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.