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/


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!

[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.

Source – World Cinema Foundation

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.

Bread and beer were the key elements of nutrition in ancient Egypt – and it is therefore no surprise that he focusses on grain by which to make these, both for himself on the road and for his wife and children.  I’ve put in bold lettering [english, above] these key ingredients in the story.

(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 , , , | 5 Comments

Cuisine and Crops in Central Africa – Colonial and Contemporary – Pt. 3

Cuisine before Colonization:

What did local people eat, prior to the introduction of New World crops?  I ask this, because from the prior blog on Cuisine and Crops in Central Africa,  it is primarily New World crops that were mentioned by the explorers Speke and Burton.  This leaves the impression of a very impoverished range of indigenous foods.

However,  based even on the range of indigenous plants that are today used  in rural areas,  it is certain that far more indigenous foods were eaten during and prior to the colonial era –  about which explorers such as Speke and Burton were not familiar, or perhaps even knew the names.  So, a few words on indigenous foods before proceeding.

A Note on Indigenous foods today:

One exercise that I like to do in my training with technicians working in local agriculture and livestock projects entails finding out what is locally eaten. Most trainees, having been educated according to the principal that ‘the only good crop is a fully domestic crop’, are generally surprised by the variety of plants, seeds, and fruits that are collected or semi-cultivated.  And many are similarly surprised at the range of crops or crop varieties that are regularly cultivated but that fall outside of the focus of modern agronomy.

The following photo shows a trainee discussing some of the results of a survey last year in eastern Burundi that was conducted with local farmers as part of a training exercise I conducted. The crop Muciabanki, that is listed towards the bottom of the chart, is a variety of wild amaranths that is very delicious and exceedingly hardy in low rainfall areas.  We have therefore introduced  the variety in a community near Lake Tanganyika, where there are similar agro-ecological conditions and where there is a very strong market for lenga-lenga, as amaranths is known.

Trainees initially  had some difficulty categorizing indigenous foods that were collected or cropped as being separate from collecting the leaves of tomatoes, red peppers, sweet potatoes, and several other crops that are not indigenous and that are cropped.

The primary categorization being used by the trainees was ‘collection’ rather than whether or not the crop was ‘indigenous’ and so time was spent in this particular training course  in working out these differences, and this led to discussions about what ‘indigenous’ actually means in a Burundian context.

A trainee discussing locally collected herbs, vegetables and nuts

A trainee discussing locally collected herbs, vegetables and nuts

Some of the nuts and fruits that, while growin wild, were carefully protected from cutting and otherwise damaging the trees.

Some of the nuts and fruits that, while growing wild, were carefully protected from cutting and otherwise damaging the trees.

What and how much people collect from the bush – and how many indigenous (but largely unrecognized) crops are cultivated –  depends on a variety of factors, including season, relative success of crops, socio-economic status, specific agro-ecological zone, etc.  That would have been also the case in earlier periods, to which we now return.

Returning to colonial and pre-colonial agriculture and cuisine:

In spite of the lacunae, we know that primary nutritional sources for energy – aside from millet and sorghum in areas where they could be grown – consisted of a variety of indigenous gourds and tubers – some of which were highly poisonous or caused sickness without proper and often complicated processing. This is also the case today with many wild or semi-domesticated crops, for in the process of domestication, crops have been ‘tamed’, both in terms of ease of processing as well as in taste factor.

The variety of different crops and collected foods required an array of implements for all stages of the agricultural round as well as for processing.  The specific tools themselves depended on the area, but could be quite complex, as these drawings from the Nyam-nyam in Uganda show:

Source:  Speke 1864

Source: Speke 1864 (Need to verify this)

Hoes constructed like this can most easily break up large clots of soil and clear weeds.  Similar designs are still used today.  Source:  Varify 1818

Hoes from the eastern Congo, 1818.  Traditional metal-working throughout tropical and sub-tropical (central) Africa focused primarily on tools and weapons.  In some regions, such as here in Burundi, metal working has been a major occupation of the BaTwa pygmies.  Hoes constructed like this can most easily break up large clots of soil and clear weeds. Similar designs are still used today.   Source: verify

A woman with hoe and lunch balanced on her head, off to work in the field in upcountry Burundi.

A woman with hoe and lunch balanced on her head, off to work in the field in upcountry Burundi.

There are a number of other wild foods that are know to have been collected during the colonial and pre-colonial era, including flour made out of the seeds of the lotus and several other plants (manioc, maize, etc),   and eaten as a kind of porridge – but NEVER BREAD/S.  Lotus were also used as food in southern Africa and in the Nile Valley; I will do a separate blog about this.

Mildly alcoholic drinks made of bananas were – and continue to be important as sources of nutrition as well as simple enjoyment in social gatherings.

Pombe Brewing can be a great social activity. 1864

Pombe Brewing can be a great social activity. 1864

More details and discussion to follow…

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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.

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 – https://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.


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