Weekly Summary: 14th - 20th February, 2023

Weekly, Studies of Biblical Interest delivers a succinct overview of noteworthy findings, current events, and developments within our specialized domains. Should you have a news item you wish for us to feature, kindly forward the particulars to editors@biblicaljournal.org.

Sotheby's is set to auction the Codex Sassoon in May, which is believed to be the world's oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible, dating back over 1,000 years. Historians believe that a scribe wrote the text on parchment sheets in the late ninth or early tenth century. It resurfaced in 1929 and was purchased by Swiss collector Jacqui Safra. The auction house has placed a pre-sale estimate of $30m to $50m on the manuscript, which could make it the most valuable historical document ever sold at auction if it achieves the upper end of that range.

A new method of radiocarbon dating called "radiocarbon 3.0" has been developed, which combines updated radiocarbon pretreatment, AMS instrumental advances, and Bayesian modeling to provide high temporal resolution chronology of key events in human history. This new technique has been used to study the interaction between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals in Europe, revealing new insights about the evolution of the earliest human settlements and the resilience of hominids in different climatic phases. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE and was conducted by international radiocarbon experts from the University of Heidelberg, ETH Zurich, and Simon Fraser University.

This article discusses the use of cuneiform tablets in ancient Mesopotamia to teach and learn mathematics. The tablets were used to teach mathematical skills to students in schools, as well as in professional contexts, such as in the planning of canals, loan contracts, and land-division diagrams. The tablets were written in a sexagesimal system (base 60) and were used to teach multiplication tables. Students would memorize several multiplication tables with different head numbers and then produce composite multiplication tables, which were the result of the juxtaposition of several multiplication tables on one same writing surface. The article highlights the importance of cuneiform tablets in the preservation and organization of ancient mathematical knowledge.

This study looks at how climate change in the past may have affected human civilizations. The researchers used data from both climate science and archaeology to explore how a 300-year period of dry and cool climate conditions around 1200 BCE may have contributed to the collapse of several ancient civilizations in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East. The study focuses on the collapse of the Hittite Empire, which was one of the great powers in the ancient world for centuries. By analyzing the rings of juniper trees, the researchers found evidence of a severe continuous dry period from around 1198 to 1196 BCE. This period may have been a tipping point, overwhelming the society's risk-buffering practices and contributing to the empire's collapse. The Hebrew Bible contains many narratives set in this region during that time, including the stories of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a columned hall at the Temple of Wadjet in Buto, Egypt. The discovery includes three columns and religious pottery vessels, as well as fragments of reliefs dating to the Saite Period, which is roughly the 7th century BCE. The temple was dedicated to the goddess of Lower Egypt, Wadjet, and the team also found a limestone block with a depiction of a bird-headed deity that may represent the goddess Nekhbet, the goddess of Upper Egypt.