Kategorie: Geschichten aus Mesopotamien

Private letter from Ashur-Muttabbil to his wife Kunanniya

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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.

Categories: Geschichten aus Mesopotamien Tags: Schlagwörter: , , ,

How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture

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By: Michael Press

@MichaelDPress

This article appeared on the https://hyperallergic.com on Dec. 7, 2017

Surveying the reporting on Syrian antiquities over the last six years reveals a parade of errors, but it is noteworthy that most, if not all, of the errors cut in the same way: to inflate the threat ISIS poses to cultural heritage while ignoring the threat posed by other armed groups.

Krak des Chavaliers under fire (image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It is a cool day in early spring of March 2016. Several men, some of them wearing masks, are dismantling what appears to be a medieval building in Al Rafid, a village near Quneitra in southwestern Syria. Boys are helping too, or at least playing in the rubble. We might be tempted to think we are watching ISIS members destroying a piece of cultural heritage. But no — according to the SMART news agency, this is actually a video of local villagers looking for material to rebuild their homes.

By now, the war in Syria has raged for more than six years. We have seen death on a massive scale and a heartbreaking refugee crisis, as well as serious threats to monuments and artifacts. Since early 2014, ISIS has been presented in news reports as the greatest threat not just to human life but also to cultural heritage in Syria. But cases like Al Rafid point to something else: the reality that looting of and damage to antiquities take many forms. And when we compare that reality to its portrayal in media outlets over the course of the war, we find that most reporting has ignored — or hidden — several basic facts.

  1. ISIS is not responsible for the majority of antiquities looting in Syria.

By early 2013, experts were already pointing out that Assad’s forces, rebels, and jihadist groups were all involved in antiquities looting, before ISIS was in control of much territory. A study of satellite images of six select sites by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), published in December 2014, showed significant looting by ISIS by this time, but also significant looting in areas controlled by other groups (though this was not emphasized by the press release or subsequent news reports). The most detailed study was published by the Cultural Heritage Initiatives (formerly the Syrian Heritage Initiative) of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR CHI) in September 2015, when ISIS was close to its largest extent in Syria. The study determined that areas held by ISIS, Syrian government forces, Kurdish YPG, and other rebel groups all experienced significant looting of antiquities. More surprisingly, the study concluded that only 21.4% of the sites evaluated in ISIS-controlled territory had been looted, which was lower than percentages for YPG and Syrian opposition groups.

Overwhelmingly, however, news stories have focused (and continue to focus) on ISIS looting. We read several features on ISIS looters and trafficking. But no one to my knowledge has published “The Men Who Loot for Al Qaeda” (or Assad, or the Free Syrian Army). Headlines highlight ISIS even when stories include general warnings about looting and destruction in the Syrian Civil War: for example, “‘Broken System’ Allows ISIS to Profit From Looted Antiquities” (New York Times, Jan 9, 2016). Business Insider then took a warning about looting and destruction in general from this article (“We’re faced with the largest-scale mass destruction of cultural heritage since the Second World War”) and turned it, out of context, into a headline warning about ISIS: “ISIS’ looting of the Middle East is ‘the largest-scale mass destruction of cultural heritage since’ WWII” (January 12, 2016). ISIS is said to have dug up objects that appeared on the antiquities market before ISIS existedSeveral stories link destructive looting at the major classical period site of Apamea to ISIS. ISIS has never been present at Apamea. At Palmyra, it is clear that Assad’s forces, rebel groups, and ISIS have all looted antiquities, but non-ISIS actions have been mostly ignored. Stories attempt to associate pre-ISIS looting at Palmyra with ISIS.

Everything becomes linked to ISIS.

  1. Most estimates of the amount of money ISIS has made from antiquities looting are vastly exaggerated.

Several articles have cited figures of $100 million-plus, or even over $100 million a year. We read sensational claims of antiquities trafficking making up 30–50% of ISIS’s assets, of antiquities trafficking as the second or third biggest source of income for ISIS, of ISIS making $36 million from antiquities looting in one region of Syria alone (al Nabuk). But these claims are made, often anonymously, without any evidence provided; or by including all revenues from extraction (like mining and oil drilling); or based on sources that actually discuss Al Qaeda’s looting (spoils of war, not antiquities looting) in Iraq from 2005–2008; or based on the guessed upper limit for the worldwide antiquities trade from a 1990 UNESCO document, with no evidence provided. The claim of $100 million was already circulating — and being questioned — in 2014, and we have no new information suggesting such a high number since then.

In fact, researchers have very little data on ISIS’s revenues from antiquities looting. This paucity of information makes it difficult if not impossible to come to even a rough estimate. As far as I know, the only serious attempt to determine ISIS revenues from antiquities looting was made by ancient Near East historian Christopher Jones in early 2016. Jones’s analysis is based on documents captured by American special forces near Deir ez-Zor in May 2015. There has been some suspicion that these receipts are not genuine; but, assuming they are authentic, Jones’s work suggests that only about 0.5% of ISIS’s revenues in the Deir ez-Zor region around that time came from antiquities. More generally, he estimated from available data that (as of January 2016) ISIS had made “a few million dollars” total from antiquities.

Despite the transparent problems, the claim that ISIS has made $100 million or more in revenues is a zombie claim that will not die. It was revived this summer by the Wall Street Journal. And, once the Wall Street Journal laundered it, it was repeated by Newsweek (as a headline claim) and the Times of London.

  1. Most of the objects coming out of Syria are forgeries.

This has been known for years: in early 2015, BBC journalist Simon Cox conducted an interview with Assaad Seif, then acting general director and head of the Scientific Departments at the Directorate General of Antiquities in Lebanon, about Syrian artifacts seized in Lebanon. While Seif talked about how hundreds of authentic items had been seized, some of great value, he also emphasized that most of the seized artifacts are forgeries, and that they come from forgery workshops in Syria that were already known before the war. A year and half later, Maamoun Abdulkarim (head of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria) gave an interview in which he indicated that 70% of the artifacts seized in Syria and Lebanon are fake. Seif and Abdulkarim’s conclusions are supported by inspection of published photographs of seized artifacts. These routinely include some obviously forged items. Similarly, in stories of “The Men Who Loot for ISIS” genre, the supposed dealers or middlemen show the journalists objects that they are trying to sell. Those objects appearing in accompanying photographs are generally either fakes, or worthless items, like heavily corroded coins.

Dr Assaad Seif, head of excavations at the Directorate General of Antiquities in an interview with the BBC’s Simon Cox (screenshot by the author)

While the predominance of forged items has been discussed by experts for years, news outlets have routinely ignored it. Cox’s BBC story included only Seif’s discussion of authentic antiquities, not his discussion of forgeries. After Abdulkarim’s interview, the topic of fakes did receive more attention. But this information was turned by some news outlets into misleading headlines about how “ISIS hoodwinks collectors with fake Syrian artifacts.” Again, almost everything is linked to ISIS.

  1. Much if not most antiquity destruction in Syria has been conducted by groups other than ISIS.

ISIS has, without a doubt, destroyed or damaged many monuments and artifacts. We have sensationalist videos of some cases of destruction, and we know of many, many more instances that were not videotaped. Even so, discussion of the destructive acts has been distorted. First, most reports obscure the nature of ISIS’s targets. While the widespread Western focus on the destruction of structures from sites known from classical and biblical texts (like Palmyra, or Nineveh in Iraq) might suggest that they are the main focus of ISIS’s iconoclasm, most of the monuments that ISIS has destroyed are Islamic shrines and graves.

Second, despite media emphasis on ISIS’s intentional destruction for iconoclastic reasons, other factors have caused large amounts of damage. Many structures — including some of the most significant and iconic monuments of Syria, such as the Great Mosque of Aleppo and the Krak des Chevaliers (a Crusader castle) — have been seriously damaged by combatbetween Assad’s forces and rebels groups, often before the rise of ISIS. Sites have been seriously damaged by other wartime activities too, including the construction of defensive positions, and the use of ruins for shelter and building material. ISIS does appear to be responsible for the overwhelming majority of cases of destruction for religious reasons in the Syrian war. But even here, they are not the only jihadist group responsible.

5. Syria is only one of many countries where massive looting and damage to antiquities are happening in wartime.

Threats to the heritage of Syria and Iraq have received massive amounts of media attention, but other countries’ heritage is also suffering considerable damage from current wars. Yemen’s historic architecture has been repeatedly hit by Saudi bombing. Looting and destruction have been rampant in Libyasince the overthrow of Qaddafi. There has been some attention paid to the 2012 case of iconoclastic destruction of a medieval shrine in Timbuktu, brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC). But these are just recent cases from West Asia and North Africa. Conflict damaged antiquities — sites, monuments, and artifacts harmed during war — is a worldwide phenomenon that is regularly ignored.

  1. Most threats to antiquities don’t come from war at all but from everyday activities.

These activities include normal urban expansion, agriculture (especially plowing fields), and even simple neglect. The damage caused by construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is a familiar and vivid example, but just one among many. Looting is another routine activity, often unconnected with war. And — as has happened for thousands of years — sites are damaged by people reusing old buildings and monuments as construction material.

* * *

Surveying the reporting on Syrian antiquities over the last six years reveals a parade of errors. But it is noteworthy that most if not all of the errors cut in the same way — to inflate the threat ISIS poses to cultural heritage while ignoring the threat posed by all other armed groups in Syria. Experts have spent years trying to inform journalists of many of the same points I have raised above. They have been largely ignored. According to one expert on antiquities trafficking who wrote on this issue in early 2016:

Editors want to hear about Daesh making millions of dollars from the trade, they do not want to hear that its financial accounting is difficult to know, or that other combatant groups might be profiting too.

What explains this state of affairs?

For one thing, ISIS sells. ISIS has become such a successful bogeyman — far beyond the already significant threat to human life and culture that they pose — that their mere presence in a headline means papers sold and links clicked. After so many years of emphasizing this threat, some media members may naturally assume any claim about it to be true.

But why was ISIS made into a bogeyman in the first place? Here we cannot avoid the fact that it was the threat of ISIS that was used to justify Western military intervention in Syria. We know that ISIS has used cultural heritage as a weapon (having seen its propaganda videos), but other countries, like Russiaand the US, use it too. James Peck has written at length about the use of human rights as a weapon of imperialism over the last few decades. Just as the U.S. government has used concern for human rights as justification for military action, so it has appeared to use concern for antiquities to galvanize support for its intervention in the Syrian war. Just as threats to the Yazidis of Sinjar were used to justify the bombing of Syria, so too was the threat ISIS posed to Syria’s cultural heritage.

Before 2014, news stories about threats to Syria’s cultural heritage generally ignored ISIS (just as other aspects of their violence were ignored) — even though they were already damaging sites and destroying monuments. This suddenly changed in 2014, as media outlets then focused on ISIS (while downplaying threats posed by other groups). In addition to correct reports, some false claims of sites destroyed by ISIS were circulated. In one case, claims of ISIS’s destruction of Nabi Yunis (the shrine of the prophet Jonah) in Mosul were reported two weeks before the shrine was eventually destroyed. The images purported to show ISIS’s earlier destruction of the site turned out to be their destruction of a tomb in Raqqa, Syria in 2013, a destruction that had previously been ignored by news outlets. News stories on antiquities looting in Syria gradually increased over 2013 and early 2014. But there appears to have been a major spike in this reporting in September 2014, the same month that the U.S. began its airstrike campaign against ISIS in Syria. Cultural heritage was enlisted in the war against ISIS. The war must be sold.

In enlisting cultural heritage, governments’ use of archaeologists and other scholars is a notable feature. At the extreme, this has included an archaeologist’s op-ed for the Military Times on how U.S. airstrikes are designed to minimize damage to cultural heritage (alongside their main goal of “liberating and protecting civilians”). Meanwhile, ASOR CHI has done invaluable work, some of which I have cited above, but it is also funded by the U.S. State Department — receiving several hundred thousand dollars per year. ASOR CHI’s purview includes Syria, Iraq, and Libya, all of which have seen U.S. military strikes targeting ISIS since 2014. But other countries in West Asia whose heritage is also threatened have been ignored — notably Yemen, where damage to sites and monuments has been caused mostly by Saudi Arabia, a US ally. Then Secretary of State, John Kerry referred to the Syrian Heritage Initiative (ASOR CHI’s precursor) as “literally the gold standard” for heritage protection in a speech at the Metropolitan Museum of Art just hours before the missile campaign against members of the Islamic State began. Kerry used that speech, at the opening of the Met’s exhibition Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age, to argue in favor of intervention in Syria.

The speech is striking for its emphasis on the threat to cultural heritage over the threat to human lives. But it is also striking for repeating some of the false and misleading claims of many news outlets — largely ignoring the significant threat to heritage posed by groups other than ISIS, associating the looting of Apamea with ISIS, explicitly to argue for a military campaign.

Meanwhile, political measures to address threats to cultural heritage are focused primarily on antiquities looting as a source of funding for terrorism. This is a problem for several reasons. Terrorism is a heavily loaded word, used inconsistently to refer to enemy groups of the moment, rather than according to any neutral standard (what techniques the groups use, whether they target civilians). As a result, national legislation and UN resolutions against trafficking in antiquities from Syria have focused exclusively on targeting funding for ISIS and (to a lesser extent) Al Qaeda and its affiliates. They do not address the many other groups looting and damaging cultural heritage in Syria. Blanket bans on importing antiquities from Syria would affect these other groups as well, but political solutions have avoided mentioning them or targeting them specifically. Also, since legislation is focused solely on Syria and Iraq, the broad and serious problem of antiquities being used to fund conflicts worldwide is barely addressed. And since most threats to cultural heritage lie outside armed conflict, these are ignored altogether.

Those of us who work on cultural heritage must stop and ask ourselves how we want to interact with this system, one that uses cultural heritage as a weapon while ignoring most threats to it by design. Whatever we decide, we cannot be naive about our role. Nor can we be naive about the role of news media in failing to inform us all about what is happening in Syria.

Acknowledgments: This piece draws heavily on the work of many experts on cultural heritage and conflict antiquities, including Paul Barford, Morag Kersel, Jason Felch, Stephennie Mulder, Dorothy King, and especially Sam Hardy and Christopher Jones. Much of the analysis of news coverage is a synthesis of their work, as attested by the links. It would have been impossible to write this piece without them. But, more than usual, I must emphasize that the conclusions in this piece as well as any errors are my own.

دلمون والسومريون

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دلمون: مكان جغرافي يساوي، في النصوص التاريخية عموماً، جزيرة البحرين في الخليج العربي في وقت تجعلها الكتابات ذات الطبيعة الأدبية أرضاً أسطورية .
والسومريون: من أقدم الشعوب التي استطاعت أن تضع لبنات الحضارة الأولى في القسم الجنوبي من أرض العراق القديم الذي عُرف بـ«بلاد سومر» .
لقد بقي أصل السومريين غامضاً، بل مشكلة مثيرة للجدل، لم تستطع حلّها الدراسات اللغوية أو الأنثروبولوجية أو الآثارية؛ ولذلك اختلف العلماء في أصلهم، فهناك من الباحثين من قال: إنّ السومريين ربما جاؤوا إلى جنوبي العراق في العصر السابق للوركاء، الذي تعود بداياته إلى نحو 5850 سنة مضت، أي في عصر العبيد.
وهناك من يقول بمجيء السومريين من بلد آخر عن طريق البحر، وأنهم سكنوا أول الأمر في دلمون «البحرين» التي تحتلّ حيّزاً مهمًّا في التراث السومري، وأنهم، بعد ذلك، نزحوا شمالاً باتجاه القسم الجنوبي من وادي الرافدين الذي عُرف فيما بعد بـ«بلاد سومر» .
صورة دلمون في الأساطير السومرية
1- أسطورة جلجامش:
تحكي أسطورة جلجامش، كيف أن الملك جلجامش جاء إلى أرض دلمون ليبحث عن زهرة الخلود؛ لكي يحظى بحياة كحياة الآلهة في خلود دائم، كخلود «زيوسودرا» الذي وهبته الآلهة الخلود في دلمون المقدسة. يقابله في الطريق هذا المعمّر ويرشده إلى جهة دلمون، وحين يصل إليها يربط في قدميه حجراً ثقيلاً ليغوص إلى الأعماق في مياهها؛ بحثاً عن زهرة الخلود:
منحوه حياةً كحياة الآلهة
كي يعيش في خلود «زيوسودرا»
هو الملك حامي بذرة الإنسان
ليقيم في أرض العبور
أرض دلمون المقدسة الطهور
حيث تشرق الشمس…
ويمضي النص في وصف رحلة البطل جلجامش، ويبيّن أنه وصل إلى المياه العميقة بدلمون، وربط في قديمه حجراً ثقيلاً ونزل إلى الأعماق؛ فرأى النبتة التي تخزّ اليد، فأخذها، ثم قطع الحجر الثقيل عن قدميه؛ ليخرج من الأعماق إلى الشاطئ .
إن أسطورة جلجامش، أو ملحمة جلجامش، تعدّ من أشهر الملاحم الشعرية في تاريخ آداب الشعوب القديمة المدونة باللغة البابلية، كما أنها من أطول النصوص البابلية؛ وصلت إلينا مدونة على اثني عشر رقماً، وتشير الأبحاث إلى أن الملحمة استمدّت أصولها من الفكر السومري؛ عثر عليها ضمن المؤلفات المحفوظة في مكتبة آشور بانيبال في نينوى .
2- أسطورة دلمون (أسطورة الجنّة):
ليقم أوتو «إله الشمس» المستقرة في السماء، لتؤكد قدسية أرض دلمون الطهور، التي لا يفترس فيها الأسد، ولا ينعب فيها الغراب؛ إذ يعيش الإنسان فيها حياة خالية من التعقيد والأوجاع والأمراض، بل يعيش في شباب دائم. وتزعم الأنشودة أنّ «إنكي» إله الحكمة والمياه العذبة عند السومريين، بارك أرض دلمون بالمياه العذبة؛ لتكون أرض العيون والينابيع الوفيرة، ومنحها فواكه الدنيا، وجعل حقولها منتجة للقمح والحبوب؛ وليصبح ميناؤها بعد ذلك ميناء للعالم كله:
مقدّسة هي المدينة التي مُنحت لكم
ومقدّس بلد دلمون…
بلد دلمون مقدس، بلد دلمون نقي،
بلد دلمون مغمور بالنور، متميّز بالإشعاع،
يوم أُقيم الأول في دلمون،
حيث استقرّ إنكي مع زوجته،
أصبح المكان هذا نقيًّا ومشعًّا بالنور.
الغراب لا يصيح في دلمون،
والحَجَل لا توصوص،
الأسود لا تقتل أحداً،
والذئب لا يلتهم الحَمَل الوديع،
لم يكن الكلبُ يتقن إخضاع الغزلان،
ولم يكن الخنزير البري يأكل الحبوب،
لم تكن طيور السماء تأتي لتنقر شعير الأرملة
وهو يجفّ على السطح،
ولم تكن الحمامة تحني رأسها،
ولم يكن أيّ مريض العينين يشكو من مرض عينيه،
ولا مريض الرأس كان يشكو من مرض رأسه،
لم تكن أيّ امرأة عجوز تقول: «إنني عجوز»،
ولا الرجل العجوز يقول: «إنني عجوز».
كما يتخلّل النص كيفية تعيين الإله إنكي ابنته؛ لتكون الآلهة الحامية لدلمون:
ويجيب الأبُ إنكي ابنته نين ذسيكيلا:
ليقم أوتو[9] «إله الشمس» المستقرة في السماء،
بإحضار المياه الحلوة من الأرض،
من مصادر المياه، من الأرض،
دعيه يجعل دلمون تشرب من المياه بوفرة،
فلتنتج أطيانك وحقولك قمحها،

ثم تذكر الأسطورة كيف أنّ الربّ إنكي جلب الخيار والتفاح والعنب، وكان السبب في اتصال ثماني نباتات، منها نبات العسل ونبت الشوك والكُبر والقِرفة، ومن جملة الأرباب التي خلقتها الآلهة ننهرساج من أجل إنكي هي الرب «نينتوللا» رب «ما كان»، وجعلت «إينشاك» ربًّا لدلمون .
ولكن دلمون تحتاج إلى الماء العذب الضروري للحياة الحيوانية والنباتية؛ فأمر الربّ السومري إنكي زميله الإله «أوتو» أن يملأ الجزيرة بالماء العذب الذي ينبع من الأرض، فتحولت دلمون، بعد ذلك، إلى جنة خضراء، بحقول مليئة بالفاكهة والمروج التي خُلقت بها الربّة الأم العظمى «ننهرساج» ثماني نباتات، بعد عملية معقدة، اشتركت بها ثمانية أجيال من الربّات، أنجبها جميعها الإله إنكي، ولدوا جميعهم -كما تقول الأسطورة- دونما ألم، ولكن، ربما بسبب رغبة إنكي في تذوّقها، فعمل رسوله «اسيمود» ذو الوجهين على قطفها، الواحدة تلو الأخرى، وأعطاها إلى سيده «إنكي» الذي تناولها. وعلى ذلك قرأت عليه الربّة «ننهرساج» لعنة الموت. ويظهر أنها اختفت بين الأرباب بعد ذلك حتى لا تبدل رأيها، ثم أخذت صحة إنكي بالتدهور، وصارت ثمانية من أعضاء جسمه مريضة. وفي الوقت الذي تتدهور فيه صحة إنكي جلس الأرباب العظام على الأرض، ويظهر أن «إنليل» لم يكن يتماشى مع هذه الحالة، ثم تكلم الثعلب، وأخيراً إنليل: «لو كنت أعرف لجلبت ننهرساج ثانية». أما الغراب، فقد نجح، إلى حدٍّ ما، في إرجاع الربّة الأم إلى الأرباب؛ كيما تعالج إنكي الذي كان في طريقه إلى الهلاك التام. وبعد أن سألته عن الأعضاء الثمانية المريضة من جسمه؛ خلقت الربة الأم ثمانية أرباب شفاء. وهكذا استرجع إنكي صحته ثانية. فالجنة السومرية حسب هذه الأسطورة كانت في دلمون .
وكانت أهمية دلمون عند الطبقات المثقفة في سومر يتم تصويرها من خلال أسطورة «إنكي وننهرساج»؛ إذ يحتلّ هذا الأثر مكاناً خاصًّا في الأدب السومري؛ لأن أهميته الرمزية تتعلق ببلاد خارج بلاد وادي الرافدين، فقد نشأت هذه الرمزية في فكر مدرسة «أريدو» الدينية، وكانت أريدو مدينة في أقصى جنوب سومر، في الأهوار، بالقرب من مصب الخليج العربي. وربما كان المقصود من هذه الأسطورة مجاملة أهل دلمون، الذين كانت ميولهم نحو سومر على قدر من الأهمية.
وبالفعل، فإنّ ملحمة إنكي والنظام العالمي، تبيّن لنا العلاقات التجارية مع بلاد الخليج العربي، فضلاً عن أن هذه الملحمة لها معنى أعمق من ذلك؛ إذ إنها تصف الإله إنكي، الذي يحمي «أريدو» و «البحر» البحيرات العذبة المياه «أبسو» بأنه يدعم الأرض، ويفيض عليها بمياهه المخصبة، من خلال الآبار والينابيع.
وسرعان ما صارت جغرافية الجزيرة، وشخصية هذا الإله تتمتع بشعبية في دلمون وسومر .
3- أسطورة الطوفان:
يظهر من الأساطير السومرية والبابلية، أنّ الطوفان كان آخر سلاح تلجأ إليه الآلهة؛ للحدّ من تكاثر البشر ، وفي رواية الطوفان السومرية، يصبح «زيوسودرا» الملك، البطل الذي ينجو من الكارثة، مخلداً وقت أنشأته آلهة دلمون [الأسطر 256 – 262]:
«وبعد أن انبطح زيوسودرا، الملك، أمام آن وإنليل… وهباه الحياة الأبدية، كتلك التي للآلهة، ونصَّباه في بلاد فيما وراء البحار: في دلمون.. حيث تشرق الشمس» .
وتطلق أسطورة الطوفان السومرية اسم «أرض العبور» على «دلمون»:
«في أرض العبور، أرض دلمون، المحل الذي تشرق منه الشمس، جعلته الأرباب لزيوسودرا يستقر» .
فبعد أن رسا الفُلكُ بعد الطوفان، وانتهت الأزمة، حبت الأرباب بطل الطوفان السومري «زيوسودرا» [أوتونابيشتم] الخلود، وجعلته يقطن دلمون، الأرض التي يصطفيها الجميع. فدلمون -إذن- هي بلد الخالدين الذين تمنحهم الأرباب الجنة .
وبعد انتهاء الطوفان، بدأت الحياة من جديد على الأرض، وولدت الحضارة، وأصبح لدلمون دورها في رفد هذه الحضارة، كمستودع دولي، أسهم في ازدهار البلاد. تقول الأسطورة:
«تحدثت ننسيكيلا إلى أبيها إنكي…
لا توجد مياه في قنوات مدينتي…
[ردّ أبوها إنكي على ننسيكيلا:]
[دع الشمس ترفع المياه إلى أعلى من بوابات الأرض…
دع دلمون تنعم بوفرة من مياه الشرب،
دع مياه الآبار المالحة تتحول إلى مياه آبار عذبة ،
ودع مدينتك تصبح «الدار على حافة رصيف الميناء… [مستودع]…
ووهب دلمون الماء بوفرة…
فأنتجت الحقول والأراضي والشعير…
وأصبحت دلمون بحق داراً،
«على حافة رصيف الميناء» البلاد.
وفي ضوء شمس النهار كانت كذلك» .
وتمضي بقية الحكاية… حيث يبدو أن تركيب الرواية يجمع عدة حكايات، ويبدو أن لها صدى عميقاً في دلمون، ولهذا تحصل دلمون على آلهتها الحارسة، وهي نماذج لملوك سومر التي تؤكد سعادة دلمون وازدهارها، وتصبح دلون المثال الكامل للحضارة، على قدم المساواة مع سومر؛ فمناظرها الطبيعية الخلابة، تصور الجنان «الفراديس». فدلمون نقية ومقدسة ومضيئة كنقاء وقداسة وضياء سومر، وأن آلهتها «ننسيكيلا» تحمل اسماً يدل على «السيدة النقية». لكن الحكمة التي ترويها الحكاية هي: أن سومر أصل كلّ الحضارات، إذ إنّ الإله السومري «إنكي» -لكونه الأفضل- يجلب الحضارة لدلمون .
الخلاصة
1- إن بلاد دلمون صارت هي فردوس السومريين؛ لأنها كانت فيها آلهة تُعبد من قبل السومريين أنفسهم، فأسطورة الخلق المعروفة بـ«إنكي وننهرساج» أو «أسطورة دلمون»؛ تربط دلمون بنشأة العالم، وتقدم أنشودة ثناء لهذه الأرض المعطاء التي باركتها الآلهة، وحبتها المياه العذبة الوفيرة؛ فأرض اللبن والعسل هذه «دلمون» هي التي كانت فردوس السومريين، وهي التي كان مقدّراً لثرواتها أن تنقل إلى بلاد سومر. لذلك كانوا يتغنون بها، على أنها المكان الملائم والمنشود للحياة الأبدية .
2- اشتهرت دلمون أيضاً عند الشعراء السومريين بوفرة زراعتها وجنانها الوارفة، وقد صوّرت الأناشيد الملكية في إمبراطورية أُورا الثالثة، بلاد دلمون بالجنة، مستخدمة تشبيهات النخلة:
«أنت حبيب الربة ننجال، كنخلة دلمون الطاهرة». لقد أصبحت مقارنة الحبيب بثمرة شجرة، إحدى الكليشات الأدبية؛ فقد كتب أحد الشعراء: «أمّي بلح دلمون الحلو» .
3- إن دلمون هي الجنة في نظر السومريين، وهي موطن الآلهة، وهناك من يقول، إن سبب تعلّق السومريين بدلمون راجع إلى أن أصلهم منها، وقد جاؤوا إلى جنوبي العراق في عام 3100 قبل الميلاد.

Sennacherib Vs The Bible

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Sennacherib

In the early seventh century BCE, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded the kingdom of Judah. The Assyrian army destroyed the fortified cities of the north and rapidly advanced toward Jerusalem. Sennacherib demanded that Hezekiah, the king of Judah, empty the royal treasury and strip the Temple of all its gold and silver. He also sent a message to Hezekiah, telling him that the Judean god was useless and that if the Judeans surrendered, he, Sennacherib, would restore the land to prosperity. If not, he would destroy Jerusalem.

The Judean version of what happened next appears in the Second Book Of Kings. God, angry at Sennacherib’s taunts, reassured Hezekiah that all would be well. He then sent an angel to smite the 185,000 Assyrians camped outside Jerusalem. Sennacherib retreated, only to be murdered by two of his sons in the temple of Nineveh as he prayed to his own god.

The Assyrian version appears on a 14-inch tall, six-sided clay prism inscribed with closely written rows of minute cuneiform text at the Oriental Institute museum at the University of Chicago, one of the nation’s largest repositories of texts and artifacts from the ancient Middle East. Sennacherib, it says, did indeed invade and destroy a lot of Judah, but turned back before he could take Jerusalem. The prism doesn’t mention the 185,000 smitten soldiers, but it also doesn’t give any other reason for the abrupt reversal. Maybe it wasn’t worth the effort to sack the city. Maybe the Assyrian army had indeed drained the Judean treasury and decided they’d collected enough loot. Maybe there was an urgent matter back at the palace in Nineveh that needed to be attended to. 

Whatever the case, Jerusalem was saved, and with it the religious tradition that would become Judaism. “If there was no Jerusalem,” said Joey Cross, a graduate student of the Hebrew Bible and Egyptology at the University of Chicago “there would be no Bible. The deliverance of Jerusalem is one of the most important events in the history of ancient Israel. It was a sign the Israelites were protected by God. Even the Death Star couldn’t destroy them.”

But the Assyrians left their mark on the Hebrew Bible anyway, and not just as an object lesson in what happens if you incur the wrath of God. Sennacherib’s father, Sargon II, made every city and nation he conquered sign a written treaty, and the words to those treaties appear nearly word for word in the Book of Deuteronomy, except instead of pledging their fealty to Sargon, the Israelites show their devotion to God.

“Even the curses are lifted from treaties we have from the Assyrians,” Cross said. “They were using the material they had at their disposal. They were God’s vassals. They were making a political statement.”

The Hebrews had a distinct advantage over other ancient civilizations, Cross said, in that their historical and sacred texts have been read continuously in the 2,000 years since they were first compiled into the Bible. Of course, the text of the Bible wasn’t always consistent, as the world learned with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Its biblical fragments were found to vary in some cases from the Hebrew Bible we have today. The Oriental Institute has the only fragment of the scrolls on permanent display in the United States, a tiny 2-inch fragment of a psalm, shaped like the lower peninsula of Michigan.

But the writings of most of the other groups who lived in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia became altogether indecipherable after their people, who created them, died out, Cross explained. It wasn’t until the 19th century that archaeologists and historians learned how to read them again. And it was sheer luck that one of the first newly deciphered documents from Mesopotamia was the story of a flood that mirrored the one described in Genesis. After that, researchers began looking for what Cross called “flashy” evidence that the Bible chronicled actual historic events.

In the past 50 years or so, though, scholarly interest has only grown in ancient Middle Eastern political documents and their relationship to the Bible. “There’s a huge body of Near Eastern law that the authors of the Torah drew on,” Cross said. “It helps us understand the world the Bible came out of. The biblical legal codes have their own spin, but they’re based on what was around them.”

It’s unclear whether the Assyrians were aware that the Israelites and Judeans borrowed their legal codes, but even if they were, Cross said he didn’t think it ever occurred to them to be offended that the Israelites substituted their God for the names of the Assyrian rulers. “Assyria was very big,” he said, “and Israel and Judah were very small.”

The ancient Hebrew authors also borrowed liberally from the Egyptians, particularly in Numbers, which enumerates the laws the Hebrews were supposed to follow when they were wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt. The Oriental Institute has an amulet on display that contains a prayer to the goddess Nekhbet. It reads like the Priestly Benediction from Numbers: “May the goddess bless and protect you, may she deal kindly and graciously with you, may she bestow her favor upon you and grant you peace.”

One of the more bizarre chapters of Numbers describes a procedure for detecting an adulterous woman. It involves transferring a magical spell to some holy water; when an adulteress drinks the water, it will cause her belly and thighs to distend. That comes from the Egyptians, Cross said. The Egyptians believed it was possible to transmit spells, prayers and information through water. The Oriental Institute has on display a small stele upon which is written, in hieroglyphs, a short prayer to the god Horus. Very few Egyptians could read, but if they drank water that had been poured over the stele, it would be as if they were saying the prayer themselves. The Egyptian word for “to swallow” also meant “to know.”

No archaeological evidence has emerged yet of how the tribes who lived in Israel and Judah were connected to the Egyptians. But, Cross said, there’s no reason to deny that there was a connection: There was a lot of movement between what’s now Israel and Egypt. The historical Egyptians appear to have been more tolerant than the Egyptians of the Bible. But other than that, Cross was reluctant to speculate on what events may have inspired the biblical Exodus.

“There’s no way to say anything more,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s a very risky affair.”

The Oriental Institute, Chicago

أنخيدوانا شاعرة سومر وأكد

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هي الأميرة الأكدية، وابنة الامبراطور سرگون (أو سرجون) الأكدي، معنى اسمها أنخيدوانا (أو أنهيدوانا) في اللغة العربية هو ”زينة الكاهنة العليا للآلهة نانا“.

فضلاً عن كونها أميرة، قام والدها بتعيينها لتكون كبيرة كهنة معبد آلهة القمر (نانا) في مدينة أور، المنصب الذي شغلته حوالي أربعين عاماً، وقد قامت خلال ذلك بإنشاء مؤسسة دينية جعلت منها أقوى سلطة دينية في زمانها، ويعتقد أن والدها الإمبراطور سرجون قد عينها في هذا المنصب في أواخر سنوات حكمه لأنها استمرت فيه حتى خلال حكم إخوتها ريموش ومانيشتوشو ثم في زمن حكم ابن أخيها نرام-سين، مؤسسة بذلك لتقليد استمر بعدها لقرون، حيث قام أغلب الملوك الرافدينيون بتعيين أخواتهم وبناتهم في ذات المنصب من بعدها.

ويرجح أن تعيينها جاء لتعزيز سيطرة حكم والدها على الشعب المتمرد في الجنوب السومري للإمبراطورية، حيث أنه من خلال خدمة ابنته الأكادية لآلهة سومرية قد قام بمزج الآلهتين في شخص ابنته، الأمر الذي له أبعاد سياسية أكثر منها دينية، وعليه من المرجح أن تكون بعض قصائدها ذات غاية سياسية أيضا.

ولدت ”انخيدوانا“ في حوالي ٢٣٠٠ سنة قيل الميلاد، وتوفيت في أور، وهي الإبنة الوحيدة بين خمسة أولاد، فهي أكدية المولد وسومرية الثقافة، ومنهم من يعتقد أنها ليست ابنة سرگون من زوجته تاشلولتُم التي تتحدث السامية، بل من زوجة سومرية وذلك لطلاقة لغتها السومرية وكتابتها لشعرها بالخط المسماري.

اكتشف لها حتى يومنا هذا: ٣ قصائد لنانا، و٣ لإنانا، و٤٢ تسبيحة (ترتيلة)، وتعرف هذه التسابيح بتراتيل المعبد السومرية.

على الرغم من كونها شاعرة الجنس والحب؛ كرست أنخيدوانا نصوصها الشعرية للتسابيح وللتراتيل وللغزل الإلهي. وتعتبر أنخيدوانا صاحبة أقدم نص شعري مكتوب، وهي بذلك تكون أول امرأة شاعرة معروفة في التاريخ، سابقة الشاعر اليوناني الملحمي هوميروس (صاحب الإلياذة والأوديسة) بحوالي أحد عشر قرناً.

عُرفت أنخيدوانا واكتشفت آثارها أول مرة بعد العثور على قرص كلسي مدور قرب مكان إقامة الكاهنة الكبرى، في معبد آلهة القمر (نانا)، يحمل صورة كاهنة ومنقوش على ظهره كتابة: ”أنهيدوانا، امرأة نانا الحق، زوجة نانا، ابنة سرگون، ملك الجميع، في معبد إنانا في أور، منصّة أنتِ بنيتِ، ومنصّة مائدة السماء (آن) أنت سميتِ“.

قبل أنخيدوانا وصلتنا نصوص شعريّة كثيرة، لكن لا أحد يستطيع أن يجزم من هو قائلها أو كاتبها، إذ لم يكن من عادة الشّعراء في ذلك الزمن أن يذيّلوا قصائدهم بأسمائهم لأسباب كثيرة.. إما لأنهم كهنة أو موظفون أو خدم في المعابد… أو ربما لظنهم أن ما ينطقون به من شعر ليس إلًا إلهامًا مِن قوى خارقة لا حقوق شخصية لهم فيه.
لكن أنخيدوانا الواثقة من نفسها، أصرت أن توقع على قصائدها باسمها… فكان ذلك التسجيل الحدث الأول في تاريخ الشعر الذي يجعل منْه فنا ذاتيا محضا، ويجعل من قائلهِ شخصا مشهورا بين الناس، “أنا أنخيدوانا، امرأة نانا، وزوجته، ابنة سرجون ملك الجميع”.
والمعروف أن الشعر في بلاد ما بين النهرين نشأ من رحم الأسطورة، وترعرع في ظلال الديانات القديمة، والنصوص الشّعرية التي وصلتنا كُتبت ليتم ترديدها في المعابد، أثناء الطقوس الدينية، أو لتروي سير الأبطال الأسطوريين وتُمجد مآثرهم بين الناس… فملحمة جلجامش الشّهيرة تُعَد نموذجا لقصيدة ملحميّة طويلة لم يُعرف قائلها؛ لكنّها كُتبت بنسيج أسطوريّ لتحكي سيرة بطل ثلثهُ من البشر طمح أن يرتقي بصورة كليّة إلى مرتبة الآلهة ويستحوذ على الخلود.. وقد تردّدت أسطورته شعرًا على لسان النّاس في مدن العراق القديم: أور، وبابل وأكد..
وأنخيدوانا، اسم أنثوي أكّدي يتألّف من ثلاثة مقاطع في اللّغة السّومريّة التي كانت سائدة في بلاد ما بين النَّهرين في العهد الأكدي: (أن، هيدو، أنّا)، هذا ولم تكن شاعرتنا امرأة عاديّة، فهي أميرة، وابنة ملك، سيّدة تتمتّع بذكاء حاد… ومخيّلة واسعة.. وكان من تقاليد الملوك في تلك الأزمنة أن ينصبوا واحدةً من بناتهم رئيسة للكهنة في معبد القمر.. وبعد أن استطاع سرجون الأكدي ذو الأصول السّاميّة أن يوحدّ المدن العراقيّة تحت سُلطته، متَّخذًا من أكّد عاصمة له… قرّر أن تتولّى ابنته أنخيدوانا هذا المنصب الحسّاس في مدينة أور وهي المدينة المُهمَّة الواقعة إلى الجنوب. أبعدت أنخيدوانا عن معبد الآلهة إنانا بعد وفاة والدها الملك سرجون لكنّها أُعيدت إلى منصبها فيما بعد، ونظّمت واحدة من أجمل قصائدها..
ففي وصفها للأمّ العظيمة “عشتار”، تكتب: “أنّ داخلكِ رحمًا عميقة مُظلمة..”؛ أمّا في إحدى تسبيحاتها فتقول: “ثدي الأم مرعب ومكان أحمر/مُصان في الرّحم المُظلمة…/ هذا وقد أحدث اكتشاف ألواح قصائدها زلزلة ثقافيّة غيّرت أفكار ومفاهيم كثيرة عن النّصوص الأدبيّة القديمة التي ادّعى الآخرون ريادتهم فيها…

هذه ترجمة لأحد النصوص التي كتبتها في الفترة التي ابعدت فيها عن معبد إنانا:

سألتني أن أدخل المعبد المقدس
الـ (كَيبارو) – معبد زقورة أور العظمى-
ودخلتُ، أنا الكاهنة العليا
انخيدوانا
حاملة قُـفّــة الطقـوس، ورتّلـت أدعيتك.
منبوذة الآن بين المجذومين
حتى ماعاد بمقدرتي أن أحيا معك
ظلال تدنو من ضوء النهار،
النور اسّود حولي.
أفياء تقرب من بياض النهار
تغشيه بعاصفة رمل.
وفمي الأعذب من الشهد.. بَهُت بغتة
وجهي الجميل.. ذهب هباء
إدانة إله القمر نانا

أما أنا، فقـد أهملنـي إلهـي نانا
أخذني للخراب
لدروب الخطيئة
أشيمبابار لم يظلمني
إن فعل ذلك، لما أهتم؟
لو فعل، لما أكترث؟
أنا انخيدوانا
كنتُ المظفرة.. المبجّلة
لكنه ساقني من حَرَمِي
صيّرني هاربة كسنونوة من النافذة.
حياتي في سعير
جعلني أمشي بين العليق في الجبال
عرّاني من الإكليل– الحق لكاهنة عليا
ناوَلني خنجراً  وسيفاً
وقال:
أديريهما صوب جسدكِ
قد وجدا لكِ.

عودة انخيدوانا

السيــدة الأولـى فـي قاعـة العـرش
ارتضت ترنيمة انخيدوانا
أحبتها إنانا من جديد.
هو يومها البهيج انخيدوانا، لتزدان
بجواهرها
توشّـت ببهاء الأنثى
كما أول سنا القمر في الأفق
ما أحلى الترف في طلتها!
بمقدم نانا – والد إنانا
القصر بارك لأم إنانا (ننكَال)
من عتبة الفردوس جاءت الكلمة:
“أهلاً”

The royal library of king Ashurbanipal

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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.

Oldest written music in history

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The Hurrian songs are a collection of music inscribed in cuneiform on clay tablets excavated from the ancient AmoriteCanaanite city of Ugarit, a headland in northern Syria, which date to approximately 1400 BC. One of these tablets, which is nearly complete, contains the Hurrian hymn to Nikkal (also known as the Hurrian cult hymn or A Zaluzi to the Gods, or simply h.6), making it the oldest surviving substantially complete work of notated music in the world. While the composers’ names of some of the fragmentary pieces are known, h.6 is an anonymous work.

The complete song is one of about 36 such hymns in cuneiform writing, found on fragments of clay tablets excavated in the 1950s from the Royal Palace at Ugarit (present day Ras ShamraSyria), in a stratum dating from the fourteenth century BC, but is the only one surviving in substantially complete form. An account of the group of shards was first published in 1955 and 1968 by Emmanuel Laroche, who identified as parts of a single clay tablet the three fragments catalogued by the field archaeologists as RS 15.30, 15.49, and 17.387. In Laroche’s catalogue the hymns are designated h. (for “Hurrian”) 2–17, 19–23, 25–6, 28, 30, along with smaller fragments RS. 19.164 gjnoprtwxyaa, and gg. The complete hymn is h.6 in this list. A revised text of h.6 was published in 1975.

The tablet h.6 contains the lyrics for a hymn to Nikkal, a Semitic goddess of orchards, and instructions for a singer accompanied by a nine-stringed sammûm, a type of harp or, much more likely, a lyre.[10] One or more of the tablets also contains instructions for tuning the harp.

The Hurrian hymn pre-dates several other surviving early works of music, e.g., the Seikilos epitaph and the Delphic Hymns, by a millennium, but its transcription remains controversial. A reconstruction by Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin may be heard at the Urkesh webpage, though this is only one of at least five “rival decipherments of the notation, each yielding entirely different results”.

The tablet is in the collection of the National Museum of Damascus.

The inscriptions on the winged lions

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Long time ago, Sennacherib, the mighty ruthless king, posted this text on the wall (actually on a pair of winged lions – apsasāt – that guarded the entrance) of the palace he
built for his queen Tašmetum-šarrat in Nineveh.

Here is the translation from Assyrian:

“And for Tašmetum-šarrat, the queen, the wife, my love, whose features Belet-ili (the goddess of creation) has made more beautiful than all other women, I had a palace of love, joy and pleasure built.

By the order of Aššur, father of the gods, and heavenly queen Ištar, may we both live long in health and happiness in this palace and enjoy well- being to the full!”

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The Ishtar Gate

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The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BCE by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city. It was excavated in the early 20th century and a reconstruction using original bricks is now shown in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

History

Dedicated to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the gate was constructed using glazed brick with alternating rows of bas-relief mušḫuššu (dragons) and aurochs (bulls), symbolizing the gods Marduk and Adad respectively.

The roof and doors of the gate were of cedar, according to the dedication plaque.

The gate was covered in lapis lazuli, a deep-blue semi-precious stone that was revered in antiquity due to its vibrancy. These blue glazed bricks would have given the façade a jewel-like shine. Through the gate ran the Processional Way, which was lined with walls showing about 120 lions, bulls, dragons and flowers on enameled yellow and black glazed bricks, symbolizing the goddess Ishtar. The gate itself depicted only gods and goddesses. These included Ishtar, Adad and Marduk. During celebrations of the New Year, statues of the deities were paraded through the gate and down the Processional Way.

The gate, being part of the Walls of Babylon, was considered one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. It was replaced on that list by the Lighthouse of Alexandria from the third century BC.

Excavation and display

A reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way was built at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin out of material excavated by Robert Koldewey and finished in the 1930s. It includes the inscription plaque. It stands 14 m (46 ft) high and 30 m (100 ft) wide. The excavation ran from 1902 to 1914, and, during that time, 14 m (45 ft) of the foundation of the gate was uncovered.

An aurochs above a flower ribbon

Claudius James Rich, British resident of Baghdad and a self-taught historian, did personal research on Babylon because it intrigued him. Acting as a scholar and collecting field data, he was determined to discover the wonders to the ancient world. C.J. Rich’s topographical records of the ruins in Babylon were the first ever published, in 1815. It was reprinted in England no fewer than three times. C.J. Rich and most other 19th century visitors thought a mound in Babylon was a royal palace, and that was eventually confirmed by Robert Koldewey’s excavations, who found two palaces of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Ishtar Gate. Robert Koldewey, a successful German excavator, had done previous work for the Royal Museum of Berlin, with his excavations at Surghul (Ancient Nina) and Al-hiba (ancient Lagash) in 1887. Koldewey’s part in Babylon’s excavation began in 1899.

The method that the British were comfortable with was excavating tunnels and deep trenches, which was damaging the mud brick architecture of the foundation. Instead, it was suggested that the excavation team focus on tablets and other artefacts rather than pick at the crumbling buildings. Despite the destructive nature of the archaeology used, the recording of data was immensely more thorough than in previous Mesopotamian excavations. Walter Andre, one of Koldewey’s many assistants, was an architect and a draftsman, the first at Babylon. His contribution was documentation and reconstruction of Babylon. A small museum was built at the site and Andre was the museums first director.

One of most complex and impressive architectural reconstructions in the history of archaeology, was the rebuilding of Babylon’s Ishtar gate and processional way in Berlin. Hundreds of crates of glaze brick fragments were carefully desalinated and then pieced together. Fragments were combined with new bricks baked in a specially designed kiln to re-create the correct color and finish. It was a double gate; the part that is shown in the Pergamon Museum today is the smaller, frontal part. 

Parts of the gate and lions from the Processional Way are in various other museums around the world.

Ishtar gate, Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Only four museums acquired dragons, while lions went to several museums. The Istanbul Archaeology Museum has lions, dragons, and bulls. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, has one lion, one dragon and one bull. The Detroit Institute of Arts houses a dragon. The Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden, has one dragon and one lion; the Louvre, the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Oriental Institute in Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, each have lions. One of the processional lions was recently loaned by Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum to the British Museum.

An Introduction To Sumerian History

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During the 5th millennium BC a people known as the Ubaidians established settlements in the region known later as Sumer; these settlements gradually developed into the chief Sumerian cities, namely Adab, Eridu, Isin, Kish, Kullab, Lagash, Larsa, Nippur, and Ur. Several centuries later, as the Ubaidian settlers prospered, Semites from Syrian and Arabian deserts began to infiltrate, both as peaceful immigrants and as raiders in quest of booty. After about 3250 BC, another people migrated from its homeland, located probably northeast of Mesopotamia, and began to intermarry with the native population. The newcomers, who became known as Sumerians, spoke an agglutinative language unrelated apparently to any other known language.

In the centuries that followed the immigration of the Sumerians, the country grew rich and powerful. Art and architecture, crafts, and religious and ethical thought flourished. The Sumerian language became the prevailing speech of the land, and the people here developed the cuneiform script, a system of writing on clay. This script was to become the basic means of written communication throughout the Middle East for about 2000 years.

The first Sumerian ruler of historical record, Etana, king of Kish (flourished about 2800 BC), was described in a document written centuries later as the “man who stabilized all the lands.” Shortly after his reign ended, a king named Meskiaggasher founded a rival dynasty at Erech (Uruk), far to the south of Kish. Meskiaggasher, who won control of the region extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Zagros Mountains, was succeeded by his son Enmerkar (flourished about 2750 BC). The latter’s reign was notable for an expedition against Aratta, a city-state far to the northeast of Mesopotamia. Enmerkar was succeeded by Lugalbanda, one of his military leaders. The exploits and conquests of Enmerkar and Lugalbanda form the subject of a cycle of epic tales constituting the most important source of information on early Sumerian history.

At the end of Lugalbanda’s reign, Enmebaragesi (flourished about 2700 BC), a king of the Etana dynasty at Kish, became the leading ruler of Sumer. His outstanding achievements included a victory over the country of Elam and the construction at Nippur of the Temple of Enlil, the leading deity of the Sumerian pantheon. Nippur gradually became the spiritual and cultural center of Sumer.

Enmebaragesi’s son Agga (probably died before 2650 BC), the last ruler of the Etana dynasty, was defeated by Mesanepada, king of Ur (fl. about 2670 BC), who founded the so-called 1st Dynasty of Ur and made Ur the capital of Sumer. Soon after the death of Mesanepada, the city of Erech achieved a position of political prominence under the leadership of Gilgamesh (flourished about 2700-2650 BC), whose deeds are celebrated in stories and legends.

Painting of Sumerian people bringing a gilded statue to their temple.

Sometime before the 25th century bc the Sumerian Empire, under the leadership of Lugalanemundu of Adab (flourished about 2525-2500 BC), was extended from the Zagros to the Taurus mountains and from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. Subsequently the empire was ruled by Mesilim (fl. about 2500 BC), king of Kish. By the end of his reign, Sumer had begun to decline. The Sumerian city-states engaged in constant internecine struggle, exhausting their military resources. Eannatum (fl. about 2425 BC), one of the rulers of Lagash, succeeded in extending his rule throughout Sumer and some of the neighboring lands. His success, however, was short-lived. The last of his successors, Uruinimgina (fl. about 2365 BC), who was noteworthy for instituting many social reforms, was defeated by Lugalzagesi (reigned about 2370-2347 BC), the governor of the neighboring city-state of Umma. Thereafter, for about 20 years, Lugalzagesi was the most powerful ruler in the Middle East.

By the 23rd century bc the power of the Sumerians had declined to such an extent that they could no longer defend themselves against foreign invasion. The Semitic ruler Sargon I (reigned about 2335-2279 BC), called The Great, succeeded in conquering the entire country. Sargon founded a new capital, called Agade, in the far north of Sumer and made it the richest and most powerful city in the world. The people of northern Sumer and the conquering invaders, fusing gradually, became known ethnically and linguistically as Akkadians. The land of Sumer acquired the composite name Sumer and Akkad.

The Akkadian dynasty lasted about a century. During the reign of Sargon’s grandson, Naram-Sin (r. about 2255-2218 BC), the Gutians, a belligerent people from the Zagros Mountains, sacked and destroyed the city of Agade. They then subjugated and laid waste the whole of Sumer. After several generations the Sumerians threw off the Gutian yoke. The city of Lagash again achieved prominence, particularly during the reign of Gudea (circa 2144-2124 BC), an extraordinarily pious and capable governor. Because numerous statues of Gudea have been recovered, he has become the Sumerian best known to the modern world. The Sumerians achieved complete independence from the Gutians when Utuhegal, king of Erech (reigned about 2120-2112 BC), won a decisive victory later celebrated in Sumerian literature.

One of Utuhegal’s generals, Ur-Nammu (r. 2113-2095 BC), founded the 3rd Dynasty of Ur. In addition to being a successful military leader, he was also a social reformer and the originator of a law code that antedates that of the Babylonian king Hammurabi by about three centuries (see Hammurabi, Code of). Ur-Nammu’s son Shulgi (r. 2095-2047 BC) was a successful soldier, a skillful diplomat, and a patron of literature. During his reign the schools and academies of the kingdom flourished.

Before the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC the Amorites, Semitic nomads from the desert to the west of Sumer and Akkad, invaded the kingdom. They gradually became masters of such important cities as Isin and Larsa. The resultant widespread political disorder and confusion encouraged the Elamites to attack (circa 2004 BC) Ur and to take into captivity its last ruler, Ibbi-Sin (r. 2029-2004 BC).

During the centuries following the fall of Ur bitter intercity struggle for the control of Sumer and Akkad occurred, first between Isin and Larsa and later between Larsa and Babylon. Hammurabi of Babylon defeated Rim-Sin of Larsa (r. about 1823-1763 BC) and became the sole ruler of Sumer and Akkad. This date probably marks the end of the Sumerian state. Sumerian civilization, however, was adopted almost in its entirety by Babylonia.