Category: Archeology

Documentary Film Analysis: The Journey of Man by Dr. Spencer Wells

The Journey of Man, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells, is a very important documentary film that sends out a message of human solidarity.  As Dr. Wells says in the introduction, it is the retracing of the all routes of human migration out of Africa in the last 50,000 years.  It is a fascinating story constructed on a grand timescale.  The drama and significance of this story lies in the high stakes involved for those early humans who ventured into alien territories. There are several facets and themes to the documentary film.  But the most striking and profound is that of human solidarity amidst diversity.  This essay will expound on this thesis.

In this most compelling story of natural history, the pivotal moment was the great Ice Age that set in 50 thousand years ago.  Up until this point, the entire human population (technically of the species Homo sapiens) were confined to just the African continent.  This is understandable, for most of the early hominids . . . Read More

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What have been the prevailing creationist/intelligent design explanations for the origin and development of organic beings and how have these views been challenged by Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Charles Darwin’s publication of the theory of evolution through natural selection is one of the pivotal moments in the history of science. But the theory was unveiled only in the middle of 19th century, by when great strides have already been made in other fields of science. Yet, when compared to the complexity and cumbersomeness of theories in the fields of astronomy, quantum physics or discrete mathematics, Darwin’s theory is remarkable for its simplicity.  Despite this fact the theory has generated a lot of controversy – both among the general public and among intellectuals. Leading the aggression are the religiously orthodox, who see a threat to the tenets of their faith. To overcome their insecurities they adopt one of two approaches. First, they try to reject evolution as valid scientific theory for want of adequate evidence supporting it. When this fails, they co-opt the theory into a religious understanding and project the process of evolution as God’s . . . Read More

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Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson

Episode 1: Different But Equal

n the first episode of the documentary series titled ‘Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson’, a historical-colonial perspective of Africa and its people is given.  The title ‘Different But Equal’ hints at how African people were treated to the contrary by Westerner colonialists. Although early travelers to ancient African kingdoms thought highly of the region’s culture and natural riches, more recent accounts see them as inferior.  The exoticism of Africa and its culture is used as rationale to justify its inferiority and hence its rule. In this context, it is fair to claim that the history of Africa of recent centuries is representative of the history of European colonialism.

Dr. Basil Davidson informs the viewer how the African continent is one of the most geographically diverse in the world. Ranging from tundra to tropical rainforests, from savannahs to arid deserts, from fertile plains to . . . Read More

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The Colossal Buddha Statues of Afghanistan

The Giant Buddha Statues of Afghanistan, also called the Buddhas of Bamiyan, are two of the oldest and culturally significant monuments.  But, unfortunately, by decree of the Islamic religious fundamentalist group, the Taliban, they have been destroyed in 2002.  Yet, documentary and photographic evidence of the site prior to 2002 offer a rich historical narrative on the two statues. Also, since 2002 numerous new discoveries of ancient statues, caves and paintings surrounding the two giant statues have been made.  The Giant Statues are unique in several respects.  They are sculpted into naturally formed mountain cliffs. The Buddha figures are unusual in that they are in a standing posture.  Usually Buddha statues, paintings and miniatures show him in sitting position. (Wriggins 1996)  Incidentally, a big statue of Buddha in the reclining position is unearthed recently in the area proximal to the two Giant Statues.

The Giant Statues were built in 6th century AD . . . Read More

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Insight into Egyptian/Greek/Roman funerary rites

My visit to the Art Museum in Seattle has been an illuminating experience.  I felt privileged to be able to look at art objects of ancient civilizations and learn about the richness and sensibilities of cultures long lost.  I was able to look and learn about a broad assortment of artifacts.  For this report, I’ve chosen an Egyptian work that is related to death/funerary rites, namely, The Relief of Montuemhet and his wife Shepenmut, ca. 665 B.C.  This pigment on limestone exhibit was originally excavated from tomb 34 and its dimension is 13 9/16 x 10 7/16 inches.  The work is on display in the fourth floor of Seattle Art Museum, in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic Art galleries.  There is a lot that could be read from the selected exhibit, especially pertaining to death and funerary rites of Ancient Egyptian civilization.

The artwork in question belonged to the tomb of Montuemhet – referred to by Egyptologists as TT34.  This tomb is located on the West Bank of . . . Read More

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Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel By William G. Dever

The book ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ was written by Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever and published in the year 2005.  This is a fascinating piece of scholarship that delves into the evolution of early religious ideas and practices in Ancient Israel.  Given the importance of Israel (and the greater Middle East) to the understanding of Judeo-Christian religious traditions, a foray into its primitive forms and foundations is of value.  The core theme of the book is to illustrate the common substrate upon which Judaism, Christianity and Islam later evolved, as well as exhibiting the polytheism of the ancient Israelite religion.  The God of this ancient Israelite religion, namely Yahweh, was said to have a consort by name Asherah.  The author also proves how she was an integral part of the Canaanite pantheon of Gods.  Hence, the intriguing and slightly provocative title of ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ chosen for the book.

The book assembles relevant evidence from . . . Read More

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Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)

The Temple of Dendur was built by Petronius, the Roman governor of Egypt more than three millennia ago. The temple was dedicated to ancient deities Isis, Osiris, Pihor and Pediese. It was Emperor Augustus of Rome who commissioned this grand project. Ever since the year 1978, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has showcased this important historical monument. Due to the risk of submersion in its original site in Dendur (which is 80 kilometers from the Egyptian town of Aswan), the Egyptian government presented the temple to the United States in recognition of the latter’s track record of preserving similar sites. That is how this historical monument built by a Roman Emperor ended up in an American museum.

My visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Temple of Dendur has been a satisfactory and educative one. I was amazed by the sheer size and bulk of the structure. The stone blocks of the temple weighed close to 800 tons in total. The curators of the museum . . . Read More

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Highlights from Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

*The documentary film Guns, Germs and Steel based on the book of the same name expounds on a original thesis by author Jared Diamond.  The main highlights of the film are as follows.

*In the 13,000 year history since the end of the last Ice Age, European civilization has advanced the most compared to other geo-ethnic populations.

*The primary driver for their domination is not greater intelligence due to genetic superiority but an array of favourable environmental factors in Europe.

*European superiority manifested in three key domains: the development of advanced weaponry, the inherent immunity to certain epidemic diseases and technological progress.  In sum these key factors are Guns, Germs and Steel.

*One of the turning points that ushered in progress of human civilization was agriculture. Agriculture was directly responsible for the development of cities as surplus food afforded people the time to specialize in various crafts.  It also allowed . . . Read More

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An overview of native Australian art forms

Native Australian art forms have received renewed interest in recent decades, with anthropologists and historians arriving at a refined understanding of them.  Of particular interest is the emphasis on artistic style and environmental sensitivity displayed by artefacts.  Recent research on this interesting field was made possible through the analysis of numerous aboriginal wooden artefacts traded between European and Aboriginal Australians in South East Australia during the time of colonization of the continent.  For example, in the comprehensive study carried out by research team of Tacon, “thirty objects were studied, 17 (56%) being boomerangs, 4 (13%) clubs, 3 (10%) shields, 3 (10%) walking sticks, 2 (7%) clap sticks and one spear thrower. On these, there are 119 animal depictions, nearly half (47%) being emus or humans. A total of 28 objects were illustrated. There are a few floral motifs, trees and a tree branch, as well as six landscape settings with animals, trees . . . Read More

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Why are the Romans considered great city builders?

The Roman Empire continues to be of historical importance even today.  This is because the political, social, architectural and cultural achievements made by Romans during their Empire’s peak, continues to inspire people even today.  The capital city of Rome was especially famous for its detailed planning and organization.  It is difficult to perceive how city planners of Rome could have pulled off such a grand and sweeping project without the aid of modern architectural aids.  Yet, it is a fact that the monuments, government buildings, public recreation houses and other structures and provisions within the city were quite advanced for the time.  And some of the technology used by Romans continues to find application in modern cities today.

With no greater aid than stones, bricks, wood and mortar, the Romans constructed great works of architectural value.  The Bridges over Danube and Rhine are prime examples of Roman architecture.    These two rivers, which set . . . Read More

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