The 6th Annual Archaeology and the Bible Conference

The 6th Annual Archaeology and the Bible Conference,

Saturday 25th March, 2017

Archaeology and the Bible’s first five books

The Lecture Theatre, Department of Continuing Education, 126 Mount Pleasant, L69 3GR

The Bible’s first five books, sometimes called the Torah or Pentateuch, tell the story of Israel’s origins and its place in the wider Ancient World. But can this story be illuminated, even authenticated by the archaeological evidence?

10.00 – 10.30 Dr. Paul Lawrence (University of Liverpool): In the beginning … in a coffin in Egypt – some observations about the structure of the Book of Genesis

In the beginning …”, so begins the Bible’s first book. It is an apt title for a book that outlines the Hebrew worldview of the origins of the universe, mankind, sin and death, the nations and the nation of Israel. Does the book of Genesis have a clearly evident structure and does this give clues to the book’s composition or compilation? What evidence is there for it accurately representing events of the early Second Millennium BC?

10.30 – 11.00 Dr. James Patrick (University of Oxford): Interpreting the Creation Week in its Ancient Context

The creation of the world over a seven-day period in Genesis 1:1–2:4 has been interpreted in many different ways, particularly since the time of Darwin.  But how was this precise timing interpreted by its first hearers?  This lecture will consider evidence from ancient Israelite culture and the wider ancient Near Eastern context, in order to come closer to the original intention of this passage and its theological message.

11.00-11.30 break

11.30-12.30 Dr. James Hoffmeier (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School):Moses and Akhenaten

Akhenaten (1353-1336 B.C.) is thought by many scholars to be the first monotheist in history.  Moses is believed to have lived in the following century, which naturally has raised the question, did Akhenaten’s religious revolution surrounding the solar deity, Aten, have any influence on the development of Israel’s religion? This lecture will examine the evidence for Akhenaten’s religion and its unique elements, followed by the an investigation of the possible connection between Moses and Akhenaten.

12.30-13.30 lunch

13.30-14.30  Dr. James Hoffmeier: Israel’s Earliest Sanctuary, Priestly Garments and Bejewelled Breastplate in the Book of Exodus in the Light of Archaeological Data

One of the most compelling arguments for the historicity of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt is the imprint that Egyptian language, culture, and religion left on early Israel. This lecture will examine some this evidence as it relates to Israelite religion that demonstrates strong Egyptian connections that most likely can be traced to the centuries the Hebrews lived in Egypt before the exodus.

14.30-15.00 break

15.00 -15.30 Alistair Dickey (Ph.D candidate University of Liverpool): Semites in Ancient Egypt “So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan.”

This account in Genesis 46 describes Jacob and his family moving house to Egypt.  However, is such an account plausible?  What do we know of Semites in Egypt during the Second Millennium BC?  This presentation will explore some of the archaeological and textual evidence from the Delta in the north to Thebes in the south that sheds light on the situation.

15.30-16.15 Emeritus Professor Alan Millard (University of Liverpool): Babylonian and Hebrew Law 

Similarities and differencesGod gave the ‘Laws of Moses’ to Israel at Mount Sinai, according to the Book of Exodus, with the Ten Commandments, at least, written on stone tablets. Israel’s laws are not unique. Babylonian laws have been discovered and some of them are very similar to some of the Mosaic laws, but there are also major differences. The lecture will compare those, showing how the Hebrew laws are distinctive.

16.15-16.30 Questions to the speakers and closing remarks

Advance registration £27 includes a sandwich lunch. If you would like to book on this event you can do so by clicking here 

Why the baby brain can learn two languages at the same time

conversation%20logo

 

 

Originally published as on The Conversation. For article and more click here https://theconversation.com/uk

Any adult who has attempted to learn a foreign language can attest to how difficult and confusing it can be. So when a three-year-old growing up in a bilingual household inserts Spanish words into his English sentences, conventional wisdom assumes that he is confusing the two languages.

Research shows that this is not the case.

In fact, early childhood is the best possible time to learn a second language. Children who experience two languages from birth typically become native speakers of both, while adults often struggle with second language learning and rarely attain native-like fluency.

But the question remains: is it confusing for babies to learn two languages simultaneously?

When do babies learn language?

Research shows babies begin to learn language sounds before they’re even born. In the womb, a mother’s voice is one of the most prominent sounds an unborn baby hears. By the time they’re born, newborns can not only tell the difference between their mother’s language and another language, but also show a capability of distinguishing between languages.

Language learning depends on the processing of sounds. All the world’s languages put together comprise about 800 or so sounds. Each language uses only about 40 language sounds, or “phonemes,” which distinguish one language from another.

At birth, the baby brain has an unusual gift: it can tell the difference between all 800 sounds. This means that at this stage infants can learn any language that they’re exposed to. Gradually babies figure out which sounds they are hearing the most.

Babies learn to recognize their mother’s voice even before they are born. John Mayer, CC BY

Between six and 12 months, infants who grow up in monolingual households become more specialized in the subset of sounds in their native language. In other words, they become “native language specialists.” And, by their first birthdays, monolingual infants begin to lose their ability to hear the differences between foreign language sounds.

Studying baby brains

What about those babies who hear two languages from birth? Can a baby brain specialize in two languages? If so, how is this process different then specializing in a single language?

Knowing how the baby brain learns one versus two languages is important for understanding the developmental milestones in learning to speak. For example, parents of bilingual children often wonder what is and isn’t typical or expected, or how their child will differ from those children who are learning a single language.

My collaborators and I recently studied the brain processing of language sounds in 11-month-old babies from monolingual (English only) and bilingual (Spanish-English) homes. We used a completely noninvasive technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG), which precisely pinpointed the timing and the location of activity in the brain as the babies listened to Spanish and English syllables.

We found some key differences between infants raised in monolingual versus bilingual homes.

At 11 months of age, just before most babies begin to say their first words, the brain recordings revealed that:

  • Babies from monolingual English households are specialized to process the sounds of English, and not the sounds of Spanish, an unfamiliar language
  • Babies from bilingual Spanish-English households are specialized to process the sounds of both languages, Spanish and English.
Here’s a video summarizing our study.

Our findings show that babies’ brains become tuned to whatever language or languages they hear from their caregivers. A monolingual brain becomes tuned to the sounds of one language, and a bilingual brain becomes tuned to the sounds of two languages. By 11 months of age, the activity in the baby brain reflects the language or languages that they have been exposed to.

Is it OK to learn two languages?

This has important implications. Parents of monolingual and bilingual children alike are eager for their little ones to utter the first words. It’s an exciting time to learn more about what the baby is thinking. However, a common concern, especially for bilingual parents, is that their child is not learning fast enough.

We found that the bilingual babies showed an equally strong brain response to English sounds as the monolingual babies. This suggests that bilingual babies were learning English at the same rate as the monolingual babies.

Parents of bilingual children also worry that their children will not know as many words as children who are raised with one language.

Bilingualism does not cause confusion. jakeliefer, CC BY

To some extent, this concern is valid. Bilingual infants split their time between two languages, and thus, on average, hear fewer words in each. However, studies consistently show that bilingual children do not lag behind when both languages are considered.

Vocabulary sizes of bilingual children, when combined across both languages, have been found to be equal to or greater than those of monolingual children.

Another common concern is that bilingualism causes confusion. Part of this concern arises due to “code switching,” a speaking behavior in which bilinguals combine both languages.

For example, my four-year-old son, who speaks English, Spanish, and Slovene, goes as far as using the Slovene endings on Spanish and English words. Research shows bilingual children code-switch because bilingual adults around them do too. Code-switching in bilingual adults and children is rule-governed, not haphazard.

Unlike monolingual children, bilingual children have another language from which they can easily borrow if they can’t quickly retrieve the appropriate word in one language. Even two-year-olds modulate their language to match the language used by their interlocutor.

Researchers have shown code switching to be part of a bilingual child’s normal language development. And it could even be the beginning of what gives them the extra cognitive prowess known as the “bilingual advantage.”

Bilingual kids are at an advantage

The good news is young children all around the world can and do acquire two languages simultaneously. In fact, in many parts of the world, being bilingual is the norm rather than an exception.

It is now understood that the constant need to shift attention between languages leads to several cognitive advantages. Research has found that bilingual adults and children show an improved executive functioning of the brain – that is, they are able to shift attention, switch between tasks and solve problems more easily. Bilinguals have also been found to have increased metalinguistic skills (the ability to think about language per se, and understand how it works). There is evidence that being bilingual makes the learning of a third language easier. Further, the accumulating effect of dual language experience is thought to translate into protective effects against cognitive decline with aging and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

So, if you want your child to know more than one language, it’s best to start at an early age, before she even starts speaking her first language. It won’t confuse your child, and it could even give her a boost in other forms of cognition.

Amy Bidgood is presenting How Do Children Learn Language this Saturday 19 November. If you would like to read about her course and enroll click here https://goo.gl/xkm9s6 

Disclosure statement

The research described here was supported by the National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center Program grant to the UW LIFE Center (P.K.K., PI: Grant No. SMA-0835854), the Ready Mind Project at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, and the Washington State Life Science Discovery Fund (LSDF).

What have we discovered in Gravitational Waves?

By Stephen Hughes

Earth

In 1915, ten years after the publication of the theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein published a new theoretical description of gravity, the theory of general relativity. Before general relativity, gravity was understood in terms of Newton’s law of gravitation, which gives excellent agreement between the predicted and observed positions for most of the planets in the Solar System. However, the predictions regarding the planet Mercury’s orbit around the Sun are slightly wrong. One of the first confirmations that general relativity was the correct description of gravity came from the theory accounting for this discrepancy. A theoretical model, such as general relativity, should lead to a better understanding of the phenomena it is trying to describe. There should also be predictions regarding the outcome of experiments when measurements are made. Ideally the predictions should not only explain what is already known but provide some insight into new effects. General relativity gives many predictions regarding previously unknown effects while accounting for everything that is already known from Newton’s work.

Physics Motion

In 1916 Einstein found his theory predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Many of the other predictions of general relativity have been confirmed experimentally in the early decades that followed. Einstein’s gravitational waves have eluded direct experimental confirmation for a century, leaving some uncertainty if they actually exist. During the past century many experiments have been designed to detect and study gravitational waves. The instruments used to detect gravitational waves need to be extremely sensitive to small disturbances in space-time. Gravity is the result of mass and energy curving space-time. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time, propagating at the speed of light. When propagating through a region of space-time, the gravitational waves change the curvature of space-time by a small amount in that region. This is what the experiments try to measure. Only large scale processes, such as the collision of two stars, are likely to produce significant gravitational waves to be detected based on present instrument sensitivity. Gravitational waves carry away some of the energy from the collision. Detecting and measuring the gravitational waves gives information about the colliding masses.

In September 2015 the gravitational wave detectors comprising LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), resumed after undergoing an upgrade designed to increase the sensitivity of the instruments. Shortly after this upgrade in February 2016 the paper ‘Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger’ was published in the journal Physical Review Letters. This work represents the collaborative effort of a large team of scientists, engineers and mathematicians from different countries, working together over many years. Their work documents the first direct confirmation of gravitational waves. While this is a triumphant confirmation of Einstein’s ideas about gravity it is also the beginning of a new era of astronomical observations. Traditionally objects in the Universe are observed by collecting visible light through the aperture of a telescope. Visible light represents only a small range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Observing the Universe using only visible light restricts the information that can be obtained. Extending the range to include other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum gives more information, leading to a better understanding. When viewing nebulae, the birth place of stars, while only detecting visible light, the features of these systems can be obscured by a large cloud of gas and dust surrounding the newly forming stars. However, observing the same systems with detectors sensitive to light from other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum reveals more structural detail. The gas and dust in this case are not preventing the light from leaving the system.

Space Small

Astronomers now have a new technique for observing objects and events in the Universe. These first gravitational waves measured by LIGO originated when two black holes merged together, the first time this type of event has ever been observed. There are presently several gravitational wave detectors being constructed and others planned for construction in the near future. Perhaps the most promising of these are DECIGO (DECI-hertz Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory), and eLISA (Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), which are anticipated to be launched in 2027 and 2038 respectively. These space based instruments will be more sensitive and capable of detecting gravitational waves from a greater range of astronomical events. Since gravitational waves also travel through space-time unaffected by other events, those produced in the early Universe are still propagating through space-time today. If measured these primordial gravitational waves could lead to a better understanding of the origin of the Universe.

To learn more about Einstein’s general relativity, space-time and gravitational waves why not enrol onto 101 Years of General Relativity with Stephen Hughes starting Monday 4th April 2016 you can enrol here

Life After Life: Reading Kate Atkinson

By Dr Shirley Jones

IMG_5511-morgue

Twenty years ago, Kate Atkinson’s first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was published. Its heroine, Ruby Lennox, tells the story of her life from before conception to adulthood with ‘footnotes’ relating to her ancestors, such as her great grandmother who in a moment of despair leaves 6 children to run off with a ‘magician’ or angelic Uncle Albert, who ‘collected good days the way other people collected coins or postcards.’. Cataclysmic historical events such as the two world wars affect Ruby’s family dramatically whilst lesser landmarks, such as the 1953 Coronation and the 1966 World Cup final provide wonderful comic set pieces. At the heart of the novel is a mystery, for the seemingly omniscient Ruby, does not in fact know all.

Family, identity and heritage are consistent themes in Atkinson’s work as is history and the passing of time. Atkinson’s 2004 novel, Case Histories, opens with 3 unexplained crimes from the past which the novel’s hero, Jackson Brodie, is called upon to unravel. As we follow his progress we come to understand that his own personal history is shaped by devastating loss. In the Jackson Brodie series (four novels to date), Atkinson’s plotting is complex and compelling. At the same time these novels are rich tales of contemporary life with all of its comic absurdity, violence, and love.

j0289025

Atkinson’s recent 2013 Costa Novel Award winner, Life after Life represents the pinnacle of her achievement so far, narrating the multiple possibilities of one woman’s life. Over and over again we are told the tale of Ursula Todd, and her many deaths and extraordinary lives. Astonishingly, this narrative experimentation does not lessen the reader’s emotional involvement with the character but enchants and ensnares.

The most wonderful thing about Atkinson’s writing is that whatever form it takes, family saga, short story, crime novel, experimental fiction, her work is always absolutely readable.

Reading list: 

Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, 1995

Kate Atkinson, Not the End of the World, 2002

Kate Atkinson, Case Histories, 2004

Kate Atkinson, Life after Life, 2013

Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins, 2015

Shirley will be teaching Life After Life: Reading Kate Atkinson at the Central Library from Thursday 15 October, 2-4.30pm for 8 meetings. If you would like to book on that course you can enrol online here Life After Life: Reading Kate Atkinson

 

shirley-jones@ndo.co.uk

Anti-Art by Ed Bruce

 DSCF0120

It’s interesting, but is it art?’ A familiar question, often heard being asked loudly in art galleries. But who is in charge of deciding what is art and what is not? Is there a council, an academy? Do we ‘know’ the rules of art, and if something doesn’t fit the art category can we definitely say it isn’t art? Throughout the history of art there certainly were attempts to formalise art and write a set of rules, for example the Royal Academy under Joshua Reynolds. Academic painting dominated the 19th century, but when the rules of art were broken by artists whose work did not conform, the French Academy of Fine Arts held a Salon of the Rejected to show how correct the Academy was in not accepting these ‘inferior’ paintings. These ‘Impressionists’, as they became known, cared about art, not ‘Art’ and begun a revolution that is still felt today.

The Art Historian E.H. Gombrich wrote that ‘there really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists’. This acknowledges that artists always need a bit of breathing space in which to make work. To have a strict notion of Art stifles creativity. Consequently, artists have always sought to invent new ways to depict the world by breaking away from the hackneyed notions of ‘orthodox’ Art. There is always an impulse to break the accepted rules, to make anti-Art.

orange-chalk-polkasmorgue

I will be teaching a five week course that will explore this urge as experienced by artists during the 20th century. The early part of the period is often seen as a golden age of experimentation: Dada, Surrealism, Primitivism and Art Brut all began as a challenge to the staid conventions of the time. At an aviation fair in Paris, artists Marcel Duchamp and Constantin Brancusi discussed ‘what art could be’ in the future.

Painting is finished. Who can do anything better than this propeller? Can you?” asked Duchamp. Could engineered objects be art if the artist declared they were? Brancusi later discovered that one of his sculptures (Bird in Space) had been declared ‘not art’ on its way through US customs and therefore subject to import duties as a machine-part. Duchamp imagined the scenario where one could display a machine-made object in an art gallery and in 1917 submitted a urinal entitled Fountain to an art exhibition in New York.

Dada, one of the most important art movements of the 20th Century, emerged during the chaos of the First World War. It employed shock tactics in its refusal to conform to the conventions of the Art establishment. After the Second World War, Jean Dubuffet turned to children’s drawings to inspire what he called his ‘raw art’. The anti-Art impulse continued throughout the Modern period, through Pop, Fluxus and Happenings, and is still with us today of course – in the works of Mike Kelly, Sarah Lucas, Martin Creed and many others who kick against art with a capital A.

Ed Bruce will be teaching Anti-Art a five week course beginning on the 5 of October, 6-8pm. If you would like to book on this course you can do so by clicking here Anti-Art