Saturday, May 31, 2008

Barkay, Zuckerman, & Lundberg (p. 3)

Another tidbit leftover from last week: When we were discussing the concept of handle-matching, I reminded everyone that we don't know how many jars were originally at a site such as Nasbeh since early excavators discarded unmarked handles, & some of the jars had 1, 2, or 3 unstamped ones, & of course, unstamped jars had 4. Dr. Barkay noted that the early diggers not only discarded unmarked handles, but probably also many with weak/faint marks.

Here I would insert parenthetically that there are 2 figures I'm interested in:

1) The total number of jars (marked & unmarked) that can be estimated by the total number of handles
2) The total number of marked jars represented by the known number of marked handles

I can't do anything about #1. That will probably never be discovered scientifically. We can, however, determine #2.


Continuing now from where I sidetracked last week, I parked the computer screen on the Geography page to show Dr. Barkay the northern sites I know about. The last time we met, he had revealed that there were more sites. I asked him if he were any closer to publishing his article that had been listed in Andy Vaughn's bibliography back in 1999 as "forthcoming":

"Judah in Israel: The Northern Distribution of the LMLK Seal Impressions"

Since Drs. Zuckerman & Lundberg were not acquainted with this, Dr. Barkay explained that he had written this article more than 10 years ago, but was still seeking a place to publish it. Dr. Zuckerman quickly said, "May I offer MAARAV?"

MAARAV, established way back in 1978 & published twice yearly, is "A journal for the study of the northwest Semitic languages & literatures", of which Dr. Zuckerman is the Publisher & Senior Editor, & Dr. Lundberg is the Associate Editor. In Hebrew, the word (actually 4 letters, "MARB") means "west". Its content is promoted as being "devoted to the rigorous, prudent treatment of the corpus of Northwest Semitic texts. Its articles have a strong linguistic, philological & literary emphasis, although manuscripts on history, archaeology, religion & culture will be seriously considered, particularly if they have a strong textual interest."

Well, I'd very much like to see it published anywhere because I believe it will force many scholars to treat the books of Chronicles with a little more historicitical respect. (Yes, you heard me right; historicitical. Now class, repeat after me, "his-tor-i-ci-ti-cal". And no, I didn't coin it; there are already THREE other users of it on Google!)

Though I haven't seen Dr. Barkay's article, he did reveal the location of another northern site, & it will force me to expand the area shown in my LMLK map, & once again revise the Y-axis grid-numbers. For now, I'm planning to leave it as is until Dr. Barkay actually publishes his article.

One major point that Dr. Barkay emphasized about this article, is his adamant belief that the Chronicler would not have included the verse (2Chronicles 30:10) about some northern tribes refusing to join King Hezekiah if it were not historical; the writer had no motivation to include that content, & had demonstrated elsewhere the ability to selectively omit interesting details (such as the Uriah/Bathsheba scandal).

At some point, we began discussing the Zayit Stone, & I showed them my analysis of the BASOR 344 photos. Though I don't think it's been mentioned anywhere else, Dr. Barkay told me that he was the first person to recognize the inscription's content as abecedaric (yes, it's a word; 24 uses on Google), & therefore its significant importance. He's credited at the end of B344 simply as one of several "professional staff" working on the excavation (Area T), & along with Connie Tappy for "many valuable contributions to this manuscript."

I discovered another revealing tidbit at our meeting. Part of the problem with Dr. McCarter's statements to me at the San Diego conferences last November regarding the presence of other inscriptions on the stone, was due to the fact that the day after he finished examining the abecedary & left Israel, then Dr. Zuckerman upon performing his photography saw evidence of the other writings. I did not know that. So Dr. McCarter never really had an opportunity to revisit the stone & reexamine them for himself prior to B344's publication.

Dr. Zuckerman showed me some of the photos again from November of 2005, somewhat historic themselves, being the last time the WSRP team shot an artifact using film instead of strictly electronic media. In particular, I looked at the spot where the other pair of zigzag terminators are, which is on the opposite side of the stone, on the outer lip of the bowl. Just to their right, where you'd expect to find some other letters, there are several craters, which could've been caused through natural processes such as weathering or handling during its secondary/tertiary use, or possibly by deliberate vandalism in antiquity.

If you look at Figs. 12 & 13 in B344, which show the top/bowl side of the stone, you can see that it's a very uneven surface dominated by natural contours (large & small). It's very easy to imagine that the stone might've been used as a doorpost, & in such a context, the other inscription (if it even existed) would've been clearly visible to anyone entering or exiting if they wanted to bend down & look at it. This is one of the reasons why Dr. Zuckerman maintains the unpublished position (which he had stated at the 2005 lecture I attended) that the abecedary was probably a practice exercise for the primary inscription(s) on the top/upper side.

I also lamented that nearly 3 years have elapsed since the stone's discovery, & it's still hidden from public view/examination. They reminded me that the Israel Museum is being renovated, but I countered that there were many other museums in Israel & abroad that would gladly host a special exhibit of the stone on loan, but they countered that most museum visitors would not be interested in, or impressed by this hard-to-see scratched inscription compared with easily visible monumental inscriptions. They also mentioned that by keeping it in storage, it's available to the Zayit team for research & 3-D photography (which is still in the planning stages), whereas once it goes on display, the museum would be reluctant to allow researchers to remove it from any specially constructed display.

One other tidbit about the abecedary, when viewing my drawings, I particularly challenged their interpretation of the Pey & Oyin by pointing out how I discerned the similar ticks in the curvy bottom-right sections of the similarly constructed, circular-shaped Vau, Tet, & 2 Oyins (the abecedary's, & the OZR inscription above it). Dr. Zuckerman found this interesting.

After I got home & began sending previews of the days events to people, it dawned on me that I had been there with 3/4th's of the original BASOR 334 Ketef-Hinnom-Scrolls publication team (only Andy Vaughn was absent)! That was very cool!

We briefly chatted about these famous inscriptions, though mostly after Dr. Barkay had left for his other meetings. They are very happy/satisfied that no one has presented a serious challenge to the dating of the silver scrolls since BASOR 334 was published in 2004. I learned that Dr. Lundberg worked mainly on KH1 (the larger piece), & Dr. Zuckerman worked mainly on KH2 (the smaller one). And on the way to the meeting, Dr. Barkay had told Dr. Zuckerman that he believes he has additional/alternate readings of the hard-to-read section in the middle of KH1, & they may publish another article about it in the future.

I lamented that there was no photo-CD included with the Zayit article like there was with the KH article, & they told me they had more funding (a special grant) to produce it for the KH one.

Probably the most surprising comment I heard on this candid occasion from Dr. Zuckerman, was that archeologists generally don't like to find inscriptions. I've often heard archeologists lament that they can't positively identify a site without an obvious inscription stating the name of the site, & I assumed that the finding of an inscription would be a hopeful goal. I also thought about the highly publicized expectation of finding a cuneiform library at Hazor. But his reasoning (based on experience) is that when inscriptions are found, it messes up the archeologist's plans for the excavation, necessitating alternate procedures, schedule changes, budget adjustments, & worst of all, having to rely on outside help for special photography & interpretation of the inscription.

I spent about half an hour chatting with Drs. Zuckerman & Lundberg after Dr. Barkay left, including their famous work with the Wadi el-Hol inscriptions, then spent about an hour learning more about PTM processes from Dr. Lundberg (which I still haven't had time to experiment with). Towards the end of our visit, I mentioned to Dr. Zuckerman the inverted Alefs on the Yavneh-Yam ostracon, as drawn by the original publisher of the inscription, Joseph Naveh (which I quickly learned is pronounced "naw-VAY", not "NAY-vuh"; Israel Exploration Journal vol. 10, 1960; pp. 129-39).

When Kris Udd made his replicas of it, he followed this drawing, which was also published in P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.'s book, "Ancient Inscriptions". Dr. Zuckerman found it hard to believe, but grabbed a copy of this book from his shelf, & sure enough, there it was (looking like ">" instead of "<"). Dr. William Schniedewind (Professor of Biblical Studies & Northwest Semitic Languages at UCLA) first noticed these inverted Alefs when I showed him one of Kris Udd's replicas, & he too had not noticed them previously.

They showed me some hi-res color photos of the actual artifact, & each of the areas where the Alef was backwards, turned out to be a fuzzy, illegible region. So it's interesting that when given the option of drawing it normally, or omitting it, Naveh drew it backwards, almost like some sort of secret mnemonic or cue for indicating uncertainty.

We also spent some time discussing collaborative efforts involving WSRP, my LMLK research, Inscriptifact, & other institutions. I'm not going to get into details here, since I just began using Inscriptifact today, & still need to spend more time learning PTM, but there is plenty to do, & the future is bright!


Well, it was an incredible day! Dr. Zuckerman had the most poignant remark of the day as I was leaving around 3:50 in the afternoon, "It really says something when it takes a visit from someone living on the other side of the world to bring together people who only live a few miles apart!"

Song of the week: "Between Two Worlds" by Patrick O'Hearn (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 26-second sample; 310kb).
G.M. Grena

P.S. I recently noticed that Wordpress keeps track of my 3 most visited entries, & I'll begin attaching them to the bottom of each message for the record.

Chephirah–The Biblical Village Roars Again, 175 views
Royal Banquine, 79 views
Checkmate, 32 views

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Barkay, Zuckerman, & Lundberg (p. 2)

We discussed so many things... It's frustrating that I can't recall everything, & the things I can recall may not be 100% accurate, but here are a couple of quick additions to last week's info before continuing:

1) When Dr. Barkay saw my triangular monogram-seal, he was immediately able to read 3 Greek letters. Unfortunately, I forgot to write them down, one thing quickly led to another, & the only one I remember him identifying is a Tau. He referred me to Gerald Finkielsztejn as an expert on these (humorously noting that his last name is spelled "the correct way you should spell Finkelstein").

2) My "rectangular cuneiform tablet" with wraparound text was the first antiquity I ever acquired (via a rare bookstore formerly in Beverly Hills, where I had been shopping for medieval manuscripts & collectible Bibles; Ms. Serendipity strikes again ... until now I didn't realize that the name of the store, Krown & Spellman, was royal-related!). Until that time, which was around 1996, I didn't know that ordinary humans could collect antiquities, or that they were actually available for less than $1,000 (as the other items I was shopping for at the time were mostly over $1,000). I could write an entire book about this, & indeed that's what I was in the process of doing when I acquired my first LMLK handle several years later.

Another note is that I just learned today via a review by Gordon Franz on ABR's website that Dr. Barkay appears in the recently released film, Bloodline. For fans of that stuff about Mary Magdalene, Dr. Barkay obviously did not comment on it during our meeting. And for the record, I believe it's possible that she & Lazarus & other NT VIPs traveled to France, but I've not yet seen any evidence to even suggest that she & Jesus had any sexual relationship. I recently learned that Isaac Newton never married, & probably never had a sexual relationship with any ladies (or men for that matter) either ... at least there's no evidence for it, & he lived far more recently than Jesus, so there's no reason to assume that Jesus had to have succumbed to sexual temptation (assuming He was an ordinary guy, which I don't believe).

As I was showing him all the things I brought to the meeting, we learned that another meeting had been scheduled for Dr. Barkay, & his hosts were going to pick him up around 1:45pm. Dr. Zuckerman had commented earlier in the week that we all might be able to go out for lunch, but it became clear as I finished my presentation around 12:30 that time would not permit this; so instead, Dr. Zuckerman provided some snacks & refreshments for us.

Regarding Dr. Barkay's popularity, I commented to Drs. Zuckerman & Lundberg that we should auction him on eBay to the highest bidder! (Dr. Barkay just smiled.)

Around this time, Dr. Lundberg continued showing me some PTM photos on the computer, & after finishing his snack, Dr. Barkay rejoined us, & I showed him some more pages on the LMLK Research website. The description that follows is not in exact chronological order, but is culled from my faulty memory, & includes some pages we visited while discussing my antiquities earlier in the meeting.

As a launching point, I went to, & showed them the contribution that Joe Zias made to the Dealers page. I asked if anyone knew who he was, & they all did. Somebody even said with a little reluctant drama in their voice, "Everybody knows him." Let's just say it wasn't exactly the same level of affection heard when asking someone who knows Dr. Barkay if they know who Dr. Barkay is!

I briefly explained the story behind the IAA permit shown there in the context of the difference between my fake LMLK handle & Kris Udd's excellent replicas contrasted with genuine artifacts exported via the IAA, & someone asked humorously, "But how do we know that your permit isn't fake?" I just chuckled. For you readers who are aspiring criminal investigators, I would invite you to go to the IAA, peruse their files for the original permit dated to January of this year, & then ask them if they're in the business of faking permits, or faking Amir Ganor's signature & seal! And if the copy I'm displaying proudly is fake, I'm sure they'd have more than a passing interest in investigating the matter ... you wouldn't have to tWist their proverbial arm very hard!

Next, I went to the new lobby-page of the LMLK Philatelic Museum. (I showed Drs. Zuckerman & Lundberg one of the 1948 LMLK first-day covers.) Dr. Barkay immediately asked me if I knew Andre Lemaire.

For blog readers not familiar with LMLK research, Dr. Lemaire published the most recent & respected scholarly classification of LMLK seals in 1981. I began publishing my own system online in 2002, & formally published them in my first book in 2004. I included 2 seal designs that Dr. Lemaire explicitly rejected as being unique when he studied them way back then. To his credit, Dr. Lemaire did not have access to additional photos that I do, nor to the computer graphics that greatly aided my analysis of the impressions.

I explained to Dr. Barkay that Dr. Lemaire has a copy of my book & seal template, & thanked me for them upon receipt, but I have not heard any comments from him since. Dr. Barkay paid me a tremendous compliment by saying (with regard to the 2 controversial seals that I named S2DR & Z4CY), "You are right. Lemaire is wrong." Notice that it wasn't, "I think you're right", or "You may be right". He went on to say that he believed there may have been 25-30 LMLK seals. I did not challenge him on this speculation, but it's based on the possibility of other extremely rare specimens, for which I too have cautiously reserved spaces in the Wikipedia entry for "LMLK seal" (21 known + 5 possible others = 26).

As I scrolled down on the Museum page, he stopped me, & asked me, "Can you go back to that Mamshat one?" (Note that I don't actually recall exactly how he pronounced MMST, nor how he would spell it in an English transliteration; his publications simply use "mmst", but on this occasion, he vocalized it.) He was referring to the exceedingly rare M2T he had published on behalf of the late Nahman Avigad. It suddenly dawned on me that he had done this, & I said, "Oh, yeah, that's the one you recently published ... look, there's your name!" I regret not asking him if he knew where it was currently located, or who did the photography. You can't imagine how thrilling this was for me to be able to show off my web-publishing handiwork, at the same time showing off Dr. Barkay's scholarly handiwork with him sitting right there next to me!

This is the stuff dreams are made of! Even now, drafting this part of the blog a week later, it boggles my mind that God blessed me with this experience! I can imagine myself living at the end of the 19th century ... over a hundred years ago ... having the opportunity to sit at a table beside Charles Warren, & showing him some crude drawings of LMLK seals I made, along with credits to him for the first specimens he found in Jerusalem!

It is much to Dr. Barkay's credit that he travels around the world to meet with so many scholars & researchers, & takes the time to consider their opinions, rather than simply sit in a university office during the day, grade some papers, write some articles, then call it a day & go home to enjoy other pursuits. He's totally entitled to that, but these matters of Biblical history & archeology are genuinely in his soul.

" heart standeth in awe of Thy word!"--Psalm 119:161

While on the subject of Avigad, I read to Dr. Barkay an excerpt from the doctoral thesis of Larry Stager at Harvard, who reported a personal conversation with Avigad back in the 1970s, wherein Avigad questioned the idea that Circles indicated a cancellation system because of their being post-fired incisions, noting that he had found a specimen that might've been incised before firing. Dr. Barkay stated that he examined every handle from Avigad's excavation, & not only found no such incision, but even discussed the matter with Avigad before he died, & that he knew of no such specimen.

The page I went to most frequently on this occasion was the Corpus. I think the initial purpose was when he asked me how many LMLKs are in my collection. I told him I keep count of all known specimens there. The first thing I mentioned when the page appeared on the computer screen, was essentially what it says at the top of the page, namely that it was based upon Andy Vaughn's work.

Dr. Barkay quickly interrupted me noting that he helped Dr. Vaughn acquire the data, & I just-as-quickly showed him that I had recognized that in my statement at the top, "The bulk of this corpus is taken from ... Andy's dissertation ... in which he draws upon ... collaboration with Dr. Gabriel Barkay."

This was another really cool moment, where he didn't respond verbally, but just smiled as he stared at the screen!

At the top of the list is the Unprovenanced category, at the top of which is Michael Welch with 201 (currently). Dr. Barkay asked me if I've seen them, & I said I photographed about half of them, but haven't had the time to do the other half yet because I've been working full-time (as an engineer).

Next he asked me very humorously, "Why does [Welch] need so many?" Again, I chuckled! I could tell from the tone of his voice that he wasn't saying, "He should not be allowed to have so many", but rather, "That's incredible that he has so many". I told him that I've never asked Mike that question, but I said that he's bought some groups of handles from dealers who probably didn't know if there were any rare specimens in the bunch, & that was a good way to acquire some.

Note that the Welch collection contains several incredibly rare stamps, particularly the only known Type 484 with an impression from an incredibly rare seal (the aforementioned Z4CY) known only from pithos handles, although I did not highlight this particular one on this occasion.

When we visited Mike's page, I quickly highlighted his credit to Dr. Barkay in the first paragraph of his personal commentary, then scrolled down the page, not looking for anything in particular, but just giving the 3 scholars a feel for the amount of content there. I paused over Mike's handle-statistics, & the links to his Rosettes, clicking on #9, which was the basis for Kris Udd's replica.

Here I want to pronounce a curse on the Macintosh OS. We were browsing my site with Firefox, & it was bad enough that I had to rely upon the laptop's frustrating fingerpad instead of a mouse for navigating (it required a 2-finger stroke for scrolling down a web page), but the really frustrating thing was not being able to pop open new windows for each handle page so that I could quickly close them to get back to the previous page. Instead, I had to clumsily 1-finger stroke my way up to the Back button. And if this were a function of Firefox's setup rather than Mac's OS, trust me, I'm sure I could find much else to complain about, but that's not the subject of this blog.

I continued scrolling down, & paused at Mike's two rare H2T stamps, pointing out that one contains a fantastic specimen of the best-known Het for that design, while the other contains the characteristic Nun, similar to the recently found specimen at Nebi Samwil. I think it was Dr. Barkay who said this letter's tail may actually represent a Kaf, but I quickly noted that it's very easy to distinguish the Kaf on any of the other seals from the H2T's Nun by using my template. (I can note here with 20/20 hindsight that the G2T is the only design with the Kaf near the icon's head, & its tail is very curvy, while this Nun's tail is relatively straight.)

This might have been the point where I showed everyone my 8.5 x 11" plastic templates that I use for scrutinizing LMLK photos. I explained how I overlay it on the screen to do comparisons & make small adjustments. (This would've been a great opportunity for me to overlay the G2T & H2T to show the obvious difference between the 2 letters near the left of the icon's head.) Dr. Zuckerman noted that I could do the same thing strictly with software, & expressed surprise that I would use this technique, but I explained that it was the method I'm most comfortable with. I told them that this box of templates was my most prized possession since anyone can acquire an antiquity, but this box represents a unique contribution to science.

The next one I paused on was Mike's H2U ID#26 with an obvious fingerprint remaining in the clay. Earlier in the day when we were discussing PTM, Dr. Barkay had wondered if it could be used to analyze fingerprints on LMLK handles, & thereby match people with particular seals. That would be fun & interesting if a large number of handles preserved substantial fingerprints, but alas, most do not.

Next, we paused on Mike's M2T ID#40 with a mysterious incised inscription. I asked Dr. Barkay for his opinion of its possible authenticity or identification. He confidently said it looked genuine, but could not translate it. Dr. Lundberg asked if this indicated a late secondary use of the jar, but Dr. Barkay said this were not necessarily the case.

In hindsight, I regret not pausing on his Z2D ID#50 with a clearer fingerprint (anyone in the future who wants to analyze LMLK fingerprints would have to include that one), but I was scrolling rather quickly, then went back to the Corpus page, then on to my Redondo page.

Our first stop was the "Servant of Hezekiah" bulla, & we agreed it would be a great candidate for PTM. I only scrolled down to the initial photos of my specimen, & did not discuss the person named on the seal. (Time kept ticking, & its preciousness was exacerbated by the very loud actual ticking of a clock in the room where we were!)

Earlier, Dr. Barkay had asked if I had any Personal handles. I told him I had one of the 4-winged snakes like the one already published in the Avigad/Sass corpus (WSS = "Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals"), so this was the next page we visited. He was very anxious to read the letters on it & make notes in his notebook, then I went to the Personals page where I have a photo of my specimen adjacent to the one published in WSS. I regret not taking the time to discuss the alternate readings for this seal; when I clicked to my page with detailed photos, I immediately scrolled down past my text to the photos for him to see, then never thought of scrolling back up.

When he read the letters, he emphasized the B & N for "son" between the wings. I disagree with that reading, but my frame of mind was not in Argument mode ... I simply wanted to show him as much as possible, & hear as much from him as possible, & that only intensified as 1:45 approached!

The only other link I clicked on back on my Redondo page was the Buddhist jar to show everyone my photographs, & they agreed that it was represented as well as could be expected for such a complex object. There in the room, the lighting obscured the feline stamp's details, but they were impressed with my photo. Unfortunately, we did not have time to discuss exactly which species of feline it could've been (Dr. Barkay had mentioned that he wasn't sure), or what it signified for that culture.

On my page, I did not even scroll down through the stamps, but at some point, I asked Dr. Barkay about the pithos from his own collection used for Jane Cahill's Rosette-chemistry research, conducted with Joseph Yellin. Back when we were discussing Andre Lemaire's classification, Dr. Barkay mentioned that he himself had discovered the pithos handles at the Bade Institute that had been excavated decades before Anson Rainey found what he had believed to be the first known LMLK specimen.

First we went to my Nasbeh page where we looked at both specimens I photographed, which Dr. Barkay acknowledged as being the ones he was talking about, then we went to the Pithos page, & I showed him Jane Cahill's article in IEJ vol. 54 #2, where she specifically references "G. Barkay (private collection)". He said, "Yes, that one actually belongs to Judge Adler." And when I showed him my ID#16, he said it used to be his, which confirms what the dealer, Robert Deutsch, had told me when I acquired it. I asked him about the obvious hole in the LMLK inscription, & he was just as puzzled by me as to how it got there, or when it happened. He also affirmed that the pithos Andy listed as belonging to an anonymous "Collection in Israel" was this one used in the chemical analysis via neutron activation. However, since Steve Adler is already listed twice therein, I'm going to leave everything as it is on the website until someone publishes photos of the handle. According to Dr. Barkay when asked about its seal type, "It's just like the one from Beersheba", which means Z4CY.

This brief mention of Nasbeh prompted me to ask Dr. Barkay his opinion of Yitzhak Magen's recent article in BAR magazine, where he presented evidence for identifying Biblical Mizpah with Nebi Samwil. Dr. Barkay replied simply, "I am not convinced. I think Jeffrey Zorn had the final word on the identification of Mizpah."

Likewise, I asked his opinion of the theory being promoted by Oded Lipschits that Ramat Rahel was built & occupied primarily by Assyrians. He said (& bear in mind that all the quotes in this blog series are paraphrased from my faulty memory),"There is not a single shred of evidence for an Assyrian presence there. An Assyrian site that was within spitting distance of Jerusalem??! I live in Jerusalem, & can see it not far from my home. I excavated there for a season..."

When I asked about the elaborate garden associated by Dr. Lipschits indirectly with the famous Babylonian Wonder of the ancient world, he pointed out that there were numerous gardens in & around Judah, "Look, a garden is a garden. There is a garden in [A], a garden in [B], a garden in [C]..." He listed several specific places in ancient Israel that I can't remember, so I inserted variables in brackets.

Dr. Barkay had published his own opinion of Ramat Rahel back in the Sep/Oct 2006 issue of BAR, tying its foundation to none other than King Hezekiah himself. From his excellent memory, he rattled off a list of Judean artifacts found there, then rattled off a list of artifacts reported so far by Dr. Lipschits, some of which are Neo-Assyrian in period, but of Judean manufacture, not exclusive in typology to Assyrians.

Furthermore, he said Dr. Lipschits did not originate this idea (note that I am not aware that Dr. Lipschits has promoted it as his own idea anywhere, so please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here), but rather it was Lipschits' professor at Tel Aviv University, Nadav Na'aman (winner of TAU's highly coveted Most Unhappy-Looking Person In a Photo award), who suggested it in a peer-reviewed publication (Tel Aviv vol. 28, 2001, pp. 260-80). Another interesting point is that Dr. Barkay said he refuted this idea in his BAR article, but it was edited from the published version!

For the record, I like & admire both gentlemen, & believe that it's more likely that King Hezekiah established it (per Dr. Barkay), & that the Assyrians also built on it & occupied it (per Dr. Lipschits), but during the reign of Manasseh, not Hezekiah (that's why I challenged him on this point back in November at the San Diego conference).

Back to the website, we clicked through other private collections. Dr. Barkay knew about these:

He did not know about these:

As some of the photos are poor quality, I noted that I'm helpless about, but grateful for, any that collectors share with me.

He was particularly shocked & somewhat upset by this latter specimen because he had just been there earlier in the week, & nobody had told him about it. I suggested that maybe it was no longer in their possession since it had only been loaned by Tzila & Bernard Weiss for a temporary exhibit back in 2005.

I was particularly shocked that none of these 3 scholars knew about the Albuquerque museum, nor of the new excavations at a site in Jordan believed with excellent reasoning by Dr. Steven Collins to be Biblical Sodom (although I respectfully disagree with him even though I've made minor financial contributions to his project).

I specifically asked him if he knew which type was represented on the one owned by Dr. Charlesworth, which I've been hoping to find out about for a long time. He said it was of very poor quality that he uses as a show-&-tell curiosity to see if people can guess what it is.

We also visited the USC-handle page, which I noted was the first handle-photo donated to the site by Dr. Zuckerman & Dr. Lundberg on behalf of their West Semitic Research Project. (As I was preparing for the meeting, I embarrassingly realized that I had never added them to the general Credits page, which I will soon remedy; their contribution was so early when the site was so small, that I had no idea that one day there would be so many people to thank!) Dr. Zuckerman opened a very hi-res photo of the handle on his computer, & asked about the strange Mem where the tail descends from the middle of the 3 head-strokes. I quickly pointed out that this was probably due to a hand-shift on this particular impression, & not part of a unique seal design. I challenged him to re-examine the handle, where he'd probably see a different impression-angle in the clay between the top part & the main part. The top part was probably stabbed, & I showed them my Stamp Tricks page.

I regret not taking the time to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Corpus page to show Dr. Barkay the totals & other statistics, but we got sidetracked to the Geography page.

Speaking of sidetracks, I think I have enough material for a 3rd installation, so I'll take a sidetrack here for now, & invite y'all back next week!

Song of the week: "So Many Things" by Sarah Brightman (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 30-second sample; 369kb).
G.M. Grena

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Barkay, Zuckerman, & Lundberg (p. 1)

Out of the clear blue sky on Wednesday morning last week, Bruce Zuckerman notified me that Gabriel Barkay was in town, & wanted to meet with me & see some of my antiquities. He also informed me of an imaging technique called Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), & wanted to see if there could be some mutually beneficial collaboration between my LMLK research, & their Inscriptifact database.

As I quickly learned, PTM has been around for several years. The executable currently offered on Hewlett-Packard's website was compiled on September 11, 2001 (something positive to counterbalance the evil of that day).

By Thursday night, I had constructed my first PTM file for Redondo Beach handle ID #62! This software enabled me to combine the 8 shots I normally take of each seal impression from alternate lighting angles, & then it renders millions of other versions of the seal by solving a biquadratic polynomial equation for the color values of each pixel, or what it expects the value would be based on the 8 known values.

It's fairly simple once you learn the basic concept. You construct an LP (light position) file, which is simply a list of all the filenames followed by their normalized Cartesian-coordinate values, preceded by the number of files:

C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_n_crop.jpg 0.0 0.4 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_s_crop.jpg 0.0 -0.4 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_e_crop.jpg 0.4 0.0 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_w_crop.jpg -0.4 0.0 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_nw_crop.jpg -0.4 0.4 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_se_crop.jpg 0.4 -0.4 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_sw_crop.jpg -0.4 -0.4 0.5
C:\GG2\Museum\redondo\gg62_imp_ne_crop.jpg 0.4 0.4 0.5

The order of the coordinates is X, Y, Z. So the first one listed there, which was taken with the light positioned "north" of the seal (i.e., above the icon's head shining towards its tail), is "0.0" in the X-axis (it remains centered), 40% of the way in the positive Y-axis, & 50% of the way in the Z-axis (above the plane of the seal impression).

The PTMfitter executable runs under the old DOS environment (the Windows "Command Prompt" accessory program), receives the LP file as an input, & outputs a PTM file. When I used the original hi-res JPG files from the camera (3648 x 2736 pixels), each of which is about 2.5 Mb, the PTM file was about 90 Mb. This is too much for my computer to handle (probably due to my low-grade video card ... I don't play video games). When I reduced each of the original files to 10%, or about 15 kb each, the PTM file was only about 880 kb ... far more manageable.

There were a few learning-curve bumps along the way. My original filenames have uppercase ".JPG" extensions, & the program demands lowercase. Also there are several switches that the DOS command can take, but I found the default to be sufficient via trial & error. I also experimented with the XYZ values since I never recorded the actual positions that I held the light in.

Finally, you can drag the PTM file in Windows Explorer over to the PTMviewer executable, which will then launch a new DOS window, & also the viewer window. Here you can drag your mouse over a circle as if you're controlling a virtual lightbulb, & view the seal impression from any lighting angle. There's also a feature called Specular Enhancement, that alters the image in such a way that it looks glossy wet, sort of like the difference between a dry donut, & one with a thick, delicious layer of sugary glazed icing!

I'm hoping to create a special web page giving complete instructions for downloading the PTMviewer, but for now, I'm going to return to Dr. Barkay while it's fresh in my mind.

Dr. Zuckerman invited me to his West Semitic Research Project office, & Dr. Barkay, & also Dr. Marilyn Lundberg were there when I arrived at 10:25 Saturday morning (yesterday; there were several other people there as well). It was great to see them, but it's always such a treat to see Dr. Barkay. I know God cares about each of us very deeply, but there has to be a special heavenly spotlight on the man who led the excavation where the oldest Biblical texts were discovered! But it was a tremendous honor to be able to spend this time with them all!

Drs. Lundberg & Zuckerman showed me one of their specially constructed lighting domes. It's sort of like a miniature planetarium with 32 clusters of super-brite white LEDs evenly spaced in 4 levels at the 8 positions similar to the ones I use. It's controlled by the same electronic device used in model railroading to switch powered accessories. They were happy to show it to me because they're planning to ship it to the Oriental Institute in Chicago soon so the PTM technology can be applied to the vast quantities of artifacts stored there (particularly their cuneiform tablets).

They also gave me additional demonstrations of the software on their own laptop. It was nice to see what this new technology can do for researchers, but it's also nice to see the enthusiasm of these 2 people! They really enjoy capturing the best possible images of artifacts so that other people can study them from afar. It's refreshing because over the years, I've mostly worked with technically knowledgeable people in the engineering realm who just do it for a paycheck ... very much like prostitutes, & that's unfortunate.

Next, I began showing them my specially selected stuff (out of about 300 artifacts I currently own) ... things that I hoped Dr. Barkay would find interesting despite the thousands of artifacts he's excavated & studied over the years, things that I was interested in hearing his opinions on, & things that Drs. Zuckerman & Lundberg would find interesting &/or challenging to photograph.

The first thing I showed them was my fake LMLK handle that I made in Albuquerque back in 2004 at a symposium. This prompted Dr. Barkay to mention the fabulous replicas made by Kris Udd, which in turn prompted me to show everyone the Rosette replica he made at my request of one from Michael Welch's collection (ID #9) to commemorate my meeting with Jane Cahill last year. He was even more impressed with this one than he was with the LMLK replicas, & rightly so ... it's truly exquisite!

Next, I showed him the Buddhist jar fragment I acquired from the famous Bruce Ferrini collection, that was liquidated earlier this year. (I was surprised that nobody had ever heard of him!) This prompted a brief discussion of the only known complete jar, owned by Harvey Herbert, on display at the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn. Dr. Barkay commented on how surprised he was to learn of it, & emphasized how rare it was.

If I recall correctly, which is doubtful, this was the first occasion for me to visit LMLK Dotcom on the laptop PC available there ... we were all gathered around one end of a large table. We referenced it several times throughout the morning, but it was very convenient to hear Dr. Barkay comment on an artifact, & then I was able to say, "Yeah, that's right here on this page of the website..."

At some point Dr. Barkay noticed the silver LMLK-ostracon ring I was wearing on my hand, & I told him it was a gift someone got for me when visiting the Eretz Israel Museum near the excavation site of Tell Qasile. I was able to load the LMLK Ostraca page, & we discussed whether or not the 2 that were found there were authentic. Dr. Barkay expressed complete confidence that they were authentic, though I suggested that the non-LMLK one that mentions "gold of Ophir" might have been forged to follow up on the notoriety of the authentic LMLK one. I think it was Dr. Lundberg who commented on the completely different Mems indicating that it was forged, but Dr. Barkay said it was not likely that a forger would incise 2 different ones, & that to the contrary, this indicated that it was genuine.

Now that I think about it, this may indicate 2 different scribes--one who wrote "LMLK" as a sort of signature before or during the transaction, & another who wrote the rest of it during, or possibly afterward ... or vice versa. It's impossible to say because the artifact is obviously fragmentary.

Next, I showed everybody a special pair of LMLK handles, ID #s 63 & 64. In one of the E-mails I had exchanged with Dr. Zuckerman prior to the meeting, I said:

"Another important application for PTM in my own research is with handle matching. As you know, most LMLK handles are individual specimens, & aside from David Ussishkin's tremendous work at Lachish, very rarely have excavators been able to restore them. However, it would be nice to know which handles found at a site might have once belonged to the same 4-handled jar. Here are 2 sample pages in which I considered many aspects of a pair of unprovenanced handles:

ID #s 63 & 64

ID #s 36 & 37

Ultimately, it would be nice to have a database of PTM photos from each site, or at least from the major sites like Lachish, Rahel, Gibeon, Nasbeh, & Shemesh, so we could take the number of handles, analyze their wheel-rings & other criteria, & scientifically narrow down how many jars they actually represent.

I was able to go to the Handle Matching page, & briefly discuss these other factors. By the way, all the time I was showing these artifacts, Dr. Barkay was jotting down notes in cursive-Hebrew in a thick notebook ... it looked like it was already about 3/4's full on this occasion.

Next I showed the deeply impressed H2D handle I mentioned earlier (ID #62) along with a very shallow one that can't be identified (ID #61). Until just now, I didn't realize that out of my 68 LMLKs, I had taken these 4 consecutive numbers (61-4)! Dr. Barkay noticed the marks near the shallow icon's tail that seemed to form the head of a Mem, but he agreed that they were probably coincidental. I can see them now, but until he pointed them out, I had not noticed them. And he observed all of these things without the aid of a magnifying glass; I was very impressed!

Next I showed him 3 non-LMLK handles:

He spent some time analyzing this latter specimen, & commenting on it. He had written a chapter in Avigad's "Jewish Quarter Excavations vol. 1" about similar 8th-century B.C. incisions, & though he had no doubt about its authenticity, he noted that he had never seen this particular form. Although sometimes a letter or letter-shape was incised on bowls, he did not believe this was a letter (I referred to it as a "Vau-Incision" on the web page I made for it). I think it was Dr. Lundberg who asked if it could've been a potter's mark, but Dr. Barkay said it definitely was not, because a potter would've marked it before firing it, whereas this was incised after the firing. He noted that the incision ductus looked authentic, because the method used back then was with a tool shaped like a flat-head screwdriver made of bronze or iron.

By the way, I just want to interject here that I don't really care about the authenticity of any of these non-LMLK artifacts. The main reason I collect them is to study specimens similar to the real ones that are usually not displayed in museums, because they're generally not considered works of art that would impress the average Joe visiting a museum. It's less expensive for me to buy one, than it would be for me to travel to a museum, & hope the curator would allow me to examine their archive. I'm also planning to publish them in LMLK vol. 2, & I don't want to waste my time trying to get permission to publish specimens from provenanced excavations, & then have to pay for a photograph that doesn't show what I want to show.

Other non-LMLK items I showed on this occasion that I've not published yet:
  • an ostracon with an ink inscription (practice hieroglyphs of an Egyptian "A"; Dr. Barkay identified it as Hellenistic-era script)

  • a bowl/cup with a linear alphabet incised inside of it (similar to Aramaic incantation bowls; all 3 scholars said they had never seen anything like it, though there is one clear Tet ... an "X" within a circle, which was shared with the early alphabetic scripts)

  • a hematite cylinder seal with cuneiform wedges & typical glyptic art including a 2-winged light (I think it was Dr. Zuckerman who noted that X-rays could help determine the authenticity since mass-produced fakes would have a single perforation, but genuine ancient specimens or good modern fakes would've been drilled from each end slightly out-of-sync with each other when they meet in the middle; Dr. Barkay agreed with me that the wedges looked fake, or at least carved by a different person, & I think it was Dr. Lundberg who noted that sometimes the artist would carve the scene & leave a blank space for whomever bought it)

  • an all-wire seal with a duplicated inscription (for lack of a better description; Dr. Barkay was not able to decipher the script; he suggested it may be from an eastern culture, but it was of a type that would be heated up & used for branding farm animals)

  • a plastic button made by Charles Goodyear's India Rubber Company, with an 1851 patent mark (a great item for PTM photography because of its curvy & shiny surface)

  • a finger-ring with a scaraboid seal with the shallow incision of a menorah (Dr. Barkay noted that he wasn't an expert on menorahs, but if it's genuine, it's of the early type without the crossbar connecting the branches; the ring has a wire running through the scarab's perforation, & I asked if there were any chance it could be genuine since I doubted such a delicate construction could've survived all these centuries; he said that my specimen didn't look genuine, but he has personally excavated some that were still intact!)

  • a rectangular cuneiform tablet on which the text wraps around one edge from front to back (Dr. Zuckerman attempted to read it, but it's not an easy tablet to read)

  • a small, broken fragment from a cuneiform tablet's outer "envelope" with seal impressions

This is a good "breaking" point ... much more next week!

Song of the week: "Good To See You" by Vangelis (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 30-second sample; 393kb).
G.M. Grena

Sunday, May 11, 2008

King Over Time

The May 2008 issue of Photonics Spectra magazine contains an interview, "The Importance of Trust" (pp. 42-3), with Howard R. Schlossberg, who holds a PhD from MIT (see the original article for his impressive list of technical accomplishments). When asked how he makes a judgment call on who he trusts to fund research, he replied, "By spending time in their locations or in conferences to get to know people. The longer you know them, the more you trust them."


I've emphasized on numerous occasions that I believe God created humans to get the one thing that can't be created: Trust/Faithfulness. Life provides each of us the opportunity to spend some time getting to know God, & the more I learn about God (primarily through the Bible, but also through observations in my immediate environment, & from stories by other people), the more I trust God.

The writer of the Hebrews epistle highlights the faithfulness of Moses contrasted against the faithlessness of the other Israelites, then quotes God in Psalm 95:10 lamenting with disgust, "they have not known My ways." Like Moses, they could see God's actions, & they responded to God's actions, but never demonstrated an ability to function well on autopilot. For whatever reason, they just didn't care. God didn't interest them.

Earlier this year while searching for info on the Yod & Kaf suffixes as used in Hebrew grammar, I discovered The Bible Wheel. The best representations of it are available on this Introduction page.

According to his FAQ page, "Richard Amiel McGough, the sole owner, author, and developer of [the] website, discovered the Bible Wheel on the morning of May 12, 1995." (Even though I first learned of it months ago, it's amazing that it didn't even dawn on me until I began proofreading the draft of this blog entry that its 13-year anniversary is tomorrow!)

Basically, he found a clever way of combining & arranging the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet with the 66 canonical Bible books, such that the 22 pizza-slice "spokes" of the wheel form 7 major divisions on 3 levels ("cycles"):

1-5 Torah; 23-27 Major Prophets; 45-49 (major Pauline) NT Epistles

6-17 OT History; 28-39 Minor Prophets; 50-61 (minor) NT Epistles

18-22 Wisdom Literature; 40-44 NT History; 62-66 (Jude/John) NT Epistles

(Note that I contrived the parenthetical/adjectival prefixes to the NT Epistles.) Yes, I'm aware that the OT subdivision doesn't follow that of the TNK (The Wheel's irrelevant without the NT), & that Luke's gospel & Acts are a letter/epistle written to somebody specific, while John's Revelation is not in the format of a letter written to somebody specific (it would make more sense to call the inner wheel "NT Writings" than "NT Epistles"). Still, there are so many fascinating coincidences that apply primarily to the Protestant version of the canon, arranged in this 2-dimensional circle!

In particular, notice as highlighted on the website, the alignment of the first, & arguably most important books of the Law, Prophets, & Epistles: Genesis, Isaiah, & Romans (essentially "The Gospel According to Paul", arguably with more "good news" than the 4 gospels). Although I'm impressed by The Wheel's juxtaposition of Exodus & Jeremiah (i.e., being freed vs. being captured), I'm not sure I perceive any relevance that can justifiably tie into 1Corinthians (people who should be freed from earthly desires were ironically suffering spiritually from being captured by them?).

Another neat coincidence is the contiguous arrangement of the post-Exilic books of Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther with Haggai, Zechariah, & Malachi. Also the notion that Job may have been the earliest written OT book, lining up with Matthew, who probably wrote the sayings of Jesus, therefore qualifying as the earliest NT writer. But again, I can't think of any connection to the "NT epistles" on the inner circle, so the coincidences seem to fade there a bit too.

Something else I never recognized before (see The Inner Wheels page) was the coincidence of Isaiah containing 66 chapters, also divided into 1-39 & 40-66 by its content like the Bible itself (assuming that chapter 35 doesn't actually belong to "Deutero-Isaiah", which is a fair possibility if there was only one real prophet); & the division of Revelation into 22 chapters like the Hebrew alphabet. These 2 coincidences are independent of The Wheel, but still fun stuff to contemplate!

Getting back to the Yod & Kaf suffixes, even if you think The Wheel is a ridiculous conjecture, Richard's discussion of these 2 letters is the best that I found on the Internet. They tie in nicely with my brief mentioning in Lv1 (pp. 30) of what may have been the original pictographic meanings associated with the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.

I deliberately omitted anything specific for Kaf & Yod in my book (I'm planning to comment on all the letters in Lv2), but I have a far better understanding now of the difference between these pictographs--instead of just a hand & an arm (respectively), a spread-fingered open hand at the end of an extended arm, vs. an entire arm terminating in a clenched-fist (no visible fingers); & the signification of 2nd-person possessive (your/yours) vs. 1st-person possessive (my/mine).

That highly attractive gal, Ms. Serendipity, paid me yet another visit as I perused the site, & found its "Ancient Witness" page. Here he quotes rabbi/physicist Aryeh Kaplan associating the Hebrew word "galgal" (for "wheel") with the Hebrew alphabet, & stating in his commentary, "the Galgal is depicted as king over time."

The commentary referred to is Sepher Yetzirah ("Book of Creation/Formation"), a non-canonical Jewish religious text dating back many centuries, much utilized by kabbalists. McGough mentioned 2 other kings for 2 Hebrew letters, but this inspired me to seek the association of the other 20 as well (via 2 English translations I found online; the one I linked to above, & this alternate rendering):
  1. Alef: King over Air

  2. Bet: King over Wisdom

  3. Gimel: King over Health/Wealth

  4. Dalet: King over Fertility

  5. Hey: King over Speech

  6. Vau: King over Mind/Thought

  7. Zayin: King over Movement

  8. Het: King over Sight

  9. Tet: King over Hearing

  10. Yod: King over Labor/Work

  11. Kaf: King over Life

  12. Lamed: King over Sex

  13. Mem: King over Water

  14. Nun: King over Smell

  15. Samek: King over Sleep

  16. Oyin: King over Anger

  17. Pey: King over Power

  18. Tsade: King over Taste

  19. Quf: King over Mirth

  20. Resh: King over Peace

  21. Shin: King over Fire

  22. Tau: King over Beauty/Grace

Most of those don't make any sense to me (though Mem=water is obvious), but now the most frequently used letter in LMLK seals certainly has a whole new meaning!

Ultimately, I didn't learn anything new about God directly from this Wheel or Sepher, but they did serve as an interesting backdrop to other studies within the Bible.

Song of the week ... toughest choice yet! But out of 12 candidates, I had to pick the one by a "gal" that works on so many different levels: "Circle In The Sand" by Belinda Carlisle (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 25-second sample; 328kb).
G.M. Grena

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Bitter Butterflies

Not that I like to rub a point in ... oh, wait ... actually I do like to rub a point in!

Last month, the Natural History Museum in London opened a special exhibit on butterflies!

"Amazing Butterflies" runs from April 5th to August 17th (2008), & features a giant maze & butterfly house inviting visitors to "explore the life cycle of some of the world’s most beautiful creatures this summer."

Seemingly in natural harmony with the museum, on April 15th the U.K.'s Royal Mail issued a new series of 10 first-class stamps of endangered UK insects, including 2 butterflies & 3 beetles!

"Many insect species are endangered, but thanks to work by conservationists, their future is brighter. To draw attention to their plight and spread the good news, Royal Mail has issued a stunning set of Insect Special Stamps chosen from collections at the Natural History Museum. Butterfly Conservation was formed by a small group of dedicated naturalists in 1968 to halt and reverse the alarming decline of many beautiful butterflies. Now there are over 12,000 members and 31 volunteer branches throughout the British Isles."

Interesting details in their descriptions that accompany collectible philatelic material:

"Enlarged images of the ten Special Stamps, allow you to look closely at the wonderfully complex structure of the body parts, legs and wings of these tiny invertebrates."

Too bad they didn't consult with me on this project. I would've recommended that they issue complementary stamps featuring wonderfully simple artist-representations of the earliest living organisms these tiny invertebrates must have evolved from billions of years ago. Their literature could also then provide some reference to scientific literature explaining the process that led to these wonderfully complex structures ... oh, that's right ... I almost forgot; there is no known process--a less-complex to more-complex change has never been observed by a single scientist (in the great Great Britain or elsewhere).

Earlier I said "seemingly in harmony" because Royal Mail is also offering discount vouchers for the museum. But actually, I'm not the one that Royal Mail has a conflict with (I love all things royal!). They ticked off (insect-pun intended) the U.K.'s Butterfly Conservation organization! Here are some quotations from a protest letter they sent to RM on April 30th:

"There is mounting concern, anger and bafflement over the fact that the Royal Mail has issued a set of stamps with images of dead butterflies and a dead moth on them. ... We here at Butterfly Conservation have been trying to steer individuals away from the practice of pinning dead butterflies and moths for years, and yet you seem to want to encourage it. ... You wouldn’t issue stamps with image of dead birds or dead cows on them, so why dead butterflies? ... These images are nauseating and are the very opposite of conservation. ... What makes the error all the more devastating is that there are hundreds of fantastic images of live butterflies and moths."

Can't help but wonder if anyone at this organization is concerned over aborted human babies, or over teaching non-aborted children that they evolved from randomly mutated chemical elements. I wonder if these butterfly enthusiasts consider those practices "nauseating" & "devastating".

LMLK fans will recall that archeologist R.A.S. Macalister initially suggested in the July 1899 issue of PEQ (written by F.J. Bliss) that the 4-winged icon represented a butterfly. (Recounted on Lv1 p. 121.)

Seems like no matter what aspect of the royal seals I study, there's always a conflict.

Well, at least we all can agree on some things ... like which modern excavation sites belong to the ancient cities of Jerusalem, Lachish, Gibeon, & Mizpah...

Song of the week: "The Flyer" by Saga (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 28-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena