Posts Tagged ‘History’

Without Hitler, Israel would probably not exist

April 8, 2018

History is causal.

Above all, it is existential.

“What would have been if …..?” can never be more than a thought experiment. Wishing away horrific events in the past is not just pointless, it is a form of denial of “what is”.  Being proud of past generations or apologising for their actions are both equally inane.

  • Without prophets, gods would not exist
  • Without the rise of the Roman Empire, we wouldn’t have highways
  • Without the fall of the Roman Empire, we wouldn’t have Ferraris today
  • Without the European colonisation of the Americas, native Americans would still be primitive hunter gatherers
  • Without the European colonisation of the Americas, Asian cuisine (horror of horrors) would not include chillies
  • Without the colonisation of Australia, the aborigines would be either extinct or speaking Chinese,
  • Without British colonisation, the Indian sub-continent would be a mishmash of little warring kingdoms,
  • Without Hitler, Israel would probably not exist today.

Apologising for what previous generations or your ancestors may have done makes no sense.

If you must apologise, apologise for what your children and your descendants may do.


 

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Camel stories in the Old Testament were made up and long after the purported events

February 4, 2014

I suppose there are some who still believe that the stories of the Old Testament are not just fables and are an historical account.  As fables they are almost as well known as the stories of the brother’s Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. But they are not at all a bad bunch of stories – though I always thought that a father offering up his son as a sacrifice was a sign of an evil man and not of any kind of faith to be admired. And even as a child I felt that neither the cowardly Abraham nor his tyrannical God came out of that story very well. And the grown-up son (Isaac) who allowed himself to be bound up to satisfy a demented father only comes out as an idiot.

In any event I cannot remember that I ever thought the stories were factual accounts or were anything other than fiction (which itself makes me wonder at what age we come to separate fact from fiction). To “prove” that fiction about the long dead past is not factual is, of course, trying to prove a negative. Researchers have now shown that at the purported time of the Age of the Patriarchs (supposedly 2000 – 1500 BCE), camels did not exist in the purported habitat of the purported Patriarchs (Abraham, Joseph and Jacob). I find it interesting that camels  were actually moved up from Arabia to the Levant apparently to help with a change of copper mining technology. But it is of little relevance to proving or disproving the fictions embodied in the fables of the Old Testament.

Finding Israel’s First Camels

Camels are mentioned as pack animals in the biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob. But archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.

Now Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University‘sDepartment of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures have used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant, pushing the estimate from the 12th to the 9th century BCE.  …. 

Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE. In the southern Levant, where Israel is located, the oldest known domesticated camel bones are from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. At a 2009 dig, Dr. Ben-Yosef dated an Aravah Valley copper smelting camp where the domesticated camel bones were found to the 11th to 9th century BCE. In 2013, he led another dig in the area.

To determine exactly when domesticated camels appeared in the southern Levant, Dr. Sapir-Hen and Dr. Ben-Yosef used radiocarbon dating and other techniques to analyze the findings of these digs as well as several others done in the valley. In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David, according to the Bible. The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels, which archaeologists think were in the southern Levant from the Neolithic period or even earlier. Notably, all the sites active in the 9th century in the Arava Valley had camel bones, but none of the sites that were active earlier contained them.

The appearance of domesticated camels in the Aravah Valley appears to coincide with dramatic changes in the local copper mining operation. Many of the mines and smelting sites were shut down; those that remained active began using more centralized labor and sophisticated technology, according to the archaeological evidence. The researchers say the ancient Egyptians may have imposed these changes — and brought in domesticated camels — after conquering the area in a military campaign mentioned in both biblical and Egyptian sources.

……. The arrival of domesticated camels promoted trade between Israel and exotic locations unreachable before, according to the researchers; the camels can travel over much longer distances than the donkeys and mules that preceded them. By the seventh century BCE, trade routes like the Incense Road stretched all the way from Africa through Israel to India. Camels opened Israel up to the world beyond the vast deserts, researchers say, profoundly altering its economic and social history.

DNA evidence shows farming was not indigenous but was imported into Europe from the East

November 10, 2010

A new paper published in PLoS Biology today uses “high precision ancient DNA methods” to  create a detailed genetic picture of one of the first farming communities in Europe (from central Germany) which reveals that this ancient farming population was radically different to the nomadic populations already present in Europe.

Haak W, Balanovsky O, Sanchez JJ, Koshel S, Zaporozhchenko V, et al. (2010) Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic Farmers Reveals Their Near Eastern Affinities. PLoS Biol 8(11): e1000536. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000536

The hunter-gatherers of Europe it seems did not change rapidly to become farmers. The farmers moved in (invaded?) from the near east and some 8,000 years ago gradually dominated the scene. From Science Daily:

A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the University of Adelaide has resolved the longstanding issue of the origins of the people who introduced farming to Europe some 8000 years ago. A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe.

Project leader Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, says: “This overturns current thinking, which accepts that the first European farming populations were constructed largely from existing populations of hunter-gatherers, who had either rapidly learned to farm or interbred with the invaders.”

“We have finally resolved the question of who the first farmers in Europe were — invaders with revolutionary new ideas, rather than populations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers who already existed in the area,” says lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak, Senior Research Associate with ACAD at the University of Adelaide. “We have also been able to use genetic signatures to identify a potential route from the Near East and Anatolia, where farming evolved around 11,000 years ago, via south-eastern Europe and the Carpathian Basin (today’s Hungary) into Central Europe,” Dr Haak says.

The Author summary:

The transition from a hunter–gatherer existence to a sedentary farming-based lifestyle has had key consequences for human groups around the world and has profoundly shaped human societies. Originating in the Near East around 11,000 y ago, an agricultural lifestyle subsequently spread across Europe during the New Stone Age (Neolithic). Whether it was mediated by incoming farmers or driven by the transmission of innovative ideas and techniques remains a subject of continuing debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. Ancient DNA from the earliest farmers can provide a direct view of the genetic diversity of these populations in the earliest Neolithic. Here, we compare Neolithic haplogroups and their diversity to a large database of extant European and Eurasian populations. We identified Neolithic haplotypes that left clear traces in modern populations, and the data suggest a route for the migrating farmers that extends from the Near East and Anatolia into Central Europe. When compared to indigenous hunter–gatherer populations, the unique and characteristic genetic signature of the early farmers suggests a significant demographic input from the Near East during the onset of farming in Europe.

“Wiglesdor” found: Gateway to the Viking Empire

August 29, 2010

The Danevirke is a system of Danish fortifications inSchleswig-Holstein (Northern Germany). This important linear defensive earthwork was constructed across the neck of the Cimbrian peninsula during Denmark’s Viking Age.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f3/Map_danavirki.JPG/800px-Map_danavirki.JPG
The Danevirke (shown in red) on the 16th-century Carta Marina

For a century, archeologists have been looking for a gate ( the “Woiglesdor”) through a wall built by the Vikings in northern Europe. This summer, it was found. Researchers now believe the extensive barrier was built to protect an important trading route.

Archeologists have now taken a closer look at part of the construction — a three-meter-thick (10 feet) wall from the 8th century near Hedeby (known as Haithabu in German). It is constructed entirely out of stones collected from the surrounding region. Some of them are only as big as a fist, while others weigh as much as 100 kilograms (220 pounds). “The Vikings collected millions of rocks,” says archeologist Astrid Tummuscheit, who works for the state archeology office of Schleswig-Holstein.

A Customs Station, an Inn and a Bordello

(more…)

First Allied POW escape from Singapore in 1942

August 26, 2010

“3000 Miles to Freedom” by Brig. M. M Pillai M.C.

My father died in 1988 leaving a manuscript of his escape from Singapore and his return to India after the fall of Singapore in 1942. He would have been 99 on 11th August this year.

He was the first Allied prisoner of war to escape from Changi and return to India. He used to tell us that he had travelled a thousand miles on foot, a thousand miles by boat and a thousand miles by train to make his journey of 3000 miles to freedom. In 1968 he tried to get a copy of his official debriefing report from the War Office in London to cross-check his manuscript written from memory long after the event. But he found that the report had been classified to be held secret for 50 years.

In early 2000 I found that a copy of the official report was available in the Singapore War Archives. The report had been circulated to all the Allied Armies and the Australian copy had found its way into the Singapore Archives sometime after 1992 when the material was declassified. Apparently the 50 year classification was because the report contained not only the names of people who had helped him along the way but also the names of people he felt were Japanese collaborators.

Mark Pillai as a Captain circa 1950

He was accompanied by two others; one of whom ( a medical officer) decided to settle along the way. The second was a civilian friend S. Radhakrishnan. To avoid the unneccessary hassle of getting a civilian back through Allied lines they invented the story of the “Singapore Volunteers” and passed Radhakrishnan off as an officer in this fictitious regiment. The subterfuge served to get through the Allied check-posts and later Radhakrishnan was properly commissioned into the Indian Army.

For about 6 months after his return my father had a “minder” – a brother officer from a different regiment but who came from his part of the country in Southern India – to ensure that my father’s escape was not a ruse to establish a  “sleeping” collaborator.

http://www.nas.gov.sg/1stcab/syonan/SyonanChap7.html (link updated 25th August 2013 since the original link to the National Archives of Singapore was outdated).

Australian War Memorial, Series AWM 54 Item 779/10/4, “Escape narrative of Lieut M M Pillai, Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners, and Lieut V Radhakrishnan, Singapore Volunteers – Appendix: Treatment of Civilians and Atrocities”, p.33, CD No. D2006100078.

Eventually the manuscript was checked and a publisher ( Lancer Military Publications) interested enough in an old Second World War escape story was found.

http://www.lancerpublishers.com/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=Pillai&osCsid=569721b13eaaa324b7b54cf34fc36de3&x=5&y=5

Three Thousand Miles to Freedom

http://www.lancerpublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=710

This is a an escape story. It is the story of escape from a Japanese Prisoner of War camp in Singapore to India across coastal waters and Malayan and Burmese jungles.

Capt Mark Pillai was a Bombay Sapper officer in Malaya when Singapore fell and the Allies surrendered. This is the story of his escape from the Changi POW camp in 1942. He was 31 years old at the time and he was accompanied by an Indian medical officer and an Indian civilian acquaintance.

It is an inspirational story of escape. Escape stories frequently tend to chronologically list events without adequately conveying the fears and apprehension or the anxiety and the hardships that soldiers endure, nor the will and inspiration they galvanise in doing so. This is a compelling story, simply told, which brings to life the meaning of escape from captivity in enemy territory in an age long gone.

It is a story of understated bravery and gallantry, where three Indians made a daily tryst with destiny over a protracted period of time, attempting as it were to do their duty as they saw it, in an effort to live to fight another day when both the big picture and the tactical situation seemed hopeless.

It is a story of hope which reveals the stubborn spirit of humanity and courage that epitomizes good soldiers anywhere when they turn adversity into opportunity and inspire others to do the same.

Mark Pillai was awarded the Military Cross by Field Marshal Archibald Wavell for his gallantry.

(more…)

Today is Volcano day – over 1900 years after Pompeii

August 24, 2010

Dr. Erik Klemetti is reporting from Pompeii.

The eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii – and lead Pliny to write his Letters that birthed volcanology occurred (at least we think) on August 24, 79 A.D. So, eat some olives in memory of those who perished over 1,900 years ago – and hope that Naples is prepared the next time Vesuvius rumbles so that we don’t repeat “Volcano Day”.

Pompeii victim:http://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/ancient/images/sw/pompeii-victim-50657432-sw.jpg

Photo: Cast of Pompeii victim


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