Hieroglyphs

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Hieroglyphs emerged from the preliterate artistic traditions of Egypt. For example, symbols on Gerzean pottery from circa4000 BC resemble hieroglyphic writing. For many years the earliest known hieroglyphic inscription was the Narmer Palette, found during excavations at Hierakonpolis (modern Kawm al-Ahmar) in the 1890s, which has been dated to circa 3200 BC. However, in 1998 a German archaeological team under Günter Dreyer excavating at Abydos (modern Umm el-Qa’ab) uncovered tomb U-j of a Predynastic ruler, and recovered three hundred clay labels inscribed with proto-hieroglyphs, dating to the Naqada IIIA period of the 33rd century BC. The first full sentence written in hieroglyphs so far discovered was found on a seal impression found in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa’ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty. In the era of the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom, about 800 hieroglyphs existed. By the Greco-Roman period, they numbered more than 5,000.

Scholars generally believe that Egyptian hieroglyphs “came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and, probably [were], invented under the influence of the latter …” For example, it has been stated that it is “probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia.” On the other hand, it has been stated that “the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy” and that “a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt…”  Given the lack of direct evidence, “no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt.”

Hieroglyphs consist of three kinds of glyphs: phonetic glyphs, including single-consonant characters that functioned like analphabet; logographs, representing morphemes; and determinatives, which narrowed down the meaning of a logographic or phonetic words.

As writing developed and became more widespread among the Egyptian people, simplified glyph forms developed, resulting in the hieratic (priestly) and demotic(popular) scripts. These variants were also more suited than hieroglyphs for use onpapyrus. Hieroglyphic writing was not, however, eclipsed, but existed alongside the other forms, especially in monumental and other formal writing. The Rosetta Stone contains three parallel scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek.

Hieroglyphs continued to be used under Persian rule (intermittent in the 6th and 5th centuries BC), and after Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt, during the ensuingMacedonian and Roman periods. It appears that the misleading quality of comments from Greek and Roman writers about hieroglyphs came about, at least in part, as a response to the changed political situation. Some believe that hieroglyphs may have functioned as a way to distinguish ‘true Egyptians’ from the foreign conquerors. Another reason may be the refusal to tackle a foreign culture on its own terms which characterized Greco-Roman approaches to Egyptian culture generally. Having learned that hieroglyphs were sacred writing, Greco-Roman authors imagined the complex but rational system as an allegorical, even magical, system transmitting secret, mystical knowledge.

By the 4th century, few Egyptians were capable of reading hieroglyphs, and the myth of allegorical hieroglyphs was ascendant. Monumental use of hieroglyphs ceased after the closing of all non-Christian temples in AD 391 by the Roman EmperorTheodosius I; the last known inscription is from Philae, known as the The Graffito of Esmet-Akhom, from AD 396

As active knowledge of the hieroglyphs and the related scripts disappeared, numerous attempts were made to decipher the hidden meaning of the ubiquitous inscriptions. The best known example from Antiquity are the “Hieroglyphica” by Horapollo, which offer an explanation of almost 200 glyphs. Horapollo seems to have had access to some genuine knowledge about the hieroglyphs as some words are identified correctly, although the explanations given are invariably wrong (the goose character used to write the word for ‘son’, z3, for example, is identified correctly, but explained wrongly to have been chosen because the goose loves his offspring the most while the real reason seems to have been purely phonetic). The Hieroglyphica do thus represent the start of more than a millenium of (mis)interpreting the hieroglyphs as symbolic rather than phonetic writing.

In the 9th and 10th century, Arab historians Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya offered their interpretation of the hieroglyphs. In his English translation of Ibn Wahshiyya’s work[10], Joseph Hammer points out that Athanasius Kirchnerused this among several other Arabic works in his own attempts at decipherment.

Kirchner’s interpretation of the hieroglyphs is probably the best known early modern European attempt at ‘decipherment’ (others include the works of Johannes Goropius Becanus), not least for the fantasticness of his claims. Like other interpretations before, Kirchner’s ‘translations’ were hampered by the fundamental notion that hieroglyphs recorded ideas and not the sounds of the language. As no bilingual texts were available, any such symbolic ‘translation’ could be proposed without the possibility of falsification.

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Horticulture

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagationand cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic engineering, plantbiochemistry, and plant physiology. The work particularly involves fruits,berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs, and turf. Horticulturists work to improve crop yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to insects,diseases, and environmental stresses. Horticulture usually refers to gardening on a smaller scale, while agriculture refers to the large-scale cultivation of crops. The word is composite, from two words, horti, meaning grass, originating in the Greek χορτον, meaning the same (grass) and the word culture.

Horticulture has a very long history. The study and science of horticulture dates all the way back to the times of Alexander the Great, and has been going on ever since, with present day horticulturists such as Freeman S. Howlett, the revolutionary horticulturist. The origins of horticulture lie in the transition of human communities from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary or semi-sedentary horticultural communities, cultivating a variety of crops on a small scale around their dwellings or in specialized plots visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next. (such as the “milpa” or maize field of Mesoamerican cultures). In forest areas such horticulture is often carried out in swiddens (“slash and burn” areas). A characteristic of horticultural communities is that useful trees are often to be found planted around communities or specially retained from the natural ecosystem.

Horticulture primarily differs from agriculture in two ways, firstly it generally encompasses a smaller scale of cultivation, using small plots of mixed crops rather than large fields of single crops. Secondly horticultural cultivations generally include a wide variety of crops, even including fruit trees with ground crops. Agricultural cultivations however as a rule focus on one primary crop. In pre-contact North America the semi-sedentary horticultural communities of the Eastern Woodlands (growing maize, squash and sunflower) contrasted markedly with the mobile hunter-gatherer communities of the Plains people. In Central America, Maya horticulture involved augmentation of the forest with useful trees such as papaya, avocado, cacao, ceiba and sapodilla. In the cornfields, multiple crops were grown such as beans (using cornstalks as supports), squash, pumpkins and chilli peppers, in some cultures tended mainly or exclusively by women.

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An Open Letter–From Pakistan–To President Obama

February 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imran Khan

The U.S. and NATO should withdraw from Afghanistan.

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Picture:  Imran Khan (right) Greets AQ Khan upon the latter’s release from house arrest.  Reuters

 

Dear President Obama,

Your extraordinary ascent to the U.S. Presidency is, to a large part, a reflection of your remarkable ability to mobilize society, particularly the youth, with the message of “change.” Indeed, change is what the world is yearning for after eight long and almost endless years of carnage let loose by a group of neo-cons that occupied the White House.

Understandably, your overarching policy focus would be the security and welfare of all U.S. citizens and so it should be. Similarly, our first and foremost concern is the protection of Pakistani lives and the prosperity of our society. We may have different social and cultural values, but we share the fundamental values of peace, harmony, justice and equality before law.

No people desire change more than the people of Pakistan, as we have suffered the most since 9/11, despite the fact that none of the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism unleashed on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, were Pakistani. Our entire social, political and economic fabric is in a state of meltdown. Our sovereignty, dignity and self-respect have been trampled upon. The previous U.S. administration invested in dictators and corrupt politicians by providing them power crutches in return for total compliance to pursue its misconceived war on terror.

There are many threats confronting our society today, including the threat of extremism. In a society where the majority is without fundamental rights, without education, without economic opportunities, without health care, the use of sheer force and loss of innocent lives continues to expand the extremist fringe and contract the space for the moderate majority.

Without peace and internal security, the notion of investing in development in the war zones is a pipe dream, as the anticipated benefits would never reach the people. So the first and foremost policy objective should be to restore the peace. This can only be achieved through a serious and sustained dialogue with the militants and mitigation of their genuine grievances under the ambit of our constitution and law. Since Pakistan’s founding leader signed a treaty in 1948 with the people of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and withdrew Pakistani troops, they had remained the most peaceful and trouble-free part of Pakistan up until the post-9/11 situation, when we were asked to deploy our troops in FATA.

Even a cursory knowledge of Pushtun history shows that for reasons of religious, cultural and social affinity, the Pushtuns on both sides of the Durand Line (which marks the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan) cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of their brethren on either side. The Pushtuns are proud of their history of resisting every invader from Alexander onwards, to the Persians, Moghuls, British and the Russians (all superpowers of their times) who were all bogged down in the Pushtun quagmire. So, no government, Pakistani or foreign, will ever be able to stop Pushtuns crossing over the 1,500-kilometer border to support their brethren in distress on either side, even if it means fighting the modern-day superpower in Afghanistan. Recent history shows how the mighty Soviet Union had to retreat from Afghanistan with its army defeated even though it had killed over a million Afghans.

To an average Pushtun, notwithstanding the U.N. Security Council sanction, the U.S. is an occupying power in Afghanistan that must be resisted. It is as simple as that. Therefore, the greatest challenge confronting U.S. policy in Afghanistan is how to change its status from an occupier to a partner. The new U.S. administration should have no doubt that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. As more innocent Pushtuns are killed, more space is created for new Taliban and even Al-Qaida recruits–revenge being an integral part of the Pushtun character. So, as with Iraq, the U.S. should give a time table for withdrawal from Afghanistan and replace NATO and U.S. forces with U.N. troops during the interim period.

The Pushtuns then should be involved in a dialogue process where they should be given a stake in the peace. As the majority’s stake in peace grows, proportionately the breeding ground for extremists shrinks.

The crucial lesson the U.S. needs to learn–and learn quickly–is that you can only win against terrorists if the majority in a community considers them terrorists. Once they become freedom fighters and heroes amongst their people, history tells us that the battle is lost.

Terrorism worldwide is an age-old phenomenon and cannot be eliminated by rampaging armies, no matter how powerful. It can only be contained by a strategy of building democratic societies and addressing the root causes of political conflicts. The democratization part of this strategy demands a strategic partnership between the West and the people of the Islamic world, who are basically demanding dignity, self-respect and the same fundamental rights as the ordinary citizen in the West enjoys. However, this partnership can only be forged if the U.S. and its close Western allies are prepared to accept and coexist with credible democratic governments in the Islamic world that may not support all U.S. policies as wholeheartedly as dictators and discredited politicians do in order to remain in power.

The roots of terror and violence lie in politics–and so does the solution. We urge the new administration to conduct a major strategic review of the U.S.-led war on terror, including the nature and kind of support that should realistically be expected of Pakistan keeping in mind its internal security interests. Linking economic assistance to sealing of its western frontier will only force the hand of a shaky and unstable government in Pakistan to use more indiscriminate force in FATA, a perfect recipe for disaster.

The stability of the region hinges on a stable Pakistan. Any assistance to improve governance and social indicators must not be conditional. For the simple reason that any improvement in the overall quality of life of ordinary citizens and more effective writ of the state would only make mainstream society less susceptible to extremism. However, if the new U.S. administration continues the Bush administration’s mantra of “do more,” to which our inept leadership is likely to respond to by using more force, Pakistan could become even more accessible to forces of extremism leading to further instability that would spread across the region, especially into India, which already faces problems of extremism and secessionist movements. Such a scenario would benefit no one–certainly not Pakistan and certainly not the U.S. That is why your message of meaningful change, Mr. President, must guide your policies in this region also.

Imran Khan is chairman and founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice), and served as an elected member of Pakistan’s parliament from 2002-08. The captain of the Pakistan team that won the cricket World Cup in 1992, he founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, the biggest charitable institution in Pakistan. He is chancellor of the University of Bradford, in the U.K.

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