Name: Relief of Men Towing a Boat
Height: 43 cm (1 ft 5 in) 119.5 cm (3 ft 11 in) x 17 cm (6.7 in)
Date: 721-705 BCE
Place of Origin: Khorsabad, Iraq
Location: Oriental Institute Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Archaeologists from the Oriental Institute discovered this relief fragment in the debris of the throne room of King Sargon II. The fragment shows naked Assyrian soldiers towing a boat on a river, possibly during one of Sargon’s military campaigns against Marduk-apla-iddina II, king of Babylon, whose name is inscribed in the text above the scene.
Brick Stamp of Naram-Sîn
This pottery stamp for bricks records a royal inscription of the Old Akkadian ruler Naram-Sîn (r. 2254-2218 BCE), the grandson of the founder of the Akkadian empire, Sargon. Naram-Sîn is famous for having been the first known Akkadian ruler to deify himself during his own lifetime, and later legends about the Kings of Akkad tell cautionary tales about his hubris.
The inscription above, written in Old Akkadian cuneiform, commemorates the construction of the temple to Sîn, the moon god. (Source)
Old Akkadian, 2254-2218 BCE.
Old Babylonian Cylinder Seal, hematite, The king makes an animal offering to Shamash. This seal was probably made in a workshop at Sippar.
Receipt for a Dead Sheep
This Ur III administrative text records in Sumerian cuneiform a receipt for a dead sheep. In as well documented a period as the Third Dynasty of Ur, it is no surprise that everything had to be recorded! The tablet also bears the impression of a cylinder seal, which would have conferred legitimacy on the clay document, much like a signature would today. (Source)
Umma (?), Ur III, c. 2041 BCE.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Foundation Tablet,1834-1823 BC (Old Babylonian; Isin-Larsa)
The emphasis on sumptuous materials, such as precious metals and stones, is a common characteristic of foundation deposits. This tablet resembles the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli, prized by the Mesopotamians, although it is in fact made from a less costly material known as “Egyptian blue.” It bears an inscription of King Warad-Sin, ruler of the city-state of Larsa, with a prayer and a dedication.
Model of a Wig from the Third Dynasty of Ur (Mesopotamia)
Originally mounted on a statue, this polished model of a wig carved in chlorite comes from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur. The inscription on the back, recorded in Sumerian cuneiform, indicates that the statue was of the goddess Lama and that it was commissioned by an official named Bau-ninam on behalf of the king Šulgi (r. 2094-2047 BCE).
Ur III, c. 2094-2047 BCE.
A brick from the Tower of Babel, c. 604-562 BC
In Neo Babylonian, 7 lines in cuneiform script blindprinted into the wet clay, within a lined rectangle, prior to baking. Part of the inscription says:
"Nebudchadnezzar, King of Babylon, Guardian of the Temples Esagila and Ezida, Firstborn Son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon."
Bricks with this inscription were found during the excavation of the great Ziggurat (aka Tower of Babel). It stands just north of Esagila, the temple of Marduk, also mentioned in the inscription. The ziggurat in Babylon was originally built around the time of Hammurabi c. 1792-1750 BC. The restoration and enlargement began under Nabopolassar, and was finished after 43 years of work under Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BC. It has been calculated that at least 17 million bricks had to be made and fired. Babylon, along with the ziggurat was captured by Kyros in 538 BC, Dareios I in 519 BC, Xerxes ca. 483 BC, and entirely destroyed by Alexander I the Great in 331 BC.
It is this tall stepped temple tower which is referred to in Genesis 11:1-9, and became known as “The Tower of Babel.” The bricks are specifically mentioned in Genesis 11:3: “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire. - For stone they used bricks and for mortar they used bitumen.” The black bitumen is still visible on the back of the present baked brick.
Nebuchadnezzar II was the founder of the New Babylonian Empire. He captured Jerusalem in 596 and 586 BC, burnt down the temple and all of Jerusalem, carried its treasures off to Babylon, and took the Jews into captivity (2 kings 24-25). Nebuchadnezzar II is the king who is named more than 90 times in the Old Testament. Daniel 1-4 is almost entirely devoted to the description of his greatness and reign, his rise and fall, and submission to God.
From Khorsabad - Ancient Mesopotamia.
Detail of hands from relief sculptures that once lined the throne room façade in the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II, who ruled from 721-705 B.C.
[Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago: http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/]
Aerial view of the Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq. A temple of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians.
Based on Babylonian tablets, Noah’s Ark would have looked like this. Well, five times bigger, of course.
More details here
Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four
Episode 2 “The Search for Civilisation”
During excavations in Mesopotamia in the 1850s, thousands of photographs were taken of cuneiform tablets which had been found there. The inscriptions were written in a mysterious language which nobody yet understood. The photographs were distributed all over Europe, and all of its finest scholars quickly got to work, in a race to try and decipher this mysterious code.
The French-German scholar Julius Oppert (together with other 19th century Assyriologists) made decisive contributions to the decipherment of cuneiform inscriptions. In 1855, he published Écriture Anarienne, advancing the theory that the language spoken originally in Assyria belonged to the Ural-Altaic group (non-Semitic) and he classified it as Casdo-Scythian. In 1869 he renamed it Sumerian language -based on the known title “King of Sumer and Akkad”, reasoning that if Akkad signified the Semitic portion of the kingdom, Sumer might describe the non-Semitic annex-. He also asserted that the entire system of cuneiform writing was Sumerian in origin
Sumerian is generally regarded as a language isolate (a language that has no known historical or linguistic relationship to any other language family) and is the oldest written language in existence. Sumerian was spoken in Sumer, in southern Mesopotamia, from perhaps the 4th millennium BC and it flourished during the 3rd millennium BC. Sumerian was replaced as a spoken language by Semitic Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) but continued in written usage almost to the end of the life of the Akkadian language, around the beginning of the Christian era.
Some of the very first pictures of cuneiform tablets took during excavations in Mesopotamia in the 1850s
French National Archives, Paris, France
Oldest Known Musical Notation from Mesopotamia
Although no lutes are preserved from the Old Babylonian period in Mesopotamia, this tablet records a notation system for the four-stringed lute. The notation records two ascending heptatonic scales (i.e., a scale with 7 pitches per octave, like the major scale) to be played on the lute, and tablet has headings labelled “intonation” and “incantation”. Aside from being the oldest known record of musical notation, the tablet attests to the use of frets whose tones were purposefully calculated and to the presence of a musical curriculum in education. (Source)
Old Babylonian, c. 2000-1600 BCE.
Schoyen Collection, MS 5105.
An Assyrian Scholar Petitions King Ashurbanipal
"May the king my lord listen to the plea of his servant. May the king investigate my entire case.”
In this letter, written in the Neo-Assyrian dialect of Akkadian, the scholar Urad-Gula complains to king Ashurbanipal about the rise and fall of his fortunes while in the employ of the palace. The scholar uses literary topoi from canonical works of literature and references numerous scholarly works, such as the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil. He complains about his current impoverished state and that of his fellow scholars, while harkening back to the “good old days” of his scholarly service to the court of Esarhaddon, the previous king (and father of Ashurbanipal) from whom he received gifts, leftovers, and the occasional mule and ox, as well as two minas of silver every year.
Not only does the letter contain references and allusions to known works of literature and science, but it also provides information about the financial position of such scholars and their dependence on the king’s patronage.
Nineveh, ca. 644 BCE.
British Museum. Photo from CDLI.
Statuettes of Two Worshippers from the Square Temple at Eshnunna
Amongst the oldest artistic artifacts known to man (from Mesopotamia)
Old Babylonian “Year Names” for Hammurabi and His Successor
This tablet records a list of year names in Akkadian for two Old Babylonian rulers, Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE) and his successor, Samsuiluna (1749-1712 BCE). In Mesopotamia, year names offered one way of dating whereby each year within a king’s reign would be described by an event, such as a victory or the construction of a temple (e.g., “Year in which Hammurabi built for Nanna his temple in Babylon”). Other methods of dating included numbering the years within a reign or naming the year after an official. Such methods have provided modern scholars with important tools for reconstructing chronologies in the Ancient Near East. (Source 1, 2)
Old Babylonian, c. 2000-1600 BCE.