Chemical Warfare Dates Back to Ancient Times

In the 1930s, a puzzling discovery came about in a siege mine at the city known as Dura-Europos in Syria.  This city was controlled and run by the Romans as a military base backed by the Euphrates River, only until the powerful and overwhelming Sasanian Persian Empire made a push for the city.  The Persians, however, did not go about this raid in a traditional way by any means.

The Romans had established a large garrison to protect the city from any foreign invaders.  Persian forces had recognized this, so they designed a mine to be dug underneath the city wall in an effort to collapse it.  Romans soon became aware of this and dug out a counter-mine, which ultimately led to the death of 19 Roman soldiers and one lone Persian.

Diagram that shows the Persian mine designed to collapse Dura-Europo’s city wall, the Roman countermine which intended to stop them, and the possible location in which the Persians began to use the Chemical warfare against the Roman defense

Diagram that shows the Persian mine designed to collapse Dura-Europo’s city wall, the Roman countermine which intended to stop them, and the possible location in which the Persians began to use the Chemical warfare against the Roman defense

Now how did the Persians manage to take down 19 Roman soldiers in such a tiny space? As the two different tunnels connected, the Persians had put together a form of chemical warfare, which to my surprise has been around for a significant period of time.  Stephanie Pappas writes, “One of the earliest examples was a battle in 189 B.C., when Greeks burnt chicken feathers and used bellows to blow the smoke into Roman invaders’ siege tunnels.”  The Persians used a chimney effect to gas out the Roman soldiers as the two mines met.  Recent excavations revealed bitumen and sulphur crystal remains that provide evidence that those crystals were burned in order to create choking gases.  The soldiers that were discovered were found stacked on top of each other to form a human wall for the Persians to continue on with their plan of taking the walls down.  With how the Roman soldiers were found, and the position in which they were in, archaeologists determined that the Persians successfully pulled off the chemical combat.

A diagram of the 19 dead Roman soldiers found in the underground mine

A diagram of the 19 dead Roman soldiers found in the underground mine

Even though the Persian’s were successful in setting up their plan to bring down the walls, they still were unable to actually bring them down, however, evidence shows that they still were able to break into the city.  University of Leicester archaeologist Simon James excavated a ‘machine-gun belt’ which looked to have been the Roman’s last line of defense that was never put into effect.  One can infer that the people of the city were either slaughtered or driven out of the city, leaving Dura-Europos abandon forever.  Although there was not much physical evidence at hand, archaeologists were able to figure out just what went down at this ancient city based on the 19 dead soldiers found in the mines.



1. University of Leicester. “Archeologist Uncovers Evidence Of Ancient Chemical Warfare.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2009. <>.





Further Reading:





Modeling Conflict: WWI and Trench Warfare

The archaeology of warfare encompasses much of human history and extends to all corners of the globe.  Although war has been a recurring theme across cultures, few individual wars remain fresh, scars on society’s collective memory.  World War One, deemed the “Great War,” is one such instance where a combination of time, place, and scale culminate in an event of far reaching proportions.  The soldiers who fought left behind records in letters, journals, and even art, but their legacy continues on a larger scale.

The battle of Messines led up to the much larger battle of Ypres.  At Messines, the men worked for approximately 18 months preparing fortifications, and in the actual battle there were close to a total of 50,000 casualties and injuries.  What makes this site of particular interest lies not on the battlefield, but rather at the Brocton and Rugeley training camps, located in England.  During the war, these facilities were used to train allied troops but also to house prisoners of war.  These camps are, of late, the focus of an Archaeological investigation focused on a specific area, known as Cannock Chase, which since the war has become overgrown from disuse.  Under this reclaimed field lies the remnants of a large-scale construction project.

An actual trench from Messines

Built by soldiers with a great deal of labor from prisoners of war, the trench system at Cannock Chase perfectly matches that of Messines in 1917.  The only difference is the location and size.  Why, during a war, would allied forces spend time constructing a scale model of a battlefield that was subject to change at any minute?  This seems a tactic of little use in today’s age of urban warfare, but in its time Cannock Chase served several important duties.  First and foremost, they served as invaluable training tools for new infantry forces.  The fighting at Messines stretched out over several years, and during that time trenches changed sides and forces shuffled across a barren wasteland.  By using these model trenches, officers were able to prepare their troops for the exact environment they would soon face.  The trenches were quite literally a chessboard where officers could safely shuffle troops about, practicing maneuvers and attempting new tactics.  By training in these trenches, soldiers also became accustomed to the lay of the battlefield at Messines before they set foot in the actual war zone.

Part of Brocton and Rugeley Camps where the trenches are located

What can this site tell anthropologists about warfare?  Well the answer is not quite clear yet, but with the mapping and excavation these fortifications should yield insight into the daily life both of prisoners of war but also the allied forces preparing to enter the real trenches.  It is hoped that this model will help historians and archaeologists learn more about the actual battlefield at Messines, for the site at Cannock Chase remained largely unoccupied and undisturbed after the war.  Until the investigation is complete, these trenches remain another of conflict covered up by time, with the promise of new information in store for those studying the site.









For More Information:

Not Just History at Risk


This week we explored the destruction of artifacts central to different cultures at the hands of war, as well as the archaeology of warfare. What better way to cut down an enemy than to extinguish what represents their past? One of our readings stated, “The relevance of the past to the present is evident in many facets of daily life…The past is a means through which identities–whether ethnic, national, religious, or other–can be formed and reinforced in the present.”

We looked at many examples that spanned from Iraq, India to Syria. I wanted to learn more into the specifics about Syria and found an article that examined the specific treasures that are threatened by conflict in this area, as well as the efforts to combat this large destruction in Syria.

The Aleppo castle where pro-government forces are based

The Aleppo castle where pro-government forces are based

The so-called most important artifacts to go missing, the bronze statue, dated back 2,000 years, which was put on Interpol’s ‘Most Wanted’ list, as well as a marble artifact stolen from a museum. Many archaeological sites have also been a target. Looting and illegal excavations have increased dramatically during this time of conflict. Buildings and markets have also been subject to harm. Specifically, seven old markets in Aleppo were practically destroyed by a large fire. Army shelling has been seen to damage ancient homes. Syria treasures have become a battleground for Middle Eastern conflict. The head of Syria’s iniquities and museums, Maamoun Abdulkarim, noted this while talking about looters, “If they reach these places then my conviction is that Syria would no longer exist…It would signal the end of the end…Syria as we know it would then be over.”


Aleppo markets

As a result of this looming truth, many actions have been taken to protect Syria’s treasures. All Syrian museums were stripped of all artifacts, besides ones that were too troublesome to move out. Abdulkarim said that, “They are in effect empty halls…” They were sent to specialist warehouses to prevent any danger. UNESCO, the cultural UN body, shared their concern about the Six World Heritage Sites (places listed as having special cultural or physical significance) and reached out to help protect ancient treasures of Syria. They are even helping tracking down specific artifacts such as eighteen mosaic panels smuggled to Lebanon.

Some particularly inspiring examples are the acts of citizens to protect artifacts. Some examples of this are the work of a local community in the town of Maarat al-Noman to ensure famous mosaic portraits were kept safe as well as an instance in Hama where neighborhood youths defended their local museum’s Roman and Byzantine statues until they were safe from looters. Some looting has also simply ceased due to the lack of success in finding goods.

“God forbid, then we are approaching the start of the tragic demolition of our past and future.”


UN Cultural Body- UNESCO


Further Reading:

Amid the devastation and danger of civil war, Syrian archaeologists and activists are risking their lives in the battle against looting:

Syria, graced with thousands of historic sites, is seeing its cultural heritage vandalized  looted and destroyed by war – but volunteers are doing what they can to document the damage and save the country’s cultural identity from obliteration (as seen through photographs):


Links to photographs:

Photograph one, Aleppo:

Photograph two, markets:

Photograph three, UNESCO:



Al-Khalidi, Suleiman. “Syrian Violence Threatens Ancient Treasures.” Reuters. February 20, 2013. Accessed November 24, 2014.

Bernbeck, Reinhard, and Susan Pollock. “Ayodhya, Archaeology, and Identity.” JSTOR. January 1, 1996. Accessed November 24, 2014.



4000 Years, Little Change

Hammurabi’s code is a series of 282 laws from ancient Mesopotamia (around 1727 BCE) that is well known for its harsh ruling on crimes as well as its distinction between classes and gender.

What gave Hammurabi the right to rule in the first place?

Hammurabi descended from a line of kings so the continued rule by his family line would be considered the “norm.” In addition to this, his affiliation with the gods, and his popularity for expanding his empire gave him power.

Hammurabi with Shamash, god of Justice

Hammurabi with Shamash, god of Justice

He unites people under this shared document. Ruling 195 states that, “If a son has struck his father, his hands shall be cut off.” This same punishment is also applied to a surgeon who has killed or “cut out the eye” of another. Law 196 is the famous “eye for an eye,” case, followed by teeth and genitals.

From a biological imperative standpoint, our ability to perform specialized tasks with our hands, to avoid dangerous situations with our vision, to process foods that are otherwise too hard for consumption, and to reproduce, thus passing on our genes, are all evolutionary advantages. The code focuses on the essential functions while omitting features that could be lived without. The harsh environment of Mesopotamia led to a desire for individuals to pull their own weight, thus setting criminals, now disabled, up for resentment and “other-ing” by the rest of the society. The absence of one’s hands is immediately apparent, and therefore a permanent badge of misbehavior.

3600 years after Hammurabi, King Leopold II (see below) began his exploitation of the “African cake.” Under the same idea of expansion, King Leopold used his “right” as a European to civilize the people of Congo, while in reality profiting from growing rubber and ivory industries that resulted in the enslavement of the local peoples and the deaths of approximately 10 Million.

King Leopold II

King Leopold II

King Leopold’s army added insult to injury, so to speak, by damaging the bodies of the dead, even hanging them “in the form of a cross.” A cross, a symbol of Christianity (a European idea), becomes a symbol of terror for the survivors.

His war crimes included mass mutilation where “They [hands] became a form of currency,” proof that bullets were not “wasted.” Again, the removal of hands is a means of exerting power over the socially inferior group. By allowing the trade of severed hands, the victims of this genocide are dehumanized. Amputation is not always fatal, allowing the person to live for years with this form of mutilation. As in Hammurabi’s time, these people also had to bear the physical signs of oppression.

Warfare is a matter of intimidation, often seeking to “warn off” outsiders. So who would be left to intimidate if war were more “efficient?”

This reasoning would help explain why the removal of hands has been a punishment over the centuries.

Read Hammurabi’s code here:

The idea is even brought forward into the modern day:


“Ancient History Sourcebook: Code of Hammurabi, C. 1780 BCE.” Internet History Sourcebooks. Ed. Paul Halsall. Fordham University, 6 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <>.

Ceallaigh, Liam O. “When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler'” Diary of a Walking Butterfly. Diary of a Walking Butterfly, 22 Dec. 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

“The Code of Hammurabi.” Constitution Society. Constitution Society, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

James, Andre C. “The Butcher of Congo: King Leopold II of Belgium.” Digital Journal. Digital Journal, 4 Apr. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

Knox, Gordon. “Heart of Darkness – There Was Nothing Exactly Profitable in These Heads Being There.” Book Drum. Book Drum, 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

Selwyn-Holmes, Alex. “Congo, Then and Now.” Iconic Photos. Word Press, 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <>.

Sliwinski, Sharon. “The Kodak on the Congo: The Childhood of Human Rights.”, 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <>.

Stolze, Dolly. “A Criminal’s Relic: The Macabre History of Severed Hands.” Strange Remains. Strange Remains, 6 Apr. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

The Mother of Invention

We’ve been trained and taught to think that tools and our dependence on material culture stems from a fundamental need for them in order to survive. This perspective fails to recognize other factors that influence tool use, creating a misleading picture when applied to the material aspects of culture. Recent studies challenge this idea that we depend on tools for survival. Dr. Kathelijne Koops of the University of Cambridge, Elisabetta Visalberghi, and Carel van Schaik challenge the assumption that necessity and survival are the “mothers of invention.” She and her colleagues argue that research into tool use by primates should look at the opportunities for tool use provided by the local environment.

Chimpanzee using a stone to crack open a nut

Chimpanzee using a stone to crack open a nut

Dr. Koops, Visalberghi, and van Schaik conducted studies of tool use amongst chimpanzees, orangutans, and bearded capuchins. The studies revealed that their tool use didn’t increase during times of scarcity, but rather tools were used when there were hard to reach and calorie rich foods available in the environment. This reveal challenges the held notion that necessity and survival governs the development and use of tools. Koops comments, “Our study suggests that published research on primate cultures, which depend on the ‘method of exclusion’, may well underestimate the cultural repertoires of primates in the wild, perhaps by a wide margin.” Their studies explain that opportunity, not necessity, governs tool use. This explicitly recognizes how the environment and landscape are influences on material culture. The previous model that defined tool use based on necessity illustrates tool usage solely dependent on survival, whereas this new model illustrates tool usage dependent on the environment and what the environment is offering the user.

This new model employs historical ecology, the anthropological paradigm that traces the dialectic relationship between human actions and nature. Using the historic-ecological perspective, it is established that the landscape retains the physical evidence of mental activities. In this case, the landscape retains the physical evidence of the development of material culture. Understanding tool usage in this way encourages us to view the environment as people centered, not environment centered. In viewing the environment as a landscape as opposed to an ecosystem, Dr. Koops, Visalberghi, and van Schaik recognize the dialectic relationship between nature and human behavior and how little or minor activities have major, lasting impacts on landscapes.

Their research can also help explain the development of tool use by ancient humans. Once we better understand tool use by ancient humans we can then focus on ways to encourage sustainable tool use by future users. Dr. Koops, Visalberghi, and van Schaik’s research can be applied to modern problems: by studying how primates use tools, it tells us how humans of the past have developed material culture and technology, and by finding the patterns of the past, we can apply them to the present. Their research can be used to find new ways of production, methods, practices, etc. for tool use that support a global effort towards sustainability.

Sources Used:

Sabloff, Jeremy A. “Chapter Three: How Can the Prospects for a Sustainable World Be Improved?” Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast, 2008. Print.



New Content:


Wonder Women

Wonder-Woman, Xenu Warrior Princess, and Katniss Everdeen are today’s interpretations of Greek history’s elusive group of Amazon women. This all female tribe is usually associated with violence, war, infanticide, mutilation, and overall aggressive ruthlessness. People claim that the Amazons removed one of their breasts for more effective archery, killed any male sons, and were all homosexual because of their deep hatred for men. These legends have led the public to believe that Amazons are a myth. However, archaeologists today are finding more and more evidence suggesting the existence of “Amazons,” who are far different from their monstrous reputation.

Now to separate fact from myth: although the fantastical image of a wild tribe of women has proven to be just that, there is real evidence of ancient women exemplifying Amazonian traits. Recent excavations of Scythian kurgans (burial mounds of the nomadic Scythe population) have found female remains buried in the same fashion as warrior men–with bows, knives, daggers, tools, and hemp-smoking kits. Just like the men, their remains had war injuries. This was not a marginality either; in fact one third of Scythian women were buried this way. These findings deconstruct the idea of male burials. Rather, this ceremonial type of grave was that of an ungendered warrior. Although Amazons may not have been their own separate force, there were certainly women of Amazonian character that fought alongside men. Such rules out the origin of their respective warfare to be in reproduction, one of the four main causes for war along with territory, status, and nationalism.

The striped legs of this female warrior show her wearing trousers, which were invented for riding horses and were uncommon amongst both men and women at the time.

Scythian warrior women had a strong bond of sisterhood, which although never suggested in antiquity, were today assumed to be lesbians. This may have been true based on the Greeks’ comfort with homosexuality. Still, evidence suggests they were not regarded as lesbians, but man-lovers.

Depictions Amazon-esque women in pottery sanctified them as symbol of beauty, courage, strength, and war-spirit. In the 1300 images of Amazonian battles found in Adrienne Mayor’s studies of the infamous women, only two or three of them show signs of gesturing for mercy. They were horsebacked, arrow shooting heroes.

This image shows Amazon queen Penthesileia killing an inferior male warrior

With all of these suggestions of power, beauty, and greatness, why do we have such a negative, malicious view of the Amazons? I believe this to be a result of one of the pitfalls of archaeology: that it can reflect our present ideologies more than the past. Historically, women haven’t been viewed as valiant. We usually don’t teach history of women fighting under a male alias, or leading troops. Because the notion of heroic warrior women in our culture is so unheard of, it’s easy to rationalize the idea by dehumanizing these women. In androcentric interpretations of archaeology, it would seem more feasible for there to be crazy, animal-like lesbians on the loose than accept the fact that women may have been just as valuable and honored as men in wartime. It’s time to use proper feminist archaeology to rethink past gender roles so that we can celebrate Scythian warrior women rather than vilifying them.




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Interested in more about the Scythian warriors like the Amazons? Of course you are:


Forgotten Africa; how and why an oversimplified history dominates a diverse continent

Perspectives on Africa, its peoples and various parts, often oversimplify the continent. The fact that I can even, in my opening sentence and title, refer to a singular “Africa” rather than a more specific part, and yet be confident that readers will have an already formed image and understanding of this “Africa,” shows how we tend to group this vast continents’ diverse histories and peoples into a singular entity.

So why do we have this oversimplified view of the continent? Many pan-Africanists talk about the role of colonialism in not only destroying a lot of Africa’s past, physically and culturally, but also in contributing to the contemporary socio-political scene, where Africa almost always comes off second best.

Archaeologists and historians have, in more recent times, been uncovering more and more history about pre-colonial Africa, and shedding light on how and why these pasts are not always remembered.

Firstly, the historical archaeological approach to Africa can be exemplified through examples such as Great Zimbabwe or The Ife Kingdom in West Africa. These well-known, impressive monuments and remnants of past societies were at first attributed, by early European explorers, to belong to more civilized societies from further north, rather than of being of African origin. The Ife Kingdom in modern day Nigeria was thought to be the lost city of Atlantis by German explorer Leo Frobenius, who refused to accept that the complex and ornate bronze sculptures he found were made by Africans. This diffusionist explanation has gradually been replaced by a more processual one, and places like these have been shown to originate from local cultures and histories as opposed to more northern, “higher centres.”


Image 1: Examples of the bronze sculptures of the Ife Kingdom. Leading art experts believe they are among the most aesthetically striking and technically sophisticated in the world.

Apart from this early trend in attributing African monuments to non-African sources, there was a subsequent and wider spanning history of the systematic destruction of African societies.

In the period between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known as the “scramble for Africa,” European powers invaded, occupied, colonized and annexed parts of the continent. The political justification for this manifested early on under the “Terra Nullius’ law, which stated that any land which lacks sovereignty by any state is open to acquisition by occupation. When it became clear that Africa was not “Terra Nullius,” the justification shifted to the duty of colonial rule over societies of savages and uncivilized peoples. This too was a short-lived agenda as colonialists discovered the aforementioned monuments and cities that indicated anything but savagery or lack of civilization. The resulting approach was to destroy these physical manifestations of civilization in order to create not only a landscape lacking the signs of sophisticated society but also the segmentation of these societies by the destruction of their physical centres.


Image 2: What survives today of the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali. In the 14th century Timbuktu was five times bigger than the city of London at that time, and was the richest city in the world. Today it is 236 times smaller than London and has nothing of a modern city.

Modern archaeology and historical review has done much to broaden our knowledge of Africa’s past. These more accurate, and enlightened, historical perspectives are critical in helping address the current social regard for Africa, not as a singular entity, but as a continent filled with widespread and diverse peoples, cultures and histories.


Additional Reading:

100 African cities destroyed by Europeans:


How Europe under-developed Africa by Walter Rodney:



Renfrew, C and Bahn, P. Archaeology Essentials. Thames & Hudson, London, 2010: pp 271.

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin. 100 African Cities Destroyed By Europeans: WHY there are seldom historical buildings and monuments in sub-Saharan Africa!” 16 November 2014. <>

Stephanie Busari. The African Sculptures mistaken for remains of Atlantis.” 16 November 2014. <>

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Bring Back the Artifacts: Artifacts Returned to Peru from U.S. Museum

For four years, the Burke Museum of Natural History worked with the Peruvian government to identify objects such as human remains, ceramic vessels and bowls, a collection of dolls, necklaces, and textiles. On November 5, the Peruvian Consul General attended a gathering for the final exhibition of the items; and the following week, the items were packed up and transported to Peru. Those items were identified for repatriation under a UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The convention permits government to designate meaningful objects of cultural heritage and protect them from leaving the country from which they originated. This repatriation shows that the museum is fulfilling the ethical responsibilities that come with having excavated artifacts. The UNESCO convention supports the idea that the identity of people is linked to the past, which people learn about from artifacts. Thus, the countries that use the UNESCO convention to repatriate artifacts can reclaim information from their past.

Figure 1- A ceramic vessel collected from Mochica, Peru, is one of the objects returned to the Peruvian government.

Figure 1- A ceramic vessel collected from Mochica, Peru, is one of the objects returned to the Peruvian government.

Dr. Peter Lape, associate director of research and curator of archaeology at the Burke Museum, said, “We are glad to help send these collections to Peru.” The artifacts were flown by the United States Air Force to the Peruvian Air Force base in Lima, Peru. Two officers from the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Relations took the objects and transferred them to the Ministry of Culture for further preservation. The positive attitude from Dr. Lape and the level of involvement for transportation indicate the importance of repatriation and the power that the UNESCO convention holds.

This pot, given to the Burke by a Seattle woman in 2007, was returned to Peru.

This pot, given to the Burke by a Seattle woman in 2007, was returned to Peru.

The museum was prompted to examine their Peruvian collections by a different ruling concerning the handling of Native American cultural items for federal agencies or institutions that receive federal funding. The ruling led the museum to re-inventory all of their human remains and they found three sets of Peruvian remains. Laura Phillip, the museum’s archaeology collections manager, said, “So, it’s sort of in the spirit of that law [Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990], we talked to the Peruvian government and said ‘Would you be interested in these individuals?’ And they said yes.” So, the legislation regarding archaeology and artifacts has the potential to stimulate further discussion of repatriation. Existing legislation combined with ethical standards of archaeologists and museums foster a system for dealing with artifacts that is respectful to the people who consider the artifacts as parts of their past.


Sabloff, Jeremy A. “Chapter Five: Why Cities?” Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast, 2008. 71-72. Print.

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Further Reading:

How The Immortal City Fell

This small city of Misis located in  Turkey like most cities is located near water ways. This city was located on the silk road at one point. This city has a rich history and up to 100,000 city inhabitants lived there at one time. Misis now has a population of just a few thousand and is a  small village known as Yakapinar. This city was restored to its former glory with the discovery of mosaics in the Misis mound. These mosaics show the vast amount of animals that were imported into the city. These mosaics show that we still repeat many of the actions of past societies.  One mosaic includes a way of caging poultry the same way the locals still do.

This former city was known as the immortal city, not because of its age, but because of the reference in the Quran where the recipe for immortality was dropped into the river from this location.  Through the recent excavation new mosaics, a stone bridge and the Havraniye Caravanserai were unearthed. The Havraniye Caravanserai is a center for commerce; the only thing that remains of it now is the large gate to its entrance. The excavations show how the city has changed hands so many times. The artifacts found are from the Neolithic, Roman, Byzantine, and Armenian eras.

Misis is similar to modern cities such as St. Louis and Detroit which were at one point large economic centers  and are now decreasing rapidly in population. The village of Yakapinar was also a huge economic center but the population fell due to external conflicts such as the crusades and the city being burned down.

The government of Turkey has set up plans to keep the village and area alive by giving out incentives to maintain normal life there as well as build new housing complexes to allow people to move back to this area. The head archaeologist believes that this will be a hot spot in tourism because of the variety of different cultures that have influenced the area over time.

The only  Mosaic known to show Eros in this manner

The only Mosaic known to show Eros in this manner

The mosaics discovered from this excavation as well as the original ones in 1956, show what the culture at that time felt was most important.  There is a Noah’s Ark mosaic, and one of eros the greek/roman god of love. The mosaics and the Roman and Byzantium ruins hold a lot of aesthetic value which unfortunately cause their true meanings to be forgotton.  The latest digs discovered more about the culture and the extent of the city’s history going back past the fifth millennium. The original excavation in the 1950’s appears neglected everyday life and why the city fell, and instead appreciates the aesthetic value of these ruins.

This is the ruins of the market place of Misis

This is the ruins of the market place of Misis

From text it seems that the reason this city was able to survive for so long was its stable economic location.   Its proximity to a river and the Mediterranean and to the middle east (Israel) allowed for this city to maintain a strong economic center with multiple markets.  The small village still has modern inhabitants just like the desolate cities of the American Midwest. This “immortal” city of Turkey shows how archaeology should be able to help understand how cities rapidly fall in population, but with the original excavation more focused on aesthetic value, it is the recently discovered artifacts and ruins which will help us correct the past mistakes and help us understand what life was like in this economic center and how the external conflicts caused the population to decrease.

Work Cited:

Yale, Pat. Turkey From the Inside. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014. <>.

“ARCHAEOLOGY – Turkey’s Immortal City Gets New Lease on Life.” Turkey’s Immortal City Gets New Lease on Life. N.p., 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014. <>.


Halicioglu, Seref. Misis Kervansarayı (Misis Caravanserai). Digital image. Panoramio. N.p., 10 Sept. 2014. Web. <>.

Eros Mosaic. Digital image. Eros Mosaic Found in Southern Turkish City. Doğan News Agency, 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2014. <>.

additional reading:

Observations on the Samson Floor at Mopsuestia; This article  not only gives a good history of the city but goes into detail about some of the mosaics discovered.

City Fortification or Sacred Monument? The Case of a 5,000 Year-Old Landscape Abnormality

Has there ever been anything in your life which turned out to be nothing of what you originally thought of? If so, then this phenomenon also turned out to be the case when archaeologists recently discovered the true purpose of a crescent-shaped stone monument in northern Israel.

Lunar monument located near the Sea of Galilee. Until recently, it was thought to be a portion of the walls of an old city.

Lunar monument located near the Sea of Galilee. Until recently, it was thought to be a portion of the walls of an old city.

The monument, which is located approximately 8 miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee, is measured at 150 meters (or 492 feet) in length with a height of 7 meters (about 23 feet) and a volume of 14,000 cubic meters (nearly 500,000 cubic feet). It is known to the locals of the area in Arabic as “Rujum en-Nabi Shua’ayb,” but it is also known by the name “Jethro’s Cairn”, a probable link to the Druze prophet Jethro who is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. Along with the stone formation’s impressive size, it has also been dated based on pottery found in the structure as being built between the years 3050 and 2650 BC, making it older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in the United Kingdom.

Depiction of the Mesopotamian moon god Sin. The monument is thought to be devoted to the moon god by the inhabitants of nearby Bet Yerah.

Depiction of the Mesopotamian moon god Sin. The monument is thought to be devoted to the moon god by the inhabitants of nearby Bet Yerah.

Past work by archaeologists led many to the conclusion that the monument was once the part of a city wall, but recent work done by Hebrew University doctoral student Ido Wachtel has yielded no evidence of a nearby city. Rather than being city fortifications, Wachtel posits that the structure served as a symbolization for the ancient Mesopotamian moon god Sin, with the lunar crescent shape of the monument being one of Sin’s symbols. He supports this claim by also stating that a nearby ancient town named Bet Yerah (Hebrew for “house of the moon god”) is only a day’s journey from the structure, a distance which allows the monument to possibly serve as the town’s borders. As Wachtel wrote in a presentation to the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, “The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population.”

In terms of how the monument was built, Wachtel estimates that the job would have taken approximately 200 workers many months to complete, also keeping in mind the fact that those workers had to tend to their crops as well. The town of Bet Yerah, known in Arabic as “Khirbet Kerak,” was believed to have been thriving during the monument’s construction, with the inhabitants had good trade relations with early Egyptian rulers.

Nevertheless, an aerial view of the landscape displays a breathtaking site, one which now can be seen as a sacred location to those who once lived there. In addition to being a symbolic dedication to an ancient deity, the monument also serves as a potent symbol displaying Bet Yerah’s economic power at the time of its construction. Overall, the monument, although still leaving some unanswered questions, has served as a long-lasting reminder of Bet Yerah’s spiritual and cultural strength.

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Works Cited

Sabloff, Jeremy A. “Chapter Five: Why Cities?” Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast, 2008. 71-72. Print.

Jarus, By Owen. “Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <>.

Haaretz. “5,000-year-old Moon-shaped Stone Structure Identified in Northern Israel – Archaeology.” N.p., 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <>.

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