Month: September 2019

Month: September 2019

Semitic Words in Greek

The tube stop just outside the tower of London, June 2019. I don’t entirely understand the topography, but anything higher than the walls is out of bowshot of the moat (currently drained and replaced with a dry ditch, and the water gate is only accessible through a long tunnel).

Back in 2013, Jerker Blomqvist took the time to compare three books on Semitic words in ancient Greek texts. Scholars often disagree about which arguments are “certain,” “probable,” or to be “rejected.” Out of about 400 words which have been seen as loans, he found about 25 which are accepted by all three authorities:
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Cross-Post: Oxbow Books Sale

Oxbow Books, purveyors of choice tomes on archaeology, history, and ethnology, is having a spring and summer sale. If your purse is deeper and your dwelling is wider than mine, check it out! I have picked out some titles which my gentle readers might be interested in.

  • Rose Mary Sheldon, Ambush! Surprise Attack in Ancient Greek Warfare (Frontline Books, 2012) {Sheldon, John Lynn, and Myke Cole- soldiers or the teachers of soldiers- are doing the work of rebutting some false and bigoted ideas about the ancients in a form that ordinary people actually read}
  • Neil Price, The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia Second Edition (Oxbow Books, 2019) GBP 30 {big ideas book on ritual magic in the Norse world which combines the sagas, archaeology, and modern ethnography/comparative religion}
  • Alireza Askari Chaverdi & Pierfrancesco Callieri, Tang-E Bolaghi (Fars) Sites TB76 and TB77: Rural Settlements of the Achaemenid and Post-Achaemenid Periods (Archaeopress, 2016) GBP 43 {the first published excavation of a rural site from Achaemenid Fars!}
  • B. V. Andrianov and Simone Mantellini, Ancient Irrigation Systems of the Aral Sea Area. American School of Prehistoric Research Monographs (Oxbow, 2016) GBP 13 {apparently a translation of a work from the 1970s, but data does not go out of date like interpretations do and Rudenko published when Stalin was still alive}
  • Daniel T. Potts, Nomadism in Iran (Oxford University Press, 2014) {argues that until the Turkish migrations of the 11th century CE, most herders in Iran lived in villages and sent only a few people to watch the flocks when they migrated to distant pastures. A similar book by Silvia Balatti is on my to-read list}
  • Melanie Schuessler Bond, Dressing the Scottish Court 1543-1553: Clothing in the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. Medieval and Renaissance Clothing and Textiles volume 3 (Boydell & Brewer, 2019)
  • Cecilie Brøns, Gods and Garments: Textiles in Greek Sanctuaries (Oxbow Books, 2016) GPB 15 {heavily discounted! books like this are best purchased when they are published, because rare copies become very expensive}

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Was Hadrian’s Wall Proceeded by an Earth-and-Post Construction?

Hadrian’s wall across Britain has left complex traces in the forms of trenches, pits, scraps of stonework which were not salvaged by later farmers and road-builders, and of course inscriptions boasting of what the dedicator had accomplished. Geoff Carter, the archaeologist of Britain, is working on his theory that Hadrian’s Wall was first built as... Continue reading: Was Hadrian’s Wall Proceeded by an Earth-and-Post Construction?

Agricultural Surplus is a Dangerous Idea

A muddy, freshly plowed field with bare trees and a fence with billboards along one side
Its a rainy September, so how about the field across from the Atrium in a rainy September? The field is now a construction site.

A lot of historians throw around the term ‘agricultural surplus.’ By this they mean food which the farmers and their livestock don’t eat, and which can be used to feed stonemastons and metalworkers and scribes and priests and gentlemen farmers. In this theory, societies have to find a way to produce a larger surplus before they can produce things historians like such as books. I think this term is one of the terms which historians borrowed from economists in the early 20th century.

At first the idea seems harmless enough: if a family needs 20 bushels of barley to feed itself and its animals and have seed for next year, and they harvest 30, they will probably trade 10 for something else or use it to fatten stock. But in the real world there is rent and taxation. And when you look at the science of nutrition, you find that there is a range in the amount of food that farm workers eat. At the low end, they can’t work very well, lose most of their children, and die young of chronic diseases or infections which their weakened body can’t fight off; at the high end, they have a varied diet, grow taller and stronger, and can be pretty sure of having surviving children. Its not actually the case that people need a certain number of calories of Generic Food ™ a day, above which they just get fat and below which they die. Taxes and rents often come out of this margin in between. And it is usually taxes and rents which pay for the stone buildings, the scholars writing treatises on ethics, and the beautiful silver cups.

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