Folks who are interested in archaeology might be interested in a few tidbits about old stuff in the current news.

Photo by lachicaphoto, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo by lachicaphoto, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Islamic extremists behind the ISIS movement continue to demonstrate their inhumanity: not only do they indiscriminately murder and maim current residents of the land they’re overrunning, but they have taken to destroying priceless and irreplaceable artifacts of human heritage. Iraq News has reported that ISIS militants have blown up large parts of the ancient wall of Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian kingdom — modern day Mosul. Such behavior has no justification: the fact that anyone would participate in such atrocities is a sad commentary on the dangers of using religion as a front for radical evil.

Cuneiform_cooking-tabletsOn a lighter note, a French Assyriologist-cum-gourmet cook Jean Bottero has recently translated three cuneiform tablets from Yale University’s Babylonian Collection, and billed them as the world’s oldest cookbooks. The recipes contained on the tablets reveal that the ancient Mesopotamians were wild about onions of every variety. That’s not too surprising, for onions continue to be the world’s most commonly produced food crop according BBC Magazine, which says 175 different countries produce onions, twice as many as produce wheat. The top onion eating nations are Libya, Albania, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, where the average person eats about 34 kg (that’s 75 pounds) of onions per year. That’s more than three times the amount eaten in America or Britain.

Assyrians attack the Judean city of Lachish, a relief from Sennacherib's palace.

Assyrians attack the Judean city of Lachish, a relief from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh.

On another subject, researchers at Anglia-Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, report that they have found evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) among Assyrian soldiers as early as 1300 BCE. Analyzing translations of Assyrian cuneiform texts ranging from 1300-609 BCE, the researchers found instances of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle.” That could fit with symptoms of what is now called PTSD. Previously, the earliest reference to something like PTSD was from the Greek historian Herodotus, who described a case in which a soldier named Epizelus went blind during the battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, “though nothing had touched him.”

If only such symptoms would strike those misguided fighters who do the bidding of ISIS’s would-be caliph, and turn them against each other.

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