I've received some feedback and criticism for some of my recent blog posts, so today I'm going to go over some corrections and clarifications.
In my June 24 blog post on the parallels between the Flood myth in Babylon and the Bible, I did not mean to imply that the Jews "stole" the flood myth from the Babylonians. The flood story was the common property of most of the Near Eastern peoples, as demonstrated by the fact that the parallel Greek version of the Flood myth was apparently told at least as far back as Hesiod's Catalogue of Women, if surviving fragments are any guide. (Although, note: The late versions of the myth contain details imported from Gilgamesh and other sources.) However, as Samuel Shaviv discussed in "The Polytheistic Origins of the Biblical Flood Narrative" (Vetus Testamentum 54 ), the Biblical narrative contains traces of the polytheistic original narrative, which was probably close to (if not identical with) the Sumerian account on which the later Akkadian and Babylonian authors of the Gilgamesh epic drew. It's all very confusing, and there are innumerable opinions on the matter, but the bottom line is that the story began as a polytheistic story before becoming a monotheistic one.
In my June 21 blog post on fossils and their influence on mythological monsters, I incorrectly stated that Adrienne Mayor identified an image on a Greek vase depicting Heracles and Hesione pelting a sea-monster with stones as the skull of a fossil giraffe in The First Fossil Hunters (2001). It's been more than a decade since the book came out, so my memory was not perfect. Mayor merely compares the vase painting to a fossil giraffe skull and reports the opinion of paleontologists that the skull is consistent with a fossil giraffe. She implies that she accepts the identification but leaves open room for other interpretations. (pp. 160-162). I was misled by John Boardman, whose The Archaeology of Nostalgia (2002) states that Mayor identified the vase painting as of a giraffe skull and then proceeds to attack his imaginary version of her text. Since his statements seemed to agree with my memory of the book, I accepted them at face value and did not return to Mayor's text as I should have. Boardman, however, is probably more correct in arguing that the Corinthian vase painting is crude and from a period when artists did not use life models than Mayor is in arguing that the vase represents a carefully considered naturalistic style of art.
Clearly, in a lesson I keep learning each week (and someday it will stick), trusting anyone to report anything correctly is a fool's errand. The best I can do is admit when I've goofed up and set the record straight.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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