The Multiethnic Origins of the Muslim Conquest

Episode 19: Islam and the Caliphates

Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (2014)

Dr Kenneth Harl

Film Review

In this lecture, Harl focuses mainly on the battle for control of the Muslim caliphate following the birth of Islam in the 7th century AD.

The key dates he cites are

622 AD – the prophet Muhammad migrates to Medina from Mecca owing to conflict with Mecca elites.

632 AD – Muhammad dies after returning to Mecca with his followers.

633 AD – Muslim armies conquer the Sassanid Empire (Persia).

634-634 AD – Muslim armies conquer the Middle East Byzantine provinces and the Levant. [1]

641 AD – Muslim armies conquer Egypt (where they are welcomed after seven centuries of oppressive Roman rule).

642 AD – Muslim armies march east across North Africa and west into lower Indus Valley (modern day Pakistan).

656 AD – Arab army mutinies in Egypt (over lack of pay), marches back to Medina and kills the reigning caliph Uthman, who they replace with Ali, a Shia [2] cousin of Muhammad. A civil war ensures, with the Sunni Ummayad caliphate eventually assuming power  and establishing Damascus as their capitol.

700 AD The Sunni Ummayad faces serious military (suffering defeat in their efforts to conquer Constantinople, the Khazars and the Turks in Transoxiana [3], political and fiscal challenges. Muslim soldiers (many of whom are nomad mercenaries) garrisoned in the steppes cities become increasingly independent and “rapacious.”

711 AD – Muslim armies cross into Iberian peninsular, smash the Visigoth kingdom and overrun most of Spain.

749 AD – Umayyad caliphate overthrown by a mixed army (many of whom identify as Shia) of Arab tribal regiments and Persian converts. Replaced by Abbasid caliphate (descended from Muhammad’s uncle), who move capitol to Baghdad. [4]

809 AD – New civil war results from the conflict between the brothers al-Amin and al-Ma’mun over the Abbasid Caliphate succession.

909 AD – organized Berbers sweep across North Africa to occupy Egypt where they set up a Fatima (Shia) caliphate which, in alliance with the Byzantine Empire, takes over Baghdad and much of the Levant, as well as the holy cities on the Arabian peninsula.

945 AD – Seljiud Turks who have converted to Islam invade from the East and restore power in Baghdad to the Abbassid caliphs.


[1] The Levant refers to a large ancient historical area on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.

[2] Shia Islam, the second largest branch of the religion, holds that Muhammad designated his cousin Ali as his successor.

[3] Transoxiana is the Roman name for the central steppes region roughly corresponding to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and southern Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

[4] According to Harl, this move cements the caliphate in the Persian (Sassanid) cultural world and turns the empire from an Arab empire to a multi-ethnic Muslim empire. Ultimately 34 of the 37 Abbassid caliphs were sons of non-Arab Persian slaves.

Film can be viewed free with a library card at Kanopy.

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5694984/5695024

Mesopotamia: Rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire

Episode 23: The Assyrian Empire, Warfare and Collapse

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

This lecture manly covers the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire after the fall of Assyria. In fact, Babylonia would expand to encompass most of former Assyria, except for the western regions. With the support of Egypt, the western city-states (in the Levant) resisted Babylonian occupation.

Podany gives the specific example of Judah, which was invaded by the Babylonian king/general in 587 BC for refusing to pay tribute to Babylonia. After capturing large numbers of Jewish prisoners and deporting them to Babylonia, king Nebuchadnezzar II put a pro-Babylonian king in charge of Judah, but he rebelled as well.

This resulted in the 587 BC Siege of Jerusalem and capture and deportation of yet more Jewish captives.

Although as a king/general he led many battles, Nebuchadnezzar II prided himself much more on the building programs he carried out in the city of Babylon, which was the biggest city in the region until Rome was built several centuries later.

The buildings he commissioned included a temple consisting of a seven-level high ziggurat and a massive palace housing numerous offices and workshops and apartments, as well as the king’s residence and throne room. Unlike other kings, the Neo-Babylonian king covered the walls with vibrantly colorful motifs instead of victorious battles. He also surrounded the city with a wall wide enough to drive a chariot on it.

Although clay tablets from Nebuchadnezzar II’s empire include many references to foreign captives (some of whom became quite wealthy) who came to live in Babylonia, very few of them were slaves.


*After King Solomon’s death in 930 BC, Israel split into two kingdoms, a southern kingdom called Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. The latter was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian empire in 722 BC. Judah remained independent until 586 BC, when it was conquered by the Neo-Babylonian empire.

Film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5754238/5754282

 

Mesopotamia: The Collapse of the Assyrian Empire

Episode 22: The Assyrian Empire, Warfare and Collapse

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

At the time of its collapse the Assyrian empire, the largest the world had known, extended across Mesopotamia, Syria, Levant and parts of Anatolia.

Assyria became more unstable during the last century before its final collapse in 612 BC. Provincial kings had allowed provincial governors to become too independent, and civil rebellions were widespread. King Tiglath-Pilesur III (745-727 BC) temporarily increased the king’s power by making provinces smaller, appointing governors who directly accountable to the king and improved provincial communication (with horses and teams of rides). However he proved unable to prevent Assyria’s eventual downfall.

The province of Babylonia enjoyed special privileges under Assyrian rule (see The Special Status of Babylonia Under Assyrian Rule), with the whole empire adopting its language (Akkadian) and religion. In fact, it was common for either the king or his son to rule Babylonia directly. This changed after the death of Tiglath-Pilesur III, with the Babylonian throne changing hands 20 times in 100 years.

Under the reign of Sennacherib (704-681 BC), the Elamites supported a Babylonian revolt against Assyria and installation of their own king. Sennacherib’s army invaded to suppress the revolt and put his own son on the Babylonian thrown. A second invasion became necessary when the son was “disappeared” and a coalition of Babylonian. This time Elamite and Chaldean [1] forces fought Sennacherib’s army to a standstill.

In 689 BC, Sennacherib laid siege to the city of Babylon for 15 months, eventually decimating it palaces and temples. Worse still the the statue of the king of the gods Marduk was moved to the capitol of Assyria. Until it was returned in 668 BC, the annual reconsecration ceremony ceased to occur and Babylonia lacked (in the view of the population) a true king,

In 687 BC Sennacherib was assassinated by his sons, resulting in the first of many Assyrian civil wars.

In 671 Assyria conquered Egypt for the first time. They ruled the the country until 669 BC, when southern Egypt rebelled. Subsequent campaigns to retake southern Egypt were expensive and unsuccessful.

In 663 Assyrian king Asherbanipal (669 – 631 BC) [2] successfully conquered and occupied Elam.

Following his death, his son Ashur-etil-ilani became king of Assyria and installed his brother on the throne of Babylonia. Assisted by the Elamites, his brother led an uprising against Assyrian rule in 640 BC.

In 617 BC, the Babylonian king, with the support of Elamites and the Medes, [3] Babylonia invaded Assyria proper and conquered several regions west of the Euphrates.

In 612 BC, this coalition sacked Nineveh, [4] the new capitol of Assyria, with Babylonia taking control of much of Assyria – forming the Neo-Babylonian Empire.


[1] Chaldea was a small country that between the late 10th or early 9th and mid-6th centuries BC, whose population was assimilated into the indigenous population of Babylonia

[2] Ruled a loose coalition of city states in Media.

[3]See History of Assyria: Ashurbanipal’s Library and Gilgamesh

[4] Ashurbanipal moved the capitol of Assyria to Nineveh around 700 BC. At time it was sacked, it was the largest city in the world (est pop 230,000).

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5754238/5754282

How Civilization Collapsed in the Late Bronze Age

Episode 18: The Late Bronze Age and End of Peace

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

This lecture concerns the mysterious collapse of all Near East civilizations during the 12th and 11th century BC.

Podany begins by describing the vast Near East trade network established by 1300 BC. The immense wealth of this is clear from the remains of a ship sunk off the coast of Turkey around 1250 BC. Departing from the kingdom of Alashiya (Cyprus), from its cargo it had clearly visited several Mediterranean ports before sinking off the coast of Anatolia.

In its hold were 10 tons of copper ingots from Alashiya, glass ingots and a ton of tin from Canaan, 150 enormous jars of terebinth resin (used as incense and in perfumed oils), ebony, ivory, three ostrich eggs, spices and olives from Africa, Mycenaean* drinking vessels and swords, 800 pounds of Egyptian gold, glass and shell Murax (a vivid purple dye) from Syria.

The Late Bronze Ange diplomatic/trading alliance first started to break down when Hittite invaded Canaan, which was under Egyptian control. The result would be a a direct confrontation between Egyptian and Hittite armies at the Battle of Qadesh in 1274 BC. The outcome was a stalemate, with the Hittites continuing to control the territory they conquered at Qadesh.

A century later the Hatti (Hittite) empire would collapse (1185 BC). Babylonia collapsed in 1155 BC, after being invaded by the Elamites (from Syria). The Alashyian kingdom on Cypress collapsed around the same period, as did the Assyrian empire (formed when eastern Hatti declared independence from Hittite-controlled western Hatti) shrinking back to the single city-state Assur. In 1070 BC, Egypt’s New Kingdom collapsed after 400 years of rule.

The root cause of these simultaneous collapses is obscure. There are  written accounts (the most complete by pharaoh Ramses III) of unidentified Sea Peoples* in kilts attacking major cities and destroying palaces and citadels. Some historians blame grain shortages famines and others a flurry of earthquakes and fires that destroyed several cities.

The explanation Podany (and I myself) seems to prefer relates to popular anger and civil unrest stemming from the heavy oppression and exploitation the opulent elite of these empires imposed on their impoverished populations. This is supported by evidence that 1) only palaces and citadels were destroyed in most cities, with private dwellings left untouched 2) only some cities were attacked while others remained intact and 3) many inland cities beyond the reach of the “Sea Peoples” were destroyed.

This theory is consistent with research David Graeber and David Wengrow present in The Dawn of Everything reveal that (prior to the last 500 years) humankind has had an extremely low tolerance of extreme exploitation. See https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2021/12/14/the-dawn-of-everything-a-new-history-of-so-called-civilization/


*Evidence, along with two Mycenaean ambassadors on board prior to the shipwreck, that the Mycenaean Greek city-states (which preceded the classical Greek city-states by several hundred centuries – see https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2021/11/16/the-prehistoric-phoenician-hebrew-minoan-and-mycenaean-civilizations/) participating in the large Near East trading and diplomatic network established in the Late Bronze Age (1600 – 1200 BC).

**Believed to originate from Mediterranean island near Cyprus, Anatolia and Mycenaea), these Sea Peoples have been identified as originating from Pelest (origin of the name and the ancient Philistine people), Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denyen and Weshesh. Egypt repelled them, though some settled north of Egypt in Caanan. Podany raises the possibility that the Trojan War described by Homer in the Iliad was a Sea Peoples war.

This film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5754238

Mesopotamia and the Birth of Modern Diplomacy

Episode 16: Princes Hadu-Hepa, Diplomacy and Marriage

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

This lecture is devoted to the intricate system of Near East diplomatic relations in the second millenium BC. The major kingdoms Podany discusses includes Mittani kingdom (in Syria), the Hatti Kingdom (home to the Hittites), Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt.

From 1550-1100 BC, Egypt occupied the Levant. When they began a military campaign against Mittani in the 14th century BC, the latter allied with Assyria, Hatti, and and Babylon in trying to draw Egypt into a regional peace treaty by showering the pharaoh with lavish gifts. Although Egypt war more powerful than the other four kingdoms, he eventually agreed to the treaty and the raids into Mittani ceased.

The pharaohs began sending messages written in Akkadian*, exchanging lavish gifts** with the Mesopotamian kingdoms, and even accepting Mesopotamian princesses as wives. Pharaoh Akhenaten (1372-1335 BC) archived numerous Akkadian clay tablets in Armana, much to the surprise of the nineteenth century archeologists who first uncovered them.

Thanks to this elaborate diplomatic system, the period 1500-1300 BC was one of unprecedented peace.

Podany gives special emphasis to the correspondence of king Tushratta of Mittani (died 1340 BC) and pharaoh Amenhautep III. Tushratta’s daughter Tadu-Hepe was engaged to marry the pharaoh (who already had numerous wives, including Tushratta’s sister). One letter Podany reads out chides the pharaoh for embarrassing Tushratta in front of foreign guests for sending an inferior gift consisting of worked gold (gold vessels and jewelry) rather than the gold bars he needed for a building project.


*Akkadian was the official language of all four Mesopotamian kingdoms.

**Egypt’s best gifts were gold, Babylon sent horses and lapus lazuli, Mittani glass and textiles, and the Hatti silver. All of them also sent jewelry, luxury clothing, furniture and tapestries as gifts.

The film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.

https://www.kanopy.com/en/pukeariki/video/5754238/5754272

Uruk: The World’s First Big City

Uruk’s Colonies

Episode 5: Uruk: The World’s Biggest City

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

Founded around 40000 BC, Uruk was the first large city in the world. A walled city, it was approximately 260 hectares (the size of a large university campus) and housed 25,000 residents. It had two distinct temple precincts, one dedicated to Inana, the goddess of love, and the other to Anu, the god of the heavens. Each took 100 years to build, and (to keep the population employed) citizens began rebuilding them once they were completed

The economy was mainly based on farming, with most residents owning or working on farms outside the city walls and coming into the city to sleep. With the invention of the plow (pulled by oxen or donkeys) farming became much more efficient. This period also saw the invention of the wheel, the pottery wheel, cylinder seals (used like a signature to authenticate documents), a primitive writing system arsenic bronze. Wealthy began using bronze tools (because they were stronger than stone) and bronze dishes instead of ceramic ones.

Irrigation canals were enlarge until they were enough to accommodate sailing vessels.

There is evidence of a centralized government in Uruk that lived more luxurious lives than commoners but no kings. Although most people were illiterate, central government used the new writing system extensively. Scribes who kept governmental records (on clay tablets) learned to write in special schools. Archeologists have discovered clay tablets with lexicons of the proto-cuneiform* words they were expected to learn. Many are bilingual, with Sumerian** and Akkadian** versions of each word.

Uruk had a string of colonies across Mesopotamia and modern-day Syria and Turkey. They gained some via conquest (the first evidence of Middle East warfare. Others were uninhabited land taken up by Uruk settlers. The main purpose of the colonies wasn’t subjugation and exploitation, as with modern colonialism, but to facilitate trade. There is evidence Uruk traded with Egypt during this period.

Elements of modern Western life that derive from fourth millennium Uruk include

  • rectangular houses
  • streets
  • specialized rooms (ie kitchens)
  • marriage
  • laws
  • courts
  • armies
  • diplomats
  • burial of dead
  • written language
  • story telling

use of domesticated animals and plants to make clothes


*Proto-cuneiform – earliest form of writing on Earth, consisting of pictographs or simple drawings.

**Sumerian – language of ancient Sumer (area of southern Mesopotamia from 4500-1900 BC), gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language around 2000 BC, though it continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Akkadian-speaking Mesopotamian states.

***Akkadian – east Semitic language, now extinct, spoken in ancient Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria, Isin, Larsa and Babylonia)/

Film can be viewed free with a library card on Kanopy.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/uruk-worlds-biggest-city

How Alexander’s Conquests Perpetuated Global Greek Influence

Pyrrho of Elis Founds Dogmatic Skepticism - Global Firsts ...

Episode 23: Alexander’s Conquests and Hellensim

The Big History of Civilizations (2016)

Dr Craig G Benjamin

Film Review

In this lecture, Benjamin explores how Alexander’s father, Phillip II transformed Macedonia from a rustic outpost to a cosmopolitan kingdom that captured military control of the entire Greek peninsula.

At 21, Alexander assumed the throne following his father’s assassination. A brilliant military strategist, in 334 BC Alexander marched east to conquer Persia and south to conquer Egypt (332 BC). After receiving a rapturous reception for ending Persian occupation, he appointed his boyhood friend Ptolemy to the Egyptian throne and marched into Mesopotamia, the economic heart of the Persian empire.

After conquering Samarkand (modern day Afghanistan) in 329 BC, he crossed the Hindu Kush mountains via the Kyber Pass into the Indus Valley. Although his troops rebelled against a further military push into India (327 BC), the limited excursion successfully opened India to Greek cultural and economic influence.

He withdrew from India to take up residence in Nebuchadnessar II’s palace in Babylon. He died at age 33 from excessive feasting and drinking.

Over the next 50 years, his generals divided up the massive Hellenistic empire he had created. Benjamin believes most modern day Greek influence stems from the half dozen or so Greek cities Alexander established and the generals who succeeded him. Alexandria in Egypt is an excellent example, with its large ethnically diverse population, its major sea trade and its stellar intelligentsia centered around the Alexandrian library.*

Major inventions stemming from this period include gears, screws, rotary mills, the water clock, the water organ, the torsion catapult, a chart to find prime numbers and pneumatics (the use of steam to operate machines and toys). The latter technology would vanish from human culture for 2,000 years until 1763 when James Watts invented the modern steam engine.

Benjamin identifies three major Greek philosophies arising during this period: epicureanism, stoicism and skepticism. The epicureans believed the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure by understanding how the world works and limiting desires. The stoics believed that because so aspects of life are beyond human control, happiness is best achieved by aiming for moderation in all things. The skeptics taught that absolute knowledge is impossible.

Over time most Greek-controlled regions gained independence, including Bactria (Afghanistan), Persia and Egypt. Around 250 BC, the Greek city-states regained independence briefly prior to Roman conquest 100 years later. In Egypt, the Ptolemy dynasty ruled until 33 BC, when Egypt fell to Roman rule following Cleopatra’s suicide.


*The Alexandrian library was destroyed by fire either by Julius Caesar (accidentally) in 48 BC, by the Roman emperor Aurelian in 275 AD, or the emperor Theodosius in 391 AD during his campaign to destroy all the empire’s pagan sites.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy with a library card.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/alexanders-conquests-and-hellenism

How Senate Corruption Caused the Demise of the Roman Republic

Hannibal of Carthage: Military Commander and Greatest ...

Hannibal leading his elephants over the Alps during his invasion of Northern Italy

Episode 21: Building the Roman Republic

The Big History of Civilizations (2016)

Dr Craig G Benjamin

Film Review

According to Benjamin, the Roman republic was formed when residents of city-state Rome overthrew the last Roman king (535 BC) and created an assembly of nobles (called the senate), which elected two consuls to oversee the government.

In 493 BC, there was another major revolt, in which the plebians  (commoners) refused to work or serve in the military. The Senate ended the general strike by allowing the plebs to elect tribunes with the power to veto the consuls’ decisions. However the vast majority of agricultural land continued to be owned by the nobility, who treated the peasants who farmed it as virtual serfs.

From 309 BC, when marauding Gauls sacked the city, Rome became increasingly militarized. During the Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC), Greek colonies in southern Italy hired Pyrrhus, the mercenary king of Epirus, to protect them against Roman aggression. Pyrrhus technically won all the battles he launched against Rome. However his forces were too weakened to defend themselves against further Roman assaults. By 270 BC, Rome had brought all the Greek city-states of southern Italy under Roman control.

The three Punic Wars (264-164 BC), directed against the Phoenicians who controlled Carthage, were the first military engagements involving hundreds of thousands of troops in multiple arenas throughout the Mediterranean. They were also the first wars in history to result in large numbers of civilian deaths.

In 203 BC, the Carthaginian general Hannibal occupied all of northern Italy for eight months and was preparing to march on when the Roman general Scipio attacked Carthage. In doing so, he forced Hannibal to withdraw from Italy and return to North Africa. As the Romans perfect the capacity to sustain war on multiple fronts, they eventually took control of the former Carthaginian empire, virtually extinguishing Carthaginian culture by 146 BC.

In 197 BC, the Romans attacked Macedonia to punish them for allying with Carthage, and in 146 BC, they put down an uprising in Corinth and annexed the entire Greek peninsula.

In 133 BC, the king of Pergamon (in modern day Turkey), bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. This meant the republic of Rome now had colonies in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Following the conquest of Greece, the Roman elite learned the Greek language and became avid consumers of Greek literature, philosophy and art. Meanwhile the city of Rome underwent a major social crisis as senators gobbled up more and more agricultural land, and troops released from the military returned from war to form an unemployed proletariat.*

Meanwhile extreme corruption prevented the Senate from enacting necessary reforms to prevent the Republic from collapsing. In 133 BC, Tiberius Gracchus attempted to enact a law to limit the size of senatorial farms, and the senate had him murdered along with 300 of his followers. In 123-122 BC his brother Gaius Gracchus was elected tribune and established the “dole,” a grain subsidy for unemployed Romans. He also tried to establish military colonies for veterans in Europe and Africa. He was also killed,  along with 3,000 followers in violent rioting.

In 107 BC, the peoples assembly elected the tough general Gaius Marius as tribune. The latter established the destabilizing precedent of recruiting his own army among peasant followers. The creation by Gaius Marius and Sculla of personal armies to put down an uprising in Asia Minor would lead to Rome’s first civil war.

In 59 BC, Julius Caesar, elected consul in 64 BC, triggered the second civil war by refusing to disband the army he had led in Gaul. This caused his co-consul and most of the senate to flee to Greece.

After the senate appointed Caesar “dictator,” he declared the republic dead and passed laws to reduce debt, establish colonies for returned veterans. He also declared that one third laborers on senators’ estates had to be freemen. These reforms effectively reduced the number of Romans receiving the “dole” from 320,000 to 100,000 (out of a total population of 500,000_.

The alleged reason for Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC was to restore “liberty” to Rome. His 18-year-old adopted son Octavian formed an alliance with Marc Antony and the Senate to pursue and kill the assassins. Mark Antony ruled Rome until he fell in love with Cleopatra. This led Octavian to declared war on Egypt and proclaim Antony a traitor.**

Granted the titles Augustus and imperator (emperor) by the senate, Augustus went on to reduce corruption, professionalized the army and establish 40 overseas colonies for veterans.


*From the Latin word “proles” (offspring).

**Both Antony and Cleopatra subsequently committed suicide

 

 

 

 

 

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/building-roman-republic

Jericho: Oldest City on Earth?

Jericho: Oldest City on Earth?

Magellan TV (2019)

Film Review

This documentary explores the ancient history of Jericho, based on archeological remains and carbon dating.

Recent evidence suggests that the city of Jericho dates nearly to 10,000 BC. The first known settlement (10,000 – 9,000 BC) contains some of the earliest examples of domesticated plants and animals. It’s believed Jericho was originally founded by “affluent” hunter gatherers, who came across the regions abundant grain grasses when the last Ice Age receded. Cultural artifacts suggest they had extensive trading relationships with other communities throughout the fertile crescent, including Göbekli Tepa Turkey.

The next settlement at Jericho (8,500 – 7,300 BC) is referred to as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Settlement. It seems to have had a much stronger religious focus (with evidence both of the “mother goddess” and male animalistic gods. Residents still mostly relied on wild gazelle for meat, though there’s some evidence they ate sheep and goats. It’s not clear whether these animals were domesticated or if people caught them and kept them in pens before eating them. They also ate domesticated wheat, barley, peas, and beans.

This city was replaced by the larger Pre-Pottery Neolithic B settlement (7300 – 5800 BC), housing roughly 2,000 people. Here the homes were rectangular, with clear evidence of domesticated pigs, goats, sheep, and oryx. The residents engaged in ancestor worship. Some major natural catastrophe (flood?) depopulated all of Palestine around 6000 BC, with human settlement resuming in the 5th century BC. Archeologists believe that between 5800 and 4000 BC, the region’s residents were nomadic herders, continually moving domesticated animals between pastures rather than settling in specific region.

During Jericho’s copper period (4,000 – 3,000 BC), the settlement was more like a small village than a city. Residents imported their copper (and obsidian) from the region that is modern day Turkey.

During Jericho’s bronze age (3100 – 1400 BC), it was clearly a city again, with defensive walls, an army and evidence of written Mesopotamian and Egyptian language. The city lost its independence in 2000 BC and for three and a half centuries was occupied by multiple competing powers, including Egypt, Assyria, the Mittanites and other regional powers. In 1550 BC the city was destroyed and would not reappear as an urban center for 100 years.

In 1400 BC the city was destroyed once again during wars with Israelite tribes. This would be consistent with the Biblical account in the book of Exodus.

Edward Said: The Origin of Islamophobia

Edward Said on Orientalism

Directed by Jeremy Smith, Sanjay Tairej, and Sut Jhally

Film Review

This documentary, produced and narrated by University of Massachusetts (Amherst) professor of communication Sut Jhally, is based on a 1998 interview with late Palestinian-American Dr Edward Said. Prior to his death from leukemia in 2003, Said was a professor of literature at Columbia University. The interview primarily concerns his 1978 book Orientalism.

Said, who was born in Palestine, became homeless and stateless in 1948 when his family home was seized by Jewish terrorists. He grew up in the US.

His book Orientalism would give birth to a new field of study called post-colonial theory, as well as having a a profound effect on the academic study of English, history, anthropology, and political science. The filmmakers embellish the interview with numerous works of art and film clips illustrating important concepts Said introduces.

The basic premise of Orientalism is that the West, dating back to Napoloean’s 1798 conquest of Egypt, operates under a preconceived image of Middle Eastern peoples. This image, which permeates nearly all pertinent Western art, history, literature, and film, portrays them as mysterious, backwards, barbaric, fanatical, and threatening.

In France and the UK, who were the main colonizers of the Middle East and North Africa, this distorted perception grew out of the conventional tendency to de-humanize the colonized.

In contrast, American-style orientalism derives mainly from the special relationship the US enjoys with Israel. The latter aggressively promotes the ideology that all Arabs are natural enemies.

Said traces strong anti-Islamic sentiment in the US to the 1978 Islamic revolution in Iran, which, in removing the pro-US totalitarian government, cost Wall Street oil interests substantially.

The most interesting part of the interview concerns the 1997 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City – which both the FBI and US media blamed on Middle East terrorists in the immediate aftermath.