25 May 2019

Were the megaliths at Baalbek erected under King Herod? Go to ... The temple of Jupiter at Baalbek dominates Baalbek, in the Lebanon - but when were they constructed. The Romans built the final phase of the temple around 60AD but who began it. Some of the megaliths are around 500 tons in weight and were raised to sustain the upper course. Other blocks weigh a 1000 tons and there are still enormous blocks to be seen in the quarry.

Research by Giulo Magli, published in Archaeoastronomy in the Roman World, said the temple is orientated to the rising of the Pleiades (for the significance of this see Moe Mandelkehr in SIS publications). This group of stars is connected with fertility it is claimed, and renewal, in the Hellenistic world. In the Roman world it is an uncommon choice of orientation. Clear architectural similarities exist with Herodian foundations - at the Temple Mount for example, in Jerusalem. Herod was also associated with the Herodium and Masada.

At ... we have the discovery of an Iron Age shield in Leicestershire. The shield was constructed using wood lathes to stiffen the structure with a wooden edging rim. However, the shield itself was made of tree bark (not the strongest of material one might suppose, to parry a sword or spear thrust). Neverthless, that was its purpose when made. The material itself is not unusual as bark was used to make bowls and boxes - but not for weapons of war. Hence, they decided to conduct an experiment and made a bark shield in 2018 which showed that such an artifact could be put together quite quickly using resources from mixed woodland with a simple tool kit. It seems that bark, an otherwise fragile material, was able to stand up to heavy blows - and was much lighter than a solid wood or metal shield.