Ancient Dictionary

Assyrian cuneiform
Wonder what this says

After ninety years, a group of scholars at the University of Chicago have completed a dictionary of Ancient Assyrian. The details are in this article in Yahoo news. I think this is an amazing accomplishment and I wish I could get ahold of a copy. It’s interesting that according to the researchers people have changed much in the last 3000 years.

The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world’s first urban civilization,” he says. “Virtually everything that we take for granted … has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing.

“If we ever want to understand our roots,” Stein adds, “we have to understand this first great civilization.”

The translated cuneiform texts — originally written with wedged-shaped characters — reveal a culture where people expressed joy, anxiety and disappointment about the same events they do today: a child’s birth, bad harvests, money troubles, boastful leaders.

“A lot of what you see is absolutely recognizable — people expressing fear and anger, expressing love, asking for love,” says Matthew Stolper, a University of Chicago professor who worked on the project on and off over three decades. “There are inscriptions from kings that tell you how great they are, and inscriptions from others who tell you those guys weren’t so great. … There’s also lot of ancient versions of `your check is in the mail.’ And there’s a common phrase in old Babylonian letters that literally means `don’t worry about a thing.'”

This may not seem a very practical thing since the language died out around AD 100. Still, not everything has an immediate useful application and this project is more worthwhile than many I could think of.

A page from the dictionary

Worms from Hell

Some more interesting news from the world of science. According to this article in the Washington Post, scientists Gaetan Borgonie and Tullis Onstott have found nematodes or roundworms living more than a mile beneath the earth’s surface. They found them in the Beatrix gold mine. It is quite a discovery since no one had thought such complex organisms could live so far underground.

“This is telling us something brand new,” said Onstott, whose pioneering work in South Africa over the past decade has revolutionized the understanding of microbial life known generally as extremophiles, which live in places long believed to be uninhabitable.

“For a relatively complex creature like a nematode to penetrate that deep is simply remarkable,” he said.

An article introducing the subterranean nematodes, one of which was formally named Halicephalobus mephisto after the “Lord of the Underworld,” appears in Wednesday’s edition of the journal Nature. H. mephisto was found in water flowing from a borehole about one mile below the surface in the Beatrix gold mine.

Borgonie said that although nematodes are known to exist on the deep ocean floor, they have generally not been found more than 10 to 20 feet below the surface of the ground or the ocean bed. But he saw no reason they wouldn’t be found farther down. The nematodes he ultimately discovered live in extremely hot water coming from boreholes fed by rock fissures and pools.


This is especially promising in the search for extraterrestrial life, since on a planet like Mars, under the surface could be more hospitable for life than the surface.

Most life on earth, that we are familiar with, is dependent on the process of photosynthesis, either directly or indirectly. Obviously this is not an option a mile underground. These nematodes feed on bacteria who gain nourishment from molecules broken up by the heat of radioactive decay.

The world is stranger and more wonderful than we can imagine.


Today is the 67th anniversary of D-Day, when thousands of allied troops landed on the coast of Normandy. This, along with the Battle of Stalingrad, turned the tide of the European theater of World War II and was the beginning of the end for one of the most evil regimes in history.

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