Alexandra Fletcher, curator, British Museum
As the weather turns colder and the days shorter the Museum has been loaned a reminder of warmer, sunnier climes, which is helping to beat the mid-winter chill. The Department of the Middle East is preparing to display a panel of glazed bricks that has been generously loaned to us by the Vorderasiatisches Museum, part of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin group.
The panel shows a pacing, roaring lion and once was part of King Nebuchadnezzar II’s throne room in his palace in the ancient city of Babylon, Iraq. Nebuchadnezzar II reigned from 605-562 BC, and supposedly had the hanging gardens of Babylon built for his queen. Although there is little evidence to confirm his passion for gardening, it is certain that Nebuchadnezzar commissioned other major building projects in Babylon, to glorify the capital of his empire. Inscriptions stamped on bricks reveal the extent…
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Irving Finkel, curator, British Museum
I’ve just come from the press conference launching my new book, The Ark Before Noah. As I told the journalists, it all started with a fairly normal event for a museum curator: a member of the public bringing in an object that had long been in their family to have it identified. As often happens in my case, it was a cuneiform tablet. The visitor, Douglas Simmonds, had been given it by his father for passing his exams. It was part of a modest collection: a few tablets, some cylinder seals, a lamp or two and some pieces from China and Egypt. His father, an inveterate curio hunter, had picked them up after the War in the late 1940s.
This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million. The cuneiform was a sixty-line passage from the ancient Babylonian Story of the Flood
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(This is a fairly long piece about a war most people have never heard of, but there is a wonderful lesson of history here. For more on the sophists see Stuff from Way Back #20. The dates are BC.)
“Now we can see it clearly – like the light at the end of a tunnel.”
General Henri Navarre
commander of the French forces at Dien Bien Phu
History can often be hauntingly familiar, even across the 2500 year divide that separates classical Athens from America in the second half of the twentieth century. A case in point is the catastrophic Peloponnesian War (431-404) between the Athenian Empire and the Spartan controlled Peloponnesian League, a conflict that to a great extent ruined the Greek world.
The Athenian Empire was naval based, taking in virtually all the island and coastal city-states of the Aegean, and constituted a wealthy trading block. …
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The supposition of Antarctica’s existence appeared in the 16th Century, and for years people tried to confirm it. In 1772-1775, James Cook, the English sailor, sailed across the Southern Ocean and did not find any signs of the “The Unknown Southern Land”, so the world lost interest in the South Pole for some time.
At the beginning of 1819, on the recommendation of three famous sailors – Admiral Gavril Sarychev, captain-commander Ivan Kruzenstern and captain-lieutenant Otto Kotzebue, – the Russian government decided to conduct a polar expedition for “acquiring knowledge about our Earth” and “discovering new lands near the South Pole.” Krusenstern wrote in his letter to the Admiralty that Russia should not share the glory of the possible discoveries with any other country.
On July 16, 1819, two Russian sloops, “Vostok” and “Mirny” under the command of Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev left the port in Kronshtadt and headed for the South Pole. It was the first big Russian sea expedition, financed and organized by the government. Both Lazarev and Bellingshausen were experienced sailors and had participated in circumnavigations. In four months, the ships reached Rio de Janeiro and stopped there to replenish supplies. From Rio, “Vostok” and “Mirny” sailed towards Sydney, Australia, across the polar seas, trying to go as far south, as possible.
On January 1, 1820, “Vostok” and “Mirny” made the first discovery. They found a group of volcanic islands, inhabited by penguins and other birds. The expedition named the islands “Traverse islands”, after the Russian Navy Minister – Ivan Traverse.
In the middle of January, the expedition reached the Sandwich Land, discovered by Cook. Cook had finished his expedition with the discovery of it, and had been sure that going further to South would be impossible because of cold, storms and ice barriers. The Russian expedition explored the Land, and it became clear that Cook had made a mistake, and the Sandwich Land was actually a Sandwich archipelago. Lazarev and Bellingshausen plotted it on the map and changed its name to “The South Sandwich Islands”.
The ships continued their way to South, tacking among the icebergs, some of which were, according to the expedition records, 100 meters high. In one of his letters, Lazarev wrote about the hardships of this period of the voyage: “we wandered, like shadows, in this barren land, under the endless snow, through ice and fog”.
On January 27, 1820, “Vostok” and “Mirny” crossed the Antarctic Circle, and the day after, Lazarev and Bellingshausen saw the Antarctic coast for the first time. The ships were 20 kilometers away from it. In his records, Lazarev described the view: “The infinite ice, stretching away as far as the eye can see”, and called it “amazing”. In its voyage, the expedition approached the Antarctic coast six times, but the ships could not come close to the continent because of the ice barriers. The fourth approach assured Bellingshausen that the expedition had found the mysterious “Southern Land”, but he was not sure if there was any dry land under the ice he had seen.
In the southern autumn of 1820, “Vostok” and “Mirny” arrived in Sydney. From May 1820 until September 1820, “Vostok” and “Mirny” explored the tropic areas of the Pacific Ocean, and on November 12, 1820, headed back to Antarctica. After a two-month journey, on January 20, 1821, the expedition discovered the Alexander I Land, but Bellingshausen was not sure if it was an island or a peninsula.
In February 1821, the expedition headed to Rio de Janeiro, and in August, “Vostok” and “Mirny” returned to Kronshtadt. The voyage lasted 751 days, and the ships had sailed 80,240 kilometers.
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Metallica performs in Antarctica, visits Russia’s Bellingshausen station(voiceofrussia.com)
Russian sailor from Norwegian fishing trawler operated in the Antarctic and taken to Chile(en.itar-tass.com)
تحيي روسيا اليوم 27 يناير/كانون الثاني الذكرى السبعين لـفك الحصار الذي فرضته قوات ألمانيا النازية خلال الحرب العالمية الثانية على مدينة لينينغراد (بطرسبورغ حاليا).وشارك الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين الاثنين في احتفالات بهذه الذكرى، ويضع أكاليل الزهور على نصب تذكارية لضحايا الحصار والحرب ضد النازية في مقبرة بيسكاريوفسكويه والمجمع الحربي التاريخي.وبدأ حصار لينينغراد باحتلال قلعة شليسلبورغ في 8 سبتمبر/أيلول عام 1941، ليستمر نحو 900 يوم قتل فيها أكثر من 600 ألف شخص جراء القصف والمجاعة والبرد.كانت لينينغراد محاصرة بالقوات الالمانية من اليابسة. لكن بحيرة لادوغا كانت طريقا مائيا وحيدا يربط المدينة بالبلاد. واطلق عليه “طريق الحياة” الذي مرت به امدادات من الاغذية والوقود رغم القصف الالماني المستمر. وكانت البحيرة تتجمد في وقت الشتاء مما سمح بإجلاء الاطفال والنساء والمرضى والجرحى من المدينة. وكان شتاء عامي 1941 و1942 اصعب مرحلة في تاريخ الحصار.وبنتيجة حملة “اسكرا” اي “الشرارة” التي شنتها القوات السوفيتية في منتصف يناير/كانون الثاني عام 1943 تم اختراق الطوق العسكري الألماني…
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