites like Abydos, Nubt, Naukratis, Tanis, the Fayyum, and Tell el-Amarna.  The exhibit features more than two hundred of the most interesting objects he found at those sites.  Here’s a picture of him with some of the items he dug up.

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The gallery has two stories, and next is a picture of the main floor, as seen from the entrance.  Leive is against the far wall, looking in a case with her back to the camera.

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Some realistic statues from the Amarna period.  The larger one still has the original paint on it.

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And here is a realistic head from the Roman era.  Unfortunately we don’t know who it represents.

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In this case were several stone heads.  The one on the lower left is a representation of a Libyan, made way back in the first dynasty.  To the lower right are a piece of a relief sculpture from an Old Kingdom tomb, and the unfinished head of a king from the IV dynasty (Snefru or Khufu, perhaps?).  On top is the XII dynasty’s Amenemhet III, a possible candidate for the Pharaoh who befriended Joseph in the Old Testament.

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In the back corner of the main floor were a wooden sarcophagus and this cartonnage covering.  Both belonged to a XXII dynasty priest.  Leive thought at first there was a real mummy inside.  Maybe there was once, but not anymore.  When I looked into a hole in the top of the head, I saw light coming from a hole in the feet, meaning it was empty.  The picture of me over the cartonnage was taken by a friend of mine, Jerry Schwartz.  Did he make me look like Bob Brier, the professor sometimes called “Mr. Mummy”?

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Alas, at that point, a worker in the gallery told me that photography was not allowed, so I had to put the camera away.  Well, I never saw the “No Photography” sign; where did they put it, anyway?  Consequently, I didn’t get pictures of several other really neat items, like a tombstone from the “satellite burial” of a first-dynasty king’s servant, an archaic Greek statue (kouros) from Naukratis, a couple of “mummy portraits” from the Roman era, a dress made of beads in a fishnet pattern from the V dynasty, and the souvenir shop, where Leive went to see what kind of jewelry they had.  Still, I was impressed with the variety of stuff from periods in Egyptian history that don’t get as much attention as the Old and New Kingdoms.  We were in and out of there in 45 minutes, so I might go back some time for a second look at my favorite items in the collection.  If you’re in town during the next few weeks, you check it out, too.

Yom Haatzma’ut and the Swine Flu

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Today is the 5th of Iyar, Israel’s Independence Day.  A lot of folks over the past sixty-one years have predicted that the Jewish state would not succeed, but again it has beaten the odds.  If you want proof that God is still involved with the modern world, there it is.  Consider the quote I have from Mark Twain about the subject, on my smart quotes page.  More than a hundred years ago, Twain considered it a miracle that Jews still existed, when so many other nations just disappeared, once they were uprooted from their homelands.  Has anyone heard from the Hittites or the Carthaginians lately?  Since then the Jews have come back to the land and have been restored as a nation; that’s an even greater miracle, considering how long they’ve been away.  Anyway, to refresh your memory, here is what Twain said:

“The Jews constitute but one percent of the human race . . . Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of.  He is as prominent on the planet as any other people . . . He has made a marvelous flight in this world, in all the ages; and he has done it with his hands tied behind him . . . The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dreamstuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.  The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was . . . All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains.  What is the secret of his immortality?” (from The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, Charles Neider, editor, New York, Doubleday, 1963, pg. 249, quoted by Benjamin Netanyahu in A Place Among the Nations, New York, Bantam, 1993, pg. 400)

In case you haven’t seen a paper, turned on the TV or radio, or looked at a news website, today’s headlines are about the swine flu.  So far Mexico has been hit the hardest, with more than a hundred dead, and today the first death was confirmed within US borders.  Yesterday I also heard about the first case in Florida, a tourist at Walt Disney World.  Some are already calling this a pandemic, so let me tell everyone reading this:  It’s too early to panic.  For a start, we don’t yet have any cases in the state where I live (Kentucky).  What’s more, so far this year the regular flu has killed more people, and it only gets attention when the local clinics and drug stores offer flu shots.

Well, it looks like one group of Americans are safe from the swine flu:  The Nation of Islam.  According to a blog named Weasel Zippers, NOI leaders have ordered Black Muslims not to catch the disease:

Saying it must strictly adhere to the rule that no pig shall pass their lips–or enter their bloodstream–Nation of Islam leaders today told members they should not contract the swine flu.

The NOI prohibits members from eating pork because it considers the pig to be an ‘unclean’ animal. It holds the same feeling toward the swine flu.

“The pig is a nasty foul beast and no man should eat of it,”said Minister Bartholomew 298X, NOI chief of health and wellness for Mosque #458. “Nor shall he allow it to infect his white blood cells or his red blood cells or take residence in the holy places of his bowels.”

According to the blogger, “Bartholomew 298X” really is the cleric’s name.  To read the rest of what he said, click on the link below:

Nation of Islam Forbids its Members From Contracting the Swine Flu…Apparently Unaware how a Virus Works….

Meanwhile, quite a few folks besides the Nation of Islam are upset with the name “swine flu.”  To get rid of the non-kosher connotation, the Israelis wanted to call it the “Mexican flu,” until the Mexican ambassador objected.  Our own Department of Homeland Security doesn’t want an epidemic to hurt sales of pork products, so they proposed the “H1N1 virus.”  But I think the most politically correct name for the disease may turn out to be one promoted by talk show host Neal Boortz — “Montezuma’s final solution.”

I don’t remember the Russians making a fuss when a flu strain was named after them, thirty years ago.  Guess that means people are a lot more thin-skinned than they used to be.

What Happened to the Transition?

Each year I look forward to the time in the spring and the fall when temperatures are at the optimum point, where we don’t have to run either the heating or the air conditioning to be comfortable.  That’s when utility bills are the lowest, whether you’re in Florida or Kentucky.  In central Florida it happens in March and November; here in central Kentucky it usually happens in May and September.

This year, however, we seem to have missed the transition period.  I told you about the A/C in the house turning on last Saturday, and before it, the time for optimum temperatures only seemed to last a day, two days at the most.  If I remember correctly, the last quick change like that was in the fall of 2007.  I know we didn’t go directly from winter to summer, because there are still plenty of flowers outside.  One thing’s for sure; I still don’t know the rules for Kentucky weather, assuming there are any rules at all.

Yesterday I was off from work, because I got called in for jury duty again.  This time it was a child abuse case involving two defendants, so from the start it sounded like it would get ugly.  When the judge predicted that the case would last two weeks, I was one of those asking to be excused, citing the doctor’s appointments Leive & I have next week.  I had postponed both of them until May on account of the jury duty assignment, so it would be a hassle to postpone them again.  Fortunately my request was granted.  Since this is the last week of jury duty for me, and so far I haven’t been called in more than once a week, I’m probably done with this assignment.  Now what did I miss at work?

Israel: The United Kingdom

I thought I was done rewriting Chapter 2 in my series of papers on Middle Eastern history, but since my last message on that subject, I felt the need to elaborate on what I had already written about Israel under its first kings:  Saul, Ishbosheth, David, and Solomon.  Therefore I added a few more paragraphs to explain Israel’s role among the empires of the Fertile Crescent.  Here is what I have on Israel now.  Quote:


Israel: The United Kingdom

By the middle of the eleventh century B.C., the Israelites came to the conclusion that government by judges wasn’t working very well. The Philistines had been on the march for more than a generation, despite the efforts of the last three judges (Samson, Eli and Samuel). Unlike the Canaanites, the Philistines had not been on the list of Israel’s enemies at the time of the Exodus, but their continued occupation of the southern coastal plain–land allotted to the tribes of Simeon, Judah and Dan–put them on that list anyway. Philistine chariots, coupled with their iron monopoly (1 Sam. 13:19-20), forced the Israelites to keep to the hills, leaving the lowlands to the Philistines. And though Philistia had five capital cities (Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath), its five kings agreed on all important matters, giving them a unity that Israel lacked. Eli fell and died of a broken neck after hearing about one particularly humiliating battle, in which the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant; afterwards they held it for seven months.

To solve this problem, the Israelites went to Samuel and told him, “Give us a king.” Samuel went and found for them the sort of king they wanted: an impressive-looking fellow who stood head and shoulders over everybody else. And although the Bible does not say it, Saul was also a good political choice, because he came from a small, centrally located tribe (Benjamin); had the king come from one of the two largest tribes (Judah or Ephraim), the rivalry between the tribes might have escalated into civil war.(25) The first actions of his reign were good ones; he uprooted Philistine garrisons only a few miles away from Gibeah (Saul’s hometown and capital), and led successful campaigns against other nearby enemies like Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Aramaeans, and the Amalekites (1 Sam. 14:47-52).

Next came the long-awaited campaign to crush the Amalekites. The campaign was a success, but when Saul captured the Amalekite king, Agag, and a good portion of his livestock, he violated the Torah; Amalekites were supposed to be destroyed, not robbed! Samuel gave Saul an important lesson in morality (“To obey is better than to sacrifice!”) and announced that God would take Saul’s kingdom from him. Saul slipped into bouts of insanity after that, and Samuel went and found a man after God’s own heart (David) to be the next king.

Saul met his end in 1010 B.C., when the Philistines marched into the Jezreel valley; Saul and three of his sons were slain in the battle on Mt. Gilboa. A two-year civil war followed between David and Saul’s last son, Ishbosheth; it ended when the latter was assassinated and David became king of the whole realm. In 1003 B.C. David was ready to take Jerusalem, a Jebusite (Canaanite) city that had been avoided by Israelites previously. Because Jerusalem was on a high place, and well-protected by high walls, capturing it was expected to be difficult. Indeed, the Jebusites boasted that the blind and the lame among them could defend the city. However, Joab, David’s man on the spot, resorted to a sneak attack; he found out that the Jebusites got their water from a spring outside, located the secret tunnel leading to the spring, and sent his soldiers through the tunnel to break into the city. After this conquest, Jerusalem, rather than Shiloh or Gibeah, would be seen as Israel’s most important city, both as the capital and as the center for worship of the One True God. However, most of Jerusalem’s expansion, including the building of the famous Temple, would be done by David’s son Solomon.

David’s forty-year reign (1010-970 B.C.) was a time of rapid growth in both strength and prosperity. Like Saul, David spent much of the first half of his reign leading a string of successful military campaigns. 2 Samuel 8 reports that he conquered Moab, the Aramaean states of Zobah and Damascus, and Edom; he also broke the power of Philistia, and took the city of Gath from them. After Zobah and Damascus fell, the king of Hamath, a third Aramaean state, submitted without a fight. On the other hand, the campaign against Ammon was the longest of David’s career, because the Ammonites enlisted Aramaean fighting men to help them. The siege of Rabbath-Ammon (modern Amman, Jordan) took several years, and because David couldn’t be away from his court for that long, he went back to Jerusalem, leaving Joab in command for most of the siege. It was during that time that the scandal involving Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite took place, resulting in David’s greatest failing (see 2 Samuel 11 & 12). When the end of the siege was near, Joab called David back, because he felt it would be unseemly for anyone but the king to get the credit for taking an enemy capital. Among the treasures captured was a crown that weighed at least seventy pounds, that once belonged to Milcom, the god of Ammon. Although 1 Chronicles 20:2 claims that David put the crown on his head, he obviously could not have worn it for long (compare it to the crown of Khosrau I in Chapter 8).

The second half of David’s reign wasn’t as happy a time as the first. There were two serious rebellions, from David’s son Absalom and from a Benjaminite named Sheba. The Philistines made trouble again, and when David led the force to put them back in their place, he nearly got himself killed, and his men told him not to go on any more campaigns (2 Samule 21:17). Then came a severe pestilence, which the Bible tells us was caused by an act of disobedience; David conducted a census of the people, after God specifically told him not to do it, and David showed pride in his own strength when the results came back (2 Samuel 24). When David was on his deathbed, Adonijah, the oldest surviving son, tried to usurp the throne by crowning himself, but David was able to nip that revolt in the bud by stating that Solomon, and not Adonijah, was his heir. One of his last requests to Solomon was that his general Joab be put to death. Although Joab had always been loyal to David, he killed a lot of people while carrying out David’s orders; at least two of his victims, Abner and Amasa, were not enemies of the king, and thus innocent.

Because of David’s victories, Solomon never had to do any fighting, so his reign (970-930 B.C.) was a time of peace. In the time of Moses, the Israelites had been promised all the land from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates (Deuteronomy 1:7 and 11:24), and in Solomon’s day this became a reality. 1 Kings 4:24 emphasizes this, by telling us that Solomon’s empire stretched from Tiphsah, a town on the bend of the Euphrates River (Thapsacus in classical times), to Gaza. In practice, however, this was more of an economic union than a state held together by the strength of arms. Lebanon, for instance, was never under Solomon’s rule, and important cities in northern and western Syria like Carchemish, Aleppo and Kadesh still gave their allegiance to the Hittites. Indeed, north of Damascus we hear no reports of Solomon stationing any troops, so to determine which side a city was on, we have to look at whether it paid tribute to Egypt, Israel, Hatti or Assyria. We are told in 1 Kings 10:28-29 that Solomon made a good business out of matching horses from Cilicia with chariots from Egypt, and for his own army he maintained 1,400 chariots, more than half the size of the chariot force the Egyptians and Hittites had. But judging from the activities of the pharaohs at this time (Horemheb, Ramses I, Seti I, and Ramses II at the beginning of his career), it appears that Solomon let the Egyptians defend the kingdom for him; that may be why an Egyptian princess was his chief wife. While the other empires suffered temporary eclipses of their fortunes, Israel was the wealthiest and strongest kingdom in the Middle East, and people came from all around to marvel at the splendor and proverbial wisdom of its king.

Israel: the Early Kingdom Era

Israel between 1400 and 930 B.C. The green area is where the Israelites were settled during the time of the Judges; the purple line marks the border of the empire of David and Solomon.

Whereas Saul and David had spent their early years on the throne conquering, Solomon devoted his first twenty years to building projects, specifically his palace, God’s Temple, and associated buildings like the “House of Lebanon,” which may have been a Phoenican trading center, because his main business partner was King Hiram of Tyre. In his latter years, however, Solomon went from wisdom to foolishness. He married hundreds of foreign wives for political reasons, and drained the treasury by building temples to their idols. The people groaned under the financial and physical burdens laid upon them, as everything Samuel had once predicted about kings now came true. Before the end of Solomon’s reign, there was an unsuccessful revolt in Edom and a successful one in Syria. The conversion of Jerusalem into a holy city for all religions doomed its future.

25. After Saul the kingship passed to the tribe of Judah. Note how quickly the Ephraimites found a leader of their own when the crown of David and Solomon went to a weak king, Rehoboam.

Unquote:  Now on to Chapter 3, definitely!

The International Banquet is Only Six Days Away!

I told you in previous messages that my church is holding an international banquet on Saturday, May 2, 2009, to raise money for the missionaries we support.  Yesterday my pastor told me that the purpose is also to celebrate the diversity in our little congregation.  He’s got a point; about twenty years ago I remember somebody saying that churches are the most racially segregated institutions in America.  We’ve come a long way since then.  The church I attended for twenty-five years in Florida was definitely diverse.  Blacks, Asians, Indians and Jews were all represented, along with the W.A.S.P.s you’d expect, and we had just enough Hispanics attending to provide Spanish-language translations for them during the services.  For the Friday night services, two or three black men would wear yarmulkes, and nobody else thought it was odd.  Mind you, these were authentic Jewish yarmulkes, not the red-gold-and-green ones I occasionally see on Rastafarians.  The church I attend now is nearly as diverse, minus the yarmulkes.

By contrast, when I first arrived in Kentucky, I visited Andover Baptist Church, because it was the closest Baptist church in the neighborhood.  The young pastor of that place considered his congregation diverse because they came from towns all over central Kentucky!  Well, I took a look, and I only saw one black family; the rest were non-Hispanic whites.  Considering where I had just come from, I’m glad I didn’t laugh at that point.

Anyway, I scanned one of the flyers we’re passing out.  If you think you’ll be in the neighborhood on that day, download the PDF and drop in to see us!

The 2009 International Banquet

p.s., Leive is happy that the artist put the Philippine flag in the middle of the back page.

It’s a Zionist-Chinese Plot!

Remember those fragrant Korla pears I bought last week?  Evidently they’re not the only fruit coming out of China; they don’t even have to be Chinese to get exported.  According to a story on the Iranian News site MehrNews, these Jaffa oranges were sold by the Israelis to China, and then China resold them to Iran.  The Iranian government is very unhappy, of course.

It has been thirty years since I visited the Middle East.  One of the events I fondly remember from that time was trying oranges from Italy, Egypt and Israel.  The Italian oranges were the same as what we grew in Florida, while the Egyptian oranges were brown and a bit spicy.  Both were all right.  But oh, those Jaffa oranges from Israel!  They were gold in color, larger than the ones in the pictures above, and very good, even by the standards of somebody who lived in an orange-growing area for forty years.  The Israelis gave each member of my tour group a dozen of them when we reached our first hotel, in Tel Aviv.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t eat them all during the trip, nor could we give them to our traveling companions, because they had their own Jaffa oranges.  In my case, I had three left when I flew home, and because I didn’t think I could bring them into the United States, I gave them to the plane’s flight crew.  With all the modern concerns over airline security, I don’t think I could get that friendly with a flight crew today.

Now why did the Chinese buy Jaffa oranges in the first place?  I thought they had plenty of their own.  Perhaps Israeli citrus tastes different from the citrus grown in China, just as Korla pears don’t have anything in common with our own pears, except that they’re pears.

Israeli Oranges in Iran

Goodbye, Ted Rall, It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Person

If you don’t see the <SARC> tags in the title of this message, consider upgrading to the newest version of your browser (LOL).

As I write this, the indoor temperature is now 74 degrees in the basement, 86 on the main floor, and 88 upstairs, where the air conditioning has kicked on for the first time since last fall.  What a change from the last few months!

But seriously, it looks like the best news for me this weekend will be a bit of schadenfreude.  Over the past year, I’ve heard story after story of layoffs, circulation cutbacks, and even some closings among institutions in the “Dinosaur Media,” namely the newspapers.  Now Ted Rall, the declared enemy of every true American, and possibly the worst human being alive, has become the latest victim.  Here’s the story of him getting laid off:

Soldier-slandering, Radical Left-wing Cartoonist Rall Laid Off

My only criticism of that story is where the author said that Rall was “one more wildly talented cartoonist to be victimized by the economy.”  Well, I wouldn’t call him a wildly talented cartoonist.  Just look at the sample of his work in the article.  Heck, I thought Matt Groening (the creator of “Life In Hell” and “The Simpsons”) needed a course in art, until I saw Rall’s chicken-scratching.  The best description of Rall and his work that I saw came from a blogger named Jim Treacher, who said, “By the way, (here’s a) money-saving tip for Ted Rall’s syndicate: Just lock a fatherless 8th-grader in a room with nothing but a black crayon and a copy of The Communist Manifesto. The results will be just as publishable.”

Ted Rall always seemed to want attention, good or bad; that’s probably why he made it onto the annual list of the Top Twenty Annoying Liberals at least four times.  For a start, he was probably the most obnoxious guest I have ever heard interviewed on a talk show.  When it came to the War On Terror, he didn’t even want us fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, let alone Iraq.  He got the most attention after he called Pat Tillman, the former football player for the Arizona Cardinals who got killed in Afghanistan, an idiot for giving up his NFL career, while the rest of us mourned the loss of a fallen hero (see the picture at the bottom).  When Ronald Reagan died, he said he hoped that Reagan was “turning crispy brown” in Hell, for not doing enough to stop the spread of AIDS.  Then during the 2004 Republican convention, Rall declared war on the GOP, and recommended they be outlawed as a criminal organization.  After those incidents, the New York Times and the Washington Post stopped carrying his cartoons, which made me wonder why Rall stayed employed for another four and a half years, if he got too extreme for even those liberal bastions.

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Rest in peace, Pat; you have finally been vindicated.