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Mesopotamia
Honors 2101
Fall 2006
Prof. Benham
Mesopotamia
“between the rivers”
• Tigris and Euphrates Region
– Modern day Iraq
– Region, not a people
• But, roughly continuous cultural elements
– Polytheism, Fate, Virtue
– Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, etc.
Map of Ancient Near and Middle East
(Fiero, G. (2006). The Humanistic Tradition, Vol 1. 5th ed. McGraw Hill, p.38.)
Mesopotamia
• Origin
– Irrigation, Agriculture, Civilization
– Complex urban life (“urban” der. Ur)
– Writing (wedged-shaped cuneiform)
– Cultural
– Mathematics and Astronomy
Impact of Mesopotamia
• Political/Social Organization
• Polytheism (more than 1000 gods)
• Motifs and images
– (e.g., flood, tower of Babel, righteous sufferer,
sacrifice, humans serve gods, etc.)
• Cultural Concepts
– Underworld
– Order/Chaos and Heroism
– “Ur-banism”
• Harlots and Women
Why Mesopotamia?
•
•
•
•
A “recent” discovery
Biblical significance
Earliest literature
Art, images and motifs
• Discovery and Meaning…
Mid-19th Century
• Archaeologists Austen Henry Layard &
Hormuzd Rassam discovered ancient library
at Nineveh, buried since 7th century BCE.
– ~25,000 clay tablets written in cuneiform
• Most were business records, but included two
literary works that predate Homer:
– Enuma Elish (Epic of Creation)
– Epic of Gilgamesh
1872
• George Smith, a translator of
the cuneiform tablets
announced an account of a
flood story that closely
resembles the Biblical
account.
• Since the cuneiform account
predates Biblical sources,
either:
– Biblical writers were
familiar/borrowed from it; or
– both were drawn from
common source.
Iraq War, 2003
• Iraq Museum, Baghdad, and
Archaeological Sites
– Ransacked for artifacts, gold, and precious
items
– Investigations and Retrieval
• (Thieves of Baghdad)
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (U ncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Read and listen: “Chasing Down History and the ‘Thieves of Baghdad’, at NPR.org
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5024219
Recovered
•
•
•
•
•
•
The Gold of Nimrud
Sacred Vase of Warka
The Mask of Warka
Golden Harp (Lyre) of Ur
Bassetki Statue
Clay Pot from Tell
Hassuna
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (U ncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (U ncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
• The Gold of Nimrud: a collection of more than 1,000 pieces
of gold jewelry and precious stones from 8th and 9th century
BCE. Discovered in 1988 and comparableto the discovery of
Tutankhamen’s treasure.
• Sacred Vase of Warka: world’s oldest known carved stone
ritual vessel dating from c. 3200 BCE.
• The Mask of Warka: believed to be the world’s oldest known
naturalistic sculture of a human face, c. 3100 BCE.
• Golden Harp of Ur: a sold gold bull’s head that adorns the
harp dated from c. 2600-2500 BCE. It predates the
construction of the Pyramids by 750 years.
• The Bassetki Statue: one of the earliest known examples of
the lost-wax technique, cast in pure bronze, c. 2250 BCE.
• Clay Pot from Tell Hassuna: a sixth millennium pot that
predates the wheel by at least 1,500 years.
Still Missing (12/05)
Lioness Attacking a Nubian
An extraordinary 8th
century BCE ivory
plaque inlaid with lapis
and carnelian and
overlaid with gold. Only
two such ivory plaques
are known to exit. (The
other one is in the
British Museum.)
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (U ncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Still Missing (12/05)
Ninhursag Bull
One of the two
twin copper bulls
from the face of
the temple built
by the King of Ur,
c. 2475.
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (U ncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Why Mesopotamia?
• Important cultural items.
• Mesopotamia is in a unique position as
one of the origins for human civilization.
• Still has significance to us today; still
asking and addressing same basic
questions about human existence.
Timeline Mesopotamia
http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/TIMELINE.HTM
Map of Ancient Near and Middle East
(Fiero, G. (2006). The Humanistic Tradition, Vol 1. 5th ed. McGraw Hill, p.38.)
Timeline Mesopotamia
• Sumerian (& Akkadian) Period (~3000-1800)
– 2750 1st dynasty of Ur
– 2340-2125 Sargon I (The Great) begins Akkadian Empire
• Babylonian Period (~1800 - 1170)
– 1728-1685 Hammurabi conquers Sumer
• Assyrian Period (~1200-612)
– 714-681 Reign of Sennacherib (Conquers Judah, 1st exile)
– 668-626 Reign of Ashurbanipal (Nineveh)
– 612 Fall of Nineveh
Timeline Mesopotamia
• Neo-Babylonian Period (612-539)
– ~650-500 Zarathustra, founder of Persian Zoroastrianism
– 605-565 Reign of Nebuchadnezzar (Conquers Judah,
Hebrew Exile)
– 539 Fall of Babylon to Persians
• Persian Period (539-334)
–
–
–
–
521-486 Reign of Darius I
490-489 Beginning of “Persian Wars” with Greeks
480-479 Invasion of Greece by Xerxes
479 Defeat of Persians (Xerxes) by Greeks
• Alexander the Great conquers Persia (334-331)