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Ancient Mesopotamia Cultural

Author : Gopal Dey

Submitted : 2010-08-30 03:55:16    Word Count : 812    Popularity:   48

Tags:   Sadigh Gallery Ancient Art Company, Sadigh Gallery, Sadigh Gallery Art, Sadigh Gallery Ancient Art

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The word “Mesopotamia” is in origin a Greek name (mesos ‘middle’ and potamos ‘river’, so ‘land between the rivers’). The name is used for the area watered by the Euphrates and Tigris and its tributaries, roughly comprising modern Irak and part of Syria. South of modern Baghdad, the alluvial plains of the rivers were called the land of Sumer and Akkad in the third millennium. Sumer is the most southern part, while the land of Akkad is the area around modern Baghdad, where the Euphrates and Tigris are close to each other. In the second millennium, both regions together are called Babylonia, a mostly flat country. The territory in the north is called Assyria, with the city Assur as center. It borders to the mountains.

Two cultural groups form the principle elements in the population of Mesopotamia before the beginning of history and in the millennium thereafter (the 3rd millennium BCE). These are the Sumerians and the Akkadians. They lived peacefully together and created in mutual fertilization, by symbiosis and osmosis, the conditions for a common high civilization. Mesopotamian sources in all periods seem to be free of strong racial ideologies or ethnic stereotypes. Enemies, both groups and individuals, may be cursed and reviled heavily, but this applies more strongly to the ruler of a nearby city than to one of a remote territory.

(Semi-) nomads in the Near East. Even at the time that a large part of the population in Mesopotamia had a sedentary (non-migratory) life in settlements; large groups of people (nomads) at the same time are migrating. Nomads roam from place to place in search for pasture and moving with the season. Semi-nomads graze their small livestock near the fields of the settlements, often trading for goods obtained elsewhere and having all kinds of other interactions. This characteristic is still present in the Near East today. Nomads leave little archeological trace and are illiterate, so not much is known about them by direct means. However, some description does appear in written form: recorded by the Sumerians and later by the Akkadians. Some of the (semi-)nomads, either as individuals or as groups, mix with the sedentary population or become sedentary themselves. In times of political or economical crisis, they may do so by force, but they adapt quickly to the current civilization and even to the dominant language. Their increased influence on the society is manifested by a change in type of personal names. Sometimes the names are the only remains of their original language. In their new positions, they often stimulate further cultural development.

Akkadians, speaking a Semitic language, may have been present in Mesopotamia since the time the Sumerians arrived, or they may have diffused into the region later. Their culture intermingled and they must have been living peacefully together. On Sumerian clay tablets dated around 2900-2800 BCE found in Fara, Semitic (Akkadian) names are attested for the first time. It concerns the names of kings in the city Kish. Kish is in the north of Babylonia where according to the Sumerian King Lists `kingship descended again from heaven' after the great Flood. The proper names often contain animal names like zuqiqïpum `scorpion' and kalbum `dog'. Kings with Semitic names are the first postdiluvial kings to rule Kish. They started the first historical period called the Early Dynastic Period.

A few centuries later the first Akkadian king Sargon of Akkad ruled over an empire that included a large part of Mesopotamia. Apparently, Semitic speaking people have lived for centuries amidst the Sumerians and gradually became an integral part of the Sumerian culture. We do not hear much about them in the first part of the third millennium, because the (scholarly) language used in writing is Sumerian.

Mesopotamia has no natural boundaries and is difficult to defend. The influence of neighboring countries is large. Throughout the history of Mesopotamia trade contacts, slow diffusion of foreign tribes and military confrontations have been of great influence.

In the west: city of Ebla, the discovery in the third millennium city Ebla took Assyriology by surprise. The extent of the Sumerian culture in the third millennium was not known, but not expected to go so far west. Ebla is situated at Tell Mardikh 65 km south of Aleppo in Syria and appeared to be an urban culture in the middle of the 3rd millennium in the far west of Mesopotamia. The site shows impressive archeological remains (royal palace) and has a rich archive of cuneiform tablets, which attests a new (western) Semitic language (called Eblaite) different from and even slightly older than Old Akkadian.

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