Stories tagged Archaeology

A Pilgrimage to the Sea of Galilee

For years, my travels have caused me to think about organized religion. (When I got my history degree in college, one of my favorite classes was “History of the Christian Church.”) And for years, I’ve believed that those who enjoy getting close to God should pack their spirituality along with them in their travels.

Christians from around the world come to Yardenit near the Sea of Galilee to be baptized in the River Jordan. (photo: Rick Steves)

Christians from around the world come to Yardenit near the Sea of Galilee to be baptized in the River Jordan. (photo: Rick Steves)

In Israel, religious tourism is a big part of the economy. And much of that is Christian tourism: bus tours of believers visiting sights from Jesus’ three-year ministry — places they’ve imagined since their childhood Sunday school classes. While Jerusalem is the major stop, they generally make a quick visit to Bethlehem (in the West Bank), and loop through the north to stop at several sights near the Sea of Galilee.

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Fabled Jerusalem

Before Columbus, many maps of the world showed Jerusalem as the center of the world. Jerusalem — holy, treasured, and long fought over by the three great monotheistic religions — has been destroyed and rebuilt more than a dozen times.

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock marks the site where Jews believe Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to heaven. (photo: Rick Steves)

Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock marks the site where Jews believe Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to heaven. (photo: Rick Steves)

Its fabled walls corral a tangle of colorful, holy sites, and more than 30,000 residents — most with a deep-seated reason to live so close to their religious ground zero.

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Archaeological Visit to the Ancient Mound Bakr Awa

I was chatting with my friend Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum, about archaeological excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan. By chance, he mentioned the name of the ancient site of Bakr Awa. “There is a German archaeological team there, and they have been excavating the site for a few years,” Hashim said. “How about going there and seeing them while they are working?” I replied. “ This Friday we will go,” Hashim suggested. Bingo, let’s go!

Bakr Awa is a mound southeast of the modern city of Sulaimaniya, near the city of Halabja (which was bombarded by a chemical attack by Saddam’s regime in 1988 CE), within the Sharazor plain, Iraqi Kurdistan. A German archaeological team headed by Professor Peter Miglus (of the University of Heidelberg) has been excavating the site since 2010 in cooperation with the Sulaimaniya Antiquities Directorate and the Sulaimaniya Museum. The site underwent limited excavations by Ephraim Speiser in 1927 CE. During the years 1960-1961 CE, Iraqi archaeologists (of the Directorate General of Antiquities in Baghdad, Iraq) did extensive excavations and field studies on the site. Numerous artifacts, from the Islamic period back to the late Bronze Age, have been recovered within different ancient layers/levels.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands for about 40 meters high in the middle of a proximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands about 40 meters high in the middle of approximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.

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The Kingdoms of Ancient Arabia

Griffon_hadhramautIn antiquity, the Greeks and Romans referred to the pre-Islamic kingdoms of ancient Arabia as “Arabia Felix” or “Arabia the Blessed,” due to their immense wealth and political power. Flourishing along caravan and maritime trade routes for over a thousand years, these kingdoms achieved impressive feats in technology, engineering, and the conservation of natural resources.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. William Glanzman, one of the world’s leading experts on ancient Arabia, about the importance of these polities as well as recent archaeological discoveries in southern Arabia.

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A Closer Look at Ancient Korea

BaekjeAmbassadorFrom the first century BCE until the seventh century CE, the Korean peninsula experienced an unprecedented era of immense wealth, political power, and cultural efflorescence. Although the kingdoms of ancient Korea are not familiar to many researchers in Anglophone countries, the fields of early Korean history and archaeology are active and pertinent components of academic programs in East Asia, where it is recognized that an understanding and appreciation of the pre-historical and early historical periods are necessary for a proper grasp of Korea in an age of globalization.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Mark Byington, Founder and Project Director of the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute, Harvard University, who has dedicated his life to the development of academic study of early Korean history and archaeology in North America.

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Petra: Wonder in the Desert

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Few places on earth have captivated humanity as much as the ethereal city of Petra, which is located in present-day Jordan. Constructed by the Nabataeans–ancient traders who dominated the export of frankincense, myrrh, balsam, and spices from Arabia to the Greco-Roman world–Petra was a beautiful desert metropolis of theaters, temples, palaces, and immense markets. ‘Rediscovered’ in 1812 by an eccentric Swiss adventurer, Johan Ludwig Burckhardt, Petra is the focus of a new show at the Antikenmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Opened last fall by HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, Petra: Wonder in the Desert. In the Footsteps of J. L. Burckhardt alias “Sheikh Ibrahim,” showcases nearly 150 artifacts, demonstrating the power, prestige, and sophistication of one of Antiquity’s most alluring cities.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia converses with Mr. Laurent Gorgerat, a Co-Curator of the exhibition, and learns how a mysterious kingdom of former nomads created a luxurious, urban oasis in an inhospitable climate.

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Roman Riches in Iron Age Denmark

otherartifacsDanish archaeologists made an unprecedented discovery in the municipality of Ishøj, located just 18 km (11 mi) outside of Copenhagen, in October 2007: an intact grave of a high-ranking man or “prince” from the Roman Iron Age (c. 1-400 CE). Hailed as one of the most important discoveries in recent memory, the grave provided a unique glimpse into the material wealth and aesthetic tastes of the ancient Danish elite. Sensational objects like gaming pieces cast in glass, gold jewelry, and an exquisite Roman wine set in bronze were among the items uncovered. All of these and more are now presented in a new exhibition, The Ishøj Prince (Danish: “Ishøjfyrstens”), at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Jan Kindberg Jacobsen, Curator of Ancient Art at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, about the importance of this discovery, and of how a Danish prince amassed the trappings of a Mediterranean magnate.

“Although richly furnished burials from the late Roman Iron Age are not an unknown phenomenon in Denmark, the one belonging to the ‘Ishøj Prince’ stands out. The grave was excavated, restored, and analyzed in accordance with today’s scientific standards. This has allowed for a very detailed reconstruction of the violent events that resulted in the death of the Ishøj Prince, providing a broad insight into the funeral rites and dedication patterns of the period.”

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Unearthing Ancient Sweden Through Archaeology

With over 25,000 Iron Age graveyards and burial mounds, 1,140 megalithic structures of all sizes, and about 2,500 large rune stones, Sweden is an archaeologist’s paradise. While recognized predominantly for its colorful Viking past and picturesque medieval towns, Sweden has a history that extends far beyond the the Middle Ages. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Martin Rundkvist, a Swedish archaeologist, about his most recent work in attempting to locate a Geatish mead-hall in the archaeologically rich province of Östergötland. With humor and insight, Rundkvist shares his thoughts and enthusiasm.

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Ethereal Peru: An Interview with Director Nathalie Bondil of the MMFA

Peru is one of six “cradles of civilization,” from which a series of advanced societies emerged. Characterized by remarkable artistic expression and technological innovation, successive Andean cultures thrived among the peaks and valleys of the Andes until the armies of Francisco Pizarro vanquished the Inca in 1532 CE. Nevertheless, primordial, symbolic imagery–mythical, ritualistic, and spiritual–continued to shape the artistic spectrum, precipitating a wave of nationalist affirmation in modern times.

Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon provides a retrospective presentation of Peru’s history through an exploration of identity, spirituality, and indigenous collective memory as reflected in art. In this world exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Ms. Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal), with regard to this exhibition’s unique focus and meticulous organization.

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A Peek into the “World of the Celts”

During the Celtic Iron Age (c. 800-15 BCE), the Celts dominated large swaths of the European continent including what is present-day Germany, Switzerland, and France. The World of the Celts: Centres of Power – Treasures of Art (Die Welt der Kelten: Zentren der Macht – Kostbarkeiten der Kunst), displays this forgotten era of European history with astonishing works of art and rarely seen artifacts. These twin exhibitions–now on show at the Baden-Württemberg State Museum of Archaeology and the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart Germany–assemble the most impressive of Celtic objets d’art in the last thirty years.

In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Ms. Sarah Scheffler, a German archaeologist and expert on the Celts, who assisted in the collection of ancient artifacts for the Treasures of Art exhibition. Probing the nuances of Celtic art and style, Scheffler stresses the importance of exchange to the Celts’ art and of how the Celts interacted artistically with their Mediterranean and Germanic neighbors.

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