Your antidote to cyber-twaddle and misguided research about the ancient world. Lots of people do research on the mysteries of antiquity. Some insights are valuable; others are insanely stupid. PaleoBabble exists because insisting that conclusions be drawn from data is a coherent idea, because conjecture isn’t evidence, and because appealing to conspiracy to validate ideas is intellectually lazy.Paleobabble RSS
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Enjoyed the interview last night on the Skywatchers podcast show. A fun time discussing Christianity and ET life, Majestic documents, and ancient astronaut mythology. This was my first time on this show.
See how I cleverly included all three last names for better searching? You’ll understand that if you read Jason Colavito’s latest post on “gigantology”: Micah Hanks: The Hubris of Jason Colavito and Skeptics Over Giants Is “Worthy of Study.”
Basically, Micah Hanks is riled at Jason’s skepticism with respect to alleged evidence for giants in both antiquity and modern times. Now, let’s be clear. What Jason is skeptical of is that there were giants way back when (and more recently) whose height exceeds that of very tall people today (i.e., more than 9 feet). Jason knows that there is quite good evidence for people like Robert Wadlow, who was nearly 9 feet tall, and other men who grew to taller than 8 feet (usually because of some physical abnormality). Jason just doesn’t think we have evidence of people 10-15 feet tall, like you’ll read about on many websites and blogs that talk about the nephilim.
Readers of both the PaleoBabble and Naked Bible blogs will know that I agree with Jason on this height issue. I think the only unambiguous evidence we have in the biblical text places the biblical giants between 6 and 7 feet tall. Yes, I know about the reference in Deut 3:11 to Og’s bed (note that the reference is to the bed, not the person) But I’m betting those who promote that as proof for a 10+ foot giant don’t know this (excerpted from my forthcoming book, The Unseen Realm):
. . . the most immediate link back to the Babylonian polemic is Og’s bed (Hebrew, eres). Its dimensions (9 x 4 cubits) are precisely those of the cultic bed in the ziggurat called Etemenanki—which is the ziggurat most archaeologists identify as the Tower of Babel referred to in the Bible. Ziggurats functioned as temples and divine abodes. The unusually large bed at Etemenanki was housed in “the house of the bed” (bet ersi). It was the place where the god Marduk and his divine wife, Zarpanitu, met annually for ritual love-making, the purpose of which was divine blessing upon the land.
Scholars have been struck by the precise correlation. It’s hard not to conclude that, like Genesis 6:1-4, those who put the finishing touches on the Old Testament during the exile in Babylon were connecting Marduk and Og in some way. The most transparent path is in fact giant stature. Og is said to have been the last of the Rephaim—a term connected to the giant Anakim and other ancient giant clans in the Transjordan (Deut. 2:11, 20). Marduk, like other deities in antiquity, was portrayed as superhuman in size. However, the real matrix of ideas in the mind of the biblical author may stem more from word play deriving from Babylonian mythology.
 The dimensions were roughly six by thirteen feet.
 Etemenanki = Esagil (Sumerian). Doak, Last of the Rephaim, 92. Doak goes on to note that scholars who have detected this connection conclude that the point of matching the dimensions was that the biblical writer wanted to compare Og with a cultic prostitute. This is not only awkward, but fails to consider the wider Babylonian polemic connected back to Genesis 6. See also Andrew R. George, “The Tower of Babel: Archaeology, History, and Cuneiform Texts,” Archiv für Orientforschung 51 (2005/2006) 75-95; John H. Walton, “The Mesopotamian Background of the Tower of Babel Account and Its Implications,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995): 155-175.
 Sacred marriage rituals included the blessing of fertility for both the land and its inhabitants. See Martti Nissinen, “Akkadian Rituals and Poetry of Divine Love,” Mythology and Mythologies. Methodological Approaches to Intercultural Influences. Proceedings of the Second Annual Symposium of the Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project Held in Paris, France, October 4-7, 1999 (Melammu Symposia 2; ed. R. M. Whiting; Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project 2001), 93-136. The ritual was also concerned with maintaining the cosmic order instituted by the gods. Consequently, in addition to the giantism element, a link between Og and Maduk via the matching bed dimensions may also have telegraphed the idea that Og was the inheritor and perpetuator of the Babylonian knowledge and cosmic order from before the flood. This would of course tie him back to Genesis 6:1-4 and its apkallu polemic. See Beate Pongratz-Leisten, “Sacred Marriage and the Transfer of Divine Knowledge: Alliances Between the Gods and the King in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Sacred Marriages: The Divine-Human Sexual Metaphor from Sumer to Early Christianity (ed. Martti Nissinen, and Risto Uro; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2008), 43-72. In any event, the size of Og’s bed cannot be taken as a precise indication of Og’s own dimensions. There is much more at play here.
 See Enûma Elish 1.99–100: “He was the loftiest of the gods, surpassing was his stature; his members were enormous, he was exceedingly tall.” One scholar notes in this regard, “The huge images of Marduk at Babylon could have served as the basis for the description of Marduk and other Babylonian gods as giants. Herodotus, Histories 1.183 said the golden image of Bel in the temple at Babylon stood twelve cubits; Ktesias (Diodorus Siculus. Library 2.9.5) claimed the statue had a height of forty feet” (Russell E. Gmirkin, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch [Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 433; London; New York: T&T Clark, 2006], 128).
 Marduk was a minor deity prior to the Babylonian era, where he was elevated to be king of the gods and the patron deity of the city of Babylon. His main temple was, as we have noted, Etemenanki, the ziggurat at Babylon (see Jeremy A. Black, “Marduk,” Dictionary of the Ancient Near East [ed. Piotr Bienkowski and Alan Millard; London: British Museum Press, 2000], 188-189). Marduk was therefore the chief theological rival to Yahweh in the exilic period. In biblical literature, Marduk is referred to as Merodach or Bel. Second Temple period Jewish texts contain a tradition about a giant who survived the flood named Belus, who was created with building a tower in Babylon (the Tower of Babel), in which he lived. The train of thought conceptually links Marduk and Belus the giant. The same tradition identifies Belus with the biblical Nimrod, and suggests Nimrod might also be identified with Noah. Biblical editors during the exile may have taken note of the same Bel/Belus wordplay and used the dimensions of Og’s bed to identify him with Marduk, though we cannot of course know that with any certainty. What we can know is that this sort of thinking did surface in Second Temple period Jewish writings (see K. van der Toorn, “Nimrod Before and After the Bible,” Harvard Theological Review 83:1 [Jan. 1990]: 8, 16). Lastly, though it is only speculation, it is interesting to note that Marduk’s name in Sumerian name was AMAR.UTU (“calf of Utu”; i.e., “the young bull of the Sun god”). The Sumerian for “Amorite” is MAR.TU. One wonders if the biblical scribes heard a pun behind the description of Og the giant Amorite king and Marduk’s name.
In other words, the dimensions of Og’s bed may have nothing to do with his actual size, but quite a bit to do with associating him with Marduk (the work of a later editorial hand in Deut 3) for a theological polemic.
Back to Jason ….
I also agree with Jason that “the existence of giants, if true, would prove nothing about the truth of the Bible.” The validity of the Bible’s truth claims do not depend on producing evidence for people of bizarre height. Really tall people even by today’s standards fits the narrative, given the average (small) height of male skeletons of the period (ca. 5.5 feet). The point of the biblical narrative is that there were Canaanite inhabitants who were bigger than the Israelites, and it scared the crap out of them. I believe that to be forthright reporting in the biblical text, but nephilim theorists have turned the subject into the theater of the bizarre. We’re now treated to cone heads with [to get the Talmud right] sixteen rows of teeth . . . uh, biblical chapter and verse, please). You also don’t need whole “races” or thousands of unusually tall people with respect to the biblical language. The text can quite readily be read as denoting the presence of such people in lots of places, not that every last person in the land was a giant, or even that there were throngs of thousands in places. It’s the origin of the nephilim that takes us into subject matter that would conceivably produce disagreement between me and Jason (there’s more than one supernaturalist view of that, and I don’t know if Jason is a committed materialist or not). See my upcoming book in Feb/March 2015 (there — got another shameless plug in).
Jason’s response to Micah Hanks comes right on the heels to an email exchange I had last night. I won’t mention any names, but I offer it as illustrative that for both Jason and myself (I think I can safely include Jason here), our objections to “gigantology” are mostly about honesty.
Last night I received this link: “World’s Oldest Statue Is Of A Giant 17.4 Foot Nephilim From Genesis.” (Subtitle: The giants of Genesis are planning on making a return in the days after the Rapture). I wrote the following reply:
On the Shirig figure … the web page is pretty sad.
There are no “inscriptions” on it – decorative lines and a few words. One on the face identifies it as a goddess figure (the goddess of heaven to boot). See this link (load it up in Chrome and then have it auto-translated):http://www.itogi.ru/archive/
There is nothing on the figure or its original context that points to nephilim. Only the length/height. So, consider the logic. If someone dug up the Las Vegas “Tex” cowboy 9,500 years from now would they conclude that there were nephilim in the 20th century? Only if they thought very poorly.
This is the sort of thing that’s an embarrassment to biblical studies.
The sender then replied (abbreviated response): “You know, it interests me HOW you attack the analysis. That is what fascinates me.” (That was meant in a sincere way; my issue was with the link, not the emailer).
My subsequent reply is why I bring up this conversation in this post:
[Someone's] analysis is about honesty. It is either coherent or not. It’s faithless and dishonest to endorse an analysis that lacks a factual basis. I’m just not going to tell people something looks right when it doesn’t. That’s dishonest. It’s no more complicated than that. We either speak the truth, or we don’t.
I was interviewed this past week by Natalina for her Extraordinary Intelligence podcast. The interview was a good one. Talked about The Facade first just a bit, and then focused on the new sequel, The Portent. Just like my first interview a year or so ago, Natalina succeeded in getting information from me, some of it even personal!
The last two reviews on Amazon capture what to expect in The Portent pretty well. Here are a few lines:
[The Portent] takes everything the reader thought they knew (and were sure of) about the return of Jesus and turns it on its head! [It] challenges all popular end times belief scenarios with stunning precision and well documented, real-life supported claims. The divine council of The Portent will forever change your perspective regarding the return of Jesus, who may be fooled, and who won’t! This is a must read for anyone who believes in intelligent evil and an elegant shadow system that operates above the law, behind the scenes, and hidden in plain sight.
When it comes to internet mythology about alleged alien assistance to the ancient Egyptians, the hieroglyphs in the picture are ground zero. As with the case of the lightbulb in Egyptian art, and the mis-identified picture of an alien grey in an Egyptian wall painting, the claim that there were technologically advanced flying craft in ancient Egypt is utterly bogus.
The glyphs in question are in the temple of Seti I at Abydos. I have blogged about these glyphs before, explaining that they are a well-known and classic instance of hieroglyphic superimposition — a palimpset. In briefest terms, the panel in Seti I’s tomb on which the current glyphs was originally carved with a set of “normal” hieroglyphs. At a subsequent point in time, the glyphs were plastered over and re-carved — a well-known phenomenon in ancient Egyptian monumental writing. After centuries of time, the plaster came off, revealing what we see now — two sets of hieroglyphs superimposed. That is why some of the shapes on this panel are unlike any others in Egypt.
The mdw-ntr website has a detailed, thorough, splendidly illustrated step-by-step explanation of this process. It is absolutely certain that these hieroglyphs are the result of carving one set of glyphs over another for a simple reason: each set of glyphs is known from other texts. It is quite easy to illustrate how the “helicopter” came about from both sets of glyphs. If you want the truth, it’s all here.
If you’re into archaeology, neolithic civilization, ancient religion and, of course, paleobabble, you’ve head of Gobekli Tepe. But in case not, Gobekli Tepe is an archaeological site in Turkey whose use dates back to the 10th-8th millennium B.C. The site has been interpreted as a worship center / temple complex. If that’s the case, it is arguable the oldest such complex discovered to date. As the Global Heritage Fund website for Gobekli Tepe states:
Göbekli Tepe is an Early Neolithic site of enormous significance, featuring 5-meter-high monolithic pillars carved in relief and dating to 10,000 or more years ago. Erected within circular “temple” structures, the latest excavations have revealed that these structures likely covered the entire hillside and could number as many as 20 in total. Göbekli Tepe has been interpreted as the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered.
Though known earlier, excavation of the site first began in 1994 under German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt. The site quickly became known as the Turkish Stonehenge in the popular media. It’s circular structures are unique in that:
. . . [its] circles range from 30 to 100 feet in diameter and are surrounded by rectangular stone walls about six feet high. Many of the pillars are carved with elaborate animal figure reliefs. In addition to bulls, foxes, and cranes, representations of lions, ducks, scorpions, ants, spiders, and snakes appear on the pillars. Freestanding sculptures depicting the animals have also been found within the circles. During the most recent excavation season, archaeologists uncovered a statue of a human and sculptures of a vulture’s head and a boar.”1
Fringe researchers were quick to label it the original Eden. The problem is that other archaeologists who have now gone through the dig material don’t believe the site is a slam dunk for a temple complex. One of them is E. B. Banning, author of “So Fair a House: Göbekli Tepe and the Identification of Temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East,” Current Anthropology 52:5 (October 2011): 619-660. Like so many of the antidotes to paleobabble, Banning’s article is not publicly available to those who lack access to scholarly journal databases like JSTOR. And of course the archeo-porn popular press would never tell you about alternative views. Fortunately, a short write-up of Banning’s criticisms of the temple interpretation is available: “Archaeologist Argues World’s Oldest Temples Were Not Temples At All.” Here’s a telling summary:
He outlines growing archaeological evidence for daily activities at the site, such as flintknapping and food preparation. “The presence of this evidence suggests that the site was not, after all, devoid of residential occupation, but likely had quite a large population,” Banning said.
Banning goes on to argue that the population may have been housed in the purported temples themselves. He disagrees with the idea that the presence of decorative pillars or massive construction efforts means the buildings could not have been residential space.
If you’re not used to reading scholarly literature on archaeology, this doesn’t sound like much. I’ll translate. True temples were houses of gods — not domiciles for the general population. The fact that this site does indeed witness to neolithic occupation by a sizable number of people argues against it being a temple complex. The abstract of the actual article puts it this way:
Archaeologists have proposed that quite a number of structures dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and B in southwest Asia were nondomestic ritual buildings, sometimes described specifically as temples or shrines, and these figure large in some interpretations of social change in the Near Eastern Neolithic. Yet the evidence supporting the identification of cult buildings is often equivocal or depends on ethnocentric distinctions between sacred and profane spaces. This paper explores the case of Gobekli Tepe, a large Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in Turkey that its excavator claims consisted only of temples, to illustrate weaknesses in some kinds of claims about Neolithic sacred spaces and to explore some of the problems of identifying prehistoric ritual. Consideration of the evidence suggests the alternative hypothesis that the buildings at Gobekli Tepe may actually be houses, albeit ones that are rich in symbolic content.
Here are some excerpts from the Banning article that extend from the abstract:
. . . contrasting interpretations of Neolithic ritual space make it clear that archaeologists are far from agreed on how to identify specialized ritual spaces either in the Neolithic or more generally. This is not only a matter of identifying evidence of ritual activity but of identifying in what ways, if any, it can be distinguished from the “ordinary” activities of daily life that we associate with residential or “domestic” use. (619)
Schmidt interprets the images on the pillars as “art” and as religious symbols . . . [He] insists that “no serious claim for domestic use [of the buildings] . . .” and that the Gobekli structures are “without fireplaces, ovens, or other usual traces of “domestic life.” (623)
Banning proceeds to discuss the evidence for domestic ritual, ritual symbolism, and art in previously-known neolithic sites. Bringing such evidence to bear at Gobekli Tepe undermines its identification as a centralized cult center for a single population (i.e., a temple). Banning’s article shows that there is an abundance of such domestic contexts and artifactual materials from those contexts. Lastly, he combs through the excavation records from Gobekli Tepe, pointing out the site yields evidence of domestic occupation.
The point here is not that Banning’s alternative thesis has won the day. Rather, the point is that it’s a thesis that exists and must be taken seriously — as opposed to jumping to conclusions and turning Gobekli Tepe into Eden (perhaps Atlantis would be a more appropriate analogy). This propensity is something that crops up all the time in discussions of fringe archaeology. Amateur researchers seize on some site, assign a fantastic meaning to it, write a book that never undergoes peer review, make some cash, and then look for the next point of titillation amid the dirt and debris of antiquity. Conclusions are drawn about an object without serious consideration of all the data in context (or the absence of data one would expect if a given interpretation would be correct). This “method” is simply unprofessional and misleading.
Um … no.
Here’s a link to a detailed debunking / explanation from the MDW-NTR website. It’s the same site that featured the exhaustive debunking of the “light bulb” at Denderah. The author provides the visual context that you need — and that ancient astronaut theorists never provide — for the correct understanding.
I made a page of important links related to a wide range of topics covered on my PaleoBabble and UFO Religions blogs. It doesn’t have a sidebar home yet, so bookmark it. It will eventually have a permanent home that is visually discernible. (When my webmaster gets time for that).
I created the page for easy reference for folks who listen in when I am interviewed. I’ll be on five shows in the next four weeks. I’ll post something a few days before each one, and of course send notice on Twitter.
Forgive the pun.
I just came across this amazingly detailed debunking of this oft-cited piece of Egyptian paleobabble. It’s the best I’ve ever seen on this modern myth. it explains, in deep detail, what the image is depicting and what it means. This “light bulb” nonsense is often used in discussions about Egypt’s high technology (learned from aliens in the minds of certain “researchers”).
As a visual aid to what you’ll read in the link, I offer the picture below (taken from the link). In the picture I’ve added a red arrow — it points to the lotus flower (which is what the “light bulb” actually is). The details of the flower are clearly visible. It’s a familiar and important motif / symbol in Egyptian mythology. The blue arrow points to the snake emerging from the flower — it isn’t a wire filament … it’s clearly a snake (in both “bulbs”). You can click on the image to get an enlargement.
It’s startling how dumb the ancient astronaut stuff really is.
[Update Note: The story comes from "World News Daily" which seems to spoof "World Net Daily." It's a hoax site.]
Hat tip to Brian Godawa for alerting me to this story. The article leads as follows:
An Italian expert studying a first century document written by the Roman historian Marcus Velleius Paterculus that was recently discovered in the archives of the Vatican, found what is presumed to be the first eyewitness account ever recorded of a miracle of Jesus Christ. The author describes a scene that he allegedly witnessed, in which a prophet and teacher that he names Iēsous de Nazarenus, resuscitated a stillborn boy and handed him back to his mother.
I’m not familiar with the “historian and archivist” who made the discovery, Ignazio Perucci. The article notes he was hired by the Vatican “to sort, analyze and classify some 6,000 ancient documents that had been uncovered in the gigantic archive vaults.” It’s about time — and good luck!
The article notes:
This new text from an author known for his reliability, brings a brand new perspective on the life of the historical character that is Jesus of Nazareth. It comes to confirm the Gospels on the facts that he was known for accomplishing miracles and that his sheer presence in a town was enough to attract crowds of people.
If this is legit, it would be a stunning find. Hopefully the text will receive wide attention and peer review so that a consensus can be reached. Proper investigation needs to follow, just as was the case with the bogus “Jesus’ wife” fragment.
I just posted the registration page for MEMRA 2015. There will be four courses offered:
Beginning Biblical Hebrew
Beginning Biblical Greek
Beginning Biblical Aramaic
Course descriptions are available on the MEMRA site.
Aramaic has been offered but canceled twice before. That will not happen this year. The course will be available so long as someone signs up for it. The required textbook for Aramaic has changed, so please see the course descriptions. Part of the difficulty with an Aramaic textbook is finding the one that least assumes students have had Hebrew. They all assume that, but the current textbook seems to require the least amount of supplementation in that regard (i.e., the fewest gaps I need to fill on my own).
The courses are discounted until January 18, 2015, at which time prices will change. Registration closes completely for Module 1 at the end of January.
The first 2015 module will begin February 2, 2015. Courses are plotted out over the course of one year, but students can proceed faster if they are able.