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Ancient DNA Reveals The Roots Of The Biblical Bad Guys

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Phillistines, Biblical Enemies of the Israelites, Were European, DNA Reveals

The ancient Philistines are “the bad guys.” In the Hebrew Bible, they were the archenemies of the Israelites, who fought Samson’s armies and sent Goliath into battle against David, but their origins have long been mysterious. Now genetic evidence suggests that these ancient people came to the Middle East from southern Europe more than 3,000 years ago.

An international team, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Leon Levy Expedition, retrieved and analysed, for the first time, genome-wide data from people who lived during the Bronze and Iron Age (~3,600-2,800 years ago) in the ancient port city of Ashkelon, one of the core Philistine cities during the Iron Age. The team found that a European derived ancestry was introduced in Ashkelon around the time of the Philistines’ estimated arrival, suggesting that ancestors of the Philistines migrated across the Mediterranean, reaching Ashkelon by the early Iron Age. This European related genetic component was subsequently diluted by the local Levantine gene pool over the succeeding centuries, suggesting intensive admixture between local and foreign populations. These genetic results, published in Science Advances, are a critical step toward understanding the long-disputed origins of the Philistine.

Excavation of the Philistine Cemetery at Ashkelon. Credit: Photographer: Melissa Aja. Courtesy Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.

More than a century ago, Egyptologists proposed that a group called the Peleset in texts of the late twelfth century BCE were the same as the Biblical Philistines. The Egyptians claimed that the Peleset travelled from the “the islands,” attacking what is today Cyprus and the Turkish and Syrian coasts, finally attempting to invade Egypt. These hieroglyphic inscriptions were the first indication that the search for the origins of the Philistines should be focused in the late second millennium BCE. From 1985-2016, the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, a project of the Harvard Semitic Museum, took up the search for the origin of the Philistines at Ashkelon, one of the five “Philistine” cities according to the Hebrew Bible. Led by its founder, the late Lawrence E. Stager, and then by Daniel M. Master, an author of the study and director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, the team found substantial changes in ways of life during the 12th century BCE which they connected to the arrival of the Philistines. Many scholars, however, argued that these cultural changes were merely the result of trade or a local imitation of foreign styles and not the result of a substantial movement of people.

This new study represents the culmination of more than thirty years of archaeological work and of genetic research utilizing state of the art technologies, concluding that the advent of the Philistines in the southern Levant involved a movement of people from the west during the Bronze to Iron Age transition.

Genetic Discontinuity Between The Bronze & Iron Age People Of Ashkelon

The researchers successfully recovered genomic data from the remains of 10 individuals who lived in Ashkelon during the Bronze and Iron Age. This data allowed the team to compare the DNA of the Bronze and Iron Age people of Ashkelon to determine how they were related. The researchers found that individuals across all time periods derived most of their ancestry from the local Levantine gene pool, but that individuals who lived in early Iron Age Ashkelon had a European derived ancestral component that was not present in their Bronze Age predecessors.

“This genetic distinction is due to European-related gene flow introduced in Ashkelon during either the end of the Bronze Age or the beginning of the Iron Age. This timing is in accord with estimates of the Philistines arrival to the coast of the Levant, based on archaeological and textual records,” explains Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, leading author of the study. “While our modelling suggests a southern European gene pool as a plausible source, future sampling could identify more precisely the populations introducing the European-related component to Ashkelon.”

Transient Impact Of The “European Related” Gene Flow

In analyzing later Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon, the researchers found that the European related component could no longer be traced. “Within no more than two centuries, this genetic footprint introduced during the early Iron Age is no longer detectable and seems to be diluted by a local Levantine related gene pool,” states Choongwon Jeong of the Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History, one of the corresponding authors of the study.

“While, according to ancient texts, the people of Ashkelon in the first millennium BCE remained ‘Philistines’ to their neighbors, the distinctiveness of their genetic makeup was no longer clear, perhaps due to intermarriage with Levantine groups around them,” notes Master.

“This data begins to fill a temporal gap in the genetic map of the southern Levant,” explains Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, senior author of the study. “At the same time, by the zoomed-in comparative analysis of the Ashkelon genetic time transect, we find that the unique cultural features in the early Iron Age are mirrored by a distinct genetic composition of the early Iron Age people.”

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

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This article was originally published at Technology Networks and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Featured Image: Melissa Aja

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Ancient

5 Ancient Egyptian Symbols You Should Know About

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The Land of the Pharaohs as I like to call Egypt is filled with incredible tales. Spanning back thousands of years, the Ancient Egyptian civilization left its mark in the history books forever.

Erecting some of the most amazing monuments on the planet, the ancient Egyptians were experts in a number of things ranging from astronomy, medicine, to engineering and writing.

Ancient Egypt’s culture is replete with mythology, and much of their history is a mixture between actually verifiable accounts, and those tucked away in myths, through which the ancient Egyptians tried explaining events that occurred and that were difficult to explain: The reasons for death, diseases, harvests, etc.

Everything we see is related in one way or another to incredible stories, mythologies, and beliefs which is precisely why the ancient Egyptians created countless of symbols through which everything was explained.

In this article, I invite you to travel through time with me, as we explore some of the most important ancient Symbols used by the Egyptian civilization thousands of years ago.

The Ankh
The Ankh
The ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was most commonly used in writing and in art to representthe word for “life” and, by extension, as a symbol of life itself. Image source: egyptianmarketplace.com

The Ankh is one of the most recognizable symbols from ancient Egypt, known as “the key of life” or the “cross of life“, and dating from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 – 2613 BCE). It is a cross with a loop at the top sometimes ornamented with symbols or decorative flourishes but most often simply a plain gold cross. The symbol is an Egyptian hieroglyph for “life” or “breath of life” (`nh = ankh) and, as the Egyptians believed that one’s earthly journey was only part of an eternal life, the ankh symbolizes both mortal existence and the afterlife. It is one of the most ancient symbols of Egypt, often seen with the djed and was symbols, carried by a multitude of the Egyptian gods in tomb paintings and inscriptions and worn by Egyptians as an amulet.

The ankh’s association with the afterlife made it an especially potent symbol for the Coptic Christians of Egypt in the 4th century CE who took it as their own. This use of the ankh as a symbol of Christ’s promise of everlasting life through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection is most probably the origin of the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of faith today. The early Christians of Rome and elsewhere used the fertility symbol of the fish as a sign of their faith. They would not have considered using the image of the cross, a well-known form of execution, any more than someone today would choose to wear an amulet of an electric chair. The ankh, already established as a symbol of eternal life, leant itself easily to assimilation into the early Christian faith and continued as that religion‘s symbol.

The Eye Of Horus
The Eye Of Horus
Image source: mythologian.com

The Eye of Horus is one of several ancient Egyptian symbols instantly recognizable as originating from that advanced civilization which has left the world so many wonders of architecture and learning. The hieroglyphic is named for the god, Horus, one of their most powerful and dominant deitie

The Eye of Horus – Origins of the Name

The origin of the Eye of Horus may be found in the myth of Set and Osiris. The ancient Egyptians believed that Osiris was the king of Egypt and that his brother, Set, desired his throne. Through trickery, Set succeeded in murdering his brother and became the new king. Osiris’ wife Isis, however, managed to bring her husband back to life temporarily through magic and became pregnant with Horus.

Horus is an ancient Egyptian God usually depicted as a falcon. Horus’ right eye was connected with the Sun God Ra.

The Sesen-Lots Flower
The Sesen-Lots Flower
An Eye of Horus or Wedjat pendant. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Another ancient Egyptian symbol that represents life, creating, rebirth and the sun is the Sesen. This ancient Egyptian symbol is believed to have appeared during the Early Dynastic Period, although it became most popular from the Old Kingdom onwards. The Sesen is symbolized as a lotus flower which we see widespread in ancient Egyptian art.

The Djed
The Djed
A scene on the west wall of the Osiris Hall at Abydos shows the raising of the Djed pillar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The djed is an ancient Egyptian symbol for stability which features prominently in Egyptian art and architecture throughout the country’s history. `Stability’ should be understood to mean not only a firm footing but immutability and permanance.  The symbol is a column with a broad base which narrows as it rises to a capital and is crossed by four parallel lines. The column and the lines are sometimes brightly painted and other times monochrome. The djed first appears in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) and continues through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egyptbefore it became a province of the Roman Empire.

The djed is often overlooked in Egyptian art, and especially in architecture, simply because it is so ubiquitous; the djed is featured on pillars, tomb walls, architraves (the main beam which rests on pillars), palace walls, sheets of painted papyrus, and especially sarcophagi. Once one is aware of the djed and its importance to ancient Egyptian culture it is impossible to miss. It is a potent symbol associated with the god Osiris and his return from the dead. The symbol has been interpreted to represent different objects such as the god Osiris’ backbone, the tamarisk tree which enclosed the god, four pillars rising one behind another, and a fertility pole raised at festivals. `Stability’, however, seems to have been its prime meaning and the one which the ancient Egyptians attached the greatest importance to.

The Scarab
Scarab with Separate Wings, ca. 712-342 B.C.E., 49.28a-c, Brooklyn Museum. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Scarab was an extremely important ancient Egyptian symbol represented in the form of the dung beetle.

The symbol was associated with the divine manifestation of the morning sun Khepri, who was believed to roll the disk of the morning sun over the eastern horizon at daybreak.

The symbol of the Scarab was extremely popular in amulets and impression seals in the ancient Egyptian culture.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

Reference used on this article: Britannica

Featured Image: Ancient Code

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Dinosaur’s Last Meal Reveals Previously Unknown Lizard Species

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Last dinosaur

A near complete fossil of a lizard has been found inside the stomach of a Microraptor, a kind of feathered dinosaur that lived around 120 million years ago.

The lizard must have been swallowed whole shortly before the Microraptor died and was fossilised. It was swallowed head first, in the same way that many living birds and reptiles swallow prey.

The lizard turns out to be a new species and has been named Indrasaurus wangi by Jingmai O’Connor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing and her colleagues. The name refers to a Vedic legend in which the god Indra was swallowed by a dragon during a great battle.

Microraptors, first discovered two decades ago, looked very bird-like apart from their teeth but had feathers on their legs as well as their arms, and were capable of gliding and maybe even powered flight, says O’Connor. “This is an independent origin of flight separate from birds,” she says. “It flew with four wings.”

A new lizard species in the abdomen of a Microraptor

Many researchers think they were tree climbers, but O’Connor disagrees. “I think microraptor was not a tree climber but rather lived on the ground but that’s controversial,” she says. “The Jehol where they lived was a forested lake environment.”

This is the fourth microraptor fossil found with identifiable stomach contents, so we know they fed on mammals, birds, fish as well as lizards. Other studies have shown that at least some of these animals had black feathers.

The microraptor and lizard are the latest of a treasure trove of fossils to emerge from northeastern China. Here a series of volcanic eruptions between 130 and 120 million killed many animals. Some were entombed in ash at the bottom of lakes and exquisitely preserved.

Other fossil treasures from the region include fossilised stick insects whose fragile wings are still clearly visible.

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Featured Image: RT

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Archaeologists Announce Discovery Of The Lost Biblical City Where Philistines Gave Refuge To King David

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Archaeologists announce discovery of the biblical city of Ziklag

After many years of searching and speculation, a team of Israeli and Australian archaeologists think they have finally located the Philistine city where young David took refuge from King Saul prior to ascending the monarchy. The ruins were found near the southern town of Kiryat Gat in Israel and have been dated to the early 10th century B.C.E. – the time associated with King David.

If they’re right, it would bolster the theory that David was more than just a local hilltop chieftain as some researchers claim, and support the theory that he indeed ruled over a united kingdom in the area of Judea.

In the Book of Joshua and the Book of Samuel, Ziklag is described as belonging to the Philistines, a group of people believed to have come from the Mediterranean. They controlled much of present-day central and southern Israel.

Over the years of archaeological searches for the city, numerous alternative locations were proposed but none met all the required criteria. The excavations at the current site, called Khirbet a-Ra’i, began in 2015 and uncovered some 10,700 square feet in the Judean foothills between Kiryat Gat and Lachish, according to the press release put out by the IAA and the Hebrew University.

Yosef Garfinkel, professor at the Hebrew University, displays pottery vessels that were found at the site (AFP)

Australian and South Korean volunteers were directed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, of Hebrew University and Prof. Kyle Keimer from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

Archaeologists work at the archeological site (EPA)

Researchers say the location is unique because it contains evidence of a continuous settlement, including signs of a Philistine community and King David-era Jewish settlement, in keeping with the required criteria for Ziklag. Moreover, the site shows evidence of having been destroyed by a massive fire, which is how Ziklag was brought down at the hands of the Amalekites according to the Bible.

Findings at the site include massive stone structures with bowl and oil lamp offerings beneath the floors, consistent with Philistine civilization.

Nearly 100 pottery vessels for storing oil and wine, identical to those found in the fortified Judean city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, which has been identified as the biblical city of Sha’arayim, were also located amid evidence of the ancient fire at the site. Carbon-dating was performed, proving that the artifacts were from the time of King David.

The findings were made possible through the funding of Joey Silver of Jerusalem, Aron Levy of New Jersey and the Roth Family and Isaac Wakil, both of Sydney.

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Sources used on this article: Haaretz & The Times of Israel

Featured Image: Haaretz

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‘Undisturbed Ancient Roman Shipwreck’ Discovered In Cyprus

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Archaeologists diving off the south eastern coast of Cyprus just discovered an ancient Roman shipwreck which is thought to be the first well-preserved discovery of its kind in the nation’s history. (Photo Credit: Cyprus Department of Antiquities)

The divers found the Roman-era wooden ship off the coast of Protaras, a resort town known for its beaches. Not too far from sunbathing tourists rest the remains of the ancient ship’s cargo — transport amphorae, or ancient jugs that have handles and narrow necks and often held precious liquids, such as oil and wine.

The study of this shipwreck is expected to “shed new light on the breadth and the scale of seaborne trade between Cyprus and the rest of the Roman provinces of the eastern Mediterranean,” the Department of Antiquities said in a statement.

Aside from being the first undisturbed Roman shipwreck ever found in Cyprus, the find marks a milestone as the expedition was the first underwater project to be fully financed by the Cyprus government.

The wreck was found by Spyros Spyrou and Andreas Kritiotis, who are volunteer divers with the underwater archaeological research team of the Maritime Archaeological Research Laboratory (MARELab) at the University of Cyprus.

The antiquities department said it had secured full funding for a preliminary investigation, which would take place as soon as possible. The team is also working on the documentation and protection of the site.

Cyprus is well known for its rich archaeological history.

The first and most famous of Cyprus’s ancient shipwrecks, known as the “Kyrenia ship”, was discovered off the northern coast in 1965 by a Greek Cypriot diver. This was an early 3rd century wooden Greek cargo vessel carrying wine amphorae from Rhodes and thousands of almonds transported in jars within the hull.

A mid-4th century Greek ship discovered in 2007 off Cyprus’s southern coast near the town of Mazotos is considered to be one of the region’s best-preserved wrecks. It has yielded information on ship construction and artefacts that provide insights into life during the height of classical Greek civilisation.

Other ancient Roman shipwrecks have also been found off the coast of Israel, Egypt and, of course, Italy.

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