Archive for the ‘history’ Category

All that glitters is, in this case, gold. During our Thanksgiving visit to our daughter’s in Philadelphia, we spent time at the Penn Museum, a jewel of a museum. If I lived in Philadelphia, I’d have a membership so that I could take time in each gallery individually and then go home and read more about that era. I love history and this museum brings it alive. Let’s look at just a few items from the ancient city of Ur.

Ur, modern Tall al-Muqayyar or Tell el-Muqayyar, Iraq, important city of ancient southern Mesopotamia (Sumer), situated about 140 miles (225 km) southeast of the site of Babylon and about 10 miles (16 km) west of the present bed of the Euphrates River. In antiquity the river ran much closer to the city; the change in its course has left the ruins in a desert that once was irrigated and fertile land. The first serious excavations at Ur were made after World War I by H.R. Hall of the British Museum, and as a result a joint expedition was formed by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania that carried on the excavations under Leonard Woolley’s directorship from 1922 until 1934.

Encyclopedia Britannica

Queen Puabi obviously rocked the jewelry! But who was she? The Penn Museum site tells us:

The forensic examination of her remains, undertaken by London’s Natural History Museum, indicates that she was roughly 40 years old when she died. She stood just under five feet tall. Her name and title are known from the short inscription on one of three cylinder seals found on her person. The two cuneiform signs that compose her name were initially read as “Shub-ad” in Sumerian. Today, we think they should be read in Akkadian as “Pu-abi” (or, more correctly, “Pu-abum,” meaning “word of the Father”). Her title is “eresh” (sometimes mistakenly read as “nin”), and means “queen.”

You can read more by clicking here.

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You say you’ve heard that before?  ‘Tis true.  I cannot tell a lie.  (You say you’ve heard that before as well?) You did know he had to sleep somewhere, right?  A number of somewheres!  Well, this is one of the somewheres!

During the time the Continental Army bivouacked at Valley Forge, most of the men slept in wooden huts that they’d made laboriously by hand (and axe.)  I always had the impression that they nearly froze in tents, but during our recent trip to Valley Forge, I found out that wasn’t true, at least the tent part.  Many of them probably felt as though they were freezing, dressed inadequately and without, in many cases, proper shoes or boots, and for much too long, food supplies were inadequate.

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Perhaps the Queen herself isn’t that resilient (after all, if she were alive, she’d be over 4,600 years old), but her jewelry certainly is!  The University of Penn Museum displays this magnificent jewelry from the first Dynasty of Ur, about 2600 BC.  We don’t know for sure that Puabi was a queen, but she certainly was of high status, and when wearing all this, she’d be ready to party in the new year!

© janet m. webb 2016

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About the end of the 7th century BC, Phyrgia was conquered by the Lydians and after them, the Persians captured Gordion.  The massive walls and gates built by the Phyrgians were overcome by a giant earthen siege ramp pushed against one fort, which provided a launching place for arrows and firebrands.  No one knows where Midas himself is buried.

Today the excavation of Gordion continues. Most of the over-250 acres and burial mounds remain to be explored, even though excavation has gone on for more than 60 years.  Who knows what other treasures will be discovered as work continues?

© janet m. webb 2016

Jug

© janet m. webb 2016

Cauldron detail; siren and demon attachments

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You think your spouse’s writing is hard to read?  How about this writing?  And just try writing on stone!  Of course, if you were Assyrian, interpretation might not be written in stone. Phyrgian language is linguistically similar to Greek.  The inscriptions are usually very short and mostly personal names.  Gordion is a rich site of early Phyrgian writing: 11 inscriptions on stone and 245 graffiti, mostly on vases.

© janet m. webb 2016 (more…)

Roof tiles were invented in Greece in the 7th century BC, probably reaching Phrygia about 600 BC.  Geometric patterns were used in addition to animal motifs. The city of Gordion must have been a beautiful sight with these terracotta decorations.

© janet m. webb 2016 (more…)

The Midas touch

Posted: October 4, 2016 in history

Most of us have heard the story of King Midas, granted the “gift” of turning anything he touched to gold, an ability he thought wonderful until his food, drink, and finally his daughter, were turned to gold.  Fortunately, Dionysus (giver of the gift) let Midas off the golden hook.  Washing in a certain river took away this deadly gift.

Although the golden touch is a myth, there was a King Midas in ancient Phrygia, located in today’s Turkey.  In 1957, a Penn University archaeologist and his team discovered an almost 3,000 year old tomb known as the Midas Mound and likely the tomb of Midas’ father.  I recently visited the University of Pennsylvania  Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s  exhibit “The Golden Age of King Midas” during the free museum day in Philadelphia.  That meant we were able to get into the museum free (a $15 savings per person) and into the special exhibit for $5/person, a savings of $15/person!  The only thing I regret is that we didn’t go much earlier so we had more time to spend in the museum as a whole.

This is what the mound looked like “back in the day.”  The excavation trench can be clearly seen and the man in the middle is, I believe, Penn University archaeologist Rodney Young.

© janet m. webb 2016 (more…)