The Depot at Lone Pine

Once upon a time, the Southern Pacific had a line running from Mojave to Lone Pine, California. At the northern end it actually went a little past Lone Pine to a place called Owenyo, where it met and exchanged freight and passengers with the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge. The narrow gauge line was abandoned in 1960, and the standard gauge line between Mojave and Lone Pine was abandoned in 1984. In 1997 the former depot in Lone Pine was moved to a different site, where it is my understanding that it is being used as a private residence. Owenyo is now nothing but a few foundations.

You can reach the former depot by turning off of Highway 395 onto Lone Pine Narrow Gauge Road at the north end of the town of Lone Pine, although it is on private property and you can’t get too close. I visited it in 2016 and took some pictures. (as always, click to embiggen)

 

 

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Quote of the Day

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

– Matthew 6:7 (NIV)

I love the phrase, “do not keep on babbling like pagans.” It’s funny (why some people think that God doesn’t have a sense of humor is incomprehensible to me), it sticks in the brain, and it also makes the point; God is not a machine where I just pull the lever (perform the prescribed ritual) and the blessing that I want comes out. This theme is continued in the immediately following verses, in which Jesus teaches his disciples that when they pray they should address God as “Father,” and in the larger context of the portion of Matthew’s gospel that this verse comes from – the passage known as the Sermon on the Mount – in which the major idea is that neither God nor other humans are to be treated as objects (whether as a means to get what we want, or as obstacles in our way), but rather as people who are valuable in themselves.

 

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More Dog

I don’t really have anything I urgently want to say tonight, so here are some more pictures of Sally (click to embiggen).

 

 

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Why Archaeology?

In the movie Conan the Barbarian (the original one, with Arnold Schwarzenegger), there is a scene right at the beginning where young Conan’s village is attacked by raiders. The village is destroyed, the adults are all killed, and as the children are being led off into slavery the narrator says, “no one would ever know my lord’s people had lived at all.”

That quote, in a word, is why I am drawn to archaeology. There’s something in me that resists the idea that people should live and die with nobody to remember them. It’s not just that I’m curious about the past, although I am that. It’s that fundamentally, I think that people matter, and they should not simply be forgotten.

 

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Rant – Archaeology and the Bible

Historically, archaeology has been used both to defend and to attack the accuracy of the Bible. As an archaeologist, even though my specialty is technology in the American West, I see this a lot. In my view, both are misuses. The proper archaeological study of past cultures requires understanding the evidence on its own terms. It is not valid to use it as a means of “proof texting” either for or against any particular preexisting opinion. Using it that way almost necessarily involves cherry picking of evidence, and making decisions about how to weight archaeological findings based primarily on whether or not the support the desired outcome, which is not the way good science is done. It also commits one to a particular understanding of the archaeological evidence which may be undermined by future findings.

As a method of coming to understand past cultures, archaeology helps us determine how the biblical texts would have been understood by their original audience. It can also constrain modern interpretations, by ruling in or out certain readings, and can help us understand practices that are foreign or obscure to modern readers. But it is not the handmaid of apologetics, whether theistic or atheistic.

In the words of Old Testament scholar John H. Walton:

Archaeology is a discipline independent of biblical studies. Although archaeology in the Middle East has often served those in biblical studies, and at times in its history has been motivated and undertaken  by those whose interests were in biblical studies, it is not an arm of biblical studies. It is a scientific discipline that is driven by its own ends and means. This is why some today are uncomfortable with the label “biblical archaeology” – archaeology cannot be carried out with integrity if it is just targeting the Bible. As a science, it has a much larger task to fulfill as it focuses on recovering the material culture and successive lifestyles of the people of antiquity.

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He is Risen!

Luke 24:1-53 (NIV)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.

One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

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Train Porn

Found parked alongside a road in West Virginia (click pictures to embiggen).

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An Oasis in the Persian Gulf

I’d heard about this article while ago, and I finally got around to tracking down and reading New Light on Human Prehistory in the Arabo-Persian Gulf Oasis by Jeffrey I. Rose, which appeared in issue 51 no. 6 (December 2010) of Current Anthropology. The article is about the possibility that humans in the past lived in what is now the floor of the Persian Gulf, which was exposed by the lower sea levels during the Late Pleistocene.

It has been known for quite a while that the entire gulf is shallow enough to have been dry land during the most recent glacial episode, between roughly 74,000 and 8,000 years ago. The Tigris, Euphrates, and several other rivers flowed through it; the tracks of their former beds can still be traced on the sea floor, along with the site of a large lake. In addition, there are locations today where local aquifers release fresh water into the gulf; when the sea level was lower, these would have been springs. The combination of rivers and fresh water springs would have made the gulf habitable even during extremely dry glacial periods, when much of the surrounding regions were unable to support a human population. The author proposes that this area could have been a refuge for human populations when the climate was too arid to make surrounding regions livable.

Unfortunately, while the author spend a significant amount of space discussing the possible implications of this refuge on Paleolithic populations moving out of Africa, he gives far less attention to the much more interesting (to me) question of how it might have impacted the development of sociopolitical complexity and sedentism during the Neolithic. This was, after all, the Cradle of Civilization, and the final filling of the gulf took place not too long before the first settlement of Eridu. It was an era of rapid (compared to what went before) technological change, which readers of this blog should know is a major interest of mine. Is there evidence of Neolithic sedentism beneath the waters of the gulf? What about cereal cultivation? Animal husbandry? Early experimentation with metallurgy? We could easily imagine that people living in a highly productive environment that is somewhat limited in size and surrounded by much less productive regions might experience population pressure and adopt agriculture as a form of intensification. Is that what actually happened, or was the trajectory quite different? Given the current political/military reality in the Middle East, we might have to wait a while before any answers can be sought. Still, the idea is intriguing, and well worth pursuing as soon as it can safely be done.

 

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Well duh!

I’ve been reading Joseph Tracy’s The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the time of Edwards and Whitefield. Originally published in 1842, this book gives a good overview of the famous American revival of the 1730s and 40s, told from a sympathetic perspective. And it also includes some very important information about transportation in the colonial era. On page 166 the author, describing how Reverend Josiah Crocker was having difficulties traveling back and forth between Taunton and Ipswitch, Massachusetts in early 1742, makes the stunning observation that “there was no railroad between the two places.”

No railroad between those two towns in Massachusetts in 1742. Gee, ya think?

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Quote of the Day

“Some of us have met people who can speak three or four languages but cannot say anything sensible in any of them, including their own.” – Cornelius Plantinga

 

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