The Oldest Known Map of Any Country Depicts the Land of Israel

Discovered in the ancient city of Madaba, in what is now Jordan, in 1884, the earliest map of the Land of Israel known to archaeologists was created in the 6th century CE. It was constructed by Byzantine Christians from mosaic tiles and is thought to have been 65 feet in length, although only about half survives. Pnina Arad writes:

The Madaba map is the earliest known map to display the Holy Land and the only known instance in the first millennium of a map depicting a country in full. That is to say that the Madaba map was novel due to the fact that it represented a new kind of visual medium—a graphic description of an entire country, one of the striking features of which was that it didn’t show roads. The map does show mountain ranges, rivers, streams, [and] architectural symbols representing towns and holy sites.

The holy places are depicted via simple structures with red roofs, probably symbolic representations of churches that existed there. The towns are represented through a range of symbols that hint at their varying importance. The Greek titles mostly note place names, but there are also short inscriptions associating particular locations with specific biblical events.

For example: “Galgala, also the twelve stones,” “Bethabara of St. John, the Baptism,” “Ephraim which is Ephraea, there walked the Lord,” “Ailamon, where stood the moon in the time of Joshua [son of] Nun one day.” The names of the Tribes of Israel are also noted and their distribution on the map represents the division of Canaan according to the Bible.

What we have here is a picture that combines topography and religious tradition, and that eliminates the gaps between past and present. The inscriptions create a narrative that seemed to have two aims: to place the past of the Scriptures in the geographic space of the land, and to conceptualize that land as a sacred space.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Mosaics

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela