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The theme of the KSAALT conference in April is « The Evolving Classroom. »



The Evolving Language Classroom in the Middle East: from Lucy to Bonjour Line


By Denis Hoppe


Moving from speculation about how our ancestors communicated with each other before writing, we will move on to classical antiquity, taking a peek at the library of Alexandria and on to the Dead Sea Scrolls classroom benches at Qumran.  This will be a rapid tour up to what I think is the earliest moving visual we have of an English classroom, e.g. in the English lesson scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V.  On this audiovisual note, I will present the transition from the translation style of teaching, to the post Pearl Harbor experiments by the Americans, which were carried further by the St-Cloud/Zagreb scholars Rivenc & Guberina in the 60’s (Bonjour Line, Passport to English).






From Lucy to Bonjour Line : The Evolving Language Classroom in the Middle East,

An Archaeological View

 by Denis Hoppe


Scientists are only recently learning that plants and vegetables have a much more advanced system of language and communication than animals.  And certainly animals have a much more sophisticated language of communication than humans which they learn effortlessly.  The first hominids also, must have inherited this rapid learning of languages from their close association with the animal kingdom.  The earliest bones of a hominid are the bones of Lucy, the discovery in Ethiopia of a lady hominid dating to 300,000 BC.

Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind by Donald C. Johanson,Maitland Edey,Maitland Armstrong Edey.  When Donald Johanson found a partial skeleton, approximately 3.5 million years old, in a remote region of Ethiopia in 1974, a headline-making controversy was launched that continues on today.


  Not far away from Ethiopia, where Lucy was found  the actual  footprints of a hominid were found, preserved in the mud by a volcano that erupted after the hominids had passed and preserved their footprints under the molten lava—this in  Leatoli, Tanganyka,. We thus have our earliest language classroom, thanks to that volcano that preserved those two footprints, dated geologically to about 3.6 million BC.

A close view of 3.6-million-year-old hominid footprints at Laetoli in Tanzania. http://www.getty.edu/conservation/field_projects/laetoli/laetoli_images.html

As we can see from these footprints made 300,000 years ago, the two hominids walk with a normal gate, and probably communicated easily with those around them, including the animals and birds.  Lucy would have learned the other languages by walking listening and repeating, somewhat the way one used to see young people, particularly in the Middle East, in the 1960’s, before the  massive influx of cars, walking along the roads reading a book.


As we move into the prehistoric period, Neanderthal and homo sapiens, although the brain is larger, understanding of the language of the animals and plants has receded a little bit, although, still prehistoric man seems to have had much less of problem communicating than is supposed.  The seminal study of a Neolithic society, Morgan’s study of the Iroquois[i][1], which opened the eyes of 19th century Europe to a completely different civilization, shows a society very much in harmony with each other—there was no discrimination either toward the youth, gender, the aged, or the infirm—an egalitarian, harmonious society.  I think Morgan, on language, points out that the Iroquois circulated widely among other tribes without fighting or problems of language. 


The Prehistoric Period


But with Morgan, we are jumping ahead in time to infer what language learning had been like in the million years before the Neolithic revolution, which, by the way, happened first in the Middle East, at Jericho, dated by Kathleen Kenyon with carbon 14 to 8000 BC. 


(Below) “The Neolithic tower of Jericho. Prepottery Neolithic tower, 9 meters in diameter, on the inner side of the city wall.  Within are twenty steps leading down to a horizontal passage.  The treads are of dressed slabs of stone more than 75 cm across. Photograph courtesy of K.M. Kenyon.  See Palestine Exploration Quarterly, vol. 92, 1960, pl. 8A.”  cited in Pritchard, James.  The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament 2nd Edition, Princeton University Press, 1969 p. 362 KFUPM BS 1180 P752 1969

Were there classrooms in the prehistoric period?  Or did people learn by walking outside and listening to nature, as Lucy did?  Certainly prehistoric peoples walked a lot, traveled a lot, much more than when private property developed in the Neolithic period.  We find objects made of obsidian very far from the sources of obsidian.  The obsidian would have had to be brought from a long distance;  so these prehistoric peoples walked and sailed to distant lands together, as a gens, or tribe, and came in contact with people from different regions who would  have been speaking a variety of different languages that they learned from listening to the birds and plants.  Two famous examples of the primitive language classroom are Lascaux and the Hypogeum of Malta.  (Below) The Neolithic (3000 BC) Hal Saflini Hypogeum of Malta (cf also: John Davies Evans, Malta, Thames & Hudson, London (1959)


 The story of Odysseus and Calypso is the story of Odysseus, who might be considered here as sort of a Bronze age tourist, visiting Calypso, the matriarch of the Malta Hypogeum.


(Below) Mother Goddess in the Valetta Museum (cf also John Davies Evans, Malta, Thames & Hudson, London (1959), and Trump, D.H. Malta An Archaeological Guide)

 Malta, as was, probably Lascaux, was a prehistoric pilgrimage site, a sort of initiation site, where, just as Calypso attempted to seduce Odysseus, prehistoric peoples came to learn their root language.  These are caves(Lascaux), Hypogea, either underground or with covered roofs(Malta), or circumambulatory plazas(Stonehenge).




(Below) French preservation experts examining the famous Lascaux paintings in Dordogne.[2]

  Here people would have come to learn the language of the area, a language linked to the surrounding earth, of the matriarch, the language of the umma, as is said in Arabic, where the tribe of people is related to the word for mother, um.  We see the evolution of these underground or cave-areas in the modern audio visual language classrooms of the 1960’s, where,  according the the theories of Rivenic, who developed Bonjour Line, the object of the dim lights and the slide strips is to get the students to relax.  In the case of Stonehenge, which is a circumambulatory classroom, we can see the traces of Lucy and the hominids’ way of learning language.  Such circumambulatory sites for initiation to the local language of nature are paralleled in the Middle East.  For example, the Conway High Place at Petra,[3] is a circumambulatory site, like Stonehenge.  The current “tawwaf” the going around the Kaaba, in Mecca, and the circumambulatory design of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, are modern vestiges of these ancient walking classrooms or initiation centers of the prehistoric period.


(Below) Jerusalem: The Dome of the Rock, inner ambulatory, from Creswell, K.A.C. A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture revised enlarged edition 1989, first published Penguin Press 1959 KFUPM NA 380.C683 1989

  Like the modern classroom of today, there has to be movement.  The students are urged to get up and walk around in the classroom.





The Neolithic Revolution[4]


It happened right here in the Middle East, at Jericho: the first little village doing agriculture, a very egalitarian society, somewhat like the Iroquois that Morgan saw.  Prehistoric peoples had to migrate because they would sometimes eat all the food in an area and have to move.  For Example, Crystal Bennet at Petra, using the modern techniques of pollen analysis, discovered that prehistoric people in Petra before the discovery of farming, had EATEN all the pistachios over time and there were eventually no more trees bearing pistachios! (Vegetables have a very sophisticated language.  They can warn each other when they are being eaten too much and not able to re-produce.  We don’t know how they learn their language—it does seem to be “innate” as Chomsky postulates for human language acquisition.  For example, the pistachios moved from pre-neolithic Petra to the area of the agricultural revolution along the banks of the Euphrates, to Aleppo, and today in Arabic they are called “Aleppo nuts”—fustuq halabi.) Crystal Bennet’s research at Petra gives us one reason why there was so much migration of peoples in the prehistoric period, with visits to far distant pilgrimage sites of different types, such as Malta, Stonehenge, Lascaux, the Conway High Place, Petra, Mount Moriah, Jerusalem, and—if I may risk making an anachronistic observation about the Hajj—Mecca. 


What was the language classroom like in the Neolithic period?  Well, probably the initiation centers continued to unite peoples of different geographical areas.  I have used what we know about the Iroquois to go reflect on the previous prehistoric period and on the Neolithic period.


 It wasn’t until the end of the Neolithic period, when the invention of agriculture created a surplus which certain individuals, such as priests and kings appropriated, that  the language of an area became a written language of people and somewhat separated from the language of the birds and animals, i.e. the language of the Earth Mother.  This was the Bronze age, the age of the Pyramids Kufu, Cephren, Mykerinos in Egypt, and the division into languages of the world, reflected in the story in the Bible of the tower of Babel. 


(Below) A Sphinx with the head of King Khaf-Re (Chephren) guards the necropolis of Giza with its three great pyramids (two shown: to the right, the pyramid of Khufu-Cheops;  to the left, the pyramid of Khaf-Re) Photograph courtesy of Trans World Airline.  See I.E.S. Edwards, The Pyramids of Egypt, West Drayton, 1947.  cited in Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament Second Edition with supplement, Princeton University Press, 1969, KFUPM BS 1180 P752 1969

The Father of Scientific Archaeology, Flinders Petrie,[5] working in Tell El-Far’ah, Gaza was the first to form a chronology of Bronze age pottery by linking the pottery to Egyptian hieroglyphic scarabs. The Pharaonic Egyptians had a good calendar; and a language preserved in stone; so if we find a scarab in a layer of earth and pottery in Palestine, with a reference to such and such a Pharaoh, we know the date.


Pharaonic Egyptian, a Hamitic language, spread into Palestine and Arabia, where the mother language was Semitic, either ancient Hebrew, or more ancient Aramaic, in Palestine, or ancient Arabic in the Arabian peninsula. On the famous (famous to Old Testament scholars) wall of the Amon temple at Karnak,  the Pharoh Sheshonk I describes conquering the Hapiru,[6] the Hebrew speakers of a city in Palestine, but we don’t know if these Hebrew speakers had to learn Pharaonic Egyptian after they were conquered.  It seems the Egyptians didn’t force their language on the conquered peoples.  They just took agricultural tribute—wine from the Minoan civilization of Crete, spices from Somalia(Punt), perhaps wood from the cedars of Lebanon, and the kings and queens as slaves.  The slaves had to learn Egyptian as best they could(story of Joseph and Potifar), but the Palestinians who stayed in Palestine had a jolly good time sort of Egyptianizing-or-Iraqianaizig their ivories, and they had their own types of Bronze age and Iron Age cities and temples.



(Below) Palestinian Bronze age Ivory from Megiddo Dated to 1350-1150 BC. Photograph courtesy of the Oriental Institute, Chicago.  See G. Loud, “The Megiddo Ivories,” OIP, 52 Chicago 1939.  Cited in Pritchard, James.  The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament 2nd Edition, Princeton University Press, 1969 p. 38 KFUPM BS 1180 P752 1969





The Semites were part of a larger group of languages that included Akkadian, and the cuneiform languages of what is now greater Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  Here we do have a famous example of the language classroom in the Bronze age:  the famous alphabet tablet in the Damascus museum.  (Below) The alphabet used at Ugarit in the fourteenth century consisted of 30 characters cited in Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament Second Edition with supplement, Princeton University Press, 1969, KFUPM BS 1180 P752 1969


  This method of learning the language by learning the alphabet revolutionized language teaching and led to the alphabetization of Greek, and later Latin.  What was the language classroom like?  In Egypt it was like this(scribe).


(Below) Fifth Dynasty(2500-2350 BC) statue of an Egyptian scribe, with eyes inlaid with quartz, crystal, and ebony wood, from Sakkarah. Photograph courtesy of Encyclopedie photographique de l’art, Le Musee du Louvre, vol. 1, Editions TEL, Paris, 1935.  Cited in cited in Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament Second Edition with supplement, Princeton University Press, 1969, p. 275, Fig. 230 KFUPM BS 1180 P752 1969






In Iraq it was like this (scribe dudu)

(Below) Sumerian Early Dynastic Period 25th century scribe thought to have come from Lagash.  Black volcanic stone.  Height about 0.39 m.  Photograph courtesy of the Iraq Museum. On the back is the inscription, “(To) the god Ningirsu, Dudu, the scribe, two (?) has presented.”


But in the cuneiform areas, any old piece of mud and a stylus would do.  Did they walk along the roads like Lucy did, but now jotting notes on mud like people with the new Apple iPad, and managers in supermarkets do with tablet PCs?  Did they sit on benches? Perhaps:  here are the benches from the scribes’ room in Qumran, dated much later than the Bronze age and used for inscribing letters on parchement, not mud.

(Below) restoration of the benches and desks from the sciptorium in the Essene (proto-Christian) sect’s monastery at Qumran. Photo[7] inside the Palestine Museum in Jerusalem.  I can’t re-find where I found this picture on the internet, but I believe if one goes to the Palestine Archaeology Museum in East Jerusalem today, it will still be there.

  This is during Roman times, but in the Middle East where Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, and Amharic were being dominated by Latin and Greek;  hence there was a need for this sect of Essenes to study Hebrew systematically.   I am an “old school” archaeologist and agree with Bernard de Vaux, the Franciscan who excavated Qumran in the 1950’s when Lancaster Harding was the head of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, who says this is a writing desk where proto-Christians, Essenes, worked studying the Dead Sea Scrolls. The great literary critic, Edmund Wilson wrote a book on the Essenes of Qumran and their contributions to the texts,[8] which were one or

two of  of the Dead Sea Scroll texts.


However, The Dead Sea Scrolls were stolen from the Palestine museum on the Arab side of Jerusalem in 1967 and put in a special museum on the west(Israeli-side since 1948) side of Jerusalem;  since that time, Israeli scholars and even some American archaeologists have denied the possibility that these desks at Qumran were writing desks and that the inkwells found in the same room were for writing on the scrolls.


The language classroom, as with the sciences, really took off with the Greeks, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean.  For example, we know of a 190 BC analysis of grammar by Dionysus of Thrax. Dionysus of Thrax’s Grammar[9]—and discourse on Homer--exists in Syriac, too. With the Greeks, we know that the Language classroom was once again, a walking classroom.  The Peripatetics walked in the stoa of Athens and talked. 

(picture below of the stoa at Athens[10])

But of course they had to write things down.  Plato and Aristotle. 



There were wars between the Greeks and the Middle East, the great dynasties of the Persians, and eventually the Macedonian, Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and the whole of the Middle East and set up his capital in Alexandria, where the great Library of Alexandria collected all the wisdom of the Middle East from the Prehistoric times to the time of Julius Caesar, who accidentally burned the Library when he was saving Cleopatra from some problem she had with her right, as matriarch, to rule in an epoch where Pharaonic Egypt had now evolved from the line of succession of the Pharoah being from the mother into now being very patriarchical.


Nevertheless, the library had a tremendous impact on the Middle East.  Throughout the period when Rome was trying to hold its  frontier of greater Syria against the Parthians in Iran and Iraq, the Middle East was able to maneuver to develop the sciences it had received from the contact with Greece and the Alexandrian Library.  For example, in the inscriptions in Palmyra and Petra, we can see that the locals put their(Semitic) language first, followed by Greek, and then, finally Latin, to keep the Romans happy. 


The Language Classroom in Greco roman times in the Middle East.


Actually, what we know about the Greco Roman language classroom comes from paintings preserved in Egypt. Here you see a woman student with a wax stylus.

(Picture of woman studying with a stylus)


 I don’t know if any classrooms have been found apart from Qumran, which dates to 160 BC.  But Qumran shows the seriousness of language study in the Middle East in Roman times.  Further testimony to the centrality of the language classroom in the Middle East in the Roman period is the ease with which the great Abbasid scholars in 8th century Baghdad were able to access at least some of the great works of the Library of Alexandria, Aristotle’s Poetics, (we have a complete 9th century Arabic translation) and Aristotle’s Physics, as transmitted through Avicenna, to give two of the famous ones, for example.  The Abbasid scholars must have had access to the works of people like Dionysus of Thrax, who did a linguistic analysis of Greek grammar, for they undertook, picking up from the running start which the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers had made in Miletus over a thousand years before,  one of the most comprehensive surveys of  the state of the Arabic language that has been ever been done for any language, calling in authentic dialects from all remote regions of the Arabian peninsula and Iraq to form a codification of the Arabic language, known today as “The Grammar of the Arabic Language.”  Because of this codification, Arabic is still a required course in doctoral programs in linguistics because it is the supreme example of linguistic logic. This 9th century study of all the dialects of the Bedouins made the basis for the great Arabic dictionary, Lisan Al-Arab, a masterpiece of the Mamluke period, a period which is often cited by patriotic, militaristic, British, American and Israeli scholars as a dull, militaristic slavocracy—the Mamlukes kicked out the crusaders from their feudal estates in greater Syria and stopped the Portuguese from coming up and taking over Jeddah in their quest to dominate the trade route to India around the Cape of Good Hope.


The classrooms for studying Latin and Greek in the Middle East, were perhaps like those of Qumran, with benches; but, perhaps, since we know the locals preferred the Greeks to the Romans, they were like the stoa at Athens, for a peripatetic education.  Perhaps we can imagine students and philologists walking along the columns of Jerash exchanging ideas, or along the columns of the great street, the cardo maximus, the great straight streets of Suq Al-Hamediyya  in Damascus.  They would have had audio visual reinforcement in Greek and Latin at the theaters of Amman, Petra, Jerash, and Palmyra.


(pictures of Jerash forum, Amman theatre)


 There were world famous law schools in Beirut and Gaza city.  Perhaps the Solidare restoration of Beirut after the Civil war has found the stoa of the Beirut Roman and Byzantine law school, but I don’t know.  The locals must have had to learn Latin, but they preferred to study Greek in order to kind of snub their noses at the Romans.  They would have come in contact with a few Nordic Europeans who spoke celtic because of the recruitment of Britannic Roman citizens into the Roman army, which had frontier posts on the Euphrates.  I was on a dig in Syria of one such Roman frontier post and we found a potsherd inscribed with the Roman legion known to be from Britain.  I doubt that these soldiers set up a Celtic council, like the British Councils of today, but they might have drawn some celtic artwork on their leather cuirasses.

(picture of Celtic miniature)


The language classroom of the native(Semitic) Languages of the Middle East during Roman and Byzantine times.


We have seen how the Essenes at Qumran took their Hebrew copying of the texts very seriously.  They set up benches and wrote.  What about Aramaic, the common language throughout the Middle East, and Palmyrene, and Nabatean?  These are written languages.  How were they studied, how did people take notes on what was said and how were they written down?  We have rock inscriptions: here is the oldest inscription in early Arabic, but written in Aramaic. (In the Louvre)  It says:

(dedication to Umr Al-Qais, in a Syrian inscription, now in the Louvre)


Unless you know a lot about the Syriac and Nestorian Christians in the Middle East, you only know of one phrase where someone took notes on Aramaic speech, The words of Jesus on the cross, lima salabouni, “why have they crucified me?” were taken down in note form and survived in the Greek text as a direct quote. But actually such note-taking, but rather on more artistic and literary works of Aramaic must have been going on.  We know this because by the time of the 7th century, the oral Bedouin poets of the Arabian peninsula “hang” their poems up in a competition for all to see.  Here is one of these “hanging” poems, the “Muallaqat,” translated by the great English Arabist, Arberry.  Oral poetry then was taken down—only sometimes—in note form.

(Below) A scan of pages 61-66 of Arberry, A.J. The Seven Odes The First Chapter in Arabic Literature, Allen & Unwin, London 1957 KFUPM PJ7642 E5 A7



Halt, friends both! Let us weep, recalling a love and a lodging by the rim of the twisted sands between Ed-Dakhool and


Toodih and El-Mikrât, whose trace is not yet effaced
for all the spinning of the south winds and the northern blasts;
there, all about its yards, and away in the dry hollows
you may see the dung of antelopes spattered like peppercorns.
Upon the morn of separation, the day they loaded to part,
by the tribe's acacias it was like I was splitting a colocynth;
there my companions halted their beasts awhile over me
saying, 'Don't perish of sorrow; restrain yourself decently!'        :
Yet the true and only cure of my grief is tears outpoured:
what is there left to lean on where the trace is obliterated?     ;

Even so, my soul, is your wont; so it was with Umm al-


before her, and Umm-ar-Rabât her neighbour, at Ma'sal; when they arose, the subtle musk wafted from them sweet as the zephyr's breath that bears the fragrance of cloves. Then my eyes overflowed with tears of passionate yearning upon my throat, till my tears drenched evcn my sword's


Oh yes, many a fine day l've dallied with the white ladies, and especially I call to mind a day at Dara Juljul, and the day I slaughtered for the virgins my riding-beast (and oh, how marvellous was the dividing of its loaded saddle), and the virgins went on tossing its hacked flesh about and the frilly fat like fringes of twisted silk. Yes, and the day I entered the litter where Unaiza was and she cried, 'Out on you! Will you make me walk on my feet?'





















62                             THE SEVEN  ODES

She was saying, while the canopy swayed with the pair of us, 'There now, you've hocked my camel, Imr al-Kais. Down

with you!'

But I said, 'Ride on, and slacken the beast's reins, and oh, don't drive me away from your refreshing fruit. Many's the pregnant woman like you, aye, and the nursing


I've night-visited, and made her forget her amuleted one-year-old;

whenever lie whimpered behind her, she turned to him with half her body, her other half unshifted under me.'

Ha, and a day on the back of the sand-hill she denied me swearing a solemn oath that should never, never be broken. 'Gently now, Fâtima! A little less disdainful: even if you intend to break with me, do it kindly. If it's some habit of mine that's so much vexed you just draw off my garments from yours, and they'll slip away. Puffed-up it is it's made you, that my love for you's killing me and that whatever you order my heart to do, it obeys. Your eyes only shed those tears so as to strike and pierce with those two shafts of theirs the fragments of a ruined heart. Many's the fair veiled lady, whose tent few would think of


I’ve enjoyed sporting with, and not in a hurry either, slipping past packs of watchmen to reach her, with a whole tribe hankering after my blood, eager every man-jack to slay me, what time the Pleiades showed themselves broadly in heaven glittering like the folds of a woman's bejewelled scarf. I came, and already she'd stripped off her garments for sleep beside the tent-flap, all but a single flimsy slip; and she cried, "God's oath, man, you won't get away with this! The folly's not left you yet; I see you're as feckless as ever." Out I brought her, and as she stepped she trailed behind us to cover our footprints the skirt of an embroidered gown.





















THE WANDERING KING                           63

But when we had crossed the tribe's enclosure, and dark about


hung a convenient shallow intricately undulant, I twisted her side-tresses to me, and she leaned over me; slender-waisted she was, and tenderly plump her ankles, shapely and taut her belly, white-fleshed, not the least flabby, polished the lie of her breast-bones, smooth as a burnished


She turns away, to show a soft cheek, and wards me off with the glance of a wild deer of Wajra, a shy gazelle with its

fawn; she shows me a throat like the throat of an antelope, not


when she lifts it upwards, neither naked of ornament; she shows me her thick black tresses, a dark embellishment clustering down her back like bunches of a laden date-tree-— twisted upwards meanwhile are the locks that ring her brow, the knots cunningly lost in the plaited and loosened strands; she shows me a waist slender and slight as a camel's nose-rein, and a smooth shank like the reed of a watered, bent papyrus. In the morning the grains of musk hang over her couch, sleeping the forenoon through, not girded and aproned to


She gives with fingers delicate, not coarse; you might say they are sand-worms of Zaby, or tooth-sticks of ishil-wood. At eventide she lightens the black shadows, as if she were the lamp kindled in the night of a monk at his-devotions. Upon the like of her the prudent man will gaze with ardour eyeing her slim, upstanding, frocked midway between matron

and maiden; like the first egg of the ostrich—its whiteness mingled with


nurtured on water pure, unsullied by many paddlers. Let the follies of other men forswear fond passion, my heart forswears not, nor will forget the love I bear you.




















64                             THE SEVEN  ODES

Many's the stubborn foe on your account I’ve turned and

thwarted sincere though he was in his reproaches, not negligent.

Oft night like a sea swarming has dropped its curtains over me, thick with multifarious cares, to try me, and I said to the night, when it stretched its lazy loins followed by its fat buttocks, and heaved off its heavy breast, 'Well now, you tedious night, won't you clear yourself off,

and let

dawn shine? Yet dawn; when it comes, is no way better than you. Oh, what a night of a night you are! It's as though the stars were tied to the Mount oi Yadhbul with infinite hempen ropes; as though the Pleiades in their stable were firmly hung by stout flax câbles to craggy slabs of granite.'

Many's the water-skin of all sorts of folk I hâve slung;

by its strap over my shoulder, as humble as can be, and

humped it;     

many's the valley, bare as an ass's belly, l've crossed, a valley loud with the wolf howling like a many-bairned


to which, howling, l've cried, ‘Well, wolf, that's a pair of us, pretty unprosperous both, if you're out of funds like me. It's the same with us both—whenever we get aught into our

hands we let it slip through our fingers; tillers of our tilth go pretty

thin.' Often l've been off with the morn, the birds yet asleep in their

nests, my horse short-haired, outstripping the wild game, huge-bodied,

charging, fleet-fleeing, head-foremost, headlong, all together the match of a rugged boulder hurled from on high by the





















THE WANDERING  KING                             6}

a gay bay, sliding the saddle-felt from his back's thwart just as a smooth pebble slides off the rain cascading. Fiery he is, for all his leanness, and wlen his ardour boils in him, how he roars—a bubbling cauldron isn't in it! Sweetly lie flows, when the mares floundering wearily kick up the dust where their hooves drag in the trampled


the lightweight lad slips landward from his smooth back, he flings off the burnous of the hard, heavy rider; very swift he is, like the toy spinner a boy will whirl plying it with his nimble hands by the knotted thread. His flanks are the flanks of a fawn, his legs like an ostrich's; the springy trot of the wolf he has, the fox's gallop; sturdy his body—look from behind, and he bars his legs' gap with a full tail, not askew, reaching almost to the ground; his back, as he stands beside the tent, seems the pounding-slab of a bride's perfumes, or the smooth stone a colocynth's

broken on;

the blood of the herd's leaders spatters his thrusting neck like expressed tincture of henna reddening combed white locks. A flock presented itself to us, the cows among them like Duwar virgins mantled in their long-trailing draperies; turning to flee, they were beads of Yemen spaced with cowries hung on a boy's neck, he nobly uncled in the clan. My charger thrust me among the leaders, and way behind him huddled the stragglers herded together, not scattering; at one bound he had taken a bull and a cow together pouncing suddenly, and not a drop of sweat on his body. Busy then were the cooks, some roasting upon a fire the grilled slices, some stirring the hasty stew. Then with the eve we returned, the appraising eye bedazzled to take in his beauty, looking him eagerly up and down; all through the night he stood with saddle and bridle upon


stood where my eyes could see him, not loose to his will.






















66                             THE SEVEN  ODES

Friend, do you see yonder lightning? Look, there goes its

glitter flashing like two hands now in the heaped-up, crowned


Brilliantly it shines—so flames the lamp of an anchorite as he slops the oil over the twisted wick. So with my companions I sat watching it between Dârij and El-Odheib, far-ranging my anxious gaze; over Katan, so we guessed, hovered the right of its deluge, its left dropping upon Es-Sitâr and furthcr Yadhbul. Then the cloud started loosing its torrent about Kutaifa turning upon their beards the boles of the tall kanahbals; over the hills of El-Kanan swept its flying spray sending the white wild goats hurtling down on all sides. At Taima it left not one trunk of a date-tree standing, not a soiltary fort, save those buttressed with hard rocks; and Thabeer—why, when the first onrush of its deluge came Thabeer was a greât chieftain wrapped in a striped jubba. In the morning the topmost peak of El-Mujaimir was a spindle's whorl cluttered with all the scum of the torrent; it had flung over the desert of El-Ghabeet its cargo like a Yemeni merchant unpacking his laden bags. In the morning the songbirds all along the broad valley quaffed the choicest of sweet wines rich with spices; the wild beasts at evening drowned in the furthest reaches of the wide watercourse lay like drawn bulbs of wild onion.





Thus, in the poems that the Bedouins hung out on parchment we have the first “White-boards” and the first “note-taking exercises,” so cherished by the advocates of the communicative method of language teaching today.  Like all the language classrooms in the Middle East at the time, this was part of the “locals’” resistance to Roman Imperialism and Latin, with its omnipresent wax stylus method of teaching Latin.  There is a parallel today between the Roman waxed stylus classroom—with its ever present problem of “tabula rasa” if the wax were rubbed—and the IBM PC with its ever present problem of losing all your work if you forget to “save” frequently.  Julius Caesar’s accidental burning of the library of Alexandria, thus losing Babylonian histories going back to the Bronze age, was not lost on the locals, who studied their own texts and the Greek texts that they could get their hands on with a vigor that we see in the benches of the Essene “scriptorium” in Qumran, and in the tremendous translation effort that took place in Baghdad under the Abbassids in the 8th century AD.  Even Charlemagne heard about the love of the Abbasids for books, and sent books as gifts to them.

The Middle Ages



The language classroom in France and England during the ninth century consisted mainly of monks copying down Greek and Latin texts, but not trying to understand them. 

(picture of monk in medieval scriptorium)

It wasn’t until the Greek texts came to Europe via their Arab translations that the Europeans began to get a glimmer of the importance of the texts the monks had preserved.  Before the plays of Arisophanes, Euripides and Homer in the original were re-discovered by the Europeans, they studied with Arabs, and probably IN Arabic, for example, at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe, and at Oxford, where Michael Scott translated Khawarizmi into Latin.  How did Fibonacci—famed for the Fibonacci numbers and who was familiar with Khawarizmi’s Algebra--learn Arabic?  I have my own theory that Arabic was taught by stressing the letters which sit on “chairs,” or on a “kursi”(kursi=chair, in Arabic) but change their sound depending on the dot or not-a-dot that is put above them.  From the word “kursi” which was drilled into the Italian students over and over, we have the word “cursor,” a word used in printing for the alignment of the font, and which has come into computer language from printing.  We know that the philosophy of Averroes (and Avicenna) was so “politically correct” at the Sorbonne in the 12th century that St. Thomas Aquinas was commissioned by the Bishop of Paris to write “Against Averroes”—which was actually quite “for” Averroes because Aquinas selected from Averroes’ encyclopedic knowledge of Greek philosophy only the Platonic, post-pre-Socratic views compatible with the church, and ushered in the era of scholasticism.


The Language Classroom of the Renaissance and After


            The Italians—particularly the merchants—were determined to crack the secrets of the Cairene merchants, who used Khawarizmi’s algebra, which was geometric and visual--not with the spaghetti-like scribbles  school children are tortured with today—and worked on “squares,” such as the tiles of a mosque, or such as the yards of FOLDED (in squares) of cloth of cotton(Arabic word), muslin(from Mosul, Iraq) which the Arab merchants loaded on their ships and could visually calculate the expected profit-loss of the ship expenditure.  The Italians may have also thought the magic of the Arab merchants was in the Arabic script, which must have appeared to them as a kind of short-hand, compared to the blocky Latin letters, hence the teaching of Arabic in the University of Bologna.  Since Bologna today is the premiere Italian city for good food, it may well be that spaghetti was invented by the Italian students at the university of Bologna studying the magic of the Arabic script, which looks like spaghetti, much the way Cambells Soup in the “See Spot Run!”--1950’s--era of English language schools in the Midwest of the US invented “Alphabet Soup.” 

(Andy Whorhol picture of Cambells Soup)

            However, I think the connection between Arabic at Bologna and printing (through the use of the “kursi” or cursor) is much more apt, and leads us through Caxton to Shakespeare and to the first audio-visual English lesson we know of :  the scene in Henry the 5th where Catherine is learning English to prepare for a meeting with Henry.  We are particularly fortunate to have this English lesson in one of the rare films that Sir Lawrence Olivier directed and played in.

   Kath. Ie te prie m' ensigniez, il faut que ie apprend a parlen:

Comient appelle vous le main en Anglois?

  Alice. Le main il & appelle de Hand


   Kath. De Hand


   Alice. E le doyts


   Kat. Le doyts, ma foy Ie oublie, e doyt mays, ie me souemeray

le doyts ie pense qu'ils ont appelle de fingres, ou de fingres


   Alice. Le main de Hand, le doyts le Fingres, ie pense que ie

suis le bon escholier


   Kath. I'ay gaynie diux mots d' Anglois vistement, coment

appelle vous le ongles?

  Alice. Le ongles, les appellons de Nayles


   Kath. De Nayles escoute: dites moy, si ie parle bien: de

Hand, de Fingres, e de Nayles


   Alice. C'est bien dict Madame, il & fort bon Anglois



  The English language classroom is now, in the Renaissance, the prerogative of kings.  We are already very far from the English language classroom of 11th century Chaucer, which was much more like the days of Lucy, or the peripatetics of Athens.  The wife of Bath, in Chaucer, for example, has made the pilgrimage five times all the way to the Jerusalem and many times to Rome, like the Neolithics and prehistorics, having no problems with language barriers on her route.


            From Shakespeare, we jump to Sam Johnson, whose dictionary was to help French learn English to learn the language of Newton.  By now English is a language to be learned by foreigners—to learn the language of the burgeoning sciences (Newton) in England.  Like the Dictionary, with it’s quotations from English literature, the language classroom was very print-oriented, but with beautiful passages of the language from literature.  It was doubtless more of the translation-word-by-word method that still survives in the teaching of ancient Greek.  The print-oriented classroom trained some of the greats of the European and American bourgeois revolutions.  Benjamin Franklin, a printer, was a friend of Bodoni—Microsoft Word uses his font sometimes--in Parma, Italy. Bodoni was a literary printer, like  Caxton of the 15th century Renaissance,  and set works to print in ancient Greek and even in Arabic: a printer who worked for a Prince but was attracted to Franklin because of his liberal ideas.


            While the language classroom was slowly moving from the palaces of the French and English kings to the halls of Oxford and the University of William and Mary in Virginia, nothing much had changed in the furniture since the days of the Qumran benches, except for the printed books now, instead of bronze age mud brick and papyrus.  The white board, or black board--invented by the 6th century bedouin poets hanging up their cherished Semitic poems in a move to resist the prevalent, imperialistic Latin and Greek of the declining Byzantine Empire—was probably not to be seen in the classrooms of the Turkish coffee drinkers of Sam Johnson’s Dictionary and Addison and Steele’s Tatler days. (Perhaps it was.  I frankly don’t know when the blackboard was introduced. I haven’t yet done any industrial archaeology, although, my dear downtown Detroit is a ruin of auto-baron mansions and towering railway stations covered with weeds and climbing tendrils, and as worthy of archaeological tourism and exploration as Ankor Wat or Chichen Itza.)


The Post Pearl Harbor Language Classroom


            (picture of Hiroshima and Dresden after the bombing)


It was not until after Pearl Harbor that the language classroom moved away from the translation-dictionary style of Ancient Greek and Latin and moved to the modern methods we know today.  Suddenly the Americans after Pearl Harbor decided that language had to be taught in new ways.  They turned to an American philosopher named B.F. Skinner, who had invented the “language box,” and “programmed learning.”

(Picture of Skinner’s Language Box)


 It was hoped that at least the officers in the American military would be able to be “programmed”—taught the BEHAVIOUR of a foreign language, an almost Pavlovian behaviour,  the way Pavlov discovered that dogs have “pavlovian reactions”--to learn languages so that they could work together with the French, Spanish, and Italian speakers in the former colonies of Africa and the Middle East.  This was the time of the Defense Foreign Language Instututes that Professor Milhem talked about at the last KSAALT meeting  We are lucky in the KFUPM library that we have some of the old methods that came out of the B.F. Skinner ideas, but they are getting harder and harder to come by.

(Photo copy of Univ. of Michigan method[11])

            Thanks to an extrapolation of the B.F. Skinner ideas by the a group working between the University of St. Cloud in Paris, and Zagreb in Yugoslavia in the 1950’s the behaviorist, audio-visual methods of the American response to Pearl Harbor were transformed into Bonjour Line, a Structural Global Audio Visual program which forms my catchy Title for this archaeological tour, along with Lucy, the hominid,--of this meander through the evolution of the Language Classroom:  The Evolving Classroom from Lucy to Bonjour Line.


With the digression in the two paragraphs above, we come to Bonjour LineLine is a French word, a name of a little girl, I guess, but you should not say “Il faut faire la line,” if you mean “you should wait in line” in France, because “faire la ligne” means take a shot of heroin, I think, or something like that).  But it is the title of a St. Cloud-Zagreb method for teaching French to children by the “Structuro-Global-Audio-Visual”(SGAV) method.  It paralleled a method for secondary students and adults called Voix et Images de France, which French Cultural Centres(like the British Council, but for French) used with a book called La France en Direct.  An English method based on the St Cloud – Zagreb method, was used in Belgium until quite recently.  Chomsky wrote a scathing critique of B.F. Skinner’s “behaviorist” approach to languages which kind of took the wind out of the sails of these promising Structural Global Audio Visual (SGAV) methods, based on teaching the rhythm and music of the language, in order to break down the screen that develops as you get more and more used to your native tongue.   In these behaviorist methods, which of course Chomsky might say destroy the student’s “innate” ability to learn languages since the other culture is being FORCED on him by the behaviorist methods, the culture of the Western country (England, US, or France) is actively taught.

As you see from a page from La France en Direct, by Capelle, which is similar to Bonjour Line, the method forms at the same time a very nice introduction to French mores. 

It is a far cry from the so-called “multi-cultural” texts of today.  But we are living in the age of Chomsky in linguistics; so be it.


Well, that brings us from Lucy to Bonjour Line, an archaeological tour of the evolving classroom.  I have left out some other very important observations on the Language Classroom, for lack of time.  For example, one of the interesting things a PhD student of Edward Said’s at Columbia discovered is that the whole way English literature is taught now in an English Department, going from Chaucer to Shakespeare, and Milton and Joyce HAPPENED  precisely because England presented itself in this way to its colonial subjects. ..  (Edward Said points this out in his book, Orientalism.).  There was no canon of English Literature before the colonial experience of teaching English in India!!  Incredibly, much the same could be said of France and Italy.  The canon of French and Italian literature is the RESULT of presenting French and Italian to the colonies.  What is supremely amazing is the Italian, Nallino, who gave courses, IN ARABIC on the history of Arabic literature, --based on the organization of Italian literature which had got organized from Italy’s  colonial experience in Lybia and Ethiopia--right at the University of Cairo under the Khedival administration—lectures which ORGANIZED Arabic literature into a canon, and were listened to and admired by the greatest pioneers of modern Arabic literature, Taha Hussein and Ahmed Shawki (sorry, it was the British orientalist, Margoliouth, not Nallino, whom Shawki dedicated a poem to) Another curiosity is how the “defense-of-the-Semitic-languages against-the-Romans” survived WITHIN  Europe, such that when Napoleon came to Egypt with his cohorts of scientists and archaeologists, he had scholars who composed proclamations in Arabic.  These scholars of Arabic (and ancient Hebrew –the Hebrew of Maimonides of Andalusia) had survived at the Sorbonne since the days of St. Thomas Aquinas.  The printing press that Napoleon’s army set up in Bulaq, a suburb of Cairo,  immediately started printing the great Arabic classics from the Arabic manuscripts in the Renaissance Bibliotheque Richelieu,  in Paris, set up by Cardinal Richelieu, the protagonist in The  Three Musketeers novel and movie.



[1] Morgan, Lewis Henry  Ancient Society or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization (KFUPM JC21.M84 1974)


[2] 3 April 2010 at http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/actualites/images/lascaux0708.jpg

[3] illustration in Albright, William Foxwell The Archaeology of Palestine, Smith, London 1971 KFUPM DS108.9.A6 1960

[4] term coined by Vere Gordon Childe, cf . What Happened in History (1942), A Short Introduction to Archaeology, Collier Books 1962 KFUPM CC 165.C5

[5] cf. Albright, William Foxwell The Archaeology of Palestine, Smith, London 1971 KFUPM DS108.9.A6 1960


[6] J. Simons, Handbook for the Study of Egyptian Topographical Lists Relating to Western Asia, Leiden 1937, pp. 90-101. Cited in Pritchard, James.  The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament 2nd Edition, Princeton University Press, 1969 p. 290 Fig. 349 KFUPM BS 1180 P752 1969

[7] I can’t find the source of this picture.

[8] Wilson, Edmund The Scrolls from the Dead Sea, Allen & Unwin, 1955 KFUPM  BM40.D4 W5

[9] See Versteegh, C.M.H. Greek Elements in Arabic Linguistic Thinking, Brill, Leiden 1977 KFUPM PJ6052.V4  for more details on exactly how Dionysus of Thrax influenced Sibawaihi and the Abbasid Gramarians of Arabic

[10] 3 April 2010 http://intranet.arc.miami.edu/rjohn/images/athens/Recohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Escribano.jpgnstruction%20of%20the%20Stoa%20of%20Attalus%20copy.jpg

[11] page xvii of Robert Lado, Charles C. Fries and English Language Institute Staff, English Pattern Practices, Establishing the Patterns as Habits, An Intensive Course in English, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 1943-1967 KFUPM PE1413.L33 1958