We don’t seem to know, for, as Marc van de Mieroop points out: ‘ Archaeological evidence of latrines in houses is lacking, and public toilets do not seem to hаvе existed either’ (The Ancient Mesopotamian City, p. 159). Out in the village-communes that would not have been a great problem, but in what are often called ‘cities’, it was a different matter entirely. In the rivers and canals? But that was also drinking water.
23 May, 2013
22 May, 2013
One of my arguments in The Sacred Economy, at least in the chapter called ‘On Fluid Bodies: Clans, Households, and Patrons,’ is that the ancient Near Eastern clan included both human beings and domestic animals in a continuum. I base this on the ‘bestiality’ laws, which assume such continuity, since they appear within the framework of what are called ‘incest’ laws. ‘Incest’ here includes both blood and non-blood human relations, as well as your expected sheep, goat, cow, pig, and dog.
Some more evidence has come to light, from the method of recording in the late Uruk period (late fourth millennium). There, clay tablets list rural and estate labourers, distinguishing between male and female, age groups (children are ‘womb-sucklers’), and their groupings. The curious thing is that exactly the same method is used for recording animals, down to the common term for ‘herd’.
So where were the boundaries? A stronger one was between ruling class human beings and those who tilled the soil and herded the sheep and goats. But the most noticeable boundary was between wild animals and domesticated animals-humans. The clan certainly did not include those wild types, unpredictable as they were and outside the bounds of what counted as part of the tribe.
20 May, 2013
That is no spelling error, for ‘extraordinariation’ is one of the many stunning insights from some unsolicited books I received today. They are by one David Birnbaum, whom one must admire infinitely for giving his life to self-publishing a string of works. I have before me books one and two of Summa Metaphysica (the website will take you everywhere). A sample: the chapter on angels:
The guardian angel of snow-flakes
The guardian angel of cumulus nimbus clouds
The guardian angel of bubbles
The guardian angel of snowstorms on school days
And so on.
Timing, Timing, Timing
Location, Location, Location
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Focus, Focus, Focus
Life would appear to be both -
an end in and of itself of QP4
as well as
- a portal to greater QP4
These rich and fruitful themes need to be developed
You get the picture, but if you wish to explore more, check out Birnbaum’s own press, Harvard matrix (which adds ‘independent of Harvard University’), or indeed the thoroughly enthralling ‘Cosmic Womb of Potential Paradigm‘.
I’m in awe.
24 April, 2013
A degree with a difference, from Kinki University. Which may be linked via this vaguely rude world map to scintillating Wanker’s Corner.
(I’ve been meaning to post this for ages, so I can get rid of the damned link from my bookmarks.)
29 March, 2013
‘The great river running backwards’.
Such cosmopolitanism …
15 March, 2013
For some reason I cannot quite fathom, scholars continue to squirm over bestiality. I am preparing to write a piece on bestiality and other paraphilias for a collection with Routledge called Sex in Antiquity. In reading the scant literature on this topic, I came across a piece by JoAnn Scurlock (in Encyclopaedia of the Bible and Its Reception), who appears to be slightly unsettled by the relaxed approach of some of our civilisational forebears to matters sexual and bestial. She wants to argue that they found it all rather distasteful, skipping by material that suggests otherwise. But the highlight is perhaps this moment in her argument. She notes that in the list of omens in the Cuneiform Texts in the Kuyunjik Collection at the British Museum, the following omen appears:
In the one preserved omen where the human takes the initiative, a man inseminates a horse and kisses it (for Mesopotamians a post-coital act), and it means he will have long days.
Not quite sure whether is the “insemination” or the kiss that is problematic here (how do you pash a horse?). Nonetheless, Ms Scurlock proceeds with this stunner:
This would appear to be an endorsement; however, behavioral omens inhabit an amoral universe where the only calculation is of whether anything about the behavior could be interpreted as being of benefit or harm to the solicitor of the omen. It does not follow that good-omened behavior is necessarily desirable or even legal.
What? How is a collection of omens amoral, especially when their purpose is to ensure benefit or harm? And how can good-omened behaviour not be desirable? The presence of bestiality does seem to unsettle the normal processes of logic.
Anyway, I plan to include the smooching horse in my article, along with further reflections on the hippophilic Hittites and the fascinating ritual for a man who has a twinge of guilt for a dalliance with a goat.
18 February, 2013
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An ancient Mesopotamia, the transfer of part of a dwelling (never a whole dwelling) was accompanied by much brouhaha. All manner of officials prepared for and attended the event, barley was tossed over the floor, wet clay tablets were incised, the grog flowed … Yet the most important figure present was the enigmatic ‘Great One of the Peg’. It seems as though he or she had something to do with a cone, which may or may not have been hammered in a wall. On one level, this is where we really reach the limits of our ability to imagine what the hell went on in many cases in the ANE. On another level, we really need to recover the ‘Great One of the Peg’. Not quite sure what this person would do, but that matters little.
8 February, 2013
This one has always puzzled me, ever since I knew a family by the name of Tooth. One at a time was no problem – Mr Tooth, Mrs Tooth, daughter Tooth … But when they all turned up together, I could never determine whether I should call them ‘the Tooths’ or ‘the Teeth’. The former seemed grammatically incorrect; the latter may have given the impression that I was not showing due respect. I guess I should have asked.
30 January, 2013
Where there are men, there must be chickens.
Peasant saying from Ningxia, China, 1936.
20 January, 2013
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Two somewhat different quotes, the first of which offered a new theory of skin colour – over against the standard theory, which held until about the eighteenth century, that skin colour was due to exposure to the sun. This one has more to do with cooking time in the womb:
A man of discernment said: The people of Iraq have sound minds, commendable passions, balanced natures, and high proficiency in every art, together with well-proportioned limbs, well-compounded humours, and a pale brown colour, which is the most apt and proper colour. They are the ones who are done to a turn in the womb. They do not come out with something between blonde, buff, blanched, and leprous colouring, such as the infants dropped from the wombs of the women of the Slavs and others of similar light complexion; nor are they overdone in the womb until they are burned, so that the child comes out something between black, murky, malodorous, stinking and crinkly-haired, with uneven limbs, deficient minds, and depraved passions, such as the Zanj, the Ethiopians, and other blacks who resemble them. The Iraqis are neither half-baked dough nor burned crust but between the two.
Ibn al-Fakih al Hamadhani, from Kitab al Buldan (Book of Countries, 903)
And a great example of how the myth of classicism took off in places like Germany in the nineteenth century, turning the Greeks into good Europeans, so much so that the ancient Greeks – with their slave-holding, veils for women, and a penetrating culture (for adult men) – would hardly have recognised themselves:
We regarded Greece as our second homeland; for it was the seat of all nobility of thought and feeling, the home of harmonious humanity. Yes, we even thought that ancient Greece belonged to Germany because, of all the modern peoples, the Germans had developed the deepest understanding of the Hellenic spirit, of Hellenic art, and of the harmonious Hellenic way of life. We thought this in the exuberance of a national pride, in virtue of which we proclaimed the German people the leading culture of the modern world and the Germans the modern Hellenes. We announced that Hellenic art and nature had been reborn more completely in German poetry and music than in the poetry and music of any other people of the contemporary world … Our enthusiasm for Greece was inseparable from our enthusiasm for our fatherland … We looked back to classical antiquity as to a lost paradise.
Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, on student life in a German Gymnasium. From his Kulturgeschichtliche Charakterköpfe (1891).