FOR A LONG TIME, Western man believed that his civilization was the gift of Rome and Greece. But the Greek philosophers themselves wrote repeatedly that they had drawn on even earlier sources. Later on, travelers returning to Europe reported the existence in Egypt of imposing pyramids and temple-cities half-buried in the sands, guarded by strange stone beasts called sphinxes.

When Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1799, he took with him scholars to study and explain these ancient monuments. One of his officers found near Rosetta a stone slab on which was carved a proclamation from 196 B.C. written in the ancient Egyptian pictographic writing (hieroglyphic) as well as in two other scripts.

The decipherment of the ancient Egyptian script and language, and the archaeological efforts that followed, revealed to Western man that a high civilization had existed in Egypt well before the advent of the Greek civilization. Egyptian records spoke of royal dynasties that began circa 3100 B.C. - two full millennia before the beginning of Hellenic civilization. Reaching its maturity in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., Greece was a latecomer rather than an originator.

Was the origin of our civilization, then, in Egypt?


As logical as that conclusion would have seemed, the facts militated against it. Greek scholars did describe visits to Egypt, but the ancient sources of knowledge of which they spoke were found elsewhere. The pre-Hellenic cultures of the Aegean Sea - the Minoan on the island of Crete and the Mycenaean on the Greek mainland - revealed evidence that the Near Eastern, not the Egyptian, culture had been adopted. Syria and Anatolia, not Egypt, were the principal avenues through which an earlier civilization became available to the Greeks.

Noting that the Dorian invasion of Greece and the Israelite invasion of Canaan following the Exodus from Egypt took place at about the same time (circa the thirteenth century B.C.), scholars have been fascinated to discover a growing number of similarities between the Semitic and Hellenic civilizations.


Professor Cyrus H. Gordon (Forgotten Scripts; Evidence for the Minoan Language) opened up a new field of study by showing that an early Minoan script, called Linear A, represented a Semitic language.


He concluded that "the pattern (as distinct from the content) of the Hebrew and Minoan civilizations is the same to a remarkable extent," and pointed out that the island's name, Crete, spelled in Minoan Ke-re-ta, was the same as the Hebrew word Ke-re-et ("walled city") and had a counterpart in a Semitic tale of a king of Keret.

Even the Hellenic alphabet, from which the Latin and our own alphabets derive, came from the Near East. The ancient Greek historians themselves wrote that a Phoenician named Kadmus ("ancient") brought them the alphabet, comprising the same number of letters, in the same order, as in Hebrew; it was the only Greek alphabet when the Trojan War took place. The number of letters was raised to twenty-six by the poet Simonides of Ceos in the fifth century B.C.

That Greek and Latin writing, and thus the whole foundation of our Western culture, were adopted from the Near East can easily be demonstrated by comparing the order, names, signs, and even numerical values of the original Near Eastern alphabet with the much later ancient Greek and the more recent Latin.

The scholars were aware, of course, of Greek contacts with the Near East in the first millennium B.C., culminating with the defeat of the Persians by Alexander the Macedonian in 331 B.C.


Greek records contained much information about these Persians and their lands (which roughly paralleled today's Iran). Judging by the names of their kings - Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes - and the names of their deities, which appear to belong to the Indo-European linguistic stem, scholars reached the conclusion that they were part of the Aryan ("lordly") people that appeared from somewhere near the Caspian Sea toward the end of the second millennium B.C. and spread westward to Asia Minor, eastward to India, and southward to what the Old Testament called the "lands of the Medes and Parsees."

Yet all was not that simple. In spite of the assumed foreign origin of these invaders, the Old Testament treated them as part and parcel of biblical events. Cyrus, for example, was considered to be an "Anointed of Yahweh" - quite an unusual relationship between the Hebrew God and a non-Hebrew.


According to the biblical Book of Ezra, Cyrus acknowledged his mission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and stated that he was acting upon orders given by Yahweh, whom he called "God of Heaven." Cyrus and the other kings of his dynasty called themselves Achaemenids - after the title adopted by the founder of the dynasty, which was Hacham-Anish.


It was not an Aryan but a perfect Semitic title, which meant "wise man."


By and large, scholars have neglected to investigate the many leads that may point to similarities between the Hebrew God Yahweh and the deity Achaemenids called "Wise Lord," whom they depicted as hovering in the skies within a Winged Globe, as shown on the royal seal of Darius.

It has been established by now that the cultural, religious, and historic roots of these Old Persians go back to the earlier empires of Babylon and Assyria, whose extent and fall is recorded in the Old Testament.


The symbols that make up the script that appeared on the Achaemenid monuments and seals were at first considered to be decorative designs. Engelbert Kampfer, who visited Persepolis, the Old Persian capital, in 1686, described the signs as "cuneates," or wedge-shaped impressions. The script has since been known as cuneiform.

As efforts began to decipher the Achaemenid inscriptions, it became clear that they were written in the same script as inscriptions found on ancient artifacts and tablets in Mesopotamia, the plains and highlands that lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Intrigued by the scattered finds, Paul Emile Botta set out in 1843 to conduct the first major purposeful excavation.


He selected a site in northern Mesopotamia, near present-day Mosul, now called Khorsabad. Botta was soon able to establish that the cuneiform inscriptions named the place Dur Sharru Kin. They were Semitic inscriptions, in a sister language of Hebrew, and the name meant "walled city of the righteous king." Our textbooks call this king Sargon II.

This capital of the Assyrian king had as its center a magnificent royal palace whose walls were lined with sculptured bas-reliefs, which, if placed end to end, would stretch for over a mile.


Commanding the city and the royal compound was a step pyramid called a ziggurat; it served as a "stairway to Heaven" for the gods.

The layout of the city and the sculptures depicted a way of life on a grand scale.


The palaces, temples, houses, stables, warehouses, walls, gates, columns, decorations, statues, artworks, towers, ramparts, terraces, gardens - all were completed in just five years. According to Georges Contenau (La Vie Quotidienne a Babylone et en Assyrie), "the imagination reels before the potential strength of an empire which could accomplish so much in such a short space of time," some 3,000 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the French, the English appeared on the scene in the person of Sir Austen Henry Layard, who selected as his site a place some ten miles down the Tigris River from Khorsabad. The natives called it Kuyunjik; it turned out to be the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.

Biblical names and events had begun to come to life. Nineveh was the royal capital of Assyria under its last three great rulers: Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurhanipal.

"Now, in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the walled cities of Judah," relates the Old Testament (II Kings 18:13), and when the Angel of the Lord smote his army, "Sennacherib departed and went back, and dwelt in Nineveh."

The mounds where Nineveh was built by Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal revealed palaces, temples, and works of art that surpassed those of Sargon.


The area where the remains of Esarhaddon's palaces are believed to lie cannot be excavated, for it is now the site of a Muslim mosque erected over the purported burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale when he refused ID bring Yahweh's message to Nineveh.

Layard had read in ancient Greek records that an officer in Alexander's army saw a "place of pyramids and remains of an ancient city" - a city that was already buried in Alexander's time! Layard dug it up, too, and it turned out to be Nimrud, Assyria's military center. It was there that Shalmaneser II set up an obelisk to record his military expeditions and conquests. Now on exhibit at the British Museum, the obelisk lists, among the kings who were made to pay tribute, "Jehu, son of Omri, king of Israel."

Again, the Mesopotamian inscriptions and biblical texts supported each other!

Astounded by increasingly frequent corroboration of the biblical narratives by archaeological finds, the Assyriologists, as these scholars came to be called, turned to the tenth chapter of the Book of Genesis. There Nimrod - "a mighty hunter by the grace of Yahweh" - was des6ribed as the founder of all the kingdoms of Mesopotamia.

And the beginning of his kingdom:

Babel and Erech and Akkad, all in the Land of Shin'ar.
Out of that Land there emanated Ashur where
Nineveh was built, a city of wide streets; and Khalah, and Ressen - the great city
which is between Nineveh and Khalah.

There were indeed mounds the natives called Calah, lying between Nineveh and Nimrud.


When teams under W. Andrae excavated the area from 1903 to 1914, they uncovered the ruins of Ashur, the Assyrian religious center and its earliest capital. Of all the Assyrian cities mentioned in the Bible, only Ressen remains to be found. The name means "horse's bridle"; perhaps it was the location of the royal stables of Assyria.

At about the same time as Ashur was being excavated, teams under R. Koldewey were completing the excavation of Babylon, the biblical Babel - a vast place of palaces, temples, hanging gardens, and the inevitable ziggurat. Before long, artifacts and inscriptions unveiled the history of the two competing empires of Mesopotamia: Babylonia and Assyria, the one centered in the south, the other in the north.

Rising and falling, fighting and coexisting, the two constituted a high civilization that encompassed some 1,500 years, both rising circa 1900 B.C.


Ashur and Nineveh were finally captured and destroyed by the Babylonians in 614 and 612 B.C., respectively. As predicted by the biblical prophets, Babylon itself came to an inglorious end when Cyrus the Achaemenid conquered it in 539 B.C.

Though they were rivals throughout their history, one would be hard put to find any significant differences between Assyria and Babylonia in cultural or material matters. Even though Assyria called its chief deity Ashur ("all-seeing") and Babylonia hailed Marduk ("son of the pure mound"), the pantheons were otherwise virtually alike.

Many of the world's museums count among their prize exhibits the ceremonial gates, winged bulls, bas-reliefs, chariots, tools, utensils, jewelry, statues, and other objects made of every conceivable material that have been dug out of the mounds of Assyria and Babylonia.


But the true treasures of these kingdoms were their written records:

thousands upon thousands of inscriptions in the cuneiform script, including cosmologic tales, epic poems, histories of kings, temple records, commercial contracts, marriage and divorce records, astronomical tables, astrological forecasts, mathematical formulas, geographic lists, grammar and vocabulary school texts, and, not least of all, texts dealing with the names, genealogies, epithets, deeds, powers, and duties of the gods.

The common language that formed the cultural, historical, and religious bond between Assyria and Babylonia was Akkadian. It was the first known Semitic language, akin to but predating Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, and Canaanite. But the Assyrians and Babylonians laid no claim to having invented the language or its script; indeed, many of their tablets bore the postscript that they had been copied from earlier originals.

Who, then, invented the cuneiform script and developed the language, its precise grammar and rich vocabulary? Who wrote the "earlier originals"? And why did the Assyrians and Babylonians call the language Akkadian?

Attention once more focuses on the Book of Genesis. And the beginning of his kingdom: Babel and Erech and Akkad." Akkad - could there really have been such a royal capital, preceding Babylon and Nineveh?

The ruins of Mesopotamia have provided conclusive evidence that once upon a time there indeed existed a kingdom by the name of Akkad, established by a much earlier ruler, who called himself a sharrukin ("righteous ruler"). He claimed in his inscriptions that his empire stretched, by the grace of his god Enlil, from the Lower Sea (the Persian Gulf) .to the Upper Sea (believed to be the Mediterranean). He boasted that "at the wharf of Akkad, he made moor ships" from many distant lands.

The scholars stood awed: They had come upon a Mesopotamian empire in the third millennium B.C.! There was a leap - backward - of some 2,000 years from the Assyrian Sargon of Dur Sharrukin to Sargon of Akkad. And yet the mounds that were dug up brought to light literature and art, science and politics, commerce and communications - a full-fledged civilization - long before the appearance of Babylonia and Assyria. Moreover, it was obviously the predecessor and the source of the later: Mesopotamian civilizations; Assyria and Babylonia were only branches off the Akkadian trunk.

The mystery of such an early Mesopotamian civilization deepened, however, as inscriptions recording the achievements and genealogy of Sargon of Akkad were found. They stated that his full title was "King of Akkad, King of Kish"; they explained that before he assumed the throne, he had been a counselor to the "rulers of Kish." Was there, then - the scholars asked themselves- - an even earlier kingdom, that of Kish, which preceded Akkad?


Once again, the biblical verses gained in significance.

And Kush begot Nimrod;
He was first to be a Hero in the Land....
And the beginning of his kingdom:
Babel and Erech and Akkad.

Many scholars have speculated that Sargon of Akkad was the biblical Nimrod.


If one reads "Kish" for "Kush" in the above biblical verses, it would seem Nimrod was indeed preceded by Kish, as claimed by Sargon. The scholars then began to accept literally the rest of his inscriptions:

"He defeated Uruk and tore down its wall ... he was victorious in the battle with the inhabitants of Ur... he defeated the entire territory from Lagash as far as the sea."

Was the biblical Erech identical with the Uruk of Sargon's inscriptions? As the site now called Warka was unearthed, that was found to be the case. And the Ur referred to by Sargon was none other than the biblical Ur, the Mesopotamian birthplace of Abraham.

Not only did the archaeological discoveries vindicate the biblical records; it also appeared certain that there must have been kingdoms and cities and civilizations in Mesopotamia even before the third millennium B.C. The only question was: How far back did one have to go to find the first civilized kingdom?

The key that unlocked the puzzle was yet another language.

Scholars quickly realized that names had a meaning not only in Hebrew and in the Old Testament but throughout the ancient Near East. All the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian names of persons and places had a meaning. But the names of rulers that preceded Sargon of Akkad did not make sense at all: The king at whose court Sargon was a counselor was called Urzababa; the king who reigned in Erech was named Lugalzagesi; and so on.

Lecturing before the Royal Asiatic Society in 1853, Sir Henry Rawlinson pointed out that such names were neither Semitic nor Indo-European; indeed,

"they seemed to belong to no known group of languages or peoples."

But if names had a meaning, what was the mysterious language in which they had the meaning?

Scholars took another look at the Akkadian inscriptions. Basically, the Akkadian cuneiform script was syllabic: Each sign stood for a complete syllable (ab, ba, bat, etc.).


Yet the script made extensive use of signs that were not phonetic syllables but conveyed the meanings "god," "city," "country," or "life," "exalted," and the like. The only possible explanation for this phenomenon was that these signs were remains of an earlier writing method which used pictographs. Akkadian, then, must have been preceded by another language that used a writing method akin to the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

It was soon obvious that an earlier language, and not lust an earlier form of writing, was involved here. Scholars found that Akkadian inscriptions and texts made extensive use of loanwords - words borrowed intact from another language (in the same way that a modern Frenchman would borrow the English word weekend). This was especially true where scientific or technical terminology was involved, and also in matters dealing with the gods and the heavens.

One of the greatest finds of Akkadian texts was the ruins of a library assembled in Nineveh by Ashurbanipal; Layard and his colleagues carted away from the site 25,000 tablets, many of which were described by the ancient scribes as copies of "olden texts." A group of twenty-three tablets ended with the statement: "23rd tablet: language of Shumer not changed."


Another text bore an enigmatic statement by Ashurbanipal himself:

The god of scribes has bestowed on me the gift of the knowledge of his art.
I have been initiated into the secrets of writing.
I can even read the intricate tablets in Shumerian;
I understand the enigmatic words in the stone carvings from the days before the Flood.

The claim by Ashurbanipal that he could read intricate tablets in "Shumerian" and understand the words written on tablets from "the days before the Flood" only increased the mystery.


But in January 1869 Jules Oppert suggested to the French Society of Numismatics and Archaeology that recognition be given to the existence of a pre-Akkadian language and people. Pointing out that the early rulers of Mesopotamia proclaimed their legitimacy by taking the title "King of Sumer and Akkad," he suggested that the people be called "Sumerians," and their land, "Sumer."

Except for mispronouncing the name - it should have been Shumer, not Sumer - Oppert was right. Sumer was not a mysterious, distant land, but the early name for southern Mesopotamia, just as the Book of Genesis had clearly stated: The royal cities of Babylon and Akkad and Erech were in "the Land of Shin'ar." (Shinar was the biblical name for Shumer.)

Once the scholars had accepted these conclusions, the flood gates were opened. The Akkadian references to the • "olden texts" became meaningful, and scholars soon realized that tablets with long columns of words were in fact Akkadian-Sumerian lexicons and dictionaries, prepared in Assyria and Babylonia for their own study of the first written language, Sumerian.

Without these dictionaries from long ago, we would still be far from being able to read Sumerian.


With their aid, a vast literary and cultural treasure opened up. It also became clear that the Sumerian script, originally pictographic and carved in stone in vertical columns, was then turned horizontally and, later on, stylized for wedge writing on soft clay tablets to become the cuneiform writing that was adopted by the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and other nations of the ancient Near East.

The decipherment of the Sumerian language and script, and the realization that the Sumerians and their culture were the fountainhead of the Akkadian - Babylonian-Assyrian achievements, spurred archaeological searches in southern Mesopotamia.


All the evidence now indicated that the beginning was there.

The first significant excavation of a Sumerian site was begun in 1877 by French archaeologists; and the finds from this single site were so extensive that others continued to dig there until 1933 without completing the job.

Called by the natives Telloh ("mound"), the site proved to be an early Sumerian city, the very Lagash of whose conquest Sargon of Akkad had boasted. It was indeed a royal city whose rulers bore the same title Sargon had adopted, except that it was in the Sumerian language: EN.SI ("righteous ruler"). Their dynasty had started circa 2900 B.C. and lasted for nearly 650 years. During this time, forty-three ensi’s reigned without interruption in Lagash: Their names, genealogies, and lengths of rule were all neatly recorded.

The inscriptions provided much information. Appeals to the gods "to cause the grain sprouts to grow for harvest ... to cause the watered plant to yield grain," attest to the existence of agriculture and irrigation.


A cup inscribed in honor of a goddess by "the overseer of the granary" indicated that grains were stored, measured, and traded.

An ensi named Eannatum left an inscription on a clay brick which makes it clear that these Sumerian rulers could assume the throne only with the approval of the gods. He also recorded the conquest of another city, revealing to us the existence of other city-states in Sumer at the beginning of the-third millennium B.C.

Eannatum's successor, Entemena, wrote of building a temple and adorning it with gold and silver, planting gardens, enlarging brick-lined wells. He boasted of building a fortress with watchtowers and facilities for docking ships.

One of the better-known rulers of Lagash was Gudea. He had a large number of statuettes made of himself, all showing him in a votive stance, praying to his gods. This stance was no pretense: Gudea had indeed devoted himself to the adoration of Ningirsu, his principal deity, and to the construction and rebuilding of temples.

His many inscriptions reveal that, in the search for exquisite building materials, he obtained gold from Africa and Anatolia, silver from the Taurus Mountains, cedars from Lebanon, other rare woods from Ararat, copper from the Zagros range, diorite from Egypt, carnelian from Ethiopia, and other materials from lands as yet unidentified by scholars.

When Moses built for the Lord God a "Residence" in the desert, he did so according to very detailed instructions provided by the Lord. When King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, he did so after the Lord had "given him wisdom."


The prophet Ezekiel was shown very detailed plans for the Second Temple,

"in a Godly vision" by a "person who had the appearance of bronze and who Held in his hand a flaxen string and a measuring rod."

Ur-Nammu, ruler of Ur, depicted in an earlier millennium how his god, ordering him to build for him a temple and giving him the pertinent instructions, handed him the measuring rod and rolled string for the job.

Twelve hundred years before Moses, Gudea made the ,same claim.


The instructions, he recorded in one very long inscription, were given to him in a vision. "A man that shone like the heaven," by whose side stood "a divine bird," "commanded me to build his temple." This "man," who "from the crown on his head was obviously a god," was later identified as the god Ningirsu.


With him was a goddess who "held the tablet of her favorable star of the heavens"; her other hand "held a holy stylus," with which she indicated to Gudea "the favorable planet." A third man, also a god, held in his hand a tablet of precious stone; "the plan of a temple it contained."


One of Gudea's statues shows him seated, with this tablet on his knees; on the tablet the divine drawing can clearly be seen.

Wise as he was, Gudea was baffled by these architectural instructions, and he sought the advice of a goddess who could interpret divine messages.


She explained to him the meaning of the instructions, the plan's measurements, and the size and shape of the bricks to be used. Gudea then employed a male "diviner, maker of decisions" and a female "searcher of secrets" to locate the site, on the city's outskirts, where the god wished his temple to be built. He then recruited 216,000 people for the construction job.

Gudea's bafflement can readily be understood, for the simple-looking "floor plan" supposedly gave him the necessary information to build a complex ziggurat, rising high by seven stages. Writing in Der Alte Orient in 1900, A-Billerbeck was able to decipher at least part of the divine architectural instructions.


The ancient drawing, even on the partly damaged statue, is accompanied at the top by groups of vertical lines whose number diminishes as the space between them increases. The divine architects, it appears, were able to provide, with a single floor plan, accompanied by seven varying scales, the complete instructions for the construction of a seven-stage high-rise temple.

It has been said that 'war spurs Man to scientific and material breakthroughs. In ancient Sumer, it seems, temple construction spurred the people and their rulers into greater technological achievements.


The ability to carry out major construction work according to prepared architectural plans, to organize and feed a huge labor force, to flatten land and raise mounds, to mold bricks and transport stones, to bring rare metals and other materials from afar, to east metal and shape utensils and ornaments - all clearly speak of a high civilization, already in full bloom in the third millennium B.C.

As masterful as even the earliest Sumerian temples were, they represented but the tip of the iceberg of the scope and richness of the material achievements of the first great civilization known to Man.

In addition to the invention and development of writing, without which a high civilization could not have come about, the Sumerians should also be credited with the invention of printing. Millennia before Johann Gutenberg "invented" printing by using movable type, Sumerian scribes used ready-made "type" of the various pictographic signs, which they used as we now use rubber stamps to impress the desired sequence of signs in the wet clay.

They also invented the forerunner of our rotary presses - the cylinder seal. Made of extremely hard stone, it was a small cylinder into which the message or design had been engraved in reverse; whenever the seal was rolled on the wet clay, the imprint created a "positive" impression on the clay.


The seal also enabled one to assure the authenticity of documents; a new impression could be made at once to compare it with the old impression on the document.

Many Sumerian and Mesopotamian written records concerned themselves not necessarily with the divine or spiritual but with such daily tasks as recording crops, measuring fields, and calculating prices.


Indeed, no high civilization would have been possible without a parallel advanced system of mathematics.

The Sumerian system, called sexagesimal, combined a mundane 10 with a "celestial" 6 to obtain the base figure 60. This system is in some respects superior to our present one; in any case, it is unquestionably superior to later Greek and Roman systems. It enabled the Sumerians to divide into fractions and multiply into the millions, to calculate roots or raise numbers several powers.


This was not only the first-known mathematical system but also one that gave us the "place" concept: Just as, in the decimal system, 2 can be 2 or 20 or 200, depending on the digit's place, so could a Sumerian 2 mean 2 or 120 (2 x 60), and so on, depending on the "place."

The 360-degree circle, the foot and its 12 inches, and the "dozen" as a unit are but a few examples of the vestiges of Sumerian mathematics still evident in our daily life.


Their concomitant achievements in astronomy, the establishment of a calendar, and similar mathematical-celestial feats will receive much closer study in coming chapters.

Just as our own economic and social system - our books, court and tax records, commercial contracts, marriage certificates, and so on - depends on paper, Sumerian/ Mesopotamian life depended on clay. Temples, courts, and trading houses had their scribes ready with tablets of wet clay on which to inscribe decisions, agreements, letters, or calculate prices, wages, the area of a field, or the number of bricks required in a construction.

Clay was also a crucial raw material for the manufacture of utensils for daily use and containers for storage and transportation of goods. It was also used to make bricks - another Sumerian "first," which made possible the building of houses for the people, palaces for the kings, and imposing temples for the gods.

The Sumerians are credited with two technological breakthroughs that made it possible to combine lightness with tensile strength for all clay products: reinforcing and firing. Modern architects have discovered that reinforced concrete, an extremely strong building material, can be created by pouring cement into molds containing iron rods; long ago, the Sumerians gave their bricks great strength by mixing the wet clay with chopped reeds or straw.


They also knew that clay products could be given tensile strength and durability by firing them in a kiln. The world's first high-rise buildings and archways, as well as durable ceramic wares, were made possible by these technological breakthroughs.

The invention of the kiln - a furnace in which intense but controllable temperatures could be attained without the risk of contaminating products with dust or ashes - made possible an even greater technological advance: the Age of Metals.

It has been assumed that man discovered that he could hammer "soft stones" - naturally occurring nuggets of gold as well as copper and silver compounds - into useful or pleasing shapes, sometime about 6000 B.C. The first hammered-metal artifacts were found in the highlands of the Zagros and Taurus mountains.


However, as R. J. Forbes (The Birthplace of Old World Metallurgy) pointed out, "in the ancient Near East, the supply of native copper was quickly exhausted, and the miner had to turn to ores." This required the knowledge and ability to find and extract the ores, crush them, then smelt and refine them - processes that could not have been carried out without kiln-type furnaces and a generally advanced technology.

The art of metallurgy soon encompassed the ability to alloy copper with other metals, resulting in a castable, hard, but malleable metal we call bronze. The Bronze Age,, our first metallurgical age, was also a Mesopotamian contribution to modern civilization. Much of ancient commerce was devoted to the metals trade; it also formed the basis for the development in Mesopotamia of banking and the first money - the silver shekel ("weighed ingot").

The many varieties of metals and alloys for which Sumerian and Akkadian names have been found and the extensive technological terminology attest to the high level of metallurgy in ancient Mesopotamia. For a while this puzzled the scholars because Sumer, as such, was devoid of metal ores, yet metallurgy most definitely began there.

The answer is energy. Smelting, refining, and alloying, as well as casting, could not be done without ample supplies of fuels to fire the kilns, crucibles, and furnaces. Mesopotamia may have lacked ores, but it had fuels in abundance. So the ores were brought to the fuels, which explains many early inscriptions describing the bringing of metal ores from afar.

The fuels that made Sumer technologically supreme were bitumens and asphalts, petroleum products that naturally seeped up to the surface in many places in Mesopotamia. R. J. Forbes (Bitumen and Petroleum in Antiquity) shows that the surface deposits of Mesopotamia were the ancient world's prime source of fuels from the earliest times to the Roman era.


His conclusion is that the technological use of these petroleum products began in Sumer circa 3500 B.C.; indeed, he shows that the use and knowledge of the fuels and their properties were greater in Sumerian times than in later civilizations.

So extensive was the Sumerian use of these petroleum products - not only as fuel but also as road-building materials, for waterproofing, caulking, painting, cementing, and molding - that when archaeologists searched for ancient Ur they found it buried in a mound that the local Arabs called "Mound of Bitumen." Forbes shows that the Sumerian language had terms for every genus and variant of the bituminous substances found in Mesopotamia.


Indeed, the names of bituminous and petroleum materials in other languages - Akkadian, Hebrew, Egyptian, Coptic, Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit - can clearly be traced to the Sumerian origins; for example, the most common word for petroleum - naphta - derives from napatu ("stones that flare up").

The Sumerian use of petroleum products was also basic to an advanced chemistry. We can judge the high level of Sumerian knowledge not only by the variety of paints and pigments used and such processes as glazing but also by the remarkable artificial production of semiprecious stones, including a substitute for lapis lazuli.

Bitumens were also used in Sumerian medicine, another field where the standards were impressively high. The hundreds of Akkadian texts that have been found employ Sumerian medical terms and phrases extensively, pointing to the Sumerian origin of all Mesopotamian medicine.

The library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh included a medical section. The texts were divided into three groups - bultitu ("therapy"), shipir bel imti ("surgery") and urti mashmashshe ("commands and incantations"). Early law codes included sections dealing with fees payable to surgeons for successful operations, and penalties to be imposed on them in case of failure: A surgeon, using a lancet to open a patient's temple, was to lose his hand if he accidentally destroyed the patient's eye.

Some skeletons found in Mesopotamian graves bore unmistakable marks of brain surgery. A partially broken medical text speaks of the surgical removal of a "shadow covering a man's eye," probably a cataract; another text mentions the use of a cutting instrument, stating that "if the sickness has reached the inside of the bone, you shall scrape and remove."

Sick persons in Sumerian times could choose between an A.ZU ("water physician") and an IA.ZU ("oil physician"). A tablet excavated in Ur, nearly 5,000 years old, names a medical practitioner as "Lulu, the doctor." There were also veterinarians - known either as "doctors of oxen" or as "doctors of asses."

A pair of surgical tongs is depicted on a very early cylinder seal, found at Lagash, that belonged to "Urlugale-dina, the doctor." The seal also shows the serpent on a tree - the symbol of medicine to this day. An instrument that was used by midwives to cut the umbilical cord was also frequently depicted.

Sumerian medical texts deal into diagnosis and prescriptions. They leave no doubt that the Sumerian physician did not resort to magic or sorcery. He recommended cleaning and washing; soaking in baths of hot water and mineral solvents; application of vegetable derivatives; rubbing with petroleum compounds.

Medicines were made from plant and mineral compounds and were mixed with liquids or solvents appropriate to the method of application. If taken by mouth, the powders were mixed into wine, beer, or honey; if "poured through the rectum" - administered in an enema - they were mixed with plant or vegetable oils. Alcohol, which plays such an important role in surgical disinfection and as a base for many medicines, reached our languages through the Arabic kohl, from the Akkadian kuhlu.

Models of livers indicate that medicine was taught at medical schools with the aid of clay models of human organs. Anatomy must have been an advanced science, for temple rituals called for elaborate dissections of sacrificial animals - only a step removed from comparable knowledge of human anatomy.

Several depictions on cylinder seals or clay tablets show people lying on some kind of surgical table, surrounded by teams of gods or people. We know from epics and other heroic texts that the Sumerians and their successors in Mesopotamia were concerned with matters of life, sickness, and death. Men like Gilgamesh, a king of Erech, sought the "Tree of Life" or some mineral (a "stone") that could provide eternal youth.


There were also references to efforts to resurrect the dead, especially if they happened to be gods:

Upon the corpse, hung from the pole,
they directed the Pulse and the Radiance;
Sixty times the Water of Life,
Sixty times the Food of Life,
they sprinkled upon it;
And Inanna arose.

Were some ultramodern methods, about which we can only speculate, known and used in such revival attempts?


That radioactive materials were known and used to treat certain ailments is certainly suggested by a scene of medical treatment depicted on a cylinder seal dating to the very beginning of Sumerian civilization.


It shows, without question, a man lying on a special bed; his face is protected by a mask, and he is being subjected to some kind of radiation.

One of Sumer's earliest material achievements was the development of textile and clothing industries.

Our own Industrial Revolution is considered to have commenced with the introduction of spinning and weaving machines in England in the 1760s. Most developing nations have aspired ever since to develop a textile industry as the first step toward industrialization. The evidence shows that this has been the process not only since the eighteenth century but ever since man's first great civilization.


Man could not have made woven fabrics before the advent of agriculture, which provided him with flax, and the domestication of animals, creating a source for wool. Grace M. Crowfoot (Textiles, Basketry and Mats in Antiquity) ex-pressed the scholastic consensus by stating that textile weaving appeared first in Mesopotamia, around 3800 B.C.

Sumer, moreover, was renowned in ancient times not only for its woven fabrics, but also for its apparel. The Book of Joshua (7:21) reports that during the storming of Jericho a certain person could not resist the temptation to keep "one good coat of Shin'ar," which he had found in the city, even though the penalty was death. So highly prized were the garments of Shinar (Sumer), that people were willing to risk their lives to obtain them.

A rich terminology already existed in Sumerian times to describe both items of clothing and their makers. The basic garment was called TUG - without doubt, the forerunner in style as well as in name of the Roman toga.


Such garments were TUG.TU.SHE, which in Sumerian meant "garment which is worn wrapped around.”

The ancient depictions reveal not only an astonishing variety and opulence in matters of clothing, but also elegance, in which good taste and coordination among clothes, hairdos, headdresses, and jewelry prevailed.

Another major Sumerian achievement was its agriculture. In a land with only seasonal rains, the rivers were enlisted to water year-round crops through a vast system of irrigation canals.

Mesopotamia - the Land Between the Rivers - was a veritable food basket in ancient times.


The apricot tree, the Spanish word for which is damasco ("Damascus tree"), bears the Latin name armeniaca, a loanword from the Akkadian armanu. The cherry - kerasos in Greek, Kirsche in German - originates from the Akkadian karshu. All the evidence suggests that these and other fruits and vegetables reached Europe from Mesopotamia.


So did many special seeds and spices: Our word saffron comes from the Akkadian azupiranu, crocus from kurkanu (via krokos in Greek), cumin from kamanu, hyssop from zupu, myrrh from murru. The list is long; in many instances, Greece provided the physical and etymological bridge by which these products of the land reached Europe.


Onions, lentils, beans, cucumbers, cabbage, and lettuce were common ingredients of the Sumerian diet.

What is equally impressive is the extent and variety of the ancient Mesopotamian food-preparation methods, their cuisine. Texts and pictures confirm the Sumerian knowledge of converting the cereals they had grown into flour, from which they made a variety of leavened and unleavened breads, porridges, pastries, cakes, and biscuits.


Barley was also fermented to produce beer; "technical manuals" for beer production have been found among the texts. Wine was obtained from grapes and from date palms. Milk was available from sheep, goats, and cows; it was used as a beverage, for cooking, and for converting into yogurt, butter, cream, and cheeses. Fish was a common part of the diet. Mutton was readily available, and the meat of pigs, which the Sumerians tended in large herds, was considered a true delicacy. Geese and ducks may have been reserved for the gods' tables.

The ancient texts leave no doubt that the haute cuisine of ancient Mesopotamia developed in the temples and in the service of the gods.


One text prescribed the offering to the gods of,

"loaves of barley bread... loaves of emmer bread; a paste of honey and cream; dates, pastry... beer, wine, milk... cedar sap, cream."

Roasted meat was offered with libations of "prime beer, wine, and milk."


A specific cut of a bull was prepared according to a strict recipe, calling for "fine flour... made to a dough in water, prime beer, and wine," and mixed with animal fats, "aromatic ingredients made from hearts of plants," nuts, malt, and spices. Instructions for "the daily sacrifice to the gods of the city of Uruk" called for the serving of five different beverages with the meals, and specified what "the millers in the kitchen" and "the chef working at the kneading trough" should do.

Our admiration for the Sumerian culinary art certainly grows as we come across poems that sing the praises of fine foods. Indeed, what can one say when one reads a millennia-old recipe for "coq au vin":

In the wine of drinking, In the scented water, In the oil of unction - This bird have I cooked, and have eaten.

A thriving economy, a society with such extensive material enterprises could not have developed without an efficient system of transportation. The Sumerians used their two great rivers and the artificial network of canals for waterborne transportation of people, goods, and cattle. Some of the earliest depictions show what were undoubtedly the world's first boats.

We know from many early texts that the Sumerians also engaged in deep-water seafaring, using a variety of ships to reach faraway lands in search of metals, rare woods and stones, and other materials unobtainable in Sumer proper. An Akkadian dictionary of the Sumerian language was found to contain a section on shipping, listing 105 Sumerian terms for various ships by their size, destination, or purpose (for cargo, for passengers, or for the exclusive use of certain gods).


Another 69 Sumerian terms connected with the manning and construction of ships were translated into the Akkadian. Only a long seafaring tradition could have produced such specialized vessels and technical terminology.

For overland transportation, the wheel was first used in Sumer.


Its invention and introduction into daily life made possible a variety of vehicles, from carts to chariots, and no doubt also granted Sumer the distinction of having been the first to employ "ox power" as well as "horse power" for locomotion.

In 1956 Professor Samuel N. Kramer, one of the great Sumerologists of our time, reviewed the literary legacy found beneath the mounds of Sumer.


The table of contents of From the Tablets of Sumer is a gem in itself, for each one of the twenty-five chapters described a Sumerian "first," including the first schools, the first bicameral congress, the first historian, the first pharmacopoeia, the first "farmer's almanac," the first cosmogony and cosmology, the first "Job," the first proverbs and sayings, the first literary debates, the first "Noah," the first library catalogue; and Man's first Heroic Age, his first law codes and social reforms, his first medicine, agriculture, and search for world peace and harmony.

This is no exaggeration.

The first schools were established in Sumer as a direct outgrowth of the invention and introduction of writing. The evidence (both archaeological, such as actual school buildings, and written, such as exercise tablets) indicates the existence of a formal system of education by the beginning of the third millennium B.C.


There were literally thousands of scribes in Sumer, ranging from junior scribes to high scribes, royal scribes, temple scribes, and scribes who assumed high state office. Some acted as teachers at the schools, and we can still read their essays on the schools, their aims and goals, their curriculum and teaching methods.

The schools taught not only language and writing but also the sciences of the day - botany, zoology, geography, mathematics, and theology. Literary works of the past were studied and copied, and new ones were composed.

The schools were headed by the ummia ("expert professor"), and the faculty invariably included not only a "man in charge of drawing" and a "man in charge of Sumerian," but also a "man in charge of the whip." Apparently, discipline was strict; one school alumnus described on a clay tablet how he had been flogged for missing school, for insufficient neatness, for loitering, for not keeping silent, for misbehaving, and even for not having neat handwriting.

An epic poem dealing with the history of Erech concerns itself with the rivalry between Erech and the city-state of Kish. The epic text relates how the envoys of Kish proceeded to Erech, offering a peaceful settlement of their dispute. But the ruler of Erech at the time, Gilgamesh, preferred to fight rather than negotiate.


What is interesting is that he had to put the matter to a vote in the Assembly of the Elders, the local "Senate":

The lord Gilgamesh,
Before the elders of his city put the matter,
Seeks out the decision:
"Let us not submit to the house of Kish,
let us smite it with weapons."

The Assembly of the Elders was, however, for negotiations. Undaunted, Gilgamesh took the matter to the younger people, the Assembly of the Fighting Men, who voted for war. The significance of the tale lies in its disclosure that a Sumerian ruler had to submit the question of war or peace to the First Bicameral Congress, some 5,000 years ago.

The title of First Historian was bestowed by Kramer on Entemena, king of Lagash, who recorded on clay cylinders his war with neighboring Umma. While other texts were literary works or epic poems whose themes were historical events, the inscriptions by Entemena were straight prose, written solely as a factual record of history.

Because the inscriptions of Assyria and Babylonia were deciphered well before the Sumerian records, it was long believed that the first code of laws was compiled and decreed by the Babylonian king Hammurabi, circa 1900 B.C. But as Sumer's civilization was uncovered, it became clear that the "firsts" for a system of laws, for concepts of social order, and for the fair administration of justice belonged to Sumer.

Well before Hammurabi, a Sumerian ruler of the city-state of Eshnunna (northeast of Babylon) encoded laws that set maximum prices for foodstuffs and for the rental of wagons and boats so that the poor could not be oppressed. There were also laws dealing with offenses against person and property, and regulations pertaining to family matters and to master - servant relations.

Even earlier, a code was promulgated by Lipit-Ishtar, a ruler of Isin. The thirty-eight laws that remain legible on the partly preserved tablet (a copy of an original that was engraved on a stone stela) deal with real estate, slaves and servants, marriage and inheritance, the hiring of boats, the rental of oxen, and defaults on taxes.


As was done by Hammurabi after him, Lipit-Ishtar explained in the prologue to his code that he acted on the instructions of "the great gods," who had ordered him "to bring well-being to the Sumerians and the Akkadians."

Yet even Lipit-Ishtar was not the first Sumerian law encoder. Fragments of clay tablets that have been found contain copies of laws encoded by Urnammu, a ruler of Ur circa 2350 B.C. - more than half a millennium before Hammurabi.


The laws, enacted on the authority of the god Nannar, were aimed at stopping and punishing "the grabbers-of the citizens' oxen, sheep, and donkeys" so that "the orphan shall not fall prey to the wealthy, the widow shall not fall prey to the powerful, the man of one shekel shall not fall prey to a man of 60 shekels," Urnammu also decreed "honest and unchangeable weights and measurements."

But the Sumerian legal system, and the enforcement of justice, go back even farther in time.

By 2600 B.C. so much must already have happened in Sumer that the ensi Urukagina found it necessary to institute reforms. A long inscription by him has been called by scholars a precious record of man's first social reform based on a sense of freedom, equality, and justice - a "French Revolution" imposed by a king 4,400 years before July 14, 1789.

The reform decree of Urukagina listed the evils of his time first, then the reforms. The evils consisted primarily of the unfair use by supervisors of their powers to take the best for themselves; the abuse of official status; the extortion of high prices by monopolistic groups.

All such injustices, and many more, were prohibited by the reform decree. An official could no longer set his own price "for a good donkey or a house." A "big man" could no longer coerce a common citizen. The rights of the blind, poor, widowed, and orphaned were restated. A divorced woman - nearly 5,000 years ago - was granted the protection of the law.

How long had Sumerian civilization existed that it required a major reform? Clearly, a long time, for Urukagina claimed that it was his god Ningirsu who called upon him "to restore the decrees of former days." The clear implication is that a return to even older systems and earlier laws was called for.

The Sumerian laws were upheld by a court system in which the proceedings and judgments as well as contracts were meticulously recorded and preserved. The justices acted more like juries than judges; a court was usually made up of three or four judges, one of whom was a professional "royal judge" and the others drawn from a panel of thirty-six men.

While the Babylonians made rules and regulations, the Sumerians were concerned with justice, for they believed that the gods appointed the kings primarily to assure justice in the land.

More than one parallel can be drawn here with the concepts of justice and morality of the Old Testament. Even before the Hebrews had kings, they were governed by judges; kings were judged not by their conquests or wealth but by the extent to which they "did the righteous thing." In the Jewish religion, the New Year marks a ten-day period during which the deeds of men are weighed and evaluated to determine their fate in the coming year.


It is probably more than a coincidence that the Sumerians believed that a deity named Nanshe annually judged Mankind in the same manner; after all, the first Hebrew patriarch - Abraham - came from the Sumerian city of Ur, the city of Ur-Nammu and his code.

The Sumerian concern with justice or its absence also found expression in what Kramer called "the first 'Job.'" Matching together fragments of clay tablets at the Istanbul Museum of Antiquities, Kramer was able to read a good part of a Sumerian poem which, like the biblical Book of Job, dealt with the complaint of a righteous man who, instead of being blessed by the gods, was made to suffer all manner of loss and disrespect. "My righteous word has been turned into a lie," he cried out in anguish.

In its second part, the anonymous sufferer petitions his god in a manner akin to some verses in the Hebrew Psalms:

My god, you who are my father, who .begot me - -lift up my face.... How long will you neglect me, leave me unprotected... leave me without guidance?
Then follows a happy ending. "The righteous words, the pure words uttered by him, his god accepted; ... his god withdrew his hand from the evil pronouncement."
Preceding the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes by some two millennia, Sumerian proverbs conveyed many of the same concepts and witticisms.
If we are doomed to die - let us spend; If we shall live long - let us save.
When a poor man dies, do not try to revive him.
He who possesses much silver, may be happy; He who possesses much barley, may be happy; But who has nothing at all, can sleep!
Man: For his pleasure: Marriage; On his thinking it over: Divorce.
It is not the heart which leads to enmity; it is the tongue which leads to enmity.
In a city without watchdogs, the fox is the overseer.

The material and spiritual achievements of the Sumerian civilization were also accompanied by an extensive development of the performing arts.


A team of scholars from the University of California at Berkeley made news in March 1974 when they announced that they had deciphered the world's oldest song.


What professors Richard L. Crocker, Anne D. Kilmer, and Robert R. Brown achieved was to read and actually play the musical notes written on a cuneiform tablet from circa 1800 B.C., found at Ugarit on the Mediterranean coast (now in Syria).

"We always knew," the Berkeley team explained, "that (here was music in the earlier Assyrio-Babylonian civilization, but until this deciphering we did not know that it had the same heptatonic-diatonic scale that is characteristic of contemporary Western music, and of Greek music of the first millennium B.C."

Until now it was thought that Western music originated in Greece; now it has been established that our music - as so much else of Western civilization - originated in Mesopotamia.


This should not be surprising, for the Greek scholar Philo had already stilted that the Mesopotamians were known to "seek worldwide harmony and unison through the musical tones."

There can be no doubt that music and song must also be claimed as a Sumerian "first." Indeed, Professor Crocker could play the ancient tune only by constructing a lyre like those which had been found in the ruins of Ur.


Texts from the second millennium B.C. indicate the existence of musical "key numbers" and a coherent musical theory; and Professor Kilmer herself wrote earlier (The Strings of Musical Instruments: Their Names, Numbers and Significance) that many Sumerian hymnal texts had "what appear to be musical notations in the margins." "The Sumerians and their successors had a full musical life," she concluded.


No wonder, then, that we find a great variety of musical instruments - as well as of singers and dancers performing - depicted on cylinder seals and clay tablets.

Like so many other Sumerian achievements, music and song also originated in the temples. But, beginning in the service of the gods, these performing arts soon were also prevalent outside the temples.


Employing the favorite Sumerian play on words, a popular saying commented on the fees charged by singers:

"A singer whose voice is not sweet is a 'poor' singer indeed."

Many Sumerian love songs have been found; they were undoubtedly sung to musical accompaniment. Most touching, however, is a lullaby that a mother composed and sang to her sick child:

Come sleep, come sleep, come to my son.
Hurry sleep to my son;
Put to sleep his restless eyes. ...
You are in pain, my son;
I am troubled, I am struck dumb,
I gaze up to the stars.
The new moon shines down on your face;
Your shadow will shed tears for you.
Lie, lie in your sleep....

May the goddess of growth be your ally;

May you have an eloquent guardian in heaven;

May you achieve a reign of happy days....

May a wife be your support;

May a son be your future lot.

What is striking about such music and songs is not only the conclusion that Sumer was the source of Western music in structure and harmonic composition.


No less significant is the fact that as we hear the music and read the poems, they do not sound strange or alien at all, even in their depth of feeling and their sentiments. Indeed, as we contemplate the great Sumerian civilization, we find that not only are our morals and our sense of justice, our laws and architecture and arts and technology rooted in Sumer, but the Sumerian institutions are so familiar, so close. At heart, it would seem, we are all Sumerians.

After excavating at Lagash, the archaeologist's spade uncovered Nipper, the onetime religious center of Sumer and Akkad. Of the 30,000 texts found there, many remain unstudied to this day.


At Shuruppak, schoolhouses dating to the third millennium B.C. were found. At Ur, scholars found magnificent vases, jewelry, weapons, chariots, helmets made of gold, silver, copper, and bronze, the remains of a weaving factory, court records - and a towering ziggurat whose ruins still dominate the landscape.


At Eshnunna and Adab the archaeologists found temples and artful statues from pre-Sargonic times. Umma produced inscriptions speaking of early empires. At Kish monumental buildings and a ziggurat from at least 3000 B.C. were unearthed.

Uruk (Erech) took the archaeologists back into the fourth millennium B.C. There they found the first colored pottery baked in a kiln, and evidence of the first use of a potter's wheel. A pavement of limestone blocks is the oldest stone construction found to date. At Uruk the archaeologists also found the first ziggurat - a vast man-made mound, on top of which stood a white temple and a red temple. The world's first inscribed texts were also found there, as well as the first cylinder seals.


Of the latter, Jack Finegan (Light from the Ancient Past) said,

"The excellence of the seals upon their first appearance in the Uruk period is amazing."

Other sites of the Uruk period bear evidence of the emergence of the Metal Age.

In 1919, H. R. Hall came upon ancient ruins at a village now called El-Ubaid.


The site gave its name to what scholars now consider the first phase of the great Sumerian civilization. Sumerian cities of that period - ranging from northern Mesopotamia to the southern Zagros foothills - produced the first use of clay bricks, plastered walls, mosaic decorations, cemeteries with brick-lined graves, painted and decorated ceramic wares with geometric designs, copper mirrors, beads of imported turquoise, paint for eyelids, copper-headed "tomahawks," cloth, houses, and, above all, monumental temple buildings.

Farther south, the archaeologists found Eridu - the first Sumerian city, according to ancient texts. As the excavators dug deeper, they came upon a temple dedicated to Enki, Sumer's God of Knowledge, which appeared to have been built and rebuilt many times over.


The strata clearly led the scholars back to the beginnings of Sumerian civilization: 2500 B.C., 2800 B.C., 3000 B.C., 3500 B.C.

Then the spades came upon the foundations of the first temple dedicated to Enki.


Below that, there was virgin soil - nothing had been built before. The time was circa 3800 B.C. That is when civilization began.

It was not only the first civilization in the true sense of the term. It was a most extensive civilization, all-encompassing, in many ways more advanced than the other ancient cultures that had followed it. It was undoubtedly the civilization on which our own is based.

Having begun to use stones as tools some 2,000,000 years earlier, Man achieved this unprecedented civilization in Sumer circa 3800 B.C. And the perplexing fact about this is that to this very day the scholars have no inkling who the Sumerians were, where they came from, and how and why their civilization appeared.

For its appearance was sudden, unexpected, and out of nowhere.

H. Frankfort (Tell Uqair) called it "astonishing." Pierre Amiet (Elam) termed it "extraordinary." A. Parrot (Sumer) described it as "a flame which blazed up so suddenly." Leo Oppenheim (Ancient Mesopotamia) stressed "the astonishingly short period" within which this civilization had arisen.


Joseph Campbell (The Masks of God) summed it up in this way:

"With stunning abruptness... there appears in this little Sumerian mud garden... the whole cultural syndrome that has since constituted the germinal unit of all the high civilizations of the world."

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