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Land of Turmoil
Sumerian Civilization
 Quick review
 Sumeria
 The city and Royal tomb of UR
Chronology (Bronze Age)
 3500-2000 BC Early Uruk and Ubaid
 Pre-dynastic phase of Sumeria 3000-2350
 Akkadian Period 2350-2150 BC
(united Sumerian civilization)
Uruk and Ubaid
 Uruk first true civilized state, developed
writing and public architecture (mud-brick
construction) and used the wheel. Small
city-states linked by common language and
 Ubaid period advances technology, legal
and political systems, irrigation projects.
 Each independent city was centered on the
Temple and rituals to their own dominant
God of a shared pantheon.
 The region and peoples came to be the
Sumerian civilization.
 The King of Akkadia, Sargon The Great
united Sumeria through warfare into the
world’s first empire 2370 BC
 Sumerian city of Ur becomes dominant in
2125 BC
 Great wealth, arts, literature
 Ur falls to invaders around 2000 BC and the
Sumerians; becomes splintered into small
 Replaced by the Assyrian empire based in
cities of Assur and Babylon
Uruk excavations
Early work at searching for Eden
 Paul Emile Botta 1843, finds Khorsabad—ancient
Assyrian capital for King Sargon.
 Austen Henry Layard 1845, digs at Nineveh.
Carries away great statues to Britain.
 Henry Rawlinson 1835-1850, deciphers
cuneiform. Used old Persian carving 520BC, with three languages-Cuneiform, Old Persian, Akkadian describing the achievements of Darius.
 Sir Leonard Woolley 1922, digs at Ur in the newly
established Kingdom of Iraq.
Scripture inspired early work.
 Suggests Eden was at confluence of four
 Tigris Euphrates, Gihon and Pison.
 Gihon might be modern Karun, which
begins in Iran.
 Pison???? No such river on the landscape.
 Recent satellite imaging (NASA) reveals
dry river bed in Arabian desert (Wadi Batin)
may have linked with the Euphrates about
32,000 thousand years ago. Climate change
15,000 years ago dried up the region forcing
hunter-gathers to migrate away.
 “In the first days, in the very first days,
when heaven had moved away from earth
and earth had separated from heaven, the
father set sail, Enki, the god of wisdom set
» From Sumerian Epic
 Sumerians had dozens of gods and
 Each city had its own patron god in addition
to the others.
 Enki was the creator god (and evidence the
Sumerians were also sailors).
Artist conception of Ziggurat and daily life in Babylon.
Sargon the Great.
First great ruler
of Sumeria:
(Akkadian period,
2350 BC)
“In your house on high
in your beloved house I
will come to live. Up
above your cedarperfumed mountain, in
your citadel O Nanna,
in your mansion of
Sumerian song.
Modern work at Royal tombs. First excavated by Woolley in
Discoveries by Woolley
 Two separate grave zones 2350-2150 BC
 Lower cemetery from 2500 BC
 In all 1850 graves
 16 Royal graves
 Key find: Tomb of Queen Puabi.
 King’s chamber also found (plundered in
 The burial of Queen Puabi demonstrated
that Sumerians occasionally practiced
sacrifice. Numerous attendants went to the
grave with the queen, along with carts,
chariots, draft animals, soldiers and priests.
Gold bull on
A golden ram
Treasures from royal Tomb at Ur
Headdress of Puabi.
Cylinder seal
Temple priest (from horde of
votive statues).
The “standard of Ur.”
Scenes of war.
Board game
– “Drinking beer, in a blissful mood
With joy in the heart
and a happy liver”
----Sumerian poem 3000 BC
Seal impression of beer drinking festival.
Beer was so important that Sumerians brewmasters
had two protective goddesses.
 Queen Puabi had her own silver beer bowl
with filter and a gold straw for drinking.
 “ They prepare bread in date syrup for her. They pour
wine and honey for her at sunrise. The people of Sumer go
to her with food and drink, they feed Inanna in the pure
clean place.”
» Sumerian hymn to Inanna
Old Babylonian Period
 Inherit the legacy of Sumeria--literacy,
trade, agriculture.
 Add codified legal system under
Hammurabi in 18th century BC
 Babylonian empire grew and shrank over
the centuries dependent on power of King
and neighboring groups.
Sumerian world map
 Hittite invasion in
 Various Kings of
 Babylon captured
 Several centuries of
decline or stagnation
 Around 870 BC
Assyria reasserts
power under
Ashurbanipal II
Assyria include
Sargon II,
Senneacherib, and
Esarhaddon expands
the empire nearly to
old territory
 Various insurrections,
revolts and invasions
weaken the empire.
Environmental change
 Ur was built on the banks of the Euphrates
 Over the millennia the river changed course
such that by the 600BC it was 10 miles
 Today it is 40 miles away.
 Irrigation made it possible to make the
fertile desert productive.
 Centuries of agriculture caused the lands to
become more saline leading to crop failures.
 Declining productivity led to increased
conflict between cities over food resources
and labor.
Another famous
 Medes invade from Iran in 625 BC
 Medes, joined by armies of Chadeans and
Egyptians capture Babylon from in 605 BC.
 Under the rule of Nebachadnezzer Babylon
enjoys a revival and become masters of
Mesopotamia.Captures Syria and Palestine,
sacks Jerusalem and carries off Jews into
 Persians defeat Medes
 539 BC Persian King Cyrus the Great
arrives at walls of Babylon and eventually
defeats the Kingdom. Babylon is set up as a
satrapy or jurisdictional province of the
Persian Empire.
 Alexander the Great “liberates” the city in
but then advances toward India. 325 BC
 Returning to Babylon to make it his eastern
capital, Alexander catches a fever and dies
in Babylon in 323 BC.
 Squabbling among Alexander’s generals
allows Seleucus to gain control. His
descendants build new cities and Greek
becomes the common language.
 Finally the sands invade and bury all by the
time of the Romans.
Assyrian hall at the
British museum.
These sculptures
once stood in front
of gates to the capital
of the Assyrian
kingdom. Similar
statues were
removed by French
archaeologists in
1853; one fell into
the Tigris river.
Scroll seal in cuneiform