Sunday, November 18, 2007

ASOR 2007 (p. 3)

The next session I visited in progress was apparently off-schedule. I had hoped to hear Avshalom Karasik deliver "Pottery in High Resolution: Computerized Typological Classification Based on 3D Documentation and Automatic Drawing of Ceramic Sherds from Tel Dor, Israel"; but entered near the end of S. Rebecca Martin's "From 'Dor' to 'Doros': A New Approach to the Material Culture of the Persian Period". Then Elisabetta Boaretto delivered, "Tel Dor: On-site and Off-site Analysis of the Microscopic Record", which turned out to be very interesting with the inclusion of excellent photos. I'm hoping someone will use this technology some day to determine what may (or may not) have been stored in LMLK jars. Here's her abstract:

"The archaeological record that is not visible to the naked eye potentially contains much information regarding modes of occupation, chronology and site formation processes. During the past five excavation seasons at Tel Dor, on-site and off-site analytical tools have been used to survey the materials on the tel in order to identify interesting subjects for further investigation. For example, pyrotechnological activities using waste products have been investigated, sediment exposure temperatures estimated, floor and their compositions identified, and the use of high temperature installations determined. Here the results of two studies will be presented, both of which have implications with regard to radiocarbon dating, a vital element in current debates on the chronology of the Iron I-IIa. Many layers composed almost entirely of phytoliths derived from a mix of wild grasses and domestic cereals have been investigated. These layers are mainly formed from animal dung accumulation. Their presence on the tel during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages was surprising. Because they are stratigraphically well defined they are ideal samples for addressing chronological questions using radiocarbon. Another valuable material for radiocarbon dating is plaster. Many attempts to directly date plaster in the past have failed. The authors have developed a new approach for assessing the preservation of plaster using microscopic tools and infrared spectroscopy. In this way they identify the best-preserved plaster based on the disorder of its calcite crystals. This well-preserved plaster may still retain its original radiocarbon signal."

The most interesting point she emphasized (of particular interest to me because of "Evolution Science") was that in these radio carbon analyses, scientists are "counting atoms, not counting years". But even more specifically, since atoms are still invisible to us, what they're really counting is the presence of some interaction labeled/stipulated & mutually agreed upon as an atom. I for one, albeit with only a Bachelor of Science degree, do not believe atoms exist, but that the current working description of an atom is usable/useful/beneficial. Sub-atomic studies & quantum mechanics have proven that the initial/original concept of an atom (i.e., "the indivisible") was grossly/obviously wrong. Until someone can figure out how to separate the opposing poles of a magnet, I don't put much faith into atomic theories, though I would again emphasize that it's a useful working theory. It's sort of like the theory that the Earth was a globe & that you could sail from Spain to Asia without any significant geological obstructions. Yes, it's a globe, but there was actually a minor detail called North/South/Central America there all along. But I digress...

At 10:10 I returned to the session that Oded Lipschits had begun, hoping to hear him respond to any questions from attendees &/or additional discussion pertaining to Ramat Rahel. Uzi Leibner was near the end of his paper, "The Origins of the Jewish Galilee of the Early Roman Period". Afterwards at the beginning of the Q/A, James Strange discussed coins from Acco, & suggested that there might be a lack of evidence for something Leibner had mentioned earlier (related to imports?), but Leibner reminded him of the Rhodian stamped amphora handles that have been found there, suggesting foreign trade. (He had included photos of 2 of them during his lecture--one being a common aniconic 3-line type, the other being the common rose with circular-border-inscription type; note--that I own several unprovenanced specimens of these, & regret not having taken the time yet to put them online for reference, but they'll definitely be in Lv2.) Dr. Strange seemed satisfied with this answer.

Then Anson Rainey complimented him by calling it an "awesome presentation", & emphasized that most laypeople picture Jesus & early Christians speaking in Greek because of the New Testament writings, but that was not the case in Galilee where Aramaic & Hebrew dominated.

The remainder of this 15-minute session centered on Deborah Cantrell's paper, "The Horsemen of Israel". Though it had nothing directly to do with LMLK seals or kings or jars, I found the discussion interesting enough as background for the Assyrian campaign of Sennacherib (though he wasn't mentioned) that I'd like to include the abstract here:

"The Horsemen of Israel were well-respected by their enemies for their superior equestrian accomplishments. The well-trained chariot horses of Iron Age Israel were especially prized by the Assyrian invaders. The trained war horse was the single most expensive commodity in the ancient Near East for more than a thousand years. So critical to the success or failure of battle was the war horse that victory was often measured by the number of horses captured and available for redeployment. Why, then, does the Hebrew Bible account indicate that on two occasions the captured chariot horses were 'hamstrung'? This paper investigates the complicated issue of horse control and the extensive archaeological evidence for stables, training centers and horse depots at Megiddo, Jezreel, and other strategic sites. The nature of the war horse and its role in battle is also considered, as well as the emphasis on horses in the political rhetoric of the Hebrew prophets."

This, by the way, is a good example of why conferences are worthwhile/beneficial, since you're occasionally forced to listen to something that you would otherwise not read or study.

The first question addressed to her (by a gentleman I didn't recognize) pertained to the possibility of there having been "40,000 stalls"; she pointed out that there were more horses than stalls because the horses were rotated/moved from place to place. (By the way, she had a terrific southern drawl quite appropriate for a discussion of horses!)

Another lady asked her who owned the horses, & during her reply she mentioned that Israel was so small that "everyone knew everyone", & the same horse was probably shared among several people depending on the occasion, & again noted that the horses were relocated "round-robin style" as needed.

Anson Rainey chimed in again pertaining to the documented campaigns of Shishak & Shalmaneser, & a "scribe who made a lot of mistakes", lamenting that it's "too bad we don't have more copies". He also commented that in regard to the number of horses mentioned in ancient records: "I don't believe any figures--even the Biblical ones."

This prompted Ms. Cantrell to ask rhetorically, "Why are we doubting" the accounts that mention "thousands of horses" when we have archeological evidence for "hundreds of stables"?

Daniel C. Browning, Jr., who was presiding over this session took the opportunity to challenge her about how the ancient horsemen were able to get the horse to back up in the stable while it was hitched to a chariot. She drew a modern parallel to horse trainers easily getting horses to back up out of trailers by simply pressing on a certain spot in their neck/shoulder area, & suggested that if an opposing stall were empty, the horse & chariot could back up into there, & then easily be led out of the stable.

At some point during this discussion, she also talked about how a contingent of chariot horses could be at Israel's borders within "minutes or hours" to defend it. It did not require days, weeks, or months of preparation against foreign invaders because of this flexible system of rotating horses between stables, & having them stationed at strategic locations throughout the country.

Time expired, & no one talked about RR or the other lecture in that session by Richard Hess on "Katuwas and Rehoboam: Rebellion Stories in the West Semitic World".

This is also a good example of how frustrating it is at these conferences with so many parallel lectures taking place to absorb it all. It's really unfortunate that ASOR & SBL have no infrastructure for recording & publishing all of them so that interested students around the world could hear it for themselves--for example, those like Eliot Braun who could not attend--especially when such technology is readily available nowadays.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to download an MP3 podcast of each lecture you're interested in for 99 cents as is commonplace with pop music? Or maybe $9.99 for a video of an entire session? Note that adult-contemporary artist Tori Amos is making it possible for her fans to download recordings of her entire concert shortly after each one, thereby defeating bootleggers/pirates; & I'm sure other music artists are doing it too. Why not scholars? What a pity that most of this info is being lost/wasted on only the 20-100 people in attendance at each session!

And how unfortunate that you're having to read this blog & suffer through my lame transcriptions when you could be listening to the actual scholars right now! Just want you to know I feel your pain...

G.M. Grena

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