Archive for September, 2016

Interesting Historical Discovery

Evidence of ancient Christianity discovered in Kazakhstan

By Tom Davis on Sep 22, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following report is by the Tandy Institute for Archaeology’s Tom Davis, professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds at Southwestern Seminary as well as chair of its archaeology department.

The ancient city of Ilyn Balik, known from pilgrims’ travels and historical texts, has been discovered in Kazakhstan. Historians of Christianity along the Silk Road have known of travelers’ accounts of Christian communities in the region and in the ancient city of Ilyn Balik, but now, recent excavations at the village of Usharal, 60 kilometers from the Chinese border, have uncovered the ancient city as well as the site’s cemetery, where eight gravestones have been found.

This discovery is the first archaeological evidence for a Christian community in the borders of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This discovery supports the understanding of ancient Kazakhstan as a multi-cultural center between the East and West, with Muslims, Buddhists and Christians living among the local herdsmen and nomadic tribes.

A local resident of Usharal reported the discovery of an inscribed stone marked with a cross two years ago. The stone was recovered, but the original location of that stone is not known. The Kazakhstan government, cognizant of their multi-cultural history, has created the Center for Cultural Rapprochement under Karl Baipakov, Kazakhstan’s leading archaeologist and a world-renowned specialist on the Silk Road. Under Baipakov’s leadership, the Center has encouraged archaeological work focused on illuminating the varied cultural strains in Kazakhstan’s history and actively supports the joint teams’ efforts.

Baipakov encouraged the formation of a joint international team from Archaeological Expertise LLC based in Almaty, Kazakhstan (under Dimitri Voyakin), and the Tandy Institute for Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (under the joint direction of Steve Ortiz and Tom Davis), to investigate the discovery. The joint team began investigations of the site of Ilyn Balik, a medieval city never before excavated, within the boundaries of Usharal late this summer.

The team discovered seven inscribed gravestones clustered on the surface outside of the main area of settlement of the site. The suspected grave markers all have inscribed Nestorian-style crosses, and two of them have fragmentary inscriptions.

The new discoveries provide context for the previously discovered inscribed stone and most likely indicate an extra-mural cemetery and possibly an associated Christian community. One of the inscriptions in Old Syriac has been partially deciphered by the Tandy Institute’s epigrapher, Ryan Stokes, associate professor of Old Testament at Southwestern, and indicates a date of 1162 A.D.

The local Christian community has reacted with joy to the news of the new discoveries. One believer responded, “So nobody can tell me that I don’t have Christian roots.”

The Nestorian gravestones show that Christianity was present in Kazakhstan long before Western imperialism. It is, in fact, an element of historic Kazakh identity.

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New Computer, new formatting

I have been away for a while and not written like I used to when I lived in Kazakhstan. I have a new computer so I can’t figure out how to get the photo I want into the text.

Back when living in Kazakhstan, I wrote EVERY day and if I didn’t have something I had experienced or observed I put up photos. Busy with teaching first year students in two composition courses and volunteering at the Carnegie with a grant that I just got with the historical society in St. Paul, MN. The grant is for $8,765 and with two other researchers we will be writing 15 articles about NW Minnesota.

There seems to be an extra push to get things done and with my Mom having just taken a bad fall and breaking her arm, I have things I need to do to help her. I know she wants to be independent and do things on her own but she will be immobilized in the one arm for about a month or more.

Well, the garden has much produce to tend to and I’ve made grape jelly and plum jelly and that was after doing raspberry jam. Now we have tomatoes that I’m giving away after I made five batches of Mrs. Wages assortments. Now I have pumpkins and GREMLIN decorative gourds. I’m also taking in plants so they do not freeze. Plants make a different in the work space and also at the Carnegie.

Okay, I better close with a photo. I have to give a presentation about our campus to our Rotary club. Always something! Mowed the lawn the other day and we are past middle of September! LOTS of mushrooms in the lawn. The one above was as big as a frisbee and 3-4 inches thick in a tree in the woods!

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Decorative Gourds

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Decorative gourds and pumpkins

I went out the other day to get some pumpkins and also our decorative gourds. They are GIGANTIC!  I think we will have to just give them away because people want gourds that are about half or a 1/3 this size.  Maybe they are edible but they are pretty to look at despite their size.

I am making pasta sauce with Mrs. Wages and our own tomatoes. I keep giving all the nearly ripe ones to my mom who processes them in jars for later use.  I’m happy she does that because she gives us some of the quarts.  That reminds me, after 1 inch and 7/10s of an inch of rain yesterday, I should go out to the garden to see what other tomatoes there are to pick and bring into town.

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close up of our produce

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Fall is here, much harvesting to do…

3 grape clustersI probably already wrote this but I am busy with harvesting of all of our crops out in our vegetable gardens. I pick tomatoes every day and give to my Mom who cans them in quart size jars. Then I also pick sweet peas every day so I can give to people as a little but nice bouquet.  These flowers won’t last long, so I am making the most of them around our yard light fence.  Yesterday was a strong wind and that helped me to see the pumpkins that are under the big leaves and also all the decorative gourds that we have.  I cut those and will bring to the Pioneer Day celebration next week.  People may want to buy them but they are soooo BIG that it is not your usual decorative gourd.  They look big enough to eat instead of placing in a cornucopia.

My husband and I picked most of the plums that were on our trees to the south, bumper crop this year.  I have given away about 8-9 gallons worth and probably have from last night about 7 or 8 more gallons to deal with.  I roasted some of them last night at 400 degrees for about a half hour and the juice that came out will make a nice plum jelly. I’ve never made plum jelly before, always jam.  I made three batches of grape jelly last weekend and have enough grape juice that I processed for probably another three batches. The problem is that we don’t eat much bread so why all the jelly and jam?  Have to preserve this somehow so they will make nice gifts in the winter time.  The jars look so colorful with the bright jelly inside and one friend of mine says she uses the jelly jar I gave her last year as decoration in her kitchen. She is not the canning, jelly making type so she wants to make it LOOK like she did it.  I should give her some other jars to further decorate her kitchen.

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pumpkins from our west west garden

What else to do today on this fine Saturday?  I have to dig up all the potatoes and we have a LOT of them. Plus all the carrots and beets.  We are still getting yellow beans and I’m glad we are DONE with the snow peas. I just kept giving those away after I made two salads out of them.  We have some green peppers and have been eating Swiss chard when it is ready.  We had brocolli and cauliflower but not much.  I think we are supposed to have cabbage but I’m running out of interest in watering that.

Last night I pulled up many of my flowering begonias from the flower bed and potted them to take into work or the Carnegie.  I have a lot of healthy coleus that should be planted as well.  I need bigger pots for that.  Anyway, I finished two weeks of teaching two classes of composition so I have my students who are into their schedule and a good bunch of kids. They want to learn. I have one know it all type student who seems mouthy but he will be harmless…I hope.

We got our grant of $8,765 to write articles about our farming area and our town so there will be three of us researchers working on that in the next nine months.  Always something going on for which I am grateful I can do things still.  Having my folks out for supper tonight, they are busy in town getting their garden torn up to put back into lawn.  So, I better get outside and do things that need work before we get another big rain tomorrow and Monday.

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