Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Archaeological discoveries in the Holy Land

It is striking how the Holy Land continues to yield significant archaeological evidence. In one way it should not surprise given the millennia of human occupation in that small area of land. In another way it does surprise given the often violent and destructive upheavals that have shaped its history, and the frequent changes of political control. Nevertheless despite all this remarkable things survive awaiting the developer’s heavy machinery followed by the rescue archaeologist’s trowel, or, if they are lucky, the researcher with time and patience.

Three fairly recent discoveries I noticed online all cast significant light on the history of faith and worship and cultural contacts.

The first was the identification of cannabis as an element used in Temple worship in the kingdom of Judah some 2.700 years ago, incense one would expect, cannabis perhaps not. Maybe the sight of the armies of Assyria seemed a little less daunting if you were high on weed. The article about it can be seen at Ancient Israelites 'burned cannabis in worship'

One hopes this is not used as a recommendation for its use - liturgical or otherwise - by the modern pro-drugs lobby.

The second was the discovery last year of an early Mosque in the Negev. This appears to be from the earlier phase of the Islamic conquest, so it is important not just for the history of the region but in understanding the development of Muslim devotion. The account can be seen at  Israeli archaeologists find 1,200-year-old mosque

The third discovery was a major hoard of gold coins from the Islamic period which was reported today. Apart from an indication of personal wealth it also is claimed to point to trading contact with Byzantium. The finds are discussed at Israeli youths unearth 1,100-year-old gold coins. However the Byzantine coin fragments are from the reign of the Emperor Theophilos (829-842) and as the Wikipedia biography of him at Theophilos shows he had a long conflict with the Arabs, so they may be spoils of war as much as the results of trade.

A twelfth century discovery in the Holy Land is one I will link to in my next post.

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