Ebola: Epidemics, Pandemics and the Mapping of their Containment


Good summary and research links.  There are some interesting 18-19th Century descriptions of plagues in the western Sahel of Africa, which I wii try to locate and put up.

source: remedianetwork.wordpress

source: remedianetwork.wordpress

This extraordinary map of colonial trade routes—1750-1800—shows the density of international trade, the pathways of yellow fever and cholera, between European nations and the world.[13]http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/01/13/40-more-maps-that-explain-the-world/

Originally posted on REMEDIA:

By Tom Koch

“It was about the Beginning of September, 1664, that I, amongst the Rest of my Neighbours, heard in ordinary Discourse, that the Plague was returned in Holland, for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Roterdam, in the year of 1663.”

Daniel Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year.[1]

That is how it always begins. There is an outbreak out there, somewhere, away in a place that is safely distant. If we care at all it is because we know the place and some of its people. Perhaps we have business with them. And, too, we care because the diseases affecting those distant places sometimes have traveled from out “there” to our “here.” That was certainly true for Defoe’s narrator, whose hopes that plague would not migrate to London were shattered in December of 1665 when the British Bill of Mortality listed…

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ROMARCH: American Journal of Archaeology Open Access (July 2014)


Some Open Access by AJA – great!

Originally posted on [quem dixere chaos]:

American Journal of Archaeology Open Access July 2014

Below is a list of freely available content published in tandem with the July 2014 issue (vol. 118 no. 3):

American Journal of Archaeology – http://www.ajaonline.org

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School Begins – here in Burundi, as it did in the Ancient Middle East

Yesterday school began throughout the country; many bright and shiny faces trooping of to their respective schools. In the ancient Near East, too, school was an important avenue to achieve money and, perhaps,  fame.  Below are a few items from Sumerian history, taken from texts of the time, showing that education  could be as stressful then, as it can be now.
Education of a Sumerian Scribe:
Composition from Nippur c. 2000 B.C.E.1
Master: Schoolboy, where did you go from earliest days?
Boy: I went to school.
Master: What did you do in school?
Boy: I read my tablet, ate my lunch, prepared my tablet, wrote it, finished it; then…Upon the school’s dismissal, I went home, entered the house, (there) was my father sitting. I spoke to my father of my hand copies, then read the tablet to  Him, (and) my father was pleased; truly I found favor with my father. 
“I am thirsty, give me drink; I am hungry, give me bread; wash my feet, set up the bed, I want to go to sleep; wake me early in the morning, I must not be late, (or) my teacher will cane me.”
When I awoke early in the morning, I faced my mother, and said to her: “Give me my lunch, I want to go to school.”  
mother gave me two ‘rolls’…I went to school. In the tablet-house, the monitor said to me: “Why are you late?” I was afraid, my heart beat fast. I entered before my teacher…my ‘school-father’…caned me.
Samuel Noah Kramer, SchooldayS-A Sumerian Composition
A Father’s Concern for His Son’s Education2
Father: “Where did you go?”
Son: “I did not go anywhere.”
Father: “If you did not go anywhere, why are you late? Go to school, stand before your teacher. Read your assignment, open you school-bag, write your tablet, let your big brother (i.e. teacher’s assistant) write your new tablet for you. After you have done your assignment, after you have reported to your overseer, come, please, to me. Do not wander about in the street, return to me. Do you know what I said to you?”
Son: “I know, I will tell it to you.”
Father: “Come, repeat it to me.”
Son: “I will repeat it to you.”
Father: “Tell it to me.”
Son: “I will tell it to you.”
Father: “Come, tell it to me.”
Son: “You told me to go to school, to read my assignments, to open my school-bag, to
write my tablet, my big brother will write my new tablet; after I have done my
assignment, to proceed to my job and, after I have reported to my overseer, to come to
you, you told me.”
Father: “Come now, indeed, be a man. Do not stand about in the public square, do not
wander about in the boulevard; when walking in the street, do not look all around. Be
humble, show fear before your overseer; when you show terror, your overseer will like
HEL231657 The scribe Dudu, a votive to Ningirsu, 2900-2450 BC (diorite) by Sumerian diorite height: 45 Iraq Museum, Baghdad © Held Collection out of copyright

The scribe Dudu.  www.art-prints-on-demand

Self-Praise of Shulgi, King of Ur, for His Education: (Shulgi, 2094–2047 B.C.E.) 3
As a youth, I studied the scribal art in the edubba, from the tablets of Sumer and Akkad,
Of the nobility, no one was able to write a tablet like me,
In the place where the people attend to learn the scribal art,
Adding, subtracting, counting and accounting—I completed all (their courses);
The fair Nanibgal, Nisaba [patron goddess of the scribal art,]
Endowed me generously with wisdom and intelligence.
1 Adapted from Samuel Noah Kramer, “Schooldays: A Sumerian Composition Relating to the Education of a  Scribe,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 69, 4 (1949): 205. The image of the cuneiform tablet is Plate I  between pp. 214 and 215. The article is a good example of how an ancient text that existed in multiple but incomplete copies is analyzed and published. The Sumerian word for school was é-dub-ba “tablet-house,” the pupil was dumu-édub-ba, “son of the tablet-house,” and the trained professional scribes dub-sar “tablet-writers” (pg. 199 of the article).
2 Kramer, “Schooldays,” 208–210, adapted from Kramer and G. R. Driver in Semitic Writing: From Pictograph to Alphabet (London/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 235.
3 Jacob Klein, The Royal Hymns of Shulgi King of Ur: Man’s Quest for Immortal Fame (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1981): 15.
 As shown in Sample Texts from the Ancient Near East, U of Washington, n.d. no author. 
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An Ancient Egyptian Tale – The Eloquent Peasant – الفلاح الفصيح

The tale of The Eloquent Peasant comes down to us from ancient Egypt  by way of four different and incomplete documents - manuscript as well as ostrica.  It is a lovely poem, written in classical Middle Egyptian, composed around 2100 BC .  From these remnants most of the document has been pieced together and, as most probably was the case in ancient Egypt, the text is one of the earliest  documents read by aspiring Egyptologists and, in ancient times, aspiring scribes.  It is an excellent text both in terms of its relative simplicity as well as containing an important – and timeless – moral story.

Based on one of the major literary texts survived from the Middle Kingdom, the classical period of Egyptian literature, The Eloquent Peasant is a combination of a morality/folk tale and a poem. The events are set between 2160 and 2025 BC. When the peasant Khun-anup and his donkey stumble upon the lands of the noble Rensi, the peasant’s goods are confiscated and he’s unjustly accused of theft.

The peasant petitions Rensi who is so taken by the peasant’s eloquence that he reports his astonishing discovery to the king. The king realises the peasant has been wronged but delays judgement [so he] can hear more of his eloquence. The peasant makes a total of nine petitions until finally, his goods are returned.

Portion of the story in the British Museum - EA10274 BM Peasant and Discourse recto-verso

Portion of the story in the British Museum – EA10274 BM Peasant and Discourse recto-verso

Notes on the restoration
The Eloquent Peasant has been restored using the original 35mm camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Center in Giza. The digital restoration produced a new 35 mm internegative. Special thanks to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Source - THE ELOQUENT PEASANT (Shakavi el Flash el Fasi, Egypt/1969). Written by Shadi Abdel Salam.

… [The video] is a gesture towards the humanity of the original — a reminder that the poem was written by an individual for his contemporaries (and not for Egyptologists). This may even be the first time that an Egyptological commentary on a literary text has included a photograph of a living person. And this living and subtle work of art gained new resonance with the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

As author Ahdaf Soueif noted then, it represents an Egyptian tradition of non-violent protest against any abuse of authority, and it is, in the words of Shadi Abd el-Salam, ‘a cry for justice, a cry that persists throughout the ages’.’

Source -Reading an ancient Egyptian poem, by
Richard Parkinson, curator, British Museum

To the left of this blog you will see the copy of a small ostracon, from the Deir el-Medina , I believe, which shows the efforts of a beginning scribe-student practicing his hieroglyphic signs.

In our  study of ancient Egyptian at Berkeley, we used the transcribed text found in Adrien De Buck’s Egyptian Reading Book Vol I Leiden 1948.  It is available on SCRIBD.

The beginning of the story (right to left), as transcribed by De Buck.  Source - De buck, Reading Book

The beginning of the story (reads right to left), as transcribed by De Buck. Source – De buck, Reading Book

The story pits a lowly cultivator - a peasant - against a  nefarious member of the of the ruling class who wishes to steal the market goods of the peasant Hunanup.  The beginning of the tale >

There was a man, Khun-anup by name, a peasant of
Sechet-hemat [Wadi Natrun], and he had a wife, ////// by name.

Then said this peasant to his wife: “Behold, I am
going down to Egypt to bring back bread for my
children. Go in and measure the grain that we still
have in our storehouse, ////////// bushel.” Then he
measured for her eight bushels of grain. Then this
peasant said to his wife:

“Behold, two bushels of grain shall be left for bread for you and the children.

But make for me the six bushels into bread and beer
for each of the days that I shall be on the road.”
Then this peasant went down to Egypt after he had
loaded his asses with all the good produce of Sechethemat.

The remainder of the tale in english, which I’ve reproduced from the site of Reshafim, can be found here.

(روائع الأدب المصري القدیم الفلاح الفصیح ( 2014

(روائع الأدب المصري القدیم الفلاح الفصیح ( 2014

The story is just as meaningful today, and has been translated into egyptian and also a very nice movie has been made of it.

كان یاماكان في مصر زمان راجل فلاح اسمھ “خنوم”، فلاح من “غیط الملح”، متجوز واحدة اسمھا ماري.
وف یوم من الأیام “خنوم” قال لمراتھ:
- اسمعي. أنا طالع مصر اجیب قوت العیال. قومي یا للا
ع الجرن. كیلِّي اللي فاضل فیھ من شعیر السنة اللي فاتت.
مراتھ عملت كده. قام خنوم قال لھا:
- بصي. العشرین قدح دول عشانك انتي والعیال. والستة اللي باقیین اخبزي لي منھم، وخّمري حبة بیرة
لزوم السفر.
وطلع الفلاح علي مصر.
طلع الفلاح علي مصر، بعد ما حِّمل حمیره بكل اللي طایلاه إیده من خیر غیط الملح. كانت شیلة كبیرة، إشي
ملح وإشي نطرون وأعشاب یاما تشفي العلیل وترد الروح، وإشي جلد ضباع وفرو نمور، وحمام وطیور.
حاجات ما تتعدش.

The remainder of the story in arabic can be found here.

The eloqunt peasant - al-Ahram

The eloquent peasant in Cairo – source – al-Ahram

The movie was made several decades ago; and received several prizes.  The use of literary arabic by the peasant provides an authentic turn.  But you don-t have to understand arabic to appreciate the film and its moral.

If you now would like to learn more about hieroglyphs, here is a good place to begin – resources related to the wonderful site of EEF:

EEF-Glyphs and Grammars, Part I: Resources for beginners
[Egyptologists' Electronic Forum (EEF) and the Ancient Egyptian Language list (AEL).]
Posted in Arabic, Egypt-Ancient, Hieroglyphic, History-Ancient, Social inequality | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Dry Season in Burundi – Time to Celebrate! III of III (Urban Elite Marriages)


This is the third, and last blog on marriages during the dry season here in Burundi. The most elaborate – and therefore costly weddings occur during this season. Enjoy!

If possible, a large troupe of  traditional drummers will be invited to perform; traditional dancers might also be invited.

If possible, a large troupe of traditional drummers will be invited to perform; traditional dancers might also be invited.

Originally posted on DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture:

Revised 25 July 2014

Weddings for the wealthy (or aspiring wealthy) here in Burundi can be extremely elaborate.  If at all possible, the family will rent space at a hotel where entertainment, drinks and food will be provided for upwards of 400 guests.  If that is not possible, the family will arrange the fête at a less expensive locale but may pay an upmarket hotel for having photos taken in their grounds.   These grand events have multiplied now that the war is over.

The following weddings took place at the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, a favorite locale for weddings, engagements, and other celebrations.

A stroll by Lake Tanganyika with ntori drummers, di rigeur if the family can affort it

A stroll by Lake Tanganyika with traditional drummers – de rigueur if the family can afford it!


This is Part III of the blog series on wedding and engagement celebrations in Burundi during the dry season.  The first blog looked at the poor and

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Posted in Africa-Central, Burundi, Ceremony, Cuisine, Feasts, Food, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika2, Living here | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Botanical – Brews


An interesting blog on botanical brews from Diane O’Donovan and her excellent writeups on the Voynich manuscript. I’d completely forgotten the exchange that we had on botanical brews – as discussed by me here – http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/banana-beer-and-other-fermented-drinks-in-africa/. Diane carries out the discussion in her blog, below-referenced.

Diane has a variety of fascinating plates and data on botanical aspects of this medieval European manuscript; very worth checking out!

Banana beer is frequently on sale in rural markets and is an important micro-enterprise for women who run a brewing enterprise.  The goal is a refreshing drink during the heat of day – not a high alcohol item.  The seller is pouring beer into a gourd, which the customer will drink with a straw that is generally made from a local reed.  I took this photo at a local market in northern Burundi.

Banana beer is often on sale in rural markets and is an important micro-enterprise for women who run a small brewing enterprise. The goal is a refreshing drink during the heat of day – not a high alcohol item. The seller is pouring beer into a gourd, which the customer will drink with a straw that is generally made from a local reed. I took this photo at a local market in northern Burundi.


Originally posted on voynichimagery:

Exemplary type: f. 13r. Musaceae

root-mnemonic 'Brews'

root-mnemonic ‘Brews’ f13r VG enlargement

Having concluded that the group of plants shown on f.13r came from the Musaceae  -  and thus agreeing (as I learned months later) with Edith Sherwood, I’d meanwhile been puzzled by the form given the root and even more the side-shoots’.

f28r Ensete VG enlargment

f.28r Ensete VG enlargement

Other folios given this type of root – more or less -  included f.28r which I identify as the Ensete. I’ll post its analysis  next.


f 21v Hops VG enlargement

Later, Dana Scott identified f.21v  as Hops. The identification threw me, because hops is known only in the northern hemisphere, especially in Russia through to Ireland, but it seems reasonable enough and so I adopt it, bemusement notwithstanding.

Hops is an annual climber, and the bitter melon a true vine. Their leaves are also similar, but leaves are omitted as…

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Provisioning Rome with Grain – And the Workers must eat, Too!

Rachel Laudan has put up a most interesting blog on food production and distribution in ancient times, focusing on the problems of provisioning Rome; she says >

Provisioning Rome, one of the world’s largest cities, if not the largest with as many as a million people by about 55 B.C., was one of the greatest challenges of the Ancient World.

Bread was the basis of the diet, supplying most of the calories for most of the population. So getting grains, particularly wheat, into Rome was the major provisioning problem…

For most of history, travel by water where the current or the wind supplied the power was much, much cheaper than travel by land where animals (human porters, mules, oxen) provided the power. Those animals had to be fed. Even if there was a lot of grass or other food along the way, they needed grains for energy. As quartermasters from Alexander’s time to World War I knew, animals quickly went through the grains they were transporting.

Source: Rachel Laudan, What the Roman Empire Knew About Food Miles

And where was a large part of the grain destined for Rome produced?  Egypt – ‘The Gift of the Nile’ – which, during the period discussed by Rachel, was a major ‘grain colony’ administered by the Roman government.  Enormous amounts of grain were shipped from Egypt to Rome; and the ability to ship grain by water – practically from the fields in the Nile Valley to Rome itself  - was a major attraction.

How much of a producer’s fields were destined for these markets, and how much was consumed domestically? The following manuscript, written in the 3rd or 4th Century AD  (during Roman occupation of Egypt), tells us a little about local consumption (in Egypt).  It is a document recording payment in-kind – in grain – which is due to the fuller Heraklas for labors completed.

P. Mich. inv. 1507 was acquired by the University of Michigan in 1924. Source - Sheridan

P. Mich. inv. 1507 was acquired by the University of Michigan in 1924. Source – Sheridan-Order for Delivery of Wheat and Lentils.

Agathinos to Barbarus his brother, greetings.
Measure out for Heraklas the fuller [laborer],  for salary, three artabas* of wheat and two artabas of lentils.
Totals 3 artabas of wheat, 2 artabas of lentils. I have signed for . . . of wheat . . . of lentils

Source: Jennifer Sheridan Moss, ‘Order for Delivery of Wheat and Lentils,’ in Papyrological texts in honor of Roger S. Bagnall / edited by Rodney Ast, Hélène Cuvigny, Todd M. Hickey, and Julia Lougovaya.
(American Studies in Papyrology ; volume 53)

It is probable that Heraklas is an overseer of common laborers working in the fields of his brother Barbarus; we simply do not have corroborating documentation, for there is no provenance or other manuscripts related to this slip. However we can surmise that the writer and his brother would have been subject to taxes, paid (often) in grain to colonial representatives of Rome located in Alexandria.  In this way, the administration of Rome worked to assure supplies of grain to the capital - a strategy that ultimately contributed to a near-collapse of Egyptian agriculture.

More about these and related events to come in later blogs.

* artaba – dry measure used in ancient Egypt, equal to approximately 27.13 liters.

Posted in Alexander the Great, Colonial, Colonialism, Egypt-Ancient, Food, Graeco-Roman era, History-Ancient | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments