Mesopotamia (from the Greek, meaning 'between two rivers’) was an ancient region in the eastern Mediterranean bounded in the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and in the southeast by the Arabian Plateau, corresponding to today’s Iraq, mostly, but also parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey. The 'two rivers' of the name referred... [continue reading]
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Cuneiform is a system of writing first developed by the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia c. 3500-3000 BCE. It is considered the most significant among the many cultural contributions of the Sumerians and the greatest among those of the Sumerian city of Uruk which advanced the writing of cuneiform c. 3200 BCE. The name comes from the Latin... [continue reading]
Writing is undeniably one of humanity's most important inventions. The earliest forms of storing information on objects were numerical inscriptions on clay tablets, used for administration, accounting and trade. The first writing system dates back to around 3000 BC, when the Sumerians developed the first type script: hundreds of abbreviated pictograms that... [continue reading]
A relief of cuneiform writing from Assyria. Exhibited in the British Museum London.
Daily life in ancient Mesopotamia cannot be described in the same way one would describe life in ancient Rome or Greece. Mesopotamia was never a single, unified civilization, not even under the Akkadian Empire of Sargon the Great. Generally speaking, though, from the rise of the cities in c. 4500 BCE to the downfall of Sumer in 1750 BCE, the people... [continue reading]
A door pivot stone from Telloh (ancient Girsu), third millennium BC, Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
A Babylonian mušḫuššu dragon from the Ishtar gate, made of glazed tiles. The Ishtar Gate was constructed by Nebuchadnezzar II in about 575 BC. Displayed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Turkey.
The Akkadian/Sumerian poet Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE) is the world’s first author known by name and was the daugher of Sargon of Akkad (Sargon the Great). Whether Enheduanna was, in fact, a blood relative of Sargon’s or the title was figurative is not known. It is clear, however, that Sargon placed enormous trust in Enheduanna in elevating her... [continue reading]
Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE) is the world’s first author and was the daughter (either literally or figuratively) of the great empire-builder Sargon of Akkad. Her name translates from the Akkadian as `high priestess of An’, the god of the sky or heaven, though the name `An’ could also refer to the moon god Nannar as in the translation, `en-priestess... [continue reading]
The Enuma Elish (also known as The Seven Tablets of Creation) is the Mesopotamian creation myth whose title is derived from the opening lines of the piece, `When on High'. All of the tablets containing the myth, found at Ashur, Kish, Ashurbanipal's library at Nineveh, Sultantepe, and other excavated sites, date to c. 1100 BCE but their colophons... [continue reading]
Eridu (present day Abu Shahrein, Iraq) was considered the first city in the world by the ancient Sumerians and, certainly, is among the most ancient of ruins. Founded in circa 5400 BCE, Eridu was thought to have been created by the gods and was home to the great water god Enki (who, later, would develop from a local god to merge with deities... [continue reading]