Interesting Notes

The word “Islamophobia” (whose usage I despise; see Comment Policy) was apparently first used in English by Edward Said in this article (p. 99).
Less than three percent of terrorist attacks in Europe last year were religiously-motivated (most were committed by Corsican nationalists).
Most religiously motivated “hate crimes” in the United States in 2011 were committed against Jews. Only an eighth were committed against Muslims.

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David Rohl Does Read My Blog After All!

…but for some reason, my post on his being a reader of this blog has been bizarrely misinterpreted by some of his fans.

While I was spending some time at around 5 AM today reading the recently-released U.N. report on Syrian chemical weapons use on August 21, I noticed a huge spike in my views by way of notification from WordPress. Looking at my list of referrers, I saw a huge wave of visitors to my previous post from Facebook. It was only a matter of a few seconds before I found this post by David Rohl himself.

I would be interested to see from your comments if I am really retired and a complete failure … or whether Mr Pithom is talking through his backside.

-Rohl said

No more books (apparently nobody reads history anymore). No more documentaries on the horizon (see above). Just retirement. My god, sent out to pasture at the age of sixty – what a bummer! Then again …???????

-I think those words are pretty clear and adequately explain why I thought (incorrectly?) that Rohl was retired.
Rohl has also become so infamous in the scholarly world that at least one student was prohibited from using him as a source. Even George Grena, author of what is certainly the worst book I own, has not been that heavily dismissed by most of the scholarly world. I did not say Rohl was a “complete failure”, I said he was a failed chronological revisionist. I did not mean any hostility towards Rohl. I simply tried to write as objective a description as I could of him and a few of his ideas from less than an hour of research. The Facebook commentator who almost hit the nail on the head was Charles Scott Kimball:

Obviously that blogger does not know you very well if he just found out you’re in Spain, and does not know that Peter Van Der Veen is on our side. I’m guessing he thinks you’re retired because he is not familiar with your Mandalaband work, so maybe your new book on the Exodus will correct that.

-Though I was aware that Van Der Veen dated the Izbet Sartah inscription over half a century too late, I was not aware that he is, in fact, a proponent of the idea that the Amarna Era is contemporary with the United Monarchy. However, I never said that Van Der Veen was an opponent of Rohl’s Chronology, so my post stands.

For those wondering what the purpose of my previous post was, please understand that this is a small and little-visited blog. Any publicly prominent reader of this blog is an extraordinary outlier, and, consequently, the rest of my audience should be informed of the existence of that publicly prominent reader.

Most of the commenters on Rohl’s post have an astonishing lack of self-awareness. They, rather bizarrely, took my post as some kind of personal attack on David Rohl or an attempt to belittle him, which, as any reader can see by reading my post, is definitely not the case. I have no personal axe to grind against David Rohl, as I simply have not read much of what he writes. The idea that I am “a jealous ‘David Rohl wannabe'”, proposed by one commentator, is ridiculous- I want any chronological revisionism I may make (such as the downdating of the destruction of Ekron from 604 BC to the early 580s BC) to be accepted by the scholarly community, not, as most of David Rohl’s chronological revisionism, be rejected by the scholarly community! At least one commentator attacked peer review (the worst system of accepting or rejecting papers, except all the others), for not allowing change, completely ignoring the examples of successful chronological revisionists I gave! The crank Robert Bauval called me a jerk not deserving attention. Some commentators used my lack of relevant credentials in archaeology, Near East studies, and Biblical studies to dismiss all my blogposts- a classic example of an ad hominem attack.

As for my dismissal of the Egypt-Sumer boat contact hypothesis- firstly, there is no evidence from the Sumerian records of Sumerian ships sailing to any country further than Lothal. Secondly, there is no evidence, either archaeological or textual, of Sumerian ships sailing to any land further South than northeast Oman. The sea journey from Sumer to Egypt is at least twice as long as the journey from Sumer to Lothal. Thirdly, there is no evidence that either Eritreans or South Arabians adopted Sumerian inventions before Egyptians, which would be the case if this hypothesis was correct. Fourthly, Egyptian texts simply do not describe visitors to Egypt journeying by way of the Red Sea from any land further than Punt.

A word must be said on the association of Meluhha with Kush in the Amarna letters- as there is no evidence of Sumerian-Kushite contact by sea, and the Meluhha-Indus Valley link is very well established on both archaeological and textual grounds (Kush is not exactly famous for its forests), it seems that the location of Meluhha was lost in about the 16th century BC and the toponym was used by Babylonians to describe another faraway land (Kush) by the 14th century BC.

Secondly, the land route from Egypt to Sumer was used far more frequently (and was far shorter than) the sea route. In fact, there is no evidence the sea route was used at all until the Hellenistic period. The land route, however, was used to spread a cuneiform standard stretching from Egypt to West Anatolia to Babylonia during the Amarna era and was used by the Assyrian government to expand its empire during the 8th century BC. For a good overview of the evidence of contact between Egypt and Sumer during the 4th-3rd millennia BC, including evidence for the use of the land route for this contact (at least by the 3rd millennium BC), see here.

Occam's Razor, anyone?
Occam’s Razor, anyone?

David Rohl Reads My Blog!?!

UPDATE: New visitors coming from Rohl’s FB page, see this post (added 6:40 PM EST).

Yes, I have it on possibly good grounds (an email address with David Rohl’s name) that David Rohl, retired (and failed*) chronological revisionist with an outdated paper library, reads my blog and has been subscribed to it by email since August 27 of this year. I certainly didn’t know that David Rohl now lives in Spain before today! David Rohl also accepts the hypothesis (which I presently see as dubious) that most Christian theology is directly based on Egyptian religion. He also appears to accept the equally-dubious hypothesis that Egyptian-Sumerian contacts first occurred by boat on the Eastern Red Sea coast (I say they occurred by land, as that is a more parsimonious hypothesis).

* The mark of success is acceptance by academia. Israel Finkelstein (active) and David Ussishkin (retired) have been by far the most successful chronological revisionists of the archaeology of Palestine of the past 50 years. George Grena (never active in relevant academia, not yet retired) and Peter van Der Veen have also been successful chronological revisionists, helping to revise the then (c. 2000 AD) -dominant Ussishkin-defended Pre-Sennacherib Only view of the lmlk impressions.

A Few Weekly Conclusions About Syria

It’s been a good week for U.S.-Russian relations and for the Syrian regime. My August 27 prediction that there would be no direct U.S. attack on Syria and my estimation that Obama isn’t a War Hawk are continuing to bear fruit. Obama continues to believe that Assad and his regime will eventually fall, although the U.S. will not directly lead to the present Syrian regime’s collapse. (Update on December 4, 2013: since about October, I no longer think that Obama thinks that the Assad regime will eventually fall.) In the end, Obama gave time for a U.N. report on chemical weapons use in the Ghouta and for negotiations between Russia and the U.S. to be concluded before a vote on the Senate authorization of force bill, thus undermining the first half and the end of his address. An agreement on Syrian chemical weapons was reached by the Russian and U.S governments (see here for agreement). Even Kerry has been humbled by the Russian proposal. By far the least expected event of the week was Syria’s agreement to give up its chemical weapons to the U.N. in exchange for a direct U.S. attack on Syria being taken off the table. Apparently, Assad was honest in his statement that he would do anything to prevent another crazy war in his recent interview to Charlie Rose. For some reason, the intelligence surrounding the August 21 Ghouta Sarin attack is not being directly presented by the Obama administration, but only summarized. The “Government Assessment” was also, for some reason, released by the White House, not the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The tactics, targets, and strategic implications of a hypothetical U.S. strike on Syria have also not been disclosed by the Obama administration except in the broadest possible sense (“And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.”). Obama’s public reasoning (probably not his private reasoning) appears to be:

First, we shall attack the following categories of regime installations in Syria: [???], [???], and [???], such as the [???] in Damascus, Assad’s [???] in [location name goes here], the [name of installation goes here] near the village of [???], and the [???] in [location name goes here] with Tomahawk missiles for a couple days in order to accomplish these immediate tactical goals on the ground: [???], [???] and [???]. The successful fulfillment of these tactical goals on the ground will have strategic implications for the Assad regime such as a reduction in its ability to use chemical weapons, [???], and [???], thus sending the broader messages to Assad that [???], that [???], and that the Obama administration will accomplish [tactical goals [???], [???], and [???]] in the case of [event in Syria goes here]. The following changes to Assad regime policy shall thus be effected by the U.S. actions rather clearly described above: Assad shall refrain from at least some possible future chemical attacks planned by him and may possibly expect further U.S. strikes (or worse) in the case of future chemical weapons use by his regime, [???], and [???]. The above-mentioned U.S. actions will probably not significantly weaken the Syrian government, and certainly will not lead to increasing U.S. action culminating in the fall of the Assad regime.

Or, shorter:
1. Strike something or other in Syria!
2. ???
3. Get Assad to renounce using chemical weapons!
(Or “Profit“. That could work, too.)
I strongly doubted that anyone could be stupid enough to think this way. This is why I made my August 27 prediction. The Syrian rebel lobby in the West continues to maintain a thinly veiled hawkish stance, though not as hawkish a stance as it used to be. The Senate bill was apparently written by War Hawks; the bill incorrectly states that the President has the goal of Assad leaving power (even though this is an Obama administration talking point, actions speak louder than words) and that the U.S. has the goal of achieving a democratic government in Syria. The Syrian regime had, surprisingly, captured Ariha near Idlib on September 3, 2013, signaling its attempt to take most of Idlib province, especially the strategic town of Maarat al-Numan on the M5 highway, possibly to open a supply line to Aleppo.

NBC: Congress scheduled to cast first Syria vote on Wednesday

First anniversary of the 2012 Benghazi attack. Twelfth anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks. Bashar al-Assad’s 48th birthday. And, just as I suspected, the day when Congress casts its first vote on whether to attack Syria. This is an especially funny/tragic coincidence. Fortunately, the Republican-dominated House doesn’t seem to be likely to approve of the attack.
UPDATE: Vote delayed some days.