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A relief at the ancient Persian city of Persepolis (now in modern Iran), including inscriptions in cuneiform, the world’s oldest form of writing. Diego Delso/Wikimedia

Friday essay: the recovery of cuneiform, the world’s oldest known writing

Cuneiform was used for over 3,000 years in the Ancient Near East, but was only decoded in the 19th century. The writing form is still revealing amazing stories, from literature to mathematics.
A solar eclipse observed over Grand Canyon National Park in May 2012. Grand Canyon National Park

How eclipses were regarded as omens in the ancient world

More than 2,000 years ago, the Babylonians understood the cycle of eclipses. They also regarded them as signs that could foretell the death of a king.
Ishtar (on right) comes to Sargon, who would later become one of the great kings of Mesopotamia. Edwin J. Prittie, The story of the greatest nations, 1913

Friday essay: the legend of Ishtar, first goddess of love and war

Love, it is said, is a battlefield, and it was no more so than for the first goddess of love and war, Ishtar. Her legend has influenced cultural archetypes from Aphrodite to Wonder Woman.
Gilgamesh explores what it means to be human, and questions the meaning of life and love. Wikimedia Commons

Guide to the classics: the Epic of Gilgamesh

From environmentalism to the meaning of life, the themes of the world's most ancient epic are still remarkably relevant to modern readers.

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