viernes, 16 de julio de 2021


 April 21–August 16, 2021,

 Statue of Prince Gudea with a Vase of Flowing Water (detail), Neo-Sumerian period, about 2120 BC, dolerite. Musée du Louvre, Department of Near Eastern Antiquities, Paris. Gift of Boisgelin, 1967 (de Clercq collection). Image © Scala/Art Resource, NY

Mesopotamia—the land "between the rivers" in modern-day Iraq—was home to the ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Among their many achievements are the creation of the earliest known script (cuneiform), the formation of the first cities, the development of advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge, and spectacular artistic and literary accomplishments. The exhibition covers three millennia, from the first cities in about 3200 BC to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Babylon in 331 BC.

Exhibition organized by the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins

Ancient Mesopotamia, centered in present-day Iraq, occupies a unique place in the history of human culture. It is there, around 3400–3000 BC, that all the key elements of urban civilization first appear in one place: cities with monumental infrastructure and official bureaucracies overseeing agricultural, economic, and religious activities; the earliest known system of writing; and sophisticated architecture, arts, and technologies.

These developments were concentrated in southern Mesopotamia, where the dominant ethnic and linguistic group until about 2000 BC was the Sumerians, famous today for their hero-king Gilgamesh of Uruk, the treasures found in the Royal Tombs at Ur, and the strikingly beautiful statues of Gudea, ruler of Lagash. By at least 2700 BC, the Sumerians lived alongside Akkadians, whose king Sargon established the first lasting Mesopotamian empire, and whose Semitic language evolved into the dialects of the Babylonians and Assyrians. It was those cultures, adapting and extending the Sumero-Akkadian heritage, that built the great cities of Babylon and Nineveh, famed for their towering ziggurats, temples, palaces, and city walls; composed evocative creation myths, epics, hymns, and poems; and laid the foundations for future mathematics and astronomy.

For some three thousand years, Mesopotamia remained the preeminent force in the Near East. In 539 BC, however, Cyrus the Great captured Babylon and incorporated Mesopotamia into the Persian Empire. Periods of Greek and Parthian rule followed, and by about AD 100 Mesopotamian culture had effectively come to an end.

The earliest known writing emerged in southern Mesopotamia around 3400 BC, originating as a system of pictographs that evolved by 2600 BC into the distinctive wedge-shaped script we call "cuneiform." It was used initially to record the Sumerian language, and from about 2400 BC Akkadian, which split into two dialects, Assyrian and Babylonian, around 2000 BC. Over the next two thousand years, the use of cuneiform scripts—both the Mesopotamian version and new forms adapted or invented to write some fifteen other languages—spread to Iran, Armenia, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. For much of this period, Babylonian remained the international diplomatic language between the region’s "great kings." Cuneiform finally died out in the late first century AD, overtaken by the simpler alphabetic scripts of Aramaic and Greek.

The vast majority of cuneiform writing was inscribed on clay tablets, which could also be impressed with a seal that acted like a signature. The hundreds of thousands of texts discovered by archaeologists include royal inscriptions, law codes, treaties, and literature, as well as everyday records such as receipts, contracts, letters, and incantations that reveal the intimate details of Mesopotamian social, religious, and economic life to an extent unmatched by any other ancient culture.

Extensive libraries of cuneiform texts were kept in temples and palaces, where scribes copied and recopied canonical compositions for millennia. Some kings, such as Shulgi of Ur (ruled 2094-2047 BC) and Ashurbanipal of Assyria (ruled 668-627 BC), claimed to read many languages and to be able to write cuneiform themselves………………

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