Ancient Worlds - BBC Two
Episode 1 “Come Together”
Uruk was one of the most important cities (at one time the mot important city) in ancient Mesopotamia.
Uruk is considered the first true city in the world, the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone and the building of great stone structures, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents. Considering the importance the cylinder seal had for the people of the time, and that it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation, Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community.
Starting just under 6.000 years ago, the archaeological record of Uruk reveals a period of intensive building and rebuilding, which went on for four or five centuries. In that period, a dozen or more large public buildings were built; temples, palaces, assembly halls. They used novel building techniques, like -colored stone- cone mosaics (pictures 3-4-5).
Excavation of King Sargon II. palace, Khorsabad, Mesopotamia, 1930s
Mesopotamian pottery with Aramaic script, the dominant language in Iraq prior to the 7th Century CE. The alphabetical script replaced Cuneiform as the major writing method in Mesopotamia during the Hellenistic Era. The Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Photo by Babylon Chronicle
This is a fragment of a wall relief which shows Assyrian slingers in action. The four men appear to launch small round stones into the air, aiming at the enemy troops who stand at the top of the city walls to defend their besieged city. Some of the slinger stones were excavated at the main gate of Lachish.
From the South-West palace at Nineveh (modern Kuyunjik, Mousil city, Iraq), room XXXVI. Mesopotamia, Neo-Assyrian era, 700-692 BCE. (The British Museum, London).
NW palace of Ashurnasirpal II
Sealing from an Old Assyrian Envelope
This Old Assyrian seal impression appears on the top edge of an envelope found in Kanesh (modern Kultepe, Turkey). The envelope contained a legal document in Akkadian regarding various loans of silver. (Source)
Old Assyrian, c. 1950-1850 BCE, Kanesh.
Charles University, Prague.
A Mesopotamian cylinder seal at the Morgan Library and Museum, showing a scorpion.
Detail of a bas-relief from the Temple of Nabu, the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, in Khorsabad (Dur-Sharrukin), the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Photo by Babylon Chronicle
Akkadian Word of the Week
ekallum "royal palace (as building and as authority), temple"
The Akkadian word for palace, ekallum, comes from the Sumerian compound logogram É.GAL, which are the first two signs in the cuneiform brick inscription in the top photo (cropped and zoomed in the bottom photo). The É represents the Sumerian word for “house”, and the GAL represents the Sumerian “great” or “large”. As is clear from the sound of the word, the Sumerian É.GAL was loaned into Akkadian as ekallum. Now housed in the British Museum, the clay brick pictured above bears an inscription of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (r. 680-669 BCE) and lists his patronymic.
Sources: Chicago Assyrian Dictionary E, British Museum.
Ancient Worlds - BBC TwoEpisode 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
Illustrated here in bas-relief are Assyrian war chariots with charioteers, and horsemen, in battle during the campaign against the kingdom of Elam. It was this campaign depicted which brought Elam under Assyrian rule in 645 BCE. These artworks come from the palace of Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE) in Niniveh.
Stone lion’s head
Neo-Assyrian, about 680-670 BC
From Sippar, southern Iraq
This lion’s head of white limestone comes from the Temple of Shamash. Known as the Ebabbar (‘Shining Temple’), it was one of the most important traditional and prestigious religious centres in Mesopotamia. Rulers sent offerings to Shamash and there are records of numerous kings restoring and rebuilding the temple.
This head, which was originally inlaid, bears a worn inscription naming the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (680-669 BC) and his father Sennacherib. It is not clear, therefore, whether this is a Babylonian or an Assyrian piece. Esarhaddon was responsible for restoring the capital city of Babylon following its destruction by Sennacherib in 689 BC.
Lions were regularly represented in Mesopotamian art on wall reliefs and as elements of furniture. The lion represented the power of nature and is often associated with the king, as it was his duty to defeat the forces of nature that the lion represented.
[Information from the British Museum]
Stamp seal of “kissing” bears found at the Northern Mesopotamian site of Hamoukar (circa 3,500 B.C.) dating to the Middle Uruk period. Though the site of Hamoukar seemed to lie outside Uruk colonial political hegemony locals began to experiment with styles of material culture clearly influenced by southern Mesopotamian mediums and motifs. This seal is clearly a northern recapitulation of the southern “heraldry” animal seal motifs. It’s also kind of adorable. Perhaps unintentionally so.
This blog is leaning far too heavily towards the cute side of artifacts rather than my typical penchant for Lovecraftian horror. I’ll have to fix that.