Karakorum-Capital of the Mongol Empire

The Mongol Empire, once the world’s most formidable power, stretched from beyond Iran to the Pacific. Its capital from 1235 to 1260 AD was Karakorum,  47°12’26″N, 102°50’50″E a ruin stretching a kilometer from East to West and over four fifths of a mile from North to South. Today, the Buddhist fortified Erdene Zuu monastery, built in 1585 AD from the ruins of Karakorum, stands directly to the South of Karakorum. The walls of Karakorum are relatively easy to distinguish from Google Earth even with the direct lighting, especially after the help of this image. The roads and walls of Karakorum are outlined in the image below:

This was, perhaps, the largest city in Mongolia at the time of Ogedei. A model of it is located in the Ulaanbaatar museum, showing it to be a very much underpopulated place with a few religious structures and courtyards, two long, somewhat straight streets, and a yurt quarter (a further testament to the town’s lack of a large permanent population). It was destroyed in 1388 under the Ming Dynasty and was sparsely resettled later on. William of Rubruck, a Flemish monk, described the glories of Karakorum here (scroll down, not up, for the description). The capital was poor, practical, not too monumental, and insufficiently close to China, Mongolia’s most important (in Mongol rulers’ eyes) conquest, and, thus, had to be moved SE-ward to some more monumental ‘city’.
In 1260, the Mongol capital shifted to Xanadu, a recently-declared UNESCO world heritage site. Xanadu, a square over 1 1/3 mile in width, became the Mongol summer capital in 1271 and was abandoned after being destroyed by the Ming in 1369. Dadu/Bejing, another overly large rectangular capital, 5 1/5 miles N-S and 4 1/5 miles E-W, was established under Mongke as winter capital in the same year Xanadu became summer capital. This habit of Mongke of building enormous capitals reminds me of Sargon II’s Dur-Sharrukin, a 1 1/7 mile roughly-square compound and Nebuchadnezzar II’s 2 1/2 mile NW to SE incomplete attempt to build a massive rhomboidal wall around Babylon. Why powerful emperors with enormous accomplishments would wish to build enormous squarish capitals is beyond me.
Curiously enough, Ordu-Baliq/Kara-Balgasun, a ruin 24 kilometers to the Northeast of Karakorum and capital of the Ughyur khanate, seems to have been larger than Karakorum.

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Humorous Image of the Day


-Har-dee-har-har! Obviously, this comes by way of the Safi/Gath blog, whose contributors are clearly overburdened with pictures of Philistine pottery they wish to get off their chest, especially after Netanyahu’s infamous bomb presentation. “LPDW” is “Late Philistine Decorated Ware” Monochrome is c. 1130-c. 1050 BC, Bichrome is c. 1070-c. 1020 BC, Debased Bichrome is Late Iron I and LPDW is Iron IIa.

Gordon Franz Debunks Miles Jones on ‘Yahweh Inscription’

Back in mid-2011, I found out that the mis-translator of the so-called “YHWH Inscription”, a forged rock inscription claimed by the Caldwells and Cornukites to have been found at Jebel al-Lawz, was a certain Miles Jones. Today, Gordon Franz has responded to Jones’ tomfoolery on his blog. Note that I consulted the same Dr. Michael Macdonald of Oxford as did Franz on the matter of the “menorah” found in Madyan/Midian by Sung Hak Kim as soon as I heard of Miles Jones. I published the main points he made on AJaL and do publish his email to me here:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your message.

The supposed “menorah” is in fact the letter “dh” (pronounced like the “th” in “this”) preceded by the letter “w” which has been taken to be the “base” of the supposed menorah, though as you can see when you look closely the two are not joined. The inscription is in the Ancient North Arabian dialect and script known as Hismaic which was in use in southern Jordan and North West Arabia between the last century BC and the fourth century AD. The graffito reads: w dhkrt lt ’l’n mr—- [the rest of the text is cut off by the edge of the photograph] and means “May [the goddess] Lat be mindful of ’l’n —-“. This prayer to the pagan deity Lat is extremely common in this type of graffito.

I hope that this is helpful,

with best wishes,

Michael Macdonald.

Atheism∞: The Logical Counterpart to Atheism+

Perhaps the most poignant criticisms of the ideas of Atheism+ I criticized almost a month ago come from this parody:

The video above describes the introduction of Atheism∞, a third movement of New Atheism that includes not merely LGBT-and-women-and-blacks should be protected by the Government and the rest of society issues, but issues nearly all Atheism+ers consider to be of importance, such as Global Warming, non-human-life rights, nutrition, declining bio-diversity, the “re-emergence of tuberculosis” and gun control. While I don’t know of any sane Skeptic who isn’t concerned about nutrition, Global Warming, and declining bio-diversity, it is clear that, as Atheism+, Atheism∞ is all about introducing not-clearly-necessary baggage into the Atheist movement. The video above also satirizes the idea that organized blogging collectives do not create divisions between those collectives and other bloggers and blogging collectives (thankfully, there are no organized YouTube collectives!)

C0nc0rdance’s reply to Atheism+, however, misses the whole point of the movement. Atheism+ is all about purifying the atheist movement from the lack of complete agreement with the FTB positions on LGBT-and-women-and-blacks should be protected by the Government and the rest of society issues the Four Horsemen of New Atheism have. It is all about naming & shaming, ideological tests, and restricting speech in comment threads. To ask its founders to oppose ideological tests is like asking them to oppose religious tests, or tests of belief in an old earth and the safety of vaccination. Also, on the Internet, the community chooses its command structure-all popular decisions made by the command structure are by definition supported by the community.

Jim West Gets Mentioned by the BBC, Israel Finkelstein Publishes Some Articles Online

I’m telling you, folks, if you wish to be kept up to speed in the world of archaeology as it relates to the Bible, create a Google alert for yourself on Israel Finkelstein. Today (word coming from Jim West), Israel Finkelstein has published some papers of his online.

The first, on Amarna Shechem, is from 2005, and thus, fairly recent, utilizing the petrographic examination of the Amarna letters done by Goren. It analyzes the rise of the Omrides as interpreted by the rise of an earlier Shechem-area based polity, that of Shechem under Labayu. It was superseded by Finkelstein’s paper on Saul being the “Last Labayu”. The only disagreeable remark I can find in there is the mention of Dor being definitely Israelite in the 8th C BC (on page 183), ignoring the possibility it might have been Phoenician.

The second, on the campaign of Shoshenq I, is outdated (my video is up-to date), describing Shoshenq I as attempting to destroy, rather than encourage, the Masos-Nahas copper network. It is also a useful example of Finkelstein In Transition on his opinions on which stratum at Megiddo corresponds to Shoshenq I’s Megiddo. In this paper, he views “Early IrIIa” Masos II as partially contemporary with “Late Iron I” Megiddo VIA. Finkelstein also presents his “Shoshenq destroyed Saulide Gibeon” hypothesis he more clearly presents in “Last Labayu”.

The third, on “The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh“, is a Finkelstein classic. He points out the decline of the Judahite population from over 120,000 in c. 705 BC to under 70,000 in c. 605 BC, the utter lack of full recovery in the Shephelah, and the rise in population in the Negev, Hill Country, Benjamin, and Wilderness. He also points out the Arabian trade and Ekron IC as factors in the recovery of Judah under Manasseh. He does not accept there is any good evidence for a Manassite revival of the Shephelah.

In other news, Jim West, biblioblogger extraordinaire, has been mentioned by the BBC.

Late Iron II Small Farm Discovered 700 m NNE. of Rogem Ganim

See here. The area around Rogem Ganim (31°45’19″N 35° 9’57″E) was apparently quite densely inhabited in the 7th-6th Cs BC (Khirbet er-Ras, Manahat, Qiryat Ha-Yovel, and Rogem Ganim were all less than a mile away from each other). Perhaps someone should make a “Survey of Western Palestine”-style map for Late Iron II Judah?

Herbert W. Armstrong’s Influence Stretched Deep in Israel (1967-1986)

A little-known fact about Benjamin Mazar’s Ophel excavations is that they were partially funded by cult leader* Herbert W. Armstrong. A less known fact is how deep Armstrong’s influence, financial and otherwise, extended in Israel, or how deep it even into Israel today, over two decades after Armstrong’s death.

*The group he founded fits at least twelve of this list’s fifteen characteristics of a cult.