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Articles On Ancient History
Stonehenge Activates On the Winter Solstice Sunset, Not Sunrise

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Jewish Experiences in the Roman Bathhouses of Judaea/Syria Palaestina
By Yaron Z. Eliav

The Roman public bathhouse was an impressive architectural complex, featuring both hot and cold water installations as well as a wide range of other services — a sauna and massage parlors, swimming pools, open courts for recreation and sports, gardens, meeting rooms, food and oil stands, and at times even libraries and brothels. No other space within the ancient world embodied so many different features of the Roman way of life (known as romanitas): everything from engineering and architecture to food and fashion, from sculpture to sports, from nudity and sex to medicine and magic, to name just a few. Ideas about the human body, science, religion, and metaphysics, life and its carnal and spiritual pleasures, as well as concepts about fate, aesthetics, social hierarchy, and imperialism, all manifested themselves in the physical environment of the baths, and the daily experience of attending them. In an empire that extended from modern England and Spain to Egypt and Iraq, residents of the empire erected bathhouses in sprawling cities and small villages alike. And people from all walks of life visited them, both wealthy and poor: prominent citizens and ordinary, men, women, children, as well as household slaves, all came in droves, usually every day. The Jews were no different.

[Image: 1.-Typical-bath-diagram-1.jpg]
A Typical Roman Public Bathhouse. Drawn by Yannis Nakas for the Author.

In the first few centuries of the common era, hundreds of thousands of Jews lived in the Roman province called Judaea (which, during the second century, became Syria-Palaestina, or simply Palestine). A wide variety of ancient sources document the Jewish life that transpired in this region: archaeological remains such as synagogues and the art (mainly mosaics) displayed within them; documentary papyri and inscriptions; as well as literary segments devoted to Jews in the writings of Graeco-Roman and then Christian authors. But the richest evidence comes from the collection of texts known today as rabbinic literature, a group of some forty documents of various sizes produced between the 3rd and 7th centuries by the figures we now collectively call “rabbis.” This huge latter corpus of ancient writings — indeed, the largest group of Jewish texts that survived from Roman times — repeatedly alludes to public bathhouses: with over five hundred references to the baths and associated activities, the bathhouse is the best represented Roman institution in rabbinic material! Modern investigators have mostly ignored this treasure trove of information, partially because of linguistic obstacles — rabbinic texts generally employ Aramaic and Hebrew, languages outside the sphere of most classical experts — and also because of the entrenched misconception that the Jews in general, and the rabbis in particular, were an isolated community detached from the Roman world.

It is time to overcome this blindspot …

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Paper Trail: 42% English, 31.5% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, 6.25% German, 6.25% Sicilian & 1.5% French.
LDNA©: Britain & Ireland: 89.3% (51.5% English, 37.8% Scottish & Irish), N.W. Germanic: 7.8%, Europe South: 2.9% (Southern Italy & Sicily)
BigY 700: I1-Z141 >F2642 >Y3649 >Y7198 (c.341 AD) >Y168300 (c.373 AD) >A13248 (c.867 AD) >A13252 (c.1047 AD) >FT81015 (c.1278 AD) >A13243 (c.1620 AD) >FT80854 (c.1700 AD) >FT80630 (1893 AD).
With a tip of the hat to Maciamo:

Solar storms, ice cores and nuns’ teeth: the new science of history
Jacob Mikanowski

Advances in fields such as spectrometry and gene sequencing are unleashing torrents of new data about the ancient world – and could offer answers to questions we never even knew to ask

Scythians did terrible things. Two-thousand five-hundred years ago, these warrior nomads, who lived in the grasslands of what is now southern Ukraine, enjoyed a truly ferocious reputation. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Scythians drank the blood of their fallen enemies, took their heads back to their king and made trinkets out of their scalps. Sometimes, they draped whole human skins over their horses and used smaller pieces of human leather to make the quivers that held the deadly arrows for which they were famous.

Readers have long doubted the truth of this story, as they did many of Herodotus’s more outlandish tales, gathered from all corners of the ancient world. (Not for nothing was the “father of history” also known as the “father of lies” in antiquity.) Recently, though, evidence has come to light that vindicates his account. In 2023, a team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen, led by Luise Ørsted Brandt, tested the composition of leather goods, including several quivers, recovered from Scythian tombs in Ukraine. By using a form of mass spectrometry, which let them read the “molecular barcode” of biological samples, the team found that while most of the Scythian leather came from sheep, goats, cows and horses, two of the quivers contained pieces of human skin. “Herodotus’s texts are sometimes questioned for their historical content, and some of the things he writes seem to be a little mythological, but in this case we could prove that he was right,” Brandt told me recently.

So, score one for Herodotus. But the hi-tech detective work by the Copenhagen researchers also points to something else about the future of history as a discipline …

[Image: 3140.jpg?width=1300&dpr=2&s=none]
The mummy of a Scythian warrior at the Museum for Art and Craft in Hamburg, Germany.Photograph: Dpa Picture Alliance Archive/Alamy

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Paper Trail: 42% English, 31.5% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, 6.25% German, 6.25% Sicilian & 1.5% French.
LDNA©: Britain & Ireland: 89.3% (51.5% English, 37.8% Scottish & Irish), N.W. Germanic: 7.8%, Europe South: 2.9% (Southern Italy & Sicily)
BigY 700: I1-Z141 >F2642 >Y3649 >Y7198 (c.341 AD) >Y168300 (c.373 AD) >A13248 (c.867 AD) >A13252 (c.1047 AD) >FT81015 (c.1278 AD) >A13243 (c.1620 AD) >FT80854 (c.1700 AD) >FT80630 (1893 AD).
Understanding Trade and Power in Early Egypt: A Geopolitical Approach
By Juan Carlos Moreno García

In recent years, several studies have revealed the complex networks of exchanges and circulation of peoples, goods, ideas, and techniques that traversed ancient Eurasia. Far from being a phenomenon inaugurated by the first empires that integrated parts of this vast area (Assyria, Achaemenid Persia, Alexander the Great, Rome), its earlier manifestations can be traced back originally to prehistoric times and, mainly, during the Early Bronze Age. Obsidian, for instance, arrived in Egypt from the southern Red Sea. At the same time, some pottery found in the tomb of U-j, a Predynastic king buried at Abydos, originally contained wine imported from southern Palestine. Finally, Hierakonpolis, the earliest royal center, also situated in Upper Egypt, shows that exotic animals coming from regions situated far away were buried in ceremonial areas (Fig. 1).

[Image: Narmer_Palette%2C_Egypt%2C_c._3100_BC_-_...C09728.JPG]
Fig. 1: Reproduction of the Palette of King Narmer, the first pharaoh of a unified Egypt. Original dated to ca. 3100 BCE. Royal Ontario Museum. Photo: Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons. CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

This evidence represents an excellent basis for understanding the particularities and limits of Egypt’s integration within the Afro-Eurasian sphere of contacts. On the one hand, much of the preserved vestiges correspond to rare luxury goods conveying notions such as prestige, long-range contacts, and exoticism that enhanced the status of their owners. On the other hand, such evidence suggests a particular specialization, as if Egypt’s primary role in international trade consisted of providing exotic coveted goods of African origin (gold, ivory, ebony, aromatic plants) to other parts of the Near East. The much later Amarna letters epitomize this situation when Near Eastern kings and Egyptian pharaohs claimed and bargained for a supply of such products. But is this picture accurate?

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JonikW, Andour, lg16 like this post
Paper Trail: 42% English, 31.5% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, 6.25% German, 6.25% Sicilian & 1.5% French.
LDNA©: Britain & Ireland: 89.3% (51.5% English, 37.8% Scottish & Irish), N.W. Germanic: 7.8%, Europe South: 2.9% (Southern Italy & Sicily)
BigY 700: I1-Z141 >F2642 >Y3649 >Y7198 (c.341 AD) >Y168300 (c.373 AD) >A13248 (c.867 AD) >A13252 (c.1047 AD) >FT81015 (c.1278 AD) >A13243 (c.1620 AD) >FT80854 (c.1700 AD) >FT80630 (1893 AD).

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