Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Two Great Men of the High Middle Ages

Alice C. Linsley

1466-1536:  Erasmus, Christian Humanist

1483-1546:  Martin Luther, Fiery Reformer


The Medieval Period is divided into the Early and Late Middle Ages. The earlier period is largely concerned with reconciliation of Christian theology and Greek philosophy. The synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology reached its climax in the 11th century (called the “High Middle Ages”). In the Late Middle Ages, ethics was tied to Scholasticism and the universities. Scholasticism influenced the development of Renaissance humanism in the 16th century. During the late Middle Ages the Jesuits established over 200 universities.

The Middle Ages are sometime termed “the Dark Ages.” This label was first applied by 17th century Humanists who regarded the entire period as mired in superstition and useless debate. Today the Middle Ages are recognized as a time of extraordinary creativity and innovation. Objects that we take for granted were invented in the Middle Ages: clocks, eye glasses, buttons, forks, gunpowder and the telescope.

Great cathedrals and monasteries were constructed. These fostered exceptional words of art in stained glass, icons, paintings, sculpture, and illuminated manuscripts. Great musical works were composed for use in the cathedrals and monasteries.

Universities were established in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and England. Three of these remain the oldest in continuous operation universities in Europe: The University of Bologna, Italy (founded 1088), the University of Salamanca, Spain (founded 1134), and the University of Oxford, England (founded 1167). The universities fostered learning in philosophy, math, science, literature, and theology. They produced the most learned men of Europe, among them: Erasmus, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, John Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and Rene Descartes.

It was also an age chivalry, one of the more remarkable features of the Middle Ages. Chivalry refers to the knightly system and the virtues of loyalty and courage that characterized its followers. Chivalry directed knights and squires to honor and serve their lords and to protect ladies and maidens. Often romantic love developed between the knight and his lady. After 1600 AD tales of chivalry and romance went out of fashion, and Miguel de Cervantes satirized the genre in his famous novel Don Quixote.

This early centuries of this period were termed “the Dark Ages” by 17th century Humanists who regarded the collapse of Rome and Greece as a great tragedy. Today the Middle Ages are recognized as a time of extraordinary creativity and intellectual brilliance. This was a time of innovation during which many objects that we take for granted were invented, such as clocks, gunpowder, spectacles, buttons, forks and the telescope.
The gradual collapse of the Roman Empire left a political vacuum in Europe. The potential for chaos was prevented largely by the Roman Catholic Church which had a hierarchical structure similar to a military chain of command. After the 12th century there were many challenges to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. These challenges reached a peak in the 15th century.

Erasmus Seeking Reform Within the Church

The Dutch scholar Erasmus was one thinker who challenged the Church’s corruption. He was a moderate and refined voice during a time of religious conflict and violence. The English scholar John Colet said, "The name of Erasmus will never perish." Sir Thomas More wrote, "Erasmus has published volumes more full of wisdom than any which Europe has seen for ages."

Erasmus advocated referring to the Bible for guidance on how to live a good life, and study of classical Greek and Roman writings for guidance on how to achieve an orderly civilization. He integrated Renaissance humanism and Christian theology and proposed significant educational reforms.

After living in Rome for three years where he observed clergy corruption, Erasmus wrote of his contempt for their immoral and unethical practices in the Praise of Folly. He wrote a satire in which Pope Julius and St. Peter discuss Julius’ entry into heaven. Erasmus believed that Pope Julius was a hypocrite, preaching peace while he “stirs up the world with tempests of war for the sake of his authority over a small town.”

Although Erasmus criticized the Papacy, he remained a Catholic and was committed to a Catholic understanding of free will, which many Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination. This angered leading Reformers, such as Martin Luther.

Erasmus was sympathetic with some points of Luther’s criticism of the Church, stating that, “It is clear that many of the reforms for which Luther calls are urgently needed.” So it was said that “Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched.” Erasmus respected Luther and Luther admired Erasmus' superior learning, urging him to join the Lutheran movement. Erasmus declined, believing that his life’s purpose was as a leader in the movement for humanistic scholarship and as a translator of the Bible. If he were to influence the reform of the Church it would be as a scholar. 

Unfortunately, when Erasmus hesitated to support the Lutheran movement, Luther accused him of either cowardice or a lack of purpose. Erasmus believed that the reforms he valued could be achieved within the existing structure of the Roman Catholic Church. His attempts to remain neutral during this time of unrest caused both Catholics and Protestants to accuse him of siding with the other. Erasmus wrote, “I detest dissension because it goes both against the teachings of Christ and against a secret inclination of nature. I doubt that either side in the dispute can be suppressed without grave loss.”

Erasmus and Luther Debate the Question of Free Will

In 1524, Erasmus wrote a treatise in which he dealt with the Lutheran notion of the bondage of the will to sin. He systematically set out the weaknesses of Martin Luther’s Augustinian view in his De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio(The Freedom of the Will). In response, Luther wrote On the Bondage of the Will which directly attacks Erasmus, going so far as to claim that Erasmus was not a Christian.

To Erasmus, the Bible and the Classics were two sides of the same coin, thus he strove to combine them. This is reflected in Erasmus’ definition of education: "The task of fashioning the young is made up of many parts, the first and consequently the most important part of which consists of implanting the seeds of piety in the tender heart; the second in instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts; the third in giving instructions in the duties of life; the fourth in training in good manners right from the very earliest years.”

To Erasmus, “a man without education has no humanity at all; that man’s life is a fleeting thing; that youth is an easy prey to sin; that adulthood is afflicted with numerous cares; and that old age, which few are permitted to reach, is barren and sterile...” He believed that the seeds for a good life are in us ‘by nature’, and teachers are to cultivate these seeds. He wrote: “The seeds that nature has implanted in us to attain this goal are bursting with life; the only thing that is required, in addition to this natural inclination, is the effort of a dedicated teacher.”

While Luther began his theology with the depravity of man, Erasmus started with the goodness of the teacher and the student, making Christ’s teachings the objective of all learning. To Erasmus, classical antiquity showed the best method for teaching. He wrote, “I would not want you to imbibe pagan morals together with pagan writings. On the other hand, you will find many things there which are conducive to a holy life, and the good precepts of a pagan author should not be rejected...” Luther held that since the Fall of Adam and Eve man’s will is not free to choose or even desire God, and that we lost our humanity. Luther believed that it is only through Christ that people regain their full humanity and he thought that Erasmus made too little of this point: “I am afraid, however, that he [Erasmus] does not advance the cause of Christ and the grace of God sufficiently.... Human things weight more with him than the divine.”

Luther countered Erasmus’ belief in the freedom of the will, saying: “Free will after the fall exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do it commits a mortal sin... The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin.”

This question of whether humans have free will to elect the Good continues to be debated throughout the history of Ethics, but the Lutheran view of utter depravity and bondage of the will receives less consideration as we move into the modern and post-modern periods. In fact, his position will be completely rejected by most philosophers from the mid 1700s to the present.

Luther maintained that God teaches us about justification, focusing on the inner man for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Human instruction prepares us to live in the finite earthly kingdom, but divine revelation prepares us to live in the eternal Kingdom of God. This is the basis of Luther’s Two-Kingdoms Theory, the earthly kingdom being separate from and subordinate to the Kingdom of God. Luther recognized that what happens on earth is important for eternal life. He saw education as a means to protect children from the devil’s attempts to take them away from God and as a way to teach them how to live wisely in the earthly kingdom.

Because he believed that the human will is held in bondage by sin, Luther saw education as a way to fight the devil: “Let this, then, my dear sirs and friends, be the first consideration to influence you, namely, that herein we are fighting against the devil as the most dangerous and subtle enemy of all.” It also means that the government has responsibility to promote the spiritual welfare of its citizens, while not neglecting its temporal responsibilities.

Related reading:  Ethics of the Middle Ages; Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

Galileo’s Struggle and Vindication

Gavin Hoots, Grade 7

Galileo was a brilliant astronomer whose discoveries caused him great distress. He was also a man of Christian faith. Ironically, his greatest detractors were educated men in the Church, some of whom were Inquisition judges. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition after his book was published in 1632. The book was titled Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The controversy was over Galileo’s heliocentric cosmology, a conception of the solar system that contradicted the cosmology of Aristotle that was taught in the Catholic universities.

Galileo was born in 1564 in Pisa, Italy. He was the first of six children born to wealthy parents. His father, Vicenzo Galilei, was a lutist and a music theorist who encouraged his son to think about the world in mathematical terms, directing his son towards quantitative description of the results, or basically, the scientific method of experimentation and observation.

Galileo started his formal education in 1574 at the Camaldolese Monastery in Florence. Galileo found the monastic life attractive and he became a novice, but his father wanted his son to become a medical doctor. In 1581 Vincenzo sent Galileo back to Pisa where Galileo studied for a medical degree, but due to financial difficulties he left before earning his degree.

Galileo continued to study mathematics, supporting himself through minor teaching positions. During this time he began his study of objects in motion which he would continue for 20 years. This research led to the publication of The Little Balance, a treatise that brought him fame and gained him a teaching position at the University of Pisa in 1589. Soon after, he took a position at the University of Padua. This was fortunate for him, as his father died in 1591, leaving Galileo with responsibility to take care of his younger brother Michelangelo.

Galileo taught at the University of Padua for 18 years. His lectures were entertaining and drew large numbers of students, further increasing his fame and wealth.

In 1604 Galileo published The Operations of the Geometrical and Military Compass. He was 40 years old. That same year he refined his theory on motion and falling objects and came up with the universal law of acceleration. Before Galileo scientists thought that force causes speed, but Galileo showed that force causes acceleration. Galileo reached the conclusion that bodies fall on the earth at a constant acceleration, and that gravity, which causes all bodies to fall, is a constant force. In other words, a constant force like gravity does not lead to constant speed but to constant acceleration.

Galileo built his first telescope in 1609 after learning how Dutch eyeglass makers had built a simple telescope. He showed his apparatus to some merchants who recognized that it would be useful for spotting ships. The merchants paid him to manufacture several telescopes. In1610 Galileo used his telescope to observe the stars and planets. With the telescope he made discoveries that caused him to question Aristotle’s cosmology. He saw mountains and valleys that indicate changes on the moon. He observed the motion of four of Jupiter's moons. He also observed the phases of Venus, which could be explained only by the motion of Venus around the sun, not the Earth. He published his discoveries in a small volume titled The Starry Messenger.

Galileo understood the implications of his discoveries in physics and astronomy. He wrote,

“My purpose is to set forth a very new science dealing with a very ancient subject. There is, in nature, perhaps nothing older than motion, concerning which the books written by philosophers are neither few nor small; nevertheless, I have discovered some properties of it that are worth knowing that have not hitherto been either observed or demonstrated. Some superficial observations have been made, as for instance, that the natural motion of a heavy falling body is continuously accelerated; but to just what extent this acceleration occurs has not yet been announced... Other facts, not few in number or less worth knowing I have succeeded in proving; and, what I consider more important, there have been opened up to this vast and most excellent science, of which my work is merely the beginning, ways and means by which other minds more acute than mine will explore its remote corners.”

Galileo did not see a conflict between science and the Bible. He believed that both served God and made truth more evident to Humankind. He wrote, "God is known by nature in his works, and by doctrine in his revealed word."

In a 1615 letter to Madame Christina, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Galileo wrote, “I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the Holy Bible can never speak untruth—whenever its true meaning is understood.”

Pope Paul V ordered the Inquisition to look into Galileo’s work. The Inquisition ruled against him in 1616.

One of Galileo’s friends, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, was chosen to be the Pope in 1623. Galileo went to see him, but Urban VIII did not lift the injunction against him. Galileo received permission to write about both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems. He did exactly that in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems which was published in 1632. It was regarded as a literary and philosophical masterpiece, but it clearly favored the Copernican cosmology and this lead to further problems with the Church hierarchy.

Again, Galileo was called before the Inquisition in 1633. This time he was forced to renounce his findings and promised never again to write about the Copernican system. He was 70 years old and placed under house arrest. Galileo died on January 8, 1642, after suffering from a fever and heart palpitations.

Galileo’s final work was a volume that detailed his 30 years of work in physics. The book was titled Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences and many scholars consider it his greatest work. This was written while he lived under house arrest. It was printed in Holland in 1638, but by this time Galileo had become blind from a combination of cataracts and glaucoma.

In 1758, the Roman Catholic Church lifted the ban on writings that supported the Copernican cosmology. By 1835 the heliocentric understanding of the solar system was accepted and taught in Catholic universities.

In 1981 a commission of the Church began to look into Galileo's case, and 11 years later the commission acknowledged that Galileo's judges had erred in their assessment. In 1992 Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the church was wrong to condemn Galileo.

Related reading: Galileo's Christian Faith

Monday, November 28, 2016

What Data Collectors Know About You

We live in an era of increasing automation. Machines help us not only with manual labor but also with intellectual tasks, such as curating the news we read and calculating the best driving directions. But as machines make more decisions for us, it is increasingly important to understand the algorithms that produce their judgments.

We’ve spent the year investigating algorithms, from how they’ve been used to predict future criminals to Amazon’s use of them to advantage itself over competitors.

All too often, these algorithms are a black box: It’s impossible for outsiders to know what’s going inside them. Today we’re launching a series of experiments to help give you the power to see inside.

Read it all here.

Note the Chrome plugin is gone. 

In reality, people are not as predictable as data collectors hope. We never fit neatly into buckets conforming to their expected market segments.

Electromagnetic Anomalies and the Tomb of Jesus

Alice C. Linsley

Recently several news reports have appeared about work being done at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. According to a tradition that dates to the time of Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) this is where Jesus was buried and where He rose from the dead. The tomb is enclosed by the 18th-century shrine called the Edicule (Aedicule).

The locations of Jesus' crucifixion (marked by a cross) and his burial,
according to a 4th century tradition

In this report it is evident that Roman Catholics want to use the electromagnetic anomaly of the Jerusalem area to validate the claim that the Shroud of Turin once covered Jesus' body. However, electromagnetic anomalies are found all over Earth's surface and one place they are found is in the area where they are working. The red spots on this map show where those electromagnetic anomalies are located.

I'm still waiting for an objective source to verify that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was buried. Descriptions of the site do not align with the data of Scripture.

In Jesus' time and long before His time, burials were done outside the city. That is why Jerusalem is surrounded by tombs. Some are monumental and some are more simple. Many are rock-cut tombs, such as the one in which Jesus' body rested, as described in the Gospels.

On the trail of Jesus' ancestral burial grounds

In the ancient world mining and tomb construction were the work of ruler-priests. Joseph was engaged in both. That is why he is associated with the oldest tunnel mines in Cornwall, England. Joseph had business and probably family connections in Cornwall. The Cornish say that he visited the Ding Dong mining operation. Eusebius of Caesarea (260–340 AD) may have been referring to this in Demonstratio Evangelica when he reports that some of Jesus' earliest disciples "have crossed the Ocean and reached the Isles of Britain." Since a qualification for membership in the Sanhedrin was facility with multiple languages, Joseph would have been able to communicate with the people of Britain.

Given that tunnel mining and rock-cut tomb building require the same skill sets, it is not surprising that these were done by the same people. There is no reason to doubt the historicity of Joseph Arimathea's connection to Cornwall. As a metal tradesman and a mining expert it would have been natural for him to visit there. From the time of the earliest pharaohs mining and rock-cut tombs were the work of ruler-priests. 

Joseph was a descendant of the priest line of Matthew, as indicated by Ar (ruler)-Matthea. Variant spellings of Matthew include Mateus, Matthan, Matthias, Matt-hat and Mattaniah. Mattaniah means “gift of God” and is a name found among priests in I Chronicles. These names are also found among Mary's male ancestors. That means that Joseph Ar-Mathea was related to Mary, Jesus' mother. Mark 15:43 tells us that "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council [Sanhedrin], who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body."

Membership in the Sanhedrin required proof of one's ruler-priest ancestry. Mary's noble ancestry was acknowledged by those who sought to defame her. It is certain that Mary was of the ruler-priest class/caste because even those who hated her admit this. Sanhedrin 106a says: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.”

Only priests belonging to prominent families were members of the Sanhedrin, the Beth Din HaGadol (The Great Court). A prominent family was one whose lineages could be traced back to Horite ruler-priests (what Jews call their "Horim"). The Sanhedrin is the successor to the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah or "Men of the Great Assembly" founded by Ezra c. 520 BC. The Sanhedrin to which Joseh and Nicodemus belonged was the body of the Second Temple (BC 520 - AD 70). Joseph of Arimathea was called bouleutēs which means "honorable counselor."

The tomb in which Joseph buried Jesus was one he had prepared for his own use. No body had ever been laid there. Mark 15: 46 gives this description:

Joseph bought a linen cloth, took down the body of Jesus, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.

The Jewish laws of purity required that tombs be outside the Old City. This requirement to avoid contact with the dead pertained especially to ruler-priests who served in the Temple and in the Sanhedrin. The Red Heifer Bridge made it possible for the priests to cross the Kidron Valley without coming into contact with the graves and tombs. 

The rock-cut tombs of members of the Sanhedrin usually had monumental facades carved with floral and geometric designs. One such design was the 6-prong rosette, a solar image, such as those on these burial objects.

This solar rosette appears on this marker stone at Banias in Northern Israel. 

The same solar mark (merkava?) is found on the Magdala Stone

Ossuary of Miriam, daughter of the priest Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus)

Given the prominence of Joseph's ruler-priest family, it is likely that his ancestral burial grounds were in the Kidron Valley, located between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. Tomb inscriptions here prove that these were the tombs of the ruler-priest families and most date to the 1st century BC.

Tomb of a ruler-priest family in the Kidron valley
Joel 3:12 says that God will judge the nations from the Valley of Jehoshep-hat, a part of the Kidron valley. The royal tag hat is found in the names of these rulers: Amenem-hat, Hat-shepsut, Merytre-Hat-shepsut, and in the name of one of Israel’s great rulers, Yehoshep-hat/Jehoshep-hat (Matthew 1:8). Yehoshep is a variant of Yosef/Joseph. One of Yehoshep-hat’s sons was Shephatiah or Shep-hat (II Chron. 21:2).

Jerusalem is surrounded by tombs since the Jews would not bury their dead inside the city walls. There are tombs to the west in the Hinnom Valley, tombs to the south where the Hinnom and Kidron Valleys meet, tombs to the north of today’s Old City walls and tombs in the Kidron Valley. It is said that Messiah will appear here in the Kidron Valley to raise the dead. It makes sense that the general resurrection would begin where Jesus' resurrection took place.

The Kidron Valley is on the east side of Jerusalem, a good distance from the northwest quarter of the Old City where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located. It seems more likely that the ancestral burial ground of the Matthean priests is in the Kidron Valley rather than in the Christian quarter of the Old City.

Francis Bacon: Seeker of Truth

 Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

“I have taken all knowledge to be my province”--Sir Francis Bacon

Jesse Pome'
Grade 8

Francis Bacon is one of the most remarkable men of the English Renaissance. He was involved in government, science, philosophy and literature. He is regarded by many as the father of the scientific method. He anticipated the invention of televisions, airplanes, submarines, and lasers in his work New Atlantis which describes a society governed by scientists.

Bacon was born in London, England January 22, 1561 to Anne Bacon and Nicholas Bacon. His father was the keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I. 

As a child, Francis Bacon always had an interest in science. In those days, most science was based on Aristotle’s thought and categories. Bacon favored the new Renaissance humanism over Aristotelian thought and he challenged the Scholasticism of the universities.

His method of investigating natural phenomena involved inductive reasoning, in contrast to deductive reasoning, which had dominated science since Aristotle. 

Bacon introduced an inductive method of testing and refining hypotheses by observing, measuring, and experimenting. An Aristotelian might deduce that water is necessary for life since it is evident that organisms cannot survive without water. Bacon would test the hypothesis by experimenting. The results of those experiments lead to more informed conclusions.

Many Aristotelian ideas, such as the geocentric universe, had been overturned, but the Aristotelian methodology was still being used. According to this method, scientific truth could be reached through debate by clever men who discussed a subject at length. Bacon challenged this, arguing that truth required observed evidence from the real world.

Bacon attended Trinity College at 12 years and was there from in April 1573 to 1575. The following year, he enrolled in Gray’s Inn in London.  Bacon held the position of Treasurer at Gray's Inn, Dean of the Chapel, and he developed plays called “Masques” and “Devices” which were performed in the dining hall.

He described his tutors at Gray's Inn as "men of sharp wits, shut up in their cells with a few authors, chiefly Aristotle, their dictator."

In 1577 Bacon went to work under Sir Amyas Paulet, the British ambassador to France. When his father died on February 20, 1579 Bacon left France and sought the help of his uncle, Lord Burghley, to find a government post. When his uncle did not help him, Francis began a political career in the House of Commons. He also resumed his studies in Gray's Inn. He lived at Number 1 Gray's Inn Square for many years.

In 1603, he married Alice Barnham (1592–1650). After her father's death, Alice was brought up in the family of Sir John Pakington, who was a great favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Bacon's letters mention young Alice beginning in July 1603. He describes her as "an Alderman's daughter, an handsome maiden to my liking." They were married 10 May 1606 at St Marylebone's Chapel, a suburb to the North of London. Alice was 14 and Francis was 45.

In 1607, Bacon became a solicitor general and in 1610, he became attorney general. In 1616, he joined Privy Council, and went on to become Lord Chancellor, the same position as his father.

Unfortunately, Bacon was set up by his enemies and was found guilty of accepting a bribe.  He was fined 40,000 pounds and was sentenced to the tower of London. After that, by God’s grace, his sentence was reduced, and his fine was lifted. He decided to set aside his political ambitions and he finally retired. 

Instead of political work, he decided to focus on philosophy of science. In doing this, he hoped to alter the face of natural philosophy. During his work, he pioneered the the scientific method, a new way of conducting research. 

Bacon wrote many books on this new way of doing science and recorded his experiments. He showed that the senses can be fooled and that appearances can be deceptive. Yet more than any other thinker of his time, he urged that the senses be used in a methodical way to discover the nature of heat, light, wind, motion, the tides, the stars, and even the human being. The future belongs to "Those who aspire not to guess and divine," he wrote, "but to discover and to know... who propose to examine and dissect the nature of this very world itself, to go to facts themselves for everything."

Bacon was a Christian. He had a great deal to say about the Faith. He wrote that, "Knowledge is the rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate." 

Bacon believed that God acts through a chain of causes, rather than directly. He thought that atheism was a product of not looking deeply into the chain of causes:

It is true that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity. (From The Works of Francis Bacon: The Wisdom of the Ancients and Other Essays, Black's Readers Service Company, 1932, p.53)

Statue on the tomb of Sir Francis Bacon

Sadly, after exposing himself to the elements Francis Bacon developed bronchitis and became extremely sick. He died in 1626, leaving a great legacy of scientific inquiry. He was buried at the Church of St. Michael, St. Albans in the United Kingdom. The Latin inscription on the base of his memorial reads (in translation): 

"Francis Bacon, first Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans, better known as the Light of Knowledge and the Law of Eloquence, used to sit thus. In the year of Our Lord 1626, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, after he had unravelled every secret of the natural world and of the world of man, he fulfilled the decree of nature that whatosever things have been joined together must be sundered."

In his will, he included this final prayer: "When I thought most of peace and honor, thy hand [was] heavy on me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving kindness. … Just are thy judgments upon my sins. … Be merciful unto me for my Savior's sake, and receive me into thy bosom."

Francis Bacon should be remembered and honored as an example of a Christian who advanced science by insisting that truth is proven by doing empirical research; that knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Bacon saw himself an advocate for science and though he contributed little to any particular field of empirical science, his legacy is a lasting one.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rare Pottery Find in Central Israel

The pupils of the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream participate in excavations as part of the new training course offered by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ministry of Education, which seeks to connect them with the past and help prepare the archaeologists of the future. 

Students who choose this course of study as part of their alternative evaluation for high school matriculation, take part in a week of excavation. They experience the variety of roles involved in the excavation, discuss questions regarding research and archaeological considerations and document the excavations in a field diary as part of their research work.

Efrat Zilber, supervisor who coordinates the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream in the Ministry of Education explained that “the archaeological excavations provide an opportunity for an intensive and direct experience that connects the pupils with our country’s past. An experiential learning experience involving research methods employed in archaeology takes place while revealing the artifacts. The pupils meet experts in a variety of fields who share their knowledge with them, enrich the pupils while also enriching their world”.

Some of the students were thrilled to be part of a team that recently discovered a rare 3,800 year old pottery vessel. The vessel was discovered with daggers, an axe head, and arrowheads that were buried with a respected member of an ancient settlement that existed before the city of Yehud in Central Israel.

Photographer: Clara Amit

The pottery jug from the Middle Bronze Age has a human figure on top. This vessel was revealed with the assistance of pupils in the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream in an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavation that was conducted in the city of Yehud prior to the construction of residential buildings.

According to Gilad Itach, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It literally happened on the last day of the excavation when right in front of our eyes and those of the excited students an unusual ceramic vessel c. 18 cm high was exposed atop of is the image of a person. It seems that at first the jug, which is typical of the period, was prepared, and afterwards the unique sculpture was added, the likes of which have never before been discovered in previous research. The level of precision and attention to detail in creating this almost 4,000 year old sculpture is extremely impressive. The neck of the jug served as a base for forming the upper portion of the figure, after which the arms, legs and a face were added to the sculpture. One can see that the face of the figure seems to be resting on its hand as if in a state of reflection”. Itach added, “It is unclear if the figure was made by the potter who prepared the jug or by another craftsman”.

Efrat Zilber, supervisor responsible for coordinating the Land of Israel and Archaeology matriculation stream in the Ministry of Education emphasized that “the archaeological excavations provide an opportunity for an intensive and direct experience that connects the pupils with our country’s past. An experiential learning experience involving research methods employed in archaeology takes place while revealing the artifacts. The pupils meet experts in a variety of fields who share their knowledge with them, enrich the pupils while also enriching their world”.

Read more here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Copernicus: Renaissance Genius

Copernicus has "Conversations with God"
Painted by Jan Matejko.

"I am aware that a philosopher’s ideas are not subject to the judgment of ordinary persons, because it is his endeavor to seek the truth in all things, to the extent permitted to human reason by God." --Nicholas Copernicus (1473–1543)

Danielle Neel, Grade 8

Nicholas Copernicus was the man who shocked the world of astronomy. He found that the Sun was at the center of the "solar" system. This was a controversy because most people, including the leaders of the Church, believed that the Earth was at the center of the cosmos.

Nicholas was born February 19, 1473, in Torun, Poland to a wealthy family. His birth name was Mikolaj Kopernik. This was also his father's name. His father was a prosperous copper trader. His mother, Barbara Watzenrode, came from a wealthy family of merchants. Nicholas was the youngest of their four children.

When he was around 10, his father died and his Uncle Lucas Watzenrode, took him into his care. Watzenrode was a nobleman who became Prince-Bishop of the region of Warmia.

In 1491, at the age of 18, Nicholas went to the University of Cracow where he studied painting, philosophy, and mathematics. Here he called himself Nicholas Copernicus, the Latin form of his name.

In Cracow he took an interest in astronomy. From 1491 to 1495 Albert Brudzewski was one of Nicholas Copernicus' teachers. The University of Cracow was the first university in Europe to establish independent chairs in Mathematics and Astronomy. Brudzewski was a remarkable teacher who impressed his students by his extraordinary knowledge of literature, mathematics and astronomy. In 1490 Brudzewski became a bachelor of theology and lectured on Aristotle's philosophy. These lectures were attended by Copernicus, who himself was always interested in philosophy and theology.

In October 1496 Copernicus went to study mathematics and astronomy at the University of Bologna, where he had been sent by his uncle. Lucas Watzenrode had studied there in the early 1470s.

Copernicus was encouraged by his uncle to gain a thorough knowledge of Roman Law studying its revision by Emperor Justinian and commentators from Bologna, such as Bartolus de Saxoferato and Baldus.

While at the University of Bologna, Copernicus became the assistant to Domenico Maria Novara (1454–1504). Navara was professor of astronomy at the University of Bologna for 21 years.

University of Padua in the 15th century

In 1501 Nicholas went to the University of Padua where he completed his doctorate of law and studied medicine. He became his uncle's personal physician. After his uncle died in 1512, Copernicus became the personal physician to the 4 succeeding bishops of and his confreres from the Warmian chapter in Frombork. Copernicus practiced medicine not only in diagnosing and taking care of his patients but also in personally preparing the prescribed drugs

At Padua, Copernicus studied the writings of ancient medical authorities, such as Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna. He also studied anatomy and the healing properties of herbs. As a medical student he was required to accompany his professors when they visited the sick. Copernicus completed the three year degree, and had a reputation as a good physician.

Nicholas’s favorite hobby was astronomy and he formulated his ideas into a booklet called "Little Commentary."

Copernicus died on May 24, 1543. Researchers had spent two centuries trying to identify his grave, before finally locating it in 2005. His remains found positively identified by DNA testing on two strands of hair and a tooth.

A computer reconstruction of Nicolas Copernicus made from the skull discovered in the cathedral in Frombork, northern Poland, in 2005.

Copernicus should be remembered and honored as an example of a Christian who advanced the science of astronomy. He did not see a conflict between science and Christianity, though he recognized that his work was not favored by the Church.

Monday, November 21, 2016

What is a Constellation?

Modern astronomers divide the sky into eighty-eight constellations with defined boundaries.

A constellation is a cluster of stars that resemble a recognizable creature such as a crab (Cancer) or a lion (Leo). Some are named for mythological figures such as Andromeda, the daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus in Greek mythology.

Some constellations are named for mythological creatures such as Phoenix, the mythical firebird (shown above). It is a southern constellation. Draco, the Dragon constellation, is a northern constellation. Draco was the North Pole Star 5000 years ago. The Orontes River in Turkey was called "Draco" because it is one of the few rivers on Earth with a current that flows north.

Here are images of the constellations Aries and Taurus.

Aries is the Ram constellation

Taurus is the Bull constellation

The names and number of the constellations have changed throughout history. In the ancient world, sages (wise men) spoke of 50 constellations. This was the perspective of Ptolemy whose book Almagest was published in 150 AD. Since then astronomers have added 38 constellations, mostly visible in the southern skies.

What are HTML Tags?

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, which is the most widely used language on Web to develop web pages.

HTML was created by Berners-Lee in late 1991. "HTML 2.0,  the first standard HTML specification, was published in 1995. HTML 4.01 was published in late 1999. HTML 4.01 version is widely used and there is an HTML-5 version which is an extension to HTML 4.0. This version was published in 2012.

Please familiarize yourself with HTML tags.

HTML language makes use of tags to format the content. These tags are enclosed within angle braces <Tag Name>. Except few tags, most of the tags have their corresponding closing tags. For example <html> has its closing tag</html> and <body> tag has its closing tag </body> tag etc. Tags typically come in pairs, with a start tag and an end tag:

<start tag>Text to format</end tag>

Tutorial - less advanced
Tutorial - more advanced

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Earth in 100 Million Years?

According to Genesis 1 at the beginning when God formed the Earth there was one land mass and one chaotic universal ocean (Genesis 1:2). The Creator separated the dry land from the waters, setting boundaries for both. The single land mass or supercontinent is called "Pangea" and the separation into the 5 continents - Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania - took millions of years. The following video depicts what scientists believe our Earth will look like in 100 million years.

Related reading:  Parsing Genesis 1; The Pillars of the Earth

Friday, November 18, 2016

Many Scientists Skeptical About Global Warming

Photo credit: Wikipedia

It is becoming clear that not only do many scientists dispute the asserted global warming crisis, but these skeptical scientists may indeed form a scientific consensus.

Don’t look now, but maybe a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all. Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.

The survey results show geoscientists (also known as earth scientists) and engineers hold similar views as meteorologists. Two recent surveys of meteorologists (summarized here and here) revealed similar skepticism of alarmist global warming claims.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kaku on Divine Order of Creation

Michio Kaku is the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at the City College of New York. He has published more than 70 articles in journals on topics such as supersymmetry, superstring theory, supergravity, and hadronic physics.

He believes that the order of creation makes it evident that there are rules rather than randomness. Kaku said, "I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence,” (quoted by the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies).

Kaku said, “To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.” 

On the question of the orderly universe Kaku states, "The final resolution could be that God is a mathematician.’

Watch this video in which Michio Kaku explores the theme of God as Mathematician.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Super Moon Event

The Moon's orbit around Earth is elliptical, with one side closer to Earth than the other. A "Super Moon" event occurs when the moon is a perigee. Perigee is the point in the orbit of the moon at which it is nearest to the earth.

The opposite of perigee is apogee, the point in the orbit of the moon at which it is the farthest away from earth.

A jet plane is seen against the Super Moon.
Photographed in Beijing, China, Nov. 14, 2016

On the average the distance between the moon and the earth is 238,000 miles (382,900 kilometers). At Perigee the distance is about 223,000 miles and the moon appears 13 per cent large and 30 per cent brighter. NASA estimates the distance on November 14 to be about 221,500 miles.

The Supermoon on November 14, 2016 is the closest a Full Moon has been to Earth since January 26, 1948. The next Super Moon event will be on November 25, 2034, and the Moon will appear even larger and brighter.

In Israel, people gathered to watch the Super Moon behind the Dormition Abby (shown above).

In Australia, sky-watchers observed the Super Moon from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Chrysler Building in New Your City lit up when the Super Moon set behind the skyscraper.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Getting Started on Chrome Books

Beginning in school year 2017-2018, we will have Chromebooks in the Technology-STEM lab. Each student will receive an account. Use this for SCHOOL work primarily. You will have this account until you graduate. However, it has unlimited storage.

If you want to back up your phone, you will need to create a free personal account.

Student account names: first initial, last name (ex:

You must use their first (given) name, not the name your friends might call you.

You will be given a password. You are to change the password when you login to something that you will remember. These passwords will not be written down by the teacher. You may use the same password you have for other accounts (like Whipple Hill).

Once we start using Chromebooks, you will log into your account and it automatically saves information such as your documents, assignments, etc.

Always LOG OUT. Failure to do so will compromise your security.

Watch this video to gain appreciation of the potential of your Chromebooks.

Related reading:  Discover Google

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Afar Rift

Some people claim that the idea that humans originated in Africa came from Charles Darwin. That is not true. Long before Darwin, the writers of Genesis recounted how the first humans lived in a well-watered region that was bounded on the south by 2 rivers in Ethiopia and bounded on the north by 2 rivers in Mesopotamia (Genesis 2:10-14). The Bible calls this vast expanse "Eden" and Abraham's ancestors are said to originate in the Upper Nile Valley. This is also the region where the oldest human fossils have been found.

1.5 million year human footprint found in Ileret, Kenya.
Several sets provide evidence of males travelling in groups.

3  million year  human footprints
found about 25 miles south of
Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania
In 1979, the world famous paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey discovered footprints in at Laetoli, Tanzania that proved that archaic humans walked here over 3 million years ago. Leakey discovered 3.6 million year footprints of a man, woman and child preserved under falling ash from the nearby Sadiman volcano. The raised arch and rounded heel of the footprints showed that whoever left these footprints walked as humans walk today.

The year before, in May 1978, Mary Leakey spoke at a Nobel Symposium in Sweden. She attended with a co-worker, Donald C. Johanson. Rising to speak first, Johanson announced that his Afar Triangle finds were ape ("Australopithecus") and he included Mary Leakey's 4 million year old Laetoli specimen (jaw bone LH4) from Tanzania as an exhibit. Leakey was not pleased.  She expressed her regret that “the Laetoli fellow is now doomed to be called Australopithecus afarensis.”

The Afar Triangle

About 40 million years ago a land ridge rose in the horn of Africa. The Arabian Peninsula broke away from Africa and the Great African rift opened. A great lowland formed called the Afar Depression or the Afar Triangle. This map shows some volcanoes (red triangles) in the geologically unstable region of East Africa. The Afar Triangle is where plates are pulling away from one another. The Arabian Plate is separating in a counterclockwise direction from Africa. The African Plate is splitting into the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.

This area also corresponds to ancient Eden, shown here in red. Eden is described in Genesis as a well-watered region.

Annual rains from the surrounding highlands flow into the Afar Depression. This exposes fossils which have been collected and studied by teams of paleoanthropologists. All of the African Great Lakes were formed as the result of rifting and most lie within the rift valley.

Water systems created by rifting
Lake Victoria lies between the western (Albertine Rift) and the Eastern Rift Valley.

Tim White (UCLA Berkeley) has done research here since the early 1980s. He has benefited from the seasonal rains in the Afar region. He said, "We let the natural erosion of the deposits work for us. Then we work the terrain, picking up pieces and placing them in geologic context to bring back the lost world."
Many of the discoveries of archaic human fossils are found simply by walking the area. Over thousands of years, seasonal rains have exposed the artifacts and bones of our earliest human ancestors.

Related reading: Afar and Human Origins; Nubia in Biblical History; Fully Human From the Beginning; Humans Originated in Africa; Facts About Human Origins

Earth's Magnetic Pole Reversals

Schematic illustration of Earth's magnetic field.
Credits: Peter Reid, The University of Edinburgh

When Earth's magnetic field reverses compasses point toward Antarctica. Hundreds of geomagnetic reversals have occurred throughout Earth's history. The last reversal happened 780,000 years, and there is evidence that Earth may be in the early stages of a pole reversal. As  2014 study indicates that the magnetic field has been weakening rapidly.

Geomagnetic reversals can happen gradually over many thousands of years or within a century, according to a recent study published in Geophysical Journal International about the most recent reversal known as the Brunhes-Matuyama event/boundary.

Magnetic pole reversals happen when patches of iron atoms in Earth's liquid outer core become reverse-aligned, like tiny magnets oriented in the opposite direction from those around them. Earth's magnetic field flips when the reversed patches grow to the point that they dominate the rest of the core. Sediment cores taken from deep ocean floors can tell scientists about shifts in magnetic polarity.

There are many theories about magnetic pole reversal and Earth scientists continue to gather more data and refine the mathematics to develop more accurate models. Ron Merrill, a geophysicist from the University of Washington has said, "No one knows what causes reversals, and there is no agreement on whether we can ever even find convincing evidence to forecast a reversal."

One theory involves the South Atlantic Anomaly, a dent in Earth's shield against cosmic radiation, 124 miles above the ground (200 kilometers). Strong radiation enters Earth's atmosphere here and often causes the electronics of satellites and spacecraft traveling through this area to malfunction.

According to this theory, Earth's iron-rich magnetic core is leaking in this spot. This is one possible cause of magnetic reversals. A magnetic reversal is actually fairly rare. This happens when Earth's magnetic north and south poles switch places, rearranging the magnetic field over the course of between 1,000 and 10,000 years. The last magnetic-field reversal occurred 780,000 years ago.

The seasonal ritual burning of village huts in southern Africa provides clues about the fluctuation of the magnetic field. The fires reached temperatures of over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). This melted the magnetic compounds like magnetite in the clay floors. When the magnetite cooled it became remagnetized by the Earth's magnetic field, leaving a record for geophysicists.

John Tarduno, a geophysicist from the University of Rochester in New York, describes the hut floors as "Sort of like minimagnetic observatories back in time."

This report touches on evidence of the South Atlantic Anomaly's role in Earth's rare magnetic reversals.
Patches of ground where huts were burned down in southern Africa contain a mineral that recorded the magnetic field at the time of each ritual burning. Those mineral records teach researchers more about a weird, weak patch of Earth's magnetic field called the South Atlantic Anomaly and point the way toward a possible mechanism for sudden reversals of the field.
"It has long been thought reversals start at random locations, but our study suggests this may not be the case," John Tarduno, a geophysicist from the University of Rochester in New York and lead author of the paper, said in a statement. [How Earth's Magnetic Field Shielded Us from 2014 Solar Storm]

Within the past 150 years, researchers have seen the Earth's magnetic field rapidly decrease in intensity. However, investigation of the Iron Age remnants of African huts has allowed them to extend this to A.D. 1,000 to A.D. 1,850. Research shows that the South Atlantic Anomaly was strong during this time also.

Related reading:  Magnetic Pole Reversals Can Happen in a Lifetime;  Facts About Magnetic Pole Reversals; Paleomagnetism of selected quaternary sediments on Mt Kenya, East Africa; Global Chronostratigraphical Correlation Table

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Nile Turns Blood Red

This satellite photo from the European Space Agency's Sentinel-3A satellite shows the Nile River colored blood red. (European Space Agency)

In Exodus, God commanded Moses to “stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt … that they may become blood.” The water was contaminated and the Egyptians were dependent upon the Nile for their drinking water. What might have caused the contamination? Why did the Nile appear to flow with blood rather than water?

A satellite photo from the European Space Agency suggests an explanation for the event described in Exodus. The red color is vegetation that borders the banks. As the waters flow into the Mediterranean, the red color fans out across the Nile delta.

Sentinel-3A's Surface Temperature Radiometer measures the energy that radiates from the surface of Earth. The heat that emanates from the Nile vegetation is expressed in the infrared spectrum. This results in the crimson color.

This does not explain how the Nile could turn to blood. Some believe God used a natural phenomena that turned the Nile waters red. Some possibilities include volcanism, rifting, dust storms and algae.

Volcanic eruptions can cause sediments to flow into nearby rivers. Sediments that are rich in iron and hematite can turn the water a red color.

African Sheer Zone
The gray areas are interconnected water systems. The black line shows the rift that extends across central Africa. The blue body of water on the right is the Nile River.

Under certain weather conditions algae can grow that turns the water red. This has been observed as water systems in different parts of the world. This video shows how an algae bloom turned the water at beaches in Australia. Patches of the red algae were sighted between Bondi Beach and Maroubra Beach.

Dust storms can carry and deposit red dust in the water. This too can cause the water to appear red. Scientists have observed large clouds of dust coming from Saudi Arabia towards Egypt and Sudan. This photograph, taken on 10 May 2011, shows a large dust cloud moving toward the Nile from Saudi Arabia.

Dust storms also surge over the Nile from the Sahara. These dust storms leave deposits of red dust in the Nile. The dust from the Sahara has been known to travel as far as Australia. The photograph below is of a storm that carried red dust from the Sahara all the way to Perth, Australia.

Twitter/ National Geographic

The Nile is the longest river in the world, extending for about 4163 miles (6700 kilometers) from its headwaters in the Ethiopian highlands to the Mediterranean. The Nile is one of the few rivers on Earth with a current hat flows northward. The prevailing winds, on the other hand, blow southward. On some days the opposing forces can be almost equal.

Related reading: Mega-Nile;  The Wet Sahara

Copernicus: Scientist Extraordinaire

Davis Bryant, Grade 8

Nicholas Copernicus was one of the most important scientists of all time. He was a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer and a man of profound Christian faith. He formulated a model of the cosmos with the Sun at the center of the universe. His heliocentric model caused a great deal of controversy and the Roman Catholic Church opposed his model. He presented this model in his treatise de revulous oribum colestum.

He was born in Poland and he lived from 1473 to 1543. His father was a merchant from Krakow. His mother was the daughter of a wealthy merchant in Torun in northern Poland. Nicholas was the youngest of four children. His brother was an Augustinian Canon at Formwork.

In 1491 he entered the University of Cracow where he studied mathematics. He also was interested in space, and bought many books about astronomy. In 1496, at the University of Bologna, he lived with the astronomy professor Domenico Maria Novara and they exchanged ideas. This acquaintance sparked his interest in astronomy, a subject he considered "most beautiful and most worth knowing."

In 1508, he started to develop his own solar model. He believed that the further the planet was from the sun, the longer it took to orbit. In 1513 he built his own observatory and he continued to learn about the cosmos.

Even God’s chosen scientists encounter controversy. Around 1514, after 16 years of work, he completed his 40-page commentary “Small Commentary” in which he gave evidence of the heliocentric theory, described in 7 axioms. This work convinced Copernicus that he was right in thinking that the Sun was at the center of our solar system.

Copernicus was a Christian who lived a quiet life. He was hesitant to publish his revolutionary views. Yet Copernicus changed how Europeans came to think about the cosmos. He believed that truth directs our hearts and minds to the Creator. He wrote, "[It is my] loving duty to seek the truth in all things, in so far as God has granted that to human reason."

Copernicus died on May 24, 1543 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the floor of the cathedral of Frombork in Northern Poland. Copernicus was never declared a heretic for his astronomical views because he spoke to few about them. So why did Copernicus have such a humble burial? Jack Repcheck, the author of Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began, explains that Copernicus was buried in the same way as any other canon in Frombork because at that time, “He was not the iconic hero that he has become."

Copernicus’s death at the age of 70 is not the end of the story, however. In 1992 Pope John Paul II said the church was wrong to condemn Galileo who based his work on that of Copernicus.

In 2004 scientists began searching for the astronomer's remains and discovered his bones. The identity was confirmed through DNA testing. The DNA of the teeth and bones matched that of hairs found in one of Copernicus’s books.

Six years later, on May 21, 2010, the Roman Catholic Church gave permission to Polish priests to rebury Copernicus in a tomb in the cathedral where he once served as canon.

Later many scientists would prove his theories about the solar system to be true. This shows that God can inspire us, and when we pursue truth we can accomplish amazing things. Copernicus should be remembered and honored for his contributions in science and as a man whose life was dedicated to the service of truth.

Related reading: Copernicus: Renaissance Mathematician

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Standing Stones

Menhir in County Cork, Ireland

Standing stones or monoliths have been found in many parts of the world. They are associated with archaic high places near water systems. Another word for these rock shelters is kar. The sites of Karnak on the Nile and Carnak in Brittany are examples of shrine centers with standing stones.

In Dravidian car means "sheltered together" and kari refers to a river. In Manding (a language of Africa) kara means "to assemble."

Since the kar were places of burnt offerings the term is also associated with charcoal and soot. The Turkish kara means "black." Among the Magyar of Hungaria, korom refers to soot, as does the Korean word kurim. Among the Nilotic Luo, kar specifies a place with boundaries. In Albanian, karpë means "rock."

The kars of the archaic world were mainly circular. Kikar refers to a circle, as in Exodus 25:11 - kikar zahav tahor, meaning "circle of pure gold."

Many rock shelters (kar) have been found in the Carpathian mountain range. The range is called Karpaty in Czech, Polish, and Slovak, and Карпати in Ukrainian, Carpati in Romanian, Karpaten in German, Kárpátok in Hungarian, Karpati in Serbian, and Карпати in Bulgarian.

The standing stones at archaic sites are sometimes called menhirs. The menhirs at Tel Gezer (shown below) date to about 2500 BC, the period of the standing stones erected on Salisbury Plain in England.

Standing stones at the Gezer “high place” 
Photo: Dennis Cole.

Circles of standing stones can be found in the Sinai, the Negev and in the Judean hills. In Hebrew they are called masseboth (singular, massebah) which is usually translated as “pillars” or “standing stones.” They are arranged to create a place for religious ceremony and ritual.

Chalcolithic finds in the Judean caves include clay vessels decorated with red paint, ropes, reed mats, shell and bone necklaces, leather, wood artifacts, flint implements, and globular stone grinding and pounding vessels.

There are about 40 Paleolithic sites in the Judean hills, many of them near Bethlehem. Human habitation in the area of Bethlehem between 100,000-10,000 BC is well-attested along the north side of Wadi Khareitun where there are three caves: Iraq al-Ahmar, Umm Qal’a, and Umm Qatafa. These caves were homes in a wooded landscape overlooking a river. At Umm Qatafa archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of the domestic use of fire in Palestine.

The appearance of standing stones aligns with the movements of peoples in the R1b haplogroup. For example, there are 1,200 menhirs in northwest France, an area that was densely populated by peoples in the R1b haplogroup.

Karnac on the Nile has standing stones and obelisks with carved inscriptions and images. The scarab monolith (right) is one of the standing stones found at Karnak.

The oldest known stone circles date to 175,000 years ago and were formed inside the Bruniquel cave in southwestern France. These appear to have been ceremonial sites where Neanderthal humans controlled fire and consumed animals.

Menhir in Carnac
Standing stones also have been found in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Serbia and Armenia.

Some of the stone circles and megaliths found in Senegal and Gambia date to the 3rd century BC. The late Dr Catherine Acholonu called attention to megaliths in the Cross River region of Nigeria and Cameroon. She estimated a total up to 32 such sites, but not all of these were circles of standing stones. Sometimes a single standing stone marked a sacred shrine. Apparently, at least one circle has been found at Emangabe.

In Sardinia, 200 menhirs in the locality Biru‘e Concas have been dated between the late Neolithic (3200-2800 BC) and the Eneolithic (2800-1800 BC). These are located at the geographic center of Sardinia. It is likely that there are more monolithic sites in the Mediterranean, but these are probably submerged and yet to be discovered.

Submerged monoliths

The Last Glacial Maximum began about 19,000 years ago and ended about 9,500 years ago. After the Last Glacial Maximum, flooding submerged many of the islands of the Mediterranean. During the Last Glacial Maximum ice sheets extended the mass of Europe by about 40 percent beyond its present boundaries. The melting glaciers caused the sea level to rise about 410 feet (125 m) and this flooding changed the geography of the Mediterranean Basin. An archipelago (chain of islands) connected Africa and Europe, but many of the islands disappeared when the sea level rose.

The distance from Africa to the first island of the archipelago was only about 30 miles. Given what is known today about seafaring archaic populations, it is almost certain that the earliest inhabitants of the islands were from Africa.

One region of the Mediterranean that became submerged is the Sicilian Channel. Recently researchers found a sort of Stonehenge under the water here. The stones are 131 feet under the water near an island that was once called Pantelleria Vecchia Bank in the Sicilian Channel, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of Sicily. (Read more about the Sicilian Monolith here.)

Related reading: The High Places; Religion of the Archaic Rulers; Stone Work of the Ancient World; Some Marks of Prehistoric Religion; The Peoples of Canaan; The Origin of Circumcision; Henges and Rondel Enclosures