Watch a 4000-Year Old Babylonian Recipe for Stew, Found on a Cuneiform Tablet, Get Cooked by Researchers from Yale & Harvard

Walk like an Egyptian, but eat like an ancient Babylonian.

While cookbooks containing Mesopotamian fare do exist, to be really authentic, take your recipes from a clay tablet, densely inscribed in cuneiform.

Sadly, there are only four of them, and they reside in a display case at Yale. (Understandable given that they’re over 4000 years old.)

When Agnete Lassen, associate curator of Yale’s Babylonian Collection, and colleague Chelsea Alene Graham, a digital imaging specialist, were invited to participate in a culinary event hosted by New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, they wisely chose to travel with a 3D-printed facsimile of one of the precious tablets.




T’would have been a shame to knock the original off the counter while reaching for a bunch of leeks.

While other presenters prepared such delicacies as Fish Sauces at the Roman Table, Buddhist vegetarian dishes from the Song Dynasty, and a post-modern squid-ink spin on Medieval Blancmange, the Yale team joined chef Nawal Nasrallah and a crew from Harvard to recreate three one-pot dishes detailed on one of the ancient artifacts.

Judging by the above video, the clear winner was Tuh’i, a beet and lamb stew which Lassen describes as a “proto-borscht.”

The vegetarian Unwinding Stew’s name proved unnecessarily vexing, while the milk-based Broth of Lamb was unappetizing to the eye (as well as the palate, according to Graham). Perhaps they should have substituted animal blood—another favorite Babylonian thickener.

As one of Lassen’s predecessors, Professor William W. Hallo, told The New York Times in 1988, it’s unlikely the average Mesopotamian would have had the opportunity to tuck into any of these dishes. The vast quantities of speciality ingredients and the elaborate instructions suggest a festive meal for the elite.

In addition to the dishes served at NYU’s Appetite for the Past conference, the tablets include recipes for stag, gazelle, kid, mutton, squab, and a bird that’s referred to as “tarru."

Next time, perhaps.

And not to quibble with the Bulldogs, but the BBC reports that researchers from the University of Wales Institute are claiming a pudding made from nettles, ground barley, and water is actually the world’s oldest recipe, clocking in at 6000 BC. (Serve it with roast hedgehog and fish gut sauce…)

While the Yale team has yet to share its recipes in a language other than cuneiform, The Silk Road Gourmet has a good guide to various Mesopotamian spices and staples.

via Kottke/Yale

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Thursday June 28 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Yale’s Free Course on The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy: Do Governments Deserve Our Allegiance, and When Should They Be Denied It?

"When do governments deserve our allegiance, and when should they be denied it?" It's a question that has perhaps crossed your mind lately. And it's precisely the question that's at the heart of The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy, a free course taught by Yale political science professor Ian Shapiro.

In 25 lectures (all available above, on YouTube and iTunes), the course "starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking."

You can find an archived web page that includes a syllabus for the course. Or you can now take the course as a full-blown MOOC. Below find the texts used in the course.

The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy will be added to our list of Free Political Science Courses, a subset of our collection 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Texts:

Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Viking, 1963.

Bromwich, David. "Introduction" to On Empire, Liberty, and Reform: Speeches and Letters. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Madison. The Federalist Papers. Ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Ed. David Bromwich and George Kateb. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974.

Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. 2nd edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Shapiro, Ian. Democratic Justice. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

Shapiro, Ian. Moral Foundations of Politics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Tucker, Robert C., ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.

A Free Yale Course on Medieval History: 700 Years in 22 Lectures

In 22 lectures, Yale historian Paul Freedman takes you on a 700 year tour of medieval history. Moving from 284–1000 AD, this free online course covers "the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam and the Arabs, the 'Dark Ages,' Charlemagne and the Carolingian renaissance, and the Viking and Hungarian invasions." And let's not forget St. Augustine and the "Splendor of Byzantium."

You can stream all of the lectures above. Or also find them on YouTube, iTunes and this Yale website.

The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000 will be added to our list of Free History Courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities. Below, we've added a list of the key texts used in the course:

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The American Revolution: A Free Course from Yale University

When you have a little time, you can drop in on a free course that revisits a seminal moment in U.S. history--the American Revolution. Taught by Yale historian Joanne Freeman, the course explores how the Revolution brought about "some remarkable transformations–converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause." You can access the 25 lectures above, or on YouTube and iTunes. Also find a syllabus for the course on this Yale web site.

"The American Revolution" will be added to our list of Free History Courses, a subset of our larger collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Death: A Free Philosophy Course from Yale Helps You Grapple with the Inescapable

It pays to think intelligently about the inevitable. And this course taught by Yale professor Shelly Kagan does just that, taking a rich, philosophical look at death. Here's how the course description reads:

There is one thing I can be sure of: I am going to die. But what am I to make of that fact? This course will examine a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality. The possibility that death may not actually be the end is considered. Are we, in some sense, immortal? Would immortality be desirable? Also a clearer notion of what it is to die is examined. What does it mean to say that a person has died? What kind of fact is that? And, finally, different attitudes to death are evaluated. Is death an evil? How? Why? Is suicide morally permissible? Is it rational? How should the knowledge that I am going to die affect the way I live my life?

Major texts used in this course include Plato's PhaedoTolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, and John Perry's A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality.

You can watch the 26 lectures above. Or find them on YouTube and iTunes in video and audio formats. For more information on this course, including the syllabus, please visit this Yale site.

This course has been added to our list of Free Online Philosophy courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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How to Listen to Music: A Free Course from Yale University

Taught by Yale professor Craig Wright, this course, Listening to Music, operates on the assumption that listening to music is "not simply a passive activity one can use to relax, but rather, an active and rewarding process." When we understand the basic elements of Western music (e.g., rhythm, melody, and form), we can appreciate music in entirely new ways. That includes everything from classical music, rock and techno, to Gregorian chant and the blues.

You can watch the 23 lectures above, on YouTube, or Yale's website, where you'll also find a syllabus and information on each class session. The main text used in the course is Listening to Music, written by the professor himself.

Listening to Music will be added to the Music section of our ever-growing collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

It's also worth noting that Prof. Wright has created an interactive MOOC called Introduction to Classical Music. You might want to check it out.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Yale Presents a Free Online Course on Literary Theory, Covering Structuralism, Deconstruction & More

It’s been a hallmark of the culture wars in the last few decades for politicians and opinionators to rail against academia. Professors of humanities have in particular come under scrutiny, charged with academic frivolity (sometimes at taxpayer expense), willful obscurantism, and all sorts of ideological crimes and diabolical methods of indoctrination. As an undergrad and graduate student in the humanities during much of the nineties and oughts, I’ve witnessed a few waves of such attacks and found the caricatures drawn by talk radio hosts and cabinet appointees both alarming and amusing. I’ve also learned that mistrust of academia is much older than the many virulent strains of anti-intellectualism in the U.S.

As Yale Professor of British Romantic Poetry Paul Fry points out in an interview with 3:AM Magazine, “satire about any and all professionals with a special vocabulary has been a staple of fiction and popular ridicule since the 18th century… and critic-theorists perhaps more recently have been the easy targets of upper-middle-brow anti-intellectuals continuously since [Henry] Fielding and [Tobias] Smollett.” Though the barbs of these British novelists are more entertaining than anything you’ll hear from current talking heads, the phenomenon remains the same: “Special vocabulary intimidate and are instantly considered obfuscation,” says Fry. “Reactions against them are shamelessly naïve, with no consideration of whether the recondite vocabularies may be serving some necessary and constructive purpose.”




Maybe you’re scratching your chin, shaking or nodding your head, or glazing over. But if you’ve come this far, read on. Fry, after all, acknowledges that jargon-laden scholarly vocabularies can become “self-parody in the hands of fools,” and thus have provided justifiable fodder for cutting wit since even Jonathan Swift's day. But Fry picks this history up in the 20th century in his Yale course ENGL 300 (Introduction to Theory of Literature), an accessible series of lectures on the history and practice of literary theory, in which he proceeds in a critical spirit to cover everything from Russian Formalism and New Criticism; to Semiotics, Structuralism and Deconstruction; to the Frankfurt School, Post-Colonial Criticism and Queer Theory. Thanks to Open Yale Courses, you can watch the 26 lectures above. Or you can find them on YouTube, iTunes, or Yale's own web site (where you can also grab a syllabus for the course). These lectures were all recorded in the Spring of 2009. The main text used in the course is David Richter's The Critical Tradition.

Expanding with the rapid growth and democratizing of universities after World War II, literary and critical theories are often closely tied to the contentious politics of the Cold War. Their decline corresponds to these forces as well. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent snowballing of privatization and anti-government sentiment, many sources of funding for the humanities have succumbed, often under very public assaults on their character and utility. Fry’s presentation shows how literary theory has never been a blunt political instrument at any time. Rather it provides ways of doing ethics and philosophies of language, religion, art, history, myth, race, sexuality, etc. Or, put more plainly, the language of literary theory gives us different sets of tools for talking about being human.

Fry tells Yale Daily News that “literature expresses more eloquently and subtly emotions and feelings that we all try to express one way or another.” But why apply theory? Why not simply read novels, stories, and poems and interpret them by our own critical lights? One reason is that we cannot see our own biases and inherited cultural assumptions. One ostensibly theory-free method of an earlier generation of scholars and poets who rejected literary theory often suffers from this problem. The New Critics flourished mainly during the 40s, a fraught time in history when the country's resources were redirected toward war and economic expansion. For Fry, this “last generation of male WASP hegemony in the academy" reflected “the blindness of the whole middle class," and the idea "that life as they knew it… was life as everyone knew it, or should if they didn’t.”

Fry admits that theory can seem superfluous and needlessly opaque, "a purely speculative undertaking” without much of an object in view.  Yet applied to literature, it provides exciting means of intellectual discovery. Fry himself doesn’t shy away from satirically taking the piss, as a modern-day Swift might say. He begins not with Coleridge or Keats (though he gets there eventually), but with a story for toddlers called “Tony the Tow Truck." He does this not to mock, but to show us that "reading anything is a complex and potentially unlimited activity"---and as “a facetious reminder,” he tells 3:AM, that “theory is taking itself seriously in the wrong way if it exhausts its reason for being….”

Introduction to Theory of Literature will be added to our list of Free Online Literature Courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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