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Incarnations of Vishnu
Vishnu, one of the most important and popular gods in Hinduism, is known as a benevolent god
who watches over the welfare of humanity. His followers believe that Vishnu descends to earth
and takes on a human form to fight catastrophes and wars for humanity. One of the most popular
of his avatars, or physical forms, is Krishna. Always depicted with blue skin, Krishna appears as
the hero in the Bhagavad-Gita, which means “Song of the Beloved,” a sacred Hindu text that
forms part of the Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata. This illustration of Krishna comes from the
poem “Rasamanjari” by the poet Bhanudatta.
Archiv Fur Kunst Und Geschichte, Berlin
Indian Miniature Painting
Radha and Krishna in a Pavillion (circa 1760) is an example of the style of Indian miniature
painting that was popular from the 16th to the 19th century. This piece, from India’s Punjab Hills,
is an illustration of a traditional story of Krishna, a Hindu god, and his lover, Radha. In art Krishna
is usually represented with black, dark blue, or violet skin. Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the
supreme Hindu god Vishnu, serves as one of the central deities in Hinduism.
Bridgeman Art Library
The Bhagavad-Gita attempts to reconcile the two types of Hinduism (worldly and renunciatory) by
offering a third way. This third way entails worshipping lesser gods, who emanate from the
Supreme Brahman. Narasimha, an avatar, or earthly descent of the god Vishnu, is a man-lion
god. Narasimhavatara, from the Chamba region of India, was painted in the late 17th century and
depicts people worshipping Narasimha.
Archiv Fur Kunst Und Geschichte, Berlin
Indus Valley Civilization, 2500 BC
In the Indus valley area now known as Pakistan, an advanced Bronze Age culture rose up about
2500 BC and lasted for 1000 years. Scholars do not know how it began or whether its people
were related to those who now occupy Southwest Asia. Nomadic tribes called Aryans invaded the
Indus River valley, probably from the region north of the Caspian Sea, in 1500 BC. The Aryan
culture became dominant in the area, eclipsing that of its predecessors.
Microsoft Map
Indus Valley Civilization (circa 2500-1700 BC), earliest known civilization of South Asia,
corresponding to the Bronze Age cultures of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete. The
remains of settlements belonging to this culture have been found throughout the Indus River
valley in Pakistan, westward along the coast to the Iranian border, in India's northwestern states
as far east as New Delhi, and on the Oxus River in northern Afghanistan. The Indus Valley
civilization encompasses one of the largest geographical areas covered by a single Bronze Age
"Indus Valley Civilization," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation.
Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
"Races, Classification of," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation.
Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Gypsy Family
As outsiders to European culture, the nomadic Gypsies have kept close-knit family ties. A typical
Gypsy family includes a husband and a wife, their unmarried children, their married sons, and the
sons’ wives and children. Related families often group together and cooperate in business
dealings. During the 18th century, researchers determined that the Gypsy language, Romany, is
related to dialects common in northwestern India. This discovery affirms that Gypsies are a
distinct ethnic and cultural group. The Gypsy family shown here was photographed in 1920.
Archiv Fur Kunst Und Geschichte, Berlin
Many peoples of the world cannot be classified either as members or as mixtures of the above
major races. The people of the Indian subcontinent fit most closely with those of Europe and the
Mediterranean Basin, but many of them are dark-skinned and also distinct in other ways.
The aborigines of Australia are another dark-skinned group not closely related to the peoples of
Africa. Although at least some of them have been described as similar to the Vedda of Sri Lanka,
and other populations, no satisfactory evidence exists for these relationships, and the aboriginal
population must have evolved in situ during hundreds of centuries.
"Races, Classification of," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation.
Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
The Kalmucks are unique among Mongols in practicing the Buddhist religion. A recorded
literature in the Kalmuck language consists of myths, poems, legal codes, and historical
"Kalmucks," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
In present-day India a female symbol, the yoni, and a phallic symbol, the linga, are employed in
the worship of the Hindu god Siva.
"Phallicism," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Suttee (Sanskrit sati, “true wife”), practice that prevailed in India of a widow burning herself on the
funeral pyre, either with the body of her husband or, if he had died at a distance, separately.
Classical authors mention it as early as 316 BC. It appears at first to have been a royal custom
and privilege, afterward generalized and made legal. The custom was abolished by the British in
1829, but isolated instances persisted in remote parts of India until recent times. In theory the act
of suttee was voluntary, but in orthodox communities any woman who refused to perform it was
"Suttee," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Although the site was settled in prehistoric times, Babylon is first mentioned in documents only in
the late 3rd millennium BC. About 2200 BC it was known as the site of a temple, and during the
21st century BC it was subject to the nearby city of Ur. Babylon became an independent city-state
by 1894 BC, when the Amorite Sumu-abum founded a dynasty there.
"Babylon (ancient city)," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation.
Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Ebla, ancient city of northern Syria, discovered in 1968 by the Italian archaeologist Paolo
Matthiae at Tell Mardikh, a 56-hectare (140-acre) mound south of Aleppo. Excavating the site in
1975, Matthiae unearthed Ebla's royal archives, a collection of more than 14,000 inscriptions on
clay tablets dating from 2500-2200 BC. Written in the cuneiform characters originated by the
Sumerians of Mesopotamia, adapted to the language of Ebla's Semitic inhabitants, they show the
city to have been an important commercial center ruled by a merchant aristocracy with an elected
king. They also reveal the existence of a flourishing north Syrian civilization rivaling that of Egypt
and Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC.
"Ebla," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk
& Wagnall's Corporation.
Ur (biblical, Ur of the Chaldees), ancient city of Mesopotamia. Its ruins are approximately midway
between the modern city of Baghdad, Iraq, and the head of the Persian Gulf, south of the
Euphrates River, on the edge of the al-Hajar Desert. The site of Ur is known today as Tell alMuqayyar, Iraq. In antiquity the Euphrates River flowed near the city walls. Controlling this outlet
to the sea, Ur was favorably located for the development of commerce and for attaining political
Ur was the principal center of worship of the Sumerian moon god Nanna and of his Babylonian
equivalent Sin. The massive ziggurat of this deity, one of the best preserved in Iraq, stands about
21 m (about 70 ft) above the desert. The biblical name, Ur of the Chaldees, refers to the
Chaldeans, who settled in the area about 900 BC. The Book of Genesis (see 11:27-32) describes
Ur as the starting point of the migration westward to Palestine of the family of Abraham about
1900 BC.
Ur was one of the first village settlements founded (circa 4000 BC) by the so-called Ubaidian
inhabitants of Sumer. Before 2800 BC, Ur became one of the most prosperous Sumerian citystates. According to ancient records, Ur had three dynasties of rulers who, at various times,
extended their control over all of Sumer. The founder of the 1st Dynasty of Ur was the conqueror
and temple builder Mesanepada (reigned about 2670 BC), the earliest Mesopotamian ruler
described in extant contemporary documents. His son Aanepadda (reigned about 2650 BC) built
the temple of the goddess Ninhursag, which was excavated in modern times at Tell al-Obeid,
about 8 km (about 5 mi) northeast of the site of Ur. Of the 2nd Dynasty of Ur little is known.
Ur-Nammu (reigned 2113-2095 BC), the first king of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, who revived the
empire of Sumer and Akkad, won control of the outlet to the sea about 2100 BC and made Ur the
wealthiest city in Mesopotamia. His reign marked the beginning of the so-called renaissance of
Sumerian art and literature at Ur. Ur-Nammu and his son and successor Shulgi (reigned 20952047 BC) built the ziggurat of Nanna (2100? BC) and magnificent temples at Ur and in other
Mesopotamian cities. The descendants of Ur-Nammu continued in power for more than a century,
or until shortly before 2000 BC, when the Elamites captured Ibbi-Sin (reigned 2029-2004 BC),
king of Ur, and destroyed the city.
Rebuilt shortly thereafter, Ur became part of the kingdom of Isin, later of the kingdom of Larsa,
and finally was incorporated into Babylonia. During the period when Babylonia was ruled by the
Kassites, Ur remained an important religious center. It was a provincial capital with hereditary
governors during the period of Assyrian rule in Babylonia.
After the Chaldean dynasty was established in Babylonia, King Nebuchadnezzar II initiated a new
period of building activity at Ur. The last Babylonian king, Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 BC), who
appointed his eldest daughter high priestess at Ur, embellished the temples and entirely
remodeled the ziggurat of Nanna, making it rival even the temple of Marduk at Babylon. After
Babylonia came under the control of Persia, Ur began to decline. By the 4th century BC, the city
was practically forgotten, possibly as a result of a shift in the course of the Euphrates River.
The ruins of Ur were found and first excavated (1854-55) by the British consul J. E. Taylor, who
partly uncovered the ziggurat of Nanna. The British Museum commenced (1918-19) excavations
here and at neighboring Tell al-Obeid under the direction of the British archaeologists Reginald C.
Thompson and H. R. H. Hall. These excavations were continued from 1922 to 1934 by a joint
expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania
under the direction of the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley.
In addition to excavating the ziggurat completely, the expedition unearthed the entire temple area
at Ur and parts of the residential and commercial quarters of the city. The most spectacular
discovery was that of the Royal Cemetery, dating from about 2600 BC and containing art
treasures of gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones. The findings left little doubt that the death
of the king and queen of Ur was followed by the voluntary death of their courtiers and personal
attendants and of the court soldiers and musicians. Within the city itself were discovered
thousands of cuneiform tablets comprising administrative and literary documents dating from
about 2700 to the 4th century BC. The deepest levels of the city contained traces of a flood,
alleged to be the deluge of Sumerian, Babylonian, and Hebrew legend. All scientific evidence,
however, indicates that it was merely a local flood.
"Ur," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk &
Wagnall's Corporation.
As a system of practice, Yoga has from the beginning been one of the most influential features of
Hinduism. Yoga exerted a powerful attraction upon Hindus because of the wonders attributed to it
and because it gives countenance to the performance of austerities, to which Hindus are so
strongly inclined. The strong influence of Yoga can also be seen in Buddhism, which is notable
for its austerities, spiritual exercises, and trance states. As knowledge of Yoga spread, it
fascinated and won followers among Westerners. Among more recent students of Yoga are the
British writers Major Francis Yeats-Brown (1886-1944), Aldous Huxley, and Christopher
Isherwood; the Romanian-born writer on religion Mircea Eliade; and the British violinist Yehudi
Menuhin. In recent years Yoga exercises have been recommended by some physical fitness
experts as a means of cleansing the body of impurities, of reducing weight, of toning up the
nerves and muscles, and, generally, of improving health and prolonging life.
"Yoga," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk
& Wagnall's Corporation.
Michael (Hebrew, “who is like God?”), called Saint Michael in the Christian churches, one of the
seven archangels (see ARCHANGEL) in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, presumed to be leader
of the angels (see Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1) and guardian angel of Israel. According to the
pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch, Michael and his command of faithful troops defeated the
rebellious archangel Lucifer and his followers, casting them into Hell. In the Talmud, his
relationship to the other angels is compared with that on earth of the high priest to Israel; thus, he
is considered the immediate lawgiver to the prophet Moses on Sinai (see Acts 7:38).
Michael has been known as the patron of the sick and of grocers, sailors, and soldiers; he is also
the patron saint of Germany. In art he appears holding scales or a banner and flourishing a sword
against a dragon. Beginning in 1970 Michael's feast day was combined with that of the
archangels Gabriel and Raphael on September 29. See MICHAELMAS.
"Michael," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
During the 5th millenium BC a people known as the Ubaidians established settlements in the
region known later as Sumer; these settlements gradually developed into the chief Sumerian
cities, namely Adab, Eridu, Isin, Kish, Kullab, Lagash, Larsa, Nippur, and Ur. Several centuries
later, as the Ubaidian settlers prospered, Semites from Syrian and Arabian deserts began to
infiltrate, both as peaceful immigrants and as raiders in quest of booty. After about 3250 BC,
another people migrated from its homeland, located probably northeast of Mesopotamia, and
began to intermarry with the native population. The newcomers, who became known as
Sumerians, spoke an agglutinative language unrelated apparently to any other known language.
"Sumer," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
The first Sumerian ruler of historical record, Etana, king of Kish (flourished about 2800 BC), was
described in a document written centuries later as the “man who stabilized all the lands.” Shortly
after his reign ended, a king named Meskiaggasher founded a rival dynasty at Uruk (Biblical
Erech), far to the south of Kish. Meskiaggasher, who won control of the region extending from the
Mediterranean Sea to the Zagros Mountains, was succeeded by his son Enmerkar (flourished
about 2750 BC). The latter's reign was notable for an expedition against Aratta, a city-state far to
the northeast of Mesopotamia. Enmerkar was succeeded by Lugalbanda, one of his military
leaders. The exploits and conquests of Enmerkar and Lugalbanda form the subject of a cycle of
epic tales constituting the most important source of information on early Sumerian history.
At the end of Lugalbanda's reign, Enmebaragesi (flourished about 2700 BC), a king of the Etana
dynasty at Kish, became the leading ruler of Sumer. His outstanding achievements included a
victory over the country of Elam and the construction at Nippur of the Temple of Enlil, the leading
deity of the Sumerian pantheon. Nippur gradually became the spiritual and cultural center of
Enmebaragesi's son Agga (probably died before 2650 BC), the last ruler of the Etana dynasty,
was defeated by Mesanepada, king of Ur (fl. about 2670 BC), who founded the so-called 1st
Dynasty of Ur and made Ur the capital of Sumer. Soon after the death of Mesanepada, the city of
Uruk achieved a position of political prominence under the leadership of Gilgamesh (flourished
about 2700-2650 BC), whose deeds are celebrated in stories and legends.
"Sumer," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
One of Utuhegal's generals, Ur-Nammu (r. 2113-2095 BC), founded the 3rd Dynasty of Ur. In
addition to being a successful military leader, he was also a social reformer and the originator of a
law code that antedates that of the Babylonian king Hammurabi by about three centuries (see
HAMMURABI, CODE OF). Ur-Nammu's son Shulgi (r. 2095-2047 BC) was a successful soldier, a
skillful diplomat, and a patron of literature. During his reign the schools and academies of the
kingdom flourished.
"Sumer," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Babel, Tower of (Hebrew Babhel, from Assyro-Babylonian bab-ili, “gate of God”), according to the
Old Testament (see Genesis 11:1-9), tower erected on the plain of Shinar in Babylonia by
descendants of Noah. The builders intended the tower to reach to heaven; their presumption,
however, angered Jehovah, who interrupted construction by causing among them a previously
unknown confusion of languages. He then scattered these people, speaking different languages,
over the face of the earth.
The story possibly was inspired by the fall of the famous temple-tower of Etemenanki, later
restored by King Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. The Genesis
account appears to play on the Babylonian word bab-ili (“gate of God”) and on the Hebrew words
Babhel (“Babylon”) and balal (“to confuse”). The English words babel and babble are derived from
the story.
"Babel, Tower of," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c)
1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Eden (Hebrew, “delight”), in the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis, the first residence of
humankind (see ADAM AND EVE). Because contemporary scholars tend to regard the biblical
descriptions as imaginary, controversy has revolved around the question of the geographic
location of Eden. Also called Garden of Eden or Garden of Paradise, the name Eden is probably
connected with Edinn (the Sumerian name for the plain of Babylon), and the author of Genesis
may have had in mind the verdant landscape of Mesopotamia. Eden is mentioned in other Old
Testament books as a place of extreme fertility (see Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 28:13, 31:9; Joel 2:3),
and the name continues to connote an ideal setting.
"Eden," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk
& Wagnall's Corporation.
Cherubim, winged celestial beings similar to angels. In ancient Hebrew thought, angels
themselves are anthropomorphic, or humanlike, while the cherubim have wings and are
zoomorphic, or animal-like. In the developed system of Hebrew angelology, however, the
cherubim form one of the nine classes of angels.
God placed cherubim at the east side of Eden to prevent human beings from reentering the
garden and gaining access to the tree of life (see Genesis 3:24). Cherubim also support or
function as God's throne or chariot (see Psalms 80:1; 18:10). Ezekiel's fantastic and detailed
descriptions of the cherubim (see Ezekiel 1:4-28; 10:3-22), however idiosyncratic, are largely
responsible for their entry into the history of art. Seraphim, mentioned only in Isaiah 6, are similar
Contributed by:
J. Louis Martyn
"Cherubim," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
Urmia, formerly REZAIYEH, city, northwestern Iran, capital of West Azerbaijan Province, near
Lake Urmia. It lies in a fertile agricultural region and is the center of a rug-making industry. To the
east is Gelma Khaneh, a lake port. Urmia is the traditional birthplace of the Persian religious
teacher Zoroaster. Of interest are the bazaars, the Jama Mosque, and the Mosque of the Three
Domes. Population (1986) 300,746.
"Urmia," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994
Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
The high Anatolian plateau to the north of both Syria and Mesopotamia became the home of
various high prehistoric cultures and eventually entered history with the founding of the HITTITE
kingdom about 1900 BC. Eastward from the Mesopotamian lowlands, the Zagros Mountains and
the Iranian Plateau beyond became another area of cultural creativity with the rise of the
kingdoms of MEDIA and Persia
Sumer was an ancient region in southern MESOPOTAMIA, located in the extreme southeastern
part of what is now Iraq, territory that includes present-day Diwaniyah, Amara, and Basra. The
land of Sumer was virtually devoid of human occupants until about 5000 BC, when settlers
moved into the swamps at the head of the Persian Gulf and gradually spread northward up the
lower Tigris-Euphrates Valley. On the basis of pottery, architectural, and other remains,
archaeologists have distinguished several successive cultural phases in Sumer before the
beginning of the historic period (c.3100 BC).
The Sumerians arrived about 3500 and possibly earlier; their origin is unknown. Presumably they
came from the east or northeast, yet no traces of their unique language or possible elements of
their ancestral culture have been discovered outside of Iraq. The Sumerians, who dominated
Sumer from about 3100 to about 2100, were the creators of many basic and lasting features of
Mesopotamian civilization
Some parts of Mesopotamia were sparsely inhabited--and others not at all--until after about 8000
BC, when the domestication of plants and animals brought about an agricultural revolution. This
key step in the development of human civilization made possible an increased food supply and an
accompanying growth of population and allowed nomads and cave dwellers to become farmers
and herders. People began to move down from the mountains to the grassy uplands and wellwatered plains of northern Mesopotamia. By 6000 BC primitive villages stretched from Assyria
along a fertile strip just below the Armenian hills to the Euphrates River and beyond.
Later, about 5000 BC, the occupation of the lower valley (Babylonia) was begun by people who
started at the Persian Gulf and gradually moved upriver. Because of inadequate rainfall the
inhabitants of the lower valley had to resort to irrigation in order to farm the land. Irrigation
required a highly organized governmental structure to mobilize and direct the efforts of the
workers. At the same time, a lack of stone, wood, metals, and other commodities led the people
of the southern valley to develop industry in order to produce goods that could be traded for the
materials needed and to develop an extensive trade with the outside world. The southern valley's
more complex economy, coupled with its more productive agriculture, induced a more sizable
increase in population and brought the rise of large villages, even cities. Thus by 3100 BC
civilization may be said to have begun in southern Mesopotamia, the area called SUMER.
During the Sumerian period, which lasted until about 2000 BC, the Sumerians organized a
system of flood control and a pattern of irrigation and created an enduring writing system
(cuneiform), religious literature, architectural form, and economic organization.
In the centuries after 3100 BC, Sumerian civilization was borrowed and adapted by the people of
northern Mesopotamia as well as by those in the region now called Iran and by countries west of
the Euphrates bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Mesopotamia, unlike Egypt, was a land open
to invasion, and therefore as time passed the country came under the political domination of a
succession of conquerors. These people often enriched Mesopotamian culture as they
introduced their traditional beliefs, practices, and customs. However, because of environmental
conditions peculiar to Mesopotamia and the existence of an already complex civilization there,
these later peoples adopted Sumerian culture as the basis for their cultural innovations.
During the Sumerian period Semitic-speaking tribes from the west occupied the northern part of
the lower valley (AKKAD) around Babylon and set up the so-called Sargonid dynasty (c.23502100 BC) that briefly controlled the Sumerians in the south. More important, however, were the
AMORITES, a larger Semitic group that came shortly after 2000 BC. These people, with their
capital at BABYLON, established the Old Babylonian Kingdom that unified the whole valley. The
Amorites were numerous enough to make their language the prevailing speech in Babylonia and
to merge their culture with that of the Sumerians to create a new literature, a different political
organization, advances in sculpture, and a reorganization of commercial procedures. In addition,
they gave an impressive maturity to the elementary mathematics and astronomy developed by
the Sumerians.
About the same time that the Amorites came to Babylonia, another, related Semitic group, the
Assyrians, took over the eastern part (Assyria) of northern Mesopotamia. Although they, too,
borrowed from the culture of the Sumerians, they proceeded more slowly than the Amorites, and
Assyrian civilization flowered at a later time. Both the Babylonians and Assyrians were in political
eclipse between 1550 and 1100 BC as invaders from the north dominated their respective
territories: Mitannians (see MITANNI) in Assyria and KASSITES in Babylonia. By about 1100, the
Mitannian and the Kassite regimes had crumbled and disappeared without having materially
affected Mesopotamian culture, and the Babylonians and Assyrians rose to new political and
cultural heights.
Between 745 and 612 BC the Assyrians built up and then lost a great empire that encompassed
Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, with tributary nations in western Iran as well. Assyrian
civilization, an elaboration of the basic Mesopotamian, was the wonder of the age.
Although the precise date and place of its discovery are unknown, the wheel is believed to have
been invented in ancient Mesopotamia, sometime during the 4th millennium BC. (This invention
may have been preceded by the invention of the POTTER'S WHEEL.) The area between the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern Iraq, where the ancient civilization of Sumeria arose,
provides the earliest unequivocal evidence of the wheel's existence. In excavating the courtyard
of the Eanna Temple in the ancient city of URUK, archaeologists found a clay tablet containing a
pictograph of a wheeled cart that dates from the period 3200-3100 BC. Some experts argue that
the wheel's actual invention may have come as much as 1,000 years earlier, but archaeological
excavations have not uncovered evidence from an earlier period.
Our knowledge of how these early wheels were constructed is derived from "chariot burials"
found in the city-states of KISH (2700-2600 BC) and UR (2600-2500 BC). These royal tombs
contained vase paintings, scale models, and actual physical remains of chariots. The wheels
were solid, with diameters of 0.5-1.0 m (1.6-3.2 ft). They were formed from three planks of wood
that were clamped by wooden struts and bound with leather tires that were held in place by
copper nails. The heads of the nails projected beyond the surface of the wheel to protect the rim.
At Kish, the wheels turned in one piece with the axle, and the entire assembly was connected to
the frame with leather thongs. At Ur, the wheels were connected to an axle box that was
attached to the frame by copper bolts. The sturdy, solid construction of the early wheel is thought
to have served admirably on what were probably rough roads (see ROADS AND HIGHWAYS),
and the simplicity of design allowed for its swift repair. Both two- and four-wheeled vehicles were
used to transport goods
Cuneiform script originated in SUMER (south Mesopotamia) c.3000 BC, where it had developed
from the earliest known form of writing, called pictographic writing, found on clay tablets at the
ancient city of URUK. The earliest Sumerian pictographic writing, which seems to have been
used for administrative purposes in compiling lists of objects, dates from the mid-4th millennium
BC; in its latest transitional phase both ideograms and phonetic symbols were used. Gradual
simplification and standardization of the pictures led to a linear style better suited to inscribing on
clay, the principal material used for writing in Mesopotamia
Cuneiform continued to be used, for their own dialects, by the later Babylonians and Assyrians.
Under Hammurabi of Babylon, in the 18th century BC, most of the extant records of Sumerian
and Babylonian literature and scientific knowledge were written in cuneiform, as well as the legal
code of HAMMURABI and thousands of economic and administrative documents and letters.
Some of the finest cuneiform writing is found in the 9th- to 7th-century BC Neo-Assyrian libraries,
as, for example, that of Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC) at NINEVEH.
During the 2d millennium BC, Akkadian, written in cuneiform, became the lingua franca of the
Ancient Near East, and it was from this time onward that cuneiform script was adopted by the
Kassites, Hittites, Hurrians, Mitanni, Urartians, and Persians to write their own languages.
Byblos (biblical Gebal) was an ancient city of PHOENICIA, located on the Lebanese coast at
present-day Jebeil. First occupied in Neolithic times (c.8000-4000 BC), the site was an active
seaport and trade center from about 3000 BC. It was subject, in turn, to the Egyptian, Assyrian,
Babylonian, and Persian empires, all of which extorted tribute in the form of timber from the
Lebanon cedar forests. In the 1st millennium BC, Byblos was an important source of papyrus to
the Greeks; Bible is derived from the city's name.
Excavations of Byblos, undertaken by the French since 1921, have yielded Early Bronze Age
courtyard houses and a monumental temple of Baalat-Gebel, the Byblite form of the goddess
ASTARTE, dating from the 3d millennium BC. Notable remains of the Middle Bronze Age
(c.1900-1550 BC) include four royal tombs containing rich deposits of gold and silver jewelry,
ivory plaques, and alabaster vessels. Also found at Byblos was the famous 10th-century BC
sarcophagus of King Ahiram (now in the Beirut Archaeological Museum), bearing one of the
earliest known alphabetic inscriptions
The ancient Sumerian city of Lagash (modern al-Hiba) lies about 200 km (120 mi) northwest of
Basra, Iraq, and 10 km (6 mi) southeast of ancient Girsu (modern Telloh), which was earlier
believed to have been Lagash. The Lagash mounds are among the largest in areal extent in all
of Mesopotamia; the earliest known levels are prehistoric (c.4000 BC). During the Early Dynastic
period (c.2800-2400 BC) the city became the largest in SUMER; its kings are known from
contemporary inscriptions including that of Girsu's famous Stela of the Vultures (now in the
Louvre), which records Eannatum's victory over the neighboring state of Umma. Subject to the
Agade Empire (c.2371-2230 BC), Lagash revived under the governorship of Gudea (c.2130 BC),
whose monuments and inscriptions reveal a flowering of economic and artistic wealth. The city
had declined by the Old Babylonian period (c.1900-1600 BC) and may not have been occupied
after the mid-2d millennium B
The Indus Valley fostered human settlement more than 70,000 years ago. Harappa and
Mohenjo-daro, the great cities of the INDUS CIVILIZATION, were built along the river around
2500 BC.
Indus civilization
The Indus civilization, an ancient civilization in South Asia, existed from about 2700 to 1750 BC.
It is sometimes referred to as the Harappan civilization, named for the site of Harappa, one of its
major centers. Geographically one of the most extensive early civilizations of the Old World, it
stretched from north of the Hindu Kush down the entire length of the Indus and beyond into
peninsular India; in the west, outposts that extended almost to the present-day Iranian-Pakistani
border have been found along the inhospitable Makran coast. Unlike the ancient Sumerian and
Egyptian civilizations, which were largely restricted to river valleys and their alluvial plains,
remains of the Indus civilization have been found in diverse environmental settings. Its
settlements were, however, remarkably similar in layout and material culture.
Because its script remains undeciphered, the Indus civilization is known only from archaeological
evidence. Its origins traditionally were viewed as the result of the diffusion of farming and
technology from more advanced cultures in Mesopotamia and on the Iranian plateau to
Baluchistan and ultimately to the Indus Valley. Today this theory is seen as largely incorrect.
Knowledge about early plant and animal domestication in lands east of the Iranian plateau is still
obscure, but the results of excavations at the important site of Mehrgarh, at the foot of the Bolan
Pass, indicate that large settlements may have existed as early as the 7th millennium BC.
Two thousand or more years later sites in eastern Baluchistan and the Indus Valley were larger
and more numerous; at some, like Kot Diji on the east bank of the Indus, archaeologists have
found various distinctive ceramic objects, such as terra-cotta toy carts. From this evidence
archaeologists speculate that there took place an early, or pre-Harappan, spread of culture from
the Punjab south to the Arabian Sea. Scholars differ as to whether or not these early settlements
evolved directly into the urban communities of the mature Indus civilization, but it is clear from
archaeological research that by the late 4th millennium (c.3200 BC) large villages were being
formed along the entire course of the Indus River.
Major Centers
The famous cities of the mature Indus civilization were discovered accidentally in the mid-19th
century during the construction of a railroad by British engineers. Although it was correctly
surmised at that time that antiquities from Harappa predated the historical period, true
archaeological excavations were not begun until the 1920s. During that decade the so-called
twin capitals of Indus civilization, Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, were excavated under the direction
of Sir John MARSHALL; other important settlements were surveyed by Sir Aurel STEIN and N.
G. Majumdar. The existence of a great civilization roughly contemporaneous with that of Sumer
and of ancient Egypt soon was confirmed. Hundreds of smaller settlements have since been
discovered. Recent archaeological investigation has been concentrated on documenting the
beginnings of urban life in the area, and a variety of different types of sites have been excavated,
including fishing villages, trading outposts, and what may have been a port.
One of the most important centers of Indus civilization was Mohenjo-daro, situated along the west
bank of the Indus River, about 320 km (200 mi) north of Karachi, Pakistan. Like most cities of the
Indus civilization, it consisted of two major areas of occupation: a high citadel to the west and a
lower city of domestic dwellings to the east. Careful urban planning is evident in the neat
arrangement of the major buildings contained in the citadel, including the placement of a large
granary and water tank or bath at right angles to one another. The lower city, which was tightly
packed with residential units, was also constructed on a grid pattern consisting of a number of
blocks separated by major cross streets. Baked-brick houses faced the street, and domestic life
was centered around an enclosed courtyard. Sanitation was provided through an extensive
system of covered drains running the length of the main streets and connected by chutes with
most residences.
Other important centers include the almost identical city of Harappa, located 640 km (400 mi)
northeast of Mohenjo-daro, in the Punjab of India, and the nearby but smaller site of Kalibangan,
situated farther east along the banks of the now extinct Ghaggar-Hakra River. Both sites follow
the familiar plan of a small, high citadel to the west and a lower city to the east, with the streets
arranged in a rectilinear grid pattern. Immediately north of the heavily fortified citadel at Harappa,
two sets of barracklike dwellings for laborers were excavated alongside enormous granaries for
the city's food supply. At Kalibangan excavation has revealed a pre-Harappan settlement that
underwent drastic change when the site was incorporated into the expanding Indus civilization.
Southwest of Kalibangan along the same bed of the ancient Ghaggar-Hakra River, several more
cities have been discovered, indicating that at the height of the Indus civilization multiple regional
centers may have been built according to a standard plan
Because the Indian subcontinent is one of great geographical diversity, it is not surprising that at
least two distinct cultures developed in ancient India. Archaeological evidence suggests that
humans first migrated to the subcontinent between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago. Some of
these primitive peoples had probably crossed the Hindu Kush Mountains into the area that is now
northern Pakistan. Other peoples had possibly sailed to southern India from eastern Africa.
Indus Civilization
One of the world's oldest and greatest civilizations took shape between about 3000 and 2500 BC
in the valley of the Indus River, from which the name of the Indian subcontinent is taken. Sites of
this INDUS CIVILIZATION at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro--both in present-day Pakistan--have
been extensively excavated; other sites have been uncovered in India as far east as the cities of
Simla and Bikaner and as far south as the Kathiawar Peninsula and the coast of the Gujarat
region. The Indus, or Harappa, civilization, one of the most advanced of ancient times, was
similar in many ways to contemporary cultures in Mesopotamia. Harappans lived in towns with
two- and three-story brick houses, and well-laid-out streets and drainage systems; they
employed tools of copper, bronze, and stone; they wore clothing of cotton; and they used rather
sophisticated pottery and other kinds of cooking and serving utensils. Harappa script, which
appears on innumerable seals and art works, has not yet been deciphered.
Aryan Culture
Harappa culture thrived until about 1500 BC, when the Indus Valley was overrun by ARYAN
invaders from the Iranian plateau. The seminomadic Aryans spoke an archaic form of Sanskrit
(see INDO-IRANIAN LANGUAGES) and left no remains of cities, burials, arts, or crafts. What is
known about the Aryans has been passed down through religious texts--the VEDAS, especially
the Rig Veda ("Verses of Knowledge"). Originally transmitted orally, the Vedas describe a highly
ritualistic worship with innumerable deities, a rich mythology, and an elaborate fire sacrifice. They
also mention the system of varnas, or classes, from which evolved the CASTE system. The four
varnas were the Brahmans (see BRAHMIN), or priests; the Kshatriya, political rulers or warriors;
Vaishya, traders and cultivators; and Shudra, artisans. The Vedas and the caste system remain
central to the Indian socioreligious system, HINDUISM. Thus the Aryans gave to India many of
its basic institutions and cultural habits.
Early Cultural Cleavages
According to one theory, the Aryans, a warlike people who rode on horseback, pushed southward
many of northern India's darker-skinned and shorter inhabitants, whom they called dasas. This
theory, yet to be proven, is sometimes used to explain the origins of the division between the
Aryan linguistic groups in the North and the DRAVIDIAN LANGUAGES of the South. Some
modern southern separatists have claimed that the Dravidian speakers predate the Aryan
invaders, but there is not yet sufficient linguistic evidence to date the arrival of Dravidian speakers
in southern India. Cultural distinctions between North and South remain, however, in modern
Southwest Asia in Ancient Times
During the early 3d millennium BC, control over Mesopotamia radiated from the mouth of the
Euphrates River in the cities of SUMER, at the eastern end of the FERTILE CRESCENT. One of
the most important cities was UR, from which Abraham came in biblical legend. From about 2800
to 2400 BC, the Sumerians ruled from the lower valley. Dominance then passed to the more
northerly region of AKKAD, whose people, like the Sumerians, were Semites. The Akkadian king
SARGON conquered as far west as the Mediterranean coast. The prolonged developmental
period of Sumerian and Akkadian rule established a firm basis for cultural as well as economic
and political development. Cultural achievements included cuneiform literature, the study of
mathematics and astronomy, the construction of walled urban defenses and temples, and the
creation of art objects.
Babylonia and Assyria
Beginning about 2100 BC, Mesopotamia was subjected to a century-long period of enemy
intrusions, by AMORITES from the west and the people of ELAM from the east. Around 2000,
however, the state of BABYLONIA emerged in Mesopotamia. More extensive and better
integrated than its predecessors, it produced in time the famous Code of HAMMURABI (c.1800
BC), which defined the legal rights of all sections of the population, including the slave
inhabitants. Four centuries (1600-1200) of KASSITE rule was followed by the even longer
ascendancy of ASSYRIA, an empire based in northern Mesopotamia that eventually included
Syria and Egypt. Assyria finally fell (612 BC) before a coalition of the Indo-European Medes (see
MEDIA) from the north, the Persians from the east, and a resurgent Babylonia, under the
Chaldean dynasty, in the south. The new Babylonian empire then survived for less than a century
before being overrun (539) by the Persians. As part of the vast Persian Empire, Mesopotamia
lost its status as a center of political, cultural, and literary innovation. The numerals that the
Mesopotamians invented are still used, although now called Arabic
The first period of Mesopotamian civilization is the Protoliterate. This phase is most clearly seen
at the southern city of URUK and indeed may have arisen there. However, Uruk's architecture is
based on earlier forms at ERIDU, and during the Protoliterate period several southern cities--and
even some cities in northern Mesopotamia and Syria--shared cultural traits with Uruk. Although
there is little historical evidence, this cultural network was probably based on trade.
Southern Mesopotamian cities were built around temples, and the main temple in each city was
dedicated to the chief god or goddess of that city. The White Temple on the Anu Ziggurat at Uruk
is a characteristic example of Protoliterate temple architecture. The whitewashed outer walls of
this small rectangular mudbrick structure are formed into the niches and buttresses that are a
typical feature of all Mesopotamian temples. The temple stands on a ZIGGURAT, a tall artificial
mountain formed from the remains of temples built and rebuilt on this site for centuries.
The Protoliterate art at Uruk, largely religious in theme, exists principally in the form of temple
furnishings. Typical objects of the period include the so-called cult vase of Uruk, a 1-m-high (3-ft)
alabaster vessel decorated with scenes of offerings brought to the temple (Iraq Museum,
Baghdad) and a beautiful stone head, 22 cm high (8.6 in), of a woman perhaps representing the
fertility goddess Inanna (Iraq Museum). This image had probably been set into a temple wall as
part of a cult relief made of various materials. The face is softly and realistically modeled; the
white stone must have looked like flesh when surrounded by its original colorful inlays for the
eyes, eyebrows, and headdress.
During the Early Dynastic period, independent city-states flourished in southern Mesopotamia, in
MARI on the middle Euphrates River, and as far north as the city of Assur, as well as the Syrian
city known today as Tell Khuera. The southern cities were the Sumerian heartland, while
Semitic-speaking peoples inhabited the northern city-states. Trade networks united these distant
places, and toward the end of the period kings began to conquer and rule over several city-states.
A spectacular treasure trove of Early Dynastic culture was discovered at the Royal Cemetery at
UR, dating from c.2500 BC. Here, 16 elaborately built tombs contain, in addition to the chief
occupant (who may have been a ruler or a ritual figure), a number of human sacrifices. The main
tombs of these graves were furnished with a wealth of luxuriously decorated objects, including
gold cups and bowls, jewelry of precious stones and metals, inlaid harps, and other items that
together provide some idea of the lively and colorful material culture of the time
In about 2230 BC, a band of mountaineers, the Guti, overthrew the Akkadian empire. The
following period was marked by a Sumerian revival under the kings of Ur, who drove off the Guti
and then ruled over Sumer and Akkad from c.2120 to 2000 BC. Early in this period the rulers of
the city-state of Lagash built temples and produced sculpture that differed greatly from Akkadian
art. Gudea, ruler of Lagash, commissioned a series of hardstone sculptures in which he is
depicted as a humble and pious worshiper of the gods, rather than as their equal. While the fine
artisanship of these sculptures must have been inspired by Akkadian art, the religious tone
seems more in keeping with the Early Dynastic period.
The kings of Ur continued to express a similar tone in their attitudes toward the gods. Much
architecture of the city of Ur during the Neo-Sumerian period has been excavated, and it is
apparent that although these rulers had great political power, their architectural efforts were
largely devoted to religious expression.
At the center of Ur was the religious precinct, which contained a large and elaborate ziggurat to
the moon god Nannar (the chief deity of Ur), a smaller temple to Nannar's wife, and a still smaller
royal palace. The ziggurat of Nannar was built in stages and was faced with a niched surface of
baked brick. A temple to the god, which could be reached by three ramps, was placed atop the
ziggurat. A smaller temple was located at the ziggurat's base. Other such ziggurats were built in
many cities throughout the empire.
A characteristic form of temple used during this period was the so-called broad cella--a broad and
shallow room approached through a series of entrance halls and courts. In this temple the statue
of the god, or in some cases the deified ruler, could be glimpsed from afar. The statue was kept
separate from the worshiper not by the layout of the temple as in earlier times, but by the many
axially arranged spaces that separated the worshiper from his god.
Compared to the architectural remains, Neo-Sumerian art is scarce. Those pieces which have
been preserved are religious and conservative, yet exquisitely crafted, as is the art of Gudea.
The designs of cylinder seals are rigidly composed, with a similar preponderance of religious
In 2000 BC the rulers of Ur fell before invading AMORITES, a new wave of Semitic-speaking
people who eventually were absorbed into the city-states of Babylonia. From then on, Semitic
languages were to dominate Mesopotamian life. Early in the 2d millennium BC a number of
independent city-states flourished, but an empire of small proportions was formed by King
HAMMURABI of Babylon in the 18th century BC and was maintained by his successors.
The architectural evidence of these two periods is not very extensive. Nothing is known of
Babylon at this time, and the most impressive building yet excavated is the palace at Mari, a
powerful trading center before it fell (c.1760 BC) to Hammurabi.
The vast palace, with its complex ground plan, was an administrative, political, and religious
center for the ruler of the city-state. Large wall paintings here of human figures and mythological
animals are rare examples of the monumental art of this period.
The best-known piece of art of the Old Babylonian period is the stone stele inscribed with the law
code of Hammurabi (Louvre, Paris). At the top of this 2.3-m-high (90.5-in) stele Hammurabi is
shown worshiping Shamash, the god of justice, who handed down the laws (inscribed beneath
this relief sculpture) to the king who would enforce them.
The images of the pious king and the powerful god are based on Neo-Sumerian prototypes, and
the use of a picture to explain and justify the written law illustrates the close interrelationship
between art and writing in ancient Mesopotamia. Cylinder seals of these periods show much the
same themes as in the Neo-Sumerian period
Already in late prehistoric times, occupation by cave dwellers in various subregions set the stage
for Anatolia's emergence as a center of the agricultural revolution identified with the NEOLITHIC
PERIOD. Villages and towns of this era appear at Siirt, Diyarbaker, and Urfa (southeastern
Anatolia); Tarsus and Mersin in the Cicilian Plain; the Amuq Plain; at CATAL HUYUK
(southeast of Konya); Hacilar (southwestern Anatolia); and Suberde (southwest of Konya). The
13-ha (32-acre) site at Catal Huyuk (c. 7000-5600 BC) has produced outstanding artifacts
revealing it as a metalworking, specialized-craft, and religious center. Individual city-states
abound during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages (3d to early 2d millennium BC). Between
1940 and 1780 BC, Assyrian merchants from Mesopotamia peacefully established a score of
trading colonies in central and eastern Anatolian cities, thereby drawing the region into wider
politico-economic focus
Akkad was an early name for northern BABYLONIA, derived from the capital city of SARGON of
Akkad (fl. c.2350 BC). For almost a century and a half Sargon and his successors dominated all
of MESOPOTAMIA and at times held tributary lands situated to the east and west. The principal
ruler after Sargon was Naram Sin, possibly a grandson, who rivaled his ancestor as a conqueror;
monuments and inscriptions of his reign have been found over a wide area. Although the
Akkadian dynasty finally collapsed as a result of invasions from the north about 2200 BC, the
name Akkad continued to be applied to the country, and from about 2000 BC rulers of Babylonia
often styled themselves kings of SUMER and Akkad.
Sargon and his Akkadians were Semites. Their language (Old Akkadian) is the earliest written
Semitic dialect known, and their religious and social institutions clearly set them apart from the
people of Sumer to the south. Nevertheless, the Akkadians borrowed and modified numerous
cultural elements from the older and more complex civilization of the Sumerians. Among these
were the cuneiform system of writing and some aspects of political organization.
The Akkadian period was remembered by later generations as a golden age of unity and imperial
greatness, and the Akkadian language took its place with Sumerian as one of the classic
languages of Mesopotamian culture. It was still being used as a literary language as late as the
Neo-Assyrian period (8th-6th centuries BC)
Assyria was an ancient name for that part of MESOPOTAMIA on the upper Tigris River now
included in the northern Iraqi provinces of Ninawa (Nineveh), Sulaymaniya, Tamim, and Irbil.
Watered by the Tigris and its tributaries, the Greater and Lesser Zab, ancient Assyria stretched
from just west of the Tigris to the Zagros Mountains on the east and from about 34 deg north
latitude up to the hills of Armenia. With moderate rainfall that permitted farming without irrigation
and with considerable resources of stone for building, Assyria had advantages over BABYLONIA,
where irrigation was necessary and mud brick was the principal building material.
Assyria took its name from its original capital, Ashur, situated just north of the junction of the
Tigris and the Lesser Zab. Its founders, who are now called Assyrians, were a Semitic-speaking
people who arrived from the southwest shortly after 2000 BC. During the Old Assyrian period
(c.1900-1550 BC) the territory was unified by a series of vigorous rulers, and its influence was felt
along the middle Euphrates and westward into central Anatolia (modern Turkey), where Assyrian
traders established commercial colonies. By 1800 BC, however, the coming of the HITTITES
drove the Assyrians out of Anatolia, and the rise of Babylon under Hammurabi soon afterward
caused a contraction of Assyrian power in Mesopotamia. By 1550 BC Assyria was part of the
Kingdom of MITANNI; it did not regain independence until the collapse of that regime about 1365
Eridu (modern Abu Shahrain), situated 315 km (196 mi) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, was the
earliest known city of SUMER (southern Mesopotamia) and is the site of an important sequence
of temples. Eridu was associated with Enki (EA), god of the waters that were essential to the
fishing and irrigation-based agricultural economy of its inhabitants. In ancient times the city may
have been linked to the sea by a series of waterways.
The earliest village settlement (c.5000 BC) had grown into a substantial city of mudbrick and reed
houses by c.2900 BC, covering 8-10 ha (20-25 acres). By c.2050 BC the city had declined; there
is little evidence of occupation after that date. Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the
site underlie the unfinished ZIGGURAT of Amar-Sin (c.2047-2039 BC). The apparent continuity of
occupation and religious observance at Eridu provide convincing evidence for the indigenous
origin of Sumerian civilization.
The ziggurat, or temple tower, was the dominant feature of religious architecture throughout the
history of Mesopotamia. It seems to have developed gradually over a period of centuries when
temples were rebuilt many times on the same site; thus the remains of many earlier temples were
eventually incorporated within the progressively higher ziggurat. The earliest such ziggurat is at
ERIDU and dates from the 5th millennium BC. The Anu Ziggurat in URUK, erected in the 4th
millennium BC, was rebuilt, enlarged, and used continuously for almost 4,000 years. The
ziggurats ranged up to 91 sq m (100 sq yd) in base area and 46 m (50 yd) in height. The temple
on the top and the ziggurat itself were built of sun-baked mud bricks and then faced with fired
bricks that were often glazed in various colors. Niches and buttresses adorned the facades of the
finished structure. From the late 3d millennium BC on, a temple was placed at the base of the
ziggurat as well as on the top. A famous example of such a ziggurat complex is that built at Ur
during the neo-Sumerian period (c.2230-2000 BC) and dedicated to the moon god. The
significance of the ziggurat is not completely understood, but it was probably thought of both as
an altar and as a sort of stairway to and for the gods
Gabriel (angel)
The angel Gabriel, an important figure in the Bible, appears first in the Book of Daniel (chapters 8
and 9) as a messenger and revealer. In the New Testament he announces the births of John the
Baptist and Jesus Christ (Luke 1), and in the Book of Enoch, part of the pseudepigrapha, he is
one of the seven archangels who stand close to God. Later Christian tradition made him the
trumpeter of the Last Judgment. A popular figure in art, Gabriel is often pictured appearing to
Mary or with trumpet raised. In Islam he is Jibril, the principal of many tales, who revealed the
Koran to Muhammad.
Michael, which means "he who is like God," is the name of an archangel who is mentioned only
four times in the Bible (Dan. 10:13 ff. and 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7-9) but is prominent in the
apocryphal literature. Portrayed as Israel's guardian, a prince of heaven, and a great warrior (he
overcomes Satan in Rev. 12), he came to be regarded as a key Christian saint. Feast day: Sept.
29 (with Gabriel and Raphael, Western); Nov. 8 (Eastern)
Although mentioned only twice in the Old Testament, Melchizedek is a prominent name in the
New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews. In Genesis 14, Melchizedek is apparently a Canaanite
priest who blesses Abraham. In Psalm 110 he is the head of a messianic order of priests. In
Hebrews 5-7 he typifies the priesthood of the Messiah and is identified with Jesus Christ.
Melchizedek's priestly preeminence is applied to Christ, who is thus the heavenly high priest, "of
the order of Melchizedek for ever."
In folklore and mythology, giants are primeval creatures of immense size, usually humanlike but
evil and cruel. In Greek mythology, the Gigantes were a race born from the blood of URANUS
after the latter had been castrated by his son CRONUS.
Persia, ancient
The name Persia (from the ancient province of Persis; modern Fars, Iran) was given by the
Greeks to the entire land occupied by various Iranian tribes from which the ACHAEMENID
dynasty arose. It is the land of present-day IRAN and AFGHANISTAN, geographically the Iranian
plateau. The earliest inhabitants of this area are only known, at first, from their stone artifacts and,
later, their pottery. Paleolithic and Neolithic sites have been found in various parts of the plateau,
but distinctive painted pottery appears only in the Chalcolithic Period, about 3000 BC. In sites
such as Tepe Sialk, Tepe Hissar, and Tepe Giyan similar painted pottery has been found,
indicating early connections among the inhabitants. More is known about the material culture of
the peoples on the plateau in the 3d millennium BC, but the various groups assume an historical
identity only with the advent of written records in cuneiform. In the south were the Elamites (see
ELAM), whose principal city, SUSA, was on the plain of Mesopotamia. The Elamite language has
not been fully deciphered, but it was unlike any of the later languages of the region. In the 2d
millennium BC the Elamites were found throughout southern Iran. To the north in the mountains
lived KASSITES who also descended onto the plains of Mesopotamia. In present-day Azerbaijan
province lived people called Manneans. South of the sea that bears their name lived the
Thus the western part of the Iranian plateau was inhabited by various peoples whose
relationships to each other and whose languages are hardly known. The art objects of these
peoples, some of which are made of gold and silver, reveal the high material culture then existing.
Bronze objects from LURISTAN, mostly from graves, are evidence of great artistic originality. In
eastern Iran archaeological excavations are only beginning to reveal evidence of settlements and
By the end of the 2d millennium BC invaders from the north had begun to spread over the Iranian
plateau. These were Indo-European speakers, one branch of which invaded the subcontinent of
India while their close relatives the Iranians penetrated the plateau. Both the Indians and Iranians
called themselves ARYANS. They had war chariots pulled by horses, but the Iranians soon found
that cavalry was more effective in mountain areas. By the 9th century they had entered the
Zagros Mountains; the Medes, the most prominent of the Iranian peoples, are mentioned as
being there by Assyrian sources in 836 BC. More than a century later the Parsa, or Persians,
appeared in the south. Other Iranian tribes spread over the entire plateau
The archaeological site of Alaca Huyuk, located 160 km (100 mi) east of Ankara, Turkey, was first
investigated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by scholars who concentrated on the still
partially visible HITTITE remains. This unidentified center of the second half of the 2d millennium
BC is best known for its monumental stone gate with sphinx guardians and lateral reliefs
depicting ritual scenes. Excavations begun in 1935 have revealed considerable local wealth and
achievement before the time of the Hittites, with the earliest occupation dating from the 4th
millennium BC. Tombs of the 3d millennium BC feature metal vessels, jewelry, weapons, and
pole finials, or standards, of bulls, stags, and abstract forms often interpreted as solar symbols.
Major finds from the site are displayed in the Ankara Archaeological Museum
Anuradhapura, the capital of North Central province, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), was the royal
city of the Sinhalese kings of ancient Lanka for more than a millennium. Traditionally thought to
have been founded in the 5th century BC and named after the constellation Anuradha, it became,
after the establishment of Buddhism as the national religion in the 3d century, one of the major
centers of Buddhism in Asia. It remained so until the city was abandoned after its destruction (AD
992) by the armies of the South Indian Chola dynasty.
The ruins of Babylon (from Bab-ili, meaning "Gate of God"), the 2d-1st millennium BC capital of
southern Mesopotamia (BABYLONIA), stand beside the Euphrates about 90 km (55 mi) south of
modern Baghdad, Iraq. Occupied in prehistoric times but first mentioned in the late 3d millennium
BC, the city became important when its AMORITE king HAMMURABI (r. 1792-50 BC) gained
control of all southern Mesopotamia. Raided by the HITTITES about 1595 BC, Babylon then
came under KASSITE rule about 1570 BC, only to be sacked again about 1158 BC by the
Elamites, who removed many Babylonian monuments to SUSA, including the famous Law Code
stela of Hammurabi (now in the Louvre). Dominated by Assyria from the 9th century until that
country's fall to the Medes in 612 BC, Babylon once more became a major political power under
the 6th-century CHALDEAN kings, in particular NEBUCHADNEZZAR II (r. 605-562), builder of
much of the existing city. Surrendered to CYRUS THE GREAT in 539 BC and possibly the
intended capital of Alexander the Great, who died there in 323 BC, Babylon declined after the
founding of SELEUCIA, the new Greek capital.
Nebuchadnezzar's triple-walled city measured at least 18 km (11 mi) in circumference. In the old
city, on the east bank of the Euphrates, stood Esagila, the temple of Marduk, the city god, and the
associated seven-staged ziggurat Etemenanki, popularly associated with the Tower of BABEL.
Northward from Esagila, the Processional Way, decorated with animals in glazed and relief
brickwork, led through the Ishtar Gate (now in the Berlin Museum) to the New Year (Akitu)
temple. Northwest of the Processional Way stood Nebuchadnezzar's palace. Vaulted structures
at its northwest corner may be remains of the legendary Hanging Gardens, numbered among the
Eridu (modern Abu Shahrain), situated 315 km (196 mi) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, was the
earliest known city of SUMER (southern Mesopotamia) and is the site of an important sequence
of temples. Eridu was associated with Enki (EA), god of the waters that were essential to the
fishing and irrigation-based agricultural economy of its inhabitants. In ancient times the city may
have been linked to the sea by a series of waterways.
The earliest village settlement (c.5000 BC) had grown into a substantial city of mudbrick and reed
houses by c.2900 BC, covering 8-10 ha (20-25 acres). By c.2050 BC the city had declined; there
is little evidence of occupation after that date. Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the
site underlie the unfinished ZIGGURAT of Amar-Sin (c.2047-2039 BC). The apparent continuity of
occupation and religious observance at Eridu provide convincing evidence for the indigenous
origin of Sumerian civilization.
Ma'rib, a town in Yemen about 225 km (140 mi) inland from the coast, was an ancient fortified city
and the principal center of SHEBA. Occupied during the 1st millennium BC, the site has yielded
inscriptions in Himyaritic, a Semitic language that dates from as early as the 8th century BC. An
outstanding feature at Ma'rib was its elaborate irrigation system and dam, built during the 6th
century BC and lauded throughout ancient times as a great engineering feat. The 600-m-long
(1,980-ft) dam contained well-designed masonry sluices and spillway structures to regulate the
flow of water. Overtopping by floods may have caused the dam to fail on several occasions. It
was finally destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake, in about the 7th century AD
The ruins of Ur (modern Muqayyar), the ancient Sumerian capital and religious center that the
Bible identifies as the early home of Abraham, lie about 300 km (187 mi) southeast of Baghdad,
Iraq, and about 15 km (9.4 mi) southwest of the Euphrates River, which once flowed past the city.
Modern studies have produced evidence that prehistoric occupation of the site (5th millennium
BC) was interrupted by a flood that was formerly believed to have been the one described in
Genesis. The city flourished during the 3d millennium BC, briefly serving (c.2500 BC) as the
capital of SUMER under kings of the 1st dynasty of Ur. An extensive cemetery of approximately
this period yielded several so-called Royal Tombs, which reflect the great wealth and unusual
funerary customs of the city. Important persons were buried in these tombs, not only with
magnificent treasures of gold, silver, and semiprecious stones, but also with their retinues of
servants, ceremonial carts and animals, furniture, and utensils.
Following a period of Akkadian rule (c.2371-2230 BC), the city became the center of a
Mesopotamian empire under the 3d dynasty of Ur, founded (c.2100 BC) by Ur-Nammu. Many of
the important buildings on the site date from this period, although some were built on earlier ruins,
and others were added to during later periods. Sacked (c.2000 BC) by the Elamites, Ur remained
an important religious center maintained by successive kings of Babylonia, in particular by the
Neo-Babylonian kings Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 605-562 BC) and Nabonidus (d. c.538 BC). After the
Achaemenid period (c.550 to 330 BC), the city declined, and its abandonment (4th century BC)
may have resulted from a breakdown in the irrigation system after a change in the river's course.
The city walls, rebuilt (c.2100) by Ur-Nammu, enclose an oval area of about 33 ha (82 acres).
Three main building complexes have been excavated: the raised ZIGGURAT and temple precinct
surrounded by Nebuchadnezzar's retaining wall; the palace and temple of Nabonidus in the
northeast section; and a residential quarter in the southeast part of the city. The ziggurat, whose
lowest stage has been restored, was rebuilt by Nabonidus, incorporating Ur-Nammu's earlier
building. Stairways on the northeastern side led to the summit, upon which stood a shrine to the
moon-god Nannar, the patron deity of Ur. More temples stood within the walled precinct, including
the Giparu, which was dedicated to Ningal, consort of Nannar. East of the Giparu stood Ehursag,
possibly a royal palace used on ceremonial occasions. The royal mausoleums of the 3d dynasty
and the Royal Tombs lie southeast of Ehursag. The residential quarter contains private houses of
the early 2d millennium BC, the time at which Abraham is said to have lived at Ur. Cuneiform
tablets from this area give information about the city's involvement in foreign trading during the
late 3d and early 2d millennia BC, when Mesopotamian exports were transported to DILMUN
(modern Bahrain) in the Persian Gulf, and there exchanged for copper and ivory from the East.
Traces of two harbors have been found on the north and west sides of Ur.
The site of Ur was discovered in 1852, but not until the excavations carried out (1922-34) under
the direction of Sir Leonard Woolley was detailed evidence of the city's history uncovered and
present-day knowledge of early Mesopotamian culture substantially increased. Many objects from
the Royal Tombs are now in the British Museum (London) and the Baghdad and University of
Pennsylvania museums.
Ur-Nammu, King of Ur
Ur-Nammu was the first king (r. c.2112-c.2095 BC) of the 3d dynasty of Sumerian kings at Ur in
southern Mesopotamia. He was the author of the oldest known law code and built the lower part
of the pyramidal temple (ziggurat) at Ur. His son Shulgi (r. c.2094-c.2047) succeeded him
Abraham, originally called Abram, was Israel's first great patriarch. He probably lived in the late
3d or early 2d millennium BC, but the earliest source for information on his life is GENESIS 1125, written about 10 centuries later. He was born at Ur in Chaldea, where he married his halfsister SARAH. Under divine inspiration, he went to Haran in Mesopotamia. Later God
commanded him to leave his home for a new land; in return God offered Abraham fame, land,
and descendants, promising that he would become a blessing to all nations. Abraham obeyed
and migrated to Canaan, where he lived as a nomadic chieftain. He soon became wealthy, but he
still had no son. Because Sarah was advanced in years, she substituted her Egyptian slave
The most familiar flood story is that in the Book of Genesis. The event upon which this Old
Testament tale is based may have occurred about 3000 BC, when the Euphrates River inundated
a vast area, including Ur in Southern Mesopotamia. According to the Bible, the flood resulted
from 40 days of continual rain, producing high water that lasted 150 days and flood depths in
excess of 15 cubits (7.5 m/25 ft). (See DELUGE.
With the emergence of cities, new forms of dwellings were developed to house populations of
greater density. At UR in Mesopotamia, during the Isin-Larsa period (2025-1763 BC), domestic
architecture became increasingly sophisticated, and two-story town houses with wooden
balconies, a paved central court, and staircases were built of mud brick. These houses were well
suited to urban demands; the same type of house is still found in Baghdad and other Middle
Eastern cities.