It really has been a long time since I’ve written. While I guess I haven’t really done anything substantial since my last post, I would say that I haven’t taken my foot off the pedal. This post is to give a general update of my continuation working on the Ur digitization project and what history books I’ve been reading in order to further my knowledge about the ancient world beyond Greece. My next post will deal with where I’ll be digging next summer, so hold on through this slightly less exciting post.

Last summer, I interned at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. While there, I worked on the Ur digitization project, an effort to transcribe and digitize artifacts, field materials, and notes from the excavations that went on at Ur between 1922 and 1934. I’ve kept up with the project in a limited capacity. The online nature of digitization and transcribing has allowed me to continue typing up letters and field notes from basically any location. As a result, I’ve been able to continue my work although the amount I have done has been limited by schoolwork, and other activities I participate in on a day to day basis. However, while not being able to put in constant hours to the project, I’ve still managed to transcribe hundreds of documents and field notes since the summer. While not finalized, at this point I plan on spending my community service at the Penn Museum working on the project full time for about a month. While digitization is not particularly exciting, I do feel as though it’s given me a window into the past. Even though many of the field materials are written in plain scientific vernacular, others are letters between friends and colleagues which allow otherwise black and white figures to become much more vivid and imaginable to me. Digitization may be time consuming and taxing, but it’s important, and I’ve enjoyed my continued participation.

Working Hard? Or hardly working…on the Ur digitization project during somewhat boring play practice.

During the summer I decided that I wanted to diversify my knowledge of the Ancient World beyond the history of Greece. I began in the summer by reading Michael Grant’s history of Rome. This gave me a solid start on Rome’s history, but I felt as though there was much more for me to learn before my knowledge even closely rivaled what I knew about Greece. As a result, I began searching for a way to learn much more about Rome. This search led me to Mike Duncan’s history of Rome podcast series. Since the summer, I have been listening to these 15-25 long minute podcasts and at this point, I have listened and taken notes up to the time of Julius Caesar’s  first consulship. In addition to learning about the history of Rome, I have also begun to learn a bit more about the history and society of the ancient near east. I began by reading the Epic of Gilgamesh which I found to be both fascinating both in its compelling story as well as its clear biblical parallels. The introduction on its own provided me with a great leeway into the history of the ancient near east. Following reading Gilgamesh, I decided to read Marc Van de Mieroop’s history of the ancient Near East from 3000-323 BC. This book while very general provided a detailed introduction into the study of the ancient Near East. It gave me a better idea of the chronology of the region as well as introducing me to various topics of study within the field.  In addition to reading about the Ancient Near East, I decided that I was also going to read a history of Ancient Egypt. After discovering that Van de Mieroop had also written about Egypt, I quickly decided to read his book. I enjoyed it tremendously. My personal favorite part of his book about Egypt was his section about key debates. It was very interesting to see some places where scholars disagree. Honestly, I do feel as though I now have a bit of a better understanding of the chronology of the ancient world. In particular, I feel as though I’ll be on firmer feet for digging next season. Last year at Abel, they would sometimes talk about cultures and peoples I didn’t really know about in a time period that I had never studied. I now feel better prepared to actively understand the various workings of our discoveries and how they relate to the specific time period in which they were made and used.

Anyways, I didn’t want to make this post too long…I figured that if I did, nobody would read it. I already know where I’ll be digging next summer and I’ll be discussing that as well as my recent interest in the modern middle east and specifically mandatory Iraq in my next post which will be up in only a couple of days. Thank you for your interest.

Julian Hirsch