Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian Clay Tablet [9]

Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian Clay Tablet [9]


Why History Will Judge Us Harshly for Our Violation's of Iraq's Patrimony

Mr. Johnson, the author of Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire, is now working on the third volume of his trilogy, Nemesis: The Crisis of the American Republic (due out in 2006).

In the months before he ordered the invasion of Iraq, George Bush and his senior officials spoke of preserving Iraq's"patrimony" for the Iraqi people. At a time when talking about Iraqi oil was taboo, what he meant by patrimony was exactly that -- Iraqi oil. In their"joint statement on Iraq's future" of April 8, 2003, George Bush and Tony Blair declared,"We reaffirm our commitment to protect Iraq's natural resources, as the patrimony of the people of Iraq, which should be used only for their benefit."[1] In this they were true to their word. Among the few places American soldiers actually did guard during and in the wake of their invasion were oil fields and the Oil Ministry in Baghdad. But the real Iraqi patrimony, that invaluable human inheritance of thousands of years, was another matter. At a time when American pundits were warning of a future" clash of civilizations," our occupation forces were letting perhaps the greatest of all human patrimonies be looted and smashed.

There have been many dispiriting sights on TV since George Bush launched his ill-starred war on Iraq -- the pictures from Abu Ghraib, Fallujah laid waste, American soldiers kicking down the doors of private homes and pointing assault rifles at women and children. But few have reverberated historically like the looting of Baghdad's museum -- or been forgotten more quickly in this country.

Teaching the Iraqis about the Untidiness of History

In archaeological circles, Iraq is known as"the cradle of civilization," with a record of culture going back more than 7,000 years. William R. Polk, the founder of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, says,"It was there, in what the Greeks called Mesopotamia, that life as we know it today began: there people first began to speculate on philosophy and religion, developed concepts of international trade, made ideas of beauty into tangible forms, and, above all developed the skill of writing."[2] No other places in the Bible except for Israel have more history and prophecy associated with them than Babylonia, Shinar (Sumer), and Mesopotamia -- different names for the territory that the British around the time of World War I began to call"Iraq," using the old Arab term for the lands of the former Turkish enclave of Mesopotamia (in Greek:"between the [Tigris and Eurphrates] rivers").[3] Most of the early books of Genesis are set in Iraq (see, for instance, Genesis 10:10, 11:31 also Daniel 1-4 II Kings 24).

The best-known of the civilizations that make up Iraq's cultural heritage are the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, and Muslims. On April 10, 2003, in a television address, President Bush acknowledged that the Iraqi people are"the heirs of a great civilization that contributes to all humanity."[4.] Only two days later, under the complacent eyes of the U.S. Army, the Iraqis would begin to lose that heritage in a swirl of looting and burning.

In September 2004, in one of the few self-critical reports to come out of Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication wrote:"The larger goals of U.S. strategy depend on separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists. But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended."[5] Nowhere was this failure more apparent than in the indifference -- even the glee -- shown by Rumsfeld and his generals toward the looting on April 11 and 12, 2003, of the National Museum in Baghdad and the burning on April 14, 2003, of the National Library and Archives as well as the Library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowments. These events were, according to Paul Zimansky, a Boston University archaeologist,"the greatest cultural disaster of the last 500 years." Eleanor Robson of All Souls College, Oxford, said,"You'd have to go back centuries, to the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, to find looting on this scale."[6] Yet Secretary Rumsfeld compared the looting to the aftermath of a soccer game and shrugged it off with the comment that"Freedom's untidy. . . . Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes."[7]

The Baghdad archaeological museum has long been regarded as perhaps the richest of all such institutions in the Middle East. It is difficult to say with precision what was lost there in those catastrophic April days in 2003 because up-to-date inventories of its holdings, many never even described in archaeological journals, were also destroyed by the looters or were incomplete thanks to conditions in Baghdad after the Gulf War of 1991. One of the best records, however partial, of its holdings is the catalog of items the museum lent in 1988 to an exhibition held in Japan's ancient capital of Nara entitled Silk Road Civilizations . But, as one museum official said to John Burns of the New York Times after the looting,"All gone, all gone. All gone in two days."[8]

A single, beautifully illustrated, indispensable book edited by Milbry Park and Angela M.H. Schuster, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2005), represents the heartbreaking attempt of over a dozen archaeological specialists on ancient Iraq to specify what was in the museum before the catastrophe, where those objects had been excavated, and the condition of those few thousand items that have been recovered. The editors and authors have dedicated a portion of the royalties from this book to the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.

At a conference on art crimes held in London a year after the disaster, the British Museum's John Curtis reported that at least half of the forty most important stolen objects had not been retrieved and that of some 15,000 items looted from the museum's showcases and storerooms about 8,000 had yet to be traced. Its entire collection of 5,800 cylinder seals and clay tablets, many containing cuneiform writing and other inscriptions some of which go back to the earliest discoveries of writing itself, was stolen.[9] Since then, as a result of an amnesty for looters, about 4,000 of the artifacts have been recovered in Iraq, and over a thousand have been confiscated in the United States.[10] Curtis noted that random checks of Western soldiers leaving Iraq had led to the discovery of several in illegal possession of ancient objects. Customs agents in the U.S. then found more. Officials in Jordan have impounded about 2,000 pieces smuggled in from Iraq in France, 500 pieces in Italy, 300 in Syria, 300 and in Switzerland, 250. Lesser numbers have been seized in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey. None of these objects has as yet been sent back to Baghdad.

The 616 pieces that form the famous collection of"Nimrud gold," excavated by the Iraqis in the late 1980s from the tombs of the Assyrian queens at Nimrud, a few miles southeast of Mosul, were saved, but only because the museum had secretly moved them to the subterranean vaults of the Central Bank of Iraq at the time of the first Gulf War. By the time the Americans got around to protecting the bank in 2003, its building was a burnt-out shell filled with twisted metal beams from the collapse of the roof and all nine floors under it. Nonetheless, the underground compartments and their contents survived undamaged. On July 3, 2003, a small portion of the Nimrud holdings was put on display for a few hours, allowing a handful of Iraqi officials to see them for the first time since 1990.[11]

The torching of books and manuscripts in the Library of Korans and the National Library was in itself a historical disaster of the first order. Most of the Ottoman imperial documents and the old royal archives concerning the creation of Iraq were reduced to ashes. According to Humberto Márquez, the Venezuelan writer and author of Historia Universal de La Destrucción de Los Libros (2004), about a million books and ten million documents were destroyed by the fires of April 14, 2003.[12] Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East correspondent of the Independent of London, was in Baghdad the day of the fires. He rushed to the offices of the U.S. Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau and gave the officer on duty precise map locations for the two archives and their names in Arabic and English, and pointed out that the smoke could be seen from three miles away. The officer shouted to a colleague,"This guy says some biblical library is on fire," but the Americans did nothing to try to put out the flames.[13]

Given the black market value of ancient art objects, U.S. military leaders had been warned that the looting of all thirteen national museums throughout the country would be a particularly grave danger in the days after they captured Baghdad and took control of Iraq. In the chaos that followed the Gulf War of 1991, vandals had stolen about 4,000 objects from nine different regional museums. In monetary terms, the illegal trade in antiquities is the third most lucrative form of international trade globally, exceeded only by drug smuggling and arms sales.[14] Given the richness of Iraq's past, there are also over 10,000 significant archaeological sites scattered across the country, only some 1,500 of which have been studied. Following the Gulf War, a number of them were illegally excavated and their artifacts sold to unscrupulous international collectors in Western countries and Japan. All this was known to American commanders.

In January 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, an American delegation of scholars, museum directors, art collectors, and antiquities dealers met with officials at the Pentagon to discuss the forthcoming invasion. They specifically warned that Baghdad's National Museum was the single most important site in the country. McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute said,"I thought I was given assurances that sites and museums would be protected."[15] Gibson went back to the Pentagon twice to discuss the dangers, and he and his colleagues sent several e-mail reminders to military officers in the weeks before the war began. However, a more ominous indicator of things to come was reported in the April 14, 2003, London Guardian : Rich American collectors with connections to the White House were busy"persuading the Pentagon to relax legislation that protects Iraq's heritage by prevention of sales abroad." On January 24, 2003, some sixty New York-based collectors and dealers organized themselves into a new group called the American Council for Cultural Policy and met with Bush administration and Pentagon officials to argue that a post-Saddam Iraq should have relaxed antiquities laws.[16] Opening up private trade in Iraqi artifacts, they suggested, would offer such items better security than they could receive in Iraq.

The main international legal safeguard for historically and humanistically important institutions and sites is the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, signed on May 14, 1954. The U.S. is not a party to that convention, primarily because, during the Cold War, it feared that the treaty might restrict its freedom to engage in nuclear war but during the 1991 Gulf War the elder Bush's administration accepted the convention's rules and abided by a"no-fire target list" of places where valuable cultural items were known to exist.[17] UNESCO and other guardians of cultural artifacts expected the younger Bush's administration to follow the same procedures in the 2003 war.

Moreover, on March 26, 2003, the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), headed by Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jay Garner -- the civil authority the U.S. had set up for the moment hostilities ceased -- sent to all senior U.S. commanders a list of sixteen institutions that"merit securing as soon as possible to prevent further damage, destruction, and/or pilferage of records and assets." The five-page memo dispatched two weeks before the fall of Baghdad also said,"Coalition forces must secure these facilities in order to prevent looting and the resulting irreparable loss of cultural treasures" and that"looters should be arrested/detained." First on Gen. Garner's list of places to protect was the Iraqi Central Bank, which is now a ruin second was the Museum of Antiquities. Sixteenth was the Oil Ministry, the only place that U.S. forces occupying Baghdad actually defended. Martin Sullivan, chair of the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for the previous eight years, and Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and a member of the committee, both resigned to protest the failure of CENTCOM to obey orders. Sullivan said it was"inexcusable" that the museum should not have had the same priority as the Oil Ministry.[18]

As we now know, the American forces made no effort to prevent the looting of the great cultural institutions of Iraq, its soldiers simply watched vandals enter and torch the buildings. Said Arjomand, an editor of the journal Studies on Persianate Societies and a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote,"Our troops, who have been proudly guarding the Oil Ministry, where no window is broken, deliberately condoned these horrendous events."[19] American commanders claim that, to the contrary, they were too busy fighting and had too few troops to protect the museum and libraries. However, this seems to be an unlikely explanation. During the battle for Baghdad, the U.S. military was perfectly willing to dispatch some 2,000 troops to secure northern Iraq's oilfields, and their record on antiquities did not improve when the fighting subsided. At the 6,000-year-old Sumerian city of Ur with its massive ziggurat, or stepped temple-tower (built in the period 2112 - 2095 B.C. and restored by Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century B.C.), the Marines spray-painted their motto,"Semper Fi" ( semper fidelis , always faithful) onto its walls.[20] The military then made the monument"off limits" to everyone in order to disguise the desecration that had occurred there, including the looting by U.S. soldiers of clay bricks used in the construction of the ancient buildings.

Until April 2003, the area around Ur, in the environs of Nasiriyah, was remote and sacrosanct. However, the U.S. military chose the land immediately adjacent to the ziggurat to build its huge Tallil Air Base with two runways measuring 12,000 and 9,700 feet respectively and four satellite camps. In the process, military engineers moved more than 9,500 truckloads of dirt in order to build 350,000 square feet of hangars and other facilities for aircraft and Predator unmanned drones. They completely ruined the area, the literal heartland of human civilization, for any further archaeological research or future tourism. On October 24, 2003, according to the Global Security Organization, the Army and Air Force built its own modern ziggurat. It"opened its second Burger King at Tallil. The new facility, co-located with [a] . . . Pizza Hut, provides another Burger King restaurant so that more service men and women serving in Iraq can, if only for a moment, forget about the task at hand in the desert and get a whiff of that familiar scent that takes them back home."[21]

The great British archaeologist, Sir Max Mallowan (husband of Agatha Christie), who pioneered the excavations at Ur, Nineveh, and Nimrud, quotes some classical advice that the Americans might have been wise to heed:"There was danger in disturbing ancient monuments. . . . It was both wise and historically important to reverence the legacies of ancient times. Ur was a city infested with ghosts of the past and it was prudent to appease them."[22]

The American record elsewhere in Iraq is no better. At Babylon, American and Polish forces built a military depot, despite objections from archaeologists. John Curtis, the British Museum's authority on Iraq's many archaeological sites, reported on a visit in December 2004 that he saw" cracks and gaps where somebody had tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate" and a"2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles."[23] Other observers say that the dust stirred up by U.S. helicopters has sandblasted the fragile brick façade of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C.[24] The archaeologist Zainab Bahrani reports,"Between May and August 2004, the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both of the sixth century B.C., collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters. Nearby, heavy machines and vehicles stand parked on the remains of a Greek theater from the era of Alexander of Macedon [Alexander the Great]."[25]

And none of this even begins to deal with the massive, ongoing looting of historical sites across Iraq by freelance grave and antiquities robbers, preparing to stock the living rooms of western collectors. The unceasing chaos and lack of security brought to Iraq in the wake of our invasion have meant that a future peaceful Iraq may hardly have a patrimony to display. It is no small accomplishment of the Bush administration to have plunged the cradle of the human past into the same sort of chaos and lack of security as the Iraqi present. If amnesia is bliss, then the fate of Iraq's antiquities represents a kind of modern paradise.

President Bush's supporters have talked endlessly about his global war on terrorism as a" clash of civilizations." But the civilization we are in the process of destroying in Iraq is part of our own heritage. It is also part of the world's patrimony. Before our invasion of Afghanistan, we condemned the Taliban for their dynamiting of the monumental third century A.D. Buddhist statues at Bamiyan in March, 2001. Those were two gigantic statues of remarkable historical value and the barbarism involved in their destruction blazed in headlines and horrified commentaries in our country. Today, our own government is guilty of far greater crimes when it comes to the destruction of a whole universe of antiquity, and few here, when they consider Iraqi attitudes toward the American occupation, even take that into consideration. But what we do not care to remember, others may recall all too well.

[2.] William R. Polk,"Introduction," Milbry Polk and Angela M. H. Schuster, eds., The Looting of the Iraq Museum: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2005), p. 5. Also see Suzanne Muchnic,"Spotlight on Iraq's Plundered Past," Los Angeles Times , June 20, 2005.

[3.] David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (New York: Owl Books, 1989, 2001), p. 450.

[4.] George Bush's address to the Iraqi people, broadcast on"Towards Freedom TV," April 10, 2003.

[5.] Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication (Washington, D.C.: September 2004), pp. 39-40.

[6.] See Frank Rich,"And Now: 'Operation Iraqi Looting,'" New York Times , April 27, 2003.

[7.] Robert Scheer,"It's U.S. Policy that's 'Untidy,'" Los Angeles Times , April 15, 2003 reprinted in Books in Flames, Tomdispatch, April 15, 2003.

[8.] John F. Burns,"Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum of Its Treasures," New York Times , April 13, 2003 Piotr Michalowski (University of Michigan), The Ransacking of the Baghdad Museum is a Disgrace, History News Network , April 14, 2003.

[9.] Polk and Schuster, op. cit , pp. 209-210.

[11.] Polk and Schuster, op. cit ., pp. 23, 212-13 Louise Jury,"At Least 8,000 Treasures Looted from Iraq Museum Still Untraced," Independent , May 24, 2005 Stephen Fidler,"'The Looters Knew What They Wanted. It Looks Like Vandalism, but Organized Crime May be Behind It,'" Financial Times , May 23, 2003 Rod Liddle, The Day of the Jackals, Spectator , April 19, 2003.

[13.] Robert Fisk,"Library Books, Letters, and Priceless Documents are Set Ablaze in Final Chapter of the Sacking of Baghdad," Independent , April 15, 2003.

[14.] Polk and Schuster, op. cit. , p. 10.

[15.] Guy Gugliotta,"Pentagon Was Told of Risk to Museums U.S. Urged to Save Iraq's Historic Artifacts," Washington Post , April 14, 2003 McGuire Gibson,"Cultural Tragedy In Iraq: A Report On the Looting of Museums, Archives, and Sites," International Foundation for Art Research.

[16.] Rod Liddle, op. cit. . Oliver Burkeman, Ancient Archive Lost in Baghdad Blaze, Guardian , April 15, 2003.

[18.] Paul Martin, Ed Vulliamy, and Gaby Hinsliff, U.S. Army was Told to Protect Looted Museum, Observer , April 20, 2003 Frank Rich, op. cit . Paul Martin,"Troops Were Told to Guard Treasures," Washington Times , April 20, 2003.

[19.] Said Arjomand, Under the Eyes of U.S. Forces and This Happened?, History News Network, April 14, 2003.

[20.] Ed Vulliamy, Troops 'Vandalize' Ancient City of Ur, Observer , May 18, 2003 Paul Johnson, Art: A New History (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), pp. 18, 35 Polk and Schuster, op. cit. , p. 99, fig. 25.

[22.] Max Mallowan, Mallowan's Memoirs (London: Collins, 1977), p. 61.

[23.] Rory McCarthy and Maev Kennedy, Babylon Wrecked by War, Guardian , January 15, 2005.

[25.] Zainab Bahrani,"The Fall of Babylon," in Polk and Schuster, op. cit. , p. 214.

This essay is extracted from Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis: The Crisis of the American Republic , forthcoming from Metropolitan Books in late 2006, the final volume in the Blowback Trilogy . The first two volumes are Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000) and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2004).

This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture , and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

Copyright 2005 Chalmers Johnson


Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian Clay Tablet [9] - History

Another successful landmark has been reached in our occupation of Iraq: The World Monuments Fund has just placed the country on its list of the Earth’s 100 most endangered sites. (“Widespread looting, military occupation, artillery fire, vandalism, and other acts of violence are devastating Iraq, long considered the cradle of human civilization.”) This is the first time that the Fund has ever put a whole nation on its list and so represents a singular accomplishment for the Bush administration, which knew not &mdash and cared less &mdash what it wrought.

The destruction began as Baghdad fell. Words disappeared instantly. They simply blinked off the screen of Iraqi history, many of them forever. First, there was the looting of the National Museum. That took care of some of the earliest words on clay, including, possibly, cuneiform tablets with missing parts of the epic of Gilgamesh. Soon after, the great libraries and archives of the capital went up in flames and books, letters, government documents, ancient Korans, religious manuscripts, stretching back centuries &mdash all those things not pressed into clay, or etched on stone, or engraved on metal, just words on that most precious and perishable of all commonplaces, paper &mdash vanished forever. What we’re talking about, of course, is the flesh of history. And it was no less a victim of the American invasion &mdash of the Bush administration’s lack of attention to, its lack of any sense of the value of what Iraq held (other than oil) &mdash than the Iraqi people. All of this has been, in that grim phrase created by the Pentagon, “collateral damage.”

Worse yet, the looting of antiquity, words and objects, not only never ended but seems to have accelerated. From well-organized gangs of grave robbers to American engineers building bases to American soldiers taking souvenirs, the ancient inheritance not just of Iraqis but of all of us has simply headed south. According to Reuters, more than 1,000 Iraqi objects of antiquity have been confiscated at American airports priceless cylinder seals are evidently selling on-line at eBay for a few hundred dollars apiece and this represents just the tiniest fraction of what’s gone. The process is not only unending, but in the chaos that is America’s Iraq beyond counting or assessing accurately.

Though less attended to than the human costs of the war (which, in turn, have been poorly attended to), such crimes against history are no small matter, as Chalmers Johnson indicates below. Johnson, who produced Blowback, a now classic account of how we got to September 11, 2001 (though published well before those attacks occurred), and a singular study of American militarism, The Sorrows of Empire, is now working on the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy, Nemesis: The Crisis of the American Republic. The piece that follows offers an early glimpse into that book (not due to be published until late 2006).

The Smash of Civilizations By Chalmers Johnson

In the months before he ordered the invasion of Iraq, George Bush and his senior officials spoke of preserving Iraq’s “patrimony” for the Iraqi people. At a time when talking about Iraqi oil was taboo, what he meant by patrimony was exactly that &mdash Iraqi oil. In their “joint statement on Iraq’s future” of April 8, 2003, George Bush and Tony Blair declared, “We reaffirm our commitment to protect Iraq’s natural resources, as the patrimony of the people of Iraq, which should be used only for their benefit.𔄣 In this they were true to their word. Among the few places American soldiers actually did guard during and in the wake of their invasion were oil fields and the Oil Ministry in Baghdad. But the real Iraqi patrimony, that invaluable human inheritance of thousands of years, was another matter. At a time when American pundits were warning of a future “clash of civilizations,” our occupation forces were letting perhaps the greatest of all human patrimonies be looted and smashed.

There have been many dispiriting sights on TV since George Bush launched his ill-starred war on Iraq &mdash the pictures from Abu Ghraib, Fallujah laid waste, American soldiers kicking down the doors of private homes and pointing assault rifles at women and children. But few have reverberated historically like the looting of Baghdad’s museum &mdash or been forgotten more quickly in this country.

Teaching the Iraqis about the Untidiness of History

In archaeological circles, Iraq is known as “the cradle of civilization,” with a record of culture going back more than 7,000 years. William R. Polk, the founder of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, says, “It was there, in what the Greeks called Mesopotamia, that life as we know it today began: there people first began to speculate on philosophy and religion, developed concepts of international trade, made ideas of beauty into tangible forms, and, above all developed the skill of writing.𔄤 No other places in the Bible except for Israel have more history and prophecy associated with them than Babylonia, Shinar (Sumer), and Mesopotamia &mdash different names for the territory that the British around the time of World War I began to call “Iraq,” using the old Arab term for the lands of the former Turkish enclave of Mesopotamia (in Greek: “between the [Tigris and Euphrates] rivers”).3 Most of the early books of Genesis are set in Iraq (see, for instance, Genesis 10:10, 11:31 also Daniel 1&mdash4 II Kings 24).

The best-known of the civilizations that make up Iraq’s cultural heritage are the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, and Muslims. On April 10, 2003, in a television address, President Bush acknowledged that the Iraqi people are “the heirs of a great civilization that contributes to all humanity.𔄦 Only two days later, under the complacent eyes of the U.S. Army, the Iraqis would begin to lose that heritage in a swirl of looting and burning.

In September 2004, in one of the few self-critical reports to come out of Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication wrote: “The larger goals of U.S. strategy depend on separating the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists. But American efforts have not only failed in this respect: they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended.𔄧 Nowhere was this failure more apparent than in the indifference &mdash even the glee &mdash shown by Rumsfeld and his generals toward the looting on April 11 and 12, 2003, of the National Museum in Baghdad and the burning on April 14, 2003, of the National Library and Archives as well as the Library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowments. These events were, according to Paul Zimansky, a Boston University archaeologist, “the greatest cultural disaster of the last 500 years.” Eleanor Robson of All Souls College, Oxford, said, “You’d have to go back centuries, to the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, to find looting on this scale.𔄨 Yet Secretary Rumsfeld compared the looting to the aftermath of a soccer game and shrugged it off with the comment that “Freedom’s untidy. . . . Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes.𔄩

The Baghdad archaeological museum has long been regarded as perhaps the richest of all such institutions in the Middle East. It is difficult to say with precision what was lost there in those catastrophic April days in 2003 because up-to-date inventories of its holdings, many never even described in archaeological journals, were also destroyed by the looters or were incomplete thanks to conditions in Baghdad after the Gulf War of 1991. One of the best records, however partial, of its holdings is the catalog of items the museum lent in 1988 to an exhibition held in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara entitled Silk Road Civilizations. But, as one museum official said to John Burns of the New York Times after the looting, “All gone, all gone. All gone in two days.𔄪

A single, beautifully illustrated, indispensable book edited by Milbry Park and Angela M.H. Schuster, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2005), represents the heartbreaking attempt of over a dozen archaeological specialists on ancient Iraq to specify what was in the museum before the catastrophe, where those objects had been excavated, and the condition of those few thousand items that have been recovered. The editors and authors have dedicated a portion of the royalties from this book to the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.

At a conference on art crimes held in London a year after the disaster, the British Museum’s John Curtis reported that at least half of the forty most important stolen objects had not been retrieved and that of some 15,000 items looted from the museum’s showcases and storerooms about 8,000 had yet to be traced. Its entire collection of 5,800 cylinder seals and clay tablets, many containing cuneiform writing and other inscriptions some of which go back to the earliest discoveries of writing itself, was stolen.9 Since then, as a result of an amnesty for looters, about 4,000 of the artifacts have been recovered in Iraq, and over a thousand have been confiscated in the United States.10 Curtis noted that random checks of Western soldiers leaving Iraq had led to the discovery of several in illegal possession of ancient objects. Customs agents in the U.S. then found more. Officials in Jordan have impounded about 2,000 pieces smuggled in from Iraq in France, 500 pieces in Italy, 300 in Syria, 300 and in Switzerland, 250. Lesser numbers have been seized in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey. None of these objects has as yet been sent back to Baghdad.

The 616 pieces that form the famous collection of “Nimrud gold,” excavated by the Iraqis in the late 1980s from the tombs of the Assyrian queens at Nimrud, a few miles southeast of Mosul, were saved, but only because the museum had secretly moved them to the subterranean vaults of the Central Bank of Iraq at the time of the first Gulf War. By the time the Americans got around to protecting the bank in 2003, its building was a burnt-out shell filled with twisted metal beams from the collapse of the roof and all nine floors under it. Nonetheless, the underground compartments and their contents survived undamaged. On July 3, 2003, a small portion of the Nimrud holdings was put on display for a few hours, allowing a handful of Iraqi officials to see them for the first time since 1990.11

The torching of books and manuscripts in the Library of Korans and the National Library was in itself a historical disaster of the first order. Most of the Ottoman imperial documents and the old royal archives concerning the creation of Iraq were reduced to ashes. According to Humberto Mrquez, the Venezuelan writer and author of Historia Universal de La Destruccin de Los Libros (2004), about a million books and ten million documents were destroyed by the fires of April 14, 2003.12 Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East correspondent of the Independent of London, was in Baghdad the day of the fires. He rushed to the offices of the U.S. Marines’ Civil Affairs Bureau and gave the officer on duty precise map locations for the two archives and their names in Arabic and English, and pointed out that the smoke could be seen from three miles away. The officer shouted to a colleague, “This guy says some biblical library is on fire,” but the Americans did nothing to try to put out the flames.13

The Burger King of Ur

Given the black market value of ancient art objects, U.S. military leaders had been warned that the looting of all thirteen national museums throughout the country would be a particularly grave danger in the days after they captured Baghdad and took control of Iraq. In the chaos that followed the Gulf War of 1991, vandals had stolen about 4,000 objects from nine different regional museums. In monetary terms, the illegal trade in antiquities is the third most lucrative form of international trade globally, exceeded only by drug smuggling and arms sales.14 Given the richness of Iraq’s past, there are also over 10,000 significant archaeological sites scattered across the country, only some 1,500 of which have been studied. Following the Gulf War, a number of them were illegally excavated and their artifacts sold to unscrupulous international collectors in Western countries and Japan. All this was known to American commanders.

In January 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, an American delegation of scholars, museum directors, art collectors, and antiquities dealers met with officials at the Pentagon to discuss the forthcoming invasion. They specifically warned that Baghdad’s National Museum was the single most important site in the country. McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute said, “I thought I was given assurances that sites and museums would be protected.󈭣 Gibson went back to the Pentagon twice to discuss the dangers, and he and his colleagues sent several e-mail reminders to military officers in the weeks before the war began. However, a more ominous indicator of things to come was reported in the April 14, 2003, London Guardian: Rich American collectors with connections to the White House were busy “persuading the Pentagon to relax legislation that protects Iraq’s heritage by prevention of sales abroad.” On January 24, 2003, some sixty New York-based collectors and dealers organized themselves into a new group called the American Council for Cultural Policy and met with Bush administration and Pentagon officials to argue that a post-Saddam Iraq should have relaxed antiquities laws.16 Opening up private trade in Iraqi artifacts, they suggested, would offer such items better security than they could receive in Iraq.

The main international legal safeguard for historically and humanistically important institutions and sites is the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, signed on May 14, 1954. The U.S. is not a party to that convention, primarily because, during the Cold War, it feared that the treaty might restrict its freedom to engage in nuclear war but during the 1991 Gulf War the elder Bush’s administration accepted the convention’s rules and abided by a “no-fire target list” of places where valuable cultural items were known to exist.17 UNESCO and other guardians of cultural artifacts expected the younger Bush’s administration to follow the same procedures in the 2003 war.

Moreover, on March 26, 2003, the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), headed by Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jay Garner &mdash the civil authority the U.S. had set up for the moment hostilities ceased &mdash sent to all senior U.S. commanders a list of sixteen institutions that “merit securing as soon as possible to prevent further damage, destruction, and/or pilferage of records and assets.” The five-page memo dispatched two weeks before the fall of Baghdad also said, “Coalition forces must secure these facilities in order to prevent looting and the resulting irreparable loss of cultural treasures” and that “looters should be arrested/detained.” First on Gen. Garner’s list of places to protect was the Iraqi Central Bank, which is now a ruin second was the Museum of Antiquities. Sixteenth was the Oil Ministry, the only place that U.S. forces occupying Baghdad actually defended. Martin Sullivan, chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for the previous eight years, and Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and a member of the committee, both resigned to protest the failure of CENTCOM to obey orders. Sullivan said it was “inexcusable” that the museum should not have had the same priority as the Oil Ministry.18

As we now know, the American forces made no effort to prevent the looting of the great cultural institutions of Iraq, its soldiers simply watching vandals enter and torch the buildings. Said Arjomand, an editor of the journal Studies on Persianate Societies and a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote, “Our troops, who have been proudly guarding the Oil Ministry, where no window is broken, deliberately condoned these horrendous events.󈭧 American commanders claim that, to the contrary, they were too busy fighting and had too few troops to protect the museum and libraries. However, this seems to be an unlikely explanation. During the battle for Baghdad, the U.S. military was perfectly willing to dispatch some 2,000 troops to secure northern Iraq’s oilfields, and their record on antiquities did not improve when the fighting subsided. At the 6,000-year-old Sumerian city of Ur with its massive ziggurat, or stepped temple-tower (built in the period 2112&mdash2095 B.C. and restored by Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century B.C.), the Marines spray-painted their motto, “Semper Fi” (semper fidelis, always faithful) onto its walls.20 The military then made the monument “off limits” to everyone in order to disguise the desecration that had occurred there, including the looting by U.S. soldiers of clay bricks used in the construction of the ancient buildings.

Until April 2003, the area around Ur, in the environs of Nasiriyah, was remote and sacrosanct. However, the U.S. military chose the land immediately adjacent to the ziggurat to build its huge Tallil Air Base with two runways measuring 12,000 and 9,700 feet respectively and four satellite camps. In the process, military engineers moved more than 9,500 truckloads of dirt in order to build 350,000 square feet of hangars and other facilities for aircraft and Predator unmanned drones. They completely ruined the area, the literal heartland of human civilization, for any further archaeological research or future tourism. On October 24, 2003, according to the Global Security Organization, the Army and Air Force built its own modern ziggurat. It “opened its second Burger King at Tallil. The new facility, co-located with [a] . . . Pizza Hut, provides another Burger King restaurant so that more service men and women serving in Iraq can, if only for a moment, forget about the task at hand in the desert and get a whiff of that familiar scent that takes them back home.󈭩

The great British archaeologist, Sir Max Mallowan (husband of Agatha Christie), who pioneered the excavations at Ur, Nineveh, and Nimrud, quotes some classical advice that the Americans might have been wise to heed: “There was danger in disturbing ancient monuments. . . . It was both wise and historically important to reverence the legacies of ancient times. Ur was a city infested with ghosts of the past and it was prudent to appease them.󈭪

The American record elsewhere in Iraq is no better. At Babylon, American and Polish forces built a military depot, despite objections from archaeologists. John Curtis, the British Museum’s authority on Iraq’s many archaeological sites, reported on a visit in December 2004 that he saw “cracks and gaps where somebody had tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate” and a 𔄚,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles.󈭫 Other observers say that the dust stirred up by U.S. helicopters has sandblasted the fragile brick faade of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C.24 The archaeologist Zainab Bahrani reports, “Between May and August 2004, the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both of the sixth century B.C., collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters. Nearby, heavy machines and vehicles stand parked on the remains of a Greek theater from the era of Alexander of Macedon [Alexander the Great].󈭭

And none of this even begins to deal with the massive, ongoing looting of historical sites across Iraq by freelance grave and antiquities robbers, preparing to stock the living rooms of western collectors. The unceasing chaos and lack of security brought to Iraq in the wake of our invasion have meant that a future peaceful Iraq may hardly have a patrimony to display. It is no small accomplishment of the Bush administration to have plunged the cradle of the human past into the same sort of chaos and lack of security as the Iraqi present. If amnesia is bliss, then the fate of Iraq’s antiquities represents a kind of modern paradise.


2. Materials and methods

Micro-Raman scattering measurements were carried out in back scattering geometry with the 1064 nm line of an Nd:YAG laser. Measurements were performed in air at room temperature with a compact spectrometer B&W TEK (Newark-USA) i-Raman Ex integrated system with a spectral resolution of less than 8 cm 𢄡 . All the spectra were collected with an acquisition time of about 60 s (5 replicas) and power excitation between 10 mW to 30 mW concentrated in a spot of 1 mm 2 of dimension through the BAC151B Raman Video Micro-sampling System equipped with a 20 × Olympus objective to select the area on the samples (50 × objective used for investigations in the depth of the signs). Each measurement area is identified in the figures with a letter representing a sampling surface of about 1 cm 2 .

2.1. Archaeological and historical samples

Analyses have been carried out on six cuneiform tablets ( Fig. 1 ), identified as administrative and literary typology and written in Sumerian language, kept in the Ashmolean Museum of the University of Oxford (AN 1924.462, 464, 465, 466, 468, 469) [11, 12, 13]. The objects come from the site of Kish in central Mesopotamia, Iraq, and are dated to the mid-third Millennium B.C. The site of Kish was excavated by the joint archaeological expedition of Oxford-Field Museum, Chicago, from 1923 to 1933. Only occasionally do we know the actual find spot of the tablets since in most cases this is not reported in the records, though we know at least the mound where they were found. The location is Inghara, Mound D and Mound W, in some case Dilbat or Barguhiat.

Analyzed cuneiform tablets from Ashmolean Museum − Oxford.

The text presented constitutes a part of the administrative and literary texts in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum dating to what is commonly called the Early Dynastic Period. The Early Dynastic period (abbreviated ED period or ED) is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia that is generally dated to 2900� BC. It was preceded by the Jemdet Nasr period and followed by the Akkadian period. The ED period is divided into three sub-phases, termed Early Dynastic (ED) I–III, with the ED III period being further subdivided into ED IIIa and ED IIIb. The Early Dynastic IIIa period, also known as the Fara period, is when syllabic writing began. Administrative records and a non-deciphered logographic script existed before the Fara Period, but the full flow of human speech was first recorded around 2600 BC at the beginning of the Fara Period [14, 15, 16]. All the samples are catalogued in a database of 2480 objects inscribed in the collections of the Department of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford and are contextualized during the ED IIIa period (ca. 2600� BC). The collection is presently the subject of a digitisation project, a cooperative effort of the Ashmolean Museum and the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), an international research project based at the University of California, Los Angeles. Their main value lies in the mass data they provide for the reconstruction of the economic, legal and social life of that historical period. In addition, there are useful for toponymy and “onomasticon” purposes, allowing to trace population movements, and to reconstruct the historical geography of Mesopotamia [15, 16].

All the tablets are constituted of clay, not exposed to any fire operation since the writing procedure was realized in wet-clay condition. Once carved, the tablets were dried under sun exposition [13, 14, 16]. The low temperature drying procedure, was not implemented with any further exposition at high temperature (no traces of blazes).


Arctic & Pacific Northwest Coast

This area is largely represented by a collection made by the Alaska Commercial Company in the late nineteenth century. In 1897, the University of California was given 2,400 artifacts collected from all three culture areas represented in Alaska: the Eskimo of the Arctic, the Athapaskan of the Subarctic, and the Tlingit and Haida of the Northwest Coast. The company traders were quite eclectic in their collecting strategy, acquiring trade novelties as well as more traditional items. This accession is complemented by the related collection amassed by Charles L. Hall, an Alaska Commercial Company employee. Faculty curator Nelson Graburn also donated his well-documented collection of Canadian Inuit soapstone sculpture.

While relatively small, the Northwest Coast collection includes some important Tlingit and Haida objects. Among them are a monumental Haida totem pole and a pair of Kwakwaka’wakw house posts collected by Charles F. Newcombe Haida argillite sculpture, including a decorative plate attributed to famed Haida carver Charles Edenshaw and Tlingit artifacts from early geographer George Davidson.


  • * Photographs of tablets are published with the kind permission of the Trustees of the British Museu (. )

1 By the end of the 22nd century BC, king Ur-Namma inaugurated in Southern Mesopotamia the so-called Third Dynasty of Ur (2110-2003 BC). In this period, a large, well structured and organized state was built up, to such an extent that it has been considered by many a true empire. Its architect was Šulgi, who reorganized the administration of the state, introduced a new tax system, and launched an ambitious policy of territorial expansion. The consequence was the production of an enormous mass of written documentation, unearthed from private and official archives found in Sumerian cities, that makes this century the best documented in the history of ancient Mesopotamia.

  • 1 See Molina, M., «The Corpus of Neo-Sumerian Tablets: an Overview», in Steven J. Garfinkle and J. Ca (. )
  • 2 Molina, M., Database of Neo-Sumerian Texts, http://bdtns.filol.csic.es, 2002–. All statistical data (. )

2 Most of these texts were legally or illegally excavated during the last decade of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, while many others were found and sold by looters during the aftermath of the I and II Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003. It is estimated that some 120,000 administrative cuneiform tablets, plus an indeterminate number of other documents stored in the Iraq Museum, are currently kept in collections all over the world 1 . Some 96,000 of them are catalogued in BDTNS 2 : 64,500 have been published in handcopy, photo, transliteration and/or translation 16,500 have been published only through their cataloguing data and 15,000 remain unpublished (including images of « unpublished unassigned » tablets in CDLI).

3 This material constitutes the largest corpus of cuneiform texts for any period in the history of ancient Mesopotamia. Unfortunately, the immense majority of them were not excavated legitimately, so that essential information conveyed by their archaeological context has been lost forever. On the other hand, by their actions, looters and dealers have provoked the dispersion of the corpus in hundreds of small and large collections, which complicates the identification of the provenance of the tablets and the reconstruction of their archival relationships. Taken globally, Ur III texts can be found today in at least 758 collections in 40 different countries. Considered individually, the dispersion of some of the archives is also striking: the provincial archive of Girsu, which was in part officially excavated, is split up into at least 214 different collections the archives of Umma and Puzriš-Dagān, which on the contrary were never excavated by archaeologists, except for a few recent campaigns (see below), are dispersed in at least 483 and 411 different collections respectively. Other cases showing different distribution depending on the circumstances of the acquisition of the documents, are those of G AR šana and Irisaĝrig, sites with a similar corpus of preserved documents which are dispersed in at least 21 and 52 collections respectively. In general, today cuneiform texts from almost every site are still being sold and resold in galleries and auction houses.

4 These written documents are for the most part cuneiform tablets. Their size and length are variable, from texts of one or two lines, to others much longer, as for example MVN 15, 390, the longest Ur III text known at present, with 1,663 lines. Most common Ur III tablets have 5-15 lines and are 5-4 cm long/wide, although there are of course hundreds of much longer documents.

  • 3 Kraus, F. R., « Die Istanbuler Tontafelsammlung », Journal of Cuneiform Studies 1, 1947, pp. 116f.
  • 4 Hattori, A., Texts and Impressions: a Holistic Approach to Ur III Cuneiform Tablets from the Univer(. )

5 Many of them, about one third of the administrative documents, were sealed. The seal impression was the result of rolling a cylinder seal over the surface of the tablet. With it, the owner of the seal acknowledged the contents of the document. Sealing was thus typically made on receipts, which are today preserved in large quantities as testimonies of transactions made within public institutions, but also in other kinds of documents that will be described below. Seals were also impressed on envelopes (of which more than 3,000 are currently preserved) that sometimes wrapped the tablets, which in turn were usually ruled and unsealed. As most of the envelopes had been broken in antiquity (and also in modern times by dealers 3 ), it is difficult to ascertain how many of the preserved unsealed tablets could actually have been sealed in their envelopes, except for some tablets with breaks on the corner that suggest they were encased 4 . Therefore, lost envelopes and the lack of systematic studies for a large part of Ur III documents eventually make it difficult to understand why a text was or was not sealed, beyond the obvious fact that for example inventories or other kinds of list did not need to be sealed.

Tablet and envelope from Girsu, unpublished, BDTNS 052089

6 The way tablets were classified and archived has been studied for certain groups of texts. The role played here by the so-called labels, or pisaĝduba -texts, is essential. These were tablets with holes through which cords passed to attach them to a container (p i s a ĝ – d u b – b a «tablet-container»). They summarized the contents of the tablets kept in the container, and also recorded the periods of time to which those tablets were related. The fact that those periods could be of one or more years indicates that the containers were periodically revised and reorganized, denoting the existence of long-term archival procedures that are discussed below.

L abel, or pisaĝduba-text, from Umma, unpublished, BDTNS 069634

  • 5 See Sallaberger, W., « Das Ende des Sumerischen. Tod und Nachleben einer altmesopotamischen Sprache (. )

7 The vast majority of Ur III tablets were written in the Sumerian language. Only about one hundred texts, virtually all of them from Northern and Middle Babylonia, were written in Akkadian. In accordance with a predominantly Sumerian-speaking population 5 , Sumerian was in fact the sole language used in administration in Southern Mesopotamia during the Ur III period, including the state archives of Puzriš-Dagān. Akkadian could be sporadically preferred in the area of Nippur (for example in Irisaĝrig) and further north when writing letters, sale and loan documents, or other kinds of legal text.

8 Not unexpectedly, in a large corpus composed of documents from several different places and environments, terminology, lexicon and formulas are very rich and diverse. Short receipts or asyntactic lists coexist with complex legal documents, letters or long balanced accounts. In general, a simple administrative text does not follow the usual Sumerian syntax. Instead, it records 6 first the reason why the text was written –which syntactically would correspond to the absolutive in a Sumerian sentence– typically transferred countable objects or units (people, animals, objects, commodities, workdays. ), with numerals and measures written before the count noun. A more detailed description of the count noun or an explanation on its provenance, destination or the purpose of the transfer could follow, now using other noun phrases, finite and non-finite clauses, or adverbial clauses. Thus, the deliverer, one of the participants in the transfer, was usually expressed through the idiom k i Personal Name – t a «from PN». Other participants were the receiver (eventually marked with the ergative case), and different types of overseers, conveyors or authoritative persons (u g u l a, ĝ i r i 3 , m a š k i m, etc.). The date, which in its most complete form included the day, the month and the year name, could close the text. Some examples of different types of text will be presented below.

  • 7 Prologue of Laws of Ur-Namma, 135-139: see Wilcke, Cl., « Der Kodex Urnamma (CU): Versuch einer Rek (. )
  • 8 For some deviations, see Gomi, T., « A note on gur, a capacity unit of the Ur III Period », ZA 83, (. )
  • 9 Marginal numbers in administrative texts have been recently identified as an illustration of differ (. )

9 In all Ur III administrative texts, numbers and measures obviously play a fundamental role. Already in his law collection 7 , king Ur-Namma boasted about the introduction of a fair metrology, which largely followed Sargonic traditions. And in fact weights and measures were consistently used with the same standards in virtually all the Ur III texts 8 , although based on different usages of computation 9 .

  • 10 See Proust, Ch., « Numerical and Metrological Graphemes: from Cuneiform to Transliteration », CDLJ(. )

10 Measuring and counting followed the so-called «sexagesimal system», which had its roots in the archaic period. It was based on a sexagesimal structure and an additive principle, and consisted of series of numerals alternating the factors ten and six. The different orders of magnitude were indicated by the shape of the signs or by special words 10 . Thus, countable objects were noted through the following sequence:

11 Other measure systems combined specific words and different shapes of sign. In these cases, either the sign was replicated, or the sequence for countable objects was followed (particularly for g í n, s ì l a, g u r, s a r, weight and length measures), until the higher measurement unit was reached:

  • 11 See most recently Cohen, M., Festivals and Calendars of the Ancient Near East, Bethesda, 2015.
  • 12 The earliest text dated by year stems nevertheless from the time of Eanatum I (see Sallaberger, W. (. )

12 A distinctive feature of Ur III administrative practice was the regular dating of tablets through a system that combined local and state calendars. In the preceding periods, months were named according to local calendars, an usage that continued with the Third Dynasty of Ur, although now the calendar in use at Ur was also followed in other archives managed by or bound to the royal administration, such as those of Puzriš-Dagān and G AR šana 11 . But the real difference with former periods was the acceptance of a common dating system with year-names throughout the Ur III state. Years were thus called after the same remarkable event in all royal, provincial, local and private administrations. This procedure had already been applied during the Sargonic period 12 , but its use was then much more limited. The dissemination of such a dating system over a vast area during the Ur III period is important for various reasons:

a) It reveals the duration and range of influence of the Ur III state, both in administrative and political terms. Note, for example, that a text found at Tell Brusti, close to Tell Shemshāra, at a distance of almost 600 km from Ur as the crow flies, was dated with a year-name of Ibbi-Suen, the fifth and last king of the dynasty 13 . It is also assumed that the last dated tablets with official state year-names in a given city mark the end of its political dependence from the Ur III state organization. Thus, dated texts from the state archives of Puzriš-Dagān belong to Ibbi-Suen’s third regnal year (IS 3) the last texts from G AR šana and Irisaĝrig (also royal settlements) are dated to IS 4 and shortly after, the archives of Umma and Girsu (IS 5), and Nippur (IS 7 or IS 8), separated from the state organization. Logically, the capital of the state, Ur, was the place where the archives remained longest in use: the final dated texts belong to IS 23.

b) The names of the years recalled important events related to the territorial policy of the Ur III kings (military expeditions against this or that city, etc.), the political life (coronation of kings), the state internal organization (foundation of the Puzriš-Dagān complex, recruiting of an army), religious events (appointing priests), or building works (erection of the Šara temple, the wall against the Amorites, etc.). These designations obviously belong to the sphere of the royal propaganda, but provide interesting information that can be contrasted with other sources.

c) Texts dated with year-names allow the establishment of an internal chronology of tablets, the reconstruction of their archival relationships and, consequently, diachronic and synchronic studies on economy, religion, administration, or the political history of the Ur III state.

Balanced account of a shepherd recording year-names from Šu-Suen 1 to Šu-Suen 5, unpublished, BDTNS 069861

13 The Ur III Dynasty ruled during some one hundred years, but the cuneiform tablets so far preserved are unevenly distributed within this span of time. An administrative reorganization took place by the middle of Šulgi’s reign, the second monarch of the dynasty, and in his 39th regnal year, the Puzriš-Dagān complex was founded. These were significant changes that boosted the production of administrative tablets, to an extent that 90% of them are concentrated between the final years of Šulgi’s reign and the eighth regnal year of Ibbi-Suen, i.e. in about one third of the whole duration of the dynasty.

Fig. 4: Chronological distribution of Ur III texts

  • 14 See Hilgert, M., Cuneiform Texts from the Ur III Period in the Oriental Institute. 2: Drehem Admini(. )

14 A characteristic feature of year-names in their abbreviated form is that they can be ambiguous, i.e. they can potentially designate two (or even more) different years. Thus, for example, the 45th year of Šulgi (Š 45) and the 2nd year of Amar-Suen (AS 2), respectively named mu d Šul-gi Ur-bí-lum ki Lu-lu-bu ki Si-mu-ru-um ki ù Kára-har ki 1-šè saĝ-bi šu-búr-ra ì-ra («Year in which Šulgi smashed the heads of Urbilum, Lullubum, Simurrum and Karhar in a single campaign») and mu d Amard-Suen Ur-bí-lum ki mu-hul («Year in which Amar-Suen destroyed Urbilum»), were abbreviated as mu Ur-bí-lum ki ba-hul («Year in which Urbilum was destroyed»). This ambiguity could be taken as an argument against the archival coexistence of tablets bearing these year-names, but it is probable that they are only ambiguous to modern scholars, not to ancient archivists, a fact that is being shown by close analysis of at least some text groups. It is thus now clear, for example, that only certain archives used certain abbreviated forms of year-names, which did not conflict with the same form known today for a different year 14 .

15 But not all the texts were dated by year: that depended on the scope of the archives to which they belonged. For example, most of the « messenger texts » from Girsu were not dated with year-names, thus suggesting that they were not intended to be kept through the years, or at least that they were not periodically reorganized in containers with other texts dated to different years. Likewise, letter-orders were rarely dated, which speaks in favour of their immediacy and of the different conditions of archive keeping in antiquity.

16 The identification and the life of the archives is thus an important issue that is being slowly disentangled, given the mass of documentation and the almost inexistent information about its provenance. These constraints have frequently brought confusion about what is intended by «archive». Sallaberger’s description is in our view a good starting-point: «Als ‘Archiv’ bezeichnen wir hier die aus einer Institution stammenden Texte, ohne daß wir damit sagen konnten, sie seien in der Antike unbedingt an einem Ort aufbewahrt worden. Ein ‘Archiv’ ist aber nicht eine um einen Personennamen oder ein Thema zusammengestellte Textgruppe oder Dossier» 15 .

17 As it will be seen below, a large number of Ur III tablets can be classified in large and coherent groups not only on the basis of their contents, but also of their archival relationships. This means that they once belonged to a closed and well organized archive, comprising documents selected for long-term preservation. Whether or not the documents were considered as living archives is a different question, largely depending on their identification and the circumstances of the finding.

18 At present, 27 sites have been identified as the provenance of Ur III administrative texts (in brackets: the number of the texts ascribed to that provenance considered as doubtful) 16 : Adab (Tell Bismaya): 116 texts (16) Awal (Tell al-Sulaimaḫ): 3 E-Šu-Suen (Aradĝu archive, Tell Abū-Juwan?, close to Nippur): 215 (4) Ešnunna (Tell Asmar): 156 GAR šana (east of Umma province): 1,507 (20) Gasur (Jorgan Tepe): 1 Girsu (Tellō): 26,619 (692) Irisaĝrig (Adams 1056 ? , close to Nippur): 1148 (50) Isin (Išān Baḥrīyāt): 4 Kiš (Tell Uḥaimir): 6 Kisurra (Tell Abū Ḥaṭab): 4 Lagaš (Tell al-Ḥiba): 2 Mari (Tell Ḥarīrī): 8 (2) Nippur (Tell Nuffar): 3,697 (35) Puzriš-Dagān (Tell Drēhim): 15,647 (125) SI.A-a archive (uncertain prov.): 80 Sippar (Tell Abū Ḥabba): 3 Sippar-Amnānum (Tell ed-Dēr): 1 Šuruppag (Tell Fāra): 3 Susa (Šūš): 75 Tell al-Wilayaḫ (ancient Dabrum?): 18 Tell Brusti (close to Shemshāra): 1 Tell Išān Mizyad: 50 Tūram-ilī archive (from Irisaĝrig?): 59 Umma (Tell Ǧoḫa): 29,940 (360) Ur (Tell Muqejjir): 4,297 (20) Uruk (Warka): 21 (2).

19 Most of these sites have been officially excavated at one time or another, but when large groups of tablets have been found, this has generally been the result of looting, except for Ur and Nippur, and partly Girsu. Unfortunately, even in these cases no significant information about the way the tablets were archived could be obtained.

  • 17 See Widell, M., The Administrative and Economic Ur III Texts from the City of Ur, Piscataway, 2003, (. )

20 Ur (Tell Muqejjir) was regularly excavated by Leonard Woolley, from 1922 to 1934, but texts dated to the years of the Third Dynasty of Ur were found in secondary context, i.e. used as filling under the floors 17 .

  • 18 Zettler, R. L., « Administration of the Temple of Inanna at Nippur under the Third Dynasty of Ur: A (. )
  • 19 Zettler, R. L., The Ur III Temple of Inanna at Nippur: The Operation and Organization of Urban Reli(. )

21 Ur III texts from Nippur (Tell Nuffar) were excavated by the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th, although several texts from illegal excavations can also be found in museums and private collections. Texts excavated in this site did not come, in any case, from large institutions such as those to which the royal or provincial archives of Puzriš-Dagān, Girsu or Umma belonged. Instead, the tablets from Nippur belonged to minor institutions or private archives that were organized in a simpler way. The most remarkable group of texts from this site belongs to the administrative archive of the Inanna temple: 1,163 Ur III administrative tablets and/or fragments were found there, but once again the bulk of them, more than 900, were found in secondary contexts, used as fill in a foundation platform during the Parthian period 18 . From their contents, chronological distribution, and the scarce numbers of tags found, it seems that the process of discarding tablets after their incorporation into large summary accounts was more pronounced than in other provincial and royal archives. On the other hand, several clay sealings found in a bin in Locus 1 and in the trash pit in the back courtyard (Locus 137), had been broken off jars, bags and boxes, or had secured doors, most probably those belonging to Locus 2 and 4 19 . This possibly exemplifies the circumstances of the finding of other bullae and clay sealings from other sites.

22 In 1894, Ernest de Sarzec excavated at Girsu (Tellō), the capital of the largest and richest province of the Ur III state, an enormous archive of some 30,000 cuneiform tablets, later identified with the provincial archive. Unfortunately, looters discovered the findspot shortly before De Sarzec’s excavation and sold thousands of tablets, mainly dated to the years between Šulgi 44 and Amar-Suen 5, to museums and private collectors 20 . Besides, the archaeological methods of that time were not refined enough and, despite the fact that tablets were found stored on clay benches, their position and organization were not recorded.

  • 21 See Paoletti, P., Der König und sein Kreis. Das staatliche Schatzarchiv der III. Dynastie von Ur. B (. )
  • 22 Al-Mutawalli, N., « Administrative Cuneiform Texts from Umma in the Iraq Museum. Excavation of Shar (. )

23 The fate of the archives from Umma (Tell Ǧoḫa) and Puzriš-Dagān (Tell Drēhim) was much worse. These sites were intensively plundered since 1908/09 (Puzriš-Dagān) and 1911 (Umma). At Tell Drēhim, looters despoiled those known today as the « Shoe-archive » and the «Treasure archive» 21 , and notably the huge royal archive for cattle management, while the governor’s archive was extensively looted at Tell Ǧoḫa. The circumstances surrounding the Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003 boosted new illicit diggings in these two sites, so that excavations were undertaken by the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq with the aim of protecting them. These works unearthed the sole (and scarce) cuneiform documents from Umma and Puzriš-Dagān discovered after official excavations 22 . Other cuneiform texts from these two sites were possibly found in the course of illicit excavations and are being sold in the antiquities market, but it is not easy to distinguish them from other texts coming from earlier looting.

  • 23 Stone, E. C., « Patterns of Looting in Southern Iraq », Antiquity 82, 2008, pp. 125-138 Id., «An U (. )
  • 24 See Molina, M., and Steinkeller, P., « New Data on GARšana and the Border Zone between Umma and Gir (. )
  • 25 The archive was published in an exemplary way by Owen, D. I., and Rudolf H. M., The Garšana Archive(. )
  • 26 Some of these texts were published by Shayma’a Salah, « New Cuneiform Texts from the Third Dynasty (. )

24 The looting in the areas where the sites of Puzriš-Dagān and Umma lay were also heavily plundered, and huge quantities of tablets dated to the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur were thus found 23 . Within the Umma province, the case of G AR šana is well known. In this royal town, whose exact location remains unknown 24 , or in its surrounding area, an archive of more than 1,500 tablets from the household of princess Simat-Ištaran and her husband Šu-Kabta was discovered and sold by looters 25 . To this area also belongs a small group of texts apparently from the household of princess Šu-Eštar, a rural estate most probably very similar to the one belonging to Simat-Ištaran, whose location cannot be ascertained either 26 .

  • 27 The tablets from Irisaĝrig have been published by Owen, D., Cuneiform Texts Primarily from Iri-Saĝr(. )
  • 28 See Molina, M., « On the Location of Irisaĝrig », in Steven J. Garfinkle and Manuel Molina (eds.), (. )
  • 29 Most of the tablets from this archive will be published by Studevent-Hickman, B. Ur III Texts from(. )

25 In the area of Puzriš-Dagān and Nippur a huge archive of no doubt much more than one thousand tablets, from ancient Irisaĝrig, was also found by looters 27 . The exact position of Irisaĝrig remains unknown as well 28 . The texts found belonged to the archive of governor Urmes, who was closely bound to the royal administration. Finally, it is worth mentioning the archive of Ardaĝu, most probably found by looters at ancient E-Šu-Suen, a rural estate very closely located to Nippur 29 .

26 To sum up, more than one hundred years of illicit diggings, and to a very minor extent of official excavations, have brought to light a vast corpus of cuneiform tablets that document the accounting procedures of different types of administration. Thus we have large quantities of texts from private archives (Nippur, Tūram-ilī archive, SI.A-a archive) rural estate archives (Aradĝu archive, Šu-Eštar archive, G AR šana) a temple archive (Nippur) provincial archives (Umma, Girsu, Irisaĝrig) and archives from royal institutions (Ur and Puzriš-Dagān).

27 All these texts show in general very similar principles of accounting and administration, partly inherited from earlier periods, and partly fully developed and used by minor and major administrations under the rule of Ur III kings. A thorough description of them is beyond the scope of the present contribution, but some of the most representative ones will be presented below.

  • 30 See Steinkeller, P., « Archival Practices at Babylonia in the Third Millennium », in Maria Brosius (. )
  • 31 Cf. for example the statistical analysis for Puzriš-Dagān texts presented by Hilgert, M., Cuneiform(. )

28 Generally, with all due exceptions, administrative texts deal with the movement of assets in a broad sense (persons, animals, objects, workdays, commodities, etc.), or with their specific situation in a given administrative context. Texts thus recorded the incoming ( a ) and outgoing ( b ) of assets to and from an institution or a private household their movements inside them ( c ) or provided a snapshot ( d ) of their existence in a particular moment and place, and of their relationship with other goods or persons connected to them (e.g. inventories, balanced accounts, lists of workers, etc.). Other documents could be variants of types b (e.g. sale documents, loan documents) and c (e.g. letter-orders), or in some way of type d (e.g. other legal documents). Depending on the kind and size of the administration where the documents were issued, one or other type of texts predominated 30 . A private archive would prevalently keep record of texts of type a and b , and particularly of the latter in the form of sealed receipts. Institutions with more complex economic interests tended to keep more documents of types b , c and d , and more exceptionally of type a (as was the case of Puzriš-Dagān). Large institutions, whose economy was strongly interrelated with the rest of the Ur III state, were prone to keep an ever increasing number of texts of type c 31 , which also covered a much broader span of time than did small or medium-sized institutions. As said above, the great majority of our texts come from large institutions, i.e. provincial or royal archives, and are therefore chiefly of type c . This also means that they kept track of where items were at any one time, repeatedly mentioning them in several different documents. Theoretically, it would be possible to follow the passage of an item over offices, workshops or elsewhere in the institution, through an interconnected chain of documents, from its arrival until its expenditure or final destination.

29 At Puzriš-Dagān, a management and redistribution centre for livestock 32 , the delivery of animals was recorded at the central bureau through documents of a varied typology, depending on the organizational stage of the administration. An example of this kind of text would be the following:

1 sila 4 Ur-mes sagi, 1 máš Zi-kur-ì-lí, 1 sila 4 zabar-dab 5 , 1 sila 4 Árad-ĝu 10 , 2 máš niga, [Lú]-ĝiškim-zi-da, 1 sila 4 Ṣi-lu-uš- d Da-gan, 2 sila 4 Šeš-Da-da saĝĝa, 1 sila 4 Kur-ĝìri-ni-šè, mu-ku x , Na-sa 6 ì-dab 5 , iti ezem- d Nin-a-zu, mu ús-sa Ki-maš ki ba-hul, u 4 1-kam

1 lamb (from) Urmes, the cup-bearer 1 goat (from) Zikur-ilī 1 lamb (from) the zabardab- official 1 lamb (from) Aradĝu 2 fattened goats (from) Lu-ĝiškimzida 1 lamb (from) Ṣilluš-Dagān 2 lambs (from) Šeš-Dada, the temple administrator 1 lamb (from) Kur-ĝiriniše. Deliveries. Nasa received them. Date: Šulgi 47/v/1.

30 Shortly after their arrival, animals were routed somewhere else within the Puzriš-Dagān organization (for example, to the kitchens), or to their final destination (for example, the cult). In fact, pairs of texts record the receipt of animals and their immediate disbursement, as was the case for those recorded in the above-cited text, expended for cultic purposes by the same official on the same day 33 :

1 sila 4 d En-líl, mu-ku x Ur-mes sagi, 1 sila 4 d Nuska, mu-ku x zabar-dab5, 1 máš niga d En-líl, 1 máš niga d Nin-líl, mu-ku x Lú-giškim-zi-da, 1 sila 4 d En-líl, 1 sila 4 d Nin-líl, mu-ku x Šeš-Da-da, 1 sila 4 Hur-saĝ-ga-lam-ma, mu-ku x Ṣi-lu-uš- d Da-gan, 1 sila 4 d Nanna, mu-ku x Kur-ĝìri-ni-šè, zabar-dab 5 maškim, 1 sila 4 é-uz-ga, mu-ku x Árad-ĝu 10 , A-a-kal-la maškim, u4 1-kam, ki Na-sa 6 -ta ba-zi, iti ezem- d Nin-a-zu, mu ús-sa Ki-maš ki ba-hul

1 lamb (for) god Enlil, delivery (from) Urmes, the cup-bearer 1 lamb (for) god Nuska, delivery (from) the zabardab- official 1 fattened goat (for) god Enlil (and) 1 fattened goat (for) goddess Ninlil, delivery (from) Lu-giškimzida 1 lamb (for) god Enlil (and) 1 lamb (for) goddess Ninlil, delivery (from) Šeš-Dada 1 lamb (for) the Hursaĝ-galama, delivery (from) Ṣilluš-Dagān 1 lamb (for) god Nanna, delivery (from) Kur-ĝiriniše, being the zabardab -official the commissioner 1 lamb (for) the «taboo-house», delivery (from) Aradĝu. Ayakala was the commissioner. Expended by Nasa. Date: Šulgi 47/v/1.

  • 34 Tsouparopoulou, Ch., «‘Counter-archaeology’: Putting the Ur III Drehem Archives Back to the Ground (. )

31 As Christina Tsouparopoulou has recently shown 34 , documents like this one dated to the same month were put altogether into a leather bag ( k u š d u 10 – g a) , closed with a cord and sealed with a bulla. At the end of the year, the contents of this and other leather bags were emptied into another container, which was tagged with a label (the so-called pisaĝduba -tablet) describing its contents (see an example of these labels from the Umma provincial archives on Fig. 2).

32 The storage of tablets in containers (probably large baskets) identified with labels was widely used in large archives, such as those of Umma, Girsu and Puzriš-Dagān, and affected all kinds of documents. Thus, for example, tablets recording judicial cases tried in Girsu in the course of a year by a specific collegium of judges were all kept in a single container:

pisaĝ dub-ba, di til-la ì-ĝál, Árad- d Nanna, sukkal-mah énsi, ĝìri Šu-ì-lí, Lú-diĝir-ra, Lú- d Nin-ĝír-su, di-ku 5 -bi-me, mu má-gur 8 -mah ba-dím

Tablet-container: there are concluded cases (inside). (Being) Arad-Nanna grand vizier (and) governor. (Cases) under the responsibility of Šū-ilī, Lu-diĝira, (and) Lu-Ninĝirsu: they were the judges. Date: Šu-Suen 8.

33 Tablets from containers were digested into monthly and annual summaries, of which several specimens have survived. There are many examples from Puzriš-Dagān and from the other administrations. Actually, in large institutions, simple records and summary accounts were two levels of recording and archiving that coexisted for very long periods. The summary, an ubiquitous text category of varied typology that involved all kinds of documents, was aimed at supervision, planification and quick consultation. The so-called Sammelurkunden , digests of judicial texts, are a good example of summaries issued for consultation 35 .

34 With the purpose of an internal control of the materials delivered to a craft workshop at Ur, an exhaustive annual summary was issued by a scribe at the end of the fifteenth regnal year of king Ibbi-Suen. The document, deemed «an accountant’s nightmare» 36 , was published by Leon Legrain in UET 3, 1498 (see photo on Fig. 5). It is a twelve-column large tablet that incorporated the information provided by some 400 day accounts, excavated by Leonard Woolley, plus an indeterminate number of tablets that have been lost. It was divided into eight sections, each one corresponding to the ateliers of the sculptors, goldsmiths, stone-cutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, leather workers, felters/rope-makers, and reed workers. The process of organizing the information, conveniently described by Marc Van de Mieroop, was based on two main criteria, namely, the section of the workshop to which materials or utensils were delivered, and the name of the deliverer. Sometimes, original documents upon which the summary was based were quoted almost verbatim, and at others the information from small or large groups of texts was combined. Here follows an excerpt from the section of the goldsmiths showing the correspondence between individual receipts and the summary:

35 1 silver sceptre weighing 362 grams, 1 bronze spear point, 1 bronze sceptre, 1 bronze standard ? , 1 mace made of mangrove wood from Meluhha, 1 mace made of almond wood (set with) gold on its reverse, from Amar-Iškur 975 grams of copper for (making) harvest knives, from Ilšu-rabi.

UET 3, 1498, BDTNS 011803, photo courtesy of Palmiro Notizia

  • 37 See most recently Ouyang, X., Monetary Role of Silver and its Administration in Mesopotamia during(. )
  • 38 See Englund, R. K, « Equivalency Values and the Command Economy of the Ur III Period in Mesopotamia (. )

36 A more sophisticated variant of these summaries was the balanced accounts
(n i ĝ 2 – k a s 7 ) , of which several hundreds have been published. They were used to ascertain the fulfilment of production and other obligations by organizations, officials, merchants and other provincial or state employees, and to plan the expectations for the near future. Balanced accounts could deal with labour, arable land, manufactured goods, raw materials, or foodstuff 37 . To compile them, a quite stable system of equivalences was used, according to which products and work were converted into its equivalent value at fixed conversion rates. The most used equivalences were in barley, labour (workdays) and silver, although others were also used (wool, dates, oil, etc.) 38 . Conversions were possible in several directions (for example, workdays could be converted into silver), so that the value of all kinds of assets could be quantified and compared, and when necessary the labour needed to produce them could be estimated. To give an example, in a merchant’s balanced account, equivalences in silver were given as follows (excerpt from STA 1, balanced account of merchant Ur-Dumuzida):

  • 39 Labour equivalences given in these and other texts (e.g., see below BM 110781) are expressed in wor (. )

37 Other examples of equivalences in labour used in balanced accounts are the following 39 :

39,390 sa gi, šà Nibru ki , 15,904 sa gi, šà Uri 5 ki ù Unu ki , guruš-e 10 sa-ta, á-bi 5,530 lá ½ guruš u 4 1-šè

39,390 reed bundles (collected) at Nippur, 15,904 reed bundles (collected) at Ur and Uruk, each worker (collecting) 10 bundles (per day), its labour: 5,529½ workdays (lit. «workers for 1 day»).

154 éren šà-gu 4 , 30 lá 1 un -ga 6 , u 4 130-šè, á-bi 23,790 guruš u 4 1-šè

154 eren -ox-drivers, 29 menials, (have worked) for 130 days its labour: 23,790 workdays (lit. «workers for 1 day»).

15 masons (have worked) for 75 days its labour: 1,125 workays (lit. «workers for 1 day»).

38 The structure of balanced accounts was similar in most cases: the balance carried over from a former balanced account, plus new items or workforce made available during the period under supervision, constituted the debits section the next section included the expenditures credited to the person to whom the balanced account belonged then followed the comparison between the preceding totals and the report of a positive or negative balance and the document usually finished by recording the dates to which the balanced account applied and the name of the person or organization involved.

39 How this process worked will be better understood with the example of balanced accounts issued at Umma to monitor the labour performed by workers throughout the province 40 . The accounting procedure began with a job performed by a work-gang under the responsibility of a foreman (u g u l a) . Once the work had been completed, a tablet sealed by an official from the «Fiscal Office» recording the completion was delivered to the foreman. A sample of this kind of sealed tablet is on Fig. 6, which reads:

36 ĝuruš u 4 1-šè, ki-su 7 a-šà d Nin-ur 4 -ra-ka gub-ba, 160 ĝuruš u 4 1-šè, ki-su 7 a-šà d Nin-hur-saĝ-ka gub-ba, 22 ĝuruš u 4 1-šè, ki-su 7 a-<šà> Ur-gar gub-ba, ugula Lugal-kù-ga-ni, kišib Šà-kù-ge, mu Si-ma-núm ki ba-hul. Seal: Šà-kù-ge, dub-sar, dumu d Šára-ĝá

36 workers during 1 day (i.e. 36 workdays) were in service at the threshing floor of the field of Ninurra 160 workers during 1 day (i.e. 160 workdays) were in service at the threshing floor of the field of Ninhursaĝ 22 workers during 1 day (i.e. 22 workdays) were in service at the threshing floor of the field of Urgar. Foreman: Lugalkugani. Seal of Šakuge. Date: Šu-Suen 3. Seal: Šakuge, scribe, son of Šaraĝa.

Fig. 6: BM 110781

Receipt tablet of workdays, unpublished, BDTNS 069670

  • 41 See Studevent-Hickman, B., The Organization of Manual Labor in Ur III Babylonia. Ph. D. Diss., Harv (. )

40 By the end of the year, the foreman presented all his sealed receipts documenting the work (counted as workdays) performed under his responsibility. After examining the receipts, a balanced account was issued. These kinds of balanced accounts, of which several specimens are preserved 41 , took into consideration the work performed during the previous year, the work expected and the work actually performed during the year just concluded, according to the following scheme:

a) Balance (expressed in workdays) carried over by the foreman from the previous year, summarized as « remainder» (s i – ì – t u m)

b) List of workers at the disposal of the foreman.

At the end of this section: Total ( a+b ) of expected labour performance (expressed
in workdays) for the year just concluded, summarized as «debits»
(s a ĝ – n í ĝ – g u r 11 – r a) .

c) List of sealed tablets presented by the foreman.

At the end of this section: Total ( c ) of labour (expressed in workdays) credited to the foreman, summarized as «booked out» (z i – g a – à m) .

d) Balance of production (expressed in workdays), summarized as «deficit» (l á - ì) or «surplus» (d i r i g) when a+b (debit) was respectively greater or lesser than c (credits).

- Balanced account (n í ĝ – k a s 7 a k) of PN (the foreman).

- Period of the balanced account (e.g. from month x to month y of year z ).

41 Section a was evidently written on the basis of a similar balanced account for the previous year, while section c was prepared after the individual receipts presented by the foreman. For the writing of section b , detailed inspection lists of workers, some of which have survived, were most probably used.

  • 42 All this process has been analysed and described in more detail by Steinkeller, P., « Archival Prac (. )

42 Once issued, these balanced accounts could be sent to other offices to calculate the amounts of wool and barley due to the workers as compensation for the work performed. Likewise, individual receipts presented by the foreman could be sent to other offices to compile other kind of documents. Finally, when all these documents had been used wherever necessary, they were archived in tablet-containers, which were tagged with pisaĝduba -tablets 42 .

43 A very interesting example of how these containers were classified and managed can be found in the following text recording their delivery:

1 gi pisaĝ kišib lá-ì, 1 gi pisaĝ kišib níĝ-kas 7 nu-ak, 1 gi pisaĝ kišib énsi ma-da, 1 gi pisaĝ kišib a-gù-a ĝá-ra, kišib Da-da-ga, kišib pisaĝ-dub-ba, mu ús-sa a-rá 3-kam Si-mu-ru-um ba-hul-ta, mu Ur-bí-lum ki -šè, 1 gi pisaĝ kišib en 8 tar, 1 gi ma-ad-lí-um kišib Lú-diĝir-ra

1 reed-container (with) receipt tablets (recording the repayment ? of) arrears 1 reed-container (with) receipt tablets (for) balanced accounts not yet compiled 1 reed-container (with) receipt tablets of the governors of the provinces 1 reed-container (with) receipt tablets (already) deducted from the debits (lit. «charged to the account»). (These are containers) received by Dadaga (and) received by the chief bookkeeper, (with documents dated) from «the year after the year Simurrum was destroyed for the third time» (Šulgi 33) to «the year Urbilum (was destroyed)» (Šulgi 45). 1 reed-container (with) receipt tablets (that have to be) investigated. 1 reed-bucket (with) receipt tablets of Lu-diĝira.

44 All these balanced accounts, inspection lists, inventories, receipt tablets, labels and bullae are only a sample of the rich typology of administrative texts that inform us about the accounting procedures in Ur III times. Their potentiality for research on the history of economy and administration, and, in general, for the history of early Mesopotamia, is immense. However, their archival relationships and contents are still imperfectly understood. More than fifty years after the pioneering work of Tom B. Jones and John W. Snyder (SET, 1961), many new and very significant studies on Ur III texts have certainly been written, but an exciting world of research still remains open.


Ancient Iranian Civilizations since 12000 years ago

Settlement of Tehran dates back over 7,000 years.[8] An important historical city in the area of modern-day Tehran, now absorbed by it, is known as "Rey", which is etymologically connected to the Old Persian and Avestan "Rhages".[9] The city was a major area of the Iranian speaking Medes and Achaemenids.

In the Zoroastrian Avesta's Videvdad (i, 15), Rhaga is mentioned as the twelfth sacred place created by Ahura-Mazda.[10] In the Old Persian inscriptions (Behistun 2, 10–18), Rhaga appears as a province. From Rhaga, Darius the Great sent reinforcements to his father Hystaspes, who was putting down the rebellion in Parthia (Behistun 3, 1–10).[10]

Rey is richer than many other ancient cities in the number of its historical monuments, among which one might refer to the 3000-year-old Gebri castle, the 5000-year-old Cheshmeh Ali hill, the 1000-year-old Bibi Shahr Banoo tomb and Shah Abbasi caravanserai. It has been home to pillars of science like Rhazes.

The Damavand mountain located near the city also appears in the Shahnameh as the place where Freydun bounds the dragon-fiend Zahak. Damavand is important in Persian mythological and legendary events.[11]Kyumars, the Zoroastrian prototype of human beings and the first king in the Shahnameh, was said to have resided in Damavand.[11] In these legends, the foundation of the city of Damavand was attributed to him.[11] Arash the Archer, who sacrificed his body by giving all his strength to the arrow that demarcated Iran and Turan, shot his arrow from Mount Damavand.[11]This Persian legend was celebrated every year in theTiregan festival. A popular feast is reported to have been held in the city of Damavand on 7 Shawwal 1230, or in Gregorian calendar, 31 August 1815. During the alleged feast the people celebrated the anniversary of Zahak's death.[11] In the Zoroastrian legends, the tyrant Zahak is to finally be killed by the Iranian hero Garshaspbefore the final days.[11]

In some Middle Persian texts, Rey is given as the birthplace of Zoroaster,[12] although modern historians generally place the birth of Zoroaster in Khorasan. In one Persian tradition, the legendary king Manuchehr was also born in Damavand.[11]

There is also a shrine there, dedicated to commemorate Princess Shahr Banu, eldest daughter of the last ruler of the Sassanid Empire. She gave birth to Ali Zayn al Abidin (PBUH), the fourth holy Imam of the Shia Islam. This was through her marriage to Hussain ibn Ali (PBUH), the grandson of prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Signs of early agriculture date back as far as 9000 BC to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains,[13] in cities later named Anshan and Susa. Jarmo is one archaeological site in this area. Shanidar, where the ancient skeletal remains of Neanderthals have been found, is another.

Some of the earliest evidence of wine production has been discovered in the Zagros Mountains both the settlements of Hajji Firuz Tepe and Godin Tepe have given evidence of wine storage dating between 3500 and 5400 BC.[14]

During early ancient times, the Zagros was the home of peoples such as the Kassites, Guti, Assyrians, Elamites andMitanni, who periodically invaded the Sumerian and/orAkkadian cities of Mesopotamia. The mountains create a geographic barrier between the flatlands of Mesopotamia, which is in Iraq, and the Iranian plateau. A small archive ofclay tablets detailing the complex interactions of these groups in the early second millennium BC has been found at Tell Shemshara along the Little Zab.[15] Tell Bazmusian, near Shemshara, was occupied between the sixth millennium BCE and the ninth century CE, although not continuously.[16]

Archeological discoveries in the Sialk Hillocks which lie 4 km west of Kashan reveal that this region was one of the primary centers of civilization in pre-historic ages. Hence Kashan dates back to the Elamite period of Iran. The Sialk ziggurat still stands today in the suburbs of Kashan after 7,000 years.

The artifacts uncovered at Sialk reside in the Louvre in Paris and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Iran's National Museum.

Sialk, and the entire area around it, is thought to have first originated as a result of the pristine large water sources nearby that still run today. The Cheshmeh ye Soleiman (or "Solomon's Spring") has been bringing water to this area from nearby mountains for thousands of years.

By some accounts although not all Kashan was the origin of the three wise men who followed the star that guided them to Bethlehem to witness the nativity of Jesus, as recounted in the Bible.[3] Whatever the historical validity of this story, the attribution of Kashan as their original home testifies to the city's prestige at the time the story was set down.

Sultan Malik Shah I of the Seljuk dynasty ordered the building of a fortress in the middle of Kashan in the 11th century. The fortress walls, called Ghal'eh Jalali still stand today in central Kashan.

Kashan was also a leisure vacation spot for SafaviKings. Bagh-e Fin (Fin Garden), specifically, is one of the most famous gardens of Iran. This beautiful garden with its pool and orchards was designed for Shah Abbas I as a classical Persian vision of paradise. The original Safavid buildings have been substantially replaced and rebuilt by the Qajar dynasty although the layout of trees and marble basins is close to the original. The garden itself however, was first founded 7000 years ago alongside the Cheshmeh-ye-Soleiman. The garden is also notorious as the site of the murder of Mirza Taghi Khan known as Amir Kabir, chancellor of Nasser-al-Din Shah, Iran's King in 1852.

Chogha Mish

Tappeh-ye Choghā Mīsh (Persian language ČOḠĀ MĪŠ) dating back to 6800 BC, is the site of a Chalcolithicsettlement in Western Iran, located in the Khuzistan Province on the Susiana Plain. It was occupied at the beginning of 6800 BC and continuously from the Neolithicup to the Proto-Literate period.

Musicians portrayed on pottery found at Chogha Mish

Chogha Mish was a regional center during the late Uruk period of Mesopotamia and is important today for information about the development of writing. At Chogha Mish, evidence begins with an accounting system using clay tokens, over time changing to clay tablets with marks, finally to the cuneiform writing system.

Lorestān bronze is a set of Early Iron Age bronze artifacts of various individual forms which have been recovered from Lorestān and Kermanshah areas in west-central Iran. They include a great number of weapons, ornaments, tools, and ceremonial objects. The artifacts were created by a major group of Persian aboriginals known as Lurs.

Lorestani Bronze objects were taken illegally to Europe via Mesopotamia and to cover up most of the items taken they called them Mesopotamian while in fact there are no similarities what so ever between the Persian Bronze objects excavated in Lorestan 1943 to 1968, which were dated to be from 5000 BC. The hair pins and four men holding a cup were typical of that period which once again separates Iranian development from whatever was going on in so called Sumerian areas. Typical Lorestāni-style objects belong to the (Iranian) Iron Age (c. 1250-650 BC).

The term "Lorestān bronze" is not normally used for earlier bronze artifacts from Luristan between the fourth millennium BC and the (Iranian) Bronze Age (c. 2900-1250 BC). These bronze objects were similar to those found in Mesopotamia and on the Iranian plateau.

Swords and axes from Lorestān on exhibit at the Louvre Museum

Cave painting in Doushe cave, Lorestan, Iran, 8000 BC

In 1930 a large quantity of canonical Lorestān bronze artifacts appeared on the Iranian and European antiquities markets as a result of plundering of tombs in this region. Since 1938 several scientific excavations were conducted by American, Danish, British, Belgian, and Iranian archaeologists on the graveyards with stone tombs in the northern Pish Kuh valleys and the southern Pusht Kuh of Lorestān.

Lorestān Bronze - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zayandeh River (Ispahan)

Zayandeh River Culture (تمدن زاینده رود, literally "Zāyandé-Rūd Civilization") is a hypothetical pre-historic culture that is theorized to have flourished around the Zayandeh River in Ispahan province of Iran in 6,000 BC.

Archaeologists speculate that a possible early civilizationexisted along the banks of the Zayandeh River, developing at the same time as other ancient civilizations appeared alongside rivers in the region.


Link with Sialk and Marvdasht civilizations

During the 2006 excavations, the Iranian archaeologistsuncovered some artifacts that they linked to those from Sialk and Marvdasht.[2]


Shahdad (Kerman)

Shahdad (Persian: شهداد‎) is a city in and the capital of Shahdad District, in Kerman County, Kerman Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 4,097, in 1,010 families.

Shahdad is the centre of Shahdad district which includes smaller cities and villages such as Sirch, Anduhjerd, Chehar Farsakh, Go-diz, Keshit, Ibrahim Abad, Joshan and Dehseif.

The driving distance from Kermancity to Shahdad is 95 km. Shahdad is located at the edge of the Lut desert. The local climate is hot and dry. The main agricultural produce is date fruits.

Ancient bronze flag , Shahdad Kerman , Iran

There are many castles and caravanserais at Shahdad and around. Examples are the Shafee Abaad castle and the Godeez castle. North of town the Aratta civilization villageand dwarf humans are said to have existed since 6,000 BC. Sharain of emam Zadeh Zeyd, south of town, is the most respected religious site of Shahdad.

The oldest metal flag in human history was found in this city.

Shahdad - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Tepe Yahya

Tepe Yahya is an archaeological site in Kermān Province,Iran, some 220 km south of Kerman city, 90 km south of Baft city and 90 km south-west of Jiroft.

Habitation spans the 6th to 2nd millennia BCE and the 10th to 4th centuries BCE. In the 3rd millennium BCE, the city was a production center of chlorite pottery which were exported to Mesopotamia. In this period, the area was under Elamite influence, and tablets with Proto-Elamite inscriptions were found. [1]

The site is a circular mound, around 20 meters in height and around 187 meters in diameter. [2] It was excavated in six seasons from 1967 to 1975 by the American School of Prehistoric Research of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University in a joint operation with what is now the Shiraz University. The expedition was under the direction of C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky.

Periodization is as follows:
Period I Sasanian pre: 200 BC-400 A.D.
Period II Achaemenian(?): 275-500 B.C.
Period III Iron Age: 500-1000 B.C.
Period IV A Elamite?: 2200-2500 B.C.
IV B Proto-Elamite: 2500-3000 B.C.
IV C Proto-Elamite: 3000-3400 B.C.
Period V Yahya Culture: 3400-3800 B.C.
Period VI Coarse Ware-Neolithic: 3800-4500 B.C.
Period VII: 4500-5500 B.C.


Susa

Susa (ˈsuːsə/ Persian: شوش‎Shush [ʃuʃ] Hebrew שׁוּשָׁן ShushānGreek: Σοῦσα [ˈsuːsa] Syriac: ܫܘܫShush Old Persian Çūšā) was an ancient city of the Elamite, First Persian Empire and Parthianempires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km (160 mi) east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh andDez Rivers.

The modern Iranian town of Shush is located at the site of ancient Susa. Shush is the administrative capital of the Shush County of Iran's Khuzestan province. It had a population of 64,960 in 2005.[1]


Map showing the area of the Elamite kingdom (in red) and the neighboring areas. The approximate Bronze Age extension of the Persian Gulf is shown.
In historic literature, Susa appears in the very earliest Sumerian records: for example, it is described as one of the places obedient to Inanna, patron deity of Uruk, in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.

Susa is also mentioned in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bibleby the name Shushan, mainly in Esther, but also once each in Nehemiah and Daniel. Both Daniel and Nehemiah lived in Susa during the Babylonian captivity of the 6th century BCE. Esther became queen there, and saved the Jews from genocide. A tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the area, known as Shush-Daniel. The tomb is marked by an unusual white stone cone, which is neither regular nor symmetric. Many scholars believe it was at one point aStar of David. Susa is further mentioned in the Book of Jubilees (8:21 & 9:2) as one of the places within the inheritance of Shem and his eldest son Elam and in 8:1, "Susan" is also named as the son (or daughter, in some translations) of Elam.

Greek mythology attributed the founding of Susa to kingMemnon of Aethiopia, a character from Homer's Trojan War epic, the Iliad.

Proto-Elamite

In urban history, Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region. Based on C14 dating, the foundation of a settlement there occurred as early as 4395 BCE (a calibrated radio-carbon date).[2] Archeologists have dated the first traces of an inhabited Neolithic village to c 7000 BCE. Evidence of a painted-pottery civilization has been dated to c 5000 BCE.[3] Its name in Elamite was written variously Ŝuŝan, Ŝuŝun, etc. The origin of the wordSusa is from the local city deity Inshushinak. Like itsChalcolithic neighbor Uruk, Susa began as a discrete settlement in the Susa I period (c 4000 BCE). Two settlements called Acropolis (7 ha) and Apadana (6.3 ha) by archeologists, would later merge to form Susa proper (18 ha).[4] The Apadana was enclosed by 6m thick walls oframmed earth. The founding of Susa corresponded with the abandonment of nearby villages. Potts suggests that the city may have been founded to try to reestablish the previously destroyed settlement at Chogha Mish.[4] Susa was firmly within the Uruk cultural sphere during the Uruk period. An imitation of the entire state apparatus of Uruk,proto-writing, cylinder seals with Sumerian motifs, and monumental architecture, is found at Susa. Susa may have been a colony of Uruk. As such, the periodization of Susa corresponds to Uruk Early, Middle and Late Susa II periods (3800–3100 BCE) correspond to Early, Middle, and Late Uruk periods.

By the middle Susa II period, the city had grown to 25 ha.[4]Susa III (3100–2900 BCE) corresponds with Uruk III period. Ambiguous reference to Elam (Cuneiform NIM) appear also in this period in Sumerian records. Susa enters history during the Early Dynastic period of Sumer. A battle between Kish and Susa is recorded in 2700 BCE.

Susa Cemetery

Shortly after Susa was first settled 6000 years ago, its inhabitants erected a temple on a monumental platform that rose over the flat surrounding landscape. The exceptional nature of the site is still recognizable today in the artistry of the ceramic vessels that were placed as offerings in a thousand or more graves near the base of the temple platform. Nearly two thousand pots were recovered from the cemetery most of them now in theLouvre. The vessels found are eloquent testimony to the artistic and technical achievements of their makers, and they hold clues about the organization of the society that commissioned them.[5] Painted ceramic vessels from Susa in the earliest first style are a late, regional version of the Mesopotamian Ubaid ceramic tradition that spread across the Near East during the fifth millennium B.C.[5]

Susa I style was very much a product of the past and of influences from contemporary ceramic industries in the mountains of western Iran. The recurrence in close association of vessels of three types—a drinking goblet or beaker, a serving dish, and a small jar—implies the consumption of three types of food, apparently thought to be as necessary for life in the afterworld as it is in this one. Ceramics of these shapes, which were painted, constitute a large proportion of the vessels from the cemetery. Others are course cooking-type jars and bowls with simple bands painted on them and were probably the grave goods of the sites of humbler citizens as well as adolescents and, perhaps, children.[6] The pottery is carefully made by hand. Although a slow wheel may have been employed, the asymmetry of the vessels and the irregularity of the drawing of encircling lines and bands indicate that most of the work was done freehand.


We found at least 10 Websites Listing below when search with gilgamesh found and excavated on Search Engine

BBC NEWS Science/Nature Gilgamesh tomb believed found

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Gilgamesh tomb believed found Archaeologists in Iraq believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh - the subject of the oldest "book" in history. Gilgamesh

Tomb of Nephilim Giant Gilgamesh Found & Hillary Asks for

  • In 2003, professor Jorg Fassbinder claimed to have discovered the grave of Gilgamesh, since it looks extraordinarily similar to the one depicted in the “Epic Of Gilgamesh”
  • According to the epic, Gilgamesh is told to have been buried in a tomb under the Euphrates.

Archaeologists Discover The Tomb of Ancient Alien

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  • In 2003, professor Jorg Fassbinder claimed to have discovered the grave of Gilgamesh, since it looks extraordinarily similar to the one depicted in the “Epic Of Gilgamesh”
  • According to the epic, Gilgamesh is told to have been buried in a tomb under the Euphrates.

The Aftermath of Looting: Illegally Excavated Mesopotamian

  • Part of Tablet V, the Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA) This is the newly discovered tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was illegally excavated, probably from an ancient mound at the Governorate of Babylon, Iraq
  • It is currently on display in the Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ancient Alien "Gilgamesh" found Buried in Iraq

"We found just outside the city an area in the middle of the former Euphrates river, the remains of such a building which could be interpreted as a burial," Mr Fassbinder said.” In the book , Gilgamesh is described as having been buried under the Euphrates, in a tomb apparently constructed when the waters of the ancient river parted

Nimrods Tomb Found: Cloning of Nimrod and Osiris underway

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  • Very shortly after the tomb of Gilgamesh was discovered, America invaded Iraq, where it was discovered. This was back in 2003, so we were just beginning the war on terror
  • So, these two gods are often linked to Nimrod, and many biblical researchers believe them to be one in the same.

Thomas R. Horn -- Read it Before It's Banned by the US

  • At the bottom, which was filled with water, we have found a burial chamber with four pillars
  • In the middle is a large granite sarcophagus, which I expect to be the grave of Osiris, the god…I have been digging in Egypt’s sand for more than 30 years, and up to date this is the most exciting discovery I have made….

The Newly Discovered Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh

  • The tablet can be found at number T.1447 in the Sulaymaniyah Museum
  • It is 11 cm in height, 9.5 cm in width, and 3 cm in thickness
  • The museum’s description beside the tablet said that it dates back to the old-Babylonian period (2003-1595 BCE).While Al-Rawi and George’s article hints it was inscribed by a neo-Babylonian writer (626-539 BCE).

Gilgamesh Tomb Found in Iraq, 2003 (Giant Skeleton Found

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FLASHBACK: Gilgamesh Tomb Found In Iraq, 2003 Archaeologists in Iraq believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh – the subject of the oldest “book” in history.

George Smith and the discovery of Gilgamesh

  • The poem about this ancient hero and city founder was hidden in shattered tablets of clay with cuneiform script, excavated from the ruins of Nineveh, an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia ( today’s Iraq )
  • The story of Gilgamesh may have easily been lost if it wasn’t for one, George Smith
  • At the time, Smith, a self-made scholar

Ancient Alien "Gilgamesh" Found Buried In Iraq

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Link to Mystery History: https://www.youtube.com/mysteryhistoryCurrently Play-listing our best content on the secondary channel With new episodes on the Main

Intact Gilgamesh and Enkidu bodies found in Iran.Age 12

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  • This discovery is done completely by chance in the spring of 2008, and if we know happened is no doubt thanks to the Russian media, and television premsa

IRAQ: Gilgamesh tomb believed found

  • Gilgamesh tomb believed found Archaeologists in Iraq believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh - the subject of the oldest book in history
  • The Epic Of Gilgamesh - written by a Middle Eastern scholar 2,500 years before the birth of Christ - commemorated the life of the ruler of the city of Uruk, from which Iraq gets its name.

Nimrod and Gilgamesh Parallel Lives, Also BC Afterglows

  • The person we are referring to, found in extra-Biblical literature, was Gilgamesh
  • The first clay tablets naming him were found among the ruins of the temple library of the god Nabu (Biblical Nebo) and the palace library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh

Gilgamesh found and excavated" Keyword Found Websites

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Archaeological Data About the Biblical Story of Abraham

  • Among these artifacts are some 20,000 clay tablets found deep inside in the ruins of the city of Mari in today's Syria
  • According to The Biblical World, Mari was located on the Euphrates River some 30 miles north of the border between Syria and Iraq
  • In its time, Mari was a key center on the trade routes between Babylon, Egypt and Persia (today

CALLING TOM HORN AND STEVE QUAYLE! JUST LIKE WHEN THE

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  • During an excavation of an ancient temple to Vishnu in the city of Singuali, Madhya Pradesh, Indian archaeologists found something quite strange: a 1,300-year-old brick engraved with the face of a “bearded foreigner” wearing a skullcap
  • It’s a complete mystery as to who this person was, or why there is an engraving of them on a brick
  • Even more mysterious, despite the many amazing

Gilgamesh Tomb Believed Found at Uruk!, page 1

Awesome discovery at Uruk in Iraq where archeologist of the Bavarian department of Historical Monuments in Munich believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh, the Hero, the semi-god/human, the giant of the Sumerian oldest epic saga in history, written on a set of thousands inscribed clay tablets.

The Epic of Gilgamesh Encyclopedia.com

  • About a century after his death, Gilgamesh appeared on a list of gods found in a Sumerian sacred text
  • As the myth of Gilgamesh grew, he was referred to as a …

Lost Treasure History Smithsonian Magazine

  • In Gilgamesh, scholars unearthed literary gold
  • The first great masterpiece of world literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, recounts the adventures of a legendary king and is based in all likelihood

The Influence of Gilgamesh on the Bible Bible Interp

  • The name of the heroic protagonist of the Gilgamesh Epic may be found in a text from the Dead Sea Scrolls known as The Book of Giants
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd boy and his two cousins in the 1940s at Qumran, located in the West Bank near the Dead Sea.

Mysterious Sumerian Queen Puabi And Her Magnificent

Assuming she also outlived her two other sons (A.anne.pada and Mes.kiag.nunna) who reigned after her spouse had died, Nin.banda/Nin.e.gula/Nin.Puabi found herself alone, with all who were dear to her—her father Lugalbanda, her brother Gilgamesh, her spouse Mes.anne.pada, her three sons—dead and buried in the cemetery plot that she could

Flutes of Gilgamesh and Ancient Mesopotamia

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  • The original text from the Epic of Gilgamesh that contains the reference to “ a flute of carnelian ” comes from the last 5 lines of column 3 of the front of a cuneiform tablet
  • Portions of the tablet were composed from three clay fragments in the British Museum: BM 36909, BM 37023, and F 235.A drawing is shown at the left, with lines 145-150 of Chapter VIII of the poem highlighted.

Nimrod's treasure found in Iraq

  • found that looters were trying to get inside the vaults
  • Several robbers had killed each other in one of the buildings, and others were shooting AK-47s at the vault doors
  • One man was killed when he fired his rocket-propelled grenade at the vault while standing less than 10 feet away.

New Writings: Gilgamesh and Abraham: Differing Patriarchs

  • Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia
  • Gilgamesh was both an historical king and a legendary heroic ruler whose myths are told in the epic poem of his name
  • Uruk was a real ancient city-state whose ruins have been excavated by English and German archeologists since the 1850s.

(PDF) A Provenance Study of the Gilgamesh Fragment from

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The discovery of the Gilgamesh fragment-the only first-class literary Mesopotamian text that has ever been found in Canaan-at the site is surprising and indicates how little we know of the education of the local scribes in Canaan.The aim of the present study has been to examine the provenance of this unique literary tablet by petrographic and

GILGAMESH AND GENESIS: THE FLOOD STORY IN CONTEXT

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  • For the purpose of emphasizing certain theological and philosophical themes such as divine justice and mortality, much as the He­ brew version was included in the redaction of Gn
  • The earliest recension of the flood tale excavated to date is the Sumerian account, of which only one-third of one tablet has as yet been found first

Gilgamesh Tomb Believed Found at Uruk!, page 3

  • Awesome discovery at Uruk in Iraq where archeologist of the Bavarian department of Historical Monuments in Munich believe they may have found the lost tomb of King Gilgamesh, the Hero, the semi-god/human, the giant of the Sumerian oldest epic saga in history, written on a set of thousands inscribed clay tablets
  • (The so called "Anu.nna.ki" saga

The Epic of Gilgamesh: Context SparkNotes

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  • Unlike the heroes of Greek or Celtic mythology, the hero of The Epic of Gilgamesh was an actual historical figure, a king who reigned over the Sumerian city-state of Uruk around 2700 b.c
  • Long after his death, people worshipped Gilgamesh, renowned as a warrior and builder and widely celebrated for his wisdom and judiciousness
  • One prayer invokes him as “Gilgamesh, supreme king, judge of the

Hobby Lobby To Return Ancient Gilgamesh Dream Tablet To Iraq

  • Hundreds of thousands of artifacts have been looted from archaeological sites in Iraq and sold on the black market since the early 1990s
  • District Court Eastern District of NY The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet in question is only one of 12 inscribed with the tale.

Pazuzu: Beyond Good and Evil The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, James N
  • Spear Gift, 1984 (1984.348) Rather than a demon who viciously possessed defenseless humans, as in The Exorcist, Pazuzu was actually a powerful defense against demonic attacks from Lamashtu
  • In the movie's world, his frightening appearance was enough to make him a plausible enemy, but

Gilgamesh: Babylonian clay tablets older than the Bible

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  • Gilgamesh: Babylonian clay tablets older than the Bible
  • For centuries, European students have been reading the ancient myths about Hercules and Odysseus , amazed at the exploits of the ancient heroes
  • Christians knew the story of the Old Testament strongman Samson, who tore lions to pieces with his bare hands.

Hormuzd Rassam Assyriologist Britannica

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Hormuzd Rassam, (born 1826, Mosul, Ottoman Mesopotamia [now in Iraq]—died 1910), Assyriologist who excavated some of the finest Assyrian and Babylonian antiquities that are now in the possession of the British Museum and found vast numbers of cuneiform tablets at Nineveh (Nīnawā, Iraq) and Sippar (Abū Ḥabbah, Iraq), including the earliest known record of archaeological activity.


A Customer Service Complaint From 1750 B.C

A letter inscribed in an ancient clay tablet, dating from 1750 BC corresponding to the period of Old Babylon, and currently at the British Museum, could be one of the oldest customer service complaint letter found. The complaint was made by a certain Nanni to Ea-nasir regarding the delivery of the wrong grade of copper ore after a gulf voyage and about misdirection and delay of a further delivery. The full translation, reportedly from the book Letters from Mesopotamia by Assyriologist A. Leo Oppenheim, is reproduced below. Nanni appears to be quite angry.


Tell Ea-nasir: Nanni sends the following message:

A Customer Service Complaint From 1750 B.C Reviewed by free heip on January 15, 2018 Rating: 5

Inside the hunt for Iraq’s looted treasures

D eep in the back offices of Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad, at the end of a long corridor set away from the Babylonian obelisks and Assyrian winged bulls, an international treasure hunt is under way.

Wafaa Hassan is sitting at her desk, poring over a large stack of papers, sighing as she turns each page. She holds in her hands a catalogue of ancient relics that were originally discovered in Iraq, and are now scattered across the world.

“They are in the US, Britain, Switzerland, Lebanon, the UAE, Spain, everywhere,” she says. “They belong to us, and we are trying very hard to get them all back.”

Hassan is both archaeologist and detective. As the head of the museum’s recovery department, she is responsible for finding and repatriating the tens of thousands of artefacts that have been plundered from Iraq and spirited away to museums and private collections.

The trade and recovery of Iraq’s antiquities is a cat-and-mouse game that has been going on for decades. The country’s borders contain what is perhaps the most important archaeological region in the world. Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is where civilisation was born – where the first cities were built, the first words were written and the first empires rose and fell.

But war and instability made it easy pickings for looters. European archaeologists routinely transported their finds back to their home countries during the early part of the 20th century. Illegal digging was common under former president Saddam Hussein, especially after the first Gulf War. But it was only after the US-led invasion in 2003, and the chaos it brought, that the floodgates opened.

On 10 April, 2003, after Iraqi soldiers fled and before US troops arrived to protect it, the National Museum – where Hassan works – was looted from top to bottom. More than 15,000 items were stolen – from tiny cylinder seals to the headless statue of the Sumerian king Entemena. It is considered to be one of the greatest crimes ever committed against cultural heritage.

“It made me so sad,” Hassan says of that day. “So many people got inside. It was totally destroyed.”

The museum reopened in 2015, a shadow of its former self. But even as it took its first steps to recovery, another disaster had struck. In 2014, Isis took over a third of the country – including thousands of archaeological sites and museums. The group’s strict interpretation of Islam forbids the veneration of statues and tombs. It destroyed many priceless statues and smuggled the rest to fund its reign of terror. At the height of its power, it was estimated to be making £80m a year through the sale of stolen antiquities on the black market.

This country has paid a heavy price. It has paid in blood. At least give us back our history

Hassan’s passion for her country’s historic relics is more than equal to the extremists’ hatred for them. She strides through the museum’s halls twice a day, stopping to talk to visitors and explain each of the exhibits in as much detail as they will let her. As she sees it, every tablet and every cylinder taken from the ground in Iraq belongs in these halls.

“We are a country with a rich history, so many ancient people lived here. If you go to Babylon, the ground is full of archaeological pieces, like flowers. But so much is missing,” she says.

On the wall behind her desk is a poster with the words “Red List” in giant letters. On it are dozens of pictures of missing items that she is trying to find. Among them is a clay tablet with cuneiform writing from the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk, dated around 3500BC, and a cylinder with the name of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal from Babylon, 7th century BC.

Hassan and her team of seven treasure hunters scour the internet for signs of Mesopotamian loot. Each item they find requires a different approach. For those held in museums in foreign capitals, diplomacy is used. Retrieving items from private collectors is a different story.

“The most important thing is the auctions,” she says. “We look at what is being sold, and when we find something, we fight very hard to get it back.”

The job puts her into contact with government agencies, police forces, Interpol, collectors, museums and embassies around the world. Government agencies are cooperative with her work, she says, and do their best to help. But she does most of the work from her office here in the museum, which limits her work.

“I cannot go to see many of these artefacts,” she says, explaining that auction houses and private collectors will often block her from inspecting items of interest.

“We have to pay lawyers in the country to go get them. Sometimes we have to leave items because we don’t have the money.”

Only around half of the items looted in 2003 have been recovered – many with the help of foreign governments and police. In March this year, the British government returned a rare Babylonian cuneiform stone that was seized at Heathrow airport during an attempt to smuggle it into the country. And it is about to return a collection of 154 cuneiform tablets that were seized in 2011.

But others are more reluctant to let them go. Different countries inevitably have different laws for the acquisition of archaeological artefacts and so there are ways for collectors to legally obtain items from ancient Mesopotamia, which makes it difficult to get them back.

“Sometimes people will say: ‘It belongs to me!’ There are laws in these countries that grant them ownership. It makes me crazy. They must know that these things are stolen,” Hassan says.

Among all the papers on Hassan’s desk, one folder towers above the rest. It’s a dossier on one of a major collector of Mesopotamian antiquities, the multi-millionaire Norwegian businessman Martin Schoyen.

On Wednesday, two items from his collection were sold at auction at Christie’s in London. One is a 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian clay tablet with proto-cuneiform writing – carved images to denote monthly rations. It is, according to the lot description, “the earliest known recorded writing system by man”. It was sold for £62,500. The other is a Babylonian tablet from around 1812BC listing centuries of Babylonian kings, which went for £18,750.

“This is a new case in my department,” Hassan says of the tablets. But Schoyen is well known to Hassan, as is his collection.

Schoyen has been at the centre of a years-long controversy over his possession of 654 Aramaic incantation bowls, which were imported into the UK in the 1990s. The case is an example of the intricacies and difficulties of Hassan’s work.

According to an investigation by Science magazine, a peer-reviewed academic journal, Schoyen acquired 444 of the bowls from a London-based antiquities dealer named Chris Martin, at least 300 of which came from a Jordanian dealer named Ghassan Rihani. The article says Schoyen then began acquiring the bowls directly from Rihani.

The Schoyen Collection later lent the bowls to University College London to study. But when a Norwegian documentary on the collection questioned their provenance, the university set up a commission of inquiry to discover the source.

The result of the inquiry was never published. Schoyen launched legal action against UCL to have the bowls returned to him. He won and UCL paid an undisclosed sum of compensation. It later released a statement announcing that “no claims adverse to the Schoyen Collection’s right and title have been made or intimated”.

UCL did not publish the report at the time, reportedly as part of that settlement. But the findings were made public by Professor Colin Renfrew, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge, who was among the panel of experts that compiled it. Renfrew told the House of Lords, of which he is a member, that the inquiry found “on the balance of probabilities that the bowls were removed from Iraq, and that their removal took place after 6 August 1990’, and was therefore illegal”.

According to a review of the report in Science, the experts cited a law in Iraq dating back to 1936 which prohibits the export of antiquities except for exhibitions and research. It did not question Schoyen’s legitimate title to the bowls, and found “no direct evidence that positively contradicts or impugns Schoyen’s honesty”. Nonetheless, it recommended “the return of the incantation bowls to the Department of Antiquities of the State of Iraq”.

The Schoyen Collection denies the findings of the report as revealed by Renfrew. A spokesperson for the organisation told The Independent: “F ollowing a searching investigation by experts and enquiries by UCL into the provenance of the incantation bowls, the latter confirmed publicly that it had no basis for concluding that title is vested other than in the Schoyen Collection.

“Any assertion that the Schoyen Collection might be looted or smuggled is incorrect. The bowls were part of an established collection that was put together over many years by generations of collectors in Jordan, well before 1965 (in the 1930s) and was granted a valid export licence by the Jordanian authorities in 1988.”

Ali Altaie, a legal officer who works in the recovery department alongside Hassan, says they have not had any direct contact with Schoyen.

“We have made many attempts to recover these archaeological artefacts through official diplomatic channels, but unfortunately we have not seen a concrete response on this issue,” he says.

“We will certainly resort to other methods, such as international conventions and UN Security Council resolutions. It is important that we spare no effort in this matter.”

As far as Hassan sees it, however, they belong in Iraq.

“They should try to imagine if things were the other way around. If your country was occupied, if looters and Isis came and took everything and sold it to Iraqis. How would you feel?” she says.

It is one of many cases Hassan is chasing. But no matter how many items she recovers, she is fighting an uphill battle. The plunder of Iraq’s history is not yet over.

There are more than 10,000 important archaeological sites across the country, and only 10 per cent have ever been excavated. Thousands are left unguarded, and vulnerable to smugglers.

“Ongoing illicit excavations are the biggest threat to Iraq’s antiquities today. They are happening every week at archaeological sites all over Iraq,” says Bruno Deslandes, a conservation architect at Unesco.

Deslandes says that a lack of coordinated action between different government agencies, and central databases to track missing items, hinders the work of those trying to repatriate missing artefacts. Some also hold on to artefacts longer than is necessary.

“Foreign countries are not proactive enough in physically bringing back items to Iraq. They think they are protecting them by keeping them longer than needed,” he says.

For Hassan, every day that Iraq’s artefacts are not returned feels like a lifetime. On a walk around the museum, she stops at a display case of Aramaic incantation bowls from the 7th and 8th century AD. This is where the bowls from Schoyen’s collection will go, she says, should they ever be returned to Iraq.

“For me, it will be a very big achievement to get them back,” she says. “This country has paid a heavy price. It has paid in blood. At least give us back our history.”