The streets of Egypt and other news

One of the main news items this week was the public display – on 1 October during the first edition of a festival – of a skilfully-made 1500-year-old mosaic discovered two years ago in Israel. The mosaic’s tesserae feature seventeen different colours, and the quality of their material is a feature that makes this mosaic remarkable.

The mosaic was found in the remains of church, dated to the early Byzantine period, in Qiryat Gat, during excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority with the help of school children and employees from the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park. The mosaic had been removed for conservation work and has recently been brought back to the Qiryat Gat Industrial Park.

The mosaic features one scene with a rooster, deer and birds, and a goblet with red fruit trees. Another scene depicts a Nile River landscape, with a boat, colonnaded streets, and buildings. The latter stand out because of the realistic rendering of depth and detail, with multiple floors, balconies and windows, galleries, and tiled roofs.

The mosaic is accompanied by an inscription in Greek, from which we learn the name of the city depicted: Chortaso. In this Egyptian city, according to Christian tradition, prophet Habakkuk was buried. It has been hypothesized that the mosaic could refer to the origins of the church’s community.

In other news, it’s apparently possible to be in good health after your death. At least, so it seems from the headline of an article on a project featuring CT scans of 86 plaster casts containing the remains of Pompeii victims of Mt Vesuvius’ explosion in AD 79. Based on an examination of the teeth, it seems that their diet was more healthy – richer in fruit and vegetables – than previously thought.

Worth mentioning is also the discovery, in Scotland, of a possible sauna or steam house. The well-preserved building is part of a group of more than 30 buildings, dated from around 4000 BC to 1000 BC, unearthed in Orkney. The function of these structures is not yet completely clear. Possibly, these buildings were used for spiritual and ritual activities, some of which were perhaps connected to important moments like giving birth or death (e.g. purification rituals).

Lastly, it seems useful to bring to attention the Neo-Babylonian Cuneiform Corpus (Nabucco), which makes available on-line the corpus of archival documents dated to the first millennium BC from Babylonia. It has sections that allow browsing the documents by place, persons, and archives, and includes a glossary, a bibliography and a catalogue. The website is still in its early stages and there is still ample room for further information, so it will be a while before it reaches its full potential. But once it has been filled in further it will be undoubtedly a major work of reference for whoever studies or is interested in the ancient world.

Picture credit: thumbnail for this post taken from this article on the mosaic.

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