PLEASE SEE DESCRIPTIONS AND IMAGES BELOW FOR DETAILED REVIEWS AND FOR PAGES OF PICTURES FROM INSIDE OF BOOK. PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW. REVIEW : Seals were once described as devices to make honesty unnecessary. They have been used for securing jars, baskets, boxes and storerooms and, since the invention of writing, they have sealed ration lists, contracts, treaties, letters, scrolls, and consignments of goods traded over great distances, often providing evidence of otherwise unsuspected international contact. They can be impressed on clay, wax or metal, or inked and stamped onto paper, and they have been used on pottery and prints both as decoration and to identify their makers.Ownership of a seal has often been a mark of prestige and protection for the individual. Seals may be made of precious materials and are sometimes jewels in themselves. Designs may be skillfully cut, providing fascinating evidence of the techniques available at the time of manufacture. The subjects depicted on seals have proved a mine of information for art historians and genealogists alike, and analysis of the stones can sometimes provide clues to trade routes in operation at particular historical periods. In some cultures seals were used as amulets in rituals because of the magical properties attributed to the stones.
This book brings together and illustrates the contribution of thirteen distinguished speakers at an international seminar held in the British Museum in 1992. The result is the most comprehensive study ever published of seals and sealing practices around the world, from 5,000 B. REVIEW : Dominique Collon recently retired as a curator at the British Museum and is a leading authority on cylinder seals, having published a number of scholarly studies on the subject.Her other books include First Impressions: Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East, Objects in Focus: The Queen of the Night (BMP 2005), Ancient Near Eastern Art, and Interpreting the Past: Near Eastern Seals. REVIEW : The best and most comprehensive reference pertaining to ancient seals present in print.
ANCIENT IRANIAN CITIES : Even local archaeologists with the benefit of air-conditioned cars and paved roads think twice about crossing eastern Iran's rugged terrain. "It's a tough place, " says Mehdi Mortazavi from the University of Sistan-Baluchistan in the far eastern end of Iran, near the Afghan border. At the center of this region is the Dasht-e Lut, Persian for the Empty Desert. This treacherous landscape, 300 miles long and 200 miles wide, is covered with sinkholes, steep ravines, and sand dunes, some topping 1,000 feet.It also has the hottest average surface temperature of any place on Earth. The forbidding territory in and around this desert seems like the last place to seek clues to the emergence of the first cities and states 5,000 years ago.
Yet archaeologists are finding an impressive array of ancient settlements on the edges of the Dasht-e Lut dating back to the period when urban civilization was emerging in Egypt, Iraq, and the Indus River Valley in Pakistan and India. In the 1960s and 1970s, they found the great centers of Shahr-i-Sokhta and Shahdad on the desert's fringes and another, Tepe Yahya, far to the south.More recent surveys, excavations, and remote sensing work reveal that all of eastern Iran, from near the Persian Gulf in the south to the northern edge of the Iranian plateau, was peppered with hundreds and possibly thousands of small to large settlements. Detailed laboratory analyses of artifacts and human remains from these sites are providing an intimate look at the lives of an enterprising people who helped create the world's first global trade network. Far from living in a cultural backwater, eastern Iranians from this period built large cities with palaces, used one of the first writing systems, and created sophisticated metal, pottery, and textile industries. They also appear to have shared both administrative and religious ideas as they did business with distant lands.
"They connected the great corridors between Mesopotamia and the east, " says Maurizio Tosi, a University of Bologna archaeologist who did pioneering work at Shahr-i-Sokhta. They were the world in between. The reasons for this remain unclear and are the source of much scholarly controversy, but urban life didn't return to eastern Iran for more than 1,500 years. The very existence of this civilization was long forgotten. Recovering its past has not been easy.
Parts of the area are close to the Afghan border, long rife with armed smugglers. Revolution and politics have frequently interrupted excavations. And the immensity of the region and its harsh climate make it one of the most challenging places in the world to conduct archaeology. The peripatetic English explorer Sir Aurel Stein, famous for his archaeological work surveying large swaths of Central Asia and the Middle East, slipped into Persia at the end of 1915 and found the first hints of eastern Iran's lost cities. Stein traversed what he described as "a big stretch of gravel and sandy desert" and encountered the usual...
Robber bands from across the Afghan border, without any exciting incident. " What did excite Stein was the discovery of what he called "the most surprising prehistoric site on the eastern edge of the Dasht-e Lut. Locals called it Shahr-i-Sokhta ("Burnt City") because of signs of ancient destruction. It wasn't until a half-century later that Tosi and his team hacked their way through the thick salt crust and discovered a metropolis rivaling those of the first great urban centers in Mesopotamia and the Indus. Radiocarbon data showed that the site was founded around 3200 B.
Just as the first substantial cities in Mesopotamia were being built, and flourished for more than a thousand years. During its heyday in the middle of the third millennium B. The city covered more than 150 hectares and may have been home to more than 20,000 people, perhaps as populous as the large cities of Umma in Mesopotamia and Mohenjo-Daro on the Indus River.A vast shallow lake and wells likely provided the necessary water, allowing for cultivated fields and grazing for animals. Built of mudbrick, the city boasted a large palace, separate neighborhoods for pottery-making, metalworking, and other industrial activities, and distinct areas for the production of local goods.
Most residents lived in modest one-room houses, though some were larger compounds with six to eight rooms. Bags of goods and storerooms were often "locked" with stamp seals, a procedure common in Mesopotamia in the era. Shahr-i-Sokhta boomed as the demand for precious goods among elites in the region and elsewhere grew. Though situated in inhospitable terrain, the city was close to tin, copper, and turquoise mines, and lay on the route bringing lapis lazuli from Afghanistan to the west.
Craftsmen worked shells from the Persian Gulf, carnelian from India, and local metals such as tin and copper. Some they made into finished products, and others were exported in unfinished form. Lapis blocks brought from the Hindu Kush mountains, for example, were cut into smaller chunks and sent on to Mesopotamia and as far west as Syria.Unworked blocks of lapis weighing more than 100 pounds in total were unearthed in the ruined palace of Ebla, close to the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeologist Massimo Vidale of the University of Padua says that the elites in eastern Iranian cities like Shahr-i-Sokhta were not simply slaves to Mesopotamian markets. They apparently kept the best-quality lapis for themselves, and sent west what they did not want. Lapis beads found in the royal tombs of Ur, for example, are intricately carved, but of generally low-quality stone compared to those of Shahr-i-Sokhta. Pottery was produced on a massive scale. Nearly 100 kilns were clustered in one part of town and the craftspeople also had a thriving textile industry. Hundreds of wooden spindle whorls and combs were uncovered, as were well-preserved textile fragments made of goat hair and wool that show a wide variation in their weave. According to Irene Good, a specialist in ancient textiles at Oxford University, this group of textile fragments constitutes one of the most important in the world, given their great antiquity and the insight they provide into an early stage of the evolution of wool production. Textiles were big business in the third millennium B.
According to Mesopotamian texts, but actual textiles from this era had never before been found. A metal flag found at Shahdad, one of eastern Iran's early urban sites, dates to around 2400 B.The flag depicts a man and woman facing each other, one of the recurrent themes in the region's art at this time. A plain ceramic jar, found recently at Shahdad, contains residue of a white cosmetic whose complex formula is evidence for an extensive knowledge of chemistry among the city's ancient inhabitants. The artifacts also show the breadth of Shahr-i-Sokhta's connections.
Some excavated red-and-black ceramics share traits with those found in the hills and steppes of distant Turkmenistan to the north, while others are similar to pots made in Pakistan to the east, then home to the Indus civilization. Tosi's team found a clay tablet written in a script called Proto-Elamite, which emerged at the end of the fourth millennium B. Just after the advent of the first known writing system, cuneiform, which evolved in Mesopotamia. Other such tablets and sealings with Proto-Elamite signs have also been found in eastern Iran, such as at Tepe Yahya.
This script was used for only a few centuries starting around 3200 B. And may have emerged in Susa, just east of Mesopotamia. By the middle of the third millennium B. However, it was no longer in use. While Tosi's team was digging at Shahr-i-Sokhta, Iranian archaeologist Ali Hakemi was working at another site, Shahdad, on the western side of the Dasht-e Lut.This settlement emerged as early as the fifth millennium B. On a delta at the edge of the desert.
By the early third millennium B. Shahdad began to grow quickly as international trade with Mesopotamia expanded.Tomb excavations revealed spectacular artifacts amid stone blocks once painted in vibrant colors. These include several extraordinary, nearly life-size clay statues placed with the dead. The city's artisans worked lapis lazuli, silver, lead, turquoise, and other materials imported from as far away as eastern Afghanistan, as well as shells from the distant Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Evidence shows that ancient Shahdad had a large metalworking industry by this time. During a recent survey, a new generation of archaeologists found a vast hillnearly 300 feet by 300 feetcovered with slag from smelting copper. Vidale says that analysis of the copper ore suggests that the smiths were savvy enough to add a small amount of arsenic in the later stages of the process to strengthen the final product. Shahdad's metalworkers also created such remarkable artifacts as a metal flag dating to about 2400 B. Mounted on a copper pole topped with a bird, perhaps an eagle, the squared flag depicts two figures facing one another on a rich background of animals, plants, and goddesses. The flag has no parallels and its use is unknown. Vidale has also found evidence of a sweet-smelling nature. During a spring 2009 visit to Shahdad, he discovered a small stone container lying on the ground. The vessel, which appears to date to the late fourth millennium B. Was made of chlorite, a dark soft stone favored by ancient artisans in southeast Iran. Using X-ray diffraction at an Iranian lab, he discovered lead carbonateused as a white cosmeticsealed in the bottom of the jar. He identified fatty material that likely was added as a binder, as well as traces of coumarin, a fragrant chemical compound found in plants and used in some perfumes. Further analysis showed small traces of copper, possibly the result of a user dipping a small metal applicator into the container. Other sites in eastern Iran are only now being investigated. For the past two years, Iranian archaeologists Hassan Fazeli Nashli and Hassain Ali Kavosh from the University of Tehran have been digging in a small settlement a few miles east of Shahdad called Tepe Graziani, named for the Italian archaeologist who first surveyed the site. They are trying to understand the role of the city's outer settlements by examining this ancient mound, which is 30 feet high, 525 feet wide, and 720 feet long.
Excavators have uncovered a wealth of artifacts including a variety of small sculptures depicting crude human figures, humped bulls, and a Bactrian camel dating to approximately 2900 B. A bronze mirror, fishhooks, daggers, and pins are among the metal finds. There are also wooden combs that survived in the arid climate. "The site is small but very rich, " says Fazeli, adding that it may have been a prosperous suburban production center for Shahdad. Sites such as Shahdad and Shahr-i-Sokhta and their suburbs were not simply islands of settlements in what otherwise was empty desert.Fazeli adds that some 900 Bronze Age sites have been found on the Sistan plain, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortazavi, meanwhile, has been examining the area around the Bampur Valley, in Iran's extreme southeast. This area was a corridor between the Iranian plateau and the Indus Valley, as well as between Shahr-i-Sokhta to the north and the Persian Gulf to the south.
A 2006 survey along the Damin River identified 19 Bronze Age sites in an area of less than 20 square miles. That river periodically vanishes, and farmers depend on underground channels called qanats to transport water. Despite the lack of large rivers, ancient eastern Iranians were very savvy in marshaling their few water resources. Using satellite remote sensing data, Vidale has found remains of what might be ancient canals or qanats around Shahdad, but more work is necessary to understand how inhabitants supported themselves in this harsh climate 5,000 years ago, as they still do today. The large eastern Iranian settlement of Tepe Yahya produced clear evidence for the manufacture of a type of black stone jar for export that has been found as far away as Mesopotamia.Meanwhile, archaeologists also hope to soon continue work that began a decade ago at Konar Sandal, 55 miles north of Yahya near the modern city of Jiroft in southeastern Iran. France-based archaeologist Yusef Madjizadeh has spent six seasons working at the site, which revealed a large city centered on a high citadel with massive walls beside the Halil River. That city and neighboring settlements like Yahya produced artfully carved dark stone vessels that have been found in Mesopotamian temples. Vidale notes that Indus weights, seals, and etched carnelian beads found at Konar Sandal demonstrate connections with that civilization as well. Many of these settlements were abandoned in the latter half of the third millennium B.
The vibrant urban life of eastern Iran was history. Barbara Helwig of Berlin's German Archaeological Institute suspects a radical shift in trade patterns precipitated the decline. Instead of moving in caravans across the deserts and plateau of Iran, Indus traders began sailing directly to Arabia and then on to Mesopotamia, while to the north, the growing power of the Oxus civilization in today's Turkmenistan may have further weakened the role of cities such as Shahdad.
The lagoons, marshes, and streams may have dried up, since even small shifts in rainfall canB. Have a dramatic effect on water sources in the area. Here, there is no Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, or Indus to provide agricultural bounty through a drought, and even the most sophisticated water systems may have failed during a prolonged dry spell.
It is also possible that an international economic downturn played a role. The destruction of the Mesopotamian city of Ur around 2000 B. And the later decline of Indus metropolises such as Mohenjo-Daro might have spelled doom for a trading people. The market for precious goods such as lapis collapsed. There is no clear evidence of widespread warfare, though Shahr-i-Sokhta appears to have been destroyed by fire several times.
But a combination of drought, changes in trade routes, and economic trouble might have led people to abandon their cities to return to a simpler existence of herding and small-scale farming. Not until the Persian Empire rose 1,500 years later did people again live in any large numbers in eastern Iran, and not until modern times did cities again emerge.
This also means that countless ancient sites are still awaiting exploration on the plains, in the deserts, and among the rocky valleys of the region. BABYLON: Babylon is the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamia whose ruins lie in modern-day Iraq 59 miles (94 kilometers) southwest of Baghdad. The name is thought to derive from bav-il or bav-ilim which, in the Akkadian language of the time, meant Gate of God or `Gate of the Gods and `Babylon coming from the Greek. The city owes its fame (or infamy) to the many references the Bible makes to it; all of which are unfavorable.In the Book of Genesis, chapter 11, Babylon is featured in the story of The Tower of Babel and the Hebrews claimed the city was named for the confusion which ensued after God caused the people to begin speaking in different languages so they would not be able to complete their great tower to the heavens (the Hebrew word bavel means "confusion"). Babylon also appears prominently in the biblical books of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, among others, and, most notably, The Book of Revelation.
It was these biblical references which sparked interest in Mesopotamian archaeology and the expedition by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey who first excavated the ruins of Babylon in 1899 A. Outside of the sinful reputation given it by the Bible, the city is known for its impressive walls and buildings, its reputation as a great seat of learning and culture, the formation of a code of law which pre-dates the Mosaic Law, and for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which were man-made terraces of flora and fauna, watered by machinery, which were cited by Herodotus as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
And claimed to have built temples at Babylon (other ancient sources seem to indicate that Sargon himself founded the city). At that time, Babylon seems to have been a minor city or perhaps a large port town on the Euphrates River at the point where it runs closest to the river Tigris. Whatever early role the city played in the ancient world is lost to modern-day scholars because the water level in the region has risen steadily over the centuries and the ruins of Old Babylon have become inaccessible. The ruins which were excavated by Koldewey, and are visible today, date only to well over one thousand years after the city was founded. The historian Paul Kriwaczek, among other scholars, claims it was established by the Amorites following the collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur.
This information, and any other pertaining to Old Babylon, comes to us today through artifacts which were carried away from the city after the Persian invasion or those which were created elsewhere. This obscure Amorite prince ascended to the throne upon the abdication of his father, King Sin-Muballit, and fairly quickly transformed the city into one of the most powerful and influential in all of Mesopotamia. Hammurabis law codes are well known but are only one example of the policies he implemented to maintain peace and encourage prosperity.He enlarged and heightened the walls of the city, engaged in great public works which included opulent temples and canals, and made diplomacy an integral part of his administration. So successful was he in both diplomacy and war that, by 1755 B. He had united all of Mesopotamia under the rule of Babylon which, at this time, was the largest city in the world, and named his realm Babylonia. Following Hammurabis death, his empire fell apart and Babylonia dwindled in size and scope until Babylon was easily sacked by the Hittites in 1595 B. The Kassites followed the Hittites and re-named the city Karanduniash. The meaning of this name is not clear. The Assyrians then followed the Kassites in dominating the region and, under the reign of the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib reigned 705-681 B. Sennacherib had the city sacked, razed, and the ruins scattered as a lesson to others. His extreme measures were considered impious by the people generally and Sennacheribs court specifically and he was soon after assassinated by his sons.
The city later rose in revolt against Ashurbanipal of Nineveh who besieged and defeated the city but did not damage it to any great extent and, in fact, personally purified Babylon of the evil spirits which were thought to have led to the trouble. The reputation of the city as a center of learning and culture was already well established by this time. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, a Chaldean named Nabopolassar took the throne of Babylon and, through careful alliances, created the Neo-Babylonian Empire. His son, Nebuchadnezzar II 604-561 B.
, renovated the city so that it covered 900 hectares (2,200 acres) of land and boasted some the most beautiful and impressive structures in all of Mesopotamia. Every ancient writer to make mention of the city of Babylon, outside of those responsible for the stories in the Bible, does so with a tone of awe and reverence. Herodotus, for example, writes: The city stands on a broad plain, and is an exact square, a hundred and twenty stadia in length each way, so that the entire circuit is four hundred and eighty stadia.While such is its size, in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it. It is surrounded, in the first place, by a broad and deep moat, full of water, behind which rises a wall fifty royal cubits in width and two hundred in height. Although it is generally believed that Herodotus greatly exaggerated the dimensions of the city (and may never have actually visited the place himself) his description echoes the admiration of other writers of the time who recorded the magnificence of Babylon, and especially the great walls, as a wonder of the world. It was under Nebuchadnezzar IIs reign that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are said to have been constructed and the famous Ishtar Gate built. The Hanging gardens are most explicitly described in a passage from Diodorus Siculus 90-30 B.
In his work Bibliotheca Historica Book II. There was also, because the acropolis, the Hanging Garden, as it is called, which was built, not by Semiramis, but by a later Syrian king to please one of his concubines; for she, they say, being a Persian by race and longing for the meadows of her mountains, asked the king to imitate, through the artifice of a planted garden, the distinctive landscape of Persia.
The park extended four plethra on each side, and since the approach to the garden sloped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier, the appearance of the whole resembled that of a theater. When the ascending terraces had been built, there had been constructed beneath them galleries which carried the entire weight of the planted garden and rose little by little one above the other along the approach; and the uppermost gallery, which was fifty cubits high, bore the highest surface of the park, which was made level with the circuit wall of the battlements of the city. Furthermore, the walls, which had been constructed at great expense, were twenty-two feet thick, while the passage-way between each two walls was ten feet wide. The roofs of the galleries were covered over with beams of stone sixteen feet long, inclusive of the overlap, and four feet wide.The roof above these beams had first a layer of reeds laid in great quantities of bitumen, over this two courses of baked brick bonded by cement, and as a third layer a covering of lead, to the end that the moisture from the soil might not penetrate beneath. On all this again earth had been piled to a depth sufficient for the roots of the largest trees; and the ground, which was leveled off, was thickly planted with trees of every kind that, by their great size or any other charm, could give pleasure to beholder. And since the galleries, each projecting beyond another, all received the light, they contained many royal lodgings of every description; and there was one gallery which contained openings leading from the topmost surface and machines for supplying the garden with water, the machines raising the water in great abundance from the river, although no one outside could see it being done. Now this park, as I have said, was a later construction. This part of Diodorus' work concerns the semi-mythical queen Semiramis most probably based on the actual Assyrian queen Sammu-Ramat who reigned 811-806 B. His reference to "a later Syrian king" follows Herodotus' tendency of referring to Mesopotamia as `Assyria'. Recent scholarship on the subject argues that the Hanging Gardens were never located at Babylon but were instead the creation Sennacherib at his capital of Nineveh. The historian Christopher Scarre writes. Sennacheribs palace [at Nineveh] had all the usual accoutrements of a major Assyrian residence: colossal guardian figures and impressively carved stone reliefs (over 2,000 sculptured slabs in 71 rooms). Its gardens, too, were exceptional. Recent research by British Assyriologist Stephanie Dalley has suggested that these were the famous Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Later writers placed the Hanging Gardens at Babylon, but extensive research has failed to find any trace of them.
Sennacheribs proud account of the palace gardens he created at Nineveh fits that of the Hanging Gardens in several significant details. This period in which the Hanging Gardens were allegedly built was also the time of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews and the period in which the Babylonian Talmud was written. The Euphrates River divided the city in two between an `old and a `new city with the Temple of Marduk and the great towering ziggurat in the center. Streets and avenues were widened to better accommodate the yearly processional of the statue of the great god Marduk in the journey from his home temple in the city to the New Year Festival Temple outside the Ishtar Gate. The Neo-Babylonian Empire continued after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II and Babylon continued to play an important role in the region under the rule of Nabonidus and his successor Belshazzar (featured in the biblical Book of Daniel).The empire fell to the Persians under Cyrus the Great at the Battle of Opis. Babylons walls were impregnable and so the Persians cleverly devised a plan whereby they diverted the course of the Euphrates River so that it fell to a manageable depth. While the residents of the city were distracted by one of their great religious feast days, the Persian army waded the river and marched under the walls of Babylon unnoticed.
It was claimed the city was taken without a fight although documents of the time indicate that repairs had to be made to the walls and some sections of the city and so perhaps the action was not as effortless as the Persian account maintained. Under Persian rule, Babylon flourished as a center of art and education.
Cyrus and his successors held the city in great regard and made it the administrative capital of their empire (although at one point the Persian emperor Xerxes felt obliged to lay siege to the city after another revolt). Babylonian mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy were highly respected and it is thought that Thales of Miletus (known as the first western philosopher) may have studied there and that Pythagoras developed his famous mathematical theorem based upon a Babylonian model. When, after two hundred years, the Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great in 331 B. He also gave great reverence to the city, ordering his men not to damage the buildings nor molest the inhabitants. The historian Stephen Bertman writes, Before his death, Alexander the Great ordered the superstructure of Babylons ziggurat pulled down in order that it might be rebuilt with greater splendor.But he never lived to bring his project to completion. Over the centuries, its scattered bricks have been cannibalized by peasants to fulfill humbler dreams. All that is left of the fabled Tower of Babel is the bed of a swampy pond. After Alexanders death at Babylon, his successors (known as "The Diadochi", Greek for "successors") fought over his empire generally and the city specifically to the point where the residents fled for their safety (or, according to one ancient report, were re-located). By the time the Parthian Empire ruled the region in 141 B. Babylon was deserted and forgotten. The city steadily fell into ruin and, even during a brief revival under the Sassanid Persians, never approached its former greatness. In the Muslim conquest of the land in 650 A. Whatever remained of Babylon was swept away and, in time, was buried beneath the sands. In the 17th and 18th centuries A. European travelers began to explore the area and return home with various artifacts. These cuneiform blocks and statues led to an increased interest in the region and, by the 19th century A. An interest in biblical archaeology drew men like Robert Koldewey who uncovered the ruins of the once great city of the Gate of the Gods. REVIEW : Babylon was a key kingdom in ancient Mesopotamia from the 18th to 6th centuries B.
The city was built on the Euphrates river and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods. Babylon was originally a small Akkadian town dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire circa2300 B.The town became part of a small independent city-state with the rise of the First Amorite Babylonian Dynasty in the nineteenth century B. After the Amorite king Hammurabi created a short-lived empire in the 18th century B. He built Babylon up into a major city and declared himself its king, and southern Mesopotamia became known as Babylonia and Babylon eclipsed Nippur as its holy city. The empire waned under Hammurabi's son Samsu-iluna and Babylon spent long periods under Assyrian, Kassite and Elamite domination. After being destroyed and then rebuilt by the Assyrians, Babylon became the capital of the short lived Neo-Babylonian Empire from 609 to 539 B. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, although a number of scholars believe these were actually in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the city came under the rule of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman, and Sassanid empires. It has been estimated that Babylon was the largest city in the world from above17701670 B. And again between about 612320 B. It was perhaps the first city to reach a population above 200,000. Estimates for the maximum extent of its area range from 890 to 900 hectares (2,200 acres). The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris. The main sources of information about Babylonexcavation of the site itself, references in cuneiform texts found elsewhere in Mesopotamia, references in the Bible, descriptions in classical writing (especially by Herodotus), and second-hand descriptions (citing the work of Ctesias and Berossus)present an incomplete and sometimes contradictory picture of the ancient city even at its peak in the sixth century B. The English name "Babylon" comes from the Greek "Babylon", a transliteration of the Akkadian Babilim. The Babylonian name in the early 2nd millennium B. Had been Babilli or Babilla, long thought to mean "gate of god" (Bab-Ili).
In the Bible, the name appears as Babel, interpreted in the Hebrew Scriptures' Book of Genesis to mean "confusion", from the verb bilbél. Ancient records in some situations use Babylon as a name for other cities, including cities like Borsippa within Babylon's sphere of influence, and Nineveh for a short period after the Assyrian sack of Babylon. The present-day site of ancient Babylon consists of a number of mounds covering an area of about 2 by 1 kilometer (1.24 × 0.62 miles) along the Euphrates to the west.Originally, the river roughly bisected the city, but the course of the river has since shifted so that most of the remains of the former western part of the city are now inundated. Some portions of the city wall to the west of the river also remain. Only a small portion of the ancient city (3% of the area within the inner walls; 1.5% of the area within the outer walls; 0.05% at the depth of Middle and Old Babylon) has been excavated. Known remains include: Kasralso called Palace or Castle, it is the location of the Neo-Babylonian ziggurat Etemenanki and lies in the center of the site. Amran Ibn Ali; the highest of the mounds at 25 meters, to the south. It is the site of Esagila, a temple of Marduk which also contained shrines to Ea and Nabu. Homera; a reddish colored mound on the west side. Most of the Hellenistic remains are here. Babil; a mound about 22 meters high at the northern end of the site. Its bricks have been subject to looting since ancient times. It held a palace built by Nebuchadnezzar. Archaeologists have recovered few artifacts predating the Neo-Babylonian period. The water table in the region has risen greatly over the centuries and artifacts from the time before the Neo-Babylonian Empire are unavailable to current standard archaeological methods. Additionally, the Neo-Babylonians conducted significant rebuilding projects in the city, which destroyed or obscured much of the earlier record. Babylon was pillaged numerous times after revolting against foreign rule. Most notably this occurred in the second millennium at the hands of the Hittites and Elamites, then by the Neo-Assyrian Empire and the Achaemenid Empire in the first millennium. Much of the western half of the city is now beneath the river, and other parts of the site have been mined for commercial building materials. Only the Koldewey expedition recovered artifacts from the Old Babylonian period.
These included 967 clay tablets, stored in private houses, with Sumerian literature and lexical documents. Nearby ancient settlements are Kish, Borsippa, Dilbat, and Kutha. Marad and Sippar were 60 kilometers in either direction along the Euphrates. Historical knowledge of early Babylon must be pieced together from epigraphic remains found elsewhere, such as at Uruk, Nippur, and Haradum.
Information on the Neo-Babylonian city is available from archaeological excavations and from classical sources. Babylon was described, perhaps even visited, by a number of classical historians including Ctesias, Herodotus, Quintus Curtius Rufus, Strabo, and Cleitarchus. These reports are of variable accuracy and some of the content was politically motivated, but these still provide useful information. References to the city of Babylon can be found in Akkadian and Sumerian literature from the late third millennium B. One of the earliest is a tablet describing the Akkadian king ar-kali-arri laying the foundations in Babylon of new temples for Annntum and Ilaba.
The so-called Weidner Chronicle states that Sargon of Akkad circa23d century B. In the short chronology had built Babylon "in front of Akkad".
A later chronicle states that Sargon "dug up the dirt of the pit of Babylon, and made a counterpart of Babylon next to Akkad". Van de Mieroop has suggested that those sources may refer to the much later Assyrian king Sargon II of the Neo-Assyrian Empire rather than Sargon of Akkad. The Book of Genesis, chapter 10, claims that king Nimrod founded Babel, Uruk, and Akkad. Ctesias, quoted by Diodorus Siculus and in George Syncellus's Chronographia, claimed to have access to manuscripts from Babylonian archives, which date the founding of Babylon to 2286 B.
Under the reign of its first king, Belus. A similar figure is found in the writings of Berossus, who according to Pliny, stated that astronomical observations commenced at Babylon 490 years before the Greek era of Phoroneus, indicating 2243 B. Stephanus of Byzantium wrote that Babylon was built 1002 years before the date given by Hellanicus of Lesbos for the siege of Troy 1229 B., which would date Babylon's foundation to 2231 B. All of these dates place Babylon's foundation in the 23rd century B. However, cuneiform records have not been found to correspond with these classical (post-cuneiform) accounts. It is known that by around the 19th century B. Much of southern Mesopotamia was occupied by Amorites, nomadic tribes from the northern Levant who were Northwest Semitic speakers, unlike the native Akkadians of southern Mesopotamia and Assyria, who spoke East Semitic. The Amorites at first did not practice agriculture like more advanced Mesopotamians, preferring a semi-nomadic lifestyle, herding sheep.
Over time, Amorite grain merchants rose to prominence and established their own independent dynasties in several south Mesopotamian city-states, most notably Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, Lagash, and later, founding Babylon as a state. According to a Babylonian date list, Amorite[a] rule in Babylon began circa19th or 18th century B. With a chieftain named Sumu-abum, who declared independence from the neighboring city-state of Kazallu. Sumu-la-El, whose dates may be concurrent with those of Sumu-abum, is usually given as the progenitor of the First Babylonian Dynasty.Both are credited with building the walls of Babylon. In any case, the records describe Sumu-la-Els military successes establishing a regional sphere of influence for Babylon. Babylon was initially a minor city-state, and controlled little surrounding territory; its first four Amorite rulers did not assume the title of king. The older and more powerful states of Assyria, Elam, Isin and Larsa overshadowed Babylon until it became the capital of Hammurabi's short lived empire about a century later.
Is famous for codifying the laws of Babylonia into the Code of Hammurabi. He conquered all of the cities and city states of southern Mesopotamia, including Isin, Larsa, Ur, Uruk, Nippur, Lagash, Eridu, Kish, Adab, Eshnunna, Akshak, Akkad, Shuruppak, Bad-tibira, Sippar and Girsu, coalescing them into one kingdom, ruled from Babylon. Hammurabi also invaded and conquered Elam to the east, and the kingdoms of Mari and Ebla to the north west. After a protracted struggle with the powerful Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan of the Old Assyrian Empire, he forced his successor to pay tribute late in his reign, spreading Babylonian power to Assyria's Hattian and Hurrian colonies in Asia Minor. After the reign of Hammurabi, the whole of southern Mesopotamia came to be known as Babylonia, whereas the north had already coalesced centuries before into Assyria.
From this time, Babylon supplanted Nippur and Eridu as the major religious centers of southern Mesopotamia. Hammurabi's empire destabilized after his death. Assyrians defeated and drove out the Babylonians and Amorites. The far south of Mesopotamia broke away, forming the native Sealand Dynasty, and the Elamites appropriated territory in eastern Mesopotamia. The Amorite dynasty remained in power in Babylon, which again became a small city state.Texts from Old Babylon often include references to Shamash, the sun-god of Sippar, treated as a supreme deity, and Marduk, considered as his son. Marduk was later elevated to a higher status and Shamash lowered, perhaps reflecting Babylons rising political power.
The city was overthrown by the Hittite Empire from Asia Minor. Thereafter, Kassites from the Zagros Mountains of north western Ancient Iran captured Babylon, ushering in a dynasty that lasted for 435 years, until 1160 B. The city was renamed Karanduniash during this period.Kassite Babylon eventually became subject to the Middle Assyrian Empire 13651053 B. To the north, and Elam to the east, with both powers vying for control of the city. The Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I took the throne of Babylon in 1235 B. After continued attacks and annexing of territory by the Assyrians and Elamites, the Kassites were deposed in Babylon. An Akkadian south Mesopotamian dynasty then ruled for the first time.
However, Babylon remained weak and subject to domination by Assyria. Its ineffectual native kings were unable to prevent new waves of foreign West Semitic settlers from the deserts of the Levant, including the Arameans and Suteans in the 11th century B. And finally the Chaldeans in the 9th century B. Entering and appropriating areas of Babylonia for themselves. The Arameans briefly ruled in Babylon during the late 11th century B.During the rule of the Neo-Assyrian Empire 911609 B. , Babylonia was under constant Assyrian domination or direct control.
During the reign of Sennacherib of Assyria, Babylonia was in a constant state of revolt, led by a chieftain named Merodach-Baladan, in alliance with the Elamites, and suppressed only by the complete destruction of the city of Babylon. Its walls, temples and palaces were razed, and the rubble was thrown into the Arakhtu, the sea bordering the earlier Babylon on the south.
Destruction of the religious center shocked many, and the subsequent murder of Sennacherib by two of his own sons while praying to the god Nisroch was considered an act of atonement. Consequently, his successor Esarhaddon hastened to rebuild the old city and make it his residence during part of the year. After his death, Babylonia was governed by his elder son, the Assyrian prince Shamash-shum-ukin, who eventually started a civil war in 652 B.
Against his own brother, Ashurbanipal, who ruled in Nineveh. Shamash-shum-ukin enlisted the help of other peoples subject to Assyria, including Elam, Persia, Chaldeans and Suteans of southern Mesopotamia, and the Canaanites and Arabs dwelling in the deserts south of Mesopotamia. Once again, Babylon was besieged by the Assyrians, starved into surrender and its allies were defeated.
Ashurbanipal celebrated a "service of reconciliation", but did not venture to "take the hands" of Bel. An Assyrian governor named Kandalanu was appointed as ruler of the city. Ashurbanipal did collect texts from Babylon for inclusion in his extensive library at Ninevah. After the death of Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian empire destabilized due to a series of internal civil wars throughout the reigns of Assyrian kings Ashur-etil-ilani, Sin-shumu-lishir and Sinsharishkun.
Eventually Babylon, like many other parts of the near east, took advantage of the anarchy within Assyria to free itself from Assyrian rule. In the subsequent overthrow of the Assyrian Empire by an alliance of peoples, the Babylonians saw another example of divine vengeance. Under Nabopolassar, a previously unknown Chaldean chieftain, Babylon escaped Assyrian rule, and in an alliance with Cyaxares, king of the Medes and Persians together with the Scythians and Cimmerians, finally destroyed the Assyrian Empire between 612 B.Babylon thus became the capital of the Neo-Babylonian (sometimes and possibly erroneously called the Chaldean) Empire. With the recovery of Babylonian independence, a new era of architectural activity ensued, particularly during the reign of his son Nebuchadnezzar II 604561 B. Nebuchadnezzar ordered the complete reconstruction of the imperial grounds, including the Etemenanki ziggurat, and the construction of the Ishtar Gatethe most prominent of eight gates around Babylon. A reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate is located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Nebuchadnezzar is also credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylonone of the seven wonders of the ancient worldsaid to have been built for his homesick wife Amyitis. Whether the gardens actually existed is a matter of dispute. German archaeologist Robert Koldewey speculated that he had discovered its foundations, but many historians disagree about the location. Stephanie Dalley has argued that the hanging gardens were actually located in the Assyrian capital, Nineveh. Nebuchandnezzar is also notoriously associated with the Babylonian exile of the Jews, the result of an imperial technique of pacification, used also by the Assyrians, in which ethnic groups in conquered areas were deported en masse to the capital.
Chaldean rule of Babylon did not last long; it is not clear whether Neriglissar and Labashi-Marduk were Chaldeans or native Babylonians, and the last ruler Nabonidus 556539 B. And his co-regent son Belshazzar were Assyrians from Harran.
The Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, with a military engagement known as the Battle of Opis. Babylon's walls were considered impenetrable.
The only way into the city was through one of its many gates or through the Euphrates River. Metal grates were installed underwater, allowing the river to flow through the city walls while preventing intrusion. The Persians devised a plan to enter the city via the river.During a Babylonian national feast, Cyrus' troops diverted the Euphrates River upstream, allowing Cyrus' soldiers to enter the city through the lowered water. The Persian army conquered the outlying areas of the city while the majority of Babylonians at the city center were unaware of the breach. The account was elaborated upon by Herodotus, and is also mentioned in parts of the Hebrew Bible. Herodotus also described a moat, an enormously tall and broad wall cemented with bitumen and with buildings on top, and a hundred gates to the city. He also writes that the Babylonians wear turbans and perfume and bury their dead in honey, that they practice ritual prostitution, and that three tribes among them eat nothing but fish. The hundred gates can be considered a reference to Homer. Following the pronouncement of Archibald Henry Sayce in 1883, Herodotuss account of Babylon has largely been considered to represent Greek folklore rather than an authentic voyage to Babylon.
Dalley and others have recently suggested taking Herodotuss account seriously again. According to 2 Chronicles 36 of the Hebrew Bible, Cyrus later issued a decree permitting captive people, including the Jews, to return to their own lands. Text found on the Cyrus Cylinder has traditionally been seen by biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of this policy, although the interpretation is disputed because the text only identifies Mesopotamian sanctuaries but makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea.
Under Cyrus and the subsequent Persian king Darius I, Babylon became the capital city of the 9th Satrapy (Babylonia in the south and Athura in the north), as well as a center of learning and scientific advancement. In Achaemenid Persia, the ancient Babylonian arts of astronomy and mathematics were revitalized, and Babylonian scholars completed maps of constellations. The city became the administrative capital of the Persian Empire and remained prominent for over two centuries. Many important archaeological discoveries have been made that can provide a better understanding of that era. The early Persian kings had attempted to maintain the religious ceremonies of Marduk, but by the reign of Darius III, over-taxation and the strain of numerous wars led to a deterioration of Babylon's main shrines and canals, and the destabilization of the surrounding region.There were numerous attempts at rebellion and in 522 B. (Nebuchadnezzar IV) and 482 B. (Bel-shimani and Shamash-eriba) native Babylonian kings briefly regained independence. However these revolts were quickly repressed and Babylon remained under Persian rule for two centuries, until Alexander the Great's entry in 331 B. In October of 331 B. Darius III, the last Achaemenid king of the Persian Empire, was defeated by the forces of the Ancient Macedonian Greek ruler Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela. A native account of this invasion notes a ruling by Alexander not to enter the homes of its inhabitants. Under Alexander, Babylon again flourished as a center of learning and commerce. However, following Alexander's death in 323 B. In the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, his empire was divided amongst his generals, the Diadochi, and decades of fighting soon began.
The constant turmoil virtually emptied the city of Babylon. A tablet dated 275 B. States that the inhabitants of Babylon were transported to Seleucia, where a palace and a temple (Esagila) were built. With this deportation, Babylon became insignificant as a city, although more than a century later, sacrifices were still performed in its old sanctuary. Under the Parthian and Sassanid Empires, Babylon (like Assyria) became a province of these Persian Empires for nine centuries, until after A.
It maintained its own culture and people, who spoke varieties of Aramaic, and who continued to refer to their homeland as Babylon. Examples of their culture are found in the Babylonian Talmud, the Gnostic Mandaean religion, Eastern Rite Christianity and the religion of the prophet Mani. Christianity was introduced to Mesopotamia in the 1st and 2nd centuries A. And Babylon was the seat of a Bishop of the Church of the East until well after the Arab/Islamic conquest. In the mid-7th century, Mesopotamia was invaded and settled by the expanding Muslim Empire, and a period of Islamization followed.
Babylon was dissolved as a province and Aramaic and Church of the East Christianity eventually became marginalized. Ibn Hauqal mentions a small village called Babel in the tenth century; subsequent travelers describe only ruins. Babylon is mentioned in medieval Arabic writings as a source of bricks, said to have been used in cities from Baghdad to Basra. European travelers in many cases could not discover the city's location, or mistook Fallujah for it. Twelfth-century traveler Benjamin of Tudela mentions Babylon but its not clear if he really went there.
Others referred to Baghdad as Babylon or New Babylon and described various structures encountered in the region as the Tower of Babel. Pietro della Valle found the ancient site in the seventeenth century and noted the existence of both baked and dried mudbricks cemented with bitumen. CUNEIFORM : Cuneiform script, one of the earliest systems of writing, was invented by the Sumerians. It is distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus.
The name cuneiform itself simply means "wedge shaped". Emerging in Sumer in the late fourth millennium BC (the Uruk IV period), cuneiform writing began as a system of pictograms. In the third millennium, the pictorial representations became simplified and more abstract as the number of characters in use grew smaller (Hittite cuneiform). The system consists of a combination of logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic and syllabic signs.The original Sumerian script was adapted for the writing of the Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hittite, Luwian, Hattic, Hurrian, and Urartian languages, and it inspired the Ugaritic alphabet and Old Persian cuneiform. Cuneiform writing was gradually replaced by the Phoenician alphabet during the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911612 BC). By the second century AD, the script had become extinct, and all knowledge of how to read it was lost until it began to be deciphered in the 19th century. Between half a million and two million cuneiform tablets are estimated to have been excavated in modern times, of which only approximately 30,000 100,000 have been read or published.
The British Museum holds the largest collection (around 130,000), followed by the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin, the Louvre, the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, the National Museum of Iraq, the Yale Babylonian Collection (around 40,000) and Penn Museum. Most of these have "lain in these collections for a century without being translated, studied or published, " as there are only a few hundred qualified cuneiformists in the world. The cuneiform writing system was in use for more than three millennia, through several stages of development, from the 34th century BC down to the second century AD. Ultimately, it was completely replaced by alphabetic writing (in the general sense) in the course of the Roman era and there are no cuneiform systems in current use.
It had to be deciphered as a completely unknown writing system in 19th-century Assyriology. Successful completion of its deciphering is dated to 1857. The cuneiform script underwent considerable changes over a period of more than two millennia. The cuneiform script was developed from pictographic proto-writing in the late 4th millennium BC.
Mesopotamia's "proto-literate" period spans roughly the 35th to 32nd centuries. The first documents unequivocally written in Sumerian date to the 31st century at Jemdet Nasr.Originally, pictographs were either drawn on clay tablets in vertical columns with a sharpened reed stylus or incised in stone. This early style lacked the characteristic wedge shape of the strokes. Certain signs to indicate names of gods, countries, cities, vessels, birds, trees, etc. Are known as determinatives, and were the Sumerian signs of the terms in question, added as a guide for the reader. Proper names continued to be usually written in purely "logographic" fashion. The earliest known Sumerian king whose name appears on contemporary cuneiform tablets is Enmebaragesi of Kish. Surviving records only very gradually become less fragmentary and more complete for the following reigns, but by the end of the pre-Sargonic period, it had become standard practice for each major city-state to date documents by year-names commemorating the exploits of its lugal (king).
From about 2900 BC, many pictographs began to lose their original function, and a given sign could have various meanings depending on context. The sign inventory was reduced from some 1,500 signs to some 600 signs, and writing became increasingly phonological.
Determinative signs were re-introduced to avoid ambiguity. Cuneiform writing proper thus arises from the more primitive system of pictographs at about that time (Early Bronze Age II). In the mid-3rd millennium BC, writing direction was changed to left-to-right in horizontal rows (rotating all of the pictographs 90° counter-clockwise in the process), and a new wedge-tipped stylus was used which was pushed into the clay, producing wedge-shaped ("cuneiform") signs; these two developments made writing quicker and easier. By adjusting the relative position of the tablet to the stylus, the writer could use a single tool to make a variety of impressions.
Cuneiform tablets could be fired in kilns to provide a permanent record, or they could be recycled if permanence was not needed. Many of the clay tablets found by archaeologists were preserved because they were fired when attacking armies burned the building in which they were kept. The script was also widely used on commemorative stelae and carved reliefs to record the achievements of the ruler in whose honour the monument had been erected. The spoken language included many homophones and near-homophones, and in the beginning similar-sounding words such as "life" [til] and "arrow" [ti] were written with the same symbol. After the Semites conquered Southern Mesopotamia, some signs gradually changed from being pictograms to syllabograms, most likely to make things clearer in writing.In that way the sign for the word "arrow" would become the sign for the sound "ti". Words that sounded alike would have different signs; for instance the syllable "gu" had fourteen different symbols. When the words had similar meaning but very different sounds they were written with the same symbol. For instance "tooth" [zu], "mouth" [ka] and "voice" [gu] were all written with the symbol for "voice".
To be more accurate, scribes started adding to signs or combining two signs to define the meaning. They used either geometrical patterns or another cuneiform sign.As time went by, the cuneiform got very complex and the distinction between a pictogram and syllabogram became vague. Several symbols had too many meanings to permit clarity. Therefore, symbols were put together to indicate both the sound and the meaning of a compound. The word "Raven" [UGA] had the same logogram as the word "soap" [NAGA], name of a city [ERE] and the patron goddess of Eresh [NISABA]. Two phonetic complements were used to define the word [u] in front of the symbol and [gu] behind. Finally the symbol for "bird" [MUEN] was added to ensure proper interpretation.
Written Sumerian was used as a scribal language until the first century AD. The spoken language died out around the 18th century BC. The archaic cuneiform script was adopted by the Akkadian Empire from c. 2500 BC, and by 2000 BC had evolved into Old Assyrian cuneiform, with many modifications to Sumerian orthography. The Semitic languages employed equivalents for many signs that were distorted or abbreviated to represent new values because the syllabic nature of the script as refined by the Sumerians was not intuitive to Semitic speakers.
At this stage, the former pictograms were reduced to a high level of abstraction, and were composed of only five basic wedge shapes: horizontal, vertical, two diagonals and the Winkelhaken impressed vertically by the tip of the stylus. Most later adaptations of Sumerian cuneiform preserved at least some aspects of the Sumerian script. Written Akkadian included phonetic symbols from the Sumerian syllabary, together with logograms that were read as whole words.
Many signs in the script were polyvalent, having both a syllabic and logographic meaning. The complexity of the system bears a resemblance to Old Japanese, written in a Chinese-derived script, where some of these Sinograms were used as logograms, and others as phonetic characters. This "mixed" method of writing continued through the end of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires, although there were periods when "purism" was in fashion and there was a more marked tendency to spell out the words laboriously, in preference to using signs with a phonetic complement.Yet even in those days, the Babylonian syllabary remained a mixture of logographic and phonemic writing. Hittite cuneiform is an adaptation of the Old Assyrian cuneiform of c. 1800 BC to the Hittite language.
When the cuneiform script was adapted to writing Hittite, a layer of Akkadian logographic spellings was added to the script, thus the pronunciations of many Hittite words which were conventionally written by logograms are now unknown. In the Iron Age c. 10th to 6th centuries BC, Assyrian cuneiform was further simplified. From the 6th century, the Akkadian language was marginalized by Aramaic, written in the Aramaean alphabet, but Neo-Assyrian cuneiform remained in use in literary tradition well into times of Parthian Empire (250 BC AD 226).
The last known cuneiform inscription, an astronomical text, was written in 75 AD. The complexity of the system prompted the development of a number of simplified versions of the script. Old Persian was written in a subset of simplified cuneiform characters known today as Old Persian cuneiform.It formed a semi-alphabetic syllabary, using far fewer wedge strokes than Assyrian used, together with a handful of logograms for frequently occurring words like "god" and "king". Ugaritic was written using the Ugaritic alphabet, a standard Semitic style alphabet (an abjad) written using the cuneiform method. For centuries, travelers to Persepolis, in modern-day Iran, had noticed carved cuneiform inscriptions and were intrigued. Attempts at deciphering these Old Persian writings date back to Arabo-Persian historians of the medieval Islamic world, though these early attempts at decipherment were largely unsuccessful. In the 15th century, the Venetian Barbero explored ancient ruins in the Middle East and came back with news of a very odd writing he had found carved on the stones in the temples of Shiraz and on many clay tablets. Antoine de Gouvea, a professor of theology, noted in 1602 the strange writing he had had occasion to observe during his travels a year earlier in Persia which took in visits to ruins. In 1625, the Roman traveler Pietro Della Valle, who had sojourned in Mesopotamia between 1616 and 1621, brought to Europe copies of characters he had seen in Persepolis and inscribed bricks from Ur and the ruins of Babylon. The copies he made, the first that reached circulation within Europe, were not quite accurate but Della Valle understood that the writing had to be read from left to right, following the direction of wedges, but did not attempt to decipher the scripts. Englishman Sir Thomas Herbert, in the 1634 edition of his travel book A relation of some yeares travaile, reported seeing at Persepolis carved on the wall a dozen lines of strange charactersconsisting of figures, obelisk, triangular, and pyramidal and thought they resembled Greek. In the 1664 edition he reproduced some and thought they were legible and intelligible and therefore decipherable. He also guessed, correctly, that they represented not letters or hieroglyphics but words and syllables, and were to be read from left to right. Herbert is rarely mentioned in standard histories of the decipherment of cuneiform. Carsten Niebuhr brought the first reasonably complete and accurate copies of the inscriptions at Persepolis to Europe in 1767. Bishop Friedrich Münter of Copenhagen discovered that the words in the Persian inscriptions were divided from one another by an oblique wedge and that the monuments must belong to the age of Cyrus and his successors. One word, which occurs without any variation towards the beginning of each inscription, he correctly inferred to signify "king". By 1802 Georg Friedrich Grotefend had determined that two kings' names mentioned were Darius and Xerxes (but in their native Old Persian forms, which were unknown at the time and therefore had to be conjectured), and had been able to assign correct alphabetic values to the cuneiform characters which composed the two names. Although Grotefend's Memoir was presented to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities on September 4, 1802, the Academy refused to publish it; it was subsequently published in Heeren's work in 1815, but was overlooked by most researchers at the time. In 1836, the eminent French scholar Eugène Burnouf discovered that the first of the inscriptions published by Niebuhr contained a list of the satrapies of Darius. With this clue in his hand, he identified and published an alphabet of thirty letters, most of which he had correctly deciphered. A month earlier, a friend and pupil of Burnouf's, Professor Christian Lassen of Bonn, had also published his own work on The Old Persian Cuneiform Inscriptions of Persepolis. He and Burnouf had been in frequent correspondence, and his claim to have independently detected the names of the satrapies, and thereby to have fixed the values of the Persian characters, was consequently fiercely attacked. According to Sayce, whatever his obligations to Burnouf may have been, Lassen's contributions to the decipherment of the inscriptions were numerous and important. He succeeded in fixing the true values of nearly all the letters in the Persian alphabet, in translating the texts, and in proving that the language of them was not Zend, but stood to both Zend and Sanskrit in the relation of a sister.
Meanwhile, in 1835 Henry Rawlinson, a British East India Company army officer, visited the Behistun Inscriptions in Persia. Carved in the reign of King Darius of Persia (522486 BC), they consisted of identical texts in the three official languages of the empire: Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite. The Behistun inscription was to the decipherment of cuneiform what the Rosetta Stone was to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Rawlinson correctly deduced that the Old Persian was a phonetic script and he successfully deciphered it.
In 1837 he finished his copy of the Behistun inscription, and sent a translation of its opening paragraphs to the Royal Asiatic Society. Before his article could be published, however, the works of Lassen and Burnouf reached him, necessitating a revision of his article and the postponement of its publication.
Then came other causes of delay. In 1847 the first part of the Rawlinson's Memoir was published; the second part did not appear until 1849. The task of deciphering the Persian cuneiform texts was virtually accomplished. After translating the Persian, Rawlinson and, working independently of him, the Irish Assyriologist Edward Hincks, began to decipher the others.
The actual techniques used to decipher the Akkadian language have never been fully published; Hincks described how he sought the proper names already legible in the deciphered Persian while Rawlinson never said anything at all, leading some to speculate that he was secretly copying Hincks. They were greatly helped by the excavations of the French Paul Émile Botta and English Austen Henry Layard of the city of Nineveh from 1842. Among the treasures uncovered by Layard and his successor Hormuzd Rassam were, in 1849 and 1851, the remains of two libraries, now mixed up, usually called the Library of Ashurbanipal, a royal archive containing tens of thousands of baked clay tablets covered with cuneiform inscriptions. By 1851, Hincks and Rawlinson could read 200 Babylonian signs. They were soon joined by two other decipherers: young German-born scholar Julius Oppert, and versatile British Orientalist William Henry Fox Talbot.
In 1857 the four men met in London and took part in a famous experiment to test the accuracy of their decipherments. Edwin Norris, the secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, gave each of them a copy of a recently discovered inscription from the reign of the Assyrian emperor Tiglath-Pileser I. A jury of experts was empanelled to examine the resulting translations and assess their accuracy.
In all essential points the translations produced by the four scholars were found to be in close agreement with one another. There were of course some slight discrepancies.The inexperienced Talbot had made a number of mistakes, and Oppert's translation contained a few doubtful passages which the jury politely ascribed to his unfamiliarity with the English language. But Hincks' and Rawlinson's versions corresponded remarkably closely in many respects. The jury declared itself satisfied, and the decipherment of Akkadian cuneiform was adjudged a fait accompli. In the early days of cuneiform decipherment, the reading of proper names presented the greatest difficulties. However, there is now a better understanding of the principles behind the formation and the pronunciation of the thousands of names found in historical records, business documents, votive inscriptions, literary productions and legal documents.
The primary challenge was posed by the characteristic use of old Sumerian non-phonetic logograms in other languages that had different pronunciations for the same symbols. Until the exact phonetic reading of many names was determined through parallel passages or explanatory lists, scholars remained in doubt, or had recourse to conjectural or provisional readings. Fortunately, in many cases, there are variant readings, the same name being written phonetically (in whole or in part) in one instance, and logographically in another.
Cuneiform has a specific format for transliteration. Because of the script's polyvalence, transliteration requires certain choices of the transliterating scholar, who must decide in the case of each sign which of its several possible meanings is intended in the original document. For example, the sign DINGIR in a Hittite text may represent either the Hittite syllable an or may be part of an Akkadian phrase, representing the syllable il, it may be a Sumerogram, representing the original Sumerian meaning,'god' or the determinative for a deity.
In transliteration, a different rendition of the same glyph is chosen depending on its role in the present context. Therefore, a text containing DINGIR and MU in succession could be construed to represent the words "ana", "ila", god + "a" (the accusative case ending), god + water, or a divine name "A" or Water. Someone transcribing the signs would make the decision how the signs should be read and assemble the signs as "ana", "ila", "Ila" ("god"+accusative case), etc. A transliteration of these signs, however, would separate the signs with dashes "il-a", "an-a", "DINGIR-a" or "Da".
This is still easier to read than the original cuneiform, but now the reader is able to trace the sounds back to the original signs and determine if the correct decision was made on how to read them. A transliterated document thus presents the reading preferred by the transliterating scholar as well as an opportunity to reconstruct the original text. There are differing conventions for transliterating Sumerian, Akkadian (Babylonian) and Hittite (and Luwian) cuneiform texts. One convention that sees wide use across the different fields is the use of acute and grave accents as an abbreviation for homophone disambiguation.
Thus, u is equivalent to u1, the first glyph expressing phonetic u. An acute accent, ú, is equivalent to the second, u2, and a grave accent ù to the third, u3 glyph in the series (while the sequence of numbering is conventional but essentially arbitrary and subject to the history of decipherment).In Sumerian transliteration, a multiplication sign'x' is used to indicate typographic ligatures. As shown above, signs as such are represented in capital letters, while the specific reading selected in the transliteration is represented in small letters.
Thus, capital letters can be used to indicate a so-called Diri compound a sign sequence that has, in combination, a reading different from the sum of the individual constituent signs for example, the compound IGI. A "water" + "eye" has the reading imhur, meaning "foam". In a Diri compound, the individual signs are separated with dots in transliteration. Capital letters may also be used to indicate a Sumerogram for example, KÙ. BABBAR Sumerian for "silver" being used with the intended Akkadian reading kaspum, "silver", an Akkadogram, or simply a sign sequence of whose reading the editor is uncertain.
Naturally, the "real" reading, if it is clear, will be presented in small letters in the transliteration: IGI. A will be rendered as imhur4. Since the Sumerian language has only been widely known and studied by scholars for approximately a century, changes in the accepted reading of Sumerian names have occurred from time to time. Thus the name of a king of Ur, read Ur-Bau at one time, was later read as Ur-Engur, and is now read as Ur-Nammu or Ur-Namma; for Lugal-zage-si, a king of Uruk, some scholars continued to read Ungal-zaggisi; and so forth.
Also, with some names of the older period, there was often uncertainty whether their bearers were Sumerians or Semites. If the former, then their names could be assumed to be read as Sumerian, while, if they were Semites, the signs for writing their names were probably to be read according to their Semitic equivalents, though occasionally Semites might be encountered bearing genuine Sumerian names.
There was also doubt whether the signs composing a Semite's name represented a phonetic reading or a logographic compound. When inscriptions of a Semitic ruler of Kish, whose name was written Uru-mu-ush, were first deciphered, that name was first taken to be logographic because uru mu-ush could be read as "he founded a city" in Sumerian, and scholars accordingly retranslated it back to the original Semitic as Alu-usharshid. It was later recognized that the URU sign can also be read as rí and that the name is that of the Akkadian king Rimush. The Sumerian cuneiform script had on the order of 1,000 distinct signs (or about 1,500 if variants are included).
This number was reduced to about 600 by the 24th century BC and the beginning of Akkadian records. Not all Sumerian signs are used in Akkadian texts, and not all Akkadian signs are used in Hittite. Falkenstein (1936) lists 939 signs used in the earliest period (late Uruk, 34th to 31st centuries).
With an emphasis on Sumerian forms, Deimel (1922) lists 870 signs used in the Early Dynastic II period (28th century, "LAK") and for the Early Dynastic IIIa period (26th century, "L"). Rosengarten (1967) lists 468 signs used in Sumerian (pre-Sargonian). Lagash and Mittermayer ("aBZL", 2006) list 480 Sumerian forms, written in Isin-Larsa and Old Babylonian times. Regarding Akkadian forms, the standard handbook for many years was Borger ("ABZ", 1981) with 598 signs used in Assyrian/Babylonian writing, recently superseded by Borger ("MesZL", 2004) with an expansion to 907 signs, an extension of their Sumerian readings and a new numbering scheme.
Signs used in Hittite cuneiform are listed by Forrer (1922), Friedrich (1960) and the HZL (Rüster and Neu 1989). The HZL lists a total of 375 signs, many with variants (for example, 12 variants are given for number 123 EGIR). The Sumerians used a numerical system based on 1, 10 and 60. The way of writing a number like 70 would be the sign for 60 and the sign for 10 right after.This way of counting is still used today for measuring time as 60 seconds per minute and 60 minutes per hour. Cuneiform script was used in many ways in ancient Mesopotamia. It was used to record laws, like the Code of Hammurabi.
It was also used for recording maps, compiling medical manuals, documenting religious stories beliefs, among other uses. Studies by assyriologists like Claus Wilcke and Dominique Charpin suggest that cuneiform literacy was not reserved solely for the elite but was common for average citizens.
According to the Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, cuneiform script was used at a variety of literacy levels. Average citizens needed only a basic, functional knowledge of cuneiform script to write personal letters and business documents. More highly literate citizens put the script to more technical use listing medicines and diagnoses, and writing mathematical equations. Scholars held the highest literacy level of cuneiform and mostly focused on writing as a complex skill and an art form.
We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers. Please ask for a rate quotation. ABOUT US : Prior to our retirement we used to travel to Europe and Central Asia several times a year. Most of the items we offer came from acquisitions we made in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) during these years from various institutions and dealers. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe and Asia connected with Anthropology and Archaeology.
Though we have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, our primary interests are ancient jewelry and gemstones. Prior to our retirement we traveled to Russia every year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globes most prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India, Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for. My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite, diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken settings the gold reused the gemstones recut and reset.
Before these gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in their original, antique, hand-finished state most of them centuries old. We believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with modern cutting.Not everyone agrees fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. The item "7,000 Years of Seals Indus Sumer Rome Babylon Assyria Ur Greek Minoan Mycenea" is in sale since Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
This item is in the category "Antiques\Other Antiques". The seller is "ancientgifts" and is located in Lummi Island, Washington. This item can be shipped worldwide.