Literal loot, as in looted from post-invasion Iraq. Thankfully it was spotted and pulled a few minutes before the auction closed.
A German archaeologist had spotted the tablet bearing wedge-shaped cuneiform script on the online auctioneer’s Swiss Web site, www.eBay.ch, a government official said.
The archaeologist alerted German authorities, who passed the tip onto their Swiss counterparts, said Yves Fischer, who directs the Swiss Federal Office of Culture’s department on commerce in cultural objects.
EBay Inc. stopped the auction on Dec. 12 “a few minutes before the end” of its bidding deadline, Fischer said. Zurich police then confiscated the small tablet – about the size of a business card – from a storage facility.
I bet that Swiss storage facility is like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
From a USA Today story about the decline of Christmas caroling, here’s a tasty nugget of holiday cheer:
Yet, caroling is ancient (the first Christmas carol was probably written in the 4th century, Studwell says), and associated with pre-Christian festivals, fertility rites, feasting and drinking — the antique equivalents of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In medieval Europe, caroling referred to singing that accompanied dancing and merrymaking.
“Before 1800, it was public, rowdy, drunken, potentially violent, often sexual, and of course now we have New Year’s Eve for all that,” says Stephen Nissenbaum, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts and author of The Battle for Christmas.
He says wassailing (from the Anglo-Saxon was hail, or good health — a kind of medieval version of whassup) was a form of caroling that amounted to “aggressive begging.” Poor people would go to homes of the rich and sing, and if no one coughed up cash or treat, they could expect a trick .
I propose a new slogan for Christmas traditionalists: Debauchery is the reason for the season.