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Private letter from Ashur-Muttabbil to his wife Kunanniya

Kültepe, the ancient city of Kanesh, was a powerful and cosmopolitan city located in northern Cappadocia in central Anatolia. During the early second millennium B.C., it became part of the network of trading settlements established across the region by merchants from Ashur (in Assyria in northern Mesopotamia). Travelling long distances by donkey caravan, and often living separately from their families, these merchants traded vast quantities of tin and textiles for gold and silver in addition to controlling the copper trade within Anatolia itself. Although the merchants adopted many aspects of local Anatolian life, they brought with them Mesopotamian tools used to record transactions: cuneiform writing, clay tablets and envelopes, and cylinder seals. Using a simplified version of the elaborate cuneiform writing system, merchants tracked loans as well as business deals and disputes, and sent letters to families and business partners back in Ashur. These texts also provide information about the greater political history of Ashur and the Anatolian city-states as well as details about the daily life of Assyrians and Anatolians who not only worked side-by-side, but also married and had children together. At Kültepe, thousands of these texts stored in household archives were preserved when fire destroyed the city in ca. 1836 B.C. and provide a glimpse into the complex and sophisticated commercial and social interactions that took place in the Near East during the beginning of the second millennium B.C.

These two tablets were sent in the same clay envelope or case (1983.135.4c) and represent a single letter. The letter, read from left to right, begins on the larger rectangular tablet, but after its writer, Ashur-muttabbil, used up all of the space, including the edge, he decided to add a brief note on a thin oval tablet. Ashur-muttabbil writes to settle what appears to be a family dispute back in Kanesh, involving the ownership of slave girls. One of the recipients of the letter, Kunanniya, was Ashur-muttabbil’s wife. The name Kunanniya is Anatolian and shows that Ashur-muttabbil, like many latter generation merchants, married a local woman rather than, or often in addition to, an Assyrian woman back in Ashur. The remarkable life of Kunanniya has been preserved in this text and several others, which chart her unfortunate experiences dealing with her in-laws and own family as a young widow after the premature death of Ashur-muttabbil.

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The royal library of king Ashurbanipal

The Library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal 666-627 BC, the sixth king of the Second Assyrian Empire, King of Babylon and Assyria, is described as the oldest library on the face of earth.

part of the library of Asurbanipal at the British museum

The library was discovered by the Iraqi Chaldean Hormuzd Rassam in 1851 in Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, during excavations in the Kouyunjik region. Its contents were later transferred under the supervision of Sir Austen Henry Layard to the British Museum in London.

The library included some 30,000 cuneiform tablets covering a total of 1200 subjects, including medicine, astronomy, mathematics, irrigation and engineering techniques, history, religious texts and literary texts.All indicate the purpose for which it was collected, namely the service of the state and the priests, the perpetuation of the fame of its founder and the development of scientific knowledge.

In his book “The History of Libraries”, the German historian Alfred Hessel says that Ashurbanipal was a very well educated person and was proud to be able read the cuneiform texts dating back to the pre-flood era. He was fluent in Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Aramaic and Elamite as well as Assyrian. He began to collect the literature of Babylon and Assyria in a systematic way, where he issued royal orders to collect rare manuscripts from all parts of the Assyrian empire and buy them at any price to be included in his library.

A number of scribes and a staff of specialists were working on copying and arranging the collected tablets relative to their subjects. Also, the tablets associated with or complemented each other were written in a particular pattern in a series method, where the order of each of them is shown by repeating the last line of it at the beginning of the next tablet and the first line is the repetition of the last line of the tablet that precedes it. There were also tablets bearing the titles of the series. The Library also had indexes that were easy to use.

King Esarhaddon 680-668 BC, the father of Ashurbanipal, was the real founder of this library. There are documents found in the library dating back to the reign of his father King Sennacherib 704-681 BC, and his grandfather King Sargon II 721-705 BC.

King Ashurbanipal kept the cuneiform tablets collected in private rooms on the second floor of two different buildings in Nineveh, the Northern Palace and the Southwest Palace. Other preserved tablets were found in the temple of Goddess Ishtar, the goddess of war, and the temple of god Nabu, the Assyrian god of wisdom. This whole collection included 30 thousand manuscripts, ranging from clay tablets to inscriptions on quadrilateral stones, many cylindrical seals, inscriptions on waxed wood and writings on papyrus and animal skins.

In 612 BC, the Nineveh libraries were looted and its palaces were burned when they fell into the hands of the Medes-Chaldean alliance, which overthrew the Assyrian Empire. The tablets collected by King Ashurbanipal remained under the rubble of the palaces, where the archaeologists who has been excavating at the beginning of the 20th century found piles of clay and wooden slabs under the collapsed ceilings of up to 30 cm deep.

The topics of these writings varied to:

1. Medical

Containing a description of the symptoms of diseases and organs of the human body and lists of the names of plants and drugs used to treat them.

2. Linguistic

It includes bilingual dictionaries and texts related to the Assyrian, Babylonian and Akkadian languages

3. Religious

It includes prayers, recitations, and bilingual and monolingual religious songs

4. Epics and legends

Such as the full text of the timeless Epic of Gilgamesh, the myth of the Babylonian creation and the legend of the God Enzo.

5. Historical

Treaties, agreements and copies of letters between the kings of Assyria and the rulers of neighboring kingdoms.

6. Astrology

Tablets for reading the horoscope through the dissection of animals and their reasoning.

7. Astronomy

Tablets describe precise observation of the movement of planets and stars.

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DESCENT OF THE GODDESS ISHTAR INTO THE LOWER WORLD

Cuneiform tablet from the library of Ashurbanipal II,
The Epic of Ishtar

Inanna’s (Ishtar) Descent into the Underworld is a particularly profound myth, taking her far beyond the symbolism of the mythological Genesis of the world, explaining the seasons (Dumuzi and Geshtianna alternating in their half-year sojourns in the underworld), or the establishment of kingship.  For this myth describes her evolvement after she has become queen, wife, mother, and accomplished great heroic feats.  Her descent is, in fact, a description of her spiritual initiation.

To the land of no return, the land of darkness,
Ishtar, the daughter of Sin directed her thought,
Directed her thought, Ishtar, the daughter of Sin,
To the house of shadows, the dwelling, of Irkalla,
To the house without exit for him who enters therein,
To the road, whence there is no turning,
To the house without light for him who enters therein,
The place where dust is their nourishment, clay their food.’
They have no light, in darkness they dwell.
Clothed like birds, with wings as garments,
Over door and bolt, dust has gathered.
Ishtar on arriving at the gate of the land of no return,
To the gatekeeper thus addressed herself:

“Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,

Gilagamesh and Enkidu killing the sacred bull

I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living.”
The gatekeeper opened his mouth and spoke,
Spoke to the lady Ishtar:
“Desist, O lady, do not destroy it.
I will go and announce thy name to my queen Ereshkigal.”
The gatekeeper entered and spoke to Ereshkigal:
“Ho! here is thy sister, Ishtar …
Hostility of the great powers …
When Ereshkigal heard this,
As when one hews down a tamarisk she trembled,
As when one cuts a reed, she shook:
“What has moved her heart [seat of the intellect] what has stirred her liver [seat of the emotions]?
Ho there, does this one wish to dwell with me?
To eat clay as food, to drink dust as wine?
I weep for the men who have left their wives.
I weep for the wives torn from the embrace of their husbands;
For the little ones cut off before their time.
Go, gatekeeper, open thy gate for her,
Deal with her according to the ancient decree.”
The gatekeeper went and opened his gate to her:
Enter, O lady, let Cuthah greet thee.

Let the palace of the land of no return rejoice at thy presence!

He bade her enter the first gate, which he opened wide, and took the large crown off her head:
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the large crown off my head?”
“Enter, O lady, such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
The second gate he bade her enter, opening it wide, and removed her earrings:
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove my earrings?”
“Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
The third gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed her necklace:
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove my necklace? ”
“Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
The fourth gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed the ornaments of her breast:
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the ornaments of my breast? ”
“Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
The fifth gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed the girdle of her body studded with birthstones.
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the girdle of my body, studded with birth-stones?”
“Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
The sixth gate, he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed the spangles off her hands and feet.
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove the spangles off my hands and feet?”
“Enter, O lady, for thus are the decrees of Ereiihkigal.”
The seventh gate he bade her enter, opened it wide, and removed her loin-cloth.
“Why, O gatekeeper, dost thou remove my loin-cloth ?”
“Enter, O lady, for such are the decrees of Ereshkigal.”
Now when Ishtar had gone down into the land of no return,
Ereshkigal saw her and was angered at her presence.
Ishtar, without reflection, threw herself at her [in a rage].
Ereshkigal opened her mouth and spoke,
To Namtar, her messenger, she addressed herself:
“Go Namtar, imprison her in my palace.
Send against her sixty disease, to punish Ishtar.
Eye-disease against her eyes,
Disease of the side against her side,
Foot-disease against her foot,
Heart-disease against her heart,
Head-disease against her head,
Against her whole being, against her entire body.”
After the lady Ishtar had gone down into the land of no return,
The bull did not mount the cow, the ass approached not the she-ass,
To the maid in the street, no man drew near
The man slept in his apartment,
The maid slept by herself.

[The second half of the poem, the reverse of the tablet, continues is follows:]

The countenance of Papsukal, the messenger of the great gods, fell, his face was troubled.
In mourning garb he was clothed, in soiled garments clad.
Shamash [the sun-god] went to Sin [the moon-god], his father, weeping,
In the presence of Ea, the King, he went with flowing tears.
“Ishtar has descended into the earth and has not come up. The bull does not mount the cow, the ass does not approach the she-ass.
The man does not approach the maid in the street,
The man sleeps in his apartment,
The maid sleeps by herself.”
Ea, in the wisdom of his heart, formed a being,
He formed Asu-shu-namir the eunuch.
Go, Asu-shu-namir, to the land of no return direct thy face!
The seven gates of the land without return be opened before thee,
May Eresbkigal at sight of thee rejoice!
After her heart has been assuaged, her liver quieted,
Invoke against her the name of the great gods,
Raise thy head direct thy attention to the khalziku skin.
“Come, lady, let them give me the khalziku skin, that I may drink water out of it.”
When Ereshkigal heard this, she struck her side, bit her finger,
Thou hast expressed a wish that can not be granted.
Go, Asu-sbu-iaamir, I curse thee with a great curse,
The sweepings of the gutters of the city be thy food,
The drains of the city be thy drink,
The shadow of the wall be thy abode,
The thresholds be thy dwelling-place;
Drunkard and sot strike thy cheek!”
Ereshkigal opened her mouth and spoke,
To Namtar, her messenger, she addressed herself.
“Go, Namtar, knock at the strong palace,
Strike the threshold of precious stones,
Bring out the Anunnaki, seat them on golden thrones.
Sprinkle Ishtar with the waters of life and take her out of my presence.
Namtar went, knocked at the strong palace,
Tapped on the threshold of precious stones.
He brought out the Anunnaki and placed them on golden thrones,
He sprinkled Ishtar with the waters of life and took hold of her.
Through the first gate he led her out and returned to her her loin-cloth.
Through the second gate he led her out and returned to her the spangles of her hands and feet
Through the third gate he led her out and returned to her the girdle of her body, studded with birth-stones.
Through the fourth gate he led her out and returned to her the ornaments of her breast.
Through the fifth gate he led her out and returned to her her necklace.
Through the sixth gate he led her out and returned her earrings.
Through the seventh gate he led her out and returned to her the large crown for her head.

[The following lines are in the form of an address -apparently to some one who has sought release for a dear one from the portals of the lower world.]

“If she (Ishtar) will not grant thee her release,
To Tammuz, the lover of her youth,
Pour out pure waters, pour out fine oil;
With a festival garment deck him that he may play on the flute of lapis lazuli,
That the votaries may cheer his liver. [his spirit]
Belili [sister of Tammuz] had gathered the treasure,
With precious stones filled her bosom.
When Belili heard the lament of her brother, she dropped her treasure,
She scattered the precious stones before her,
“Oh, my only brother, do not let me perish!
On the day when Tammuz plays for me on the flute of lapis lazuli, playing it for me with the porphyry ring.
Together with him, play ye for me, ye weepers and lamenting women!
That the dead may rise up and inhale the incense.”

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The destruction of Nimrud

FILE - This image made from video posted on a militant social media account affiliated with the Islamic State group, April 11, 2015, purports to show a militant taking a sledgehammer to an Assyrian relief at the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which dates to the 13th century B.C.FILE – This image made from video posted on a militant social media account affiliated with the Islamic State group, April 11, 2015, purports to show a militant taking a sledgehammer to an Assyrian relief at the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which dates to the 13th century B.C.

Rikar Hussein

 

After U.S.-backed Iraqi forces pushed the Islamic State from Nimrud earlier this week, they found the archaeological site of an ancient Assyrian city reduced to rubble.

Months before the Iraqi advance, IS destroyed statues, bulldozed palaces that date back some 3,000 years, and destroyed much of the remains of the ziggurat — once one of the tallest buildings remaining from the 9th century B.C.

The level of destruction to Nimrud is of such a magnitude that “it is hard to believe that this is recoverable,” Sermed Alwan, an Iraqi archaeologist, told VOA.

A member of the Iraqi army walks around the remains of wall panels and colossal statues of winged bulls, destroyed by Islamic State militants in the Assyrian city of Nimrud, south of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2016.
A member of the Iraqi army walks around the remains of wall panels and colossal statues of winged bulls, destroyed by Islamic State militants in the Assyrian city of Nimrud, south of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2016.

Located about 19 miles southeast of Mosul, Nimrud is the biblical name given in modern times to Kalhu, the capital of the Assyrian Empire from 1350 to 610 B.C. The nearly 3,000-year-old city was a forgotten treasure buried underground for centuries until 1849, when archaeologists first began excavating it.

“It is the most important city in Mesopotamian history after Babylon, the capital of the Babylonian civilization,” Alwan said.

The city has a “special importance to human civilization, for it was the capital of one of the most ancient and powerful empires in human history,” he said. And it has “biblical importance, being mentioned as the capital of the Assyrian captivity or Assyrian exile, the period in the history of ancient Israel and Judah during which several thousands of ancient Samarians were resettled as captives by Assyria.”

Destruction called war crime

The site stood undisturbed for decades until last year, when IS destroyed it, citing its “un-Islamic” nature.

Carved stone slabs which were destroyed by Islamic State militants are seen at the ancient site of Nimrud, some 19 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2016.
Carved stone slabs which were destroyed by Islamic State militants are seen at the ancient site of Nimrud, some 19 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2016.

IS released a video in April 2015 showing men blowing up the site; breaking ancient walls with electric drills; and destroying relics, images and other artifacts. Satellite pictures taken by U.S. coalition partners have shown Nimrud’s steady destruction since September.

UNESCO, the cultural heritage arm of the United Nations, called the destruction a war crime and urged political and religious leaders in the region to stand up against the demolition of Nimrud.

The city ziggurat — a tiered temple — has been reduced to a pile of dirt. The destruction also included the library of Ashurbanipal, which is believed to be the world’s first library.

“There were about 200 ancient panels. [Islamic State] stole some of them and destroyed the rest,” Iraqi Major General Dhiya Kadhim al-Saidi told Reuters on a visit to the site Wednesday.

Saidi said IS had been driven about two miles northwest of Nimrud, but the area had not yet been cleared of possible bombs and booby traps.

Destruction elsewhere

The Iraqi operation is part of an offensive to drive IS from Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and its neighboring areas.

An Iraqi soldier stands in front a damaged part of the ancient site of Nimrud, which was destroyed by Islamic State militants, some 19 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2016.
An Iraqi soldier stands in front a damaged part of the ancient site of Nimrud, which was destroyed by Islamic State militants, some 19 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2016.

Since mid-2014, IS has destroyed dozens of historic sites in Iraq and Syria including mosques, churches and Shi’ite religious halls known as hussainiyas. IS remains in control of some historical landmarks, including the 2,000-year-old desert city of Hatra in Iraq, famed for its pillared Assyrian temple that blended Greco-Roman and eastern architecture.

Iraqi archaeologist Alwan said that, because of continued fighting in the Nimrud region, a team of experts would not be able to visit the site soon, leaving it vulnerable to more damage.

“Iraqi forces fighting IS in Nimrud and other ancient sites that surround Mosul do not have enough knowledge and experience to deal with such an important archaeological site or to keep it safe from vandalizing or further destruction,” Alwan said.

Save Iraqi Heritage

Loss of lives and property in conflict zones capture the headlines. It is understandable that killings must be reported and as far as possible, avoided. Apart from the loss of life, violent conflicts are a threat to some of our most important heritage sites, which are a reminder of where we came from and how we got here. The loss of such treasures is seldom reported in the headlines. Even when such crimes are reported, they are limited to an addendum in the top story, which is invariably about the loss of lives and territory and strategic gains or losses.

An often-neglected but fundamentally important victim of conflict is the physical manifestation of a community, a people, a nation — their heritage.

The first great civilization of antiquity was established in the fertile valleys of Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq.
In fact, the term “Mesopotamian civilization” is generic. In reality, the civilizational and cultural contributions of Mesopotamia included three distinct peoples whose history took place on this territory: the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Assyrians.

Mosul, once the capital of the Assyrian civilization, and one of the world’s oldest cities in the Middle East is about to turn into another cultural desert that radical groups have become so efficient at creating, while the rest of the world just sits and watches.

The terrorist organization, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who took over the provence of Mosul in northern Iraq, has destroyed over 30 historic sites since early June, including dozens of churches and Shi’a religious halls known as hussainiyas. Among these are the mosques of Imam Yahya Abu alQasim, Nabi Shayt (the Prophet Seth who is considered in Islam, Judaism and Christianity to be Adam and Eve’s third son), and of Nabi Yunis, or the Prophet Jonah click for the video.

All of these monuments are a testament to the region’s importance and predate Saint Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. They are rare links to religious antiquity, and such destruction is not only a regional loss but a crime against history.

The Islamic State’s destruction of the Nabi Yunis Mosque in Mosul, over the tomb of the Prophet Jonah, is more than an act of wanton stupidity and puritanical inflexibility.

It also continues the trend in which violent extremist groups—which all share a penchant for destruction despite their differences—do not seek to proclaim that “they are here” now, but rather that everyone else “was never here”. From Afghanistan to Mali to Syria and Iraq, takfiri extremists have tried not so much to establish their superiority as the invisibility of those they deem to be unbelievers or apostates.

Moreover, the persecution and consequent expulsion of Christians and other minorities is tearing apart the historic and cultural fabric of Iraq. Yet the reaction of a weary international community has been muted. This is unfortunate in that among history’s many “conquering armies,” ISIS would be one of the weakest and easiest to dislodge before it can wreak further destruction.

More than a century ago, when Mosul was loosely-governed by the Ottoman Empire, Gertrude Bell, a British traveler and writer who would later help establish modern Iraq after World War I, toured the ancient sites and reflected on the city’s traumatic history.
“Upon the unhappy province of Mosul hatred and the lust of slaughter weigh like inherited evils, transmitted (who can say?) through all the varying generations of conquerors since first the savage might of the Assyrian Empire set its stamp upon the land,” she wrote in 1909.
She was happy to report, though, that despite what she called Mosul’s “turbulent record,” the city had “lost nothing of its quality during the past few years.”
The same cannot be said now, with ISIS determined to erase a heritage that many previous conquerors left intact.

The Islamic State (ISIS) had destroyed a statue of Othman al-Mousuli, a 19th-Century Iraqi musician and composer, and the statue of Abu Tammam, an Abbasid-era Arab poet.
The tomb of Ibn al-Athir, an Arab philosopher who travelled with the army of warrior sultan Salahuddin in the 12th century was desecrated after ISIS took over the city. Witnesses said the domed shrine had been razed and a park around it dug up.

Several Shia places of worship have also been destroyed. Including the mausoleum of saint Fathi al-Ka’en and shrines in the villages of Sharikhan and al-Qubbah. The statue of the Virgin in the Church of the Immacuate in the al-Shifa area has also been destroyed.
These monuments were immeasurably valuable to the region and the rest of the world. ISIS makes no distinction as to which faith the monuments they destroy belong to. Both Sunni and Shia shrines are threatened, as well as Christian churches.

The doors of the Mosul museum, looted in 2003 after the US invasion of Iraq, but still home to one of the world’s great collections of sculpture, have been padlocked. The centuries-old manuscripts stored in Mosul’s central library, many of them gold-leafed religious texts, have been removed.

The Hatra and the Ashour Temples — both UNESCO World Heritage Sites — are causing particular concerns because they are under ISIS’s control. The well-preserved complex at Hatra is thought to be a potential target, because of its statues of pre-Islamic gods.

The ancient city of Ashur on the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia, dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Between the 14th and the 9th centuries BC, it was the first capital of the Assyrian Empire, a city-state and trading platform of international importance. It also served as the religious capital of the Assyrians, associated to the god Ashur.
ISIS also controls the temple complex at Nimrud, home to 3,000-year-old statues of Assyrian deities and gods. It had earlier looted the museum at the Syrian city of Raqqa, selling the art on the international black market to raise funds.

Obviously, neither ISIS nor the Taliban have heard of The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, of 1954 — nor do they care to. West Asia may have lost much of its cultural heritage by the time this conflict ends — if at all it does in the near future.

In March 2001, the Taliban announced that they intended to destroy the two ancient Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. There was an enormous international outcry, that had no impact on the outcome, as the Taliban was callously unconcerned about international public opinion. Still the outcry was meaningful in one respect: some treasures belong to history and to future generations, which is the whole point of a UNESCO World Heritage designation. Public pressure in one field could manifest itself in other areas, such as economic and trade pressure. In the case of ISIS, however, only military pressure will work. While there has been some condemnation (from the Arab League to the Vatican), no massive international outcry has yet been articulated. This stems in part because of “outrage fatigue” from an international community that is confronting atrocity after atrocity, but also because the destruction seems, however insane, as part for the course in the region. An attack on Notre Dame would be met with overwhelming outrage and action, while the destruction of more ancient sites in Syria and Iraq is met with weary shrugs, all the while the world loses more of its invaluable historical sites.

This is the true danger of persistent conflict: making the unacceptable somehow seem acceptable. The situation in Iraq is now such that an extremist group has taken over lands containing historic sites valuable beyond all measure, undertaking a campaign of destruction and expulsion of religious and ethnic minorities, while the Iraqi government continues its fatal paralysis, and the attention of the international community moves from crisis to crisis. Despite its claim to honor history, groups like ISIS deeply fear it and so they seek to re-write it. The question is not in their intentions but in the international community’s resolve.

by: Sermed ALwan

June 2015

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The Flood Tablet

The most famous cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia.

Relating part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, From Nineveh, northern Iraq, Neo-Assyrian, 7th century BC.
The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BC) collected a library of thousands of cuneiform tablets in his palace at Nineveh. It included letters, legal texts, lists of people, animals and goods, and a wealth of scientific information, as well as myths and legends.
The best known of these was the story of Gilgamesh, a legendary ruler of Uruk, and his search for immortality. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a huge work, the longest piece of literature in Akkadian language  (the language of Babylonia and Assyria). It was known across the ancient Near East, with versions also found at Hattusas (capital of the Hittites), Emar in Syria and Megiddo in the Levant.
This, the eleventh tablet of the Epic, describes the meeting of Gilgamesh with Utnapishtim. Like Noah in the Hebrew Bible, Utnapishtim had been forewarned of a plan by the gods to send a great flood. He built a boat and loaded it with all his precious possessions, his kith and kin, domesticated and wild animals and skilled craftsmen of every kind.
Utnapishtim survived the flood for six days while mankind was destroyed, before landing on a mountain called Nimush. He released a dove and a swallow but they did not find dry land to rest on, and returned. Finally a raven that he released did not return, showing that the waters must have receded.
This Assyrian version of the Old Testament flood story was identified in 1872 by George Smith, an assistant in The British Museum. On reading the text he … jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself.
Courtesy & currently located at the British Museum, London. Photo taken by Jessica Spengler.

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Mesopotanian Heritage Association

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past”

GEORGE ORWELL

Background

The millions of refugees who stormed Europe after the Arab Spring came mostly from Mesopotamia. The land between two rivers, today’s Syria and Iraq. There, Between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the humankind civilization was born.

On this land, practiced the human race, for the first time in history, writing, astrology, medicine, governing, mathematics and religion. Cities are built and kingdoms raised in a continual process since 8000 years.

In 2012, the extremist terrorist group of DAESH took over vast part of Mesopotamia, the land that contains historic sites valuable to human history beyond all measures, undertaking a campaign of destruction and expulsion of religious and ethnic minorities that lead to a massive demographic changes in the region and the migration of millions of people who are ethnically, historically and religiously strongly linked to their land, Namely: Mesopotamia.

DAESH started to expand; in 2015 it took over large cities, like Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Including the historical sites of Palmyra, Apamia, Dura-Europos and Mari in Syria, and Hatra, Nineveh, Ashur, Khosrabad and Nimrud in Iraq, along with hundreds of religiously sacred sites to Muslims and non Muslims on both sides of borders. DAESH immediately started the destruction of archaeological sites, museums and religious monuments.

Fighters from DAESH destroying statues in the museum of Mosul and in the ancient city of Nimrud

History is the cultural memory of a society, and the loss of knowledge of one’s history destroys one’s sense of community and shared identity, casting one adrift in the present without meaningful reference points from the past. This is true whether one is an individual person or an entire population.

Cultural property is a concrete witness of culture and history that holds a special place for the identity of the individual as well as the community as a whole. It further defines the self-image and social cohesion of a society. This is why protecting, preserving and promoting movable cultural heritage is one of the important duties of the international community.

The destruction of historical sites, the persecution and consequent expulsion of Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, Mandais and other minorities is not only tearing the historical and cultural fabric of Syria and Iraq apart, but it is also ripping off the people of their historical identity and cutting every link they still have to their land.

To protect and preserve this ancient heritage and to prevent it from being lost forever, we launched the Mesopotamian Heritage Association.

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