900 bce

A set of four ancient Egyptian limestone canopic jars, used for holding organs removed from the deceased during the mummification process.  Each of the jars represents one of the four sons of Horus: (L-R)  jackal-headed Duamutef (stomach); baboon-headed Hapi (lungs);  falcon-headed Qebehsenuef  (intestines); and human-headed Imsety (liver).  Artist unknown; ca. 900-800 BCE (Third Intermediate Period).  Found at Abydos; now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.  Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.

What’s incredible is that there were two thousand years of history that were completely forgotten. Completely. An entire civilization that nobody even knew about. No residual folk awareness. No garbled semi-historical legends. Everyone between the Atlantic and the Himalayas owed Sumer a direct debt for writing, the wheel, and social hierarchy, and yet the only scrap of Sumer that remained anywhere in the archive of civilizational awareness after the last cuneiform tablet had been incised around 75 CE was some Near Eastern demon named Jiljamish whose name got passed around between different sects until its last attestation c. 1500 CE.

Both Christian and Islamic civilization got their account of history from the Greeks, and the Greeks only knew about stuff as far back as the Neo-Assyrian Empire. That’s only 900 BCE. Everything before that they had only the faintest awareness of. I mean, with Egypt, they were aware of the Pyramids and stuff. They knew Egypt was old as fuck, but they had absolutely no conception of the actual time depth, or that there had been entire other civilizations contemporaneous with Egypt during its earliest history.

It was basically the biggest file format transfer failure in the history of the world. How is it that no Greek ever bothered to learn cuneiform? Or at least ask one of those Babylonian priests what that gibberish they were chanting in was? It’s like I found a floppy disk and was like “Hey this floppy disk has records from an entire lost civilization on it” and you’re like “Oh too bad…the last floppy disk reader broke 70 years ago and nobody knows how to manufacture them anymore.” Actually not even, it’s more like I found a floppy disk, said “Who cares about floppy disks, Herodotus already told me about everything that’s on these things” and threw it out without even knowing there was a whole civilization on there.

And Sumer was only rediscovered in the mid-1800s by Western archaeologists. So now two million cuneiform tablets are sitting in storage in museums around the world today, but only a hundred thousand or so have ever been read or published, since there’s only a few hundred people in the entire world who can decipher cuneiform. Sure, most of them are probably tax records, but there’s absolutely no chance there’s not some really important history, poetry, and spicy interdynastic drama in there, as well as probably a dozen or so undiscovered languages. And it will all have to wait for now.

scene from the coffin of Tayesmutengebtiu, “Lady of the House” and “Chantress of Amon” at ‘Uaset’-Thebes; ca. 900 BCE. Now in the British Museum…
Horus (falcon-headed) and Thoth (ibis-headed) purifying Tayesmutengebtiu with the sacred water of Life and Strength. At left and right, the Two Eyes

treacherousgodswrites  asked:

My story is set in a world inspired by 300 BC, more specifically the hellenistic empire. It's set in a city loosely inspired (as in geography and the library) by Alexandria, where people mainly speak Arabic mixed with Greek (there are far more resources on Arabic than Egyptian, which is why I chose Arabic, and I didn't want to invent a language). Now I'm wondering if using Arabic outside its historical context, in "Egypt" and without Islam would be wrong?

Accurate Demographics of Fantasy - Alexandria

(If you’re wondering why the Native and the Indian mods are answering this, we’re doing so only for the historical and linguistic aspects, with Yasmin’s okay).

In 300 BCE there wasn’t any such thing as a single “Arabic,” but rather a collection of central Semitic dialects with various levels of mutual intelligibility.  These are usually grouped under “Old Arabic” but since that designation stretches from 900 BCE until Classical Arabic was codified with the Quran in the early 7th century CE there was a whole lot of room for geographical and historical variation.  

There is some fragmentary evidence of these dialects written in Greek scripts, showing the interaction between Greek and Arabic culture of the day but this is really sparse and may in fact consist of just one inscription.  So while we can see that clear overlap between Greek and Arabic speaking areas, it’s also pretty clear that the Arabic of the time was very different from Classical or Modern Arabic varieties.

If it’s accuracy you’re after, you may want to look into Demotic Egyptian.  That was the Greek-influenced descendant of the ancient Egyptian language that would have been spoken in Alexandria in 300 BCE and there is actually a fairly good amount of information on it out there if you just want to get a feel for the sound and look of the language.  

For instance, this dictionary: [http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/publications/demotic-dictionary-oriental-institute-university-chicago]

The one peril I see with this may be infringing on the sensibilities of Coptic Christians, as Demotic is an ancestor of Coptic, the liturgical language of Coptic Christianity.  As Coptic Christians are a small and marginalized group, I don’t know how they’d feel about this.  I also don’t know what precisely you plan to do with the language in your story, or if it’s just words thrown in occasionally for a bit of flavor.  Be warned, learning a foreign language enough to do accurate translations is every bit as much work as inventing a language wholesale, just of a different kind.

~Mod Nikhil

Islam was only a religion starting in 610 AD, so you’re about a millennia early for having Islam (or 300-400 years shy for Christianity, which Islam needs to exist) even be a consideration for Hellenistic Egypt. Take a closer look at what religions existed at the time to get an idea what the religious tapestry would look like, but you’ll be looking at primarily ancient Greek and Egyptian paganism, with a mix of whatever other religions were around at the time (if you include abrahamic religions as a whole, Judaism will likely be a consideration, as well).

Arab peoples predate Islam, and it would actually be odd not to have them in Egypt. The Hellenistic empire stretched out across the Arab world, around the Mediterranean and even to the Himalayas. Cleopatra very likely spoke at least one dialect of Arabic, because she made it a point to be able to discuss trading agreements in the traders’ language.

The City of Alexandria was a trade port. This means everybody from all over the empire and some people who weren’t part of the empire would go there to trade. Any books they brought would be taken, copied to the Library, and (sometimes) returned to their owners. The primary reason the Library of Alexandria was so good is because it contained a copy of nearly all knowledge in the Ancient World, which would have included Arab peoples for certain. It would’ve also included knowledge from deeper in the African continent, Greece, and many parts of Asia (India and China aren’t out of the question, especially since there is evidence Han Purple— painted on the Terracotta Warriors— came from Egyptian Blue, and was used from 1045 BC to 300 AD, meaning there was trade between the two countries somewhere before that time, and it was unlikely to have discontinued).

So in fact, your worry is reversed: if you don’t have a wide variety of peoples from all over Africa, Asia, and Europe, then Alexandria will ring untrue. It was the NYC of the ancient world, a trade hub and a knowledge hub. Everyone who wanted to learn and sell would go there to do so, which means you’re looking at a very diverse city. Since you’re going with geography, you have to have it play the same route— a city on an ocean and a river would not be anything but a mosaic (or melting pot, but from my limited research into Alexandria, it seems to have been more of a mosaic; individual peoples’ traditions were more likely to be preserved then assimilated).

~Mod Lesya


La Venta, Tabasco, Mexico

By no later than 1200 BCE, San Lorenzo had emerged as the most prominent Olmec center. While a layer of occupation at La Venta dates to 1200 BCE, La Venta did not reach its apogee until the decline of San Lorenzo, after 900 BCE. After 500 years of pre-eminence, La Venta was all but abandoned by the beginning of the fourth century BCE.[2]

Located on an island in a coastal swamp overlooking the then-active Río Palma, La Venta probably controlled a region between the Mezcalapa and Coatzacoalcos rivers. The site itself is about 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) inland at an elevation of less than 10 meters above sea level with the island consisting of slightly more than 2 square miles (5.2 square kilometres) of dry land, resting on the largest alluvial plane in Mexico. The humid tropical climate of La Venta has an average annual temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and an average annual rainfall of 2,000 millimeters.[3] La Venta is located at the nexus of four different ecosystems: marshes, mangrove swamps, tropical forest, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sarcophagus of Neshkons

Material: Painted Sycamore Fig Wood

Origin: Ancient Egypt (Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty XXI)

Dated: c. 900–940 BCE

The kneeling, praying figure in the top-right is labeled in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs which translate to “Lord of the House of the Ruler, in order to praise(?)”.

On the left side under the falcon, the kneeling male deity boasts the “West” sign on his head, labeled in the hieroglyph for “Ba” (soul).

Below, a small sphinx is depicted and the hieroglyphic text below it (above the god Anubis) reads, “Anubis, Lord of the Cemetery, Foremost in the God’s Booth, First Lector Priest in the Place of Truth, Great God, Lord of Heaven, the Skilled One”.

The larger hieroglyphs in front of the Anubis read, “Garments and alabaster vessels, it for Osiris”.

The black-colored, couchant Anubis to the right is labeled “Input” (the female Anubis, the goddess Anput — in fact, she was the wife of Anubis) in a scrambled quasi-cryptogram. The shrine upon which Input sits is labeled “Excellent Bas”.


The Chavin were an empire in the Andes which flourished from 900 BCE to 200 BCE – it was building cities and conquering its neighbors more than two thousand years before the more famous Incan Empire set foot outside the Cuzco valley. They are rightly remembered today for their spiritual practices. You see, to get closer to their gods, or nature, they practiced human sacrifice and used hallucinogenic drugs. They also left behind underground tunnels which make animal noises when the wind rises. While we do not know much about the Chavin because they had no form of writing, what we have pieced together from the archaeological evidence is fascinating.

For instance, the Chavin were the first widespread, recognizable artistic style in the Andes. They used metallurgy, and since objects with melted metal begin to appear around this point, it may have been the Chavin who discovered it. They also seem to have little military culture. Chavin cities lack defensive structures. vidence of warfare has been found only in contemporaneous sites that were not influenced by Chavín culture, almost as if those other civilizations were defending themselves via warfare from Chavín cultural influence. All these add up to an intriguing, but still mysterious picture of a dominant culture with vibrant art and religious practices which held sway over its region of the Andes for hundreds of years. “Of all of the ancient cultures I admire, that of Chavin amazes me the most. Actually, it has been the inspiration behind most of my art.” – Pablo Picasso . 

The ancient Egyptians believed that illness and disease had both natural and supernatural causes, which were controlled by the gods. Prevention and treatment of illness and disease therefore included prayers to statues of gods in the home (like this pottery example.) In Egyptian culture there were two goddesses depicted with lion heads: Bastet and Sekhmet. Bastet was the goddess of fertility. From c. 900 BCE, Bastet was shown with the head of a cat. Sekhmet was the goddess of pestilence and divine retribution. She punished the human race for their wrongdoings by sending down infectious diseases.

maker: Unknown maker

Place made: Egypt

made: 4000-30 BC

Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images

anonymous asked:

Is the heroic age of the Illiad and all the other heroes supposed to be in Mycenaean Greece? Is that when all the legends were formed? Also, are Otpheus, Achilles, Jason, Ajax, Herakles, Theseus, etc... supposed to be from the same generation?

Your last question is easier to answer, so I’ll get to that first: nearly. In the Hellenistic epic of Jason and the Argonauts, for example, Herakles, Orpheus, and Jason all go a-sailing together as grown men, and the rest you mentioned go to war together in Troy a few years later (in the Argonautica, Achilles is a baby when Jason leaves)… Except for Theseus. He’s earlier than the others, mythologically-speaking. The Iliad takes place at the end of the age of heroes, when there are gods’ kids, but they’re all together in one place and not out having grand adventures, and most of them die.

And technically, the heroic age in Greece was supposed to be sometime around 1100-900 BCE or so, sometime in the strange middle ground where we don’t Really know all that was going on. This was after the Golden Age of the Minoans and the entrance of the Mycenaeans, but before Greece recovered from its “Dark Ages” into what the majority of Hellenist Classics scholars study today.

Because of the nature of this time, it’s hard to know just how old these myths are, whether they were passed down by the migrating Dorians and Ionians who would later shape Greece into what it is known for today, whether they were oral traditions that the Mycenaeans started and were spread by the tradition of oral poetry until someone decided to write them down… 

We just don’t know yet, and we may never know.

Good question, though, and thank you for asking!