Monday, January 27, 2020

The Antiquity of Bethlehem

Alice C. Linsley

Archaeologists have made discoveries in the area of Bethlehem that indicate that humans have lived there for at least 100,000 years. Evidence of human habitation in the area of Bethlehem is well-attested along the north side of Wadi Khareitun where there are three rock shelters: 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.

An unscathed 4,000-year-old tomb was accidently discovered in the city of Bethlehem during renovation being carried out on a local house. Construction workers were led to the tomb, which dates between 1,900 B.C. and 2,200 B.C., through a hole found near the Church of the Nativity.

The tomb and its contents were located about a meter below the surface. Burial items such as pottery, plates, and beads were retrieved from the tomb, along with the remains of two individuals.

Bethlehem and the Horite Hebrew  

The book of Ruth identifies the royal House of David with the Horite Hebrew settlement of Bethlehem. The name has two meanings. The Hebrew Beth Lehem means “House of Bread” and the Arabic Bēt Lahm means “House of Meat.” Both are accurate descriptions of the ancient Hebrew settlement of Bethlehem. The priests of Bethlehem offered grain offerings daily, and less often, they sacrificed lambs. The meat was distributed to the needy. The place of Jesus’ birth speaks of his identity as the "Lamb of God" and the "Bread of Life."

Bethlehem was a Horite Hebrew (Abru/Habiru) settlement according to I Chronicles 2:54 and I Chronicles 4:4. The Horite Hebrew were a caste of priests who believed in and served God Father and God Son. They are the oldest known caste of priests with a history that extends back long before the emergence of Judaism. The oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship is at Nekhen on the Nile and dates to 3800 BC.

The Horite Hebrew priests served rulers at royal temples and shrines, circumcised, performed purification rituals, and were responsible for oversight of royal burials. They made grain and oil offerings to God and sometimes sacrificed calves and lambs. By David’s time they had dispersed throughout the ancient world. They carried their religious beliefs and practices wherever they went.

Horite Hebrew priests were found among the Arameans of Mesopotamia, the Edomites of the hill country south of Judah, among the Moabites (Ruth’s people), among the Nilotic peoples, the Afro-Arabian clans known as Dedanites and Midianites, and among the people of Judah.

They married within their clans (endogamy) and the priestly office was hereditary. This explains why 2 Samuel 8:18 states that David’s sons were priests.

I Chronicles 4:4 gives the name Hur (HR) as the founding patriarch of Bethlehem. Hur is a Horus name. Rahab of Jericho was the wife of Salmon, the son of Hur. Salmon (or Salma) is a Horite Hebrew name associated with Bethlehem in 1 Chronicles 2. In 1 Chronicles 2:54, Salmon is called the "father” of Bethlehem. Rahab was the grandmother of Boaz who married Ruth. Ruth was the great grandmother of King David of Bethlehem.

After David became king, he brought the Ark "from the house of Abinadab, that was in Gibeah” (Saul’s hometown) to Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:1-12). However, for three months the ark rested in David’s hometown of Bethlehem in the house of Obed-Edom. This indicates a direct connection between the priest of Bethlehem and the Horite Hebrew ruler-priests of Edom listed in Genesis 36.

The Obed-Edom connection also testifies to the great antiquity of David’s royal lineage. Genesis 36:31 lists the descendants of Seir the Horite Hebrew, and notes: “These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned.”

The book of Micah also refers to the long-held expectation of Messiah’s coming from Bethlehem. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)

This verse designates Bethlehem of Judah as the setting for the story of Ruth. Bethlehem of Judah is an agricultural zone in the West Bank fed by rain and water runoff from the Judean Hills. This identification is important because there is another Bethlehem in Galilee, near Nazareth. Both were agricultural areas with Hebrew settlements. The Israeli archaeologist, Aviram Oshri, spent nearly eleven years excavating artifacts in Bethlehem of the Galilee. He has suggested that Jesus was born in that Bethlehem, not in Bethlehem of Judea.

Israel has many micro-climates and the Book of Ruth says that Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem because of a famine. The main cause of famines was drought. The Bethlehem of Judah is much more prone to drought than the Bethlehem of Galilee because of its hilly terrain and climate. The crops in Judah’s hill country were planted in the valleys and were entirely dependent on rainfall and runoff from the hills.

This 2700-year royal seal (bulla) was found during archaeological excavations in Jerusalem. The coin-size seal bears the name “Bethlehem” in ancient Hebrew. The seal indicates that a shipment was sent from Bethlehem to Jerusalem in the seventh year of a king's reign. The king was either Hezekiah or Josiah.

Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the bulla:

בשבעת Bishivʽat
בת לים Bat Lechem
למלך [Lemel]ekh

The bulla makes it clear that a town called Bethlehem was inhabited by Hebrews in the time of the Temple built by Solomon. Eli Shukron, of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained, "This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period (1006-586 B.C.), which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods."

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Giant Bugs Ruled the Skies

Fossil of a Meganeuridae

The largest known insect resembled a dragonfly and fed off of other insects. The name "Meganeura" means large-nerved, which refers to the network of veins on the insect's wings.

Meganeura fossils were first discovered in France in 1880. The fossil was described and assigned its name by the French Paleontologist, Charles Brongniart in 1885. In 1979, another fine specimen was discovered at Bolsover in Derbyshire, England.

There were two species of this now extinct flying insect. The largest was Meganeuropsis permiana from the Early Permian, as indicated by the name.

The ‘griffinflies’ or Meganisopterans lived from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian, roughly 317 to 247 million years ago.

Read more here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Trilobite Migration or Conga Line?

Ampyx priscus in linear formation (Moroccan Lower Ordovician Fezouata Shale). Credit: Jean Vannier, Laboratoire de Geologie de Lyon: Terre, Planètes, Environnement (CNRS / ENS de Lyon / Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1)

Arthropod fossils dating back 500 million years show the creatures died in an orderly line 'while migrating'

Fossils of ancient arthropods discovered in linear formation may indicate a collective behavior either in response to environmental cues or as part of seasonal reproductive migration. The findings, which are being published in Scientific Reports this week, suggest that group behaviors comparable to those of modern animals existed as early as 480 million years ago.

Read more here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Two New Species of Cyanobacteria

In the past, microorganisms called "cyanobacteria" were grouped by looking at their shape under a microscope. Now researchers also use DNA to classify them.

Researchers collected 26 samples of water, soil, and bone for analysis, from varied cold-weather locations around the globe (Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland, Sweden, and Germany), each suspected to contain different types of cyanobacteria in the genus Phormidesmis. Phormidesmis priestleyi is a cyanobacterium found throughout the cold regions.

They grew Phormidesmis from each sample in the laboratory, and then analyzed each using a heavy-duty microscope to characterize their shapes and compare them to known cyanobacterial cells.

DNA is a very long molecule made of four “bases” and the order of those bases is unique for each living thing. The cyanobacteria’s DNA was then extracted and isolated from each sample and the base order for each DNA strand was determined. This is referred to as genome sequencing. The authors sequenced a gene known as the “16S rRNA gene” that is commonly used for classification of bacteria. Those gene sequences were compared to other gene sequences in large public databases of already-identified sequences to see if there was a match.

Based on these DNA results, the researchers were able to provide better classification of cyanobacteria. They also unexpectedly discovered two new species of cyanobacteria based on visual observations and DNA testing. These new organisms were named Phormidesmis arctica and Phormidesmis communis, and the scientists reclassified one species that was previously in the genus Leptolyngbya to Phormidesmis. This species is now Phormidesmis nigrescens.

A new genus was also suggested, Leptodesmis, as the genome is not easily recognizable by its shape and appears to belong to more than one taxonomic group. The importance of properly classifying all life forms gives scientists a better understanding of the interrelationships of these organisms and is the necessary basis for other studies. Humankind must understand the smallest living organisms in order to fully understand all living things.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

42,000 Year Blood Found in Frozen Siberian Foal

Researchers who found the frozen body of a 42,000-year-old foal in the Siberian permafrost have retrieved liquid blood from the animal.

In August 2018, the perfectly preserved remains of the young male foal were discovered in the Batagaika crater in Yakutia, northern Russia.

The fossilized specimen is believed to be a foal of the extinct Lenskaya horses that roamed Yakutia in the Upper Paleolithic (Late Stone Age). It was only one or two weeks old when it died, and even its hair was preserved.

Researchers at the Mammoth Museum, part of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, discovered much of its insides were also kept in incredible condition due to favorable burial conditions.

Dr Semyon Grigoryev, head of the Mammoth Museum, told The Siberian Times,"The autopsy shows beautifully preserved internal organs. Samples of liquid blood were taken from heart vessels… The muscle tissues preserved their natural reddish color."

Read more here and here.