The vote’s now in: Up with the Garamantes (the Yarmukians, too).
Sell Excess Antiquities!
I fully support your idea of a controlled sale of antiquities when there are many such examples—such as oil lamps. At one time I worked for a company that dealt in antiquities and managed to procure a small collection of my own. Your magazines and my research in antiquities enhanced my visit to Israel two years ago.
The Antiquities Market Destroys Archaeological Sites
Recently I was offered the opportunity to receive a sample issue of your magazine Archaeology Odyssey. After reviewing the sample I would have subscribed were it not for the fact that you accept advertisements for artifacts. Even assuming that these artifacts were collected and imported legally, such commerce depends on the destruction of archaeological sites. I do not see how a publication purporting to support archaeology can accept advertising from such merchants.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
B.C.E., C.E., B.C., A.D.
There is something that bothers me: the new method (to me) of identifying the major eras as B.C.E. and C.E. rather than as B.C. and A.D. We have long used B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini) to designate the eras. Why the need for B.C.E. (Before the Christian Era) and C.E. (Christian Era)?
Kinston, North Carolina
Many scholars prefer to designate the eras by using a strictly secular terminology; thus they use B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) rather than B.C., and C.E. (Common Era) rather than A.D. But don’t get confused—only the names have changed. Our policy is to use the old B.C./A.D. system in house but to allow authors to use whatever system they prefer.—Ed.
Separating the Sheep and the Goats
In The Forum, AO 03:02, you reprinted a photo of the famous “Ram in a Thicket,” excavated by Leonard Woolley at ancient Ur. The sculpture is not a ram (a male sheep), however, but a billy goat.
I was raised on a ranch in West Texas, which then (c. 1950) had the largest concentration of sheep and goats in the country. There were more goats in a 250-mile radius around my home than there were in the rest of the United States. And they looked exactly like the animal depicted in that photo.
First, the animal has spiral horns, typical of goats and some antelopes but not of sheep, which generally have curled horns.
Second, the animal is standing on its hind legs, poking its head up into 010the brush. That is entirely characteristic of goats, which are browsing animals, and thoroughly uncharacteristic of sheep, which are grazing animals. Rams stand on their hind legs only during combat with other rams.
Third, the sculpture clearly is given overlapping locks of hair that we find on our “hair goats” (which originated in the Middle East) but not on sheep, whose fleece is normally tightly curled and matted.
San Antonio, Texas
Don’t Stop with the Garamantes
Are readers interested in the Garamantes (Mario Liverani, “Salt from the Garamantes,” AO 03:02 and David Mattingly, “Making the Desert Bloom,” AO 03:02)? Certainly, along with other tribes, like the Berbers, that plagued the Roman colonies in Mediterranean Africa. What about an article on how the Romans obtained exotic animals for their circuses? As a professional chef, I’d be interested in knowing how the Romans produced and preserved their garum [fish sauce].
What a Wonderful World
How much I enjoyed the Garamantes! I rely on your magazines to learn about issues and cultures not often dealt with elsewhere. While you need not neglect the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, these cultures are given a great deal of publicity. I hunger for knowledge about the more obscure peoples. Our world, past and present, is so culturally rich, far more diverse than one realizes.
The map contained in Mario Liverani’s Garamantes article shows Niger’s north border running all the way from Algeria to the Sudan. Ten years ago I had the pleasure of traveling in eastern Niger, where, having accidentally lost my way to Algeria, I was turned back by Chad authorities. I spent two days sitting in the shade of a truck in the middle of nowhere until I was released from virtual detention. What happened to Chad?
Mr. Orio is correct: In the map we inadvertently omitted Chad, which lies between Niger and the Sudan.—Ed.
They Turn Up in Unlikely Places
In his splendid piece on the Garamantes, Mario Liverani remarks that few readers will have heard of the Garamantes. Perhaps not.
In Norman Douglas’s amusing novel South Wind (1922), however, we are told of a tribe of “cannibals and necromancers who dwelt in a region so hot, and with light so dazzling, that their eyes grew on the soles of their feet.” This tribe is placed in Libya. The novel then mentions a neighboring tribe called the “Garimanes.” Who else could these “Garimanes” be but the Garamantes?
Pi and the Bible
In his article on pi (Origins, AO 03:02), Kim Jonas confidently states that in the book of Kings pi = 3 and wonders why the ancient Israelites didn’t have a more accurate measure of pi. There are at least two reasons that the passage in 1 Kings 6:23 [in which Hiram of Tyre casts a bronze basin for Solomon’s Temple that is 30 cubits in circumference and 10 cubits in diameter] should not be used as the last word on Israelite pi.
(1) The books of Kings are historical documents, whereas the other texts cited in the article tend to be mathematical documents. If a historical document states that 4,000 people were present for some event, the real number might be 3,986 or 4,107. Very few readers would assume that the number was exactly 4,000. The text of Kings does not claim that it is giving the answer for pi, so the ratio should be understood as approximate.
(2) What if Hiram’s laver had a lip, as is often the case with water basins? Then it would have been perfectly possible for the laver’s circumference, measured around the inside of the lip, to be exactly three times the diameter, measured from outer lip to outer lip.
The text of Kings is accurate enough, and it tells us nothing about ancient Israelite mathematics.
Rites and Wrongs
I was taken aback by the subhead of your article “Gateway to Hell” (Julie Skurdenis, Destinations, AO 03:02), which describes the Eleusinian Mysteries as “infamous.” That word has the following dictionary definitions: “notorious,” “shocking,” “detestable,” “loathsome,” “having evil fame or reputation.” To my knowledge, no historian has applied such inaccurate and denigrating terms to the Eleusinian Mysteries. It might be salutary to remind ourselves of the words of Spinoza—that the purpose of the study of history is not to praise or condemn but to understand.
Pennington, New Jersey
The first synonym, “notorious,” would work. Something is notorious if it is widely known and carries a hint of danger. Participants in the Eleusinian Mysteries were bound to secrecy, on pain of death. During the pilgrimage to Eleusis, initiates shouted obscenities; and the rites themselves involved acting out the sufferings—death and rebirth—of Persephone. There is more than a hint of danger in all of this.—Ed.
Sell Excess Antiquities!