Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Two Chinese travel stories over at Voyages on the Left.

1. Serendipity between Shandong and Shaanxi.

2. Search for Meaning.

When does the pre-modern stop and the modern begin in the Middle West (aka the Middle ‘East’)? For many biblical archaeologists and historians, the turning point is 1949. Before that date, people used ‘primitive’ farming methods, without the ‘benefit’ of modern techniques. The modes of land tenure, usage, and economic structure remained largely unchanged for millennia. After 1949, with the establishment of the state of Israel, modernity finally arrived – freedom, democracy and the US military. Needless to say, these pre-modern Arabs provide an absolute boon for archaeologists, for here may be found first-hand evidence of how people have lived since ancient times. So an increasing number of ethnographic comparisons are under way, using data from, say, the pre-Ottoman, Ottoman or British Mandate periods, in order to highlight economic life in biblical times. Yet, it is a curious argument, for it both distances the biblical materials from the interpreter and it turns the ‘dirty Arabs’ into biblical characters – on par with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Moses et al.