A depiction of a man milking a cow found on one of the walls of ancient burial tombs south of present-day Cairo dating from 2340 BC.
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images
Natural landscape changes in the Nile Delta may have not only stimulated local take up of farming technologies, but might also have played a role in the emergence of the first “nation state”.
Cylinder seal (left) and modern impression (right) showing two people drinking beer through long straws. Khafajeh, Iraq (Early Dynastic period, c. 2600–2350 B.C.).
Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
Beer was extremely popular in ancient Mesopotamia. Sipped through straws, it differed from today’s beer and was enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
William Blake’s portrait of the Old Testament Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, who in the Book of Daniel ‘was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen’.
Nebuchadnezzar was a warrior-king of the Neo-Babylonian empire. And now, Kanye West has written an opera inspired by him.
Ashurbanipal, last major ruler of the Assyrian Empire, couldn’t outrun the effects of climate change.
What caused the rise and then collapse 2,600 years ago of this vast empire centered on Mesopotamia? Clues from a cave in northern Iraq point to abrupt climate change.
The National Museum of Iraq photographed in February 2018. Many of the pieces discovered at the ruins of Ur, arranged and labelled by Ennigaldi-Nanna, can be found here.
Ennigaldi-Nanna is largely unknown in the modern day. But in 530BC, this Mesopotamian priestess worked to arrange and label various artefacts in the world’s first museum.
Standard of Ur mosaic, 26th century BC.
Enheduanna’s name means ‘Ornament of Heaven’. She wrote hymns and myths more than 4000 years ago, studied the stars and yet is almost entirely unknown in the present day.
King Naram-Sin of Akkad, grandson of Sargon, leading his army to victory.
Rama / Louvre
Scientists have discovered new evidence of a drought that finished off the Akkadian Empire 4,000 years ago.
Gilgamesh (right) in his first appearance as an Avenger in the Marvel comic Avengers Vol 1 300.
Unlike the Greek heroes, many Mesopotamian mythical figures have slipped into obscurity. An exception to this is their representation in comics, such as Gilgamesh, who served alongside Captain America as an Avenger.
The “Burney Relief,” which is believed to represent either Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, or her older sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the underworld (c. 19th or 18th century BC)
Sex was central to life in ancient Mesopotamia. And the authors of Sumerian love poetry, depicting the exploits of divine couples, showed a wealth of practical knowledge about the stages of female sexual arousal.
LiDAR, was used to “redraw” the remains of the city, along the lower western slopes of the Suikerbosrand hills near Johannesburg.
Technology which located Mayan cities has been used to rediscover a southern African city from the 15th century.
A relief at the ancient Persian city of Persepolis (now in modern Iran), including inscriptions in cuneiform, the world’s oldest form of 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
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
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.
From environmentalism to the meaning of life, the themes of the world’s most ancient epic are still remarkably relevant to modern readers.
The ancient city of Hatra.
It was in Mesopotamia that the world’s first cities emerged, along with the invention of writing and the codification of laws.