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Cylindrical Altar, Metropolis

Cylindrical Altar, Metropolis


First Greek Snake Altar To Underground Gods Found in Southern Turkey

Snakes are one of the most popular and feared symbols of ancient civilizations. Recently, a mysterious Greek snake altar has been discovered in Turkey, and it has caused considerable excitement in the archaeological community. The altar dates back over 2000 years and was found in the long-abandoned city of Patara. The Greek snake altar find is probably connected with the worship of underground gods and is providing new insights into the religion and rituals of the Graeco-Roman world (332 BC -395 AD).

The Greek snake altar was found during an excavation of the city of Patara, in Antalya Province, by a team of Turkish archaeologists. This was the main port and commercial center of the historical region of Lycia, which was inhabited by Luwian-speaking peoples in the Bronze Age . As a Hellenistic city it was the capital of the Lycian League, an alliance of Greek city-states. Patara became part of the Roman Empire and remained an important city until the 13 th century AD. AA News reports that it is “considered the cradle of civilizations” because it was home to so many diverse cultures. What’s more, Patara has a well-known link to the origins of Christmas !

The ancient ruins of Patara where the almost perfect marble Greek snake altar was found recently. (Scottiebumich / Adobe Stock )


Our Community

The parish of Saint Demetrios has been an important part of Chicago's Greek Orthodox community for over 50 years. With the guidance of our Patron Saint Demetrios as well as the church's spiritual fathers, benefactors, parish council, member families, ministry leaders and volunteers, the church has baptized, married, educated and raised thousands of people in the Greek Orthodox faith and community. Our main church, two chapels and bookstore offer the faithful a place to worship and continue learning about themselves and the Greek Orthodox Faith.

The Greek Orthodox Church is a treasury of centuries of accumulated wisdom in man's efforts to relate to God and his fellow man. It is our mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, to teach and spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, to energize, and to cultivate and guide the lives of our parishioners according to the Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition.

The Greek Orthodox Church sanctifies the faithful through divine worship, especially the Holy Eucharist and other Sacraments, building the spiritual and ethical life of the faithful in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, the doctrines and canons of the Ecumenical and local Councils, the canons of the Holy Apostles and the Fathers of the Church and of all other Councils recognized by the Orthodox Church.

Through divine worship, preaching, teaching, and living of the Orthodox Christian Faith, our dedicated spiritual fathers, directors and volunteers nurture a series of ministries that give parishioners, young and old alike, a place to come together in the name of Jesus Christ.


Petra: urban metropolis

Petra was a well-developed city and contained many of the buildings and urban infrastructure that one would expect of a Hellenistic city. Recent archaeological work has radically reshaped our understanding of downtown Petra. Most of Petra’s great tombs and buildings were built before the Roman Empire annexed it in 106 C.E.

Theater, Petra (Jordan) (photo: Chris Armstrong, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Petra had a large theater, which was probably built during the reign of Aretas IV (9 B.C.E. – 40 C.E.), as well as a monumental colonnaded street. Important buildings graced both sides of the Wadi. On the south side of the street was a nymphaeum (a shrine consecrated to water nymphs, often with a fountain) and a series of monumental spaces, which were once identified as markets. The so-called Lower Market has recently been excavated and shown to be a garden-pool complex. This stood adjacent to so-called Great Temple of Petra. Within the cella, or inner sanctuary room, of the Great Temple, a series of stone seats were discovered this may suggest that the structure was not a temple, but an audience hall at least for part of its history.

So-called Great Temple, Petra (Jordan) (photo: Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Baths were also located in its vicinity. Opposite the so-called Great Temple is the Temple of the Winged Lions, from which a unique god block of a female goddess, was recovered. Column capitals at Petra are truly unique in part for their carvings of winged lions and elephants.

Elephant-headed capital, limestone, Petra. Found in the triple colonnades of the Lower Tenemos (sacred district). The decoration from top to bottom consists of a plain band, egg and dart motif, and the cornice with a plain band with tripartite molding in a double wave. The corner decoration is an elephant head with fan-shaped ears.… Beneath the heads is an acanthus leaf extending downwards…. On the sides and resting on the elephant’s forehead is an incurving scroll with floral motifs (from the label “Elephant-headed Capitals” in the Archaeological Museum, Petra) (photo: Guillaume Baviere, CC BY 2.0)

Just to the west, past a gate in a temenos, or sacred precinct, was the Qasr el-Bint, the most important temple in the city. It was also probably built under Aretas the IV, but we do not know to which gods the Qasr el-Bint was dedicated. Petra is also filled with more mundane architecture, including domestic residences, as well as the all-important water-catchment and storage systems that allowed life and agriculture to flourish here.

Qasr el-Bint, Petra (Jordan), c. 9 B.C.E. – 40 C.E. (photo: Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of many Nabataean sites

Petra is often seen in isolation in fact, it was one of many Nabataean sites the Nabataean lands stretched from the Sinai and Negev in the west, as far north as Damascus at one point, and as far south as Egra, modern-day Madain Saleh, in Northern Saudi Arabia, which also had numerous rock-cut tombs, amongst others. At Egra an inscription attests to the presence of a Roman Legion at the site, marking the city as the southern most boundary of the Roman Empire in the Antonine Era. Khirbet et-Tannur was a major sanctuary in central Jordan many of its reliefs are in the Cincinnati Museum of Art today.

The Nabataeans took an active role in their architectural and artistic creations, drawing upon the artistic vocabulary of the Hellenistic world and the ancient Near East. Rather than slavishly copying either one of these traditions, the Nabataeans actively selected and adopted certain elements for their tombs, dining pavilions, and temples to suit their needs and purposes, on both the group and individual level. Indeed, the Treasury and the Monastery could only have been conceived of and executed in Petra.


The History of the Annunciation Cathedral Of the Metropolis of Chicago, 1892-2010

The Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago was established in 1892 by a group of people who had emigrated from Laconia and some of the Greek Islands. The community first rented a hall on Randolph near Union Street and asked the Holy Synod of Athens for a priest. Fr. Panagiotis of Ithaca was signed as the first priest and in March of 1892 the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated.

The Greek community later rented a Masonic Temple on Kinzie near Clark, a more suitable location for worship. 1893 saw the first archieratical liturgy celebrated at the church when Bishop Dionysios Latas from Zakinthos visited America as a representative to the World's Columbian Exposition. After Fr. Phiambolis in 1899, two other priests continued to serve the Annunciation, Fr. Nectarios Mavrokordatos and Fr. Theodoros Prousianos.

In 1909 the community purchased the lot on which the Cathedral stands today from the estate of Dr. Edward Charles Henrotin at a cost of $18,000.

1910 saw the completion of the Cathedral at an estimated cost of $100,000. It was modeled after a Cathedral in Athens and today stands as the oldest surviving building in Chicago constructed as a Byzantine church.

In those years the Annunciation church was served by Fr. Constantinos Nicoletopoulos and was succeeded by Frs. Hariton Panagopoulos and Constantinos Hadzidemietriou.

In 1927, under the spiritual leadership of Fr. Niketas Kesses, the Annunciation community purchased land on the North side of Chicago to build the Solon Greek School and a chapel which was dedicated to St. Demetrios. Gradually this small chapel became the St. Demetrios Church which is still found at 2727 W. Winona today. Fr. Niketas Kesses served the church with great zeal and dedication for 44 years.

During the Great Depression the community rallied to save the churches and massive fundraising activities were inaugurated to reduce the burdensome indebtedness. Also in 1930, due to the widening of La Salle Blvd., the entire church building was lifted off its foundation and moved back. In October of 1933, the Annunciation Community hosted the 5 th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress.

In 1940 the two churches were renamed the United Greek Orthodox Churches of Chicago, the Annunciation &ndash St. Demetrios.

1942 saw the Annunciation named as the Cathedral of the Second Archdiocesan District by His Eminence, Archbishop Athenagoras who subsequently because the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The first national conference of the youth of the Archdiocese was held in Chicago in 1951 and the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Cathedral by Archbishop Michael.

In 1971 Fr. George Economou came to the Cathedral and served it as parish priest for one year. Various priests from St. Demetrios served.

In 1973 Fr. Nicholas Nikokavouras of Corfu was assigned to the Cathedral by His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos and serves as Dean Emeritus today.

In 1977 the renovation of the Cathedral was begun. The iconography of the dome was completed in 1981 by the iconographer Stathis Trahanatzis, who returned in 1990 to complete the four evangelists on the pendentives and the Platyera located in the Apse of the Sanctuary.

In 1983 the Annunciation Cathedral and St. Demetrios were separated into two communities.

In 1990 the Cathedral was honored by the presence of our late Patriarch Demetrios I who greeted and blessed the children of the entire diocese.

In 1992 the community of the Annunciation Cathedral celebrated its hundredth anniversary of Orthodoxy in the City of Chicago. This is a golden page in the history of this community and brings honor to the Greek immigrants who brought and spread the Greek Orthodox Faith to this great land. Fr. Demetri Kantzavelos was appointed assistant priest of the Cathedral in 1992.

On January 1, 2015, His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago appointed Fr. Stamatios G. Sfikas as Dean of the Annunciation Cathedral.

The Annunciation also has the traditional stasithia which were used for seating the elderly. The community today has some 400 families who with zeal and dedication support the Cathedral to continue its rich spiritual mission throughout the next century and be the beacon of Orthodoxy in the Metropolis of Chicago.


Saint George Greek Orthodox Church History

Saint George&rsquos community traces its beginnings to the 1930&rsquos when Mrs. Rebecca (Petropouleas) Loukas motivated seven families to establish a church. The State ofMichigan on June 7, 1941, validated their efforts. Four years later on October 21, the cornerstone for the new church was laid on Porter and Garfield Streets, Lincoln Park. With 35 families, the parish was chartered on February 16, 1951.

The first Parish Priest Father Kalistos Kotsonis introduced a line of successors: Father Demetrios Stamos who celebrated services in the church basement in 1949. Father Philemon Sevastiathis who ministered until 1952 Father Alexander Papastefanos who led efforts to build the new church Father John Magoulias who in 1953 through 1955 guided the community to completion and dedication of the church on April 24, 1955 Father John Magoulias who served until 1963 Father George Hiotis who ministered until June 1968, and from 1968 to June 30, 2013 Father Philemon Karamanos. Our present Parish Priest is Father Anthony Cook who officially began January 1, 2013.

Undaunted by a tornado that leveled the church on May 12, 1956, the congregation relocated to Calvary Lutheran Church, Chandler Street, Lincoln Park for 20 years. The Saint George community of 400 families has blossomed and borne fruit. His grace Bishop Demetrios dedicated the Grecian and Youth Center on November 9, 1975. On March 4, 1979, his Grace Bishop Timothy dedicated the Education Building. Until the Church was completed on October 24, 1982, the Saint George Parish held its services in the makeshift hall of the Grecian Center. The community continued with the Deaconess Tower, a 150-apartment building for senior citizens, opening and fully occupied in September 1983. The Reverend Philemon Karamanos Park adjoining the church parking lot added another gem in June 2003.

Climaxing this remarkable history by God&rsquos Grace came the Consecration of Saint George Church, October 4-5, 2003. The Church views the consecration of a church as a Baptism, a sacred mystery of God&rsquos Grace imparted upon the faithful as well as the church proper. Archbisop Demetrios assisted by Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit, Father Philomen Karamanos, area clergy, Archdiocesan and Diocesan deacons celebrated in a special two day service the Vespers, Consecration, and the first Divine Liturgy in the newly Consecrated Church set apart for holy use. The relics of three saints were sealed in the altar table: Saint George Feast Day, April 23 Saint Kyricos, Feast Day, July 15 and the Holy Fathers Martyred in Sinai at Raitho Monastery, Feast Day, January 14. The faithful witnessed the Washing and Anointing of the Altar Table. Anointing of Church, Icons, faithful, and light in the Vigil Light. Then, each received a tiny piece of Archbishop Demetrios&rsquo white linen garment, the &ldquoSavanon&rdquo, as a blessed keepsake. Although the Consecration of a parish is a one time act, a pinnacle of spiritual dedication, it mandates a continual renewal, a consecration of the Christian. This daily re-affirmation to serve Christ and build up the Body of the church invites each Saint George parishioner in the 21 st century and beyond.


Cylindrical Altar, Metropolis - History

Continuing his pursuit of the mysterious young woman, Freder enters the squalid, smoky, labyrinthine underground work area through door V, where in the Gothic depths, he is overwhelmed by the heat. He notices an exhausted worker, number 11811 (Erwin Biswanger), struggling with an electricity-routing device -- a large clock dial. The worker must match up lighted bulbs on the clock's rim with the two hands of the clock during his ten hour shift. As the sweating worker collapses in his arms, he greets him as "Brother." The worker revives and pleads: ". the machine. Someone has to stay at the machine!" and Freder sacrificially proposes to take his place at the dehumanizing, tiring machine:

Someone will stay at the machine. ME! Listen to me. I want to trade lives with you!

Freder switches clothes and identities with underground worker 11811, and gives him a note specifying the location of Josaphat's apartment, telling him to go there and wait for him. As 11811 leaves in Freder's chauffeured car (followed by the Thin Man), he betrays his promise and visits a red-light district instead. "Finding money, lots of money, in Freder's clothes, he succumbs to the temptations of the city and the night. Instead of going to Josaphat's apartment, he has himself driven to Yoshiwara, Metropolis' entertainment district."

The next title card reads: "In the middle of Metropolis, there was a strange house, overlooked by the centuries." It is the rickety old residence of Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), an alchemist and inventor. The wild-haired, demented scientist with a black-gloved right hand is summoned to speak to Master Joh Fredersen in one of the home's high gloomy rooms, and as he waits, he draws open a curtain concealing a small alcove. There on a pedestal "as wide as a wall and as tall as a man," he sees the stone head of a woman - with the word HEL engraved on the pedestal of the statuette. Below HEL, he reads:

BORN FOR MY HAPPINESS AND MANKIND'S BLESSING, LOST TO JOH FREDERSEN. DIED GIVING BIRTH TO FREDER, JOH FREDERSEN'S SON.

Rotwang silently enters the room with the monument, and furious - he tears closed the curtain in front of the bust. "The angrier Rotwang becomes, the calmer grows Joh Fredersen." Evidently, there was something of a love triangle between Hel, also a love interest of Rotwang, who married Joh but died during Freder's birth. Joh attempts to calm the raving, embittered scientist: "Let the dead rest in peace, Rotwang. For you, as for me, she is dead. " However, Rotwang rebuffs Joh: "For me, she is not dead, Joh Fredersen, - for me, she lives -- !"

In his efforts to recreate or replace Hel with a robot, Rotwang lost his hand. He asks Joh: "Do you want to see her - ?" -- and reveals his ultimate robotic creation - a beautiful, fully-functioning android robot that is instructed to stand up, slowly walk forward, and extend its hand toward Joh. [Rotwang's goal is to turn a machine into a human, while Joh has long been treating the working class of men like machine-automatons to service larger machines.] Rotwang exclaims:

Isn't it worth the loss of a hand to have created the man of the future, the Machine - Man - ? ! Give me another 24 hours - and no one, Joh Fredersen, no one will be able to tell a Machine-Man from a mortal - - ! The woman is mine, Joh Fredersen! The son of Hel was yours!

The real reason for Joh's visit is to seek advice - to have Rotwang decipher the meaning of the secret worker diagrams-plans discovered by Grot in workers' clothes.

Meanwhile, back toiling at the tiring job of the worker, Freder (who has discovered a copy of the diagrammed map/plans in his pocket) is confided in by another worker, and told that at the end of the shift, at two o'clock, there is a secret meeting in the ancient catacombs: "She has summoned us again. " Visual images of the dials on the machine and the ticking work clock merge back and forth. He cries out from the clock, as the crucified Christ cried out from the cross: "Father -! Father -! Will ten hours never end -- . " After the painstaking shift that finally ends, Freder joins other exhausted workers as they file down into the deep catacombs, where they have been summoned.

At the same time, Rotwang interprets the meaning of the secret hand-drawn map/plans: "- it is a plan of the 2000-year-old catacombs deep below the lowest levels of your Metropolis." [Catacombs were the location where ancient Christians hid from persecution.] Concerned, Joh says: "I should like to know what my workers are doing in the catacombs." Rotwang descends with Joh to his basement where he opens a trap door, with stairs leading down into the catacombs. Workers are also assembling in the subterranean, darkened catacombs to see Maria - and Freder is stunned to again see the wistful, Christ-like, angelic, light-haired young woman standing on an altar decorated with tall crosses and lighted candles behind her. A spiritual leader, she preaches to her raptured comrades, as Rotwang and Joh spy on the congregation from a secret vantage-point. She makes an obvious analogy between the tower-building in Babel (recorded in the Biblical book of Genesis), and the workers who build and maintain Metropolis - she speaks about how the conceivers of Babel mistreated the slaves (similar to how the rulers of Metropolis are uncaringly exploiting their downtrodden workers):

Today I will tell you the legend of THE TOWER OF BABEL. (Flashback) Come let us build us a tower whose top may reach unto the stars! And on top of the tower, we will write the words: Great is the world and its Creator! And great is Man! . but the minds that had conceived the Tower of Babel could not build it. The task was too great. So they hired hands for wages. (Streams and columns of naked, bald and chained slaves surge toward the tower from five directions) But the hands that built the Tower of Babel knew nothing of the dream of the brain that had conceived it. BABEL. (Thousands of slaves labor to move large slabs of rock - the words BABEL begin dripping blood) One man's hymns of praise became other men's curses. People spoke the same language, but could not understand each other. (Maria clutching her left breast) HEAD and HANDS need a mediator! THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!

The workers in the audience sink down to their knees, as the beautiful Maria urges them to peacefully seek compromise and await their salvation by a divine mediator, coming between the rulers and the ruled. One worker impatiently asks: "But where is our mediator, Maria - ?" A spotlight shines on Freder in the crowd, as he beats his chest in agony. She answers and she looks upward, urging them to wait for their salvation: "Wait for him! He will surely come!" Another restless worker threatens: "We will wait, Maria. But not much longer -- !" As the assembly disperses, Freder and Maria gaze toward each other, each clasping their left breast above their heart. She approaches him and asks: "Oh mediator, have you finally come?" He affirms his commitment: "You called me -- here I am!" And they kiss for the first time. She tells him to meet her in the cathedral the following day: "Until tomorrow, in the cathedral!" and they kiss a second time as he departs.

After discovering the workers' clandestine meeting, Freder's controlling, glacial father conspires with mad scientist Rotwang to create an evil, robotic Maria look-alike duplicate, in order to manipulate his workers and preach riot and rebellion. Fredersen could then use force against his rebellious workers that would be interpreted as justified, causing their self-destruction and elimination. Ultimately, robots would be capable of replacing the human worker, but for the time being, the robot would first put a stop to their revolutionary activities led by the good Maria: "Rotwang, give the Machine-Man the likeness of that girl. I shall sow discord between them and her! I shall destroy their belief in this woman --!" After Joh Fredersen leaves to return above ground, Rotwang predicts doom for Joh's son, knowing that he will be the workers' mediator against his own father: "You fool! Now you will lose the one remaining thing you have from Hel - your son!" Rotwang comes out of hiding, and confronts Maria, who is now alone deep in the catacombs (with open graves and skeletal remains surrounding her). He pursues her - in the expressionistic scene, he chases her with the beam of light from his bright flashlight, then corners her, and captures her when she cannot escape at a dead-end.

END OF PRELUDE
INTERMEZZO

The next day, Freder vainly searches for Maria in the cathedral. He listens as a monk in the pulpit preaches:

Verily I say unto you, the days spoken of in the Apocalypse are nigh. (The monk quotes from the Bible) And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten thorns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, having a golden cup in her hand. And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of abominations of the earth.

Freder then addresses a life-sized statue of the Grim Reaper in a display of seven statues representing the Seven Deadly Sins: "If you had come earlier, you wouldn't have scared me. But now I beg you: Stay away from me and my beloved!" Disappointed that Maria doesn't show, he goes to Josaphat's home, hoping to find Worker 11811. But after his night in Yoshiwara, Worker 11811 has been caught by the Thin Man and sent back to his machine. Freder tells Josaphat that he will continue to look for Maria: "I must go. I must look on my own for the person to whom 11811 was supposed to lead me." Soon after Freder leaves, the Thin Man forced his way into Josaphat's apartment and tried to get him to leave Metropolis. He tried bribes and threats, but Josaphat couldn't stop thinking of the man who trusted him - Freder. However, Josaphat was overpowered by the Thin Man when a fight broke out.

In Rotwang's laboratory, the Machine-Man sits, looking like an Egyptian deity. Light streams from above. Rotwang takes its hands and speaks to it, revealing his ultimate diabolical plan to displace Fredersen as Master and to take power himself:

You will destroy Joh Fredersen - him and his city and his son.

Then Rotwang threatens the kidnapped Maria, stalking her and announcing his intentions: "Come! It is time to give the Machine-Man your face!" As he bends her over a table, she screams out - and her cries for help through a grating in the ceiling are heard by Freder, who happens to be walking by in the street. Freder attempts to save her (and enters Rotwang's residence, but is trapped inside by doors that open and close on their own), but her pleas are muffled by Rotwang, and she is taken deeper into his laboratory. He calls out for Maria, knowing she is there after finding her scarf, but he cannot locate her.

In the film's most celebrated creation-transformation scene set in Rotwang's laboratory, the mad scientist has attached Maria (lying horizontally in a cylindrical clear chamber/capsule) by wired connections and a helmet to the Machine-Man. His laboratory is filled with bubbling beakers of liquid, dials, switches, flashing electrical circuits and arcs, and other contraptions. When he turns a switch, lightning sparks of energy descend from a round ball in the ceiling to the head and foot of the cylinder. Luminous, glowing rings surround and move vertically atop the standing robot, as its circulatory system is energized with Maria's life force, and Maria's face dissolves onto the face of the android. The real Maria loses consciousness as the robot likeness becomes flesh and blood.

After his experiment is a success, Rotwang releases the trapped Freder, who immediately asks: "Where is Maria-?" He is told: "She is with your father."

In the next scene, the evil, lusty Maria android, portrayed with her left eye drooping slightly shut, is in the office of Master Fredersen - he orders her to initiate his plan:

I want you to visit those in the depths, in order to destroy the work of the woman in whose image you were created!

Freder rushes in, completely disoriented (the camera image rotates and flashes) to find Maria in the arms of his father, and he collapses, falling dangerously ill. On his sick bed, the feverish, delirious Freder notices an invitation given to his father from Rotwang - who "requests the pleasure of your company at dinner and to see a new Erotic Dancer." A group of wealthy, tuxedoed men, including Joh Fredersen and Rotwang, watch as the false Maria rises on a stage platform in the depraved nightclub, and begins her sexy, tempting performance of an almost-nude (with pasties on her breasts), hip-swiveling Salome-style dance. The lustful men in the audience watch in amazement - their lecherous, staring eyeballs seen in a montage. The erotic dancer is portrayed as the one that the cathedral monk had spoken of, the lascivious whore of Babylon riding on a beast with seven heads. "For her - all seven deadly sins!" The distraught Freder imagines, in an hallucination, that the Grim Reaper statue comes to life, playing a leg bone like a flute during her dance. In his vision, the Reaper swings his sharp scythe and cries out: "Death descends upon the city -- !"


Nandauwas Gateway Of The Dead

Rising steeply from the grid of waterways in the northeastern quarter of Nan Madol, towering stacks of boulders and columns bulwark the inner sanctuary of Nandauwas – the jewel in the crown of Nan Madol and the largest megalithic structure of Micronesia. Nandauwas is majestic yet austere, enigmatic and elusively forbidding. Along its blackened seaward-facing stretch it can appear ominous, an impression cast by its precipitous rise and unfamiliar outline which captures the fear the local population have of the place.

Image of a ship on one of the Maoi’s on Easter Island (Image: © Alistair Coombs)

Covering an area the size of a football pitch, Nandauwas was allegedly a mortuary complex that housed the royal tombs of the Saudeleur, although no confirmed archaeological remains of this type have ever been found there. Set back from the water-immersed perimeter base of Nandauwas, towering piles of lava slabs form a wall up to 25 feet (7.6 meters) high, its corners finished in upswept peaks as if to mimic a boat or sea-going vessel. As on Easter Island, spirit ships or soul boats were sacred items connected with ancestor worship, commemorating how the forefathers had arrived at these shores from their sinking homelands. They also enabled travel to the realm of the afterlife on the horizon. On some islands, setting an embalmed body adrift in a boat-shaped coffin was practiced. Similar to ancient Egyptian barges of the dead, boat tombs and burials have been found over the Pacific. Thus, a spirit ship may have been a prominent concept in the design of Nandauwas.

The Tomb (Image: © Alistair Coombs)

Behind its sweeping western portal are rectangular courts enclosing a central subterranean tomb vaulted by hefty five-ton basalt girders. Beneath an emerald glaze of jungle are other crypts, tunnels and courtyards and a ledge coursing along the interior of the outer walls, its purpose unspecified. Sited behind the ruins of its massive breakwater that reaches out to the harbor’s edge, Nandauwas was built on an east-west axis and is noticeably offset more east than the rest of Nan Madol. There are good reasons for this irregular orientation.

Nandauwas ((Image: © Alistair Coombs)


Newly deciphered Moabite inscription may be first use of written word ‘Hebrews’

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

The earliest written use of the word “Hebrews” may have been found upon an inscribed Moabite altar discovered during ongoing excavations at the biblical site of Atarot (Khirbat Ataruz) in Jordan. The two newly deciphered late 9th century or very early 8th century BCE Moabite inscriptions incised into the cylindrical stone altar serve as tangible historical anchors for a battle of epic proportions.

According to researcher Adam Bean’s Levant article on the find, “An inscribed altar from the Khirbat Ataruz Moabite sanctuary,” the inscriptions offer new insight into the bloody aftermath of the conquest of Atarot that is described in the famed Mesha Stele and in the Bible. In 2 Kings 3:4-5, after the death of King Ahab of Israel (reigned ca. 869-850 BCE), King Mesha of Moab rebelled against Israelite hegemony but was defeated.

The two accounts, however, give opposing victors. In the Mesha Stele narrative, the vengeful Moabite king razes the city and annihilates its inhabitants, only to later repopulate it with other peoples.

Writes Bean, these two new inscriptions — the earliest extant evidence for a distinctive Moabite script — could be Moabite records of tallied booty and a description of the conquered peoples. If his reading is accurate, those peoples could potentially include the Hebrews.

Taken alongside the Mesha Stele, the two new inscriptions provide strong counter evidence against the biblical narrative.

“The inscriptions on this ‘pedestal’ come from the site mentioned by King Mesha in his Mesha Stele as a site that he himself (i.e., Mesha) took from the Omrides and then rebuilt!” explained leading epigrapher Prof. Christopher Rollston in an email to The Times of Israel. “Fascinatingly also, the inscriptions are not only written in the Moabite language, they are also written in the Early Moabite script.”

Rollston said the Ataruz inscription complements the Mesha Stele account “and even provides evidence for the veracity of Mesha’s statements.” Taking into account the Moabite language etched onto the altar, “Clearly the Moabites are in charge here at Ataruz,” said Rollston.

Inscribed with seven lines of text in two separate inscriptions, the 50 cm tall and 18.5 cm in diameter cylindrical altar is thought to have been used for burning incense. It was discovered inside a modest square building which Khirbat Ataruz excavation director Chang-ho Ji describes as a simple sanctuary, or perhaps a Moabite shrine to the historic battle, in his recent Levant article, “A Moabite sanctuary at Khirbat Ataruz, Jordan: stratigraphy, findings, and archaeological implications.”

The sanctuary, a single 4.8 m x 4.9 m room, was erected at the high point of the town, writes Ji, and was equipped with a platform, an altar, offering tables and a fireplace. The small inscribed altar was found in situ in a layer that Ji, as well as other leading archaeologists, have dated to 9th–8th centuries BCE based on stratification, carbon dating and pottery typology.

In terms of both content and language, the new inscriptions represent a missing link between the Mesha Stele and later Moabite texts such as the Khirbet Mudineyah Incense Altar.

Incense altars of this period are quite common, epigrapher and historian Michael Langlois told The Times of Israel, “but few are inscribed, which makes this find all the more interesting.”

“The scripts of these inscriptions are different from that of the Mesha Stele, and of lesser quality. The altar is not meant to be an impressive victory stele as the Mesha stele, and the scribes are less skilled, but such inscriptions are nonetheless of great value to better understand the culture, history, language and religion of these ancient peoples,” said Langlois, who did not participate in the recent Levant article, but traveled to Jordan to examine the altar upon its excavation in 2010.

Rollston emphasized the inscriptions’ importance to gaining a more holistic picture of the region, saying, “When one combines the biblical material in Kings, the Mesha Stele and the Ataruz Inscriptions, a fairly full picture comes to life, one in which one can stitch together the biblical and inscriptional evidence and know a great deal about geopolitics in the ancient Levantine world of the late 9th and early 8th centuries.”

What is the Mesha Stele and what happened at Atarot?

Today housed in the Louvre, the black basalt Mesha Stele was discovered in 1868 in the rubble of Jordan’s biblical Divon. Through a too-Hollywood-to-believe serious of events, the 1.15-meter-high, 60-68-centimeters-wide tablet was smashed by betrayed Bedouin, but eventually sold piecemeal to the highest bidder. Only some 700 of its approximately 1,000 Moabite script letters are in hand, some of which, although inscribed by a professional hand, is illegible due to damage.

The commemorative stele was commissioned by King Mesha and hails from ancient Moab in the 9th century BCE, explained leading Rollston in an email to The Times of Israel. Written in Hebrew letters but in the Moabite language, the Stele “dovetails remarkably with the biblical material in the Book of Kings, and also provided a great deal of additional information about these laconic verses from the Bible.”

Written from the perspective of a victorious king, the stele depicts an Atarot recaptured from the oppressive Israelite Northern Kingdom that had conquered it as its borders expanded.

“According to Mesha’s own words in the Mesha Stele, Moab rebelled against Israel and gained its independence from Israel,” said Rollston, who is also listed as an author on the Levant article.

As Bean writes in the article, in the stele, “Mesha notes that he fought against the city, took it and killed the entire population before bringing back some sort of looted cultic object for presentation to his god Kemosh in Qiryat. And Mesha also states that he settled in it the Sharonites and the Maharatites.”

The new inscriptions appear to pick up the story after the reconquest of Atarot by Mesha and provide “important new historical evidence for this Moabite occupation of Atarot in the 9th century BCE,” writes Bean.

However, the altar itself is damaged, as are the two inscriptions, making all readings difficult, and somewhat hypothetical.

Using Egyptian Hieratic numeral signs intermixed with alphabetic words, Inscription A “appears to tabulate small quantities of metal, possibly for some purpose relating to the cultic context of the inscription,” writes Bean, a PhD Candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Visiting Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Milligan College in Tennessee.

Bean’s reading of Inscription A is, “For/with 8 shekels of bronze/And this: 2 shekels of bronze/Total plunder: 10.” He wryly remarked in the Levant article that “At the very least, it can be asserted that the scribe was competent in addition.”

Inscription B, the second, more heavily damaged text block, is written perpendicular to the first and “appears to be potentially dedicatory and/or commemorative in focus, but remains largely enigmatic,” he writes.

His very tentative reading of the longer Inscription B is:
𔄜 + 60 from the Hebrews…
And 4,000 foreign men were scattered, and abandoned in great number
From the desolate city… which… a burnt offering/incense altar
Acquired/acquiring land…”

With permission from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the heavily damaged inscriptions were photographed by Bean with Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) technology when he examined the altar at the Madaba Archaeological Museum in Jordan. The RTI technique allowed Bean’s team to enhance shadow and contrast to bring out the inscribed text, he said, and he will soon share the files with the academic community.

“Our analysis concluded that Inscription A appeared to have been carved first, then Inscription B, which partly runs over Inscription A. But we do not know what time intervened between the two. It is even possible that the altar was repurposed from a different context before being inscribed,” said Bean.

Bean agrees that despite its location on a cultic object, “the script does not appear very monumental in nature.” Other unusual features of the inscription’s reading include the use of hieratic numerals and abbreviations, which Bean says are “elsewhere most often seen in mundane contexts, such as economic ostraca.”

“Nonetheless, one of the ideas we consider is that Inscription A, which records quantities of metal (bronze, we propose), records and thereby dedicates offerings. As we emphasize in the article, these are just working hypotheses to be considered,” said Bean.

Who else lived at Atarot: Sea Peoples, Philistines, Israelites?

The new inscriptions as well as other archaeological artifacts could corroborate the biblical and Mesha Stele narratives about previous inhabitants of Atarot prior to Mesha’s conquest and annihilation of all its residents.

According to Rollston, “The Mesha Stele also mentions that the ‘Gadites’ had lived in the land of ‘Atarot (i.e, Ataruz) forever and that the king of Israel had built ‘Atarot (i.e, Ataruz) for himself.” He notes that the tribe of Gad was an Israelite tribe, which had received a tribal allotment in this region, as per the narratives of Joshua 4:12. “Then Mesha notes that he retook the city, killed the Gadite population and made it a Moabite city,” said Rollston.

Archaeologist Ji, also the dean of education at La Sierra University in Riverside, California, said that located in strata prior to that of the inscribed altar at the Ataruz site, there is a non-Moabite Iron IIA temple. He is unsure whether it was settled by the Israelites, such as the Gadites, or even another as yet unnamed people, but said the Mesha Stele could potentially offer clues.

“After the destruction of this temple, a Moabite sanctuary was built at the site, which is dated to the late 9th-early 8th centuries BCE. Hence, Ataruz is a showcase site showing what was Moabite and what was non-Moabite (Israelite?),” said Ji in an email.

What exactly was the nature of the Moabite kingdom is still debated by scholars, said Ji, who argue whether it was a true kingdom or a confederation of tribal groups. He believes that the Moabite kingdom took over territory east of the Jordan River from the northern Israel kingdom and that, comparable to Judah or Israel, King Mesha “stepped up as a de facto king” who brought economic prosperity and political stability.

The Moabite kingdom “might have also been relatively short-lived, and its political system was somewhat fragmentary rather fully centralized. This kind of socio-economic limit might be related to the non-grandiose nature of Moabite architecture and material culture,” Ji told The Times of Israel.

There is also archaeological proof of Sea Peoples and Philistine influences found at the site, said Ji. In the pre-Moabite temple layers, there are indications of Phoenician and Egyptian culture on some objects, he said. “There seem to have been some contacts between Moab and the western region,” he noted, probably through the Jordan Valley.

So were there Hebrews at Atarot?

With cautious support, in the Levant article, Bean reiterates the proposal Rollston made publicly in 2011 that the word “Hebrews” could possibly appear in the much damaged Inscription B.

“In the article we emphasize that this reading is possible, and plausible, but not certain. The uncertainties of the surrounding context in Line B.1 make it very difficult to say much more than that at present. It is obviously a fascinating possibility for the historical use of this term,” Bean told The Times of Israel.

Independent scholar Langlois said that in the case of the Ataruz altar, the basic meaning of the term “Hebrews” “is that of people who pass or cross. Interestingly enough, the same inscription also refers to migrants, using the same Hebrew word ‘ger‘ that is common in the Bible.”

Noting that “nothing is absolute in archaeology and science,” archaeologist Ji added that the reading of “Hebrews” and “ger” as “foreigners” fits well with the archaeological evidence at the site. “The inscription is from the post-destruction period with a Moabite signature. So, the Ataruz inscription is possibly mentioning the non-Moabite predecessors (pre-destruction period) at the site as ‘foreigners,'” wrote Ji in an email.

Only one thing is certain, said Bean: that the meaning or very existence of the term “Hebrews” on the inscription will continue to be debated by scholars.

“The rarity of such inscriptions reminds us of how little we know about the biblical world,” noted researcher Langlois.

“Too often we view this world through the lenses of the biblical writers for once, we have an opportunity to view this world from another angle — from the perspective of Israel’s neighbors. As always, it’s of paramount importance to listen to both sides in order to have a balanced view of the situation. This is still true today,” said Langlois.

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Holy Relics

The term “Holy Relics” (Greek Αγιων Λειψανα) refers to the material remains of a saint after his repose or to those items which have come into contact with his sanctified body.

Christians of antiquity, with Scriptural basis, gathered the remains of those who were martyred for Christ i.e. Ignatius the God-bearer, Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus of Lyons, and also constructed churches over their remains and erected altars and tables of oblation over their graves from which to celebrate the Eucharist.

For members of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, second in number only to the Roman Catholic Church, the pious veneration of Holy Relics remains a living tradition. Holy Relics are made accessible to the faithful in churches and monasteries the liturgical calendar of the Church is replete with references to the translocation of these sacred objects and prayers and hymns invoking the saints and honoring their sanctified remains are found in liturgical texts. Holy relics are also found in every consecrated Altar Table in both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church.


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