Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Rosetta Stone

For many years no one knew what the strange signs on the walls of Egyptian graves were or what they said. Scientists and archaeologists were baffled. In 1799, a stone was discovered with Egyptian hieroglyphic, Egyptian demotic, and Greek all with the same message written in each language.  Not until 1822 was the code cracked however, and only then were we able to read this ancient text. This stone has been the key to seeing what the hieroglyphics mean and it is thanks to Jean-Francois Champollion’s determination. Since then, there have been great leaps in understanding this early civilization.

From about 2600 B.C. to 500 A.D, the Egyptian hieroglyphic language was used. It is one of the oldest known languages of the world. Comprised of pictographs it uses them to convey figurative, symbolic, and phonetic sounds. Quite complex, the language can have a picture of a crocodile literally meaning crocodile, while it can also stand for the sound “msh.” The direction that the script was written varied, sometimes it was written from left to right, others right to left and sometimes it was even written running from top to bottom, but you can always tell the direction it is written because all of the animals and people face the starting point of the line. The Egyptians believed that writing was invented by their god Thoth and they called their writing “god’s words.” For the most part, the hieroglyphic language was used for formal writing and tomb inscriptions. Some were fully colored, while others were merely outlines. For everyday writing, the Egyptians used the hieratic script. Hieratic is much more simplified and mostly written for everyday transactions and such. Hieroglyphs are equivalent to cursive script and hieratic writing is equivalent to standard print script. From what we know, both were created at about the same time. The hieroglyphic writing looks very elaborate and stunning and we can truly appreciate the complexity of this civilization when looking at it. 

The Rosetta stone was carved in 196 B.C. and is a text written by the priests commemorating all of the great things that the Pharaoh had done. It was subsequently lost until the Rosetta stone was revealed in 1799 A.D. by a French soldier named Pierre-Francois Bouchard. As soldiers were strengthening the defenses of Fort Julien, a few miles to the north Lieutenant Pierre-Francois Bouchard who was in charge of the remodel, was informed of a slab with inscriptions on one side found by the soldiers. Finding it significant, the discovery was announced to Napoleon’s newly founded scientific association in Cairo. It was the first bilingual text recovered in modern times and aroused a ton of publicity and curiosity. It was deemed so significant that Napoleon himself examined it. Many copies were made of the text and sent to numerous scholars throughout Europe to see if they could decipher it, but they only succeeded in decoding the Greek portion. When the British troops defeated the French in Egypt, the Rosetta stone was confiscated and sent to the British Museum in 1802, where it has been since. There is still some speculation as to the true owners of the Stone and whether it should be returned to Egypt.

For 23 years the Stone’s hieroglyphic carvings remained a mystery. One of the first men to try to translate the Stone was Antoine Isaac Silvestre De Sacy of France; unfortunately he made no major accomplishments in the demotic characters. Again a British physicist and medical doctor, Thomas Young took a whack at it and advanced the idea that the hieroglyphs were not only pictures, but sounds too. He recognized a few names, but other than that the stone remained a mystery still. It wasn’t until the French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion, saw the Rosetta stone and set his mind to it, that the Stone’s secrets were finally unveiled. He discovered that there were three forms of Egyptian writing, hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic. After he revealed this, he also built off of Young’s idea that hieroglyphs had sounds as well as picture meanings. Using the Greek, he translated the hieroglyphs leaving only 14 incomplete lines. This incredible accomplishment has opened the doorway to Egypt.

Once the Rosetta stone was found, the world knew that it was something extremely important. In spite of this, it took many years to realize what it actually said. If Champollion had never spent the time and effort to translate the Rosetta stone, we might to this very day still be baffled by one of the greatest ancient civilizations. Thankfully, he persevered and we now know how to read hieroglyphs. This attractive language is very complex and was not easy to read and so we are even more amazed at the work of Champollion. The Rosetta stone truly was the key to an entirely new world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Rise of Civilizations

When we think about great civilizations, we think of Egypt, Persia, and Rome. But how did these great nations and people groups start?  Believe it or not, according to Biblical history, they all came from one man and that man was Noah. After the flood, his descendants scattered and multiplied. From these people, we get all of the great ancient empires. Many of these communities created great cities and amazing machinery for their time. We will look at the peoples of early Mesopotamia, India and China and see what they gave to the world through their technology and advancements. Along with this we will look at how their religion impacted their societies. The main focus will be on the rise of these civilizations, primarily during the years between 3000 and 2000 B.C.

In Mesopotamia, there were several civilizations that became outstanding. Some of which are the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Sumerians. They each produced great cities and structures, some more advanced than anywhere else. Their cultures were sophisticated and highly developed. One civilization was more advanced at the time. The Sumerians invented many important things, including the wheel. In Sumer there was a city called Ur, the same Ur that Abraham fled. This was a city of great wealth and prosperity. There is evidence that even the early people of Ur were trading with other cities over long distances. We can see this through the precious stones and other valuables not indigenous to the area that have been found in royal tombs. At the time, Ur was the most important port city on the Persian Gulf. Most of the world’s wealth would have had to go through Ur, making it vital to the world’s economy. This civilization also had a form of cuneiform writing, which can be read today. Along with these accomplishments, they also were expert architects. We can see this through the great ziggurat built around 2050 B.C. They were building great temples even before the Egyptians were building their pyramids.  Their houses were also two stories and had 13 to 14 rooms in most cases. This was obviously a city that knew what it was doing. So why did Abraham have to leave? Even though this was one of the most important cities in the world at the time, it was also a very pagan city, definitely not the place for a righteous man to be. Those in Ur worshipped the moon god Nammu and thus did not have a relationship with the Biblical God.  In this religion, they had priests to man the temples and many festivals and rituals. As in many religions, they sacrificed animals to their gods. Ur is by far an amazing city, well before its time, but we must always remember that it was also a pagan and sinful city. No matter the physical achievements of the city, it still died out in the end.

Around 3000 B.C. the Indus valley saw a huge influx of population. It was soon covered with settlements along the Indus River. It wasn’t until 2600 B.C. that we start to see any great cities emerge, but those that did emerge were magnificent. The cities that they built were well organized and made of solid building materials such as brick and stone. These people were not just simple farmers. They had one of the most advanced drainage, water, and well systems in the ancient world. Always mindful of sanitation, they had specific rooms for bathing, much like a modern bathroom. They were so well off that they actually made toys for their children and game pieces, which means that they had time for fun and games. What helped their economy along was the development of weights and trade, making it easier to acquire special goods. They created a type of writing that was used for several hundred years; unfortunately, we cannot read it in this day and age. Around each city was a massive wall protecting the inhabitants not only from floods, but also from any military threats.  We do not know much about their religion, but it was most likely the foundation for Hinduism. Both religions worship a mother goddess, they both regard cows as sacred, and they both bathe in the River for religious purposes and consider all rivers holy.  As in all ancient civilizations, this one eventually died out and gave rise to other civilizations, but it is apparent how influential this civilization still is if you visit a nearby village and observe how similar their houses are to their ancient ancestors.

Unlike the two previous civilizations, the Yellow River area didn’t see any real development until around 1600 B.C. This can be attributed to the fact that the China region is so much farther away than the other areas from where Noah left the Ark, which is believed to be somewhere in the middle east. Before the Shang Dynasty, which started in 1600 B.C., some people speculate that there was the Xia Dynasty from 2100-1600 B.C., but nothing significant happened that we know of yet other than some pottery and basic bronze work.  It wasn’t until the Shang Dynasty that we see advanced bronze casting methods and the development of an advanced language. The cities that were built were walled and advanced. This is the first Dynasty that left behind written records and solid archaeological evidence. They were the original Dynasty to develop a stratified government in China and it seems that their officials were quite wealthy. Their religion was hugely based on rituals, primarily burial, much like the Egyptians. Since they worshipped their ancestors, they were conscious of the proper way to do it. They believed that if they didn’t properly worship their ancestors, their kingdom would experience countless disasters. The King frequently communicated with his ancestors using oracle bones. Besides worshipping their ancestors, they also worshipped the god Shang Di who was the supreme god that ruled over all of the lesser gods. Sacrifices were major in their religion, not only animal, but also human sacrifices. Most human sacrifices were performed at Royal burials. This region based most of their lives around their religion, but when they weren’t focused on sacrifices, they created advanced societies and cities. This was the beginning of the great Chinese culture.

From one man came all of the great nations of the world. This man was Noah, the only righteous man left in a world that was racked with sin. Unlike common belief, we in fact did not evolve; we are descended from a bright man, who gave rise to the great ancient civilizations. This explains why scientists are so baffled by the brilliance of these cultures that seem as though they popped up from nowhere. Some of the first and biggest nations were the people of early Mesopotamia, India, and China. They gave many advancements in technology and society. Most of the early civilizations rose from 3000-2000 B.C. Mostly ruled by their religions, sometimes they forgot what truly mattered, but we should still thank them for their discoveries and contributions to the modern world.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Generation Joshua

I am a part of this great organization called Generation Joshua. They are about getting teens educated about our government and how we can change it. They are completely Christian based and have quite a following. I am in a program through them called The Ben Rush Program that gives out scholarships. I need to do some volunteer work and other things, such as writing a letter to the editor of the newspaper, but I also need to get at least 1 other person signed up with Generation Joshua. I would greatly appreciate it if one of you could sign up, you just have to be 14-19 years old and still in High School. When you sign up, just say that I, Rachel Joseph was the one to tell you about it. If you have any questions please email me at racheljoseph1233@yahoo.com. You can also find out more at http://generationjoshua.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Celebrating Art Contest

This contest is very easy to enter and its free to enter. I just entered yesterday and thought I could spread the word.

If you want to learn more just go to http://www.celebratingart.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All About Healing

This was a great book. I love historical fiction books and this was a pretty fun one. It takes place in the 1920's and has all of the fun of black and white movies and flappers. Lilly was the kind of girl who strived for what she wanted and usually got it. She was the epitome of beauty and success. Yet she didn't have what truly makes a person whole and successful, Jesus. This book starts out with Lilly trying to sell perfumes and such, but can't seem to get a break, until she comes to the door of Betty Ruth Burnside. Instantly you fall in love with the adorable old woman just as Lilly does. As the story progresses Lilly ends up staying with the Burnsides and she learns what it's like to have a mother truly love her, because lo and behold, her own mother despises her. Not only is this a romance between Lilly and Cullen, Betty Ruth's son, but it is also about Lilly finding healing with her mother. Cullen is quite the gentleman and it is easy to like him, even though he is a scarred war veteran. This book is also about Cullen finding healing; the kind of healing that comes from Jesus. The love of Jesus is very apparent throughout this book. This book is truly all about healing. It was very well written and it keeps your attention and suspense throughout the whole thing.

I recieved this book from Waterbrook-Multnomah Publishers through their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Library: After Hours

My friends and I made this little video and I thought I would post it.  :)