As some Pagans and Heathens attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.
Did the Ark of the Covenant contain Pagan gods?
Archaeologists have long looked for the Ark of the Covenant, a large case the Bible says contains the broken pieces of the Ten Commandments. Yet some are now positing that if the ark is found it will more likely be found in Kiryath Jearim, not the city of David, and contain statues of Pagan gods.
Scholars say that the Bible was written by several authors over a long period of time and that the portions detailing the ark’s removal from Kiryath Jearim to David’s city were more recent additions. In fact, they now suspect that the ark may not have been moved at all.
These same scholars also note that persons living during the time period when the ark was thought to exist either worshiped Canaanite gods like Baal and El or the early Israelite gods Yahweh and Asherah.
Why do they think the ark could contain statues of Pagan gods rather than the Ten Commandments? Throughout the Levant, it was common practice for pre-Islamic Arabs to carry chests that contain two sacred stones or statues of Pagans gods. These items were later replaced with copies of the Koran. So the ark, mentioned in the Bible, may have likewise contained statues.
Baal was a god associated with war and fertility. The Ark of the Covenant was carried by Israelites into battle and thought to have supernatural powers to rally troops to victory. The Bible also tells the story of Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s mother, whose sterility is cured by the ark.
The Bible’s presentation of the Israelites as strict monotheists is also being corrected by archaeologists and scholars. They are now thought to have been a polytheist religious society slowly evolving and incorporating influences and ideas from surrounding cultures.
Perhaps if the ark is found, it may contain statues of Pagan gods and shards of the Ten Commandments.
Pagans were feasting in Israel
A 3,200-year-old Pagan feasting hall has been found in Israel. Archaeologists were initially hesitant to classify the hall as having religious significance, but the contents of the hall show it was used for Canaanite ritual feasting.
The hall was found in what was Libnah, a Canaanite city that would become Judahite after it was conquered by the Judahite Kingdom.
The hall was almost 52 feet in length and was well constructed. It contained a pillar of stone, usually associated with worship, Celtic vessels, figurines, zoomorphic vessels, and two ceramic masks. There were also three rare pithoi, small vessels containing oil for libations, ad charred bones of sheep, goats, and pigs.
Archaeologists have had a difficult time reconstructing Canaanite religious practices, but hope sites like this one can shed new light on the practice. For those Pagans attempting to reconstruct the Canaanite religion, keep your eye on this dig.
Oops! Viking dude is a lady
The pitfalls of assuming sex even happen to scientists. DNA analysis of one of the most famous Viking warriors proves the bones are those of a woman, not a man.
The Birka warrior, found in the late 1880s, was assumed to be that of a man because of what the grave contained. It housed swords, arrowheads, a spear, and two sacrificed horses. This shows a flaw in the art of archaeological interpretation. Archaeologists interpret what they see through the lens of the culture they live in. In this case, assuming the gender of the warrior base on modern expectations of gender roles.
This mistake was made despite Viking lore spelling out that not all warriors were men. In addition to tales of shield maidens who fought along side male warriors, there is the story of Inghen Ruaidh, a female warrior who lead a fleet of ships to Ireland.Earlier this year, bioarchaeologist Anna Kjellström closely examined the warrior’s pelvic bones and mandible and noted their dimensions were more typical of a woman.
After this finding was published, a team led by Uppsala University archaeologist Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson tested the bone’s DNA. The tests were conclusive that the bones were that of a woman, not a man.
The change in sex identification of this warrior now changes the idea that tales of Viking women warriors were just fables. Not only that, but since the Birka warrior was found with gaming pieces on her lap, suggesting she was a respected tactician, this changes the view of women in leadership positions within Viking culture.
Roman fake news – in full color
Archaeologists have reconstructed what the Arch of Titus looked like, and it was full of color and disinformation.
Professor Steven Fine of Yeshiva University has digitally reconstructed the arch using the bright colors that were probably used to paint the arch.
He discovered that the famed menorah, depicted on the panel showing Roman soldiers parading with treasures looted from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, was painted a bright yellow. It has just been in the last 30 years that archaeologists and museum curators have realized just how brightly colored Roman and Greek statues and buildings were. After noting the menorah was painted yellow, his access to the arch was cut off.
He then made educated guesses as to the other colors. The sky would be blue, the leaves green, and so on. He cautions that, although he feels confident about the color selections, without further testing he can’t be 100% sure.
As to why the arch was created in the first place, it was propaganda. The arch was built to commemorate Vespasian winning the Judean War. Which wasn’t really a war but a local rebellion in a far-flung province. The structure was built to glorify Vespasian and solidify the Flavian dynasty.
Fake news, it appears, is nothing new