In it you’ll hear about the recent translation of a cuneiform tablet, several hundred years older than extant tablets or the first versions of the Book of Genesis, detailing the Babylonian flood legend.
… More elongated (perhaps reducing breakage by increasing the surface area in contact between groups of vessels in transit) …
It turns out that amphora is the Greek word for something that existed for hundreds of years before the Greeks came along:
… It is by the earlier second millennium BC that we see a distinctive new shape, referred to by modern commentators as the “Canaanite jar” (Grace 1956). These vessels were now often fashioned on the potter’s wheel, which not only facilitated the production of greater numbers and more regular shapes, but also allowed the sides and base to be made into a single rough cone. Such pointed-base vessels were less vulnerable to breakage and could be stacked in intercalated layers in the holds of ships (with the bases of one layer sitting in the space between the vessels below), placed individually in stands, arrayed in groups on racks, leaned against one another on wharves and in warehouses, or half-buried in the ground. Moreover, this design could be carried in panniers, slung from ropes or hoisted onto the shoulder of a human porter, while the narrow neck could be closed with a stopper and sealed with clay or lime. Finally, the handles and base offered three reliable points by which the vessel might be carried or manipulated when pouring out its contents (fig. 2H; see also fig. 5E below; Grace 1949:175). [emphasis added]
First there’s the headline: “Mysterious lake in Tunisian desert".
Ooh ... Scary.
So I went and looked. Yes, a lake appeared in the middle of the Sahara. But, of course, there’s water underground, and geologists think a tremor opened up a crack that became a spring. Fair enough, but no mystery.
But what did the locals do? Well, they’re human, so they thought: “Lake. Desert. Lets’ go swimming!”.
This new lake is about 20 miles outside of Gafsa.* This is a small city, of about 100K inhabitants about 100 miles in from the Mediterranean. Here:
I love two things about this picture, and both of them are related to the prejudices of people in the west. First off, I like the natural inclination to get in the water, even if you have to roll up your pantlegs or get your clothes wet. There’s an inclination to think that people in other countries aren’t like us. This is evidence that we have more in common than not. Second, in the developed world, we have a tendency to view Arab countries through the lenses of oil wealth, refugee camps, and terrorists. But Tunisia isn’t like that: it’s been quietly turning into a middle income country for decades. It’s now a well off Arab country with no oil (that’s not to say that the country is in great shape, but I think comparing it to Mexico is reasonable). So anyway, take a look at the clothes. There’s a hundred people there that look like they just got back from The Gap. And it’s not like Gafsa is a major city near an international airport. And yet, not a burqa in sight. That’s not surprising to me, but it may be to some of you.
* I learned some trivia about Gafsa while preparing this: 1) it’s where the Tunisian spring revolution started, and 2) descendants of Romans — Christian and speaking a Romance language — survived here until the late Middle Ages.
Technically it’s a chloropleth of the incidence of slavery in 1860:
I thought I had posted this map several years ago, but I couldn’t find it with the Google.
The most shocking thing for me in looking at this is the minor extent of slavery in Missouri. In a very real sense, the expansion of slavery from Missouri into Kansas was a cause of The Civil War … and yet it just wasn’t that prevalent in Missouri. Perhaps that’s just where the really bad slaveowners congregated.
On the other hand, you can also see why Kansas had so many abolitionists ticked off: you really have to go out of your way to get your slaves up the Mississippi past the Ohio River to get to the Missouri River valley.
The most astonishing thing about the extraordinary outpouring of growth and innovation that the United States and other economies have achieved over the past two centuries is that it does not astonish us. Throughout most of human history, life expectancy was about half what it now is, or even less. We could not record voices or speech, so no one knows how Shakespeare sounded or how “to be or not to be” was pronounced. The streets of the greatest cities were dark every night. No one traveled on land faster than a horse could gallop. The Battle of New Orleans took place after the peace treaty had been signed in Europe because General Andrew Jackson had no way of knowing this. In Europe, famines were expected about once a decade and the streets would be littered with corpses, and in American homes, every winter the ink in the inkwells froze.
I spent about an hour on this site. The “Words and Phrases” post got my attention first with “binge”, and “cushy”, and “swipe”, and “souvenir” (although, somehow or other I already knew that “dud” dated from World War I).
But I didn’t know how important the war was to Canada’s conception as a nation.
Nor did I know that this is when condoms were first routinely distributed.
Or that the popularity of wristwatches was due to the amount of stuff soldiers had to carry in their pockets.
How about blood transfusions — first done on a large scale late in the war.
I liked the post “Telecommunications”, although they should have titled it differently: it was mostly about the creation of lines that couldn’t be tapped.
Plastic surgery? With a photo of an early case!
Ring cakes (aka Bundt) are popular in Japan because a German baker from their colonies in China was interred there, and decided to open a bakery in Yokohama? Get out!
Flappers? Hospital scrubs? Hand grenades? Dada? Expressionism? Stainless steel? Sugar from Cuba? Sun lamps? Dry champagne?
Did you know that the poem features poppies because they grow better than other plants in disturbed soil?
And there was lots of stuff I did know about, that was still fun to review for different perspectives: machine guns, tanks, air combat, falling empires and monarchies, the rise of the U.S., migration from the South, chemical weapons (one of my grandfathers survived a gas attack that killed the buddies on either side of him), and so on.
There are a lot of people willing to give anything a pass if it’s done democratically, or by a democracy.
This is a mistake: never forget that Hitler won popular elections.
The newest example of this is that the democratically elected government of Turkey, and the country’s legacy media, concocted a fake coup to discredit the military, and presumably to take some people out of circulation indefinitely and provide some “it’s always been done this way” cover for introducing totalitarian practices.
Ten days ago the prisoners were released, although they will still stand a retrial in a country that has already tried to screw them.
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