I first encountered Geoffrey Bibby’s Four Thousand Years Ago in a “Best-of” volume of the Robert E. Howard fanzine Amra where the reviewer enthused that the second millennium BCE was a time when Conan could have lived again. For a younger self that was recommendation enough, and I tracked down a copy in the library. On a whim I decided to order a copy and have a look with more scholarly eyes. The volume which arrived in the mail has an old bookseller’s stamp from The Public Bookshop, PO Box 1, Bahrain which is very appropriate, for Bibby excavated there and believed it was the Dilmun of the Sumerians, the place through which all good things came. Like the statuette of Lakshmi from Pompeii, who can say how it made its long way to its current home?
A village in France has preserved the bedroom of a young officer who died in the First World War
Wardle, Higham, and Kromer, Dating the End of the Greek Bronze Age DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106672
Events in the eastern Mediterranean in the second millennium BCE are usually assigned dates in our calendar on the basis of Egyptian and Mesopotamian king lists. Quite a few scholars are suspicious of the most popular system and some of them propose adjustments of 50, 100, or even 250 years. (Some king lists double-count periods where a king reigned together with his heir, and some invent ancestors or treat dynasties which existed at the same time in different regions as reigning one after another to imply that their ancestors always had a large, powerful kingdom; periods when there was no powerful central authority producing documents dated according to a single system also cause problems). The best solution would be to link kings from the lists to timbers whose rings can be put into a continuous sequence of tree rings from the Bronze Age to the present (dendrochronology), but for obvious reasons large timbers rarely survive from the region. Attempts to assign absolute dates on the basis of radiocarbon dating are fraught with problems, but the authors of this paper think that they have overcome them for one site in the Aegean. I will be very interested to see what specialists in Aegean archaeology and carbon dating have to say about their work. Further Reading: Jona Lendering, Mesopotamian Chronology, Aegean Dendrochronology Project, and for real nerds Regine Pruzsinszky, Mesopotamian Chronology of the 2nd Millennium B.C. Verlag für österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Wien 2009.
Novelist Christian Cameron has written a thoughtful essay on the value of recreating ancient experiences to understand the past
The team excavating the Antikythera Shipwreck with new equipment has a blog
Anthony Sattin reviews a book on the North Sea heritage of modern Europe. To his last rhetorical question I would answer “clearly both, and more besides.”
Many shields in the ancient world were made from basketwork, from bundles of reeds, or from sticks thrust through sheets of hide. A group in Germany has constructed a woven rattan shield based on 19th century Chinese examples here (thanks to Ben Judkins of Chinese Martial Arts Studies http://chinesemartialstudies.com/2014/11/03/through-a-lens-darkly-28-teng-pai-woven-shields-lances-and-william-mesny/
A very good armourer remarks on how much one can learn by studying photos of armour here
War is a very old and very common custom, and so are commemorating it, celebrating it, and praying it away. Others more learned than I have commented on the war which was raging in Europe one hundred years ago. Today I thought I would share two perspectives on war from four thousand years ago.
My visits to Heuneburg and Haithabu/Hedeby reminded me that I don’t know enough about one of the great puzzles in world history: why cities spread so slowly, with frequent retreats and abandonments. There were towns in the Balkans before the Indo-Europeans came, but it was almost the year 1,000 before there was a single town on the Baltic, and that was burned and abandoned. Why did it take 5,000 years for cities to spread from Mesopotamia to Denmark, when other innovations spread in a few centuries? And why did many societies which once had prosperous cities give them up?
In April I participated in a prehistoric bronze-casting workshop with Dr. Bastian Asmus at the open air museum at Heuneburg (near Herbertingen, Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany). I believe that it is helpful for historians to understand the world of things and skills in which their subjects lived. Like any other art, imitating historical bronze-casting requires a range of skills and is best learned by practice.