The Neolithic Revolution: Andites and the Invention of Civilization
The Prime InventionsAgriculture
"While the Mesolithic peoples of Europe were adjusting to the postglacial environment by developing new food-gathering techniques, something of far greater consequence - a shift from food gathering to food producing - was taking place in the Near East (now generally called the Middle East).
Here, on the hilly flanks of the mountains bordering the Fertile Crescent there was sufficient rainfall to nourish wild forms of wheat and barley and to provide grass for wild sheep, goats, and pigs.
By 7000 B.C., people in this region had domesticated these grains and animals and were living in villages near their herds and fields. (At about the same time, yams were domesticated in Southeast Asia; and the cultivation of rice in China dates back to about 6500 B.C.) This momentous change, the most far-reaching breakthrough in the relationship of people to their environment, ushered in the Neolithic or New Stone Age."
"It is known that agriculture spread from the
Middle East to Europe during the Neolithic period about 12,000 years
ago, but for many years archeologists have debated how this occurred.
Was it due to the movement of people or to the movement of ideas?
Previous genetic analysis of people living today suggests a migration -
that the people moved - but critics have questioned this view. The
latest study reinforces evidence of a migration in which people brought
their ideas and lifestyle with them."
"The evidence still strongly indicates that the establishment of agricultural communities in central Europe was largely the result of the colonization of this region by migrating farming peoples.
A more realistic picture of the Neolithic diaspora
in Europe is to consider it to have been a mixture of various waves,
currents, and eddies of people, animals, and plants. In some areas, an
influx of migrating farmers swept with it any sparse local foraging
populations as it deposited its own agricultural communities."
"The great majority of the cultivated plants of the
world trace their origin to Asia. Out of 640 important cultivated
plants, about 500 originated in Southern Asia. In Asia alone we have
established five of the principle regions of cultivated plants.... The
fifth region of origin in Asia is the Southwestern Asiatic centre and
includes Asia Minor, Trans-Caucasia, Iran and Western Turkmenistan.
This region is remarkable, first of all, for its richness in numbers of
species of wheat resistant to different diseases...There is no doubt
that Armenia is the chief home of cultivated wheat. Asia Minor and
Trans-Caucasia gave origin to rye which is represented here by a great
number of varieties and species....
"The Sumerians, an ancient peoples and one of the
first civilizations in the world called Ararat, Arrata. In their great
epic poems of Gilgamesh and Arrata, they tell of the land of their
ancestors, the Arratans in the Highlands of Armenia. The Sumerians had
a very close connection with the ancestral Land of Ararat and
considered it as their ancestral homeland (many historians and
archaeologists are convinced that the Sumerians initially lived in
Northern Mesopotamia and Armenian Highland).The Greeks believed that
the people who first worked with bronze and iron came from the same
area, they called them Khaldi."
"Eridu, the first city mentioned, is the city of
the water god Enki/Ea (one of the top three deities in the Sumerian
pantheon). It is situated in the extreme south of Mesopotamia near the
sea or a lagoon. It is said that the `principle of agriculture' was
revealed by a god to the first king of Eridu: Emmeduranki."
"The Early Dynastic period corresponding with the
Mohenjo Daro finds shows that Sumerian metallurgy around 3000 B.C. was
well developed. Not only are both copper and bronze in use, but the
Sumerians know filigrain-, granulation- and incision-technique, they
use forging, engraving and inlay-techniques, they solder and practise
different forms of casting such as core casting, cire-perdue, open and
closed mould casting, etc. It is decidedly superior to contemporary
Egyptian technique and the Egyptians do not yet use bronze for many a
generation. It is also more advanced than the Indus civilisation
metallurgy. (pg. 10-21).
"Sumer also pioneered advances in warfare
technology. By the middle of the third millennium B.C., the Sumerians
had developed the wheeled chariot. At approximately the same time, the
Sumerians discovered that tin and copper when smelted together produced
bronze--a new, more durable, and much harder metal. The wheeled chariot
and bronze weapons became increasingly important as the Sumerians
developed the institution of kingship and as individual city-states
began to vie for supremacy."
"And in ancient Sumer the first detailed records,
written or carved in stone, of military battles appeared. No society of
the Bronze Age was more advanced in the design and application of
military weaponry and technique than was ancient Sumer, a legacy it
sustained for two thousand years before bequeathing it to the rest of
the Middle East."
Astronomy and Mathematics
"To the Sumerians, ultimately, we owe not only the
week but also the 60-minute hour.
"Ancestral Armenians developed a trading culture at
a very early time. To do that, they needed to understand and create a
system of navigation. Longitude, latitude, distance and direction had
to be calculated for any trip farther than across a few mountains.
Artifacts uncovered at Metsamor come from as far-flung cultures as
those in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, the Black and Mediterranean Seas.
Others include navigational tools, inscribed in stone and accurately
mapping the night sky. In Sissian, a 4200 BC astral observatory built
from stone shows an incredibly sophisticated knowledge of the universe
2000 years before the Babylonians—originally thought the
first astronomers—had built their first city."
"In the imagination of the Mesopotamians (the
Sumerians, Elamites, Babylonians and Assyrians), the earth was a flat
disc, surrounded by a rim of mountains and floating on an ocean of
sweet water. Resting on these mountains was the hemispherical vault of
the sky, across which moved the stars, the planets, the sun and the
moon. Under the earth was another hemisphere containing the spirits of
the dead. The Mesopotamians visualized the whole spherical
world-universe as being immersed like a bubble in a limitless ocean of
salt water. By contrast with their somewhat primitive cosmology, both
their mathematics and astronomy of the Mesopotamians were startlingly
advanced. Their number system was positional, like ours, and was based
on six and sixty. We can still see traces of it in our present method
of measuring angles in degrees and minutes, and also in our method of
measuring time in hours, minutes and seconds. The Mesopotamians were
acquainted with square roots and cube roots, and they could solve
quadratic equations. They also were aware of exponential and
logarithmic relationships. They seemed to value mathematics for its own
sake, for the sake of enjoyment and recreation, as much as for its
practical applications. On the whole, their algebra was more advanced
than their geometry. They knew some of the properties of triangles and
circles, but did not prove them in a systematic way."
"Even where the link between a deity and, say, a
planet is secure, the Mesopotamian astronomer-astrologers normally used
a specific name for the planet rather than the name of the god in
""Dingir" is a divine determinative found before
the name of a god or goddess. Here it appears before Nanna's name to
indicate that Nanna the Moon God is being referred to rather than the
moon, which is also called "nanna"."
"At the risk of some redundancy, you will notice
quickly that Nibiru is preceded by both “d” and
“MUL”, and so is referred to as a deity and a star.
As Sitchin himself notes on various occasions (and this is common
knowledge to ancient near eastern scholars), ancient people often
identified the stars or planets as gods, as though the stars were
deified beings. This is one reason why even in the Old Testament the
sons of God are referred to as stars (cf. Job 38:7-8)."
"All of the Sumerians’ innovations were remarkable contributions, responsible for revolutionizing travel, trade and commerce, written and oral communication, science, and even literature. Many of the things that we take for granted today can be traced back directly to the ingenuity of the Sumerian culture.
The Sumerian writing system is probably the most significant of their inventions, paving the way for written communication, record keeping, and literature. Around 3200 B.C., they had developed the first known form of writing, called cuneiform. Using an implement known as a stylus, scribes would draw wedge-shaped characters on clay tablets, and then bake them to preserve the information. Cuneiform was a widely used form of communication for several millennia, despite having over 500 characters, and taking years to learn and master.
The development of writing led the Sumerians to compose on of the oldest known literary works, The Epic of Gilgamesh. This collection of stories about a Sumerian hero laid the groundwork for the early epic poems such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, and led to the development to poetry and prose writing."
"The peoples who inhabited the southern portion of ancient Mesopotamia, Sumeria, developed the earliest forms of writing in the world. The languages spoken and written in this region revolutionized human communication and forever changed civilization. The earliest forms of writing, first pictograms and then cuneiform, facilitated communication between the common languages of the day. Much like in today's society, language was nearly as powerful back than as it is now, but perhaps even more profoundly. True complex civilization, as we know it, began once language and writing developed, which then spread throughout the world. It is therefore imperative that we examine the beginnings of language and its major impact on civilization. This analytical essay will focus on two of the 15 known languages of the Southern areas of Mesopotamia, but also incorporate material culture information of the Mesopotamian region in an endeavour to demonstrate that, more than anything else in history, the invention of writing was definitely one of the most compelling forms of evidence for complexity. Let us now explore the language and communication of the southern Mesopotamian peoples...
Evolving from the pictographs, which were not very user-friendly, the Sumerians created a new writing form which was also comprised of writing on clay tablets. The tip of the calamus was now first triangular in shape and then finally blunt and wedge-shaped, and as they were described by Roman writers as being cuneus or "wedge-shaped," the name stuck (Cotterell, 12). The earliest form of cuneiform emerged circa 3200 B.C.E.- also known as the Late Uruk period in Sumer; with some scholars hypothesizing that its initial development occurred in the city of Uruk itself (Bottero, 233). By around 2,800 B.C.E., the early usage of symbols had developed into the standard cuneiform script to record Sumerian (Scarre, 70). According to some researchers, cuneiform was, and is, a "very complicated system comprising signs for words, syllables and vowels. On linguistic grounds, it cannot be linked to any other known language" (Cotterell, 12). Although Sumerian was the dominant language spoken and written during the time, cuneiform was also used to write Akkadian, the other widely-spoken language and lesser used languages like Elamite, Hittite, and Urartian . Akkadian cuneiform used both syllabograms and ideograms (that were favoured by the Sumerian writers). The other languages used the Akkadian cuneiform as a reference point for their writings (Durand, 25). That was the beauty of cuneiform- it was a sort of universal writing system for all the languages of the region. Most Sumerian myths were written in cuneiform, and we shall go into further detail later on. Cuneiform was used so widely that it survived even into the first century of the Common Era (Scarre, 71).
Writing Use in Mesopotamia
As is evident from the material culture from areas such as Uruk; physical communication in Mesopotamia began with the use of bullae and tokens. Tokens indicated a certain idea to another person in relation to an economic exchange and they were placed inside bullae which were vessels used to transport the tokens. A bulla was often sent with characters on the side which depicted a bull or an item of food. Also, cylinder seals were used on vessels, doors and also receipts. After using these methods of imparting information, it appears that people found it more convenient to write the characters depicting the objects instead of using bullae and tokens. The majority of early writings focused on accounts, receipts and other forms of documentation about the economy. These included marriage settlements, inheritance deeds, loan agreements, court decisions et cetera. Archaeologists have discovered hundred of these types of ancient writing, but they are not exactly what many would call extremely interesting reads. The scribes that wrote administrative documents began to write numerous types of literature. Scribes, using cuneiform to write in usually either Sumerian or Akkadian, also began to write for educational purposes and eventually, historical accounts (Nemet-Nejat, 76). Cuneiform writing began to document astrological examinations and medical procedures. Mesopotamia is also known for having had numerous myths and legends including: Splendid Storm King, Enuma Elish, and the well-known Epic of Gilgamesh. Although this was written as a Babylonian myth, it was nevertheless written in Sumerian cuneiform.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The epic was written on clay tablets, a photo of one of these many tablets is shown below in the Akkadian language and in the cuneiform script . There is debate amongst some scholars about the time in which these writings were made. Some believe that this epic was written during the Third Dynasty of Ur, which was from around 2119 to 2004 B.C.E. The goddess Inanna (who in Akkadian is the goddess Ishtar) and other gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon are present in the stories. The story of Utnapishtim and the Flood may remind many of the Judeo-Christian myth of Noah and the Flood."
(http://ant3145-mesopotamia.wikispaces.com/Languages+of+Ancient+Mesopotamia By Andrea Zuvich)
For more on Gilgamesh click here: Gilgamesh
"Another important invention was the potter's wheel, first used in Sumer soon after 3500 B.C. Earlier, people had fashioned pots by molding or coiling clay by hand, but now a symmetrical product could be produced in a much shorter time.
A pivoted clay disk heavy enough to revolve of its own momentum, the potter's wheel has been called "the first really mechanical device"."
Waterways and Irrigation:
"In order for some stability to be brought to bear on the irrigation of this area, extensive and complex systems of canals, weirs, dikes and reservoirs were built; these feats required advanced engineering skills, including accurate surveying and measurement. Furthermore these waterways required considerable annual maintenance to ensure they did not become clogged up with silt. Such tasks required significant levels of co-operation between neighbours over an extended area. Indeed the orthodox view is that it was this very necessity for extended co-operation which led to the emergence of civilisation in the area."
Shipping and Transport:
"Given their reliance on waterways, it comes as no surprise to find that the Sumerians list many types of shipping vessel in their records. Kramer also supports the relatively modern view that from early times they were undertaking significant sea voyages (assumed until recently to be impossible at that time), engaging in trade with places such as Egypt and Ethiopia in order to acquire materials that their own region did not provide.5 According to the current orthodoxy they were also the first to introduce the wheel, from which they developed both the cart and chariot."
Architecture and City-States:
"These developed from the smaller towns and villages at the latest by the start of the 3rd millennium BC, and housed populations of anything up to 100-200,000 people. The complexity of housing construction varied according to status, with the poor occupying single-story houses built usually of reinforced clay or mud bricks, while the better-off enjoyed grander dwellings of two or occasionally even three stories. However the concept of town planning was not particularly advanced, with private houses muddled together along usually narrow and jumbled streets and alleyways. Nevertheless the imposing and often monumental stepped temple or ziggurat of the patron god, and in later times the palace of the ruler (the ensi or lugal), were splendid affairs made of more expensive materials, and highly decorated inside and out with columns, arches and mosaics. These buildings, sometimes combined with large and ornate city gates, wide boulevards and walkways, and central public squares which were a focal point for recreation, dominated the city. So successful was this prototype of civilised life that in subsequent millennia the city-state thrived from the Indus Valley in the east right through to the Mediterranean in the west, based largely on the Sumerian model. Indeed our modern western city-based culture owes much to this original Sumerian influence as against that of, for example, Ancient Egypt, which never adopted the city-state concept."
"We can guess that the Mesopotamians were aware of some of the laws of physics, since they were able to lift huge stones and to construct long aquaducts. Also to their civilization must be credited a great cultural advance: the invention of the wheel. This great invention, which eluded the civilizations of the western hemisphere, was made in Mesopotamia in about 3600 B.C."
Culture and the Arts:
"Not only did the Sumerians produce complex stone sculptures including inscribed stelae, and highly decorated pottery and clothing, but they also developed musical instruments such as the harp and lyre which were used to accompany the recital of their many epic literary works. They developed the concept of the library, assiduously collecting and cataloguing their mass of not only literary but also administrative, scientific and historiographic texts. And there are some indications that they indulged in vigorous debates both in public and private."
Schools and Education:
"Centres of scholarship or edubbas were set up in most city-states at the latest by the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Primarily these provided education for the offspring of the better-off, and their main aim was to train the pupils to become specialist scribes. Given the complexities of the Sumerian language which by then existed, graduating from the edubba was no mean feat. Learning how to write the language, made harder because it was not alphabetic or phonetic, was a multi-stage process: students started with vocabulary, for example learning and copying'scientific' lists of botanical, zoological and mathematical words, each of which could extend into the hundreds or even thousands; they then progressed to mastering the complexities of Sumerian written grammar. But the edubba was at the same time a 'centre of learning' where, as now, lecturers and senior scholars also engaged in original research to add to the extant body of knowledge in many areas. Furthermore, even in the literary areas, writing was not only directed towards learning, copying and preserving, but also occasionally towards the creation of new epics."
"The oldest known library was that uncovered in 19975 at Ebla, a city of about 250,000 inhabitants located near the town of Ugarit, a Sirian port in the Mediterranean Sea. This geographic position probably played a significant role in the in the development of the city. Scholars believe the inhabitants of the city were dedicated mainly to trade and commerce."
"Old Sumerian is the language used in the Old Sumerian age. A large fraction of texts in Old Sumerian and most of our knowledge on this language is derived from texts already found before 1900 CE in Nippur, a holy city, the religious capital of Sumer, seat of Enlil, the supreme god of the Sumerian pantheon. These tablets (more than 30,000) can now be found in Istanbul, Jena and Philadelphia. These tablets include the oldest versions of literary works, such as the Gilgamesh Epic and the Creation Story, as well as administrative, legal, medical and business records, and school texts."
"Through military conquests Ashurbanipal also expanded Assyrian territory and its number of vassal states. However, of far greater importance to posterity was Ashurbanipal's establishment of a great library in the city of Nineveh. The military and territorial gains made by this ruler barely outlived him but the Library he established has survived partially intact. A collection of 20,000 to 30,000 cuneiform tablets containing approximately 1,200 distinct texts remains for scholars to study today. Ashurbanipal's library was not the first library of its kind but it was one of the largest and one of the ones to survive to the present day. Most of it is now in the possession of the British Museum or the Iraq Department of Antiquities.
The importance of Ashurbanipal's Library can not be overstated. It was buried by invaders centuries before the famous library at Alexandria was established and gives modern historians much information about the peoples of the Ancient Near East. The ancient Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh" and a nearly complete list of ancient Near Eastern rulers among other priceless writings were preserved in Ashurbanipal's palace library at Nineveh. Ashurbanipal's accomplishments are also of great importance to scholars of library history. As a scholar Ashurbanipal reached greatnesss. Though this library was not the first of its kind, it was one of the largest and the first library modern scholars can document as having most or even all of the attributes one expects to find in a modern library. Like a modern library this collection was spread out into many rooms according to subject matter. Some rooms were devoted to history and government, others to religion and magic and still others to geography, science, poetry, etc. Ashurbanipal's collection even held what could be called classified government materials. The findings of spies and secret affairs of state were held secure from access in deep recesses of the palace much like a modern government archive. Each group of tablets contained a brief citation to identify the contents and each room contained a tablet near the door to classify the general contents of each room in Ashurbanipal's library. The actual cataloging activities under Ashurbanipal's direction would not be seen in Europe for centuries. Partially through military conquests and partially through the employment of numerous scribes there was significant effort placed into what modern librarians would call collection development."
"Libraries begin with graphic communication
Archives preceeded libraries. The reason may have been that writing owes its origin to acounting, that is, the efforts of people to keep track of what had been payed or should be payed. Those responsible for keeping accountings were the prists and the first place where accounting took place were the temples. Specifically, the writng that developed from early accounts is known as cuneiform, the people who develop it were the prists from Asiria, and the time when the event took place was approximately 3000 BC. Thus the earliest important language expressed in cuneiform was Sumarian. A series of semitic people moved into Mesopotamia the first of whom were the Akkadian who borrowed Sumarian writing to express their own Akkadian language. Later other peoples sych as the Elamites, Hurrians, Hittites and Urarteans took over the same script from the Akkadeans to write their own languages.
The oldest known library was that uncovered in 1975 at Ebla, a city of about 250,000 inhabitants located near the town of Ugarit, a Sirian port in the Mediterranean Sea. This geographic position probably played a significant role in the in the development of the city. Scholars believe the inhabitants of the city were dedicated mainly to trade and commerce.
Two rooms in the main palace are believed to have been the library. Excations of its content yield some 17,000 fragments which scholars calculate added up to about 4,000 documents. The smaller of the two rooms housed economic documents where as the larger one housed documents of such diverse subjects as administration, law, history, religion and linguistic.
There were wooden shelves attached to the walls on which there were tablets organized by author and subject. The average measurement of the tablets is 8" X 8", though there are some that measure 8" X 16". The average tablet consists of about 1,500 lines distributed in 30 columns of 50 lines each. Their shape seems to have a relation to the their content and to the way the were organzied. The round-shaped ones, which contain economic and administrative texts, were placed on the lowest shelves, at floor level, while the square ones which were of diverse subjects, will go on the top shelves. Such diverse subjects may be dieries, inventories, and contracts usually involving the purchasing of textiles, wood, metals or pottery. Further subjects were, a list of the kings of Ebla, royal mandates, official correspondance and political treatises. Lists of terminology which amount to dictionaries on names of towns, names of their gods, objects, animals and plants, but also found are literary texts, hymns, enchantations, epic poems, mythology, and proverbs. The leyend on the spine of the tablet--like the later books--indicated the book’s conent facilitating their retrieval."
"The majority of the hundreds of medical tablets currently excavated date only to the early part of the 1st millennium BC, and are written in Akkadian.8 Nevertheless these utilise many Sumerian words and phrases which indicate their heritage, and a few similar tablets have been found which date as far back as the start of the 2nd millennium BC. It has been suggested that these ancient pharmacopoeias, which describe a variety of illnesses and cures, would probably be remarkably similar to one compiled only a couple of hundred years ago. But although the texts describe fundamentally practical procedures, these tend to be couched in a moral framework which views disease as a punishment for wrongdoing; as a result we regularly come across 'supernatural' elements in Sumerian medical thinking, including for example exorcism. It would also appear that their medical knowledge did not develop a great deal over several millennia. However this should not detract from the evidence that they researched a great many herbal remedies, many of which apparently worked, and indeed they were perhaps more aware than many modern practitioners of the 'healthy mind, healthy body' approach, and the possibility of psychosomatic illness."
"Among the inventions of the Sumerians, the most persistent and far-reaching was their invention of law. While all cultures have some system of social regulation and conflict resolution, law is a distinct phenomenon. Law is written and administered retribution and conflict resolution. It is distinct from other forms of retribution and conflict resolution by the following characteristics: First, it is administered by a centralized authority. This way retribution for wrongs does not threaten to escalate into a cycle of mutual revenge. Sumerian law sits half way between individual revenge and state-administered revenge: it is up to the individual to drag (quite literally) the accused party into the court, but the court actually determines the nature of the retribution to be exacted. Secondly, Law is written; in this way, law assumes an independent character beyond the centralized authority that administers it. This produces a sociological fiction that the law controls those who administer the law and that the "law" exacts retribution, not humans. Lastly, Law is at its heart revenge; the basic cultural mechanism for dealing with unacceptable behavior is to exact revenge. Unacceptable behavior outside the sphere of revenge initially did not come under the institution of law: it was only much later that disputes that didn't involve retribution would be included in law.
We don't know much about Sumerian law, however, it is believed by scholars that the Code of Hammurabi, written by a Babylonian monarch, reproduces Sumerian law fairly exactly. Hammurabi's code, was a law of exact revenge, which we refer to as lex talionis. This is revenge in kind: "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life," suggesting that human law has its fundamental basis in revenge. Law was only partly administered by the state; the victim had to bring the criminal to court. Once there, the court mediated the dispute, rendered a decision, and most of the time a court official would execute the sentence, but often it fell on the victim or the victim's family to enforce the sentence. Finally, Sumerian law recognized class distinctions; under Sumerian law, everyone was not equal under the law. Harming a priest or noble person was a far more serious crime than harming a slave or poor person; yet, the penalties assessed for a noble person who commits a crime were often far harsher than the penalties assessed for someone from the lower classes that committed the same crime.
This great invention, law, would serve as the basis for the institution of law among all the Semitic peoples to follow: Babylonians, Assyrians, and, eventually, the Hebrews."
|First Legend page 3|