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Seller: ancientgifts ✉️ (5,282) 100%, Location: Lummi Island, Washington, US, Ships to: WORLDWIDE, Item: 124062615135 Near East Ancient Art 1st Cities Jewelry Seals Reliefs Sculpture Weapons Vessels. "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus" by Joan Aruz (Editor). NOTE: We have 75,000 books in our library, almost 10,000 different titles. Odds are we have other copies of this same title in varying conditions, some less expensive, some better condition. We might also have different editions as well (some paperback, some hardcover, oftentimes international editions). If you don’t see what you want, please contact us and ask. We’re happy to send you a summary of the differing conditions and prices we may have for the same title.DESCRIPTION: Softcover. Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art (2003). Pages: 564. Size: 12 x 9¼ x 1½ inches; 6¼ pounds. Summary: Our civilization is rooted in the forms and innovations of societies that flourished more than six thousand years ago in distant lands of western Asia, extending from Egypt to India. The earliest of these societies was in the region known to the ancients as Mesopotamia, which occupies what is today Iraq, northeastern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. In Mesopotamia arose the first cities, and here urban institutions were invented and evolved. Writing was invented, monumental architecture in the form of temples and palaces were created, and the visual arts flowered in the service of religion and royalty. These extraordinary innovations profoundly affected surrounding areas in Anatolia, Syria-Levant, Iran, and the Gulf.Mesopotamia was influenced in turn by these outlying regions, for as networks of trade emerged they encouraged cultural exchange. This publication explores the artistic achievements of the era of the first cities in both the Mesopotamian heartland and across the expanse of western Asia. More than fifty experts in the field have contributed entries on individual works of art and essays covering a wide range of subjects. Among the objects presented are many that display the pure style of Mesopotamia, others from outlying regions that adapt from Mesopotamian models a corpus of forms and images, and still others that embody vital regional styles. Included are reliefs celebrating the accomplishments of kings and the pastimes of the elite; votive statues representing royal and other privileged persons; animal sculptures; and spectacular jewelry, musical instruments, and games found in tombs where kings, queens, and their servants were buried.The volume opens with a focus on the cities of southern Mesopotamia, among them Uruk and Nippur; the cities of the north, Mari and Ebla; and the Akkadian Dynasty. Next follow sections devoted to art and interconnections from the Mediterranean to the Indus, in which Egypt, the Aegean and western Anatolia, the North Caucasus, the Gulf, Iran, and the Indus area are studied. Finally, a section on literature and legacy treats the invention of cuneiform writing and the heritage of Mesopotamian literature and ideas. More than five hundred reproductions of the works in the exhibition as well as comparative materials are included in the lavish illustrations, and landscape photographs offer a sense of place. Maps, a chronology, a bibliography, and an index are provided. CONDITION: LIKE NEW. HUGE unread, "new" but shelfworn, softcover. Metropolitan Museum of Art (2003) 564 pages. HUGE new softcover. Metropolitan Museum of Art (2003) 564 pages. Unblemished in every respect except for modest edge and corner shelfwear to the covers, principally in the form of corner creases to the bottom open corner of the front (1 1/2 x 2 inches) and back (1 x 3 inches) covers. The book is otherwise new, it is simply that huge, heavy books like this are awkward to handle and so tend to get dragged across and bumped into book shelves as they are shelved and re-shelved, so it is not uncommon to see accelerated edge and corner shelfwear to the covers of such huge, heavy books). The corner creases are typically the result of the book being shelved between two other books, and the cover corners "catching" to the ttop edge of one of the books it is being shelved between. Inside the book is pristine; the pages are clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, unambiguously unread. Also If you hold the book up to the light and inspect it very intently (yes, we're nitpicking), you can detect faint rubbing/scuffing to the flat surface of the covers (covers are photo-finish, high-gloss black and so shows rub mark very easily merely from being shelved between other books). Condition is entirely consistent with new stock from an open-shelf bookstore environment (such as Barnes & Noble or B. Dalton), where otherwise "new" books might show modest signs of shelfwear, consequence simply of being shelved and re-shelved. Satisfaction unconditionally guaranteed. In stock, ready to ship. No disappointments, no excuses. PROMPT SHIPPING! HEAVILY PADDED, DAMAGE-FREE PACKAGING! #8976.1c. PLEASE SEE DESCRIPTIONS AND IMAGES BELOW FOR DETAILED REVIEWS AND FOR PAGES OF PICTURES FROM INSIDE OF BOOK. PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW. PUBLISHER REVIEWS: REVIEW: The roots of our own urban civilization lie in the remarkable developments that took place in the third millennium B.C. This was a time of astonishing creativity as city-states and empires emerged in a vast area stretching from the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley. Although remote in time and place, this urban revolution, first represented by the formation of cities in southern Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), must be looked upon as one of humanity’s defining moments. These complex centers of civilization, such as the city of Uruk, which arose toward the end of the fourth millennium B.C. in the fertile plains bordered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, stimulated great inventions, such as writing, and witnessed a flowering of artistic expression. Much of this art demonstrated devotion to the gods and celebrated the power of kings. The growth of cities and powerful ruling families led to a demand for luxury items. These were fashioned from materials obtained largely from abroad and were destined for temples and tombs such as the famous Royal Graves at Ur (ca. 2500 B.C.). Partly as a result of these advances in Mesopotamia, other major civilizations developed along the great maritime and land routes that connected them to one another.During the third millennium B.C., diverse populations inhabited the vast areas stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River and from Central Asia to the Gulf. Among the most intriguing of these peoples are those who dwelt in the cities and countryside of Sumer (southern Mesopotamia). In their own language, Sumerian, they call themselves sag giga, or “black-headed ones.” There were also Semitic-speaking peoples in Mesopotamia. With the foundation of the Akkadian dynasty by Sargon of Akkad (r. ca. 2340–2285 B.C.), they established a political center in southern Mesopotamia. The Akkadian kings created the world’s first empire, which at the height of its power united an area that included not only Mesopotamia but also parts of western Syria and Anatolia, and Iran. One undeciphered language is Harappan, named after the major Indus Valley city of Harappa. Unlike the cuneiform (wedgelike) script adopted for Sumerian and Akkadian, which was largely written on clay, the Harappan, or Indus, script is composed of signs familiar from short inscriptions above animal representations on numerous Harappan stone seals.The basic characteristics of the artistic style that came to define the art of the Near East were already established by the third millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia. One of the primary aims of Mesopotamian art was to capture the relationship between the terrestrial and divine realms. Styles and iconography were transmitted to sites such as Mari and Ebla in northern Syria as well as to Iran and as far as Arabia. In contrast to the arts of Mesopotamia, those of Egypt glorified the king as the embodiment of divine power, and it remains difficult to assess what, if any, contribution Egyptian art made to Mesopotamian artistic style. However, there were links with the cultures of the Mediterranean littoral: sites such as Troy, where the fabled “Treasure of Priam” was uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann, reflect artistic connections that extended through central Anatolia and northern Syria.In the east, the distant Indus Valley region also interacted with the Near East in the third millennium B.C., maintaining merchant enclaves in Central Asia and perhaps in Mesopotamia itself. Yet this civilization was also quite different from that of Mesopotamia. There is no evidence of monumental temples and palaces or large-scale sculpture in the Harappan world. Rather, the focus seems to have been on private housing, public works, and urban infrastructure, with an emphasis on a sanitary and abundant water supply. In the intervening regions of eastern Iran and western Central Asia, the arts reflect a vast and diversified tapestry of peoples and languages organized in independent polities but culturally unified through trade.Thus the art of the third millennium B.C. reflects not only the extraordinary developments in the cities of the Near Eastern heartland but also their interaction with contemporary civilizations to the east and west. This was a seminal period in the history of humanity, and by exploring it we gain perspectives not only about the major artistic and cultural achievements of ancient Mesopotamia but also about the enduring legacy of the earliest of urban civilizations. REVIEW: This illustrated work highlights one of the most important and creative periods in the history of art: a time marked by the appearance of the city states of the Sumerians, the citadel of Troy, the splendid royal tombs at Ur, and the monumental cities at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The volume examines the cultural achievements of these first urban societies, placing them in a historical context. Topics covered include the emergence of the first city states, the birth of written language, and trade and cultural interconnections between the Ancient Near East and outlying areas. More than 500 works of art, including sculpture, jewelry, vessels, weapons, cylinder seals and tablets executed in a wide variety of materials such as stone, metal, clay, ivory and semiprecious stones, are included. The accompanying texts are written by leading scholars in the field. This is the catalogue for an exhibition to be held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 8 May to 17 August 2003. REVIEW: This large volume accompanies an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2003, celebrating the artistic achievements of the period during which the first cities emerged in Mesopotamia. The impressive list of international contributors present thematic studies of the major cities of Mesopotamia and their artistic and literary legacy, as well as placing the objects from the exhibition in a social and historical context. Objects include statues, reliefs, animal sculptures, jewelry, plaques, weapons, vessels, seals, and some stunning metal artifacts, many presented in color. REVIEW: Published as the catalogue to the exhibition by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition gained additional poignancy following the looting of Iraq's Natinal Archaeoogical Museum and countless other sites in the early days of the American invasion. In Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago, what were probably the first cities arose, and their arts, particularly in metal and stone, were nothing short of stunning, often arrestingly modern in a manner quite different from later Egyptian art. This publication represents the first book/exhibition to cover the entire region during this crucial period. Contributors' essays abound. 712 illus., 535 in color. Chronologies, Bibliography, Index. 540 pages. REVIEW: Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Professor in Anthropology and teaches archaeology and ancient technology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has taught at Madison since 1985 and is currently Director of the Center for South Asia, UW Madison. His main focus is on the Indus Valley Civilization and he has worked in Pakistan and India for the past 40 years. Dr. Kenoyer was born in India and lived there until he came to the U.S. for college. He has a BA in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and completed his MA and PhD (1983) in South Asian Archaeology from the same university. He speaks several South Asian languages and is fluent in Urdu/Hindi, which is the major language used in Pakistan and northern India.He has conducted archaeological research and excavations at both Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, two of the most important early sites in Pakistan, and has also worked in western and central India. He has recently been involved in research in China as well as Oman, where he is searching for links between the Indus and other early civilizations. He has a special interest in ancient technologies and crafts, socio-economic and political organization as well as religion. These interests have led him to study a broad range of cultural periods in South Asia as well as other regions of the world.Since 1986 he has been the Co-director and Field Director of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project in Pakistan, a long term study of urban development in the Indus Valley. He was Guest Curator at the Elvehjem Museum of Art, Madison for the exhibition on the Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, which toured the U.S. in 1998-1999. In 2003 he was consultant for the Indus section of “Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus” exhibition curated by Joan Aruz at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He has also been co-curator of the “Tana-Bana: Warp and Weft - The Woven soul of Pakistan”, exhibition with Noorjehan Bilgrami and J. M. Kenoyer, at the Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA, February, 2003, and at the Mingeikan Museum, Tokyo, April-May 2004. His work was featured in the July 2003 issue of Scientific American and on the website REVIEW: Joan Aruz first worked in the Metropolitan Museum as a curatorial fellow from 1978 to 1981, studying textile patterns of Assyrian reliefs. In 1978-79 and 1980-81, she was awarded the Hagop Kevorkian Curatorial Fellowship for doctoral studies in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art; in 1983-84, she held the Norbert Schimmel Fellowship in the departments of Greek and Roman Art and Ancient Near Eastern Art; and, in 1985, she received the Museum’s J. Clawson Mills Fellowship in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. She returned to the Metropolitan in 1987 as a researcher on the Museum’s collection of cylinder and stamp seals.In 1989, she was appointed Assistant Curator and, in 1995, Associate Curator. In 1999, Dr. Aruz was appointed Acting Associate Curator in Charge of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. In July 2001, she was named Acting Curator in Charge and then, in February 2002, Curator in Charge of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since 1995, Dr. Aruz has helped organize several exhibitions at the Metropolitan, including "Assyrian Origins: Discoveries at Ashur in the Tigris" (1995); "Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum" (1995); "Ancient Art from the Shumei Family Collection" (1996). She curated "The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures from the Russian Steppes" (2000) and "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus" (2003).Dr. Aruz received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and has written extensively on the subject of art and intercultural exchange, with special focus on stamp and cylinder seals. Her book entitled "Marks of Distinction: Seals and Cultural Exchange Between the Aegean and the Orient", is presently in press. REVIEW: Joan Aruz is Curator in Charge in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. TABLE OF CONTENTS: Director's Foreword by Philippe de Montebello. Acknowledgments by Mahrukh Tarapor. Acknowledgments by Joan Aruz. Art of the First Cities: The third millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus by Joan Aruz. Uruk and the Formation of the City by Hans J. Nissen. Art of the Early City-States by Donald P. Hansen. Proto-Elamite Period by Holly Pittman. Fara by Joachim Marzahn. Excavations in the Diyala Region by Karen L. Wilson. Stone Sculpture Production by Jean-Francois de Laperouse. Nippur by Jean M. Evans. Tello (Ancient Girsu) by Beatrice Andre-Salvini. Metalworking Techniques by Jean-Francois de Laperouse. Al Ubaid by Paul Collins. Kish by Paul Collins. Royal Tombs of Ur by Julian Reade. Tomb of Puabi by Paul Collins. Great Death Pit at Ur by Julian Reade. Mari and the Syro-Mesopotamian World by Jean-Claude Margueron. Treasure of Ur from Mari by Nadja Cholidis. Ebla and the Early Urbanization of Syria by Paolo Matthiae. Tell Umm el-Marra by Glenn M. Schwartz. Tell Banat by Anne Porter and Thomas McClellan. Art of the Akkadian Dynasty by Donald P. Hansen. Lost-Wax Casting by Jean-Francois de Laperouse. Tell Mozan (Ancient Urkesh) by Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati. Tell Brak in the Akkadian Period by Jean M. Evans. Art and Interconnections in the Third Millennium B.C. by Joan Aruz. Egypt and the Near East in the Third Millennium B.C. by James P. Allen. Aegean and Western Anatolia: Social Forms and Cultural Relationships by Claus Reinholdt. Early Bronze Age Jewelry Hoard from Kolonna, Aigina by Claus Reinholdt. Troy by Eleni Drakaki. Poliochni and the Civilization of the Northeastern Aegean by Lena Papazoglou-Manioudaki. Central Anatolian Plateau: The Tombs of Alaca Hoyuk by Oscar White Muscarella. North Caucasus by Elena Izbitser. Maikop (Oshad) Kurgan by Yuri Piotrovsky. Novosvobodnaya by Yuri Piotrovsky. Susa: Beyond the Zagros Mountains by Paul Collins. Gulf: Dilmun and Magan by D.T. Potts. Copper Alloys and Metal Sources by Jean-Francois de Laperouse. Tell Abraq by Paul Collins. Island of Tarut by Paul Collins. "Intercultural Style" Carved Chlorite Objects by Joan Aruz. Pathways Across Eurasia by Maurizio Tosi, C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky. Altyn-Depe by Yuri Piotrovsky. Gonur-Depe by Elisabetta Valtz Fino. Indus Civilization by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. Baluchistan by Paul Collins. Cities of the Indus Valley by Paul Collins. Beads of the Indus Valley by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer. Approaching the Divine: Mesopotamia Art at the End of the Third Millennium B.C. by Jean M. Evans. Rediscovery of Gudea Statuary in the Hellenistic Period by Beatrice Andre-Salvini. Earliest Scholastic Tradition by Piotr Michalowski. Uruk and the World of Gilgamesh by Beate Salje. Mesopotamian Legacy: Origins of the Genesis Tradition by Ira Spar. Appendix: Problems of Third-Millennium-B.C. Chronology by Julian Reade. PROFESSIONAL REVIEWS: REVIEW: A truly spectacular, groundbreaking exhibition of Near Eastern art and urbanism that is closing at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art this month, Art of the First Cities gained additional poignancy following the looting of Iraq's National Archeological Museum and countless other sites. In Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago, what were probably the first cities arose, and their arts, particularly in metal and stone, were nothing short of stunning, often arrestingly modern in a manner quite different from later Egyptian art. Seals and cuneiform tablets are shown in extreme close-up, revealing terrific detail.Short, articulate essays by 50-plus experts from the Hermitage, the Louvre and the Met, brought together by Aruz and Wallenfels, curatorsof ancient Near Eastern art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, summarize what is know about Uruk, Ur and other early cities, along with the pieces found there, from the copper "Striding Horned Demons" from 3800 B.C. Iran to a "Recumbent human-headed bull or bison" from Ur of circa 2000 B.C. Maps, detailed chronologies and a massive bibliography round out this first book and exhibit to cover the whole region during this crucial period; it should serve as a fine summation for scholars and curious lovers of art and urbanism. [Publisher's Weekly]. REVIEW: Aruz (curator, ancient Near Eastern art, Metropolitan Museum of Art), along with many other curators and scholars, spent the last several years arranging this monumental summer 2003 exhibition in New York City. Museums and collectors from all over the world loaned items, but the current political situation barred the involvement of the ancient Mesopotamian area itself, that is, modern Iraq. Despite that absence, Aruz shows that a wealth of art and artifacts has survived from the formative millennium.Luxury artifacts in gold, silver, copper, ivory, lapis lazuli, and other precious materials-such as the famous Ur treasures now at the University of Pennsylvania-are discussed in detail, as are small-scale narrative scenes from seal impressions, stone sculptures, cuneiform tablets, and other objects. These are amply presented in 712 illustrations (564 in color). Contributions by more than 50 scholars add dimension, and useful maps place ancient and modern localities in context. These maps also visually emphasize the truly panoramic aspect of this catalog and its numerous essays: in the third millennium B.C.E., trade and other relationships extended in all directions to and from the origins of the first cities in the Tigris and Euphrates area. Recommended for academic and public libraries both for its high quality and for its particular relevance in this millennium. [Library Journal/University of Wyoming]. REVIEW: The catalog "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) more than just documents the exhibition of the same name that recently ended at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 564 pages with 535 color illustrations and 177 black-and-white figures, the catalog fleshes out the context of the art objects with current scholarship on the major sites and emerging cultures of Mesopotamia, the Aegean, the Indus Valley, and Central Asia. Edited by Joan Cruz, curator in charge of the Metropolitan's department of ancient Near Eastern art, the catalog has fifty-one authors, many with multiple contributions. Despite the high quality of the whole, individual chapters are uneven in detail and analysis. The catalog is a delight to the eye and essential reading. Of particular interest are sections on technology--stone sculptural production, metal-working techniques, lost-wax casting, and use of copper alloys--as well as a special section on the "Intercultural Style" of carved chlorite objects, which share a distinctive iconography (especially men in combat with snakes) that integrates stylistic elements from the Indus to Mesopotamia. REVIEW: The most timely exhibition in years, as well as diplomatically dexterous and beautiful. It surveys the culture of the third millennium B.C., mainly centered in Mesopotamia, the crucible of Sumerian civilization, where art, architecture, law and writing developed with the rise of the earliest cities. The beginnings of a cosmopolitan art are in tiny cylinder seals and in figurines. The show is full of small objects that are monumental in concept. [New York Times]. REVIEW: The catalogue successfully provides a broad view of art during the third millennium B.C. and makes a noteworthy contribution to academic studies of this subject. To have achieved this in an accessible and highly readable form is a compliment to the quality of contributing authors, editing and illustration. [Burlington Magazine]. REVIEW: Exceptional in its breadth and the number of experts who contributed to it. . . . Far more ambitious than many similar catalogs, this is a must for anyone (layperson or scholar) interested in the period covered and for any library, be it a university, college, or public library. Essential. [Choice]. REVIEW: Dazzling works of art like the famous gold-and-lapis-lazuli rearing goat with a flowering plant from the great death pit at Ur join forces here with less well-known works of visual paradox. [The New York Times]. REVIEW: These remnants of "the urban revolution represented by the formation of the cities of southern Mesopotamia" complement what Aruz says "must be looked upon as one of humanity's defining moments". [The Washington Post]. REVIEW: This lavishly illustrated catalog showcases the artistic achievements of ancient Sumer, Akkad, and their neighbors in western Asia...Experts offer a series of clear, concise essays that cover such topics as the formation of cities, production techniques, commercial and cultural links, and the legacies of these earliest urban civilizations. [Science]. REVIEW: Beautifully illustrated...provides a solid introduction to the region and the art discovered from the first cities...The contributors are all well-established specialists in their fields. [Religious Studies Review]. REVIEW: Beautiful and scholarly! [New York Review of Books].REVIEW: The exhibition is spectacular. Laboriously entitled "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium BC. From the Mediterranean to the Indus", it shows how incredibly advanced civilization was in that part of the world more than 4,000 years ago. Mesopotamia might even have had pop singers who went on concert tours. One of the finest works of art in the show is a stone statue of a male singer with long black hair and huge round eyes made from shell and lapis lazuli. The statue was found in the ancient city of Mari, now in Syria, but the singer's name, Ur-Nanshe, shows he came from Sumer, hundreds of miles to the south in present-day Iraq. This, says the catalogue, suggests that singers and musicians might have traveled great distances in the furtherance of their careers. The lack of objects from Iraqi museums is hardly felt because so many Mesopotamian treasures were dispersed years ago to museums in the West. Many of the objects in the show are on loan from the British Museum. We might have been guilty of looting ourselves, but at least the items in our care are safe and accessible to all. [Telegraph (UK)]. REVIEW: The recent looting of the museum in Baghdad gives the show Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. From the Mediterranean to the Indus—which recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—a contemporary impact rarely found in exhibitions of ancient art. The anxiety created by this looting goes well beyond a concern over the Army’s inability to defend the museum or the larger failure to protect ancient sites around the globe.It evokes a more fundamental crime, calling to mind the violation of a birthplace—or, to put it differently, the robbing of the “cradle” of civilization. The societies that began to develop about 5,000 years ago in what is now Iraq seem only a step away from the origins of mankind. They occupy a mysterious and important place in our imagination, one that lies somewhere between the shadow of myth and the reality of historical time. You don’t drive Humvees through the Garden of Eden. You don’t plunder your family’s tomb.Organized by Joan Aruz, curator in charge of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Met, “First Cities” contains around 400 works from more than 50 museums around the world. It concentrates on the cultural evolution of the early cities that emerged between the Tigris and Euphrates, but also includes material from lands throughout the region that were affected by developments in Mesopotamia, ranging from the Aegean to the Indus Valley. On display are marvelous examples of statuary, jewelry, architectural elements, cylinder seals, and various decorative objects. Some of the most dramatic and memorable works in the show come from the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The British Museum, for example, has lent the legendary Standard of Ur from the Early Dynastic Period (2550–2400 B.C.), a richly colored and geometrically designed mosaic that on one side commemorates a battle—with chariots and corpses—and on the other celebrates a banquet replete with the bounty of the land.What may surprise many people is that well before the Old Testament was written, the main elements of art were already largely in place. These city-dwellers worked in a sophisticated manner with narrative, metaphor, and symbol. They were attracted to both geometric and biomorphic design. They used art to celebrate spiritual and material ends. Some of their figures were more abstract, some more natural, in appearance. (The noble figures created at the close of the third millennium B.C. in the city-state of Lagash are early miracles of observation.) At the same time, the art retains a rough-hewn vitality rarely found in more advanced societies.The animals often seem partly human, the humans partly animal. The hammered gold evokes the sun, the lapis lazuli the sea, the carnelian the blood and fire of life. The extraordinary crown and “cape of beads” found in the tomb of a woman who was probably a Sumerian queen —her name was Puabi—still pulse with energy. Buried in the nearby tomb of a king was a magnificent lyre adorned with a bull’s head, which rested on the heads of three women who were probably sacrificed as part of the royal entourage. In the afterlife, they would fashion music from a divine bull.The art of “First Cities” arouses in contemporary viewers a strangely complex sensation of time. The objects are obviously ancient, but they can’t just be called old. In terms of the evolution of art, they are actually young and fresh. No intelligent person should romanticize early urban society, of course, but only those with impoverished imaginations will fail to feel the pull of such beginnings. In certain respects, we are older today than the ancients. We know the weight of time and the burden of history. [New York Magazine]. REVIEW: The "Great Lyre" of Ur (2550-2400 BC), with its golden bull's head, is just one of the dazzling objects on display at a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But next to it is a photo of another one of these extremely rare lyres. It has gone missing, part of the looting that has taken place across Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Similar photos appear throughout the Met's latest blockbuster exhibition, "The Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium BC from the Mediterranean to the Indus," which opened Thursday and continues through Aug. 17. They serve as reminders of magnificent ancient art that may be lost forever.Mesopotamia, a region roughly the equivalent of modern Iraq, is the focus of the Met show, which aims to spotlight this "cradle of civilization" and demonstrate how it influenced early cultures as far away as Greece in the West and the Indus River Valley in the East, in what is today Pakistan. The exhibit has been a bittersweet undertaking for curator Joan Aruz, who has spent the past five years planning to display some 400 objects from 16 countries and nearly 50 public and private collections.Her "great hope" was to help people appreciate the value of this art, she says. "Now it's taken on an even greater significance because it's a way of keeping the story [of Iraq's looted art] in the public eye, a way of educating the public to what is lost." The objects in the show "stand almost as a tribute," she says, "because they remind you of what is not there." Though the show is impressive in its breadth, "the major collection was in Iraq," she says, including countless "absolute masterpieces that are irreplaceable." In addition, new undocumented objects were coming into Iraqi museums constantly, so just what has been lost may never be fully understood. "If the loss is as great as we think it just appears that this is a major, major destruction."Martha Sharp Joukowsky, a professor of archaeology and art at Brown University in Providence, R.I., estimates that perhaps "90 percent" of the ancient findings that have been unearthed in Iraq were still in the country before the recent looting. The materials in the Met show, she says, represent those collected before laws changed to require artifacts to remain in their country of origin. In retrospect, Ms. Joukowsky says, one can say, "Thank God!" some objects had gone abroad. In the late 1990s, the Met's director asked his curators to propose shows that could celebrate the coming of the third millennium A.D. in 2001. "I started to think about what was going on in the third millennium BC, which was such a seminal period in the development of the world," Ms. Aruz says. Looking at the time when the first cities were created, when writing was invented, when the first works of art were made to honor gods and kings, would enable visitors to "understand a little more about ourselves - and a lot more about the ancient world that seems so remote."She has divided the exhibition into two parts. The first examines the culture of Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 3000-2000 BC The second looks at the cross-fertilization that occurred between Mesopotamia and surrounding cultures, showing how they stimulated one another. Long before the establishment of legendary trade routes like the Silk Road, Mesopotamia was reaching out for new goods and ideas. An example of this can be seen in the development of "intercultural" objects, like images of the lion and bull, symbols of power and fertility, that emerged in the region. Aruz couldn't obtain loans from either Iraq or its neighbor Iran, but other countries in in the Middle East and Asia did participate, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. Objects in the show include sculptures, jewelry, vessels, weapons, cylinder seals, and tablets. Formed from materials such as gold, silver, and semi-precious stones, they served to adorn homes, temples, royal courts, and burial chambers.Many of the objects are being displayed away from their home institutions for the first time. The British museum lent the famous "Standard of Ur," a wooden box inlaid with mosaics that depict a Sumerian king as a priest and mediator responsible for the welfare of his people. The life-sized "Seated Statue of Gudea: Architect With Plan" (2090 BC), on loan from the Louvre, represents a ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Lagash in a pious posture, with a layout of a temple in his lap and his hands joined in a position of honor for the deity Ningirsu. The importance of the Mesopotamian culture represented in the show can't be overemphasized, Joukowsky says. Mesopotamia is the source of the earliest cuneiform writing and the earliest laws, as well as the first monumental architecture. It's the setting for much of the history that takes place in the Bible's book of Genesis, including Noah's flood. Mesopotamia is "the beginning of it all," she says. [Christian Science Monitor]. REVIEW: The Metropolitan prepares a major new exhibition, "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus." It is to open May 8. About 400 rare works of art will be displayed, many of them from Iraq, though no works from the Baghdad museum were available. More than 230 scholars of ancient Mesopotamian history from 25 countries have signed a petition to be delivered to the United Nations on Monday. Drafted by researchers at Yale and Oxford Universities, the petition urges military leaders and postwar administrators of Iraq to safeguard cultural artifacts "for the future of the Iraqi people and for the world."American archaeologists said that they had lost contact with their Iraqi colleagues in recent weeks. The last they had heard was that several antiquities officials and researchers had barricaded themselves in the Baghdad museum. They had hidden some of the most precious artifacts elsewhere, and protected others with sandbags. At last report, just before the outbreak of war, Dr. Russell said that Dr. Donny George, the research director of antiquities who is known for his heft, was seen to be thin and exhausted from the stress of preparing to defend the museum.Of the several thousand artifacts at the museum, Dr. Russell said some of his favorites were the stone birds from Nemrik, north of Mosul. The site, investigated in the last decade, is one of the world's first villages, from about 8,000 B.C. The museum's collection includes a cult vase from Uruk decorated with some of the earliest narrative pictures from the Sumerian culture. The pictures show fields and flocks and people making offerings to the goddess Inanna, the Sumerian version of Ishtar. "That's a beautiful, important piece," Dr. Russell said. REVIEW: “To overturn the appointed times, to obliterate the divine plans, the storms gather to strike like a flood. [The gods] An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag have decided its fate—to overturn the divine powers of destroy the city…to take kingship away from the Land [of Sumer]...The people, in their fear, breathed only with difficulty. The storm immobilized them...There was no return for them, the time of captivity did not pass...The extensive countryside was destroyed, no one moved about there. The dark time was roasted by hailstones and flames. The bright time was wiped out by a shadow. On that bloody day mouths were crushed, heads were crashed. On that day heaven rumbled, the earth trembled, the storm worked without respite...The foreigners in the city even chased away its dead...There were corpses floating in the Euphrates, brigands roamed the roads...In Ur people were smashed as if they were clay pots. The statues that were in the treasury were cut down….” The Lamentation Over Sumer and Ur, from which these passages come, was composed four thousand years ago in the aftermath of an invasion by the Elamites of Iran that brought the Sumerian kingdom of Ur to an ignominious end. This was a fittingly dramatic turning point for what our calendar marks as the transition from the third to the second millennium BC. After some twenty years of incursions, in 2004 BC the Iranian army finally breached the walls of Ur and carried off its last king, Ibbi-Suen, into the mountains: “like a bird that has flown its nest,” as the poet puts it, “he shall never return to his city.” The rich cities of Sumer, in present-day southern Iraq, were overrun and from the ensuing desolation emerged a vivid literature of lamentation that bewailed the destruction of temples, cities, agriculture, and all civilized life.It is a cruel mirroring of history that the third millennium of our own era should likewise have begun with an invasion of Sumer, one in which the culture of Iraq is again under dire threat. And within weeks of the fall of Baghdad the most ambitious exhibition ever mounted on the art of the very cities sacked by the Elamites opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition served to highlight both the extraordinary richness of Mesopotamia’s cultural heritage and the corresponding magnitude of the loss suffered when many unique and supremely important works of art were stolen from the Iraq National Museum between April 10 and 12 of this year.After much initial confusion, the scale and significance of the looting are gradually becoming clearer. Initial estimates of 170,000 missing objects were hasty extrapolations from reports that “everything” was gone. It soon turned out that many of the showcases were empty because the museum’s staff had removed the important objects to more secure locations, and that most of the collection was still intact (more or less) in the storerooms. This created something of a backlash. Having initially denounced the scandal of troops being stationed at the oil ministry while one of the world’s great museums was looted—“protecting Iraq’s oil but not its cultural motherlode”—much of the press has since played down the disaster as overblown. This is not the case. The quantities of works stolen were substantial and, more to the point, their cultural significance immense.A recent official estimate is that around forty major works were taken from the main public galleries, including the Warka Vase (later returned) and the Warka Head—two of the greatest masterpieces of Sumerian art, found at the site of ancient Uruk (modern Warka) in Southern Iraq. They also included Assyrian ivories, a large copper sculpture of a hero, and a number of other irreplaceable works. Much more was taken from the storerooms, including nearly all of the museum’s collection of cylinder seals—some 4,800 small stone cylinders carved in intaglio with miniature figured and decorative scenes that were rolled over damp clay tablets. The finest of these are exquisite and powerful works of art. Also gone are much jewelry, sculpture, metalwork, and ceramics.At the urging of mosque leaders and museum authorities, some objects were brought back in the days immediately after the looting, and many more have since been seized both in Iraq and in customs and police operations in Jordan, Italy, Britain, and New York. As of July 11, a total of 13,515 objects had been confirmed as stolen, of which 10,580 were still missing, including all but a handful of the most important works. As terrible as these losses are, even greater damage has been done in the months since the fall of Baghdad by the extensive, organized, and in some cases mechanized plundering of archaeological sites in the Sumerian heartland of southern Iraq. After the first Gulf War there were reports of illicit excavations and of unusual quantities of “fresh” artifacts reaching Western markets. During the past four months clandestine digging on a much greater scale by AK-47-toting bands has again been rampant at several important Sumerian sites. Some are already almost entirely gone; others are riddled with trenches and tunnels.“The looters stop at nothing,” says Pietro Cordone, head of cultural affairs in the Coalition Provisional Authority, “they use trucks, excavators, and armed guards to steal objects of great value without being disturbed. We’ve tried everything to end this systematic pillaging, military patrols at the site and helicopter overflights, but so far we haven’t been successful.” Officials on the ground still report a lack of funding for the basic necessities of site protection—guards, vehicles, and guns. This is where the Bremer administration, UNESCO, and other supranational organizations should concentrate their resources, shutting down the looting at its source. What has happened in recent months is already among the worst mass desecrations of cultural sites in our lifetime, perhaps the worst. If more time is lost before the sites are protected effectively we shall be in need of a lamentation over Sumer and Baghdad worthy of the Sumerian poets.The cities of Mesopotamia (Greek for “between the rivers,” corresponding to modern-day Iraq plus easternmost Syria) lie mostly under rounded mounds of weathered mudbrick, the inconspicuous tombstones of deserted settlements that can easily be taken for features of the natural landscape. Apart from a few better-preserved ziggurats (staged temple-towers), there is little in Iraq to compare with the dramatic standing monuments of the Mediterranean, and it was therefore visited and studied much less by the early pilgrims and antiquarians who, from medieval times, reopened Western eyes to the Holy Land and Egypt.All this changed in the 1840s when northern Iraq became the scene of the most substantial excavations ever undertaken in the Near East. The French were first in the field in 1842 at Nineveh and, from 1843, at Khorsabad, the eighth-century-BC capital of the Assyrian king Sargon II. But they were soon outshone and outmaneuvered by a young British traveler and adventurer, Austen Henry Layard. En route to Ceylon, the twenty-eight-year-old Layard became intrigued with stories of buried remains in the mounds near present-day Mosul which turned out to be ancient Nineveh and Nimrud, the two most fabled capitals of the Assyrians.Within days of starting the digging at Nimrud, Layard hit upon the first of eight palaces of the Assyrian kings dating from the ninth to seventh centuries BC, which he and his assistant eventually uncovered there and at Nineveh. In amazement they found room after room lined with carved stone bas-reliefs of demons and deities, scenes of battle, royal hunts and ceremonies; doorways flanked by enormous winged bulls and lions; and, inside some of the chambers, tens of thousands of clay tablets inscribed with the curious, and then undeciphered, cuneiform (“wedge-shaped”) script—the remains, as we now know, of scholarly libraries assembled by the Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal. By later standards it was treasure-hunting rather than archaeology, but after a few years of excavation in difficult political and financial circumstances, Layard had succeeded in resurrecting for the first time one of the great early cultures of Mesopotamia. He never made it to Ceylon.The most spectacular finds were shipped back to the British Museum, where the Victorian fascination with the Bible assured these illustrations of Old Testament history a rapturous reception. By the early 1850s, progress in reading the Assyrian-Babylonian script had allowed names and events to be attached to the images, among them Jehu, the ninth-century-BC king of Israel (shown paying obeisance to King Shalmanesser III), and the siege of Lachish in Judah by Sennacherib. Layard’s account of his discoveries, Nineveh and Its Remains (1849), soon had a huge success: “the greatest achievement of our time,” according to Lord Ellesmere, president of the Royal Asiatic Society. “No man living has done so much or told it so well.” An abridged edition (1852) prepared for the series “Murray’s Reading for the Rail” became an instant best seller: the first year’s sales of eight thousand (as Layard remarked in a letter) “will place it side by side with Mrs. Rundell’s Cookery.”Work on the decipherment of the language of the Assyrian inscriptions was making good progress while Layard was in the field, partly owing to his discoveries. But the key to cracking the cuneiform script lay elsewhere—in a trilingual inscription of the Persian king Darius carved on the face of a cliff at Behistun in western Iran around 520 BC. (In all, the cuneiform script was used for over 3,500 years.) One of the three versions of the text used a much simpler cuneiform script with only around forty characters, which scholars soon realized must be alphabetic. Even before Layard’s excavations, by making some inspired guesses about likely titles and names, they had deciphered this script and shown the language to be Old Persian, thus of the Indo-Iranian language family (a close relative of Indo-European).Having determined the general meaning of the three texts, scholars now confirmed that the second version, written in the much more complex cuneiform script (some three hundred characters) of the tablets from Assyria, was, as many had suspected, a Semitic language (i.e., cognate with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic)—what we now know as Babylonian.6Many texts could be read reasonably well by the time Layard’s finds started arriving in England, but the decipherment was not officially declared to have been achieved until 1857, when four of the leading experts (including W.H. Fox-Talbot, one of the inventors of photography) submitted independent translations of a new inscription and all were shown to be in broad agreement. After two and a half millennia, the Assyrians had again found their voice.What the tablets said continued to cause a stir, especially when it threw light on the Bible. The most celebrated episode took place in 1872 when a young curator at the British Museum, George Smith, found among the tablets from Nineveh one that bore the story of how a Babylonian hero had survived a devastating flood: On looking down the third column [of the tablet], my eye caught the statement that the ship rested on the mountains of Nizir, followed by the account of the sending forth of the dove, and its finding no resting-place and returning. I saw at once that I had discovered a portion at least of the Chaldean account of the Deluge.A Babylonian Noah! The London Daily Telegraph offered to fund an expedition to look for the missing part of the tablet. Smith duly set out, and on only his fifth day of searching through the spoil heaps of Nineveh—with luck that must have seemed divinely inspired—found a tablet fragment that filled most of the gap in the story. The texts from Assyria were written in two closely related Semitic languages: Assyrian and Babylonian, spoken by the ancient inhabitants of northern and southern Mesopotamia respectively. As the prestigious language of higher learning, Babylonian was also used in an archaizing dialect throughout the land for literary works and royal commemorative inscriptions.So far things were much as an erudite Victorian would have expected from his reading of the Bible, where Ashur (the name of the first Assyrian capital and of the nation’s tutelary deity) appears among the descendants of Noah’s son Shem (Genesis 10:22). But the Nineveh tablets included also some bilingual texts in which the Babylonian version was accompanied by a totally different and so far mysterious language. This used the same script as Babylonian-Assyrian (and could therefore, to some extent, be read phonetically) but the language bore no relation to them, or indeed to any other known tongue. Some scholars even argued that it did not represent a real language at all but was a secret code for recording sacred knowledge by the Babylonian priests.The issue was put to rest in the 1870s, when excavations by the French at Tello (ancient Girsu) in the south of Iraq uncovered sculptures and other objects bearing unilingual inscriptions in this language, in a clearly much earlier stage of the script (now dated around 2600–2100 BC). In the 1880s an American team began working at Nippur (which turned out to be the Sumerians’ religious capital) and found thousands more tablets recording (as we now know) literary, mythological, mathematical, and other compositions, the refuse from scribal schools from around 1700 BC. The Sumerians, creators of the earliest of all Mesopotamian civilizations, had now arrived.But who exactly were they? Like the later Assyrians and Babylonians, the Sumerians are defined for us by their language: to be a Sumerian, whatever it meant five thousand years ago, today means a Sumerian-speaker. The language itself is not inflected as Semitic and Indo-European languages are, but agglutinative: grammatical and other elements are added on as prefixes and suffixes. Its slow and painstaking linguistic analysis has been one of the triumphs of modern philology. The texts can now be translated with reasonable confidence, though many uncertainties remain.From the archaeological remains of those who wrote and spoke Sumerian it has been possible to reconstruct much of how they lived, their arts and crafts, religion, history, and so on. But there is virtually no evidence that bears directly on the Sumerians’ ethnic or racial identity; nor indeed is it clear that these anthropological categories are really useful at this remote date. The early Near East was polyglot and multicultural. Mesopotamian scribes of the third millennium spoke and read Sumerian, Akkadian (the Semitic ancestor-tongue of Babylonian and Assyrian), and sometimes a third language as well.Shulgi, king of the Sumerian city of Ur and a great patron of learning, claims to have spoken no fewer than five. The texts speak of interpreters (including one for “Meluhhans,” i.e., people from the Indus Valley in Pakistan), and we see parents with foreign names giving their children Sumerian or Akkadian names so they will blend in. Many times in Mesopotamian history invading peoples were absorbed into the existing population and culture. Clearly language and culture mattered, but just as clearly people moved around and were able to deal with other ways of speaking and living.The term “Sumer” derives from “shumeru,” the name for Sumer used by the Akkadians, who lived alongside the Sumerians in the heartland itself (the region from Nippur south to the head of the Gulf) and predominated just to the north in Akkad (northern Babylonia, around modern Baghdad). The Sumerians themselves called their land kiengi(r), or just “the land,” and described themselves as “the black-headed ones.” When and from where they first settled near the Euphrates was much debated a generation ago, but without any clear consensus. People had settled the region and were growing crops by irrigation before 5000 BC; the best we can say is that the urbanized people who, before 3000 BC, first wrote Sumerian emerged out of this agricultural way of life and tradition without any obvious break.That story is what school textbooks like to call the birth of civilization, and though, like all clichés, this is an oversimplification, the uniqueness of what happened in early Sumer and its significance for world history can hardly be exaggerated. The main source of this revolution seems to have been the city of Uruk (biblical Erech, modern Warka) in southern Sumer, which by circa 3400 BC had become the largest permanent urban settlement ever created. At its core lay two monumental temple complexes dedicated to the sky-god Anu and the goddess of love and war, Inana. In and around these temples were found what are still the earliest writings from anywhere in the world, the pictographic system of recording on clay tablets that evolved into cuneiform, along with sophisticated architectural, technological, and artistic traditions illustrated by the Warka Vase and Head. Life in and around the temples was supported by well-coordinated religious, social, and presumably political administrations.As more recent excavation has proved, the early Sumerians were also active colonizers, if not imperialists. In the centuries before 3000 BC, colonies and outposts of the “Uruk culture” were established hundreds of miles away, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Syria and Turkey, and in western Iran, presumably to procure metals, stones, timber, and other raw materials. It is at this time also that Sumerian cylinder seals, artistic motifs, and other cultural traits are found in Egypt, suggesting some Mesopotamian stimulus in the emergence of a distinctive culture under the first dynasties there. How the Uruk network was achieved and maintained we do not know, but its success cannot be doubted: by the early third millennium the city had grown into a massively walled metropolis of over 1,300 acres.The earliest writings provide a window into the minutiae of everyday life in early Sumer for which nothing else in the ancient world can prepare us. The earliest pictographic texts (circa 3400–3200 BC) deal primarily with agricultural administration—lists of livestock, disbursements of grain, and so on. But already there are a few lists of types of animate and inanimate objects—evidence of the Sumerians’ peculiar predilection for categorizing the universe. The script had taken on its distinctive wedge-shaped character by the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period (circa 2900–2350 BC) during which other genres gradually made their appearance: literary texts, proverbs, hymns and cultic compositions, and historical narratives about border disputes between rival city-states such as Lagash, Umma, Ur, and Kish.Kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2112–2004 BC), the last and most glorious flourishing of Sume-rian culture, were great patrons of literature and learning, none more so than the multilingual Shulgi—“in my palace no one in conversation switches to another language as quickly as I do”—who claims to have “learned the scribal art from the tablets of Sumer and Akkad…. The academies are never to be altered,” he declared, “the places of learning shall never cease to exist.” It was probably in these academies that much Sumerian literature was standardized into something like the form we see it in the students’ exercises from Nippur three hundred years later. Scholarship of the past fifty years has done much to bring this sophisticated world back to life in epics of heroic bravery and combat (most famously Gilgamesh); the loves and rivalries of the gods; the travails of their favorites on earth; proverbs and fables; and in royal and sacral hymns of praise. Underneath it lies a much weightier mass of mundane ephemera from everyday life—hundreds of thousands of texts that make Mesopotamia the most fertile ground for social and economic history of any ancient culture."Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium BC from the Mediterranean to the Indus closed" on August 17 but its beautiful and scholarly catalog preserves much that was exciting about it. Having sold some six thousand copies it may also have done more than any book since Leonard Woolley’s Ur of the Chaldees (1929) to raise public consciousness of the ancient Near East in this country, and at an especially important time. The cultural heart of the show was Mesopotamia, which is also treated in far greater depth than its neighbors in the catalog. Despite its title, the exhibition was about much more than art (many objects qualified at best as craft, but are important for other reasons) and rather more than cities (many works came from towns and small trading entrepôts).But as a leitmotif for the exhibition, the city was the right choice. Urbanism lay at the heart of what was new about culture at this time; and cities were the source of much of the greatest art, which provides the easiest point of entry for visitors today, many of whom will be unfamiliar with this region. This unfamiliarity was no doubt a large part of the exhibition’s raison d’être. Indeed, in some ways, the ancient Near East is a more exotic and alien land to New Yorkers today than it was to Londoners in Victorian times—certainly no subsequent writer has had anything like Layard’s success—and popular appreciation of its artistic achievements has fallen even further behind that of Egypt and the classical world.The first room of the exhibition was enough to show how unbalanced this perception is. Already in the Uruk Period (circa 3400–3000 BC), the arts of Sumer and neighboring Proto-Elam (southwestern Iran) have the confidence and refinement of a style and approach to art that are no longer groping toward something else but have arrived at a visual language fully adequate to their creators’ expressive and aesthetic intentions. (This cannot so confidently be said of Egyptian art of the same era.) Two supremely beautiful sculptures from Proto-Elam—a lioness-demon with her clenched paws braced against her chest (see illustration on page 18), and a silver kneeling bull in human attitude, dressed and holding up a vase with his front hoofs—are gems of early naturalistic fantasy. Miniature, low-relief versions of these same subjects on cylinder seals (which become essentially two-dimensional drawings when rolled over the wet clay) show also how the idiom had been carefully adapted to the different technical and aesthetic requirements of each medium.The rich finds from the Royal Tombs of Ur, dating from the mid-third millennium BC, are perhaps the most celebrated Mesopotamian discovery of the twentieth century. They include jewelry, lyres, vessels, and other objects all resplendently decorated in gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. (See the Rearing Goat with a Flowering Plant on page 20.) Despite their glittering appeal as treasure, however, the artistic quality rarely rises to the level of the finest cylinder seals, where we see well-muscled heroes grappling with bull-men and lions all in a space no bigger than one inch by two. The dumpy proportions and naive-looking expressions of figures in contemporary sculptures, relief carvings, and inlay work evoke a curiously unreal, toy-like world, even when they are waging war (as in the battle scenes on the Standard of Ur and Stela of the Vultures). The wide-eyed worshiper statuettes of this period likewise leave us wondering whether, for regular-sized art, we have yet to discover the finest works by the most accomplished court artists.There can be no doubt, on the other hand, that the succeeding Akkadian Period (circa 2350–2150 BC) was one of the pinnacles of early artistic achievement anywhere. A more intense naturalism of human and animal forms is immediately apparent, together with an adventurous expansion of composition and subject matter (in narrative, and especially mythological, scenes) and greater technical mastery in working metals and hard stones, which are now polished to a high sheen. It is a tantalizing thought that the glimpses we get from the surviving bas-reliefs of battle scenes and prisoners, bronze portrait heads of bearded kings, and mythological narratives on cylinder seals are surely only a foretaste of what lies ahead if the imperial capital of Akkad is ever found.This sculptural tradition reaches its climax in the series of statues of Gudea and other rulers of the Sumerian city-state of Lagash around 2100 BC that were the most spectacular finds from the early French excavations at present-day Tello in Iraq. Arriving at the Louvre a generation after the fearsome depictions of the Assyrian kings in battle, these engaging images of pious stewardship suggested an altogether more humane and appealing world; they have rightly come to be recognized among the masterpieces of ancient art. Gudea is usually shown standing, wearing a cap with rows of curls (fur?), his hands clasped at his chest in dutiful worship of Ningirsu (later known as Ninurta, the Babylonian war-god), his tutelary deity. One famous variant shows him as an architect, seated with the plan of Ningirsu’s temple on his lap. This is an image of the ruler as mediator between earth and heaven, as shepherd of his flock, as architect of their prosperous future—almost a Mesopotamian buddha. Not surprisingly, it has struck a chord with museumgoers, and especially with artists, ever since.The world of the ancient Near East outside Mesopotamia was a mosaic of disparate languages and cultures, but one showing evidence of extensive contact across very large distances. Although many of the languages remain undeciphered or unknown, and many of the cultures are defined solely by their archaeological remains, we can trace in considerable detail the traded goods, artistic borrowings, and other cultural exchanges between peoples from Pakistan all the way to the Aegean. It is a surprisingly large stage of interaction, one not matched until the emergence of the Persian Achaemenid empire founded by Cyrus the Great some two thousand years later. As the subtitle indicated, one aim of the exhibition was to place the civilizations of the Near East, including Mesopotamia, within this broader setting.Fifty years ago this undertaking would have had a very clear story line: it would show how civilization, once born in Mesopotamia, was diffused to Egypt and eventually right across the Old World: ex oriente lux, “from the East, light.” The argument was founded on findings of distinctively Mesopotamian artifacts and bureaucratic practices (writing, sealing, etc.) in Syria, Egypt, Iran, and even the Indus Valley; more rarely those of these other cultures in Mesopotamia. In some cases there was clear evidence of trade (especially along the Gulf between Mesopotamia and the Indus, and northwest with Syria); in others the suggestion of Sumerian colonies (Syria and Iran). But often, as with Egypt, quite what these “cultural contacts” amounted to in human experience remained unclear.While the evidence for such a diffusionist picture has multiplied dramatically, however, interpretation has headed in precisely the other direction—away from cross-cultural influence toward independent invention and regional distinctiveness. Partly this resulted from the realization that the idea of diffusion as a passive, one-way transfer of cultural capital from one place to another was flawed; even where influence can be demonstrated it is a multidirectional and selective process in which “peripheries” often played as large and active a part as “cores.” The Egyptians adopted the idea of writing from the Sumerians (if indeed they did so) because it suited their own rulers’ political and social purposes.Many other cultures chose not to do so—not because they didn’t know about it or were not smart enough, but because they did not have, or did not wish to have, the political and social institutions within which writing could function as a useful instrument of coercion and control. But this shift, it must be said, also has more than a little to do with fashion in academic thinking, in particular the growing resistance to seeing cultures in “primary” and “secondary” tiers. If there was a quibble with the exhibition as a whole it was its reluctance, having presented the evidence, to grapple with the changing interpretations that scholars have placed upon it.The catalog ends appropriately with a discussion of the Mesopotamian cultural tradition and its legacy through the Hebrew Bible to the West—the Sumero-Babylonian stories that parallel, to varying degrees, the Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. The thoroughly pagan Gilgamesh, Sumer’s most famous son, has been much harder to identify in art than his literary renown would suggest, and there were no certain images of him in the exhibition. A tragic hero whose great achievements as king of Uruk still cannot bring him the one thing he truly wants—immortal life—Gilgamesh is a sympathetic and human foil to the Egyptian kings who revel so comfortably in their assured divinity. He has of course had an immortality of sorts in the legacy that this exhibition triumphantly proclaimed. We can only hope that the violence still being inflicted on it in the mounds of Iraq will soon be brought to an end. [New York Review of Books].READER REVIEWS: REVIEW: A major overview of a vital stage in the development of art and culture. And unlike so many books it does not focus solely on the Middle East (as the British Museum still tends to) and is written so that an amateur with limited knowledge but great interest can get to grips with it. The book is copiously illustrated with relevant material (usually on the same page) and takes the reader through by area, by style, by theme and by time. A wonderful tour de force which I dip into regularly and get so engrossed in things I know nothing about. Warmly recommended. REVIEW: This is a superbly illustrated and written book, with photographs of renown artifacts from museums around the world, and even more outstanding essays by relevant scholars. I suspect anyone interested in Ancient Art from the formative stages (3000-2000 BC) of the world's first civilizations will enjoy reading this book. REVIEW: A magnificent volume, for those who might be interested in the myriad small and large details pertaining to the earliest artifacts of those primordial history writing civilizations. A great many details as to the history, physical conditions, geography, economics, foreign relations, art, religion, literature, iconography, archaeology and so on, both textual and visual. A most interesting book for those interested in the cradle of civilization. REVIEW: Wonderful illustrations. Up-to-date analyses and comments. For amateur, armchair archaeologists as well as professional specialists. REVIEW: I just love looking at old artifacts and art. This book has wonderful pictures and descriptions of antiquities, statues, decorated utensils and dishes, etc. I can't describe it all. Love it! REVIEW: Five stars! Spectacular! I only wish I had been able to see the exhibition.ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: REVIEW: Nine thousand years ago, visitors approaching Çatalhöyük from across a vast marshy plain would have seen hundreds of mud-brick dwellings on the slopes of an enormous settlement mound. The site's several thousand inhabitants would have been herding sheep or goats; hunting wild cattle (aurochs), horse, and deer; tending crops of peas, lentils, and cereals; or collecting wild plant foods such as tubers from the marshes. Some would have been bringing valuable raw materials to the site, such as obsidian from volcanic peaks to the northeast. In size and complexity, Çatalhöyük was unlike any other site in the world. The American archaeologist Walter Fairservis, Jr., writing in 1975, described it as a community "at the threshold of civilization."Çatalhöyük was first brought to worldwide attention by James Mellaart, whose excavations between 1961 and 1965 revealed more than 150 dwellings and rooms, many decorated with murals, plaster reliefs, and sculpture. Mellaart excavated less than four percent of the eastern mound at Çatalhöyük, but it was enough to indicate the settlement's size and architectural complexity as well as the sophistication of its art. In doing so, he established Çatalhöyük as an important site for studying the origins of settled farming life and the rise of the first cities. Some scholars consider Çatalhöyük to be the world's first city, and its murals are unique.After 1965, the site lay idle until 1993, when Ian Hodder of the University of Cambridge launched the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Working in collaboration with the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge and the British Institute for Archaeology at Ankara, Hodder has now completed five years of excavation and study as part of a 25-year program. The project's three principal aims are archaeological investigation of the site; conservation of architecture, murals, artifacts, and human remains; and management of the site, including interpretive programs for visitors.The University of Cambridge Çatalhöyük website ( carries annually updated summaries and specialized preliminary reports. Computer animations of some Çatalhöyük building interiors may be seen at The Science Museum of Minnesota is developing a web site that will present educational themes developed from the first excavations at Çatalhöyük and provide students and teachers access to new discoveries at the site and to archaeologists in Europe and America involved in the project. REVIEW: Erbil Revealed: How the first excavations in an ancient city are supporting its claim as the oldest continuously inhabited place in the world. The 100-foot-high, oval-shaped citadel of Erbil towers high above the northern Mesopotamian plain, within sight of the Zagros Mountains that lead to the Iranian plateau. The massive mound, with its vertiginous man-made slope, built up by its inhabitants over at least the last 6,000 years, is the heart of what may be the world’s oldest continuously occupied settlement. At various times over its long history, the city has been a pilgrimage site dedicated to a great goddess, a prosperous trading center, a town on the frontier of several empires, and a rebel stronghold.Yet despite its place as one of the ancient Near East’s most significant cities, Erbil’s past has been largely hidden. A dense concentration of nineteenth- and twentieth-century houses stands atop the mound, and these have long prevented archaeologists from exploring the city’s older layers. As a consequence, almost everything known about the metropolis—called Arbela in antiquity—has been cobbled together from a handful of ancient texts and artifacts unearthed at other sites. “We know Arbela existed, but without excavating the site, all else is a hypothesis,” says University of Cambridge archaeologist John MacGinnis.Last year, for the first time, major excavations began on the north edge of the enormous hill, revealing the first traces of the fabled city. Ground-penetrating radar recently detected two large stone structures below the citadel’s center that may be the remains of a renowned temple dedicated to Ishtar, the goddess of love and war. There, according to ancient texts, Assyrian kings sought divine guidance, and Alexander the Great assumed the title of King of Asia in 331 B.C. Other new work includes the search for a massive fortification wall surrounding the ancient lower town and citadel, excavation of an impressive tomb just north of the citadel likely dating to the seventh century B.C., and examination of what lies under the modern city’s expanding suburbs. Taken together, these finds are beginning to provide a more complete picture not only of Arbela’s own story, but also of the growth of the first cities, the rise of the mighty Assyrian Empire, and the tenacity of an ethnically diverse urban center that has endured for more than six millennia. Located on a fertile plain that supports rain-fed agriculture, Erbil and its surrounds have, for thousands of years, been a regional breadbasket, a natural gateway to the east, and a key junction on the road connecting the Persian Gulf to the south with Anatolia to the north. Geography has been both the city’s blessing and curse in this perennially fractious region.Inhabitants fought repeated invasions by the soldiers of the Sumerian capital of Ur 4,000 years ago, witnessed three Roman emperors attack the Persians, and suffered the onslaught of Genghis Khan’s cavalry in the thirteenth century, the cannons of eighteenth-century Afghan warlords, and the wrath of Saddam Hussein’s tanks only 20 years ago. Yet, through thousands of years, the city survived, and even thrived, while other once-great cities such as Babylon and Nineveh crumbled.Today Erbil is the capital of Iraq’s autonomous province of Kurdistan. The citadel remains at the heart of a thriving city with a population of 1.3 million, made up mostly of Kurds, and a boomtown economy, thanks to a combination of tight security and oil wealth. During the twentieth century, the high mound fell into disrepair as refugees from the region’s conflicts replaced the town’s established wealthy families, who moved to more spacious accommodations in the lower town and suburbs below. The refugees have since moved to new settlements, and efforts are currently under way to renovate the deteriorating nineteenth- and twentieth-century mudbrick dwellings and twisting, narrow alleys.A textile museum opened in a restored, grand, century-old mansion in early 2014, and work rebuilding the adjacent nineteenth-century Ottoman gate, which sits on much more ancient foundations, is nearing completion. The conservation work is also giving archaeologists the chance to dig into the mound—which has just been declared a World Heritage Site—once so wholly inaccessible. “Erbil has been largely neglected, and we know so little,” says archaeologist Karel Novacek of the University of West Bohemia in the Czech Republic, who conducted the first limited excavations on the citadel in 2006. Extensive long-term excavations are not feasible in Erbil. Nevertheless, Novacek, MacGinnis, their Iraqi colleagues, and archaeologists from Italy, France, Greece, Germany, and the United States, are using old aerial photographs, Cold War satellite imagery, and archives of ancient cuneiform tablets to pinpoint the best spots to dig in order to take advantage of this first real opportunity to examine Erbil’s past. Although the citadel has played an important role in the Near East for millennia, knowledge of the site has been remarkably limited because so little archaeology has been done there and in the surrounding area. Only a few pieces of 5,000-year-old pottery found on the citadel attest to the existence of ancient Arbela. And although the greatest quantity of information about the city’s appearance, inhabitants, and role in the region derives from the Assyrian period, almost all of the evidence we have comes from texts and artifacts found at other sites.Arbela’s (modern Erbil) strategic location between the great Assyrian cities to the west and south, and the Zagros Mountains to the east, placed it at the heart of the ancient Near East’s most important cities and empires. The first mention of Arbela is found on clay tablets dating to about 2300 B.C.. They were discovered in the charred ruins of the palace at Ebla, a city some 500 miles to the west in today’s Syria that was destroyed by the emerging Akkadian Empire. These tablets, some of the thousands found at the site in the 1970s, mention messengers from Ebla being issued five shekels of silver to pay for a journey to Arbela.A century later, the city became a coveted prize for the numerous ancient Near Eastern empires that followed. The Gutians, who came from southern Mesopotamia and helped dismantle the Akkadian Empire, left a royal inscription that boasts of a Gutian king’s successful campaign against Arbela, in which he conquered the city and captured its governor, Nirishuha. Nirishuha, and possibly other inhabitants of Arbela as well, was likely Hurrian. Little is known about the Hurrians, who were members of a group of either indigenous peoples or recent migrants from the distant Caucasus. This inscription provides our first glimpse into the identities of the multiethnic people of Arbela.In the late third millennium B.C. the southern Mesopotamian city of Ur began to build its own empire, and sent soldiers 500 miles north to subdue a rebellious Arbela. Rulers of Ur claimed, in contemporary texts, that they had smashed the heads of Arbela’s leaders and destroyed the city during repeated and bloody campaigns. Other texts from Ur record beer rations given to messengers from Arbela and metals, sheep, and goats taken to Ur as booty. Three centuries later, in an inscription said to have come from western Iraq, Shamshi-Adad I, who established a brief but large empire in upper Mesopotamia, tells of encountering the king of Arbela, “whom I pitilessly caught with my powerful weapon and whom my feet trample.” Shamshi-Adad I had the monarch beheaded.By the twelfth century B.C., Arbela was a prosperous town on the eastern frontier of Assyria, which covered much of northern Mesopotamia. Over the next centuries, the Assyrians, a tight-knit trading people who built an independent kingdom just to the west and south of Arbela, became the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful empire the world had seen. This empire eventually subsumed the city, which became an important Assyrian center, although the city’s population seems to have retained a mix of ethnicities throughout this long era, which lasted until 600 B.C.Ishtar of Arbela was a popular goddess throughout the region in the Assyrian period. A stone stela found in northern Syria depicts the statue of the goddess that once stood in her temple in Arbela. At the core of Arbela’s religious, political, and economic life in this period was the Egasankalamma, or “House of the Lady of the Land.” Assyrian texts mention the temple, dedicated to Ishtar, as early as the thirteenth century B.C., though its foundations likely rest on even older sacred structures. In Mesopotamian theology Ishtar was the goddess of love, fertility, and war. Martti Nissinen of the University of Helsinki has closely examined the 265 references to the goddess in Assyrian texts, and he suggests that the roots of this version of Ishtar may lay deep in the ancient Hurrian pantheon.The Assyrian Empire reached its height in the seventh century B.C., when the kings Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal ruled the region, including Arbela. Contemporary Assyrian texts describe the Egasankalamma as a richly decorated and elaborate complex where royals regularly came to seek the goddess’ guidance. Esarhaddon claimed that he made the temple “shine like the day,” likely a reference to a coating of a silver-and-gold alloy called electrum that gleamed in the Mesopotamian sun. A fragment of a relief from the Assyrian city of Nineveh shows the structure rising above the citadel walls. Some Assyrian royals may have lived there in their youth, perhaps to keep them safe from court intrigues at the capitals of Nineveh, Nimrud, and Assur in the empire’s heartland. On one tablet Ashurbanipal says, “I knew no father or mother. I grew up in the lap of the goddess”—Ishtar of Arbela.An inscribed clay cylinder found at Nimrud details how the Assyrian King Esarhaddon made Arbela’s temple to Ishtar “shine like the sun.” Under the Assyrians, Arbela was a cosmopolitan gathering place for foreign ambassadors coming from the east. “Tribute enters it from all the world!” says Ashurbanipal in one text. A governor oversaw the city’s administration from a sumptuous citadel palace where taxpayers brought copper and cattle, pomegranates, pistachios, grain, and grapes. Arbela’s own inhabitants were a diverse mix that likely included those forcibly resettled by the Assyrian state, as well as immigrants, merchants, and others seeking opportunity in a city that rivaled the Assyrian capitals in stature. “Arbela at this time was a multiethnic state,” says Dishad Marf, a scholar at the Netherlands’ Leiden University. Names of its citizens found in Assyrian texts are Babylonian, Assyrian, Hurrian, Aramain, Shubrian, Scythian, and Palestinian.Assyrian royalty also lavished gifts and praise on Arbela and its patron deity. “Heaven without equal, Arbela!” proclaims one court poem found in Nineveh’s state archives. The poem also describes Arbela as a place where merry-making, festivals, and jubilation echoed in its streets, and Ishtar’s shrine as a “lofty hostel, broad temple, a sanctuary of delights” resounding with the music of drums, lyres, and harps. “Those who leave Arbela and those who enter it are happy,” the hymn concludes. Not all, however. The Nineveh relief depicting Arbela includes a king, likely Ashurbanipal, pouring a libation over the severed head of a rebel from Arbela. According to ancient records, the king had the surviving agitators chained to the city gates, flayed, and their tongues ripped out.After so many centuries of regional domination, the Assyrians’ fall was sudden and swift—and Arbela proved to be the sole surviving major settlement. A coalition of Babylonians and Medes, a nomadic people who lived on the Iranian plateau, destroyed the Assyrian capitals in 612 B.C. and scattered their once-feared armies. Arbela was spared, perhaps because its population was in large part non-Assyrian and sympathetic to the new conquerors. The Medes, who may be the ancestors of today’s Kurds, likely took control of the city, which was still intact a century later when the Persian king Darius I, third king of the Achaemenid Empire, impaled a rebel on Arbela’s ramparts—a scene recorded in an inscription carved on a western Iranian cliff around 500 B.C.By the fourth century B.C., the Achaemenid Empire stretched from Egypt to India. In the fall of 331 B.C., on the plain of Gaugamela to the west of Arbela, the Macedonian king Alexander the Great fought the Achaemenid ruler Darius III, routing the Persian army as its king fled. Classical sources say that Alexander pursued Darius across the Greater Zab River to Arbela’s citadel, where historians believe the Persian king had his campaign headquarters. Darius escaped east into the Zagros Mountains and was eventually killed by his own soldiers, after which Alexander assumed the leadership of the Persian Empire, possibly in a ceremony held in Arbela’s temple of Ishtar, whom he may have equated with the Greek warrior-goddess Athena.A team from Sapienza University of Rome recently used ground-penetrating radar to examine what lies under the center of the citadel, and found intriguing evidence of two structures buried some 50 feet below the surface. “This is the rubble of large stone buildings,” says Novacek, who believes this material may sit in late Assyrian levels, and could prove to be remnants of the electrum-coated temple. However, excavating a 50-foot-deep trench in the center of a high mound poses immense engineering and safety challenges, says Cambridge’s MacGinnis, who is advising the Iraqi-led team.Thus, instead of focusing on the center of the citadel and the possible remains of the temple, the excavators started work last year on the citadel’s north rim with an eye to exposing the ancient fortification walls. At the time, an abandoned early-twentieth-century house had recently collapsed, giving researchers a chance to remove and see beneath the most recent layers. Thus far, 15 feet of debris has been cleared away and investigators have uncovered mudbrick and baked brick architecture, medieval pottery, and a sturdy wall that may rest on top of the original Assyrian fortifications. Next the team will tackle two other small areas nearby before returning to the citadel to attempt the much trickier task of delving into the mound’s central interior.Much of the citadel today is filled with abandoned buildings and weed-choked winding dirt paths waiting to be cleared and restored. Novacek, meanwhile, has turned his attention to the ancient city that grew up in the citadel’s shadow. “The lower town, which has been barely investigated, is the key to understanding the city’s dynamics,” he says. “Digging there requires a different approach.” Today Erbil’s thickly settled downtown, in fact, hides traces of the ancient site. Novacek is using British Royal Air Force aerial photos taken in the 1950s and American spy satellite images from the 1960s Corona program to look for remnants of the ancient city that survived into at least the middle of the twentieth century. He has found faint outlines of two sets of fortifications. One of these is a modest system probably dating from the medieval era, while the second is a much larger set of structures that likely dates to some time in the Assyrian period, and had been bulldozed to make way for the modern town in the 1960s.The earlier fortifications include a 60-foot-thick wall that likely had a defensive slope and a moat. The city’s formidable construction, says Novacek, resembles that found at Nineveh and Assur, and places it “unambiguously among Mesopotamian mega-cities.” The layout differs from that in other Assyrian cities, where the walls were rectangular, with a citadel as part of the protective fortifications. Arbela, however, had an irregular round wall entirely enclosing both the citadel and the lower town. That design is more typical of ancient southern Mesopotamian cities such as Ur and Uruk—a hint, Novacek says, of Erbil’s ancient urban heritage. “This conjecture desperately needs empirical verification,” he cautions. Yet, if it can be proven, ancient Arbela might rank among the earliest urban areas and challenge the idea that urbanism began solely in southern Mesopotamia.Novacek is hopeful that parts of the ancient city, such as those discovered by a German Archaeological Institute team, might still lay buried under the shallow foundations of nineteenth- and twentieth-century buildings. In 2009, the German excavators uncovered a seventh-century B.C. Assyrian tomb just a short walk north of the citadel. The tomb had a vaulted chamber of baked bricks and three sarcophagi containing the remains of five people, a bronze bowl, lamps, and pottery vessels. Using ground-penetrating radar, the team surveyed a 100,000-square-foot area around the tomb and spotted extensive architectural remains under a low mound mostly covered with modern buildings. The discovery provides the first archaeological evidence of an Assyrian presence in Arbela and begins to confirm the Assyrian court records that mention Arbela as an important city. Yet Novacek worries that the deep foundations of the enormous modern structures being built near the citadel could quickly obliterate Erbil’s ancient past.Other researchers are looking further afield, outside the city limits. A team led by Harvard University’s Jason Ur began to survey the area around Erbil in 2012. “It’s one of the last broad alluvial plains in northern Mesopotamia to remain uninvestigated by modern survey techniques,” says Ur, who also made use of old spy satellite photographs to identify ancient villages and towns that could then be explored. Examining 77 square miles, the team mapped 214 archaeological sites dating as far back as 8,000 years. One surprise was that settlements from between 3500 and 3000 B.C. contain ceramics that appear more closely related to southern Mesopotamian types than to those of the north. Ur says this may mean that the plain, rather than being peripheral to the urban expansion that took place in cities such as Ur and Uruk, was related in some direct way to the great cities of the south. This evidence further boosts Novacek’s theory that Arbela was, in fact, an early urban center.The ongoing research of the teams now working in the city is starting to create an archaeological picture of life in Erbil and its environs over the course of millennia. After the Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks were gone, the city went on to serve as a key eastern outpost on the Roman frontier, and was briefly the capital of the Roman province of Assyria. Later it was home to flourishing Christian and Zoroastrian communities under Persian Sasanian rule until the arrival of Islam in the seventh century A.D. Though the city escaped destruction by the Mongols in the thirteenth century—its leaders wisely negotiated surrender—Erbil subsequently slipped into obscurity. When Western explorers arrived in the eighteenth century they dismissed the place as a muddy and decrepit settlement of medieval origin. While Kurdistan’s isolation under the latter part of Saddam Hussein’s reign placed the area off-limits to most outsiders, in the post-Saddam era, Erbil has been set to play an important role in the region. Conflict, however, threatens again. Amid the archaeologists’ trenches and the mounds of construction materials destined for use in the citadel’s conservation, one family still lives on Erbil’s high mound, near the ancient citadel gate, preserving the city’s claim as the oldest continuously settled place on Earth. REVIEW: Wood's Hole Researchers Conclude that Climate Change Led to Collapse of Ancient Indus Civilization: A new study combining the latest archaeological evidence with state-of-the-art geoscience technologies provides evidence that climate change was a key ingredient in the collapse of the great Indus or Harappan Civilization almost 4000 years ago. The study also resolves a long-standing debate over the source and fate of the Sarasvati, the sacred river of Hindu mythology.The Harappan Rivers once extendedmore than 1 million square kilometers across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, over what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan, the Indus civilization was the largest—but least known—of the first great urban cultures that also included Egypt and Mesopotamia. Like their contemporaries, the Harappans, named for one of their largest cities, lived next to rivers owing their livelihoods to the fertility of annually watered lands."We reconstructed the dynamic landscape of the plain where the Indus civilization developed 5200 years ago, built its cities, and slowly disintegrated between 3900 and 3000 years ago," said Liviu Giosan, a geologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and lead author of the study published the week of May 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers."Today, numerous remains of the Harappan settlements are located in a vast desert region far from any flowing river. In contrast to Egypt and Mesopotamia, which have long been part of the Western classical canon, this amazingly complex culture in South Asia with a population that at its peak may have reached 10 percent of the world's inhabitants, was completely forgotten until 1920's. Since then, a flurry of archaeological research in Pakistan and India has uncovered a sophisticated urban culture with myriad internal trade routes and well-established sea links with Mesopotamia, standards for building construction, sanitation systems, arts and crafts, and a yet-to-be deciphered writing system. "We considered that it is high time for a team of interdisciplinary scientists to contribute to the debate about the enigmatic fate of these people," added Giosan.The research was conducted between 2003 and 2008 in Pakistan, from the coast of the Arabian Sea into the fertile irrigated valleys of Punjab and the northern Thar Desert. The international team included scientists from the U.S., U.K., Pakistan, India, and Romania with specialties in geology, geomorphology, archaeology, and mathematics. By combining satellite photos and topographic data collected by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), the researchers prepared and analyzed digital maps of landforms constructed by the Indus and neighboring rivers, which were then probed in the field by drilling, coring, and even manually-dug trenches. Collected samples were used to determine the sediments' origins, whether brought in and shaped by rivers or wind, and their age, in order to develop a chronology of landscape changes."Once we had this new information on the geological history, we could re-examine what we know about settlements, what crops people were planting and when, and how both agriculture and settlement patterns changed," said co-author Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist with University College London. "This brought new insights into the process of eastward population shift, the change towards many more small farming communities, and the decline of cities during late Harappan times." The new study suggests that the decline in monsoon rains led to weakened river dynamics, and played a critical role both in the development and the collapse of the Harappan culture, which relied on river floods to fuel their agricultural surpluses. From the new research, a compelling picture of 10,000 years of changing landscapes emerges. Before the plain was massively settled, the wild and forceful Indus and its tributaries flowing from the Himalaya cut valleys into their own deposits and left high "interfluvial" stretches of land between them. In the east, reliable monsoon rains sustained perennial rivers that crisscrossed the desert leaving behind their sedimentary deposits across a broad region. Among the most striking features the researchers identified is a mounded plain, 10 to 20 meters high, over 100 kilometers wide, and running almost 1000 kilometers along the Indus, they call the "Indus mega-ridge," built by the river as it purged itself of sediment along its lower course.Indus Mega Ridge"At this scale, nothing similar has ever been described in the geomorphological literature," said Giosan. "The mega-ridge is a surprising indicator of the stability of Indus plain landscape over the last four millennia. Remains of Harappan settlements still lie at the surface of the ridge, rather than being buried underground." Mapped on top of the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain, the archaeological and geological data shows instead that settlements bloomed along the Indus from the coast to the hills fronting the Himalayas, as weakened monsoons and reduced run-off from the mountains tamed the wild Indus and its Himalayan tributaries enough to enable agriculture along their banks."The Harappans were an enterprising people taking advantage of a window of opportunity – a kind of "Goldilocks civilization," said Giosan. "As monsoon drying subdued devastating floods, the land nearby the rivers - still fed with water and rich silt - was just right for agriculture. This lasted for almost 2,000 years, but continued aridification closed this favorable window in the end."In another major finding, the researchers believe they have settled a long controversy about the fate of a mythical river, the Sarasvati. The Vedas, ancient Indian scriptures composed in Sanskrit over 3000 years ago, describe the region west of the Ganges as "the land of seven rivers." Easily recognizable are the Indus and its current tributaries, but the Sarasvati, portrayed as "surpassing in majesty and might all other waters" and "pure in her course from mountains to the ocean," was lost. Based on scriptural descriptions, it was believed that the Sarasvati was fed by perennial glaciers in the Himalayas. Today, the Ghaggar, an intermittent river that flows only during strong monsoons and dissipates into the desert along the dried course of Hakra valley, is thought to best approximate the location of the mythic Sarasvati, but its Himalayan origin and whether it was active during Vedic times remain controversial.Archaeological evidence supports the Ghaggar-Hakra as the location of intensive settlement during Harappan times. The geological evidence—sediments, topography— shows that rivers were indeed sizable and highly active in this region, but most likely due to strong monsoons. There is no evidence of wide incised valleys like along the Indus and its tributaries and there is no cut-through, incised connections to either of the two nearby Himalayan-fed rivers of Sutlej and Yamuna. The new research argues that these crucial differences prove that the Sarasvati (Ghaggar-Hakra) was not Himalayan-fed, but a perennial monsoon-supported watercourse, and that aridification reduced it to short seasonal flows.By 3,900 years ago, their rivers drying, the Harappans had an escape route to the east toward the Ganges basin, where monsoon rains remained reliable. "We can envision that this eastern shift involved a change to more localized forms of economy: smaller communities supported by local rain-fed farming and dwindling streams," said Fuller. "This may have produced smaller surpluses, and would not have supported large cities, but would have been reliable." Such a system was not favorable for the Indus civilization, which had been built on bumper crop surpluses along the Indus and the Ghaggar-Hakra rivers in the earlier wetter era. This dispersal of population meant that there was no longer a concentration of workforce to support urbanism. "Thus cities collapsed, but smaller agricultural communities were sustainable and flourished. Many of the urban arts, such as writing, faded away, but agriculture continued and actually diversified," said Fuller."An amazing amount of archaeological work has been accumulating over the last decades, but it's never been linked properly to the evolution of the fluvial landscape. We now see landscape dynamics as the crucial link between climate change and people," said Giosan. "Today the Indus system feeds the largest irrigation scheme in the world, immobilizing the river in channels and behind dams. If the monsoon were to increase in a warming world, as some predict, catastrophic floods such as the humanitarian disaster of 2010, would turn the current irrigation system, designed for a tamer river, obsolete." REVIEW: Standard of Ur and Other Objects from the Royal Graves:The City of Ur:Known today as Tell el-Muqayyar, the "Mound of Pitch," the site was occupied from around 5000 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E. Although Ur is famous as the home of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29-32), there is no actual proof that Tell el-Muqayyar was identical with "Ur of the Chaldees." In antiquity the city was known as Urim. The main excavations at Ur were undertaken from 1922-34 by a joint expedition of The British Museum and the University Museum, Pennsylvania, led by Leonard Woolley. At the center of the settlement were mud brick temples dating back to the fourth millennium B.C.At the edge of the sacred area a cemetery grew up which included burials known today as the Royal Graves. An area of ordinary people's houses was excavated in which a number of street corners have small shrines. But the largest surviving religious buildings, dedicated to the moon god Nanna, also include one of the best preserved ziggurats, and were founded in the period 2100-1800 B.C. For some of this time Ur was the capital of an empire stretching across southern Mesopotamia. Rulers of the later Kassite and Neo-Babylonian empires continued to build and rebuild at Ur. Changes in both the flow of the River Euphrates (now some ten miles to the east) and trade routes led to the eventual abandonment of the site.The Royal Graves of Ur:Close to temple buildings at the center of the city of Ur, sat a rubbish dump built up over centuries. Unable to use the area for building, the people of Ur started to bury their dead there. The cemetery was used between about 2600-2000 B.C. and hundreds of burials were made in pits. Many of these contained very rich materials. In one area of the cemetery a group of sixteen graves was dated to the mid-third millennium. These large, shaft graves were distinct from the surrounding burials and consisted of a tomb, made of stone, rubble and bricks, built at the bottom of a pit. The layout of the tombs varied, some occupied the entire floor of the pit and had multiple chambers. The most complete tomb discovered belonged to a lady identified as Pu-abi from the name carved on a cylinder seal found with the burial. The majority of graves had been robbed in antiquity but where evidence survived the main burial was surrounded by many human bodies. One grave had up to seventy-four such sacrificial victims. It is evident that elaborate ceremonies took place as the pits were filled in that included more human burials and offerings of food and objects. The excavator, Leonard Woolley thought the graves belonged to kings and queens. Another suggestion is that they belonged to the high priestesses of Ur.The Standard of Ur:This object was found in one of the largest graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, lying in the corner of a chamber above the right shoulder of a man. Its original function is not yet understood. Leonard Woolley, the excavator at Ur, imagined that it was carried on a pole as a standard, hence its common name. Another theory suggests that it formed the soundbox of a musical instrument. When found, the original wooden frame for the mosaic of shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli had decayed, and the two main panels had been crushed together by the weight of the soil. The bitumen acting as glue had disintegrated and the end panels were broken. As a result, the present restoration is only a best guess as to how it originally appeared.The main panels are known as "War" and "Peace." "War" shows one of the earliest representations of a Sumerian army. Chariots, each pulled by four donkeys, trample enemies; infantry with cloaks carry spears; enemy soldiers are killed with axes, others are paraded naked and presented to the king who holds a spear. The "Peace" panel depicts animals, fish and other goods brought in procession to a banquet. Seated figures, wearing woolen fleeces or fringed skirts, drink to the accompaniment of a musician playing a lyre. Banquet scenes such as this are common on cylinder seals of the period, such as on the seal of the "Queen" Pu-abi, also in the British Museum. Queen's Lyre:Leonard Woolley discovered several lyres in the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. This was one of two that he found in the grave of "Queen" Pu-abi. Along with the lyre, which stood against the pit wall, were the bodies of ten women with fine jewelry, presumed to be sacrificial victims, and numerous stone and metal vessels. One woman lay right against the lyre and, according to Woolley, the bones of her hands were placed where the strings would have been.The wooden parts of the lyre had decayed in the soil, but Woolley poured plaster of Paris into the depression left by the vanished wood and so preserved the decoration in place. The front panels are made of lapis lazuli, shell and red limestone originally set in bitumen. The gold mask of the bull decorating the front of the sounding box had been crushed and had to be restored. While the horns are modern, the beard, hair and eyes are original and made of lapis lazuli.This musical instrument was originally reconstructed as part of a unique "harp-lyre," together with a harp from the burial, now also in The British Museum. Later research showed that this was a mistake. A new reconstruction, based on excavation photographs, was made in 1971-72. Known today as Tell el-Muqayyar, the "Mound of Pitch," the site was occupied from around 5000 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E. Although Ur is famous as the home of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29-32), there is no actual proof that Tell el-Muqayyar was identical with "Ur of the Chaldees." In antiquity the city was known as Urim. REVIEW: Even local archaeologists with the benefit of air-conditioned cars and paved roads think twice about crossing eastern Iran's rugged terrain. "It's a tough place," says Mehdi Mortazavi from the University of Sistan-Baluchistan in the far eastern end of Iran, near the Afghan border. At the center of this region is the Dasht-e Lut, Persian for the "Empty Desert." This treacherous landscape, 300 miles long and 200 miles wide, is covered with sinkholes, steep ravines, and sand dunes, some topping 1,000 feet. It also has the hottest average surface temperature of any place on Earth. The forbidding territory in and around this desert seems like the last place to seek clues to the emergence of the first cities and states 5,000 years ago.Yet archaeologists are finding an impressive array of ancient settlements on the edges of the Dasht-e Lut dating back to the period when urban civilization was emerging in Egypt, Iraq, and the Indus River Valley in Pakistan and India. In the 1960s and 1970s, they found the great centers of Shahr-i-Sokhta and Shahdad on the desert's fringes and another, Tepe Yahya, far to the south. More recent surveys, excavations, and remote sensing work reveal that all of eastern Iran, from near the Persian Gulf in the south to the northern edge of the Iranian plateau, was peppered with hundreds and possibly thousands of small to large settlements. Detailed laboratory analyses of artifacts and human remains from these sites are providing an intimate look at the lives of an enterprising people who helped create the world's first global trade network.Far from living in a cultural backwater, eastern Iranians from this period built large cities with palaces, used one of the first writing systems, and created sophisticated metal, pottery, and textile industries. They also appear to have shared both administrative and religious ideas as they did business with distant lands. "They connected the great corridors between Mesopotamia and the east," says Maurizio Tosi, a University of Bologna archaeologist who did pioneering work at Shahr-i-Sokhta. "They were the world in between."By 2000 B.C. these settlements were abandoned. The reasons for this remain unclear and are the source of much scholarly controversy, but urban life didn't return to eastern Iran for more than 1,500 years. The very existence of this civilization was long forgotten. Recovering its past has not been easy. Parts of the area are close to the Afghan border, long rife with armed smugglers. Revolution and politics have frequently interrupted excavations. And the immensity of the region and its harsh climate make it one of the most challenging places in the world to conduct archaeology. The peripatetic English explorer Sir Aurel Stein, famous for his archaeological work surveying large swaths of Central Asia and the Middle East, slipped into Persia at the end of 1915 and found the first hints of eastern Iran's lost cities. Stein traversed what he described as "a big stretch of gravel and sandy desert" and encountered "the usual...robber bands from across the Afghan border, without any exciting incident." What did excite Stein was the discovery of what he called "the most surprising prehistoric site" on the eastern edge of the Dasht-e Lut. Locals called it Shahr-i-Sokhta ("Burnt City") because of signs of ancient destruction. It wasn't until a half-century later that Tosi and his team hacked their way through the thick salt crust and discovered a metropolis rivaling those of the first great urban centers in Mesopotamia and the Indus. Radiocarbon data showed that the site was founded around 3200 B.C., just as the first substantial cities in Mesopotamia were being built, and flourished for more than a thousand years. During its heyday in the middle of the third millennium B.C., the city covered more than 150 hectares and may have been home to more than 20,000 people, perhaps as populous as the large cities of Umma in Mesopotamia and Mohenjo-Daro on the Indus River. A vast shallow lake and wells likely provided the necessary water, allowing for cultivated fields and grazing for animals. Built of mudbrick, the city boasted a large palace, separate neighborhoods for pottery-making, metalworking, and other industrial activities, and distinct areas for the production of local goods. Most residents lived in modest one-room houses, though some were larger compounds with six to eight rooms. Bags of goods and storerooms were often "locked" with stamp seals, a procedure common in Mesopotamia in the era. Shahr-i-Sokhta boomed as the demand for precious goods among elites in the region and elsewhere grew. Though situated in inhospitable terrain, the city was close to tin, copper, and turquoise mines, and lay on the route bringing lapis lazuli from Afghanistan to the west. Craftsmen worked shells from the Persian Gulf, carnelian from India, and local metals such as tin and copper. Some they made into finished products, and others were exported in unfinished form. Lapis blocks brought from the Hindu Kush mountains, for example, were cut into smaller chunks and sent on to Mesopotamia and as far west as Syria.Unworked blocks of lapis weighing more than 100 pounds in total were unearthed in the ruined palace of Ebla, close to the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeologist Massimo Vidale of the University of Padua says that the elites in eastern Iranian cities like Shahr-i-Sokhta were not simply slaves to Mesopotamian markets. They apparently kept the best-quality lapis for themselves, and sent west what they did not want. Lapis beads found in the royal tombs of Ur, for example, are intricately carved, but of generally low-quality stone compared to those of Shahr-i-Sokhta. Pottery was produced on a massive scale. Nearly 100 kilns were clustered in one part of town and the craftspeople also had a thriving textile industry. Hundreds of wooden spindle whorls and combs were uncovered, as were well-preserved textile fragments made of goat hair and wool that show a wide variation in their weave. According to Irene Good, a specialist in ancient textiles at Oxford University, this group of textile fragments constitutes one of the most important in the world, given their great antiquity and the insight they provide into an early stage of the evolution of wool production. Textiles were big business in the third millennium B.C., according to Mesopotamian texts, but actual textiles from this era had never before been found. A metal flag found at Shahdad, one of eastern Iran's early urban sites, dates to around 2400 B.C. The flag depicts a man and woman facing each other, one of the recurrent themes in the region's art at this time. A plain ceramic jar, found recently at Shahdad, contains residue of a white cosmetic whose complex formula is evidence for an extensive knowledge of chemistry among the city's ancient inhabitants. The artifacts also show the breadth of Shahr-i-Sokhta's connections. Some excavated red-and-black ceramics share traits with those found in the hills and steppes of distant Turkmenistan to the north, while others are similar to pots made in Pakistan to the east, then home to the Indus civilization.Tosi's team found a clay tablet written in a script called Proto-Elamite, which emerged at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., just after the advent of the first known writing system, cuneiform, which evolved in Mesopotamia. Other such tablets and sealings with Proto-Elamite signs have also been found in eastern Iran, such as at Tepe Yahya. This script was used for only a few centuries starting around 3200 B.C. and may have emerged in Susa, just east of Mesopotamia. By the middle of the third millennium B.C., however, it was no longer in use. Most of the eastern Iranian tablets record simple transactions involving sheep, goats, and grain and could have been used to keep track of goods in large households. While Tosi's team was digging at Shahr-i-Sokhta, Iranian archaeologist Ali Hakemi was working at another site, Shahdad, on the western side of the Dasht-e Lut. This settlement emerged as early as the fifth millennium B.C. on a delta at the edge of the desert. By the early third millennium B.C., Shahdad began to grow quickly as international trade with Mesopotamia expanded. Tomb excavations revealed spectacular artifacts amid stone blocks once painted in vibrant colors. These include several extraordinary, nearly life-size clay statues placed with the dead. The city's artisans worked lapis lazuli, silver, lead, turquoise, and other materials imported from as far away as eastern Afghanistan, as well as shells from the distant Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Evidence shows that ancient Shahdad had a large metalworking industry by this time. During a recent survey, a new generation of archaeologists found a vast hill—nearly 300 feet by 300 feet—covered with slag from smelting copper. Vidale says that analysis of the copper ore suggests that the smiths were savvy enough to add a small amount of arsenic in the later stages of the process to strengthen the final product. Shahdad's metalworkers also created such remarkable artifacts as a metal flag dating to about 2400 B.C. Mounted on a copper pole topped with a bird, perhaps an eagle, the squared flag depicts two figures facing one another on a rich background of animals, plants, and goddesses. The flag has no parallels and its use is unknown. Vidale has also found evidence of a sweet-smelling nature. During a spring 2009 visit to Shahdad, he discovered a small stone container lying on the ground. The vessel, which appears to date to the late fourth millennium B.C., was made of chlorite, a dark soft stone favored by ancient artisans in southeast Iran. Using X-ray diffraction at an Iranian lab, he discovered lead carbonate—used as a white cosmetic—sealed in the bottom of the jar. He identified fatty material that likely was added as a binder, as well as traces of coumarin, a fragrant chemical compound found in plants and used in some perfumes. Further analysis showed small traces of copper, possibly the result of a user dipping a small metal applicator into the container.Other sites in eastern Iran are only now being investigated. For the past two years, Iranian archaeologists Hassan Fazeli Nashli and Hassain Ali Kavosh from the University of Tehran have been digging in a small settlement a few miles east of Shahdad called Tepe Graziani, named for the Italian archaeologist who first surveyed the site. They are trying to understand the role of the city's outer settlements by examining this ancient mound, which is 30 feet high, 525 feet wide, and 720 feet long. Excavators have uncovered a wealth of artifacts including a variety of small sculptures depicting crude human figures, humped bulls, and a Bactrian camel dating to approximately 2900 B.C. A bronze mirror, fishhooks, daggers, and pins are among the metal finds. There are also wooden combs that survived in the arid climate. "The site is small but very rich," says Fazeli, adding that it may have been a prosperous suburban production center for Shahdad.Sites such as Shahdad and Shahr-i-Sokhta and their suburbs were not simply islands of settlements in what otherwise was empty desert. Fazeli adds that some 900 Bronze Age sites have been found on the Sistan plain, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mortazavi, meanwhile, has been examining the area around the Bampur Valley, in Iran's extreme southeast. This area was a corridor between the Iranian plateau and the Indus Valley, as well as between Shahr-i-Sokhta to the north and the Persian Gulf to the south. A 2006 survey along the Damin River identified 19 Bronze Age sites in an area of less than 20 square miles. That river periodically vanishes, and farmers depend on underground channels called qanats to transport water. Despite the lack of large rivers, ancient eastern Iranians were very savvy in marshaling their few water resources. Using satellite remote sensing data, Vidale has found remains of what might be ancient canals or qanats around Shahdad, but more work is necessary to understand how inhabitants supported themselves in this harsh climate 5,000 years ago, as they still do today. The large eastern Iranian settlement of Tepe Yahya produced clear evidence for the manufacture of a type of black stone jar for export that has been found as far away as Mesopotamia. Meanwhile, archaeologists also hope to soon continue work that began a decade ago at Konar Sandal, 55 miles north of Yahya near the modern city of Jiroft in southeastern Iran. France-based archaeologist Yusef Madjizadeh has spent six seasons working at the site, which revealed a large city centered on a high citadel with massive walls beside the Halil River. That city and neighboring settlements like Yahya produced artfully carved dark stone vessels that have been found in Mesopotamian temples. Vidale notes that Indus weights, seals, and etched carnelian beads found at Konar Sandal demonstrate connections with that civilization as well.Many of these settlements were abandoned in the latter half of the third millennium B.C., and, by 2000 B.C., the vibrant urban life of eastern Iran was history. Barbara Helwig of Berlin's German Archaeological Institute suspects a radical shift in trade patterns precipitated the decline. Instead of moving in caravans across the deserts and plateau of Iran, Indus traders began sailing directly to Arabia and then on to Mesopotamia, while to the north, the growing power of the Oxus civilization in today's Turkmenistan may have further weakened the role of cities such as Shahdad. Others blame climate change. The lagoons, marshes, and streams may have dried up, since even small shifts in rainfall canB.C. have a dramatic effect on water sources in the area. Here, there is no Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, or Indus to provide agricultural bounty through a drought, and even the most sophisticated water systems may have failed during a prolonged dry spell. It is also possible that an international economic downturn played a role. The destruction of the Mesopotamian city of Ur around 2000 B.C. and the later decline of Indus metropolises such as Mohenjo-Daro might have spelled doom for a trading people. The market for precious goods such as lapis collapsed. There is no clear evidence of widespread warfare, though Shahr-i-Sokhta appears to have been destroyed by fire several times. But a combination of drought, changes in trade routes, and economic trouble might have led people to abandon their cities to return to a simpler existence of herding and small-scale farming. Not until the Persian Empire rose 1,500 years later did people again live in any large numbers in eastern Iran, and not until modern times did cities again emerge. This also means that countless ancient sites are still awaiting exploration on the plains, in the deserts, and among the rocky valleys of the region. REVIEW: Some several thousand years ago there once thrived a civilization in the Indus Valley. Located in what's now Pakistan and western India, it was the earliest known urban culture of the Indian subcontinent. The Indus Valley Civilization, as it is called, covered an area the size of western Europe. It was the largest of the four ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. However, of all these civilizations the least is known about the Indus Valley people. This is because the Indus script has not yet been deciphered. There are many remnants of the script on pottery vessels, seals, and amulets, but without a "Rosetta Stone" linguists and archaeologists have been unable to decipher it.They have then had to rely upon the surviving cultural materials to give them insight into the life of the Harappan's. Harappan's are the name given to any of the ancient people belonging to the Indus Valley civilization. This article will be focusing mainly on the two largest cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, and what has been discovered there. The discovery of the Indus Valley civilization was first recorded in the 1800's by the British. The first recorded note was by a British army deserter, James Lewis, who was posing as an American engineer in 1826. He noticed the presence of mounded ruins at a small town in Punjab called Harappa. Because Harappa was the first city found, sometimes any of the sites are called the Harappan civilization.Sir Alexander CunninghamAlexander Cunningham, who headed the Archaeological Survey of India, visited this site in 1853 and 1856 while looking for the cities that had been visited by Chinese pilgrims in the Buddhist period. The presence of an ancient city was confirmed in the following 50 years, but no one had any idea of its age or importance. By 1872 heavy brick robbing had virtually destroyed the upper layers of the site. The stolen bricks were used to build houses and particularly to build a railway bed that the British were constructing. Alexander Cunningham made a few small excavations at the site and reported some discoveries of ancient pottery, some stone tools, and a stone seal. Cunningham published his finds and it generated some increased interest by scholars.John MarshallIt wasn't till 1920 that excavations began in earnest at Harappa. John Marshall, then the director of the Archaeological Survey of India, started a new excavation at Harappa. Along with finds from another archaeologist, who was excavating at Mohenjo Daro, Marshall believed that what they had found gave evidence of a new civilization that was older than any they had known. George DalesMajor excavations had not been carried out for forty years until 1986 when the late George Dales of the University of California at Berkeley established the Harappan Archaeological Project, or HARP. This multidisciplinary study effort consists of archaeologists, linguists, historians, and physical anthropologists.Jonathan Mark KenoyerSince the establishment of HARP, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer has served as co-director and field director of the project. Kenoyer was born in Shillong, India, and spent most of his youth there. He went on to receive his advanced degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. He is now a professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and teaches archaeology and ancient technologies. Kenoyer's main focus has been on the Indus Valley civilization's where he has conducted research for the last 23 years. Ever since he was a young graduate student, Kenoyer was particularly interested in ancient technology. He has done a great deal of work in trying to replicate processes used by ancient people in the production of jewelry and pottery.One of his first efforts in replicating shell bangle making was then co-authored with George Dales and published in an article. His doctorate studies were based upon this research, and his dissertation is a milestone in the field of experimental archaeology and ethnoarchaeology, besides being the definitive study of Harappan shell working. Richard Meadow of HarvardToday, Kenoyer is assisted by co-director Richard Meadow of Harvard University and Rota Wright of New York University (A. C.I.V.C. Kenoyer preface) Kenoyer uses a contextual archaeological approach. His work is characterized by the use of cold evidence to draw the outlines of this ancient civilization.Although Harappa was undoubtedly occupied previously, it was between 2600-1900 B.C. that it reached its height of economic expansion and urban growth. Radio carbon dating, along with the comparison of artifacts and pottery has determined this date for the establishment of Harappa and other Indus cities. This began what is called the golden age of Harappa. During this time a great increase in craft technology, trade, and urban expansion was experienced. For the first time in the history of the region, there was evidence for many people of different classes and occupations living together. Between 2800-2600 B.C. called the Kot Diji period, Harappa grew into a thriving economic center. It expanded into a substantial sized town, covering the area of several large shopping malls. Harappa, along with the other Indus Valley cities, had a level of architectural planning that was unparralled in the ancient world.The city was laid out in a grid-like pattern with the orientation of streets and buildings according to the cardinal directions. To facilitate the access to other neighborhoods and to segregate private and public areas, the city and streets were particularly organized. The city had many drinking water wells, and a highly sophisticated system of waste removal. All Harappan houses were equipped with latrines, bathing houses, and sewage drains which emptied into larger mains and eventually deposited the fertile sludge on surrounding agricultural fields. It has been surprising to archaeologists that the site layouts and artifact styles throughout the Indus region are very similar. It has been concluded these indicate that there was uniform economic and social structure within these cities.Other indicators of this is that the bricks used to build at these Indus cities are all uniform in size. It would seem that a standard brick size was developed and used throughout the Indus cities. Besides similar brick size standard weights are seen to have been used throughout the region as well. The weights that have been recovered have shown a remarkable accuracy. They follow a binary decimal system: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, up to 12,800 units, where one unit weighs approximately 0.85 grams. Some of the weights are so tiny that they could have been used by jewelers to measure precious metals.Ever since the discovery of Harappa, archaeologists have been trying to identify the rulers of this city. What has been found is very surprising because it isn't like the general pattern followed by other early urban societies. It appears that the Harappan and other Indus rulers governed their cities through the control of trade and religion, not by military might. It is an interesting aspect of Harappa as well as the other Indus cities that in the entire body of Indus art and sculpture there are no monuments erected to glorify, and no depictions of warfare or conquered enemies. It is speculated that the rulers might have been wealthy merchants, or powerful landlords or spiritual leaders. Whoever these rulers were it has been determined that they showed their power and status through the use of seals and fine jewelry.Seals are one of the most commonly found objects in Harappan cities. They are decorated with animal motifs such as elephants, water buffalo, tigers, and most commonly unicorns. Some of these seals are inscribed with figures that are prototypes to later Hindu religious figures, some of which are seen today. For example, seals have been recovered with the repeated motif of a man sitting in a yogic position surrounded by animals. This is very similar to the Hindu god of Shiva, who is known to have been the friend of the animals and sat in a yogic position. These seals are known as the Shiva seals. Other images of a male god have been found, thus indicating the beginnings of Shiva worship, which continues to be practiced today in India.This is an interesting point because of the accepted notion of an Aryan invasion. If Aryan's had invaded the Indus Valley, conquered the people, and imposed their own culture and religion on them, as the theory goes, it would seem unlikely that there would a continuation of similar religious practices up to the present. There is evidence throughout Indian history to indicate that Shiva worship has continued for thousands of years without disruption. The Aryan's were supposed to have destroyed many of the ancient cities right around 1500 B.C., and this would account for the decline of the Indus civilization.However the continuity of religious practices makes this unlikely, and other more probable explanations for the decline of the Harappan civilization have been proposed in recent years; such as climate shifts which caused great droughts around 2200 B.C., and forced the abandonment of the Indus cities and pushed a migration westward. Recent findings have shown that the Sumerian empire declined sharply at this time due to a climate shift that caused major droughts for several centuries. The Harappans being so close to Sumer, would in all probability have been affected by this harsh shift in climate.Zebu Bull SealMany of the seals also are inscribed with short pieces of the Indus script. These seals were used in order to show the power of the rulers. Each seal had a name or title on it, as well as an animal motif that is believed to represent what sort of office or clan the owner belonged to. The seals of the ancient Harappan's were probably used in much the same way they are today, to sign letters or for commercial transactions. The use of these seals declined when the civilization declined.In 2001 Kenoyer's excavations unearthed a workshop that manufactured seals and inscribed tablets. This was significant in that combined with the last 16 years of excavations, it provided a new chronology for the development of the Indus script. Previously, the tablets and seals were all grouped together, but now Kenoyer has been able to demonstrate that the various types of seals and tablets emerged at different times. The writing on the seals and tablets might have changed as well through the years. Kenoyer as well as others are trying to conclude when the dates of the script changes were. The revision of this chronology may greatly aid in the decipherment of the script. There has been attempts at deciphering this script, and the results are not widely agreed upon, and its still a point of controversy.The ruling elite controlled vast trade networks with Central Asia, and Oman, importing raw materials to urban workshops. There is even evidence of trade with Mesopotamia, for Harappan seals and jewelry have been found there. Harappa, along with other Indus cities, established their economic base on agriculture produce and livestock, supplemented by the production of and trade of commodities and craft items. Raw materials such as carnelian, steatite, and lapis lazuli were imported for craft use. In exchange for these goods, such things as livestock, grains, honey and clarified butter may have been given. However, the only remains are those of beads, ivory objects and other finery. What is known about the Harappan's is that they were very skilled artisans, making beautiful objects out of bronze, gold, silver, terracotta, glazed ceramic, and semiprecious stones. The most exquisite objects were often the most tiny. Many of the Indus art objects are small, displaying and requiring great craftsmanship.The majority of artifacts recovered at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro have been that of crafted objects. Jonathan Kenoyer has been working to recreate many of the craft technologies used by these people. He has successfully recreated the process by which the Harappan's created faience. The process of creating faience ceramics is very complex and technical. It requires such processes as the grinding and partial melting of quartz, fusion aids, and a consistent high temperature of 940 Celsius. A discovery in 2001 of a faience producing workshop revealed that the type of kiln used was very different from what they had thought. As no kiln was discovered in the workshop, Kenoyer suspected that the ancient crafts people had used a kiln assembled from two firing containers.This formed a smaller kiln that was unlike the usual large firing containers. Along with some of his students Kenoyer replicated the process of creating faience using similar tools that the Harappan's had. The result was similar to that of the Harappan's. This showed that the canister-kiln type was a very efficient way of producing faience. Interestingly , Kenoyer has noticed that many of the same firing techniques and production procedures are used today in India and Pakistan as they were thousands of years ago. This is another point indicating that there was a continuity in culture that has been mostly unchanged for thousands of years. "Nine years of extensive excavations at Mohenjo-Daro ( which seems to have been rapidly abandoned) have yielded a total of some 37 skeletons which can be attributed to the Indus period. None of these skeletons were found in the area of the fortified citadel, where reasonably the last defense of this city would have taken place." He further states that "Despite extensive excavations at the largest Harappan sites, there is not a single bit of evidence that can be brought forth as unconditional proof of an armed conquest and destruction on the scale of the supposed Aryan invasion."Harappa Skeletal remainsThe skeletal remains found at Harappan sites that date from 4,000 years ago, show the same basic racial types as are found today in Gujarat and Punjab, India. This is interesting, because if a foreign light-skinned people entered and took over, it would seem likely that there would be genetic evidence for this. The long continuity of ethnic groups in this region would indicate that the people living there had not seen an influx of a different ethic group that would have mixed with their own.After 700 years the Harappan cities began to decline. This is generally attributed to the invasion of a foreign people. However, it now believed by Kenoyer and many other archaeologists that the decline of the Indus cities was a result of many factors, such as overextended political and economic networks, and the drying up major rivers. These all contributed to the rise of a new social order. There is archaeological evidence that around the late Harappan phase, from 1900-1300 B.C. the city was not being maintained and was getting crowded. This suggests that the rulers had were no longer able to control the daily functioning of the city. Having lost authority, a new social order rose up. Although certain aspects of the elites culture, seals with motifs and pottery with Indus script on it, disappeared, the Indus culture was not lost.It is seen that in the cities that sprung up in the Ganga and Yamuna river valleys between 600-300 B.C., that many of their cultural aspects can be traced to the earlier Indus culture. The technologies, artistic symbols, architectural styles, and aspects of the social organization in the cities of this time had all originated in the Indus cities. This is another fact that points to the idea that the Aryan invasion did not happen. The Indus cities may have declined, for various reasons, but their culture continued on in the form of technology, artistic and religious symbols, and city planning. Usually, when a people conquer another they bring with them new ideas and social structures. It would seem that if indeed Aryan's invaded India, then there would be evidence of a completely different sort of religion, craft making, significant changes in art and social structure. But none of this has been found. There appears to be an underlying continuity in the culture of India, and what changes have occurred are due to largely internal factors. This is an idea shared by many prominent archaeologists, such as Kenoyer, George Dales, Jim Shaffer, and Colin Renfrew. The Aryan's are supposed to have brought the Vedic culture to India. These people and their literature is believed to have then originated after the decline of the Indus Valley civilizations. The Vedas have been dated as being written some time after the Aryan's supposedly invaded, somewhere between 1500-1200 B.C. Many of the Indus sites have been found along the banks of the now dried up Sarasvati river. This river is mentioned throughout the Vedas (18) Recent geological investigations has shown that the Sarasvati was once a very large river (as well as satellite photos of the indus-sarasvati river basin), but dried up around 1900 B. C. due to tectonic movements.The Vedas, however speak of the Sarasvati as a very large and flowing river. If the dating of the Vedic literature is correct, than there is a discrepancy because the Sarasvati river dried up before the Vedas were supposed to have been written. This is an interesting situation. It might seem possible then, that with other evidence showing that there was no influx of an invading people, that the Vedas were then written by the people of the Indus Valley. Another point that might indicate the Harappan's being a Vedic culture is the discovery of fire altars at several Indus sites. Fire rituals and sacrifice were an important part of Vedic religious practices. But what was significant about these alters, is that they were aligned and constructed in the same manner as later discovered altars were. The fire altars were then Vedic in construction indicating that the Harappan's were a Vedic culture.The idea that there wasn't in fact an Aryan invasion is supported on many levels, as I have tried to demonstrate. Even today, it is seen in India the legacy of these Indus cities in the traditional arts and crafts, and in the layout of houses and settlements. If there really was an invasion of a people that completely obliterated this other culture, then the many striking similarities we see today in the continuity of Indian culture is certainly most curious. The remains of the Indus civilization are enormous, and most of them are yet to be excavated. There are whole cites that have yet to be excavated, like the largest known Indus culture site of Ganweriwala, in the Cholistan desert of Pakistan. No doubt the continuing excavations will lend more insight into the world of this enigmatic civilization. REVIEW: The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology houses impressive treasures that span history. Many of these treasures come from the Middle East, where Penn led pathbreaking excavations in the late nineteenth century and made discoveries that have continued to shape the way scholars narrate ancient Near Eastern history. Among these hundreds of thousands items excavated, the Penn Museum’s very first expedition in the 1890’s to the site of Nippur (in modern day Iraq) uncovered a piece of a Babylonian tablet written in cuneiform recounting a tale of a flood. Only about one third of the original tablet survives, though what we do have recounts a fascinating story.Cuneiform, one of the earliest fully developed writing systems, came into practice out of economic necessity. Born in Sumer around 3200 BC, Sumerian leaders invented cuneiform to keep track of agricultural information. Beginning as a series of pictographs, cuneiform developed into lines of smaller and simpler icons, all carefully molded onto a wet clay tablet using a wooden stylus and then baked. The technology of cuneiform survived for over thirty centuries until it became extinct around 150 B.C. Scholars only recently revived the study of cuneiform amidst their efforts to understand Sumerian language.Cuneiform in its heyday served many functions. Near Eastern scribes used cuneiform to record everything, ranging from daily events to astronomy. Furthermore, cuneiform was taught to children in schools. This is evidenced by the expansive collection of cuneiform tablets that do not have a large variety of symbols carved into them but rather a lot of the same symbol. This shows that students were practicing writing cuneiform by continuously marking the same symbol over and over again. The Penn Museum actually has a lot of these tablets.Over time peoples throughout the entire ancient Near East made use of the cuneiform system to render their own distinct languages into writing. After all, cuneiform was a writing system of symbols. Its versatility was taken advantage of by many cultures neighboring Sumer. Most of the Mesopotamian civilizations used cuneiform including the Akkadians, Babylonians, Elamites, Hatti, Hittites, Assyrians and Hurrians until it was abandoned in favor of the alphabetic script at some point after 100 BCE. For over three millennia, writing and knowledge flourished in the Near East. Cuneiform promoted the spread and popularity of written language and more importantly, the recording of history.This background enables us to understand the Penn flood tablet more clearly. This seventeenth-century B.C. “Babylonian Flood Tablet” was excavated at the site of Nippur, the very first expedition of any American museum in the late-nineteenth century. Located in modern-day Iraq, the site of Nippur (where Penn conducted extensive excavations) yielded mostly Babylonian and Sumerian objects, roughly spanning from 2000 B.C. through 900 B.C. This tablet written in Sumerian deals with the creation of humans, pre-flood cities and their rulers, and most notably, the flood. Also known as a “Deluge tablet”, scholars maintain that the fragment recovered was the lower third of the tablet with six columns of text (three on each side). The preserved columns each have around ten to fifteen lines.Scholars believe that the compete tablet would have had around 260 lines. Several preserved passages exist. One involves the giving of divine instructions to man, which state that cities must be built under the protection of specific deities. Five city names were preserved, including the port town of Eridu protected by Ea, the god of water. Another passage tells the story of Enki, who reveals to the king Ziusudra the gods' plan to destroy the human race with a flood. The flood inevitably occurs, accompanied by wind and storms, lasting for seven days and seven nights before the sun returns. King Ziusudra emerges from his boat and offers sacrifices to the gods. After Enki appeases the gods An and Enlil, they grant Ziusudra eternal life.This tablet has traveled frequently since it entered Penn’s collection. For example, from 1982 through 1983, it resided at the Louvre Museum in Paris for the museum’s exhibit titled La Naissance de l’Écriture (meaning the Birth of Writing). In 1994, the Penn Museum lent it to the Arthur Ross Gallery at the Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania for the Exhibition in honor of Dr. Judith Rodin's installation as President of the University. Five years later in 1999, the museum lent the tablet to the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville as a supplement to the Penn Museum’s traveling exhibition that they were hosting titled Treasures from the Royals Tombs of Ur. In 2003, it was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for its exhibition titled Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus. In 2010, it went on exhibit at the Penn Museum for the school’s theme year, The Year of Water. The tablet is currently on loan to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University for their year-long Creation Stories Project.Considering that the this clay tablet would have been written prior to the writing of the Bible, some observers have wondered whether this story may have influenced the biblical account. Evidence for this includes the fact that biblical tradition draws on a general Mesopotamian tradition of a flood, according to scholars. This could explain why this tablet has remained in high demand for museum exhibits: many people are interested in the Bible and its antecedents. Furthermore, this is the only Sumerian language account of the Flood. The Penn Museum’s remarkable excavations in the Middle East led to incredible discoveries of monumental historical significance. The Babylonian Flood Tablet found at Nippur is itself significant in that it shows the practicality and importance of cuneiform in recording stories and events. It also undoubtedly helped scholars characterize Babylonian culture during the seventeenth-century B.C. Objects like these help us to understand the culture and ways of life of ancient and rich civilizations.SHIPPING & RETURNS/REFUNDS: We always ship books domestically (within the USA) via USPS INSURED media mail (“book rate”). Most international orders cost an additional $9.99 to $37.99 for an insured shipment in a heavily padded mailer. However this book is quite heavy, and it is too large to fit into a flat rate mailer. Therefore the shipping costs are somewhat higher than what is otherwise ordinary. There is also a discount program which can cut postage costs by 50% to 75% if you’re buying about half-a-dozen books or more (5 kilos+). Our postage charges are as reasonable as USPS rates allow. ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per book (for each additional book after the first) so as to reward you for the economies of combined shipping/insurance costs. Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers. All of our shipments are fully insured against loss, and our shipping rates include the cost of this coverage (through,, the USPS, UPS, or Fed-Ex). International tracking is provided free by the USPS for certain countries, other countries are at additional cost. We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with. If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price; 1) less our original shipping/insurance costs, 2) less non-refundable PayPal/eBay payment processing fees. Please note that PayPal does NOT refund fees. Even if you “accidentally” purchase something and then cancel the purchase before it is shipped, PayPal will not refund their fees. So all refunds for any reason, without exception, do not include PayPal/eBay payment processing fees (typically between 3% and 5%) and shipping/insurance costs (if any). If you’re unhappy with PayPal and eBay’s “no fee refund” policy, and we are EXTREMELY unhappy, please voice your displeasure by contacting PayPal and/or eBay. We have no ability to influence, modify or waive PayPal or eBay policies. ABOUT US: Most of the items I offer come from the collection of a family friend who was active in the field of Archaeology for over forty years. However many of the items also come from purchases I make in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) from various institutions and dealers. Though I have always had an interest in archaeology, my own academic background was in sociology and cultural anthropology. After my retirement however, I found myself drawn to archaeology as well. Aside from my own personal collection, I have made extensive and frequent additions of my own via purchases on Ebay (of course), as well as many purchases from both dealers and institutions throughout the world - but especially in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. I spend over half of my year out of the United States, and have spent much of my life either in India or Eastern Europe. In fact much of what we generate on Yahoo, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology. I acquire some small but interesting collections overseas from time-to-time, and have as well some duplicate items within my own collection which I occasionally decide to part with. Though I have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, my primary interest is in ancient jewelry. My wife also is an active participant in the "business" of antique and ancient jewelry, and is from Russia. I would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from me. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Whenever I am overseas I have made arrangements for purchases to be shipped out via domestic mail. If I am in the field, you may have to wait for a week or two for a COA to arrive via international air mail. But you can be sure your purchase will arrive properly packaged and promptly - even if I am absent. And when I am in a remote field location with merely a notebook computer, at times I am not able to access my email for a day or two, so be patient, I will always respond to every email. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE." Condition: LIKE NEW. Unread and "new" in that sense, but with modestly shelfworn cover corners (see detailed condition description below)., Material: Paper, Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art (2003), Format: Massive Softcover, Length: 564 pages, Dimensions: 12 x 9¼ x 1½ inches; 6¼ pounds

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