Prin 2009


The project focuses activities of a multidisciplinary group of researchers (Near Eastern archaeologists, archaeozoologists, geologists, chemists, Semitic ephigraphists, biblists, historians of religions, historians of medicine, IT experts, historians), belonging to eight different institutions and organized into two operative units (Sapienza, ISCIMA) on the study of catastrophic events of natural or anthropic origin between Palestine and Egypt in pre-classical periods, as registered in archaeological and geological record (particularly through field investigation at the Bronze Age sites of Tell es-Sultan/Jericho in Palestine and Khirbet al-Batrawy in Jordan) and reprocessed in Egyptian and Biblical literary and epigraphic sources.

AIM of the project is the development of methodologies for the study of destruction layers in archaeological excavations; the experimentation of computer models allowing to reconstruct complex historical/natural events (man/environment interaction); sieving and cataloguing of Egyptian sources pointing to specific targets (data concerning relationships with Palestine during the Old Kingdom; Egyptian military interventions in Palestine in the first half of 2nd millennium BC; individuation of Santorin explosion; documentation about epidemic diseases in pre-classical Egypt).

Central in Biblical accounts and in ancient Egyptian etiological myths, natural catastrophes (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods), as wars, famines, and epidemics deeply affected the ideological-religious thought of the Canaanean (and later on of the Hebrews) and of the ancient Egyptians, revealing the divine intervention in human history. The research of such ancient catastrophic images influenced the first steps of archaeology in the Near East and in Egypt, but also of the first paleo-geological researches (e.g. the Flood). As the approach became more scientific, the attention of the scholars shifted from the identification of a single event in the written sources, to the theme for which it stood in the ideological complex of the culture in question. On a strictly archaeological ground, destruction layers started to be evaluated for their potentiality to provide a complete and accurate (as for stratigraphy, chronology, and material culture representation) sketch of the city or site subject of the excavations.

Two parallel levels 1.Inquiry of material evidence of catastrophes, investigated either from the archaeological point of view, through the excavations at Jericho and Batrawy, and documentation from other Palestinian and Transjordanian sites (Sapienza), or from the paleo-geologic and paleo-environmental one (Sapienza 2), and 2. collection and cataloguing of data from Egyptian sources (ISCIMA), besides the in-depth analysis of the same themes in their Biblical elaboration (Sapienza 3). Research is articulated in four main topics: 1. Catastrophes (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods); 2. Wars; 3) Famines; 4) Epidemics. For each topic each research team pursues specific goals (see Mod. B) during the first and second year of project. Besides the continuous exchange of information through the website, the following activities are scheduled: a) a starting workshop for methodological planning and uniformity (in cooperation with CNRS and École Française de Rome); b) two thematic workshops, respectively dealing on catastrophes in archaeological and geological record (org. by Sapienza) and on catastrophic events in written sources and Biblical texts (org. by ISCIMA), at the end of the first year of research; c) a final Conference for the synthesis of results (also articulated following the four topics).

Scholars and researchers involved in the project are, for each unit: SAPIENZA = 16 (1 PAC/coord., 1 First Researcher, 2 Researchers, 3 Contract Professors, 5 PhD candidates/students, 1, 3. Stud. of spec.) in 3 Teams: 1 ARCHAELOGISTS (Sapienza – Dept. of Science of Antiquities) – excavation of destruction layers of the end of the Early and Middle Bronze Ages at Jericho and Batrawy; sampling for chemical (ISCIMA/IIA) and geomagnetic (Sap) analyses and realization of virtual simulators of catastrophes and of maps on googlearth platform with collected data; GEOLOGISTS - paleo-seismic and paleo-environmental study of Palestine, geomagnetic analyses of destruction and volcanic layers from Jericho, Batrawy and Eastern Egyptian Delta (samples ISCIMA Unit); HISTORIANS OF RELIGION AND BIBLISTS – study of narrations and themes of the Old Testament concerning catastrophes. ISCIMA = 6 (1 Technologist/coord., 1 First researcher, 1 technician, 2 researchers, 1 PAC) in 3 Teams: 1 EGYPTOLOGISTS- (1 Pont. Biblical Inst.) sieving of Egyptian sources; 2 CHEMISTS (CNR Institute Atmospheric Pollution)- characterization and study of soils from destruction layers; 3 HISTORIANS OF ANCIENT MEDICINE (University of Calabria).