Gordon Ramsay’s Predecessor Sacks Jerusalem

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And here’s star philologist and religion scholar Ola Wikander with a guest lesson in Akkadian.

The word of the day is nuḫatimmu. It means “a cook” in Akkadian (or sometimes “a baker”). Maybe something to interest Gordon Ramsay? And wouldn’t it be great if there was an Akkadian version of the TV show MasterChef, named Rab Nuḫatimmê? Taken literally, that term means “top cook”, “best cook”, but it was also used in a slightly different context way back when. In 586 BC, when Jerusalem had surrendered to Babylonian invaders, the victors sacked the city under the command of a certain Nebuzaradan (in Akkadian actually Nabû-zēr-iddina, see 2 Kings 25). The man was in fact “master chef” at the court of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. But this official’s duties had clearly expanded at the time to include a few more aggressive tasks. Maybe the parallel with Gordon Ramsay isn’t so far-fetched after all…

Translated by MR.

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Fornvännen’s Winter Issue On-Line

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Fornvännen’s winter issue (2009:4) is now on-line and available to anyone who wants to read it. Check it out!

  • Anna-Sara Noge looks at burnt mounds, Bronze Age heaps of fire-cracked stone, with bones in them, just like I once did for my first academic paper. But unlike me she has actual osteological data showing that there are human bones there!
  • Ny Björn Gustafsson looks at Viking Period bellows shields, pottery or stone barriers that kept a metalworker’s bellows from catching fire from the heat of the furnace.
  • Mathias Bäck presents new evidence for Viking Period settlement outside Birka’s town rampart.
  • PÃ¥vel Nicklasson describes a 19th century debate about where Birka really was located and shows that present-day amateur scholars repeat ideas that were discounted almost two centuries ago by the very people who originally came up with them.
  • Ola W. Jensen traces the way that the 1809 separation of Sweden and Finland influenced ideas at the time about the two countries’ prehistory.
  • Jes Wienberg, Christian Lovén and Johan Runer debate the significance of chancel-apses in Scandinavia’s Romanesque rural churches.
  • Jan Owe presents previously unobserved archival documentation for an Uppland rune stone.
  • Karin Margarita Frei presents isotope evidence for where the sheep grazed whose wool formed a well-preserved Iron Age cloak found in a bog in Västergötland.

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Riff-raff at the School for Vampires

i-8588e0031abf0b041f938bc807b22961-lenny.pngI’ve found out about the spooky cartoon show my daughter watches that I wondered about, the one where one character looks just like Riff-raff in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s Die Schule der kleinen Vampire / School for Vampires, a co-production among Germany, Italy and Luxemburg. The Riff-raff look-alike is named Nestor (Lenny in the English version). Explains the show’s web site,

Nestor is the heart and soul of the school.

Driver, cook, janitor, secretary, guide, nurse – there is nothing that Nestor can’t do.

And he is the only one at the school who was not born a vampire, but was bitten by a vampire…

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“He’s just a little brought down, because when you knocked, he thought you were the candyman”

Check Out Scientopia for Old and New Favourite Blogs

There’s a new science blogging network, Scientopia, it’s full of ex-SciBlings and other good bloggers, and it has no ads! Janet Stemwedel of Adventures in Ethics and Science is there, as is Grrlscientist, Krys also of Anthro in Practice, the Voltage Gate, Drugmonkey, Christina Pikas, Mark of Good Math/ Bad Math, the Questionable Authority, Scicurious formerly of Neurotopia, Zuska, PAL MD and others. The site is open to applications from new bloggers.

Good luck, guys! Anybody on Scientopia who has written something about archaeology and/or skepticism, and who’d like a share of my traffic, just send me a link please.

An Apparatus With Which We Think We Think

Swedish author, dramatist, director, comedian etc. Hans Alfredson once said that the brain is an organ with which we think (tänker) that we think. The Swedish word used here does not mean “believe”: it means “cogitate”. So, since my teens I’ve read this as a lovely materialist aphorism about how everything that goes on in our heads is actually just simulated in wetware. Our brains help us compute the illusion of cogitation.

Now I find that Alfredson was actually translating something that Ambrose Bierce said in his Devil’s Dictionary (1911): “Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.” Bierce’s wording reveals a much simpler meaning: he’s just commenting cynically on people’s ability to think. Everybody believes that they think, says Bierce, when many don’t do so very much. And now I wonder if I may have read too much into the Alfredson version of Bierce’s quip.