Archaeology, Anthropology and
Paleontology

Updated: 9/05/2014  

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Archeology, Anthropology, and Paleontology

Archeology and Anthropology together encompass the study of humans from the distant origins of the human species to the present day.  Archeology grew from eighteenth-century antiquarianism while anthropology began even earlier in the early days of colonial encounter.

 Today both subjects involve
arcbones a range of sophisticated approaches shared with the arts, social sciences and physical sciences - and lively interaction. Thus, for example, the anthropological study of primates and early humans helps archaeologists, using the physical remains recovered, to reconstruct the ways in which our earliest ancestors lived, while scientific dating techniques produce the time frame, and the latest genetic analyses define their relationships to modern human populations. -
Oxford University Program Description

In the United States, Archeology is taught as one of four sub-disciplines of anthropology (with cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, and linguistics).

Paleontology focuses on ancient life. It seeks to describe phenomena of the past and reconstruct their causes. Hence it has three main elements: description of the phenomena; developing a general theory about the causes of various types of change; and applying those theories to specific facts.
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What is Christian Anthropology

Many people have at one time or another heard or seen an anthropologist on some science show or a program about how humans came to be, and how they formed societies and culture and all those other wonderful things we’re known for. In its most basic terms, anthropology is the study of humanity. Christian anthropology revolves around the study of the human as we relate to the God of the Bible.

Christian anthropology studies humanity and its nature. This is an important distinction, for standard anthropology deals with the physical study of man across great lengths of time or in one place or another in our physical world. Christian anthropology, though, attempts to look deep into the nature of man and how he interacts with our Lord. For example, a person engaged in the profession of Christian anthropology might try to examine the meaning that lay behind the fact that God created man in his image, as noted in the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-27 (NIVe) where God has … “made man in our own image…” What does it mean that God did this? Is this the immaterial part of a man or an actual physical resemblance to God? That’s a central question for Christian anthropology.

Christian anthropology is also concerned with man’s essential makeup. Is it body, soul, and spirit, or something else? This is also part of the study of the nature of man. According to passages in the Bible, there are notions that revolve around the things that form a person. Some are material – such as the body – while others are immaterial (without solid form), like a soul and a spirit. A Christian anthropologist, and almost any other person, knows that we have a body which can be touched or harmed or made to feel physical pleasure. One of the central beliefs in our Christian relationship to God is that this physical body will be resurrected at the end times. Also, conscience and logic tell us we have an actual physical existence on this world, which helps the Christian anthropologist in his or her studies.

Christian anthropology tries to examine our spirit and our soul and their relationship to one another and to God. The spirit and the soul, however, are far more intangible, but no less important (most Christians would say far more important) than the human body. Christian anthropology seeks to examine the question of soul and spirit and their relationship to one another. It’s helpful to know that when the Bible mentions “spirit,” it refers to our personal relationship to God. The soul, though, can be both material and immaterial, and an anchor to our physical world and to God’s world at the same time.

Why a Christian Anthropology Makes a Difference PETER KREEFT

It is simply impossible to agree on ethics, on how to act, on what is good and what is not, if you disagree about metaphysics or anthropology. And since ethics is unavoidable, so is anthropology.

 

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Archaeology
Archaeologists mapping their finds at Pachacamac, Peru, an indigenous town occupied from …
[Credit: Martin Mejia/AP]
 
The scientific study of the material remains of past human life and activities. These include human artifacts from the very earliest stone tools to the man-made objects that are buried or thrown away in the present day: everything made by human beings—from simple tools to complex machines, from the earliest houses and temples and tombs to palaces, cathedrals, and pyramids. Archaeological investigations are a principal source of knowledge of prehistoric, ancient, and extinct culture. The word comes from the Gree karchaia (“ancient things”) and logos (“theory” or “science”).Enc. Britiannica


An Up-to-date Review: "Peopling the Americas" from Archaeology (2014)
DNA Reveals Origins of First European Farmers

ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 2010) — A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the University of Adelaide has resolved the longstanding issue of the origins of the people who introduced farming to Europe some 8000 years ago.

A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe.

Project leader Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, says: "This overturns current thinking, which accepts that the first European farming populations were constructed largely from existing populations of hunter-gatherers, who had either rapidly learned to farm or interbred with the invaders."

The results of the study have been published today in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS Biology.

"We have finally resolved the question of who the first farmers in Europe were -- invaders with revolutionary new ideas, rather than populations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers who already existed in the area," says lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak, Senior Research Associate with ACAD at the University of Adelaide.

"We've been able to apply new, high-precision ancient DNA methods to create a detailed genetic picture of this ancient farming population, and reveal that it was radically different to the nomadic populations already present in Europe.

"We have also been able to use genetic signatures to identify a potential route from the Near East and Anatolia, where farming evolved around 11,000 years ago, via south-eastern Europe and the Carpathian Basin (today's Hungary) into Central Europe," Dr Haak says.

The project involved researchers from the University of Mainz and State Heritage Museum in Halle, Germany, the Russian Academy of Sciences and members of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, of which Professor Cooper is a Principal Investigator and Dr Haak is a Senior Research Associate.

The ancient DNA used in this study comes from a complete graveyard of Early Neolithic farmers unearthed at the town of Derenburg in Saxony-Anhalt, central Germany.

"This work was only possible due to the close collaboration of archaeologists excavating the skeletons, to ensure that no modern human DNA contaminated the remains, and nicely illustrates the potential when archaeology and genetics are combined," says Professor Kurt Werner Alt from the collaborating Institute of Anthropology in Mainz, Germany.

 

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Why Are There So Few Christian Anthropologists? Reflections on the Tensions Between Christianity and Anthropology, Dean A, Arnold

In his provocative book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, evangelical historian
Mark Noll decries the lack of an evangelical mind in the academy, and challenges evangelical
Christians to consider the importance of the cultivation of the mind as a divine calling.
Unfortunately, the Christian mind in anthropology lags behind many disciplines because,
among other reasons, there are so few Christian anthropologists. Why is this? According to
a Carnegie Foundation survey, anthropology is the most secular of the disciplines. It has
a record of hostility to Christianity that is borne out by the experiences by many evangelical
Christians. This essay elaborates some of the tensions between anthropology and Christianity
and provides a response to some of these tensions. It suggests that evangelical Christians can
influence the academy by immersing themselves in it and by pursuing pure research rather
than just focusing on more applied concerns such as missions, development and the church.

ASA interests are found primarily in in the cultures and artifacts that may offer light on the periods and descriptions in the Bible and in tracing human history. Deeply held world views by Christian and non-Christian alike may obscure objective discussion of new information

We first point to a recent book and several articles that characterize current views toward 'biblical' ('Syro/Palestinian') archaeology. 

     A review of Shifting Sands describes the issues:

"Thomas W. Davis's, Shifting Sands: The Rise and  Fall of Biblical Archaeology, Oxford: Cave,jpgbones University Press, 2004 could not be more timely. The  long-standing question of the historicity, the truth, of the Bible; understanding the role that it has played in the now-beleaguered Western cultural tradition; seeing how archaeology is being employed today in the Middle East by all parties to create a past (or invent it) that may well shape all our futures-these are burning issues. Davis's well told story of archaeology in the region, his balanced judgments, and his cautious optimism for an honest dialogue between archaeology and biblical studies, free of theological and nationalistic biases, offer some hope at a time when skepticism prevails."  --William G. Dever, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology emeritus, University of Arizona

Garry K. Brantley, "Dating in Archaeology: Challenges to Biblical Credibility",  Reason & Revelation, November 1993,  13[11]:81-85.

“Biblical historical data are accurate to an extent far surpassing the ideas of any modern critical students, who have consistently tended to err on the side of hypercriticism” (1949, Albright, p. 229).
“Archaeologists now generally agree that their discoveries...have produced a new consensus about the formation of ancient Israel that contradicts significant parts of the biblical version” (Strauss, 1988).

"These statements represent the conflicting messages that characterize the field of archaeology. In Albright’s era, archaeologists’ interpretations of field excavations ordinarily corroborated biblical information. It was common for prominent archaeologists such as Nelson Glueck to confidently affirm: “...no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference” (1959, p. 31)."

"Prior to the 1970s, interpretations of archaeological explorations generally heightened the Bible’s credibility (Davis, 1993, 19[2]:54-59). Since then, however, the amiable relationship between archaeology and the Bible has deteriorated dramatically. It is commonplace for the new generation of archaeologists to spurn the historical credibility of the biblical narrative (see Dever, 1990, 16[3]:52-62)."

"Archaeology, therefore, presents a challenge to those who contend for the integrity of the Scriptures. How are we to respond? On what basis do many archaeologists repudiate the historicity of the biblical text, and how reliable are their methods? To answer these and other questions we must have a basic understanding of the science of archaeology." Brantley

Richard L. Atkins, "Extravagant Claims in Bible Archaeology,"  JASA 36 (September 1984): 139-141.  Illustrates some of the difficulties in the field

Charles H. Kraft, "Conservative Christians and Anthropologists: A Clash of Worldviews," PSCF 32 (September 1980): 142-145.

Edwin W. Yamauchi, "Problems of Radiocarbon Dating and of Cultural Diffusion in Pre-history,"  JASA, 27 (March 1975): 25-31. An early paper warning against bias which colors perceptions of scientific developments  which are  viewed as destructive of biblical teaching.

Clyde McCone,  "The Phenomena of Pentecost," JASA 23 (September 1971): 87-88.

"Reliable historical evidence both from the Scriptures and from the cultural context of the event, confirms that the Galileans on the day of Pentecost bore witness to the resurrected Christ in languages with which they and their hearers were familiar. The validity of accepting the cultural and linguistic evidence with respect to the miracle of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit rests upon the complementary harmony which exists between the natural and the supernatural, and hence between science and Divine Revelation."

Qasral-QarqurN.jpg Site of Qasr al-Qarqur, Jordan

Recent PSCF authors have sought to date the biblical flood, place the garden of Eden, date the human race and other  questions using archaeological evidence in conjunction with textual and geological evidence.

John Argubright's Web Site offer a wealth of evidence supporting the biblical text. (just click to open)

Wilcox, David L., Establishing Adam: Recent Evidences for a Late-Date Adam (AMH@100,000 BP), PSCF 56.1  (2004):49-54.

The appearance of modern humans continues to be a major controversy in paleoanthropology. The issues include genetic, anatomical, and cultural matters. For the Christian, there are also important theological issues, leading to various estimations of the timing of Eden ranging from two million years ago to six thousand years ago.. Several interesting papers related to this issue were published last year. This communication notes several of these and suggests a biological mechanism possibly involved in the process by which God created humanity.

Godfrey, Thomas James, Do Ice Cores Disprove Aardsma's Flood Theory?  PSCF 56.1 (2004):76-77.  Seeley questioned.

Seely, Paul H., Concordism's Illusion That It Is Upholding the Historicity of Genesis,  PSCF 56.1 (2004:75-76. In PSCF Letters (June 2003: 138), I said that neither creation science’s global flood nor concordism’s local flood could solve the problem of the conflict between the biblical account of the flood and the findings of modern science. Since then Carol Hill (PSCF 55 [Sept. 2003]: 209), John McIntyre, and Thomas Godfrey (PSCF 55 [Dec. 2003]: 276–8) have written resisting my answer to the problem, namely that God accommodated his theological revelation in Genesis 1–11 to the now antiquated science/ history of the times. They say they believe the history in Genesis 1–11 is accurate ....
   
Seely, Paul H., The GISP2 Ice Core: Ultimate Proof that Noah's Flood Was Not Global  PSCF 55.4 (2003): 252-260 .

Recently an ice core nearly two miles long has been extracted from the Greenland ice sheet. The first 110,000 annual layers of snow in that ice core (GISP2) have been visually counted and corroborated by two to three different and independent methods as well as by correlation with volcanic eruptions and other datable events. Since the ice sheet would have floated away in the event of a global flood, the ice core is strong evidence that there was no global flood any time in the last 110,000 years.Museum in Florence IT

Hill, Carol A. Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis  , PSCF 55.4:239-251 (12/2003).

Among the greatest stumbling blocks to faith in the Bible are the incredibly long ages of the patriarchs and the chronologies of Genesis 5 and 11 that seem to place the age of the Earth at about 6,000 years ago. The key to understanding the numbers in Genesis is that, in the Mesopotamian world view, numbers could have both real (numerical) and sacred (numerological or symbolic) meaning. The Mesopotamians used a sexagesimal (base 60) system of numbers, and the patriarchal ages in Genesis revolve around the sacred numbers 60 and 7. In addition to Mesopotamian sacred numbers, the preferred numbers 3, 7, 12, and 40 are used in both the Old and New Testaments. To take numbers figuratively does not mean that the Bible is not to be taken literally. It just means that the biblical writer was trying to impart a spiritual or historical truth to the text-one that surpassed the meaning of purely rational numbers.

   Hill, Carol A., The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?  PSCF 54.3: 170-183 (2002)
170-

The biblical and scientific evidence pertaining to the subject of a universal versus local Noachian Flood are discussed in this paper. From a biblical perspective, a universal flood model (and its corollary models: flood geology and the canopy theory) is based primarily on: (1) the universal language of Gen. 6.8, (2) Gen 2:5.6, and (3) the presumed landing of Noah's ark on the summit of Mount Ararat (Gen. 8:4). It is argued that the .universal. language of Gen. 6.8 was meant to cover the whole known world of that time (third millennium BC), not the entire planet Earth, and that this interpretation also applies to Gen. 2:5.6.the verses on which the canopy theory is based. It is also argued that the .fifteen cubits upward. flood depth mentioned in Gen. 7:20 favors a local rather than a universal flood. From a scientific perspective, a universal flood, flood geology, and canopy theory are entirely without support. The geology of the Mount Ararat region precludes the premise of flood geologists that all of the sedimentary rock on Earth formed during the time of Noah.s Flood. The most likely landing place of the ark is considered to have been in the vicinity of Jabel Judi (the .mountains of Ararat. near Cizre, Turkey) within the northern boundary of the Mesopotamian hydrologic basin, rather than on 17,000-foot-high Mount Ararat in northeastern Turkey. Since it would have been logistically impossible for all animal species on Earth to be gathered by Noah and contained in the ark, it is concluded that the animals of the ark were those that lived within the Mesopotamian region. The archaeological record outside of Mesopotamia also does not support a universal flood model. All of the evidence, both biblical and scientific, leads to the conclusion that the Noachian deluge was a local, rather than universal, flood.

Morton, Glenn R., Language at the Dawn of Humanity   PSCF 54.3:193-194 (9/2002).

Over the years, anthropology continuously has pushed back the date for the appearance of language and this will continue. The existence of language is of immense importance to apologetics, as God taught Adam toBullsCavePainting speak.

Prehistoric cave paintings. Lassac Cave

Hill, Carol A., The Garden of Eden: A Modern Landscape  PSCF 52.1:31-46 (3/2000).

In this paper, I try to apply the findings of modern geology to Gen. 2:10-14. I deduce from the evidence that the four rivers of Eden--the Pishon, the Gihon, the Hiddekel, and the Euphrates--were real rivers which existed on a modern landscape before Noah's flood. The now-dry Wadi al Batin was probably the Pishon River, the Gihon was probably the Karun River, and the Hiddekel (Tigris) and Euphrates Rivers flowed in approximately the same courses as they occupy today. The confluence of these four rivers was located at the head of the Persian Gulf, but a Gulf that may have been inland from where it is today. The spring which "rises up" in Eden could have been supplied by the Dammam Formation, the principal aquifer of the region. Oil-drilling in southern Iraq confirms that six miles of sedimentary rock exist below the biblical site for the Garden of Eden. This same sedimentary rock is the source of bitumen at Hit, a site which may have supplied Noah with pitch for constructing the ark. The question is asked: How could pre-flood Eden have been located over six miles of sedimentary rock supposedly formed during Noah's flood?

Theological Anthropology

Nature, Technology and the Imago Dei: Mediating the Nonhuman through the Practice of Science, Bret  Stephenson. PSCF 57:1, 6, M 2005.  

Seeks "to open up an interdisciplinary dialog  among theological anthropology, the doctrine of creation and...sociological accounts of the technological practice of  science."

China digReforming Theological Anthropology: After the Philosophical Turn to Relationality , F. LeRon Shults, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. Review and author's response

Becoming Human; On Theological Anthropology in an age of Engineering Life Canadian Council of Churches, 2004.  

A Christian Perspective on the Impact of Modern Science on Philosophy of Mind Moreland, J. P.,  PSCF 55.1:2-13 (3/2003) "Today it is widely held that, while broadly logically possible, dualism is no longer plausible in light of the advances of modern science. My thesis is that once we get clear on the central first and second-order issues in philosophy of mind, it becomes evident that stating and resolving those issues is basically a (theological and) philosophical matter for which discoveries in the
hard sciences are largely irrelevant. Put differently, these philosophical issues are, with rare exceptions, autonomous from (and authoritative with respect to) the so-called deliverances of the hard sciences.".Moreland

Portraits of Human Nature: Reconciling Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology Warren S. Brown and Malcolm A. Jeeves, Science and Christian Belief 11 No. 2 (October 1999): 139-150. 

A report from a seminar at the combined meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation and Christians in Science, Churchill College, Cambridge University, August, 1999

See also:  Related papers in psychology and the neurosciences

ORIGINAL SIN AND CHRISTIAN ANTHROPOLOGY   A Catholic view of the subject.

Biblical Anthropology (Chicago Reformed Biblical Institute course)

Course Description
This course is designed to lead the student in a survey of the doctrines connected with man and his fall. Attention is given to the original state of man and the consequent state of man after the fall.
Course Objectives
After completing this course, the student should be able to: Outline the various modern views on man and significance of study of theological anthro-pology;  Define and discuss the origin, unity, constitution, and image of God in man; Provide a proper understanding of the idea of original and actual sin; Outline the Pelagian and semi- Pelagain view of man.

Paleontology

Are ethnic groups genetically definable?

As far as scientists know, no particular genes make a person Irish or Chinese or Zulu or Navajo. These are cultural labels, not genetic ones. People in  those populations are more likely to have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any  other. (There may be rare variations, however, that are found only in some populations.) This cannot be very surprising, in light of the vast extent of intermarriage among human populations, now and throughout history and prehistory. There is no such thing as a genetically "pure" human population.-- Morrison Institute

Race reemerges in debate over ‘personalized medicine’

Federal examiners have rejected patents for genetic screening tests because the applicants did not explore their effectiveness for different races, adding to the debate about whether race has scientific validity in modern DNA-based medicine. Some geneticists, sociologists and bioethicists argue that “black,” “white,” “Asian” and “Hispanic” are antiquated categories that threaten to revive prejudices. Others, however, say that meaningful DNA variations can track racial lines and that ignoring them could deny many benefits of “personalized medicine,” which aims to develop tests and treatments tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.....


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Conversations

 
The Dispersal of the Australopithecines, Part II by Jason Kider

The South African Forms

"...the discovery of the Taung child in South Africa fueled interest that other hominins could be found as well. With the help of noted anatomist Robert Broom, and anthropologist John T. Robinson, Raymond Dart excavated several other sites in the South African cave system, Makapansgat, Swartkrans, Sterkfontein and Kromdraai, all of which yielded australopithecine remains of both an early gracile form and later robust form. The earlier form, dated to between 3.0 and 2.0 million years ago and to which the Taung find belonged, was called Australopithecus africanus (see Figure 6). Exact dating for these cave sites is hampered by the fact that the cave openings are vertical and it is not clear how the hominins got there. Unlike the east African forms, A. africanus was a very lightly built form, with no crests of any kind. The overall cranial capacity of the finds is between 430 and 520 cubic centimeters, slightly larger than that of..." Biologos 2011

Ralph F. Stearley,  "Assessing Evidences for the Evolution of a Human Cognitive Platform for “Soulish Behaviors”," PSCF 61 (September 2009): 152-174. During the past one hundred fifty years, a great number of fossil hominid specimens have been unearthed, providing an outline of hominid history extending back five million years. Associated with these hominid fossils are artifacts. Christians and others who have attempted to assess the humanity of these long-dead individuals have focused on evidences of cognition such as cave art, evidences of care given to injured or ill individuals, or burial. However, many more types of evidences as to cognitive abilities in these creatures are available. Warren Brown has proposed that a cluster of interlinked cognitive capacities were elaborated over the past few million years of hominid history during an “evolutionary trajectory” which, in turn, undergird human “soulish behaviors.”1 These include language, a theory of mind, episodic memory, top-down agency, future orientation, and emotional modulation. This article is an attempt to put traction on Brown’s proposal, through detailed examination of the paleoanthropological record. The ability to teach, and thus symbolically and rapidly transmit culture, is suggested as an additional capacity which is part of this cognitive platform. Primary data (anatomy, artifacts) and reliable inferences (based on comparative studies) support a notion of a stage-wise erection of a cognitive platform for soulish behaviors. A few significant, less-understood gaps remain in the cognitive trajectory.

Wilcox, David L., Establishing Adam: Recent Evidences for a Late-Date Adam (AMH@100,000 BP) , PSCF 56  (March 2004): 49-54.

 Jeffrey K. McKee review of The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors. Ann Gibbons. xxvi + 306 pp. Doubleday, 2006.

Ever since a 1924 revelation first pointed to Africa as the cradle of humankind, a slow but steady stream of fossil discoveries has brought a general view of human evolution into focus. The pace has accelerated in the past 15 years, rapidly yielding an intriguing yet bewildering array of fossils  of early ancestors of Homo sapiens. These new finds push back the base of our unique line, and that of our not-so-distant cousins, to possibly 6 or more million years ago.  This time period is tantalizingly close to what  most genetic models predict for the divergence of lineages that ultimately evolved into humans and chimpanzees. Finding a representative of the species that took the first step-on two legs-toward becoming human is indeed one of the key pursuits of paleoanthropology. (more)  American Scientist

The earliest peoples in Virginia Video 30 min.  Discussion of current views.

Archaeology: Earliest Human Sacrifice Found in Africa Video  2 min. 

The discovery of 5,500-year-old bones by a French archaeologist is the oldest example of human sacrifice on the African continent.

Linguistics an allied science

The worldwide status of Bible translation (2008)-- wycliffe

6,909

...the number of languages spoken in the world today

2,393

...the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a possible need of a Bible translation to begin

200,000,000

...the number of people who speak the 2,393 languages where translation projects have not yet begun

1,998

...the number of translation programs currently in progress for languages without adequate Scripture

nearly 80%

...amount of the worldís remaining Bible translation needs that are located in the three areas of greatest need

1,168

...the number of language communities which have access to the New Testament in their heart language

438

...the number of language communities which have access to the entire Bible in the language they understand best

6,500,000,000

...the population of the world

The ideal translation will be accurate as to meaning and natural as to the receptor language forms used. An intended audience who is unfamiliar with the source text will readily understand it. The success of a translation is measured by how closely it measures up to these ideals.

The ideal translation should be

  • Accurate: reproducing as exactly as possible the meaning of the source text.
  • Natural: using natural forms of the receptor language in a way that is appropriate to the kind of text being translated.
  • Communicative: expressing all aspects of the meaning in a way that is readily understandable to the intended audience.

Translation is a process based on the theory that it is possible to abstract the meaning of a text from its forms and reproduce that meaning with the very different forms of a second language.

Translation, then, consists of studying the lexicon, grammatical structure, communication situation, and cultural context of the source language text, analyzing it in order to determine its meaning, and then reconstructing this same meaning using the lexicon and grammatical structure which are appropriate in the receptor language and its cultural context. Larson: SIL

sdfghFragments at Amman Museum

 

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