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Gilgamesh flood tablet

The baked clay tablet tells the tale of an epic flood.
Gilgamesh flood tablet
© World History Archive via AlamyThe Gilgamesh flood tablet contains an inscription detailing the story of an epic flood.
Name: Gilgamesh flood tablet

What it is: Also known as the 11th tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh, this fragment of a baked clay tablet contains cuneiform inscriptions describing an epic flood that swept through Babylon. It is considered one of the oldest pieces of literature in the world.

Where it was found: Nineveh (also known as Kouyunjik), an ancient Assyrian city in Upper Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).

When it was made: The Epic of Gilgamesh may date to as early as the third millennium B.C., but this particular tablet dates to the seventh century B.C.

What it tells us about the past: The epic tale that was carved into the ancient tablet is eerily similar to the biblical story of Noah's ark found in the Book of Genesis. The tablet describes how the gods sent a flood down to destroy Earth. However one god, Ea, alerts Utu-napishtim, the ruler of an ancient kingdom, of the plan and instructs him to build a boat to save himself and his family along with "birds and beasts of all kinds," according to the British Museum, which counts the artifact as part of its permanent collection.

Info

Earliest manuscript of Gospel about Jesus's childhood discovered

Papyrologists decipher manuscript fragment and date it to the 4th to 5th century.

Papyrus fragment f
© Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg/Public Domain Mark 1.0Papyrus fragment from the 4th to 5th century.
For decades, a papyrus fragment with the inventory number P.Hamb.Graec. 1011 remained unnoticed at the Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library. Now papyrologists Dr Lajos Berkes from the Institute for Christianity and Antiquity at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), and Prof Gabriel Nocchi Macedo from the University of Liège, Belgium, have identified the fragment as the earliest surviving copy of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

This is a significant discovery for the research field, as the manuscript dates back to the early days of Christianity. Until now, a codex from the 11th century was oldest known Greek version of the Gospel of Thomas, which was probably written in the 2nd century AD. The Gospel tells episodes of the childhood of Jesus and is one of the biblical apocrypha. These writings were not included in the Bible, but their stories were very popular and widespread in Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

New insights into the transmission of the text

"The fragment is of extraordinary interest for research," says Lajos Berkes, lecturer at the Faculty of Theology at Humboldt-Universität. "On the one hand, because we were able to date it to the 4th to 5th century, making it the earliest known copy. On the other hand, because we were able to gain new insights into the transmission of the text."

"Our findings on this late antique Greek copy of the work confirm the current assessment that the Infancy Gospel according to Thomas was originally written in Greek," says Gabriel Nocchi Macedo from the University of Liège.

Better Earth

Unravelling the mystery of Seahenge: Timber structure was built off the coast of Norwich 4,000 years ago during an extreme cold spell

seahenge
Scientists believe that Seahenge (pictured) may have been build as part of a ritual attempt to bring back warmer weather and prolong summer
When it comes to the mysteries of Britain's Neolithic past, Stonehenge is probably the structure people would recognise the most.

But archaeologists are now beginning to unravel the secrets of an even stranger structure, built off the coast of Norwich 4,000 years ago.

Researchers believe that 'Seahenge' and a second nearby monument were built by ancient Britons during a period of extreme cold, in an effort to try and bring back the warm weather.

Dr David Nance, an archaeologist at the University of Aberdeen, argues that Seahenge was built to resemble a cage designed to extend summer by keeping a young cuckoo singing.


Comment: Well, that's one archaeologist's speculation.


Comment: See also: Regarding the cuckoo/bird imagery, see:


Footprints

Evidence of more than 200 survivors of Mount Vesuvius eruption discovered in ancient Roman records

Vesuvius eruption
On Aug. 24, in A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted, shooting over 3 cubic miles of debris up to 20 miles (32.1 kilometers) in the air. As the ash and rock fell to Earth, it buried the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

According to most modern accounts, the story pretty much ends there: Both cities were wiped out, their people frozen in time.

It only picks up with the rediscovery of the cities and the excavations that started in earnest in the 1740s.

But recent research has shifted the narrative. The story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is no longer one about annihilation; it also includes the stories of those who survived the eruption and went on to rebuild their lives.

The search for survivors and their stories has dominated the past decade of my archaeological fieldwork, as I've tried to figure out who might have escaped the eruption. Some of my findings are featured in an episode of the new PBS documentary, "Pompeii: The New Dig."

Making it out alive

Pompeii and Herculaneum were two wealthy cities on the coast of Italy just south of Naples. Pompeii was a community of about 30,000 people that hosted thriving industry and active political and financial networks. Herculaneum, with a population of about 5,000, had an active fishing fleet and a number of marble workshops. Both economies supported the villas of wealthy Romans in the surrounding countryside.

Comment: See also:


Archaeology

Discovery of thousand-year-old game pieces comes as 'complete surprise' to experts

1000 year old game pieces germany medieval
© iStock/German Archaeological Institute, the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments Baden-Württemberg and the University of TübingenGerman archaeologists recently discovered that they found medieval game pieces back in 2022.
Medieval knights may have used the game pieces, experts say

Archaeologists in Germany recently announced the discovery of a game collection that dates back 1,000 years.

The findings were announced in a press release published by the University of Tübingen, the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments Baden-Württemberg (LAD) and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) last week. The game pieces were found at the site of a presumed castle in southern Germany in 2022.

"During archaeological excavations at a forgotten castle in southern Germany, an excellently preserved knight piece has now been discovered," a statement from officials read. "The find is part of a unique games collection, which also includes other gaming pieces and a dice."

Comment: The impulse for social entertainment seems to be universal. Other discoveries:


Info

4,000-year-old circular stone building discovered on a Cretan hilltop

Ancient Circular Monument
© Ministry of Culture via InTime NewsThe impressive monument as seen in a Culture Ministry handout photo released on Tuesday.
During excavations for an airport on Greece's largest island of Crete, a large circular monument dating back 4000 years was unearthed.

A statement released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Tuesday said the structure was a "unique and extremely interesting find".

Resembling a huge car wheel from above, the ruins of the labyrinthine, 1,800-square-meter (19,000-square-foot) building came to light during a recent dig by archaeologists.

The circular monument structure dates back to the Bronze Age Minoan Civilization. It was a civilization that developed on the island of Crete during the Bronze Age and lasted from 3000 BC to 1450 BC. The Minoans were a highly advanced society in seafaring, trade, and the arts. The civilization was named after the mythological king Minos.

The ministry said the building was mainly used between 2000-1700 B.C, and was founded around the time Crete's first palaces were being built — including at Knossos and Phaistos.

It said some of its features were comparable with early Minoan beehive tombs that were surmounted by stepped conical roofs and burial mounds in other parts of Greece.

Vader

Best of the Web: Declassified: BBC and MI6 Kosovo War Propaganda Blitz

A KLA fighter
© kitklarenberg.comA KLA fighter
On March 24th, this journalist exposed how London was at the forefront of efforts to launch a ground invasion of Yugoslavia, during NATO's illegal March - May 1999 bombing campaign. Mercifully, that noxious project never came to pass, but declassified files show there was a further, secret component of Britain's war effort in Kosovo. MI6 covertly sought to manipulate public opinion at home and within Belgrade via wide-ranging propaganda campaigns, manufacturing consent for President Slobodan Milosevic's indictment for war crimes, removal from office, and more.

NATO's criminal bombing of Yugoslavia was launched, and sustained, upon atrocity propaganda. Claims Belgrade's forces were perpetrating a modern day Holocaust abounded throughout, despite the alliance's air assault ostensibly being launched to prevent such carnage. Western officials' calculations of civilians slaughtered by the Yugoslav army grew ever-wilder. At one stage, a NATO spokesperson asserted 100,000 were dead. When Yugoslav officials were prosecuted over the conflict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), this total was revised down to a vague "hundreds".

Comment: See Also:


Archaeology

Pompeii archaeologists uncover incredibly rare blue room with stunning frescoes of female figures

pompeii blue room rare
© Associated PressThe rare blue room recently unveiled in Pompeii
Experts believe the 8-square metre room can be interpreted as a shrine, or a space dedicated to ritual activities and the storage of sacred objects.

A new room with painted blue walls, a very rare colour in Pompeian spaces, has emerged in Pompeii during recent excavations in the central area of the ancient city.

The stunning blue-ground walls are decorated with female figures representing the four seasons and allegorical representations of agriculture and pastoralism, according to experts.

Attention

Largest known prehistoric rock engravings discovered in South America

Rock engravings recorded by researchers from Bournemouth University (UK), University College London (UK) and Universidad de los Andes (Colombia) are thought to be the largest prehistoric rock art in the world.

Found carved into rock faces along the Upper and Middle Orinoco River in Venezuela and Colombia, the engravings feature a range of imagery - including depictions of giant snakes, human figures, and giant Amazonian centipedes.

Some of the engravings are tens of metres long - with the largest measuring more than 40m in length. The team believe this is the largest single rock engraving recorded anywhere in the world.
Rock Art
© Phil Riris/Jose OliverOne of the monumental rock engravings, depicting a giant snake.
While some of the sites were already known, the team have discovered several more and mapped 14 sites of monumental rock engravings - defined as those which are more than four metres wide or high - through working with local guides and using drone photography.

While it is difficult to date rock engravings, similar motifs used on pottery found in the area indicate that they were created anywhere up to 2,000 years ago, although possibly much older.

Many of the largest engravings are of snakes, believed to be boa constrictors or anacondas, which played an important role in the myths and beliefs of the local Indigenous population.

Blue Planet

Largest group of 'unique' neolithic earthworks discovered in Ireland yet

Baltinglass
© James O’Driscoll/Antiquity Publications LtdA view of the Baltinglass landscape in County Wicklow, Ireland. An archaeological survey of the region has revealed various previously unknown monuments.
Archaeological studies of a landscape in eastern Ireland have turned up the greatest number yet of ancient structures that remain rare in that country, and may cast light on the beliefs and burial practices of early farming communities in the region as far back as the Neolithic period. These so-called cursus monuments exist throughout England, but this is the largest number yet discovered in the Baltinglass region of Ireland, in County Wicklow.

These enigmatic monuments, consisting of either elongated earthworks or lines of wooden posts that sometimes stretch as far as six miles in length, have been found as part of some of the best-known prehistoric sites, including Stonehenge.

The new cluster of monuments, numbering as many as five, was discovered using LIDAR technology. It's the largest cluster yet found in Ireland, where not even 20 examples are known throughout the country.

Comment: Despite these regions having low populations in our own time, there's lots of evidence showing that in the past they were quite the hive of activity, and sophistication: