Saturday, December 08, 2007

SBL 2007 (p. 5)

At the end of my "ASOR p. 16" post, I forgot to mention that both professors, McCarter & Tappy, signed my copy of BASOR 344 for me. After the conclusion of this SBL session on Qumran, I made a beeline for Dr. Marilyn Lundberg, who had also co-authored this editio princeps of the Zayit Stone. I didn't know for sure whether she would be at this conference, but I was hopeful, & was glad to see her again. We go way back to January of 2002--she was the first person to contribute color photos of USC's unprovenanced LMLK handle for the LMLK Research website. (Imagine that--a prestigious university full of brilliant scientists in possession of an antiquity from Israel. Who would've guessed?)

On the way over, it dawned on me that I had wanted to also bring BASOR 334 (the one with hi-res photos of the Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls), which Gabriel Barkay & Bruce Zuckerman had already signed for me, but I totally forgot it. Anyway, she signed 344, & I chatted with her for a few minutes about the Zayit Stone & the ASOR conference. I mentioned Dr. McCarter's recommendation that I needed to see the 3-dimensional surface of the stone to better perceive the relative positions of the letters. She said that they were working on this project, & it sounds very promising!

For those not familiar with these sorts of developments, the current issue of Archaeology magazine contains an article about the use of LIDAR ("light detection & ranging") for reconstructing 3-D images of an old steamboat. They have a summary on their website, but the magazine contains another photo of the device (shown mounted on a tripod) & more info such as the fact that it uses mirrors. I mention this because at one of my past employment contracts, I helped develop a competitive system for LADAR, which is essentially the same thing ("laser radar"), except ours was a prototype for a lightweight, solid-state system that didn't require mirrors. Some years hence, these will become as economical as digital cameras & as safe as battery-powered laser pointers. I can easily imagine someone being able to overhaul the LMLK Research site in the future, replacing all the static, 2-dimensional photos with 3-D data allowing each visitor to "handle" the handles!

Ironically, I worked at that job the same year I began my LMLK research, & the numerous days of overtime I worked on it helped fund my activities.

I also asked her how things were going for WSRP in general, & if in this past decade--now that they have gained a great deal of publicity for their significant contributions to this field of research--there have been many new students learning the technology, especially with the advent of more affordable electronic cameras. She said there were other students learning it, but not that many since USC doesn't have a graduate program for them, which is very unfortunate.

As we were talking, Dr. Zuckerman had been fielding questions & greetings from other attendees. As they began to leave, I greeted him, anxious to get his reaction to P. Kyle McCarter telling me he couldn't see any of the non-ABGD inscriptions on the Zayit Stone. So I told him that we missed him at ASOR's Zayit session, & to my absolute shock, he said he had not been invited; furthermore, he asked me, "Did anyone mention the elephant in the living room?"

Now, I'm known for saying off-the-wall things, but this one practically paralyzed me! I had never heard that expression before, & I wasn't sure how to react. So I just stood there speechless with a completely puzzled look on my face for several seconds. Dr. Zuckerman is very entertaining, as I've chronicled in previous blogs, so I was hoping he'd elaborate & explain what he meant. And he did.

"You know, the other inscriptions on the stone besides the abecedary ... they're as plain as an elephant standing in a living room, & nobody seems to want to talk about them."

Well, I obviously didn't have to worry any longer about how to bring up the subject! But after autographing BASOR 344 for me, he was interrupted by a phone call, & though I waited for several minutes as he checked other voice-mails, we never resumed the conversation because there were other people waiting for him. I was completely satisfied though, since I had been wondering if over the past couple of years, maybe he had changed his mind about the inscriptions, or maybe he might have said something like, "Oh I wish I had never mentioned those other inscriptions because it was just my imagination--they're just random scratches"; but if anything, he is certainly convinced of their presence. I found this very comforting, because obviously, I had been promoting their presence too, ever since I reported on that lecture.

I went back to my car, anxious to begin the long drive home, & as I was paying the parking attendant $22 (the most I've ever paid for 5 & a half hours of self-parking), she asked me if I were a hotel guest (in which case I'd get a few dollars' discount). I told her I wasn't, & that I was just one of these many people (still walking along the street as they had been all day--just like ants) attending the conference.

She totally surprised me by asking what it was all about. I said it was a bunch of really smart Biblical scholars from all over the world, who gather once a year to present & discuss their latest research with colleagues--these are the people who write history books & textbooks used in schools. I told her it would be going on for several days, & I encouraged her to go in & experience it for herself. Even though the attendees wore badges, there were enough site employees milling about that no one would notice her. Heck, I even decorated my badges & nobody noticed:

She asked which religion it was--if she had to be a Catholic or anything like that. I just told her, "No, there's all kinds of people in there--Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, but most are probably atheists. The one thing they have in common is that they like to disagree with each other."

G.M. Grena

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