Research...

There is something to be said for researching what interests you. Why else would you read books on Ancient Mesopotamia and try to make sense of archaic names and try to clarify finally in your mind what the difference is between the 11th Century, the 2nd Millennium, or the 5th Dynasty? There was a time when I thought perhaps those were interchangeable words used by historians to confuse the masses. (Perhaps they are - at least I wonder sometimes if historians like to confuse the masses.) But I digress... I've been spending every chance I get, and more concentrated of late, trying to read research books on daily life in Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt and other history books surrounding both. History books could be more entertaining, you know? I mean, how hard would it be to put a little life into the facts? I love history, but I've discovered that the best text books are the ones who remember that history is story. If you just spout facts, you'll lose most people (especially kids.) Maybe I'm a kid at heart...

So to keep things interesting, I've been hopping from one text to another reading a chapter here and a section there. I managed to almost finish one "daily life in..." book, but honestly, I had to keep a dictionary handy just to understand some of the text. I'm all for learning new words, but it would be nice if a glossary was not a necessary part of gathering the information I came looking to find. I feel like I'm in school again. Thankfully, I won't be tested on the material. Although, that's not necessarily true...

Sometimes writers are questioned about things in their books and authors of historical fiction are no exception. That's why I double and triple check my sources. But that doesn't mean I will always get it right.

For instance, in my current story on Sarai, I have chosen to give Pharaoh a name based on the suggested time Abram visited Egypt. But there is no way to know for sure when that happened and some scholars question whether Abraham was even an historical figure. They said the same thing about David, but archeology has begun to prove them wrong. Not that I ever doubted. I'm just sayin'...

So authors research and give themselves headaches trying to figure out ancient historical time frames and cultures and how life might have been. All that to try to paint a realistic picture of a place and era where their characters are set. I will probably put a disclaimer in Sarai if I choose to keep the Pharaoh's name that I've chosen to use. It is fiction, after all...

I will say after all of the reading of the past few days and the pondering and mental energy devoted to understanding the Sumerians and Semites and the geography of Mesopotamia, I did finally make sense of one thing. I understand the centuries! (At least I think I do!) Let me see: we live in the 21st Century in 2010. Jesus lived in 1st Century Palestine (0-99 A.D.). David lived in the 10th Century (about 1040-970) before Christ. Abraham lived around the 20th Century B.C. about 2000 years before Christ. Yes?

I'm still confused on how millenniums are counted. I know a millennium is 1000 years, but when they say Abraham lived around the 2nd millennium, is that before Christ or after the Flood? Probably before Christ since the timing of the Flood would be harder to pinpoint. But why do they interchange the centuries with millenniums? They talk about the 11th Century and in the next section they are back to counting by the thousands in this or that Millennium and that's where my brain starts to hurt. Can't we just say X amount of years before Christ? Oh, I know, it's B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) now, but that makes a lot less sense. I still maintain, history could be a lot less confusing if it was written in a more understandable way...

Oh well...the exact timing isn't super important to my stories, but it's nice to figure something out that I still think historians word to keep vague or confuse the masses. Or maybe I'm just too right brained to understand it all. Someday I'll figure it out!

In the meantime, I have a kitty asking to snuggle...

Selah~

PersonalJill Eileen Smith