mesopotamia

IN CASE YOU FUCKS HADN’T HEARD, A NEW COPY OF TABLET V OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH HAS BEEN FOUND, CONTAINING SOME PRETTY FUCKING GREAT NEW SHIT.

THIS IS A REALLY FUCKING EXCITING THING, BUT OF COURSE NOBODY SEEMS TO GIVE ENOUGH OF A FUCK ABOUT MESOPOTAMIAN SHIT TO ACTUALLY REPORT THIS ANYWHERE SOMEONE MIGHT SEE IT.

IT’S REALLY FUCKING COOL. TRUST US.

The World’s First Female Author, Enhedu’anna

This ancient clay tablet from Babylonia is inscribed in Sumerian cuneiform and dates to the 20th-17th centuries BC. It mentions King Sargon’s daughter Enhedu'anna as the author of a hymn to the goddess Inanna. The tablet has lines written first by the teacher in the first column, with 2 students repeating the hymn in columns 2 and 3.

Enhedu’anna was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BC), founder of the first documented empire in Asia. Enhedu’anna emerges as a genuine creative talent, a poetess as well as a princess, a priestess and a prophetess. She is, in fact, the first named, non-legendary author in history. As such she has found her way into contemporary anthologies, especially of women’s literature.

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The sickle sword of Assyrian king Adad-nirari I.

Dates to ca. 1307–1275 B.C., northern Mesopotamia, 54.3 cm long, and made of bronze.

This curved sword bears the cuneiform inscription “Palace of Adad-nirari, king of the universe, son of Arik-den-ili, king of Assyria, son of Enlil-nirari, king of Assyria,” indicating that it was the property of the Middle Assyrian king Adad-nirari I (r. 1307–1275 B.C.).

The inscription appears in three places on the sword: on both sides of the blade and along its (noncutting) edge. Also on both sides of the blade is an engraving of an antelope reclining on some sort of platform.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, via their online collections.

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Sumerian Silver Lyre, from Ur, southern Iraq, c. 2600-2400 BC

This lyre was found in the ‘Great Death-Pit’, one of the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The burial in the Great Death-Pit was accompanied by seventy-four bodies - six men and sixty-eight women -laid down in rows on the floor of the pit. Three lyres were piled one on top of another. They were all made from wood which had decayed by the time they were excavated, but two of them, of which this is one, were entirely covered in sheet silver attached by small silver nails. The plaques down the front of the sounding box are made of shell. The silver cow’s head decorating the front has inlaid eyes of shell and lapis lazuli. The edges of the sound box have a narrow border of shell and lapis lazuli inlay.

When found, the lyre lay in the soil. The metal was very brittle and the uprights were squashed flat. First it was photographed, and then covered in wax and waxed cloth to hold it together for lifting. The silver on the top and back edge of the sounding box had been destroyed. Some of the silver preserved the impression of matting on which it must have originally lain. Eleven silver tubes acted as the tuning pegs.

Such instruments were probably important parts of rituals at court and temple. There are representations of lyre players and their instruments on cylinder seals, and on the Standard of Ur being played alongside a possible singer.

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THE NEWLY DISCOVERED TABLET V OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH: 

THE new T.1447 tablet, according to the article Back to the Cedar Forest: The beginning and end of Tablet V of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgameš published in June, 2014 is:

  • The revised reconstruction of Tablet V yields text that is nearly twenty lines longer than previously known.
  • The obverse (columns i-ii) duplicates the Neo-Assyrian fragments which means the Epic tablet can be placed in order and used to fill in the gaps between them. It also shows the recension on Tablet V was in Babylonia, as well as Assyria and that “izzizūma inappatū qišta” is the same phrase that other tablets being with.
  • The reverse (columns v-vi) duplicates parts of the reverse (columns iv-vi) of the late Babylonian tablet excavated at Uruk that begins with the inscription “Humbāba pâšu īpušma iqabbi izakkara ana Gilgāmeš”.
  • The most interesting piece of information provided by this new source is the continuation of the description of the Cedar Forest:
  • The aftermath of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s slaying of Humbaba is now better preserved.
  • The passages are consistent with other versions and confirm what was already known. For example, Enkidu had spent some time with Humbaba in his youth.
  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu saw ‘monkeys’ as part of the exotic and noisy fauna of the Cedar Forest; this was not mentioned in other versions of the Epic.
  • Humbaba emerges, not as a barbarian ogre, and but as a foreign ruler entertained with exotic music at court in the manner of Babylonian kings. The chatter of monkeys, chorus of cicada, and squawking of many kinds of birds formed a symphony (or cacophony) that daily entertained the forest’s guardian, Humbaba.

Read More



Info and photos by Osama S.M. Amin on Ancient History Encyclopedia 

Sumerian Electrum Hedgehog, Early 2nd Millennium BC

The symbolic meaning of the hedgehog to Sumerians is a mystery although, they may have shared the same beliefs as the Egyptians who saw the awakening of hedgehogs from hibernation as a symbol of rebirth. In several ancient Egyptian scenes from the Old Kingdom hedgehogs are shown as inhabiting the deserts; by living there, on the edge of the ordered world, they could be seen as triumphing over adversity, and hence as another symbol of continued life.

The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld

To the place where those who enter do not depart, to the road whose journey does not end, to the house where those who enter are deprived of light, where dust is their sustenance, clay their food…

Written in Akkadian, this tablet from the famed library of Ashurbanipal, the last Neo-Assyrian king, tells the mythological story of the goddess Ishtar’s descent to the underworld. Upon her arrival, she finds its first gate shut and threatens to break it down until the gatekeeper, acting on the orders of Queen of the Underworld, lets her through. At each of the seven gates of the Underworld, she must shed a layer of clothing or jewelry, leaving her powerless upon her arrival before the Queen. Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility (…and war), was thus trapped in the underworld, and her absence left the world above in suffering and chaos. Eventually, by the agency of gods greater than the Queen of the Underworld, Ishtar is released and her apparel restored to her, and order is restored to the world. (Source)

The work is a beautiful piece of Akkadian poetry with roots in the much earlier Sumerian myth of the Descent of Inanna, the Sumerian name for the goddess of love and fertility.

To hear a recording of the poem in Akkadian alongside one English translation, see here.

Neo-Assyrian (c. 900-600 BCE), Nineveh.

British Museum.

Weapons and tactics change, but PTSD goes back millennia

“A new study of ancient Assyrian medical texts from Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq, shows that Assyrian doctors were diagnosing and treating psychological conditions related to war. One assumption ancient Assyrians made was that the gods allowed dead people’s spirits to punish living people. So warriors who experienced mental trauma were thought to be under attack by the ghosts of people they killed in battle. Today we call this mental trauma from war and other difficult experiences Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, often shortened to PTSD.” - See more here

One of the earliest examples of writing known. And it is used here to record the allocation of beer.

Late Prehistoric (3100- 3000 BCE), and probably from southern Iraq.

Beer was issued as rations for workers, and was the most popular drink in Mesopotamia. The symbol for beer appears 3 times on this particular tablet (note the depicted upright jars with pointed bases).

At this early date, the signs in their grouped boxes are usually read right to left, and top to bottom. 5 differently shaped impressions, representing numerical symbols, are a next to these pictographs. Eventually these signs will become more wedge-like and abstract: ‘cuneiform.' 

Also: look to the bottom left segment of this tablet. Here is the sign for rations, a schematic human head with a bowl tipped towards it.

The historical context, and significance, of this tablet is such an interesting topic, which deserves a far more in-depth discussion than what is given here. I would strongly recommend listening to Neil MacGregor’s episode he did on BBC Radio 4 (part of the series 'A History of the World in 100 Objects’), where he discusses this tablet in relation to the development of writing, and the world’s first cities and states.

Courtesy of & currently located at The British Museum, London: ME 140855. Photo taken by BabelStone.

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Uruk - “the mother of all cities”

Uruk was one of the most important cities in ancient Mesopotamia; an ancient city of Sumer -and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river.  According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE.

Uruk is considered the first true city in the world. It was home to 40.000 or perhaps 50.000 people, a population density unprecedented in human history.

In myth and literature, Uruk was famous as the capital city of Gilgamesh. The great epic poem The Legend of Gilgamesh contains a proud description of his city:

Go up, pace out the walls of Uruk.
Study the foundation terrace and examine the brickwork.
Is not its masonry of kiln - fired brick?
And did not seven masters lay its foundations?
One square mile of city, one square mile of gardens,
One square mile of clay pits, a half square mile of Ishtar’s dwelling,
Three and a half square miles is the measure of Uruk

PART I

Uruk, Iraq

Ancient Legal Textbook from Mesopotamia

If a woman hates her husband and has said to him, “You are not my husband”, they will throw her in the river.

Written in cuneiform, this clay tablet records a series of legal terms, phrases, formulae, and some precepts, translated from Sumerian into Akkadian. Scribes may have used this work when learning to draft everyday legal documents, such as contracts and trial records. Although this copy comes from the library of the Neo-Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, the original on which this would have been based probably dates to the second millennium BCE. Such a text may have served to help scribes draft formulaic legal documents and to promote their understanding of Sumerian, a long-dead language by this period of Mesopotamian history. (Source)

Neo-Assyrian (c. 900-600 BCE), Nineveh.

British Museum.

Sumerian headdress, made of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and dates to ca. 2600–2500 B.C.

Kings and nobles became increasingly powerful and independent of temple authority during the course of the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.), although the success of a king’s reign was considered to depend on support from the gods. A striking measure of royal wealth was the cemetery in the city of Ur, in which sixteen royal tombs were excavated in the 1920s and 1930s by Sir Leonard Woolley. These tombs consisted of a vaulted burial chamber for the king or queen, an adjoining pit in which as many as seventy-four attendants were buried, and a ramp leading into the grave from the ground.

This delicate chaplet of gold leaves separated by lapis lazuli and carnelian beads adorned the forehead of one of the female attendants in the so-called King’s Grave. In addition, the entombed attendants wore necklaces of gold and lapis lazuli, gold hair ribbons, and silver hair rings. Since gold, silver, lapis, and carnelian are not found in Mesopotamia, the presence of these rich adornments in the royal tomb attests to the wealth of the Early Dynastic kings as well as to the existence of a complex system of trade that extended far beyond the Mesopotamian River valley. (met)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, via their online collections33.35.3.