How Do We Know This?

Gary Rendsburg (Jewish Studies and History)

How has the knowledge of the ancient world reached us? This seminar will focus on ancient Israel, ancient Greece, and the ancient Near East, with a special focus on Egypt and Babylonia. For ancient Israel, including both Jewish and Christian origins, and ancient Greece, the answer is that manuscripts of the Bible, Homer, the New Testament and much more have been passed down to us directly since ancient times, via the yeoman work of medieval scribes, until the age of printing. Many of these manuscripts are housed in the great libraries of Europe, especially in England. For the ancient Near East, the vast majority of our knowledge derives from archaeological excavations conducted during the past two centuries. The Rosetta Stone, the Book of the Dead, Hammurabi’s Code, the Gilgamesh Epic, and much more were found via explorations in Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere, with these great findings now located in the Louvre, the British Museum, the Berlin Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum. By necessity, accordingly, we also will discuss the issue of European orientalism and colonialism, and how these aspects of “the politics of knowledge” reverberate to the present day. The grand arc of this narrative is simply breathtaking, especially as we now have entered the digital age, with all of these precious documents available to us with the click of a mouse.

Course Number: 
01:090:101 section 79 index 10834