Qohelet’s Ossuary

angelus novus

A place for history.

1. The ossuary
2. Book list
3. “What is this thing?” and other FAQs

…one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet.     -Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

In 1807 the kingdom of Denmark was unsure of its prospects for survival.  Defeated by Britain, threatened by Sweden, and soon to abandoned by Norway, it looked to its glorious past to reassure its citizens of their greatness. Plans for a National Museum of Antiquities, the first of its type in Europe, were developed and promoted. The Royal Cabinet of Antiquities quickly acquired vast collections of artifacts that had been plowed or dug from the ground under a newly expanded agricultural policy. Amateur collectors among the country gentry, and quarrymen or ditch diggers  among the common folk, brought in glimmering hoards of bronze and boxes of flint tools and bones.

In 1816, with dusty specimens piling up in the back room of the Royal Library, the Royal Commission for the preservation of Danish Antiquities selected Christian J. Thomsen, a twenty-seven-year-old without a university degree but known for his practicality and industry, to decide how to arrange this overwhelming trove of strange and unknown objects in some kind of order for its first display. After a year of cataloging and thinking, Thomsen elected to put the artifacts in three great halls. One would be for the stone artifacts, which seemed to come from graves or sediments belonging to a Stone Age, lacking any metals at all; one for the bronze axes, trumpets, and spearsof the Bronze Age, which seemed to come from sites that lacked iron; and the last for the iron tools and weapons, made during an Iron Age that continued into the era of the earliest written references to Scandanavian history. The exhibit opened in 1819 and was a triumphant success. It inspired an animated discussion among European intellectuals about whether these three ages truly existed in this chronological order, how old they were, and whether a science of archaeology, like the new science of linguistics, was possible. Jens Worsaae, originally an assistant to Thomsen, proved, through careful excavation, that the Three Ages indeed existed as distinct prehistoric eras, with some qualifications. But to do this he had to dig more carefully than the ditch diggers, borrowing stratigraphic methods from geology. Thus professional field archaeology was born to solve a problem, not to acquire things. […]

It was no longer possible, after Thomsen’s  exhibit, for an educated person to regard the prehistoric past as a single undifferentiated era into which mammoth bones and iron swords could be thrown together. Forever after time was to be divided, a peculiarly satisfying task for mortals, who now had a way to triumph over their most implacable foe.
The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, David W. Anthony

~5000 BC

But the proto-lexicon contains much more, including clusters of words suggesting that the PIE [Proto-Indo-Europeans] inherited their rights and duties through the father’s bloodline only (patrileneal descent); probably lived with the husband’s family after marriage (patrilocal residence); recognized the authority of chiefs who acted as patrons and givers of hospitality for their clients; likely had formally instituted warrior bands; practiced ritual sacrifices of cattle and horses; drove wagons; recognized a male sky deity; probably avoided speaking the name of the bear for ritual reasons; and recognized two senses of the sacred (“that which is imbued with holiness” and “that which is forbidden”).    –The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, David W. Anthony

Bee and honey are very strong derivations based on cognates in most Indo-European languages. A derivative of the term for honey, *medhu-, was also used for an intoxicating drink, mead, that probably played a role in Proto-Indo-European rituals.   -Anthony

They divided their possessions into two categories: movables and immovables; and the root for movable wealth (*peku-, the ancestor of such English words as pecuniary) became the term for herds in general. Finally, they were not averse to increasing their herds at their neighbor’s expense, as we can reconstruct verbs that meant “to drive cattle,” used in Celtic, Italic, and Indo-Iranian with the sense of cattle-raiding or “rustling.”   -Anthony

The most famous definition of the basic divisions in Proto-Indo-European society was the tripartite scheme of Georges Dumézil, who suggested that there was a fundamental three-part division between the ritual specialist or priest, the warrior, and the ordinary herder/cultivator. Colors might have been associated with these three roles: white for the priest, red for the warrior, and black or blue for the herder/cultivator; and each role might have been assigned a special type of ritual/legal death: strangulation for the priest, cutting/stabbing for the warrior, and drowning for the herder/cultivator. A variety of other legal and ritual distinctions seem to have applied to these identities. […] The warrior category was regarded with considerable ambivalence, often represented in myth by a figure who alternated between a protector and a berserk murderer who killed his own father (Hercules, Indra, Thor). Poets occupied another respected category.   -Anthony

Koivulehto discussed at least thirteen words that are probable loans from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) into Proto-Uralic (P-U): [to give or to sellto bring, lead or drawto washto fearto plaitto walk, to wanderto drill, to boreshall, must, have tolong, thin polemerchandise, pricewatersinewname].    -Anthony

At the beginning of time there were two brothers, twins, one named Man (*Manu, in Proto-Indo-European) and the other Twin (*Yemo). They traveled through the cosmos accompanied by a great cow. Eventually Man and Twin decided to create the world we now inhabit. To do this, Man had to sacrifice Twin (or, in some versions, the cow). From the parts of this sacrificed body, with the help of the sky ggods (Sky Father, Storm God of War, Divine Twins), Man made the wind, the sun, the moon, the sea, earth, fire, and finally all the various kinds of people. Man became the first priest, the creator of the ritual of sacrifice that was the root of world order.

After the world was made, the sky-gods gave cattle to “Third man” (*Trito). But the cattle were treacherously stolen by a three-headed, six-eyed serpent (*Ngwhi, the Proto-Indo-European root for negation). Third man entreated the storm god to help get the cattle back. Together they went to the cave (or mountain) of the monster, killed it (or the storm god killed it alone), and freed the cattle. *Trito became the first warrior. He recovered the wealth of the people, and his gift of cattle to the priests insured that the sky gods received their share in the rising smoke of sacrificial fires. This insured that the cycle of giving between gods and humans continued.

These two myths were fundamental to the Proto-Indo-European system of religious belief. *Manu and *Yemo are reflected in creation myths preserved in many Indo-European branches, where *Yemo appears as Indic Yama, Avestan Yima, Norse Ymir, and perhaps Roman Remus (from *iemus, the archaic Italic form of *yemo meaning twin); and Man appears as Old Indic Manu or Germanic Mannus, paired with his twin to create the world. […] Many other themes are reflected in these two stories: the Indo-European fascination with binary doublings coupled with triplets […]; the theme of pairs who represented magical and legal power (Twin and Man, Varuna-Mitra, Odin-Tyr); and the partition of society and the cosmos between three great functions or roles: the priest (in both his magical and legal aspects), the warrior (the Third Man), and the herder/cultivator (the cow or cattle).   –The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, David W. Anthony

Bit wear is important, because other kinds of evidence have proven uncertain guides to early horse domestication. Genetic evidence, which we might hope would solve the problem, does not help much. Modern horses are genetically schizophrenic, like cattle but with the genders reversed. The female bloodline of modern domesticated horses shows extreme diversity. Traits inherited through the mitochondrial DNA, which passes unchanged from mother to daughter, show that this part of the bloodline is so diverse that at least seventy-seven ancestrale mares, grouped into seventeen phylogenetic branches, are required to account for the genetic variety in modern populations around the globe. Wild mares must have been taken into domesticated horse herds in many different places at many different times. Meanwhile, the male aspect of horse DNA, which is passed unchanged on the Y chromosome from sire to colt, shows remarkable homogeneity. It is possible that just a single wild stallion was domesticated.   -Anthony

In the centuries after 4000 BCE […]
Prominent among these new dark-surfaced, shell-tempered pottery assemblages were loop-handled drinking cups and tankards called “Scheinbenhenkel”, a new style of liquid containers and servers that appeared throughout the middle and lower Danube valley. Andrew Sherratt interpreted the Scheinbenhenkel horizon as the first clear indicator of a new custom of drinking intoxicating beverages. The replacement of highly decorated storage and serving vessels by plain drinking cups could indicate that new elite drinking rituals had replaced or nudged aside older household feasts.   -Anthony

…Tripolye towns closer to the steppe border on the South Bug River ballooned to enormous sizes, more than 350 ha, and briefly became the largest human settlements in the world. The super-towns of Tripolye C1 were more than 1km across but had no palaces, temples, town walls, cemeteries, or irrigation systems. They were not cities, as they lacked the centralized political authority and specialized economy associated with cities, but they were actually bigger than the earliest cities in Uruk Mesopotamia. […] By 3300 BCE all the big towns were gone, and the entire South Bug valley was abandoned by Tripolye farmers.    -Anthony

The Maikop Culture appeared about 3700-3500 BCE in the piedmont north of the North Caucus Mountains, overlooking the Pontic-Caspian steppes. The semi-royal figureburied under the giant Maikop chieftan’s kurgan acquired and wore Mesopotamian ornaments in an ostentatious funeral display that had no parallel that has been preserved even in Mesopotamia. Into the grave went a tunic covered with golden lions and bulls, silver-sheathed staffs mounted with solid gold and silver bulls, and silver sheet-metal cups.   -Anthony

The institution of Mannerbunde or korios, the warrior brotherhood of young men bound by oath to one another and to their ancestors during a ritually mandated raid, has been reconstructed as a central part of Proto-Indo-European initiation rituals. One material trait linked to these ceremonies was the dog or wolf;  the young initiates were symbolized by the dog or wolf and in some Indo-European traditions wore dog or wolf skins during their initiation. The canine teeth of dogs were frequently worn as pendants in Yamnaya graves in the western Pontic steppes […] A second material trait linked to the korios was the belt. The korios raiders wore a belt and little else (like the warrior figures in some later Germanic and Celtic art, e.g., the Anglo-Saxon Finglesham belt-buckle). The initiates on a raid wore two belts, their leader one, symbolizing that the leader was bound by a single oath to the gods of war/ancestors, and the initiates were double-bound to the god/ancestors and to the leader.    -Anthony

The same borrowed *arya- root developed into words with the meaning :slave” in the Finnish and Permic brances (Finnish, Komi, and Udmurt), a hint of ancient hostility between the speakers of Proto-Indo-European and Finno-Ugric.     -Anthony

Archaeologists are conscious of many historical ironies: wooden structures are preserved by burning, garbage pits survive longer than temples and palaces, and the decay of metals leads to the preservation of textiles buried with them. But there is another irony rarely apprecaited: that in the invisible and fleeting sounds of our speech we preserve for a future generation of linguists many details of our present world.    -Anthony

Early Bronze Age


The decoration of the Narmer Palette likewise spans two worlds and two ages. The shallow well that betrays the object’s practical origins is formed by the entwined necks of two fabulous creatures, held on leashes by attendants. These “serpeopards” (leopards with serpentine necks) are not Egyptian in origin. They come from the artistic canon of ancient Mesopotamia. Their presence on an early Egyptian artifact points to a period of intense cultural exchange between two of the grat cultures of late prehistory, when ideas and influences from the valley of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates reached the distant banks of the Nile. […] The Narmer Palette captures this pivotal moment in cultural history: Mesopotamian motifs appear on one side, exclusively Egpytian motifs on the other. Egyptian civilization had come of age and was finding its voice.     –The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, Toby Wilkinson

A slightly different version of the creation myth explained how a reed grew on the newly emerged mound, and the celestial god, in the form of a falcon, alighted on the reed, making his dwelling on earth and bringing divine blessing to the land. Throughout the long course of pharaonic history, every temple in Egypt sought to emulate this moment of creation, siting its sanctuary on a replica of the primeval mound in order to re-create the universe anew.    -Wilkinson

Sneferu may have been able to command his people and their livelihood, but he could not control the forces of nature. As his massive pyramid at Dahshur reached the halfway point, geology rudely intervened. Cracks started appearing in the outer casing, the telltale signs of subsidence. The underlying sands and shales were simply not strong enough to support the vast weight of the growing pyramid, and the ground had begun to give away. […]

Work continued on the Bent Pyramid – altthough now useless, it nevertheless had to be completed. An unfinished disaster would be the ultimate disgrace. Eventually the focus of attention and activity shifted toward preparations for a third monument. […]

The accelerating pace of construction was extraordinary. In the first decade of Sneferu’s reign, during initial work at Medium, his builders had laid around 46,000 cubic yards of stone per year. In the second decade, as the Bent Pyramid was taking shape, the rate was increased to 105,000 cubic yards per year. In the king’s third decade on the throne, with work taking place on three fronts, between 130,000 and 200,000 cubic yards of stone were laid each year. It is unlikely that this work rate was ever surpassed, even a generation later during the construction of Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza. Remarkably, it has been calculated that Sneferu’s third pyramid, known today as the Red Pyramid (from the color of its core limestone blocks), could have been built in as few as ten and a half years. […] The greatest pyramid builder in Egyptian history finally had a monument worthy of the name. (Indeed, the name Appearance was transferred to the Red Pyramid while the Bent Pyramid was rather embarrassingly renamed “Southern Appearance.”)     -Wilkinson

The ancient Egyptian approach to any large-scale undertaking was to divide it up into a series of more manageable units. When it came to pyramid building and the organization of a vast workforce, this proved both efficient and highly effective. The basic unit of the workforce was probably a team of twenty men, each with its own team leader. This kind of organization would have produced a team spirit, and a sense of friendly rivalry between the teams would have encouraged each to try and outdo the others. This was certainly the case with larger units of the workforce, as surviving inscriptions testify. Ten teams formed a two-hundred strong division, known today by the Greek term “phyle.” Five phyles, each with its own leader and identity, made up a gang of a thousand workers. And two gangs, again with distinctive and often jokey names (such as “the king’s drunkards”), made a crew, the largest unit of men.    –The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, Toby Wilkinson

The Great Pyramid was perhaps the most ambitious construction project of the ancient world. Its royal builder bestrode his era like a colossus. Yet – in one of the greatest ironies of archaeology – the only certain image of Khufu to have survived from his own time is a tiny thumb-sized statuette of ivory. Discovered in the ruins of the temple at Abdju, it measures just three inches high.    -Wilkinson

[…] hieroglyphs and architecture complemented and strengthened each other, enhancing the magical power that was desgined to guarantee Unas’s resurrection.
But there was more to it than mere magic. The king could look forward to a glorious rebirth because he commanded absolute obedience – from deities as well as mere mortals. […] This rather shocking presumption is given voice in one of the most chilling of UNas’s Pyramid Texts. Dubbed “the Cannibal Hymn,” its graphic imagery has amde it (in)famous. A brief extract gives the flavor:

Unas is he who eats people, who lives on the gods…
Unas is he who eats their magic, swallows their spirits
Their big ones are for his morning meal,
Their middle ones for his evening meal,
Their little ones for his night meal,
Their old males and females for his burnt offering.


[Teti] indulged his palate with haute cuisine of the most exotic kind: the scenes of animal husbandry in his tomb go beyond the normal descriptions of cattle rearing to include semidomesticated antelopes eating from mangers, cranes being force-fed (it seems foie gras was on the menu in Sixth Dynasty Egpyt), and – most bizarre of all – hyenas being fattened for the table.    -Wilkinson

With eternal survival at stake in the last judgment, the fevered Egyptian imagination swung into action. Conceiving further hurdles hand in hand with the means of overcoming them seems to have given the ancient Egyptians the courage to face the uncertainties of death. In the case of judgment before the tribunal [after death], the greatest danger was that one’s own heart – seat of the intellect, fount of emotion, and store-house of memories – might decide to bear false witness and so tipe the balance against a favorable verdict. To counter this risk, powerful magic was required. Somehow, the heart had to be prevented from blurting out untruths (or hidden truths) that might seal its owner’s fate. The ingenious solution was a new type of amulet, first introduced in the Middle Kingdom. It took the familiar shape of a scarab beetle, a potent symbol of rebirth (because young beetles hatch from a ball of dung, emblematic of death and decay). But unlike other scarab amulets, this one had a human head and was engraved with a protective spell, addressed to the heart. After the body had undergone mummification, the heart scarab was placed over the heart, with clear instructions as to how the organ should behave at the moment of truth:

Do not stand up against me,
Do not witness against me,
Do not oppose me in the tribunal,
Do not incline against me.

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, Toby Wilkinson



Book List

Prehistory, Neolithic and Eneolithic (Very Old BC – 3000 BC)

The Horse, The Wheel, and Language – David W. Anthony
India’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma
Archaeology of the Dreamtime – Josephine Flood
The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory – Jean Guilane
Women’s Work: The First 20,000 – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times – Elizabeth Weyland Barber
Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States – James C. Scott (h/t Michael Kleinman)

Early Bronze Age through Mid-Bronze Age (3300 BC – 1600 BC)

Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization – Paul Kriwaczek
Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization  – Leo A. Oppenheim
Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia – Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat
A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC – Marc Van de Mieroop

Egypt (Predynastic/Old Kingdom/Middle Kingdom)
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt – Toby Wilkinson
Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE – Françoise Dunand
Daily Life in Ancient Egypt – Kasia Szpakowska

Europe (Celts/Minoa)
Stonehenge – A New Understanding: Solving the Mysteries of the Greatest Stone Age Monument – Mike Parker Pearson
The Celts – Nora Chadwick

South Asia and Indus Valley Civilization
A Peaceful Realm : The Rise And Fall of the Indus Civilization – Jane McIntosh

The Archaeology of China: From the Late Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age – Li Liu, Xingcan Chen
Defining Chu: Image And Reality in Ancient China – Constance A. Cook, John S. Major
Early China: A Social and Cultural History – Li Feng
China in the Early Bronze Age – Robert L. Thorp

currently seeking: Minoa, Indus Valley

Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (1600 BC – 700 BC)

Egypt (New Kingdom/Late Period)
The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E – Karol Mysliwiec

Mycenaean Greece and Troy
Trojans and their Neighbors – Trevor Bryce
Greece in the Bronze Age – Emily Townsend Vermeule

The Kingdom of the Hittites – Trevor Bryce
The Hittites and Their World – Billie Jean Collins
Hittite Myths – Harry A. Hoffner

Assyria and Babylon
The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East – Leo A. Oppenheim
King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography – Marc Van De Meroop

Bronze Age Collapse/Sea Peoples
1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed – Eric Cline

Ancient Israel
Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple – Hershel Shanks
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts – Israel Finkelstein

China (Zhou Dynasty)
(actually having a really hard time finding good sources. check back later)

Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs –  Michael D. Coe

currently seeking: good sources on China during this period (roughly Zhou dynasty); books on North Chico civilization

Classical Antiquity & The Axial Age (700 BC – 500 AD)

Etruscan Life and Afterlife – Larissa Bonfante
Etruscan Myths – Larissa Bonfante
Etruscan Places: Travels through Forgotten Italy – D. H. Lawrence
The Religion of the Etruscans – Nancy Thomson de Grummond, Erika Simon

The Hellenistic Age – Peter Green (h/t Michael Kleinman)
A History of the Greek City States, 700-338 B.C. – Raphael Sealey
Spartan Reflections – Paul Cartledge
Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece – M. M. Austin
The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization – Victor Davis Hanson
Alexander the Great – Paul Cartledge
Alexander the Great in His World – Carol G. Thomas
Alexander of Macedon – Peter Green
Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity – Sarah Pomeroy
Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria – Frank L. Holt
Greek Buddha: Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia – Christopher I. Beckwith
The Greeks and the Irrational – E.R. Dodds (h/t Michael Kleinman)

Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE – Matt Waters
A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind – Michael Axworthy

The Phoenicians and the West – Maria Eugenia Aubet
Carthage – Serge Lancel
Carthage Must Be Destroyed – Richard Miles

Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome – Arthur M. Eckstein (h/t Michael Kleinman)
The Roman Revolution – Ronald Syme
SPQR – Mary Beard
Caesar: Life of a Colossus – Adrian Goldsworthy
Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town – Mary Beard
Ancient Rome: From the Early Republic to the Assassination of Julius Caesar – Lynda Garland, Matthew Dillon
A History of the Later Roman Empire: 284-641 – Stephen Mitchell
Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church – Susanna Elm
A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus – Frederic Rafael (h/t Michael Kleinman)

Rome 2: Collapse of Rome
The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians – Peter Heather
How Rome Fell: Collapse of a Superpower – Adrian Goldsworthy
Empire and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe – Peter Heather

Hellenistic Egypt: Monarchy, Society, Economy, Culture – Jean Bingen
Gymnastics of the Mind: Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt – Rafaella Cribiore

India (Maurya)
Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas – Romila Thapar

The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han – Mark Edward Lewis
Through the Jade Gate: China to Rome – Mark E. Hill

Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850 – Karl F. Friday

Woodlands Culture (Hopewell Tradition)
Gathering Hopewell: Society, Ritual and Ritual Interaction – Christopher Carr

Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization – Arthur Demerast
A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya – David Friedel, Linda Schele
Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path – David Friedel, Linda Schele
The Memory of Bones: Body, Being, and Experience among the Classic Maya – Stephen Houston, David Stuart, Karl Taube
Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens – Simon Martin, Nikolai Grube
The Maya – Michael D. Coe

The Cloud People: Divergent Evolution of the Zapotec and Mixtec Civilizations – Kent Flannery, Joyce Marcus

currently seeking: Axial Schools in China, South Asia in general, Aksum (Axum), Nok Culture, good recs on Persia 

VI. Post-Classical (Early Middle Ages, 500 AD – 1000 AD)

China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty – Mark Edward Lewis

Gupta Empire

Sasanian Empire

Western Europe

VII. Poster-Classical (High Middle Ages, 1000 AD – 1300 AD)

VIII. Postest-Classical (Late Middle Ages, 1300 AD – 1492 AD)

IX. Colonization and 16th Century

X. 17th Century

XI. 18th Century

XII. 19th Century

XIII. 20th Century

XIV. Special Topics

Statecraft and Politics
Coercion, Capital, and European States, 990-1992 – Charles Tilly
States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control – Jeffrey Herbst
Blood and Debt: War and the Nation-State in Latin America – Miguel Angel Centeno

Art History
The Story of Art – E. H. Gombrich
History of Art – H.W. Janson
Ars Sacra: Christian Art and Architecture from the Early Beginnings to the Present Day – Rolf Toman

Historical Linguistics
The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language – John McWhorter

XVI. Religion

Partings: How Judaism and Christianity Became Two – Many Authors
Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism – Hershel Shanks

The Origins of Yoga and Tantra: Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century – Geoffrey Samuel (h/t Jayarava on twitter.)
The Buddha and the Sahibs – Charles Allen (h/t Jayarava)
A People’s History of India 3A: The Age of Iron and the Religious Revolution, C. 700 – C. 350 BC – Krishna Mohan Shrimali (h/t Jayarava)



“What is this thing?” A place for history.

“Are you a -” No.

“Is there a method to choosing the quotes?” It’s just things that interest me. I’m going to try and stick to things that aren’t well known. I don’t really have a word for this, but you know those weird tidbits and observations that pop up in secondary sources, the kind you have to stop and think about? Or, alternately, the facts that miraculously place you into the shoes of someone in the past, that provide some deeper sense of what living then was actually like? That.

“What’s the purpose of this?” There really isn’t one. I figured that I would have loved a grab-bag of interesting stuff from the past that otherwise you would have never known without reading some thousand pages of text. I’m saving you effort. Also: it was actually really time consuming to find texts that were well-regarded for each group, so you can use the book list as a reference page.

“How did you find the books?” First I pilfered the r/askhistorians reading list. They get all of the credit for the core of this. Then I started tracking sources, and reviews of sources, and etc. Then I just tracked down the reading lists for whatever classes I could find online. Some of these are probably bad. I’m not a historian.

“Is this exhaustive?” No, why would you even think that? As of writing this, I don’t even have the list past the classical age, much less the readings, much less typing quotes. Even the stuff leading up to that is incredibly shaky. Things will get taken out and other will appear.

“How is this organized?” Roughly by what you would imagine. The main divisions are Neolithic, Eneolithic, Bronze Age, etc., and there are subdivisions for region, and then finally for nations and peoples. It’s organized by “Old World” Chronology (Bronze Age, Classical, Medieval) at the moment for want of a better organizational method.

The most confusing thing will probably be organizing the extremely long civilizations. In lieu of a better system, I’ve decided to classify such empires by their starting date, however early that might be. So any synoptic “Mesopotamia” book will come first on the book list even if it technically stretches into a much later date.

Huge, multi-country events that I couldn’t really categorize are going under their own section. Examples would be WWII, the Black Plague, European Colonization of the New World, etc.

Books that focus on one specific aspect of history over a large swathe of time (art, technology, etc.) will be at the very end of the list organized by topic.

“Can I help/recommend books/give you my favorite stories?” Please! Fill the comments section with book recommendations or stories or whatever. I’ll add your name in as a credit, of course. BUT: This is an attempt to provide sourced and (within my ability) accurate historical [whatever]s, so anything without a source is going to get nuked. Sources should be books or articles, please. Also if you have any more knowledge than I do, then let me know if one of the books I’m using is outdated or controversial or [shitty in some way].

“Your timeline just cuts off at some point.” That would be because I haven’t read that far yet. This is an ongoing process. I started compiling in June 2017, and reading in August. I anticipate it will take…. I don’t know, a lot of years.

“Who are you?” I write articles, mostly about politics. This is a section of my blog that’s relatively unconnected to all the rest of it. There’s an archive and an about and whatever above.

“Wow. You’re a lot nicer here than in your essays.” Yes, I know.

9 thoughts on “Qohelet’s Ossuary”

  1. It’s a bit specific, old, and obscure, but C. Vann Woodward’s “Origins of the New South” (http://amzn.to/2gEyJ4r) is the foundational work detailing the history of the ex-Confederate states in the Gilded Age. Lasch actually touched briefly on the topic in “The True and Only Heaven,” (http://amzn.to/2wDKGAD) but he’s a critic and not an historian. Woodward’s work is a great starting point – even after half a century, the field of Southern history still revolves around him – but if you’re looking to delve deeply, “Origins” is definitely showing its age in some areas, so it’s useful to supplement with more modern treatments.


  2. Recommended: The Art of Not Being Governed, War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe, A History of China (Wiley-Blackwell), A History of India (Wiley-Blackwell), Ancient China and Its Enemies, Empires of Medieval West Africa, Albion’s Seed, American Nations, Empires of the Silk Road, Europe – A History (Norman Davies), The Lost History of Christianity, and Vanished Kingdoms. Hadn’t collected quotes from those, will pass along what I find in the future. Though since Scott Alexander didn’t share the best story in Albion’s Seed in his review, here it goes:

    “During World War II, for example, three German submariners escaped from Camp Crossville, Tennessee. Their flight took them to an Appalachian cabin, where they stopped for a drink of water. The mountain granny told them to “git.” When they ignored her, she promptly shot them dead. The sheriff came, and scolded her for shooting helpless prisoners. Granny burst into tears, and said that she would not have done it if she had known they were Germans. The exasperated sheriff asked what in “tarnation” she thought she was shooting at. “Why,” she replied, “I thought they was Yankees.””

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice to see you’ve discovered Peter Turchin. Secular Cycles is also quite good. Rather dry, but I think also relevant to your writing here.

    I don’t know if you’ve checked out his blog; if not you might find it of interest. He has collected some of his series of posts here: http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/popular/

    You seem quite well read, so it’s maybe presumptous to suggest Durkheim, but his rather brief discussion of anomie in Suicide also seems to have relevance to your latest series. While it’s a widely known concept I haven’t found an extended treatment of it by Durkheim, and what I’ve read by others about it feels unsatisfactory compared to the original coinage.

    Guy Debord is another pretty obvious suggestion. You may be familiar with it already, but if not his concept of the society of the spectacle also seems relevant, although the book of the same name is not very accessible.


  4. This book is great:
    A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1250-1820
    John K. Thornton

    Mostly about the Americas and lots of interesting ideas and facts. Not pop history


  5. I opted into the “$5 per essay” on Patreon, because 1) I’ve enjoyed reading your writing, 2) I want to support this in a concrete way, and 3) Would it be ok to ask for help, if there’s something I don’t understand?

    I feel like asking for clarification, which requires time and effort on your part, without reimbursement on my part, is… kind of a shitty deal for you. Between you, Hotel Concierge, and several other blogs, I need some help to ensure I’m understanding things correctly.


    1. Thanks, and of course. I know I can be a bit unclear. Depending on the question, ask here or by email. I somewhat leave comment sections to their own unless it looks like a pretty direct question to me, maybe, I haven’t figured out a good admin system. Either way: I reply to emails directly and try to do so relatively quickly. Email address is on the about page – luukeep @ outlook.com.


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