Treasure from the grave of a Greek warrior

Archaeologists have made an astounding discovery:  the tomb of a warrior at Pylos from 1,500 B.C., before the Homeric era, filled with gold, jewels, and priceless artifacts. [Read more...]

More of the Epic of Gilgamesh discovered

Big news in world literature:  A new tablet containing additional lines for the ancient Babylonian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh has been discovered. [Read more...]

Did the Q’uran pre-date Muhammed?

Carbon dating of what has been called the world’s oldest Q’uran suggests that the manuscript may have been written before the Muhammed was born, so that the book of which this is a copy would be even older.  Islam teaches that the Q’uran was delivered directly to the prophet from Heaven, but this would indicate that he may have been drawing on a pre-existent text in formulating the new religion.

But in fairness, it is possible to put a different construction on the evidence.  The carbon dating has the manuscript as having been written between 568-645 A.D.   Muhammad lived from 570-632 A.D.   Islamic tradition says that the Q’uran was given to the prophet between 610-632 A.D., with the writings formally collected into a single book around 650 A.D.

Carbon dating gives a range, not a precise date.  And it seems to me that the traditional accounts still fall within this range. [Read more...]

Writings of Jews in the Babylonian exile

Archaeologists have discovered and translated a trove of tablets from Iraq that were written by Jews exiled in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.  [Read more...]

Finding the lost texts of classical antiquity?

The writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans helped form our civilization, and their rediscovery sparked the Renaissance.  But many of the writings of the formative thinkers of the classical age have been lost.  We only have one-third of the writings of Aristotle, and they were enough to create Western thought, shaping the very way we reason.  What else did he have to say that has been lost, and what might that do?   The founders of Western drama were the brilliant playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides, both of whom wrote some 90 plays, but only 6 and 19 of their plays, respectively, have survived.  (Go here for what else is missing.)

But archaeologists have discovered a large library from the Roman city of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the volcano that devastated Pompeii.  The hot volcanic ash both preserved the library’s scrolls but also made them impossible to read.  Attempts to unroll them to see what they contain makes them disintegrate.  But now a technology has been developed that may allow us to read them.  So far, the works that have been deciphered are ones we have already,  but who knows what else the library may contain? [Read more...]

Gospel of Mark fragment from before 90 A.D.?

Researchers studying the paper used in the masks of Egyptian mummies have apparently discovered what may be the oldest manuscript of the New Testament:  a fragment from the Gospel of Mark, which most scholars believe is the earliest Gospel, that dates from before 90 A.D.   That would be around 60 years after the Crucifixion of Christ. [Read more...]