Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dairying in Ireland goes back approximately 6,000 years

New research from the University of Bristol, UK has revealed the antiquity of dairy farming in a region famous for its dairy exports: Ireland.

Research published today in the Journal of Environmental Archaeology shows that dairying on the island goes back approximately 6,000 years, revealed through traces of ancient dairy fats found in pots dating to around 4,000 to 2,500 BC.

Dr Jessica Smyth of Bristol's School of Chemistry analysed nearly 500 pots from the Neolithic, the period when people switched from hunting and gathering to farming. In Britain and Ireland, this change occurred around 4,000 BC, more than 1,000 years later than on the Continent. The Bristol team use a combination of fat or lipid 'fingerprinting' and compound-specific carbon isotope techniques to identify the origin of fats preserved in the walls of prehistoric cooking pots.

Dr Smyth, who led the study, said: "We know from previous research that dairying was an important part of many early farming economies, but what was a big surprise was the prevalence of dairy residues in Irish pots. It looks to have been a very important food source."

Ninety per cent of the residues tested for fat origin were found to be dairy fats, with ten per cent found to be meat fats (beef or mutton) or a mixture of milk and meat.

Dr Smyth added: "People can obviously cook meat in other ways than boiling it in pots, and there is plenty of evidence for cereal processing at this time, but the Irish dairy signal remains very striking, particularly when you compare it with the continental European data sets. Ireland really does seem to go mad for milk in the Neolithic."

Milk is still a traditional and valuable food in Europe today, produced by over 30 million dairy cows and representing 14 per cent of the value of European agricultural production [2011 figures]. Six thousand years ago, dairying in Ireland looked very different.

Dr Smyth said: "We know that settlements were small in the Irish Neolithic, usually one or two houses, so it's likely that early farming groups had just one or two animals supporting the household with their products, which were perhaps part of a wider community herd."

Such results are even more significant given the fact that domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep and goats had to be physically shipped to Ireland as part of the process, as these animals were not native to the island.

"These are a very determined group of pioneer farmers. They are setting up everything from scratch, and taking a significant gamble with their livelihoods and those of their dependants," Dr Smyth said.

It would appear that the Irish love of dairy products is very ancient, and the suitability of the island for dairy farming was recognised early in prehistory.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stone Age man wasn't necessarily more advanced than the Neanderthals

A multi-purpose bone tool dating from the Neanderthal era has been discovered by University of Montreal researchers, throwing into question our current understanding of the evolution of human behaviour. It was found at an archaeological site in France. "This is the first time a multi-purpose bone tool from this period has been discovered. It proves that Neanderthals were able to understand the mechanical properties of bone and knew how to use it to make tools, abilities usually attributed to our species, Homo sapiens," said Luc Doyon of the university's Department of Anthropology, who participated in the digs. Neanderthals lived in Europe and western Asia in the Middle Paleolithic between around 250,000 to 28,000 years ago. Homo sapiens is the scientific term for modern man.
The production of bone tools by Neanderthals is open to debate. For much of the twentieth century, prehistoric experts were reluctant to recognize the ability of this species to incorporate materials like bone into their technological know-how and likewise their ability to master the techniques needed to work bone. However, over the past two decades, many clues indicate the use of hard materials from animals by Neanderthals. "Our discovery is an additional indicator of bone work by Neanderthals and helps put into question the linear view of the evolution of human behaviour," Doyon said.
The tool in question was uncovered in June 2014 during the annual digs at the Grotte du Bison at Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgundy, France. Extremely well preserved, the tool comes from the left femur of an adult reindeer and its age is estimated between 55,000 and 60,000 years ago. Marks observed on it allow us to trace its history. Obtaining bones for the manufacture of tools was not the primary motivation for Neanderthals hunting - above all, they hunted to obtain the rich energy provided by meat and marrow. Evidence of meat butchering and bone fracturing to extract marrow are evident on the tool. Percussion marks suggest the use of the bone fragment for carved sharpening the cutting edges of stone tools. Finally, chipping and a significant polish show the use of the bone as a scraper.
"The presence of this tool at a context where stone tools are abundant suggests an opportunistic choice of the bone fragment and its intentional modification into a tool by Neanderthals," Doyon said. "It was long thought that before Homo sapiens, other species did not have the cognitive ability to produce this type of artefact. This discovery reduces the presumed gap between the two species and prevents us from saying that one was technically superior to the other.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New research on the collapse of the Bronze Age (beginning around 1200 BC), including the abandonment of cities


Two researchers are taking a new twist on long-published research about what an ancient civilization did for a living. W. Flint Dibble, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student in the Department of Classics, and Daniel J. Fallu, a doctoral student in archaeology at Boston University, will present their new discoveries surrounding a key site from the Greek Dark Age on Jan. 9, at the joint annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and Society for Classical Studies (SCS, formerly known as the American Philological Association), in New Orleans. 
The Greek village of Nichoria remained standing through both the Late Bronze Age and the Greek Dark Age, and previous research has suggested that Nichoria turned to cattle ranching during the region's collapse in the Dark Age. That's because the remains of cattle bones are prevalent among bone fragments in the soil. 
In a presentation titled, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the Dark Age Ranch: Taphonomic Reinterpretations of Pastoralism at Nichoria, Messinia," the UC-led research suggests that soil formation after the abandonment of the site in the Dark Age led to poor preservation of the historic record, and as a result, the thicker, larger bones of animals such as cattle survived the breakdown of other bone fragments. Other possible remains would have been destroyed as a result of the more acidic soil. The researchers report that Dark Age sediments contain few visible calcite formations, indicative of poor site preservation.
The village of Nichoria in Messenia was located near the palace of Pylos during the Greek Bronze Age, when Greece was considered a Superpower of the Mediterranean. The region thrived on its trade and economic stability, culture, and art and architecture, including great monuments, palaces and writings. The collapse of the Bronze Age (beginning around 1200 BC), including the abandonment of cities and the destruction of palaces, is known as the Dark Age.
"There's no monumental architecture and little art, writing disappears and there are considerably fewer sites," says Dibble. He explains that Nichoria is one of the few settlements in Greece that remained occupied during both the Bronze Age and the Greek Dark Age. It's believed that the widespread abandonment of settlements was due to the adoption of pastoralism, making populations more mobile as they herded animals. 
The explanations for the sudden collapse of civilization in the Dark Age have ranged from believing it was the result of the invasion of another society to a catastrophic climatic event. 
"We were exploring this as evidence for a possible climate event, but the soil samples came back inconclusive," says Dibble. "We actually think that as more of these sites are abandoned in the Dark Age, the landscape becomes very stable, and the weather destroys more of what's in the top upper layers than the archaeological material buried deeper below. At this site, we have no evidence that the destruction of bone was the result of climate change."
Previous research from the first excavation of Nichoria in the late '60s - an extensive project led by the University of Minnesota - has suggested that Nichoria survived the Dark Age by turning to cattle ranching, after villagers took control of the herds of the palaces in the wake of their collapse.
Dibble says that the evolution of methods and technology has resulted in new examinations of discoveries from decades ago. "We're using modern biology to understand what is happening to ancient remains and we're finding that the bone is dissolving away. I've found teeth that are hollow because the dense enamel is still there, but the dentin is gone, which also tells me that more porous bone is dissolving away."
Dibble adds that their study is unique in that soil that was collected with the bones was also studied before being washed away to better examine the bones. Fallu conducted the examinations of the soil. Concerning the fact that many bags of bones still had dirt, Dibble says, "We got kind of lucky in a sense." 
"I want to see if this kind of soil environment that destroys bones also destroys other types of evidence, because there is bone destruction at other sites being studied from the Dark Age," says Dibble. "Bone is made up of calcium carbonate, so other carbon materials could be destroyed, such as charred plants - key to understanding agriculture at that time. Also, there are few metal objects from the Dark Age, and the soil environment might be an explanation for that."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Oldest stone tool ever found in Turkey

Scientists have discovered the oldest recorded stone tool ever to be found in Turkey, revealing that humans passed through the gateway from Asia to Europe much earlier than previously thought, approximately 1.2 million years ago.

According to research published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, the chance find of a humanly-worked quartzite flake, in ancient deposits of the river Gediz, in western Turkey, provides a major new insight into when and how early humans dispersed out of Africa and Asia.
Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, together with an international team from the UK, Turkey and the Netherlands, used high-precision equipment to date the deposits of the ancient river meander, giving the first accurate timeframe for when humans occupied the area.
Professor Danielle Schreve, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, said: "This discovery is critical for establishing the timing and route of early human dispersal into Europe. Our research suggests that the flake is the earliest securely-dated artefact from Turkey ever recorded and was dropped on the floodplain by an early hominin well over a million years ago." 
The researchers used high-precision radioisotopic dating and palaeomagnetic measurements from lava flows, which both pre-date and post-date the meander, to establish that early humans were present in the area between approximately 1.24 million and 1.17 million years ago. Previously, the oldest hominin fossils in western Turkey were recovered in 2007 at Ko├žabas, but the dating of these and other stone tool finds were uncertain.
"The flake was an incredibly exciting find", Professor Schreve said. "I had been studying the sediments in the meander bend and my eye was drawn to a pinkish stone on the surface. When I turned it over for a better look, the features of a humanly-struck artefact were immediately apparent. 
"By working together with geologists and dating specialists, we have been able to put a secure chronology to this find and shed new light on the behaviour of our most distant ancestors."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Archaeologists unearth royal entry complex at Herodian Hilltop Palace

Archaeologists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology have discovered a monumental entryway to the Herodian Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park. The unique complex was uncovered during excavations by The Herodium Expedition in Memory of Ehud Netzer over the past year, as part of a project to develop the site for tourism.

The main feature of the entryway is an impressive corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels. These arches buttressed the corridor's massive side-walls, allowing the King and his entourage direct passage into the Palace Courtyard. Thanks to the supporting arches, the 20-meter long and 6-meter wide corridor has been preserved to a height of 20 meters.
The Hebrew University archaeologists -- Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy -- suggest that the corridor was built as part of Herod's plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill, a vast and impressive monument designed to commemorate the architect-King.
Surprisingly, during the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant. This appears to have happened when Herod, aware of his impending death, decided to convert the whole hilltop complex into a massive memorial mound, a royal burial monument on an epic scale.
Whatever the case, the corridor was back-filled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod's reign. The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill's base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.
The excavators point out that not only was the arched corridor covered over in the course of the construction of the hill-monument, but also all the structures earlier built by Herod on the hill's slopes, including the Royal Theater uncovered by the expedition in 2008, while still led by Prof. Ehud Netzer, since deceased.
The only edifice not covered over was the splendid mausoleum-style structure, identified by Netzer and the expedition as Herod's burial-place. Together with the monumental cone-shaped hill, this constituted the unique Herodian Royal burial-complex.
During the course of the current excavations, the original impressive Palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed. This entry-room, decorated with splendid painted frescoes, had a magnificent entryway leading into it, and offered evidence of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt (66-71 CE), including Jewish Revolt coinage and crude temporary structures.
In addition, the excavations in the arched corridor also turned up impressive evidence from the Bar Kokhba Revolt period (132-135/6 CE): hidden tunnels dug on the site by the rebels as part of the guerilla warfare they waged against the Romans. Supported in part by wooden beams, these tunnels exited from the hilltop fortress by way of the corridor's walls, through openings hidden in the corridor. One of the tunnels revealed a well-preserved construction of 20 or so cypress-wood branches, arranged in a cross-weave pattern to support the tunnel's roof.
In the future, according to Mr. Shaul Goldstein, Director of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority, the excavation of the arched corridor will allow visitors direct access to the Herodium hilltop palace-fortress, in the same way that Herod entered it two thousand years ago. There are also plans to provide tourists direct access from the structures on the slope, the Royal Theater and the Mausoleum, via the earlier monumental stairway, to the hilltop Palace.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Genetic ancestry of different ethnic groups varies across the United States

 IMAGE: This infographic shows the percentage of self-identified European (white) Americans who have one percent or more African ancestry
Click here for more information.
The United States is a melting pot of different racial and ethnic groups, but it has not been clear how the genetic ancestry of these populations varies across different geographic regions. In a landmark study published by Cell Press December 18th in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers analyzed the genomes of more than 160,000 African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans, providing novel insights into the subtle differences in genetic ancestry across the United States. 

"Our study not only reveals the historical underpinnings of regional differences in genetic ancestry but also sheds light on the complex relationships between genetic ancestry and self-identified race and ethnicity," says lead study author Katarzyna Bryc of 23andMe and Harvard Medical School.

Over the past 500 years, North America has been the site of ongoing mixing of Native Americans, European settlers, and Africans. Although much of the world has been genetically characterized, the United States has received less attention from population geneticists because of its complex ancestry patterns. Moreover, the relationship between genetic ancestry and self-described racial and ethnic identities in each region of the United States has not been deeply characterized.

 IMAGE: This infographic illustrates the mean proportion of African ancestry for African Americans across the United States. African Americans in Georgia and South Carolina have the highest average percentage of African...
Click here for more information.
To address this gap in knowledge, Bryc and her collaborators analyzed DNA sequence variations called single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the genomes of 5,269 self-described African Americans, 8,663 Latinos, and 148,789 European Americans. These individuals actively participate in 23andMe research by submitting saliva samples, consenting for data to be used for research, and completing surveys. 23andMe is a personal genomics company that provides direct-to-consumer genetic testing and services that include the analysis of DNA samples to generate ancestry-related genetic reports. 

The researchers found that regional ancestry differences reflect historical events such as waves of immigration. For example, Scandinavian ancestry is found in trace proportions in most states but comprises about 10% of ancestry in European Americans living in Minnesota and the Dakotas. They also found that individuals identify roughly with the majority of their genetic ancestry, contrary to expectations under a social "one-drop rule." Indeed, more than six million Americans who self-identify as European might carry African ancestry, and as many as five million self-described European Americans might have at least 1% Native American ancestry. 

"These findings suggest that many individuals with partial African and Native American ancestry have 'passed' into the white community, thereby undermining the use of cultural labels that separate individuals into discrete, non-overlapping groups," Bryc says. "Taken together, our results suggest that genetic ancestry can be leveraged to augment historical records and inform cultural processes shaping modern populations."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stone inscription validating David as the founder of the dynasty of Judahite kings in Jerusalem on exhibition in NYC

Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age

At its height in the 8th to 7th century B.C., the Assyrian Empire was the dominant power of the ancient Near East and the largest empire the world had yet seen, spanning 1,000 miles in a continuous swathe from Assyria (present-day northern Iraq) to the Mediterranean. As Assyria expanded, the Phoenician city-states of the Levant—precariously located along the edge of Assyrian territory—were compelled to expand and strengthen their maritime trade networks to the west. The mercantile connections they established along the northern coast of Africa and the southern coast of Europe to the strait of Gibraltar and beyond, to the Atlantic, became conduits for raw materials, luxury goods, images, and ideas between the Near East and the Mediterranean.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's landmark exhibition Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age will trace—through some 260 works of art on loan from major collections in Western Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States—the deep roots of interaction between the ancient Near East and the lands along the shores of the Mediterranean and their impact on the artistic traditions that developed in the region. Parallels will also be drawn between works in the exhibition and those in the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art.
Among the works on view will be monumental sculptures and wall reliefs, masterfully carved ivories, fine metalwork, and luxurious jewelry created by ancient artisans from throughout the Near East and Mediterranean, brought together from 41 museums in 14 countries. 


Also on exhibit: a nearly 13-by-16 inch c. 830 BCE rock,with the inscription: “the earliest extra-biblical reference to the House of David.”

“There is no doubt that the inscription is one of the most important artifacts ever found in relation to the Bible,” Eran Arie, curator of Israelite and Persian periods at the Israel Museum, wrote in the exhibit catalog.

As is to be expected with a rock nearly three millennia old, the slab is missing considerable portions, and Arie’s translation of the remaining 13 lines of text is full of ellipses and bracketed additions. What is clear is that the Aram-Damascene king Hazael brags of having killed 70 kings, including of Israel and of the “House of David.” (The round number, scholars agree, is probably exaggerated, although Hazael did have a reputation for being ruthless and successful.)

Epigraphers and biblical historians agree almost unanimously that the letters “bytdvd” refer to the House of King David.

In the catalog for the “Assyria to Iberia” exhibit, the Israel Museum’s Arie wrote that the inscription’s matter-of-fact invocation of David’s name just some 150 years after his reign amounts to a “clear indication that the ‘House of David’ was known throughout the region and that the king’s reputation was not a literary invention of a much later period.” This, he adds, “clearly validates the biblical description of a figure named David becoming the founder of the dynasty of Judahite kings in Jerusalem.”

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition is organized around three major themes: Assyria’s land-based expansion from northern Mesopotamia westward through military conquests in the early first millennium B.C.; Phoenician expansion by sea through the development of trading relationships and founding of colonies; and the adoption and adaptation of Near Eastern imagery and techniques by artisans in the western Mediterranean. A concluding gallery will display works that represent the shift of power to Babylon after the sack of Nineveh (the Assyrian capital) in 612 B.C.  Reference will be made to relevant passages in the Bible, the epics of Homer, and other texts that concern the historical people, places, customs, and events represented in the exhibition.

Assyria’s Expansion
At the beginning of the first millennium B.C., Assyrian kings began to push westward by means of annual military campaigns. With each new conquest, vast amounts of booty and tribute—whether as raw materials or luxury goods—flowed into Assyrian coffers. Cities that rebelled or refused to send tribute were attacked and sacked. Large populations of conquered peoples were forcibly resettled from their homelands. Official artworks of the time, created to glorify the kings’ achievements, also serve as documents of Assyria’s aggressive expansionist policy.

One of the first monumental works on display—a rare surviving example of Assyrian sculpture in the round—is a statue of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (r. 883–859 B.C.). Ashurnasirpal consolidated the kingdom left by his father, exacted tribute, and brutally put down rebellion. The statue was carved of stone that may have been brought back from a foreign campaign. A cuneiform inscription on the torso records the king’s campaigns in the west, reaching as far as the “Great Sea”—the Mediterranean. Reliefs from Ashurnasirpal’s palace at Nimrud can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum’s Assyrian Sculpture Court (Gallery 401).

Multiple scenes of the armies of king Ashurbanipal (r. 668–631 B.C.) defeating the Elamites are found in a frieze from his palace at Nineveh. Elam, in southwestern Iran, was a long-standing enemy of Assyria. Ashurbanipal is also shown feasting while reclining on a couch that appears to have been covered in ornamental ivory panels, similar to the vast number of ivory furniture attachments that entered the palace storerooms as booty or tribute or were produced by Assyrian artisans, outstanding examples of which will be displayed nearby.

Artistic ideas also moved in the opposite direction, from Assyria outward. Frequent contact, usually hostile, between Assyria and Urartu—the biblical kingdom of Ararat, which corresponds to present-day Armenia, eastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran—led to significant Assyrian influence on Urartian art. The exhibition will include Urartian works that incorporate well-known Assyrian motifs, such as winged guardian spirits and sacred trees.     
Statues of supernatural guardian divinities were frequently erected at the entrances to monumental buildings in the Near East. In Assyria these statues typically took the form of a hybrid creature with elements of a winged lion or bull and the head of a man.  Comprised of different creatures, a Scorpion Bird Man, from the Aramaean city of Guzana (modern Tell Halaf) in North Syria, served a similar protective function.

The southern Levant, including the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, lay at the southwestern edge of Assyria’s empire. There were also Philistine city states on the coast, and all of these kingdoms exchanged ideas and artifacts with the Phoenician cities to the north. The exhibition will include an inscription featuring the only non-biblical attestation of the House of David. Carved ivories from Samaria—the Israelite capital and biblical city of Ahab and Jezebel—are Phoenician and Syrian in style, and reflect interaction with their Phoenician and Aramaean neighbors.

Mass deportations in the first millennium B.C.—first by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians—affected the populations of many smaller states within the empires, including Judah and Israel. A foundation record that describes Sennacherib’s destruction of 46 Judean cities, deportation of more than 200,000 people, and exaction of tribute from Hezekiah, king of Judah, mirrors, to an astonishing degree, the biblical description, which describes the same events in terms of a success for Hezekiah, because Sennacherib did not sack Jerusalem itself.

Phoenician Expansion
The Phoenicians, famed for their ships in Homer’s Odyssey, were enterprising seafarers and master navigators who plied the Mediterranean Sea in swift and sturdy merchant vessels, largely in pursuit of the metal resources of the western Mediterranean. They established trading posts and colonies throughout the area, including Carthage on the North African coast. The raw materials the Phoenicians acquired were transformed into luxury goods that were in demand throughout the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean. Phoenician artisans ably combined elements from a number of cultures, with the most prominent being the use of Egyptian motifs.

Phoenician merchants enjoyed a monopoly on trade of the precious purple dye obtained from murex shells (the word Phoenician derives from the ancient Greek word for “purple”). And the Phoenicians introduced their phonetic alphabet—the precursor of the alphabet used today throughout the western hemisphere—across the Mediterranean.

Phoenicia’s major cities—Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Arwad—were located on a narrow strip of land and on offshore islands along the coast of present-day Lebanon and Syria. They grew wealthy through trade. Although a range of mountains to the east separated them from the Assyrians, an inscribed bronze band from an ancient gate at Balawat features a scene depicting people from Tyre delivering tribute to king Shalmaneser III (r. 858–824 B.C.) on typically Phoenician boats called “hippoi,” because of the horse heads at the stem and stern.

Cyprus was rich in deposits of copper, which had long been an important resource for Near Eastern powers; for the Phoenicians it also provided a starting point for routes farther west across the Mediterranean. Of particular interest was the Phoenician colony at Kition. Magnificent gold jewelry from an elite tomb, dating from the end of the 8th century B.C., indicates a strong Phoenician presence. Also found at Kition was a stele depicting king Sargon II (r.722–705 B.C.), testimony to Assyrian interest in the island. Sargon was apparently able to demand tribute from Cypriot kings, though his claims to control Cyprus have been met with skepticism from scholars.

Adoption of Near Eastern Artistic Traditions 
At archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean, artifacts have been found that are embellished with certain popular Near Eastern motifs—such as sphinxes, human-headed birds, griffins, and the “Mistress of Animals,” among many others. In some instances, the objects were made in the Near East, or possibly by resident eastern craftsmen in the west, but frequently these goods were locally produced, by artisans who incorporated Near Eastern–style imagery  into their own repertoire.

During the early first millennium B.C., representations of a Near Eastern goddess—Astarte or Ashtart—also began to appear in various locations across the Mediterranean, carried by the Phoenicians. This goddess would later have a significant impact in the west, where aspects of her persona were adopted into the image of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Diverse foreign dedications were found at a number of important ancient Greek sanctuaries, including Olympia, Delphi, and the sanctuary of Hera on Samos. The number of foreign bronzes and ivories found at Samos—deriving from various parts of the Near East and Egypt— is quite extraordinary and offers a window onto the complexities of interaction in these ritual settings.

One famous dedication at Delphi was a throne given by king Midas of Phrygia, in Anatolia. According to Herodotus this was the first dedication at the sanctuary by a non- Greek. It has been suggested that a fascinating ivory plaque known as the “lion tamer” of Delphi may even come from the throne itself. Also from Delphi come gold sheets, filled with Near Eastern animal-inspired imagery, that may once have adorned the garments of divine statues: of Apollo, his sister Artemis, and their mother Leto.

The astonishingly broad reach of trade in the period is demonstrated by a display of several large, fluted tridacna (giant clam) shells, decorated with incised human and plant forms. Probably used as cosmetic containers, the shells themselves originated in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean; the carving was most likely done in the Levant; and the examples on view were found in Babylonia, Assyria, Greece, and Etruria.
Discovered in elite tombs of the period in Greece and Italy were Near Eastern goods and locally manufactured artifacts with orientalizing traits, among them monumental cauldrons with animal-head attachments at the rim. An exceptional example found at Salamis on Cyprus will be a highlight of the exhibition. Herodotos records seafaring traders from Samos dedicating just such a cauldron, with griffin-head attachments, at the sanctuary of Hera. Another key loan to the exhibition will be several works from the seldom-shown Carambolo Treasure. Discovered near Seville, Spain, the treasure consists of exceptionally finely worked gold jewelry reflecting both Phoenician and local metalworking traditions. More recently, the discovery of a ritual complex nearby has given scholars a social background for understanding these spectacular artifacts.

At the heart of this Mediterranean system was shipping. The exhibition will include discoveries from ships that were wrecked off the coast of Spain, including metalwork, weights, a Phoenician altar, and elephant tusks, inscribed with the names of Phoenician gods and goddesses.

Babylonian Rule
After three centuries of Assyrian rule, Babylon allied with the Medes of western Iran and repeatedly pushed back and defeated Assyrian armies, ultimately attacking and destroying Nineveh. Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–562 B.C.) rebuilt Babylon on a grand scale, and strove to make his name eternal.  A series of stelae that tell the story of the transition of power from Assyria to Babylon will be shown.

The exhibition will include a model of Babylon’s famed Ishtar Gate and Processional Way, alongside several actual reliefs from these monuments. Babylon was a world center politically, economically, and culturally, while in Mesopotamian terms Babylon was a holy city, with special cultic importance. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was not only the culmination of the Mesopotamian imperial age, but would become the focus of much later tradition. A section of the exhibition will explore this legacy through images such as the Tower of Babel and Belshazzar’s Feast, as well as other famous biblical themes of this period, such as the Temple of Solomon and the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem.