An Ancient Warrior Woman in Southern Russia with a (Possibly) Hebrew Seal

Aug. 20 2015

Archaeologists recently discovered the burial site of a female Sarmatian warrior who they believe lived in the 1st century CE. (The Sarmatians, who populated what is now Ukraine and southern Russia during antiquity, are thought to have been the basis for the Amazons of Greek legend.) Among the numerous artifacts was a stone seal engraved in the old version of the Hebrew alphabet, which fell into disuse during the Second Temple period. Jim Davila writes:

As far as I know, this type of seal was only made between the 8th and 5th centuries BCE. . . . It is in one of the northwest Semitic languages, but I don’t know enough about the paleography of this period to identify whether it is Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Ammonite, Edomite, or Moabite. . . .

The letters are inscribed backwards on the seal so that the mirror-image imprint it leaves will read in the right direction. This is normal for such objects. . . . The seal reads לאלישב (l’lyšb), “belonging to Elyashiv.” Elyashiv (Eliashib) is attested as a man’s name in the Hebrew Bible in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and on at least a couple of 7th-century BCE Hebrew seals. I can’t find it in any of the other languages, but I haven’t looked comprehensively and some of them may well have used it, too.

The big question is, what was this turn-of-the-era Sarmatian woman in Russia doing with a Northwest Semitic seal from four to eight centuries before her time? . . . [I]t could have been a family heirloom. It certainly raises other questions about trade between Eastern Europe and the Middle East from the late Iron Age to the Hellenistic period. Assuming this report is accurate in its particulars, this is an extraordinary discovery.

Read more at Paleojudaica

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew alphabet, History & Ideas, Russia, Ukraine

The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy