Category: owenjarus - Part 14

How did leprosy spread across the ancient world?

Over the past five weeks two new studies have been released that are giving scholars new clues as to how leprosy became a global scourge.

The first, and most dramatic, find came out at the end of May and reported on the analysis of a 4,000 year old skeleton from the site of Balathal, a Harappa site, in India. The analysis detected the presence of leprosy, making it, by far, the oldest case known. (For comparison the next oldest cases date to nearly 2,500 years ago)

This study means that the troops of Alexander the Great might well have spread the disease after they returned home from their campaign in India a popular idea given historical accounts that describe a disease that sounds like leprosy coming in their wake.

It also makes it possible that the 3,500 year old Ebers Papyrus, in Ancient Egypt, did in fact discuss leprosy.

The second study wasreleased just a weekago online in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Itoffers a possible reason why such virulent outbreaks occurred in the 4th century Byzantine World, and then Middle Ages Europe.

The team was led by G. Michael Taylor of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health at University College, London.

In it the scientists analyze the skeleton of an adult female found in Uzbekistan dating from the 1st 4th century A.D and find that she had leprosy.

Now,while there are other cases of leprosy known inCentral Asia, what is specialaboutthis case isthat the scientists were able to identify the type she had.It turned out that genetically its the same type (type 3) as those that pop up in Europe and in afew instances, China.

This isnt likely to be a coincidence.

You see at the end of the second century B.C. China opened its export market for silk. This quickly mothballed into what we call the Silk Road linking China, Central Asia and Europe in an ancient long-distance trade route. The scientists theorize that this trade route may have aided the spread of leprosy westward to Europe.

The idea certainly seems plausible. Just look at this timeline of the history of leprosy and you can see the overlap between outbreaks in East Asia and Europe.

Type 3 strains have also been reported in China and it is possible that leprosy may have reached Uzbekistan and other regions of Central Asia through the movement of peoples and trade westwards and southwards, eventually reaching Europe, theteam says in the journal article.

This is supported by the observation of (type 3) strains in Iran and some regions of Turkey.

These discoveries leave some important questions to be answered of course.

Why hasnt there been skeletal remains found of someone with leprosy for the period between 2,000 500 B.C? Did the disease die out between them? Or have we simply not found them yet?

Also, are there more “type 3” cases waiting to be found in Central Asia that can solidly prove a Silk Road avenue of spread?

Virtual Qumran

The UCLA team creatingand updating a virtual model of Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves, have now released free photos and videos of their work, which are now available to view and download from their website. Their project started in 2005 and has been continuing ever since,adding new archaeological information as it comes along. It includes a number of photos, and short videos which you can watch in high definition on their site, or on youtube.

The main aim of the project is not to bolster any one theory on how Qumran, or the DeadSeaScrolls,came to be, but rather to simply show what the site looks like, and provide a tool for teaching and research. It also allows them to test theories and research, and has already revealed some surprising results.

And the pictures look pretty cool as well!

Note check out Rome 3D and Karnak 3Don Heritage Key to see simulations created of those sites.

Click here to read an exclusive interview with Qumran excavator Yuval Peleg.

Click here to read a heritage expert profile of Dr. Robert Cargill

Qumran Reconstructed: An Aerial Overview

Qumran Reconstructed: The Locus 110 Iron Age Cistern

Images and video by UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Exclusive Interview: Yuval Peleg on the Dead Sea Scrolls

Qumran excavator Yuval Peleg (YP) was in Toronto last Thursday to lecture about his recent Qumran findings. Although he had to give two back to back lectures (on the same night) he generously made some time to talk with Heritage Key.

I asked him about his theory that Qumran started off as a military site. I alsoquestioned himon his idea that the Dead Sea Scrolls were deposited in the Qumran caves by refugees who were fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Here’s a transcript of our interview:

OJ: One thing I found intriguing is that the Hasmoneans used it as a military site but its not a full scale fortress it seems.

YP: Its not a fortress. Its a small site with small units. All its purpose was was to see that no enemy army was coming to the Dead Sea shores, climbing the cliffs towards Jerusalem. Thats it. There are no big units, just a small site.

OJ: Would its purpose have been more as a communications relay or scouting relay?

YP: I think both. The main fortress, Hyrcania, is 5km west of Qumran, so if they see there is a problem, an enemy coming, they just climb the cliffs go to Hyrcania; there is a big army waiting there.

OJ: The soldiers, do you think they were mercenaries or Jewish themselves?

YP: We dont know, we know that the Hasmoneans used mercenaries and Jews in the army; we dont know who specifically settled the site of Qumran.

OJ: Were there any weapons or anything remaining from these soldiers? Although I know weapons dont often preserve very well.

YP: De Vaux found some arrowheads. We dont know exactly if they’re from the Roman army or the Hasmonean army. There are some arrowheads at the site that we found in our excavations.

[Note- de Vaux was a Dominican priest who excavated Qumran 50 years ago]

OJ: One question that I had about the idea that people were depositing these scrolls on the way out is why didnt they just carry them with them so to speak?

YP: Beyond Qumran?

OJ: Beyond Qumran

YP: You to have to see the area – Qumran is the last station. The water came to the cliffs after Qumran. You have to go through the water, through the Dead Sea, in order to go south. Or climb the cliffs. Continuing to go with scrolls and stuff? Just put it in the caves.

OJ: Do you have any thoughts on where the people went to after depositing the scrolls?

YP: Who knows.

OJ: As I understand from the preliminary report there was no finding that there was a Roman garrison kept in the area although that was an earlier idea I believe. If theres no Roman garrison there why werent people able to go and return? Maybe 10 years later or something like that.

YP: You dont know what happened to these people, where they went to. There was war, there was chaos, maybe they went to Egypt, and they lost, they died, who knows, who knows.

OJ: Do you think that the people actually lived at the caves at Qumran for a long period of time? Or did they just stick them in there?

YP: They just went days, few days, weeks and ran away. Caves are not suitable for living there are lots of (pause)…

OJ: Leopards?

YP: Leopards? Today there is maybe one. But in ancient times there were probably leopards. There are still hyenas, jackals, everything. You dont want to live in a cave with a hyena!

Dead Sea Scrolls: The Words That Changed the World exhibition is at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto – minus hyenas – until January 3, 2010.

Pics and translations of two never before exhibited Dead Sea Scrolls

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibited in Toronto, at the Royal Ontario Museum, are two fragments which have never before been shown to the public.

One of them is a fragment from Daniel. It appears to have been a popular book as archaeologists have no less than eight copies of it among the scrolls but this particular fragment has not beenexhibited until now.

The other, Barki Nafshi (Apocryphal Psalms), is a series of Psalms that do not appear in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

As mentioned in my preview, photography of the scrolls is forbidden at the ROMs exhibit because of concerns about their fragility. But Heritage Key was at the media preview and, for that one day, non-flash photography was allowed. The Royal Ontario Museum has also kindly emailed us the english translations for these two fragments.

So here they are. Click on the photos to see larger versions, and read the accompanying text:

Barkhi Nafshi Apocryphal Psalms

Bless, O my soul, the LO RD, for all his wonderful deeds forever.
And blessed be his name, for he has saved the life of the poor.
And the needy he has not despised and he has not overlooked the hardship of the oppressed.
He has kept his eyes on the weak, and paid attention to the cry of orphans for help.
He has inclined his ears to their cry, and because of his abundant mercies, has shown favour to the meek.
He has opened their eyes to see his ways, and inclined their ear[s] to his teaching.
He has circumcised their hearts foreskin, and delivered them for the sake of his kindness and has set their feet firm on the path.
In their many hardships he did not forsake them and did not deliver them into the hands of violent men nor did he judge them with the wicked; his anger was not enkindled against them nor did he destroy them.

Daniel (fragment on display)

DAN. 2:19 God of heaven.

20 Daniel s[aid] Blessed be the name of the
great God [from a]ge to age, for
wisdom and power are h[is.]

21 He changes t[imes] and seasons, deposes
[k]ings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have un[de]rstanding.

22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what
is in the darkness, and light dwells [with him.]

23 To you, O God of my
ancestors, [I give thanks and praise,]
for [you] have given [me] wisdom
and enli[ghtenment(?)] and have now [revea]led [to me what] we [asked]
of [you,] for [you have revealed
to us] what [the king] order[ed.

24 [Therefore]
Daniel went to [Ario]ch, [whom the] king [had appointed] to destroy the
wise men of Babylon, and said
[to him, Do not]
destroy [the wise men of Babylon;] bring me in be[fore the] k[ing, and]
I will give the king its [interpretation.]

25 Then Arioch qui[ckly brought Daniel]
be[fore the] king and [said] to him: I have found among the exiles
from Judah a man who can tell [the king the

26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was
Belteshazzar, Are you [able to tell me] the
dream that I have seen and its interpretation? 27 Daniel answered
the king, No

(end of fragment)

Where is the Ark of the Covenant?

Aside from the Holy Grail there is probably no artefact more sought than the Ark of the Covenant. It is said to contain nothing less than the 10 commandments themselves. It vanished in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Over the past year this writer has noted no fewer than three major claims, all linked to Africa, which have been made about the Arks current whereabouts:

Some religious and Ethiopian media sources report that Abuna Pauolos, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, has made recent comments that his church has the Ark and is going to announce details at a press conference in Rome. This conference was supposed to have taken place this past Friday (according to the reports), something which obviously didnt happen. Just a few hours ago a report came out that the patriarch was misquoted.

The idea that the Ethiopian church has the Ark is nothing new – there is a long standing belief, in Ethiopia, that the church keeps it guarded by a monk. This story has a sort of taboo about it, everyone believes it but know one can prove it – for religious reasons. According to this Smithsonian story Patriarch Pauolos told a reporter that hehas never seen it (he is forbidden) but that his church does have it under guard..

“Can you believe that even though I’m head of the Ethiopian church, I’m still forbidden from seeing it?” Pauolos said. “The guardian of the ark is the only person on earth who has that peerless honor.”

The reportereventually makes his way to a small chapel in Aksumwhere the guardian of the arktellshim thathe cannot see it either.

Ethiopia was, again, a place picked out as the Arks likely location, post-Babylonian sacking, by Helmut Ziegert of the University of Hamburg. He claims to have found the palace of the Queen of Sheba there, including an altar that he believes held the Ark.

Meanwhile a new book has come out by University of London Professor Tudor Parfitt, which says that the ark made its way to Zimbabwe after the Babylonians attacked. Hecites DNA evidence linking ancient Jews to the Lemba tribe. This tribeknew of a drum like object called ngoma lungundu, an object borne on poles, thatstored ritual objects and was too holy to touch the ground.

So what to make of the latest claims? While Pauolos’ claimseems impossible to prove (although the media reported he is on the verge of doing so),Ziegert and Parfitts ideas cannot be so quickly dismissed.

Ethiopia certainly had contact with the rest of the ancient world. In fact the empire of Axum emerged as a powerhouse in the first century AD, (albeit 600 years after the ark goes missing) occupying land in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Zimbabwe seems a bit far out; not a lot of evidence of contact with the Levant there. But if youre looking for a good place to hide from the Babylonians, there may be no better place.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is where the Ark isnt being placed. Nobody has put out a claim in the past year that they are zeroing in on it in Israel.Perhaps thereason is thatgiven the sheer number of excavations that have taken place over the past five decades, the idea of it being hidden away in some forgotten corner of the country is becoming less and less credible.

Did a metalworker write one of the world’s earliest medical documents?

A Toronto Egyptologist has a new translation of the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus coming out and a new theory on how it was written. Previously the content was attributed to a great medical doctor such as Imhotep. But not for much longer.

About 3,500 years ago, in an Egypt partly conquered by a foreign power, an Egyptian man with no medical training, likely a metalworker, was pressed into service as a combat medic.

He prepared for his task by studying the basics of combat medicine from a swnw (a doctor) or some form of expert. He wasnt preparing to become a doctor himself. His job would have been to work as a medic on the battlefield, diagnosing conditions, treating soldiers with first aid (bandages, honey and ox bile being three popular treatments) and giving instructions to assistants with less training than him.

During his training the man took down notes quickly, his writing was sloppy, he abbreviated terms using his own shorthand and he avoided the medical jargon of the day at one point comparing brain tissue to the ripples that occur when copper is smelted. To help him memorize the late stages of tetanus (lockjaw) he scribbled an illustration of clenched teeth with spit coming out.

The Egypt he lived in (ca. 1,500 B.C.) was partly conquered, with a foreign group called the Hyksos occupying the north and an Egyptian pharaoh, fighting against them, based in the south. With the battles came the casualties and the skills this man learned would have been in great demand.

That is the true story of how the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, one of the earliest pieces of medical literature in the world, was written, says University of Toronto Egyptologist Alwyn Burridge.

This startling new story behind the papyrus is the fruit of a three year translation effort by Burridge. As she went about the laborious task of translating the document she gained a sense of the personality who penned the text.
She encountered passages that were difficult to translate, which in the past had been considered misspellings. On more careful examination, she realised that these were not misspellings at all, but abbreviations and small illustrations that the writer himself came up with.

Just like how a student today takes down lecture notes, the writer abbreviated words to save time. He had to do this because he was trying to keep up with the talking speed of his teacher. The writer also drew little drawings, such as the teeth with the spit coming out, to help learn the material. Previously it was believed that these were words.
These discoveries meant that Burridge, in her translation, was able to match these abbreviations to the words that make the most sense, and leave the illustrations as they are.

When her work was finished, Burridge and Dr. Gonzalo Sanchez (a medical doctor who has been assisting in the task) found themselves looking at a document with very simple explanations and little medical jargon. The author compared symptoms to everyday items and events such as copper smelting.

The papyrus is rife with little notes that elucidate symptoms that would be well understood to a professional swnw (the Egyptian Term for doctor), said Burridge in an email to this blogger.

Other clues included text that was out of alignment, and references that sound as if the writer was taking down information being told to him by an expert.