12 January 2014

Re-booting the blog etc

Purely for selfish and personal reasons I may try to return to blogging, either here or at some new blog. I checked through a number of other blogs a few minutes ago and it was a bit depressing. Almost all of them made their last post over a year ago. Claw of the Conciliator about four years ago.

Supposedly Facebook has decimated the world of blogs, leaving only the elderly and reclusive to keep on blogging.

A shame.

Update for all of 2013

I'm rather glad to see last year come to an end. I soldiered on in my job while stricken with serious depression and occasional anxiety attacks. Then needed sinus surgery to clear out what was a permanent sinus infection. Ended up the year with surgery to remove a kidney stone.

Either because of clearing up the physical problems, my new practice of meditation, a 150mg a day happy pill, or my sabbatical (i.e. no teaching until August), I now feel great, in fact better than I have for what seems like the last five years. I don't even need my daily naps, at least not every day.

So let's see what 2014 brings.

Post is toast

Testing. Testing. One, two, three. etc.

Blogger has not been letting me post.

Post is toast

Testing. Testing. One, two, three. etc.

Blogger has not been letting me post.

28 October 2012

Brother Stephen

[this was written months ago, when I got back from my retreat in the Blue Ridge mountains at a Catholic monastery - I have been a little late getting it posted]

Brother Stephen

Brother Steven lives on, immured in a crumbling mind, dead to this world, or very nearly. The monks no longer visit him because it causes too much disruption to him to see them. He does not know them and he knows he should.

He was quest master when I made my first visit to the abbey ...years ago. Even then his mind seemed a bit dodgy, a thing he remarked on. It seemed the typical self-deprecating remark old people make, but he knew even then.

He left behind in a small charcoal drawing of himself bending to feed his beloved cats. Outside in a little house on the porch still lives the big yellow cat he named Gonzaga after his own school. Gonza still presides over the rear of the guest house, looking not a day older.

I still remember Brother Stephen and some of the things he taught us.



22 September 2012

Without Comment


01 September 2012

The World of Fantasy

I have not read or listened to any fantasy novels for quite some time, Harry Potter excepted, of course. Carmen is putting together a display at the library for the genre and found this page. I am putting it up here so I can come back to it and to solicit any suggestions. I read the older series, like Lord of the Ring, Elric of Melnibone, Thomas Covenant, a few others. But what about the newer one?

http://bestfantasybooks.com/best-fantasy-series.php

26 August 2012

More on the PIE people



The First Farmers in Anatolia and the PIE People: A theory

[this was simply a quickly written lecture for a class several years back. It was done off the top of my head and represents a rather crude theory that many might object too. Still, here it is.]

This is the material for the lectures I intended to give you this last week before the unfortunate arrival of too much snow. You should read it before the next class since I will be asking you question about it and you won’t understand much of the lecture I give that day if you haven’t.

[What follows is my theory on where Proto-Indo-European was first developed and how it spread. It is based on the work of many specialists and I have taken the reconstruction that seems best to me. If you are interested, you can explore the subject in more depth. Wikipedia is a good place to start. Use it whenever you come across terms you don’t understand well enough.]


As we have seen, between 10,000 BC and 7500 BC people along the mountain flanks of the Fertile Crescent [see map under Week 5] began to farm. From the area now known as Syria and Palestine-Israel  trade routes were established to get obsidian from Anatolia [check maps and pictures under “Origins of Agriculture-Migration to Anatolia,” esp. map #34 ]. Obsidian is an almost glass like stone that can produce a cutting edge as sharp as any steel knife. The best site to obtain obsidian is in the Konya plain of Anatolia from the volcanoes of the Hasan Dag mountains. The will be important later in time. [check maps # 26 and # 35 under “Origins of Agriculture-Migration to Anatolia”]

As the traders from Syria moved into this new territory they spread the “Neolithic Package” i.e. the techniques of growing wheat and barley and domesticated goats and sheep. This soon led to the spread of Neolithic farming communities in Anatolia. These communities were probably composed of native Anatolian hunters and gathers, who already had a very advanced level of society complete with art and huge religious shrines as early at 9000-8000 BC [see the two links for Gobekli Tepe and read the short article on the site under the first one], and a smaller number of immigrants from the agricultural zone in Syria.

The most impressive of these new communities was Catalhoyuk dated to c. 7500 BC to c. 5700 BC. It is the largest and best preserved such site yet discovered, though there must have been many more spreading out through Anatolia. Catalhoyuk is a large mound composed of layer after layer of the reamins of human settlement first excavated in 1961. It now has a permanent team of archaeologists and a huge covering to protect the site [see the two videos and others links to CatalHoyuk. The video in Spanish is only there for you to see the pictures.]. The reason that Catalhoyuk was such a rich site was it was on a well watered plain [see maps #28-31 under “Origins of Agriculture”] that was close to the obsidian source in the Hasan Dag Mts. In fact, the folks at Catalhoyuk painted a mural showing the layout of their town and two mountain peaks, one of which is a volcano blowing its top. [Read the article under “Catalhoyuk-The Origins of PIE?” and look at “Picture of Catalhoyuk”]

It covers about 32.5 acres and could have housed 5-8,000 people in a large cluster of mud-brick houses. There were no streets or paths between the houses. House walls were connected and had to be entered from the roof. Walls were plastered, and some were painted with elaborate murals including the one mentioned about with the exploding volcano.


The people were farmers ... with sheep, and the first signs of cattle. They also grew wheat, barley, peas, pistachios, almonds and even fruit trees.

The domesticated animals are important to our story so pay attention to them.  The domesticated sheep and goats started in the Zagros Mts between Iran and Iraq [See map of domesticated animals]. These animals were added to the Neolithic Package very early and thus came to Anatolia. It is also important that they did NOT have the horse, an animal of the Eurasian steppes, far from the Fertile Crescent.

This type of farming, while resulting in harder work and occasional food shortages, could support many more people than hunting and gathering. Instead of 1 person per sq. mile these settlements could feed 25-50 people per sq. mile. This is the explanation of how a relatively few local languages out of thousands would survive and give rise to most of the 6,000 languages of today. Proto-Indo-European is one such language, but so is Proto-Afro-Asiatic (Egyptian, Berber, and Semitic languages) and Proto-Bantu (grandmother of hundreds of sub-Saharan African languages, e.g. Swahili and Zulu). Once a group of people get the Neolithic Package first, they will began to grow rapidly and spread out looking for new farm land. This could be relatively slow, but it would steadily spread the original language, now breaking into many different dialects (remember our Scottish “Star Trek” episode?) which would eventually become completely different languages, exactly the way Old English broke off from ancient Germanic and eventually developed into the language you now speak. This is what happened with the speakers of an extinct language historical linguist call Proto-Indo-European, or PIE.

When and how did this language migration take place. If there is PIE, there must be a Pre-PIE. [see chart under “Pre-PIE People to see how this is reconstructed] I believe that this was a language spoken in Anatolia well BEFORE 4500 BC. While possible, I do not think that this Pre-PIE was spoken by the people of Catalhoyuk, but rather further to the north of Anatolia. Catalhoyuk, however, gives us a good idea of how these people would have lived, in large farming villages, sending out new settlers every generation or so. These settlers would move into a new area unfamiliar with agriculture and settle down, intermarrying with many of the local hunter-gathers who would be speaking other languages. Since the farmers had more food, controlled the trade, and outnumbered the locals, the newest version of Pre-PIE would dominate but would be spoken with some words and pronunciations from the local people. This is how the Bantu languages in southern Africa picked up the strange “click” sounds of the San bushmen [go back and review the little film under “The ‘First’ Language?”]. This is one way languages can change.

So we can imagine these villages of these Pre-Pie people spreading out along Northern Anatolia around the shores of ... the Black Sea?  There is a problem here, one that became a disaster for some of these villages.  Look at the map of the “Euxine Lake” of 6000 BC. ‘Euxine’ is an old Greek word for the Black Sea and it is a lake because it contained fresh water and was much smaller than the present day salt water Sea. Look carefully at the shoreline. There is a big land bridge to Europe and Anatolia in the east stretches straight up into the Ukraine and southern Russia. What changed to create the modern day shoreline of the salty Black Sea?



Think back to earlier in the semester when we spoke of the ice cap melting when the world began to undergo global warming c. 12,000 BC. The level of the oceans began to rise. As the Atlantic Ocean rose, so did the Mediterranean Sea. At that land bridge something had to give and one day around 4500 BC the Mediterranean waters broke through the land bridge in a spectacular jet of water and began to flood the basin of the Euxine Lake. Eventually the waters rose to about the level of the Black Sea today which is now permanently connected to the Mediterranean.

Imagine the effect on the farming communities inside the flooded area. The water of the lake had risen at the pace of a man or woman walking rather fast, and we have to imagine that anyone living there walked away as fast as possible, abandoning their villages, fields, and heavy equipment. Now is was much harder to make it to Europe from Anatolia without boats and the eastern shore of the rising water now nearly touched the Caucasus Mts.

As you can read in the little blog post under “A theory of the origins of PIE”:

Think of the Euxine basin as a tube of toothpaste that has been stepped on. All those people have to squirt somewhere. The farmers go up the great river valleys in every direction. It forces the spread of agricultural communities into Europe and out towards the Ukraine and points east. There is probably a reflux of farmers back into Anatolia as well.

This is when Pre-PIE dialects split - one branch went back into Anatolia and began to develop into the “Anatolian” language family. Hittite is the best known of these. It is related to Indo-European languages in some ways, as you can tell from this Hittite word: watar. It means ‘water.’

The new Black Sea now separated the northern farmers from their old communities and felds. As the refugees struggled to re-establish themselves along the river valleys north of the sea their language quickly developed into a scatter of Proto-Indo-European dialects. PIE along with languages like Proto-Hittite are daughter languages of Pre-PIE, the old Anatolian language.

Historical linguists have tried to reconstruct this PIE language. You are assigned a short version of their reconstruction to read. It was created by examining the lexicon of EVERY Indo-European language we know about and picking out the words that seem to go back to a common root. Then that root is reconstructed using rules of sound changes too complicated for me to understand. When you complete your assignment (due as soon as you can e-mail it to me, but definitely by next Tuesday’s class!) you will have completed your first work of linguistic archaeology. You should also have some idea of the type of society these PIE people had.

Interestingly, they had a word for fresh-water lake, *mori. In later languages that develop from PIE it is often used to mean a large sea. I think the original word was the Pre-PIE word for the Euxine Lake, the biggest body of water the speakers of that language would have know. Well, until the Mediterranean came crashing in on them.



That is the origin of PIE and how languages migrate. Remember, languages can migrate without the genetic inheritance from the first speakers of that language. How many of you have ancestors who spoke Old English?  We will review your work and discuss this new PIE society when we meet next and I will show you how one branch of them reached China and another became so isolated in northern Russian that their language developed into Indo-Iranian. These are the people who invented the chariot and they are, as far as I know, the ONLY Indo-European people to refer to themselves as Aryans. There descendants today are in Iran (literally the land of Aryans), India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and an odd little place called Ossetia.




30 July 2012

The eagle has landed. Back to Tellus soon.


28 July 2012

Journalism 101 - except at the Washington Post

Ombudsman states the obvious. Reporters everywhere puzzled as he has to explain the phrase "self-censorship" to them.

Allegedly Edward R. Murrow spins. All of your elites have failed.