Posts Tagged ‘Ancient’

Beyond BeliefThe BBC:

A new series of Beyond Belief begins with a discussion on the impact of archaeological discoveries on religious belief.

Listen here (right click & “save target as / link as”).

Duration: 28 mins.

Features renowned Bible scholar Francesca Stravrakopoulou.

 

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The BBC:

Greek amphitheatre

The music of ancient Greece, unheard for thousands of years, is being brought back to life by Armand D’Angour, a musician and tutor in classics at Oxford University. He describes what his research is discovering.

“Suppose that 2,500 years from now all that survived of the Beatles songs were a few of the lyrics, and all that remained of Mozart and Verdi’s operas were the words and not the music.

Imagine if we could then reconstruct the music, rediscover the instruments that played them, and hear the words once again in their proper setting, how exciting that would be.

This is about to happen with the classic texts of ancient Greece.

It is often forgotten that the writings at the root of Western literature – the epics of Homer, the love-poems of Sappho, the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides – were all, originally, music.

Dating from around 750 to 400 BC, they were composed to be sung in whole or part to the accompaniment of the lyre, reed-pipes, and percussion instruments.

Finding the pitch

But isn’t the music lost beyond recovery? The answer is no. The rhythms – perhaps the most important aspect of music – are preserved in the words themselves, in the patterns of long and short syllables.

The Argo, re-constructed for TV documentary
Time travellers: Academics are reconstructing the lost sound of ancient Greece

The instruments are known from descriptions, paintings and archaeological remains, which allow us to establish the timbres and range of pitches they produced.

And now, new revelations about ancient Greek music have emerged from a few dozen ancient documents inscribed with a vocal notation devised around 450 BC, consisting of alphabetic letters and signs placed above the vowels of the Greek words.

The Greeks had worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals – an octave is 2:1, a fifth 3:2, a fourth 4:3, and so on.

The notation gives an accurate indication of relative pitch: letter A at the top of the scale, for instance, represents a musical note a fifth higher than N halfway down the alphabet. Absolute pitch can be worked out from the vocal ranges required to sing the surviving tunes.

While the documents, found on stone in Greece and papyrus in Egypt, have long been known to classicists – some were published as early as 1581 – in recent decades they have been augmented by new finds. Dating from around 300 BC to 300 AD, these fragments offer us a clearer view than ever before of the music of ancient Greece.

The research project that I have embarked on, funded by the British Academy, has the aim of bringing this music back to life.

Folk music

But it is important to realise that ancient rhythmical and melodic norms were different from our own.

Temple of Poseidon
Temple of Poseidon: The music might have sounded unfamiliar to modern ears

We must set aside our Western preconceptions. A better parallel is non-Western folk traditions, such as those of India and the Middle East.

Instrumental practices that derive from ancient Greek traditions still survive in areas of Sardinia and Turkey, and give us an insight into the sounds and techniques that created the experience of music in ancient times.

So what did Greek music sound like?

Some of the surviving melodies are immediately attractive to a modern ear. One complete piece, inscribed on a marble column and dating from around 200 AD, is a haunting short song of four lines composed by Seikilos. The words of the song may be translated:

While you’re alive, shine:

never let your mood decline.

We’ve a brief span of life to spend:

Time necessitates an end.

The notation is unequivocal. It marks a regular rhythmic beat, and indicates a very important principle of ancient composition.

In ancient Greek the voice went up in pitch on certain syllables and fell on others (the accents of ancient Greek indicate pitch, not stress). The contours of the melody follow those pitches here, and fairly consistently in all the documents….

Rest here.

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Live Science:

How far would you go to get your cinnamon fix? If you lived in the Levant 3,000 years ago (a region that includes modern day Israel), very far indeed new research indicates.

Researchers analyzing the contents of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel that date back around 3,000 years have found that 10 of the flasks contain cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.

At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.

This discovery “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” researchers write in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology andArchaeometry. Although cinnamon can be purchased today at any grocery or bulk food store, 3,000 years ago, people in the Levant would have needed to take part in trade that extended beyond the edge of the known world in order to acquire it, something this discovery suggests they were willing to do.

This trade may go back ever further into antiquity and involve other goods and parts of the Middle East. The researchers note, for example, that black pepper from India has been found in the mummy of Ramesses II, a pharaoh of Egypt who lived more than 3,200 years ago…

Rest here.

 

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No, it proves nothing (!) and mostly (but not exclusively though) because it has no provenance. For any given antiquity, provenance is essential for credibility and historicity. That of this ancient manuscript is as yet undetermined.

[Emphasis mine.]

A discovery by a Harvard researcher may shed light on a controversial aspect of the life of Jesus Christ.

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen L. King says she has found an ancient papyrus fragment from the second century that, when translated, appears to indicate that Jesus was married.

The text from the New Testament is being dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The part of it that’s drawing attention says, “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife'” in the Coptic language. The text, which is printed on papyrus the size of a business card, has not been chemically tested to verify its dating, but King and other scholars have said they are confident it is a genuine artifact.

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said at a conference in Rome on Tuesday. “This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus’s death before they began appealing to Jesus’ marital status to support their positions.”

King, who focuses on Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible, has published on the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala. She presented her research Tuesday evening in Rome, where scholars are gathered for the International Congress of Coptic Studies…

Further,

The fragment has eight incomplete lines of writing on one side and is badly damaged on the other side, with only three faded words and a few letters of ink that are visible, even with the use of infrared photography and computer-aided enhancement.

The private owner of the papyrus first approached King in 2010. King said she didn’t believe the document was authentic, but the owner persisted. She then asked the owner to bring the papyrus to Harvard, where she became convinced it was a genuine early Christian text fragment. Along with Princeton University professor Anne Marie Luijendijk and Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, King claims to have confirmed the document is real. The document’s owner has not been named and King said he does not want to be identified.

It’s unclear when the text was initially discovered

There is more here.

Watch as ignorant, dilettantish, sensationalist media mongers run riot with the above story and the unsubstantiated claims made in it over the next couple of days… And when you do, please remember it is an undated, incomplete, unprovenanced, fragmentary document that can be saying and meaning anything (most likely, that someone centuries after the time of Jesus was of the opinion that he may have been married). Archaeologically speaking, there is simply far too much being read into this not-so-new discovery. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that the Coptic and Gnostic writings of that period are particularly notorious for being spurious and palpably fake.

Now all that said, Dr King is a fine scholar with a good reputation. Her forthcoming journal article for the Harvard Theological Review can be read here.

See also Bible Places:

The problem with today’s headline story is not the discovery of an ancient document that suggests that someone once believed that Jesus had a wife. There were many false and unbiblical teachings in ancient times, just as there are today. The problem is the media can very easily make a minor story into something sensational that appears to threaten historic Christianity…

 

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