The Ark Before Noah

Irving Finkel, British Museum
Scarsdale High School, 1057 Post Road, Scarsdale
March 30, 2017
7:30 pm  to  8:45 pm  

In THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah’s Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel’s enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum – the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet – the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents. It had been brought in by a member of the public and this particular tablet proved to be of quite extraordinary importance. Not only does it date from about 1850 BC, but it is a copy of the Babylonian Story of the Flood, a myth from ancient Mesopotamia revealing among other things, instructions for building a large boat to survive a flood. But Dr Finkel’s pioneering work didn’t stop there. Through another series of enthralling discoveries he has been able to decode the story of the Flood in ways which offer unanticipated revelations to readers of THE ARK BEFORE NOAH.  In addition the lecture will describe how a replica of the boat following the ancient instructions was built in India, the subject of the document film The Real Noah’s Ark.

Dr Irving Finkel is Assistant Keeper of the Ancient Mesopotamian (ie. Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian) script, languages and cultures Department: Middle East at the British Museum. He is the curator in charge of cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia, of which the Middle East Department has the largest collection – some 130,000 pieces – of any modern museum. This work involves reading and translating all sorts of inscriptions, sometimes working on ancient archives to identify manuscripts that belong together or even join to one another.

He also looks after the Museum’s collection of board games and once spoke to our Society on that subject. There will be a special prize to anyone who can identify the date of his talk.


Borscht Belt Archaeology

Marisa Scheinfeld
Scarsdale Public Library, 54 Olmsted Road, Scarsdale
April 23, 2017
2:00 pm  to  3:15 pm  

Today the Borscht Belt, located in the Catskill Mountains of New York, is recalled through the nostalgic lens of summer swims, Saturday night dances, and comedy performances. But its current state, like that of many other formerly glorious regions, is nothing like its earlier status. Forgotten about and exhausted, much of its structural environment has been left to decay. Some of the structures have been lying abandoned for periods ranging from four to twenty years, depending on the specific hotel, or bungalow colony, and the conditions under which it closed. Other sites have since been demolished, or repurposed, documentation of a pivotal era in American Jewish history.

From entire expanses of abandoned properties to small lots containing drained swimming pools, the remains of the Borscht Belt era now lie forgotten, overgrown, and vacant. In the absence of human activity, nature has reclaimed the sites, having encroached upon or completely overtaken them. Many of the interiors have been vandalized or marked by paintball players and graffiti artists. Each ruin lies radically altered by the elements and effects of time.

Through a photographic series of “now” and “then” imagery composed by using found postcards a mirror image of their present day depictions will be presented.  The history of the Borscht Belt, its rise, fall and impact (via archival images and objects) will be shown in a powerpoint presentation.  The talk will discuss the research, field-based process, investigations and the layered meanings in the photographs displayed.

Marisa Scheinfeld was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Catskills. She received a B.A. from the State University at Albany and a MFA from San Diego State University. Her work is highly motivated by her interest in the ruin, or site and the histories embedded within them. Marisa’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is among the collections of The Center for Jewish History, The National Yiddish Book Center, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art & Life, The Simon Wiesenthal Center and The Edmund and Nancy K. Dubois Library at the Museum of Photographic Arts. She is the author of The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland.

Build a Wall: Make Mesopotamia Great Again (and Egypt too)

Peter Feinman
Scarsdale Public Library, 54 Olmsted Road, Scarsdale
May 25, 2017
7:30 pm  to  8:30 pm  

The Prophecies of Neferti: Making Egypt Safe Again

Rise against what is before you!

Lo, the great no longer rule the land,

What was made has been unmade,

Re should begin to recreate!

Asiatics roam the land,

Foes have risen in the East,

Asiatics have come down to Egypt,…

One will build the Walls-of the-Ruler

To build the Walls-of-the Ruler

To bar Asiatics from entering Egypt;

Then Order will return to its seat,

While Chaos is driven away.

In ancient times, the great civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt were aware of the existence of subhuman “others” from beyond the pale. While Egypt and Mesopotamia built great structures that would awe the lesser beings who did not live along their rivers, they also knew that those star-struck people were knocking on the door ceaselessly trying to enter the ancient “Emerald City” where the superior civilizations were located. So what should Egypt and Mesopotamia do prevent the alien riff raff from entering their lands? The answer was simple: Build a wall. And that is exactly what both civilizations did.

Peter Feinman is the founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, and public programs. He received his B.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.Ed. from New York University, an MBA from New York University, and an Ed. D. from Columbia University. His interests cross disciplinary boundaries including American history, ancient civilizations, biblical history, and New York history.

He advocates for state and local history in the curriculum, teacher training, and cultural heritage tourism and for the well-being of the social fabric. In support of these efforts, he writes a blog about the state of New York State History.

He supports public outreach of ancient civilization through participation in the multiple organizations. His forthcoming book is Jerusalem Throne Games: Battle of Biblical Stories after the Death of David.

Cold Spring Archaeology and History Trip

Scenic Hudson, Putnam History Museum, Chapel of Our Lady Restoration and St. Mary in the Highlands Church
Cold Spring, New York
June 3, 2017
9:30 am  to  4:00 pm  

See where the canons of the Union Army were built.

See where immigrants from Ireland built their first church, worked the foundry, and created a school for their children.

See the scenic Hudson River.

Enjoy lunch and walking the main street of a classic American village

(9:30am – 10:30am            Foundry Dock Park and Chapel of Our Lady Restoration

Park at Metro North Station ‑ Free)

Foundry Dock Park:  This riverfront park, a perfect spot to marvel at the Hudson Highlands, was the busy loading dock of the West Point Foundry. Located just southeast of here, the West Point Foundry was established to produce artillery for the U.S. government. Finished goods were transported by rail to a pier stretching into the river off Foundry Dock Park (you can see a portion of its remains at low tide) and then shipped worldwide.

Chapel of Our Lady Restoration: Originally known as Chapel of Our Lady, The Chapel Restoration, was originally built in 1833, in the Greek Revival style to serve Catholic workers of the Foundry. Abandoned in 1906, it was a charred, weather‑ravaged ruin until its restoration in the 1970s. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

(Drive to WPFP Parking Lot)

10:30am – 12:30pm         Tour of West Point Foundry Preserve

West Point Foundry Preserve: Established in 1818 to supply the U.S. government with artillery, the ironworks employed hundreds of workers who produced some of America’s first steam engines, locomotives and ironclad ships, as well as pipes for New York City’s water system and Parrott guns, cannon credited with winning the Civil War. The foundry’s owners also were business pioneers, among the first to control every aspect of manufacturing, from raw material to product distribution. The preserve trails follow old rail beds and pass extensive remains of the casting house, boring mill and other essential foundry structures that led to the preserve’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Exciting new interpretive features including a full‑scale sculptural model of the 36‑foot water wheel that powered the boring mill tell the story of the 87‑acre site’s contributions to America’s Industrial Revolution and the Civil War, as well as the cleanup leading to its astonishing ecological renewal.

(Drive to St. Mary’s Parking Lot, short walk to Restaurant on Main Street, Cold Spring)

12:30pm – 2:00pm           Lunch on Main Street

(walk back to St. Mary’s)

2:00pm – 2:45pm             St. Mary in the Highlands Church

St. Mary in the Highlands Church: Completed in 1868 St. Mary’s was the collective gift of Robert Parker Parrott, Gouverneur Kemble, Gouverneur Paulding and Frederick Plummer James and was built largely with profits made by the foundry during the Civil War.  A marble tablet at the rear of the nave has the names of Parrott, Kemble and Mary Kemble, Parrott’s wife.

(Drive to Putnam History Museum)

2:45pm – 4:00pm             Putnam History Museum

Putnam History Museum: The PHM has been collecting, preserving and interpreting the artifacts of history of Philipstown, the Hudson Highlands and the West Point Foundry for over 100 years. The West Point Foundry Gallery features John Fergeson Weir’s painting The Gun Foundry as well as a newly restored Model 1863 10‑pounder Parrott Rifle and other items cast at the foundry.