Middle Eastern

Cultures of the Middle Eastern lands, such as the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Israel, and Arabia

"XII scripta" game pieces found in Turkey

Ludus duodecim scriptorium or XII scripta was a popular Roman game played with dice on a 12-square gameboard. Recently, two game pieces, believed to have been used for XII scripta were discovered during a dig in Kibyra, in the southern Turkish province of Burdur’s Gölhisar district.. (photo)

Glassware evidence of East meets West

The discovery of a glass dish in a burial mound in Japan provides new evidence that contact existed between eastern Asia and the Roman Empire in the 5th century. The clear dark blue dish is believed to have originated in Sassanid Persia. (photo)

Future in question for the Hagia Sophia

Over the centuries, Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia has been a Byzantine church, a mosque, a Catholic church and a museum, but changing politics may take a toll on the glorious 6th century edifice. Stuart Williams of Art Daily has the story. (photo)

Precious manuscripts threatened by jihadists in Iraq

The fighting in Iraq continues to threaten, not just the populace, but historical treasures and manuscripts. Recently a Dominican Order of priests, known as the Order of Preachers, managed to rescue a number of these precious documents when Islamic State jihadists advanced into the region. (photos)

14th century caravansary open to the public in Jerusalem

Near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem lies a complex of ancient buildings including Ahar Kotlenu a refurbished 14th century caravansary, an inn for caravans, now open to the public. The site includes a 3,500 square feet (325 square meters) grand hall with cross-vaulted stone roof held aloft by six reinforced pillars.

Gagliana Grossa subject of study by Texas A&M students

In 1583, the merchant ship Gagliana Grossa sank off the coast of Biogradna Moru, in Croatia. Now the shipwreck has become a subject of study by a group of Texas A&M students led by Filipe Castro, in partnership with Irena Radic Rossi from the University of Zadar. (video)

Large gold medallion centerpiece of new exhibit at the Israel Museum

An "exceptional" gold medallion, found in 2013 at the base of the Temple Mount, will be showcased as part of a new exhibit at the Israel museum. Dating to the 7th century, the large golden medallion, embossed with Jewish motifs, is believed to have decorated a Torah scroll. (photo)

"Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy" at the Sackler

Islamic art does not depict the human form, but it often finds its greatest inspiration in calligraphy. A new exhibit at the Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. is devoted to nasta’liq, Persian calligraphy developed from the 14th to 16th centuries. Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy will be featured at the gallery from September 13, 2014 through March 22, 2015.

Oldest known siddur displayed in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum recently played host to the Book of Books exhibition which featured the world's oldest siddur, a 1,200-year-old Hebrew manuscript still in its original binding. (photo)

The search for Süleyman's heart

In the summer of 1566, the great Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent was on a hard-fought attempt to capture Vienna, but his dream was not to be. The great leader died in his campaign tent, and his heart was buried there. Now the ongoing quest to discover the burial site of the heart continues with Norbert Pap, a professor of political geography at the nearby University of Pécs.

Sackler Gallery presents Persian Calligraphy exhibit

The Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. will present Nasta'liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy beginning September 13, 2014. The exhibit will showcase Persian calligraphy from the 14th-16th centuries.

Medieval bath found in Shkodër excavations

An archaeological team from the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre of the University of Warsaw, Poland has discovered a 14th century bath in northwestern Albania. The structure combines technologies of the Roman and Ottoman Empires.

Egyptian textiles documented by British Museum

Amandine Mérat and Emily Taylor of the British Museum recently completed the task of auditing, documenting and re-housing 1,800 textiles of the Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic eras. In an article on the museum's website, the two discuss the process of handling the spectacular artifacts in the collection. (photos)

Plumbing problem reveals crusader murals

A burst pipe in Saint-Louis Hospice, a Jerusalem hospital, has led workers to rediscover 19th century wall murals depicting "crusader knights and symbols of medieval military orders." The paintings were the work of Comte Marie Paul Amédée de Piellat, a French count, who believed himself descended from the knights. (photos)

The Muwashshaha of al-Andalus research online

In a recent issue of the Falcon Banner, the news magazine of the Kingdom of Calontir, HE Qadiya Catalina de Arazuri shares her research for a Kingdom A&S entry: The Muwashshaha of al-Andalus.

Incredible Lod Roman mosaics to go on display in England

A collaboration between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the British Museum will bring the amazing 3rd century Roman floor mosaics from Lod, Israel to Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, Engand for an exhibit from June 5 – November 2, 2014. The mosaics are "one of the oldest surviving complete Roman mosaics" ever discovered. (photos)

"Clothing of al-Andalus" research paper

In a recent edition of the Falcon Banner, the online news magazine for the Kingdom of Calontir, HE Qadiya Catalina de Arazuri shares her research for the recent Kingdom A&S event on Clothing of al-Andalus.

Ancient barley virus carried by Crusaders

A team of British scientists from the University of Warwick has been able to sequence the genome of ancient RNA thanks to the study of ancient barley from Egypt. The fossilized grain contained the Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus, believed to be a modern disease, which may have been transported to Egypt by Crusaders in the Seventh Crusade.

Walking Acre

"The Old City incorporates a multitude of forts, synagogues, mosques and churches, as well as a labyrinth of alleyways that date back centuries to the early Ottoman era and before. And there are plenty of the eight-centuries-old remains of an era when the Crusaders ruled this part of the world," writes Barry Davis in a recent touristy article about Isreal's city of Acre for the Jerusalem Post.

EtymArab created to help study history of the Arabic language

Stephan Guth, Professor of Arabic at the University of Oslo, has created EtymArab, an electronic database designed to collect and make available research on the history of the Arabic Language. The first part, containing 1,000 words and concepts, is now online.

"Impressive basilica" unearthed at Moshav Aluma

Archaeologists from the Israel Land Authority have discovered a 6th century Byzantine basilica, featuring "magnificent mosaic" floors, at Moshav Aluma, near Pelugot Junction, in Israel. (photo)

Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection: "a unique and vibrant window into a lost age"

In 1896, twin sisters Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson brought a collection of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts from Egypt and deposited them at the United Reform Church's Westminster College in England. Recently Oxford and Cambridge Universities teamed to buy the collection at auction for UK£1.2m.

St. Chrisopher penny oldest to depict Bohemian king

A silver coin, found recently in the crusader city of Acre, is believed to be the earliest depicting a king of Bohemia ever found. The coin bears the image of St Christopher and the inscription Zl Rex Boemo, king of the Bohemians. Experts place the date of minting in the 13th century. (photos)

Byzantine monastery to become mosque

The 5th century Byzantium Monastery of Stoudios in Istanbul, Turkey is scheduled to become a mosque after renovation concludes in 2014. The site will be renamed İmrahor İlyas Bey Mosque.

Persian arms and armor articles online

On his website, Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani has posted a number of his articles on Iranian and Persian armoring and swordsmithing. Most of the articles are available in English in PDF format.

Abu Raihan al-Biruni and the discovery of America

In a feature article for History Today, S. Frederick Starr of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, looks at the claimants to the discovery of the New World, including Abu Raihan al-Biruni, an Islamic scholar from Central Asia, who "may have discovered the New World centuries before Columbus – without leaving his study."

Viking trade connected with Persian and Byzantine Empires

A new study by Marianne Vedeler, Associate Professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, shows that Norwegian Vikings enjoyed a brisk silk trade with the Persian and Byzantine Empires. The study was based partially on silk fragments found In an Oseberg ship. (photo)

Oldest wine cellar discovered

Israeli and American archaeologists have uncovered what may have been the world's oldest wine cellar in the Galilee, Business Standard reports. The cellar is estimated to be about 3,700 years old and to have held up to 2,000 liters of strong, sweet wine.

Crusader hospital identified in the heart of Jerusalem

For centuries, a huge, 150,000 square feet building in the heart of Jerusalen was used as a fruit and vegetable market. Now the deserted site has been identified as the largest hospital in the Middle East during the Crusader period.

Medieval rogues

Rogues, vagabonds, and wandering poets... characters from D&D or perhaps a videogame? In the medieval underworld of the Islamic Middle East, these shady characters made up the Banu Sasan, "a hidden counterpoint to the surface glories of Islam’s golden age." Mike Dash has the feature article for Smithsonian's Past Imperfect blog.