Time.news – Artificial intelligence will tell us how we arrived at a single God, investigating a place and a crucial moment for the history of man and his religious beliefs: the second millennium BC in the Levant, where the polytheisms from which the monotheism of the first millennium would later arise. “Starting from material culture, let’s look – he explains to Time.news Nicola Laneri, professor of archeology in the humanities department of the University of Catania – in temple structures that anticipate the advent of the tradition of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Let us try to understand, through tools such as the semantic web, how the tradition of the temple in antis was born and developed during the second millennium, and how this type of temple, according to the Bible, will be used for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem”.
The second millennium before Christ was marked by a religious syncretism which saw different faiths and cults react on each other and produce new and complex forms of religion. Central was Egypt, and the material elements that spread from it to the region. Required raw materials and manufactured goods circulated widely throughout the eastern Mediterranean and northeastern part of Africa, leading to a process of international exchanges: the movement of materials favored the movement of people, ideas, culture, knowledge.
The Levant including modern Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon – explain the researchers of the Godscapes project – represented an extraordinary corridor not only for trade routes and military expansion, but also for peoples, customs and beliefs from all over the eastern Mediterranean basin and beyond. The Levant represented an area of great resilience, absorbing, transforming and integrating external influences, ideas, practices and cultures: a cultural big bang, in which archaeologists have been trying for years to bring order to find a common thread, a monotheistic outcome: “Let’s take, for example – explains Laneri – the types of temples, and try to understand how local they are, how much they are the result of a tradition that continues over time and how much some elements come from external influences and how much these modify the traditional elements. We try to answer the question: ‘How do things change on a religious level in the second millennium?’. Artificial intelligence serves to give an answer: in the database we insert information related to iconography, sacred architecture, funerary traditions and texts relating to the religions of Eastern Mediterranean Antiquity”.
Based on a historical use of the Bible, some scholars have hypothesized an Egyptian origin during the Late Bronze Age, when the pharaoh Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton (1353-1336 BC) introduced an innovative henotheistic belief in the god Aton, paving the way for monotheism. These are written sources, to which the ‘Godscapes’ project – which operates thanks to a fund assigned by the Ministry of Research and is coordinated by the University of Catania, the Cnr Rome and the University of Pisa and the University of Sapienza of Rome – will add the knowledge that derives from the material elements. And it will do so starting from what archaeologists have found in recent years: the Egyptian goddess Hathor labeled as lady of Byblos; the Egyptian posture and iconography of the god Reshep; the figures of Anubis and Isis are scattered around the site of Byblos. And again, the Egyptian cult paraphernalia: the statuettes of the Qudshu plaques, the clay cobras or the large quantity of royal scarabs associated with Amenhotep III and his wife Tiy, perhaps hints at a royal cult in Canaan, may indicate not only ‘ rituals but also the presence of Egyptian cult personnel. And, in addition to Byblos, the archaeological data of the Levantine ceremonials of Alalakh, Tell Taynat, Ain Dara, Ugarit , Qatna, Tell Kazel, Sarepta, Sidon, Tyre, Dor, Ashdod, Ascalon, Tell Qasile.
“Traditional databases – underlines Laneri – are unable to answer the question of what is local, what is exogenous and what is hybrid; how much a tradition continues over time, when it is interrupted and how much instead changes through influences from western Syria , from the Aegean world and from the Egyptian world in the area where the tradition of monotheism will be born”. Gpt chat has nothing to do with it. The semantic web is a vision of the web in which machine-readable data allows software agents to query and manipulate information on behalf of users, and relates them to each other. It is the researchers who put in those data, according to a precise logic. For example, information relating to a 2nd millennium BC temple, such as the migdal temple of Shechem, will be entered into the religious architecture dataset, according to specific criteria (orientation, type of plant, presence of decorative motifs) which respond to a distinction between apparent exogenous and indigenous elements. “The higher the insertion of information – says Laneri to Time.news – the lower the possibility of error: the computer will tell us how many times and where a given element is repeated, that is, it gives us an interpretative perspective. The information is expanded : if the database connects one piece of data with another, here we have all the information on the net that interacts with each other and moreover interacts with the information found on the web”. If it is true that God does not make mistakes and the Scriptures are infallible, artificial intelligence is ready to challenge him on his own ground, that of knowledge. (Time.news)
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