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The First Dog People

Because this is a dog year in the Chinese zodiac, and because dogs are now helping sniff out looted artifacts from Iraq and Syria, plus I love dogs, it seems a good time to talk about how Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians–Mesopotamians–were all major dog people.

The first dog people.

Sit, Ur-Gi, Sit

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Babylonian man who’s clearly a dog person, and his dog. (Source)

It is commonly believed (and seemingly supported by tangible evidence to an amateur) that soon after the dog (ur-gi in Sumerian) was first domesticated, the dog collar was developed in Egypt. But, as with a lot of things, it is actually ancient Sumer where that took place.

Archaeological evidence from Egypt dates further back than that from Mesopotamia, but in an article at Ancient History, titled, “Dogs in Ancient Egypt,” Joshua J. Mark still writes that dog collars and leashes were of Sumerian origin:

“The dog collar and leash were most likely developed by the Sumerians earlier although evidence for both of these in Mesopotamia appears later than 3500 BCE in objects like a golden Saluki pendant from Ur dated to 3300 BCE.” (Source)

Further, in another Ancient History article, titled, “Dogs & Their Collars in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Mark reiterates the belief that Mesopotamia was where domesticated dogs in collars first appeared, even, curiously, after declaring the difficulty of saying so with certainty:

“In the same way that scholars debate the origin of the dog and its first domestication, it is difficult to say with certainty that the people of Mesopotamia were the first to invent the collar. It is probable, even quite likely, that the collar – like people’s relationship with dogs themselves – developed independently in many different regions at different times. Even so, as far as the collar’s depiction in ancient art is concerned, the earliest come from Mesopotamia.” (Source)

Well, who am I to argue? Regardless of where dogs first began donning collars and getting led on leashes, Mesopotamians domesticated dogs for practical purposes like everyone else; security for their dwellings and their herds, as well as hunting.

But as we will find out, that package came with a lot more perks, and as we know…it was pretty freakin’ great.

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This plaque found at the palace at Nineveh depicts Assyrian hunters with their hounds. (Source)

But let’s start at the beginning of this relationship.

To enter an ancient Mesopotamian city or village was to see collared dogs roaming freely, cleaning up carrion messes while guarding those human dwellings, along with the assets essential to their survival within them. They wore collars, because though they spent their days roaming free, they each had a master who cared for them and considered them the family pet.

Such an arrangement created the perfect environment in which the relationship between humans and dogs went beyond that of practicality and became one of companionship and love, the relationship all dog people have with their pooches today.

Good Dogs

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Statue of a very good Mesopotamian dog, c. 5000-1000 BCE. (Source)

Though surely there were mutts, there were three main breeds of dog we know existed in ancient Mesopotamia; the Greyhound (which includes the Saluki type), the Dane, and the Mastiff. Mark quotes historian Wolfram Von Soden, whom I attribute the last statement to, describing the types of dogs and for what practical purposes they were each best suited:

“As far as we can tell, there were only two main breeds of dog: large greyhounds which were used primarily in hunting, and very strong dogs (on the order of Danes and mastiffs), which in the ancient Orient were more than a match for the generally smaller wolves and, for that reason, were especially suitable as herd dogs.” (Source)

Further descriptions of the types of dogs found in Mesopotamia come from inscriptions such as one from the Ur III Period (2047 – 1750 BCE), describing large mastiff-like creatures coming into the city with their handlers, wearing thick collars and leashes that one can only guess were made of leather.

For a clearer picture of what the dogs of Mesopotamia looked like, here is this simple video.

They Liked Them & Put Collars on Them

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Plaque from Sippar depicting a man leading a large dog on a leash, possibly a Mastiff, dating to the Old Babylonian Period (2000 – 1600 BCE). Note the wide collar, rope tied twice around the dog’s neck. (Source)

Pretty much all depictions of dogs from Mesopotamia showed them wearing collars, all of which were wide to protect the animal’s neck. The earliest version of the collar was probably just rope that was wound around the dog’s neck multiple times (as in the image above) or a piece of sturdy cloth, which then probably evolved to the leather version I mentioned earlier.

According to Mark, though people from all rungs of the social ladder owned dogs in ancient Mesopotamia, dogs belonging to masters of the upper class wore collars that not only bore their names, but also their masters’.

The significance of the collar goes beyond its practicality, then. Mark, in the “Dogs & Their Collars in Ancient Mesopotamia” article, writes that the dog collar also served as a sort of testament to people’s inclination to spoil their pooches whom they felt were worthy of such an accessory.

Mesopotamian Belly Rubs

When looking at all there is to look at, whether art or any kind of literature featuring dogs from ancient Mesopotamia–and especially knowing their collars sometimes bore their names–it’s easy to see that the status of our best friend was high in more ways than one.

Today we have our pooches’ pictures on our phone lock screens, and that’s just scratching the surface of how we worship them. Well, Mesopotamians worshiped their dogs, too. Sometimes literally. Sometimes by having their image on the equivalent of the Mesopotamian phone lock screen – cylinder seals. Cylinder seals were used to identify individuals in writing, like a signature. Dogs making it into a person’s signature further drives home the importance of the intimate relationship people had with their dogs.

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This cylinder seal dating back to the 2nd millenium BCE, features a male worshiper with a dog. Note the collar on the dog. (Source)

Best Friends with Benefits

Dogs were first and foremost domesticated for practical purposes, but alongside the universal ones, Mesopotamians got a few extra magical ones. They equaled, and were synonymous with, protection, not just in the practical ways in which we still rely on them, but also in the spiritual and supernatural sense; they protected humans against angry gods, ghosts, evil spirits, and demons.

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The golden pendant of the saluki from Uruk, c. 3300 BCE, housed at the Louvre in Paris. (Source)

The labyrinthine pantheon Mesopotamians worshiped, and their belief that every deed done or not done counted and every action had a reaction, made them take very practical and serious measures to protect themselves from any vengeful gods, or worse, demons.

Along with incantations and prayers, physical objects were produced as a line of defense. The golden dog pendant pictured above is a protective amulet that was worn or carried by its owner. In the ruins of Nineveh, dog statuettes with inscriptions saying they are for protection were found buried beneath an entrance to the North Palace. At the city of Kalhu (Nimrud), five dog figurines made of clay, known as The Nimrud Dogs, were also found with the same kind of inscriptions identifying them and their purpose.

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Clay dog figurines found buried underneath a North Palace entryway at Nineveh. Inscriptions on their bodies include declarations such as: “Loud is his bark!” (Source)

It was during Hammurabi’s reign (c. 1792 – 1750 BCE) that the practice of creating clay or bronze figures of dogs took off in ancient Mesopotamia, not to be cute and have the likenesses of pets to decorate with, but for security. Such sacred knickknacks were buried in multiples beneath entrances to buildings, including those of palaces, as mentioned above. Rituals preceded these burials, during which incantations were recited to awaken the protective spirit of the dog in the object being buried.

Dogs and Gods

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A plaque dating back to the reign of Babylonian king Nabu-mukin-apli, 978-943 BCE, showing Gula with one of her pooches. (Source)

In her book, The Healing Goddess Gula: Towards an Understanding of Ancient Babylonian Medicine, Barbara Böck writes about Lamashtu, a demon whose “specialty is killing babies,” among other horrible things. To protect their babies from Lamashtu, Mesopotamians called on Gula and her dogs.

Gula, among other things, was the goddess of healing and dogs. She is always either depicted with a dog at her side (as shown above) or as a dog herself; it was during the Old Babylonian Period (c. 2000- 1600 BCE) that her symbol became simply the dog.

When Gula was called upon through an incantation to keep Lamashtu from snatching a baby, her dogs faced the demon and threatened her:

“We are not just any dog, we are dogs of Gula, poised to flay your face, tear your back to pieces, and lacerate your ankles.” (Source)

You’ll note that Gula is primarily the goddess of healing, though she wears a few more hats, including that of being the goddess of dogs, but what do those things have to do with each other so that they exist in one deity?

Well, dogs were the sacred companions of Gula because they were healers themselves. The saliva of dogs, which Mesopotamians observed could heal wounds, was valued as medicine.

Another part of Gula that the Mesopotamian view of dogs drew from is the fact that the goddess was also associated with the underworld and transformation, things people experience after death. Dogs in this context were the companions of the dead on their journey to the afterlife, where they might have to face demons or other unsavory characters they need protecting from.

It’s a very bittersweet thing, the heights the relationship between dogs and humans reached, especially when you take into consideration that it was children whom dogs accompanied the most on their journeys to the afterlife. (No, I’m not crying, you are.)

Going back to the part about her being the goddess of dogs, Gula protected them (along with cats…this goddess is my kind of goddess), and as Böck writes, a partially-preserved prayer to Gula makes it clear that not doing right by a dog, alive or dead, is really not okay with her:

“He has shown great disrespect which before Gula…

[He saw…] but pretended not to notice it. He saw a wounded dog but he pretended [not to notice it].

He saw [a…dog] but pretended not to notice it. The dogs [were] fighting…

[…they were wai]ling and he saw it but pretended not to notice it…

[He saw a dead dog] but did not bury it and threw it to the ground…

…the dogs were fighting but he did not remove them…” (Source)

Keep in mind, we’re talking about a deity associated with the underworld, which means it’s best to not anger her, or you might need to find another way to protect yourself from harm. And you might as well forget about a dog coming to your rescue then.

Long Before Lassie

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Saluki.

Domesticated dogs in collars and on leashes also made plenty of appearances in Mesopotamian literature. Samuel Noah Kramer, author of History Begins at Sumer, wrote that dogs are referred to in 83 proverbs and fables.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Descent of Inanna, we see that Gula was not the only deity accompanied by dogs. In the former, the goddess Inanna (Ishtar) makes her appearance accompanied by seven hunting dogs wearing collars and being led on leashes. In the latter, the god Dumuzi (Tammuz) keeps a royal retinue that includes domesticated dogs in the underworld where he resides.

These dogs are the protectors and companions of these deities, and especially in the case of Inanna, who was often called upon for protection. The dogs were that extra level of divine protection.

As Kramer notes, according to Mark, along with such elevated roles in mythology, dogs were also the subject of fables that showcased loyalty, unconditional love, and the protective nature of our best friends to impart wisdom, as fables do. In fact, some of Aesop’s fables were not his at all, but rather Sumerian ones written centuries before Aesop (c. 620 – 564 BCE) was even alive, but that’s another topic for another time. Two such fables were, Why the Dog is Subservient to Man and The Show Dog, which are summarized quite well here, but essentially highlight the attributes of dogs, such as loyalty, unconditional love, and fierce protectiveness.

The interesting aside I want to point to is that Mesopotamians had dog shows, and this is something that, according to Kramer, helps support the idea that domestication and the collar in Mesopotamia predated those things in Egypt.

All Dogs Go To Heaven

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Dog paw prints accidentally and wonderfully left in clay, from Ur, c. 2047-2030 BCE. (Source)

At Gula’s most prominent temple at Isin, where dogs considered sacred roamed and were taken care of by the priests and priestesses there, underneath the ramp leading up to the building, 30 actual dogs were found buried.

Böck writes that although the dogs might have been sacrificial, it is also possible they were just the sacred dogs of the temple whose burial was simply a way to honor them after their natural passing, as Gula liked.

Of course, I choose to believe the latter option.

I choose to believe the latter option, because I can’t imagine that even in the harsh world of antiquity, where live animals were often buried with their owners in order to accompany them to the afterlife, anyone could stomach a stand-alone sacrifice of a protector, healer, and best friend. I choose to believe that the dog has always, from day one, held a large chunk of humanity’s collective heart. I choose to believe we’re all dog people if we all knew what our ancestors figured out about the creature that is love itself.

Sources and further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saluki

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1031/dogs-in-ancient-egypt/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1175/dogs–their-collars-in-ancient-mesopotamia/

https://archive.org/details/Kramer1956HistoryBeginsAtSumer

https://www.ancient.eu/article/215/inannas-descent-a-sumerian-tale-of-injustice/

https://www.ancient.eu/Inanna/

http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/gods/lords/lordumuzi.html

https://www.ancient.eu/Gula/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1001/the-nimrud-dogs/

https://www.ancient.eu/article/846/cylinder-seals-in-ancient-mesopotamia—their-hist/

https://books.google.com/books?id=Tfd0AQAAQBAJ&pg=PA39&dq=he+has+shown+great+disrespect+which+before+gula&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiKkZf_-oLaAhUX92MKHedFB0YQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=he%20has%20shown%20great%20disrespect%20which%20before%20gula&f=false

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isin

http://www.ancientneareast.net/mesopotamian-religion/lamastu-lamashtu/

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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Nimrud, Sumerian, Ur

 

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Shaduppum, A City Full of Surprises.

Shaduppum. Ain’t it a beauty?

In 1945, on the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad, the ancient city of Shaduppum was discovered at Tell Harmal.

Excavations soon got underway, led by Iraqi archaeologist Taha Baqir, and Muhammed Ali Mustafa of the Iraqi Department of Antiquities. (Source) The excavations unearthed an Old Babylonian city with a collection of close to 3,000 tablets.

Now, with so many tablets in its hold, it’s no wonder Shaduppum’s patron god is that of writing and record-keeping, and that it was an administrative hub for Babylonia.

First Things First

Although it was established as early as the late third millenium BC, during the days of Sargon of Akkad, Shaduppum didn’t rise to prominence until the second millennium BC, when it served as a Babylonian accounting hub.The city’s name reflects this, by translating into “the treasury,” or “accountant’s office.”

Within Shaduppum’s walls, private homes, one administration building, and seven temples were unearthed, some reconstructed. Of the seven temples, a large one dedicated to Nisaba, the Sumerian goddess of writing and record-keeping, and her consort, sits just inside the city’s gates. That temple’s entrance was guarded by two roaring terra-cotta lions.

One of the terra-cotta lions at Shaduppum, on display at the Iraqi National Museum.

That Terra-cotta lion with his buddy guarding the temple of Nisaba in the city of Shaduppum. (Source)

 

Accountants aren’t all about numbers!

So, almost 3,000 tablets were unearthed at Shaduppum, but only a few weren’t of an administrative nature, and you’ll find that the nature of these non-administrative tablets is a little surprising.

I find it surprising, anyway, that a city with such a cut and dry purpose had a copy of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s oldest written work of literature, in its vaults. It was some nine decades after the standard Akkadian version of the ancient poem was discovered in Ashurbanipal’s library at Nineveh, that two tablets of it were unearthed at Shaduppum.

The next surprise is actually two surprises in one.

You see, Iraqi archaeologist Taha Baqir also discovered a set of laws some two centuries older than the Code of Hammurabi at Shaduppum. The Laws of Eshnunna were written in Akkadian on two tablets, marked A and B, dating back to 1930 BC. That’s the first surprise regarding this find. The second one might make you do a double take…

The Laws of Eshnunna, Eshnunna being the city north of Ur where they originated, were promoted by that city’s ruler, Bilalama. In 1948, a year after Baqir’s discovery, Albrecht Goetze translated and published the laws, revealing that though Bilalama had some two-hundred years on Hammurabi, he was a little more progressive than the man whose laws inspired the Ten Commandments. That’s right. Unlike Hammurabi, whose punishments usually featured maiming, if not death, Bilalama implemented a monetary, fine-based penal system. But don’t get too comfortable with Bilalama’s laws, because the more serious offenses, including sexual ones, were punishable by death. That’s pretty progressive!

Shamash: These aren’t the first laws. Hammurabi: What?! Wait–. Shamash: Shhh. Now smile for the chiseler! 

Poor Hammurabi.

Stealing some Greek thunder

Hammurabi was not the only one whose thunder is stolen by tablets at Tell Harmal. The one-upping found in Shaduppum’s collection of tablets didn’t even stop at Mesopotamia’s borders, for it extended all the way to the Greek realm, delivering the two bombshells I’m going to talk about now.

Now, even if you used math class (or history) as nap time, the names Euclid and Pythagoras should sound familiar to you. And if not (it’s okay), I’ll refresh your memory: Euclid of Alexandria is the father of geometry, and Pythagoras of Samos proved that a^2+b^2=c^2 in a right-angled triangle, aka, the Pythagorean Theorem.

The tablets that steal a bit of Greek mathematician thunder. Sorry, Bros.

Though the fact still remains that Euclid and Pythagoras gave us the official real deal, complete with proof and universal mathematical truths, two tablets dating to the early second millennium BC deliver the same newsflash Hammurabi got about his laws: Kinda’ been there, kinda’ done that.

The algebraic-geometry on one tablet (the one on the left in the picture above) features work similar to Euclid’s, dealing with the hypotenuse of a right-angle triangle. The other tablet features a problem with a rectangle whose length and width are calculated using what is essentially the Pythagorean Theorem.

Pythagoras: *A long, deep, deep, deep SIGH*

Sorry, Bros.

Another look at Shaduppum

So, the first round of excavations at Tell Harmal was fruitful, but a second round in 1997 turned out to be all about details. The Iraqi Department of Antiquities and Heritage allowed more excavations at Tell Harmal that year, this time by a joint effort between Baghdad University and the German Archaeological Institute.

Because of Shaduppum’s relatively late rise to prominence, in the spring of 1997 and autumn of 1998, the collaborative project took a closer look at the rock layers of the city, confirming different ages in the multiple building layers.

Most interestingly, stratigraphy of the city’s walls showed it was not fortified until the rise of Babylonia in the second millennium BC, suggesting that its rise to prominence was quite significant–it went from being a city so inconsequential it lacked fortification, perhaps, to a city with pronounced walls. Evidence also suggested then that the city had been destroyed by fire and destruction around the time of Hammurabi, then rebuilt.

It’s a very interesting project that you can read more about here.

A city of consequence

There remains much we don’t know about Shaduppum, that we may never know, but one thing is clear: Shaduppum was a city that had a little bit of everything that made it a Mesopotamian city worth a look.

 

Sources and Further Reading

http://www.miglus.de/Themen/Harmal/harmal.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eshnunna

http://books.google.com/books?id=1C4NKp4zgIQC&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=tell+harmal+city+of+agade&source=bl&ots=Ss36wkEcA9&sig=sN53Fql2w0iVsHKZpsJrwvwwPpc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XS15U7bNK4iRqAb76YCQAQ&ved=0CGMQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=tell%20harmal%20city%20of%20agade&f=false

https://allmesopotamia.wordpress.com/?s=sargon+the+great

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/akka/hd_akka.htm

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/articles/o/old_babylonian_period.aspx

http://proteus.brown.edu/mesopotamianarchaeology/994

http://www.ezida.com/cats/lion%20t1.jpg

http://www.goddessaday.com/mesopotamian/nisaba

http://www.fofweb.com/History/HistRefMain.asp?iPin=MESP0046&SID=2&DatabaseName=Ancient+and+Medieval+History+Online&InputText=%22Nisaba%22&SearchStyle=&dTitle=Shaduppum&TabRecordType=All+Records&BioCountPass=0&SubCountPass=4&DocCountPass=0&ImgCountPass=0&MapCountPass=0&FedCountPass=&MedCountPass=0&NewsCountPass=0&RecPosition=3&AmericanData=&WomenData=&AFHCData=&IndianData=&WorldData=&AncientData=Set&GovernmentData=

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_Goetze

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclid

http://cojs.org/cojswiki/index.php/Tell_Harmal_Mathematical_Tablets

http://www.miglus.de/Themen/Harmal/1997/1997.html

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Babylon, Uncategorized

 

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Breasts in Mesopotamia

It took me a minute, but since it’s October, and October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I decided to look and see what I could find about breasts in Ancient Mesopotamia, aside from the obvious fact that Mesopotamian women had them.

After some research, I’ve found that breasts were quite prominent in the land between two rivers.

A statue from Samarra, ca. 6000 BC, believed to be of a mother goddess, with exaggerated breasts being held up for prominence. (Source)

Life and Breasts

To start, the Babylonians and Assyrians concentrated on what appears to be essentially the lifeline of a newborn child by listing the beginning of the life cycle as “a child at the breast.” Notice it is not just “a child is born,” but “a child at the breast.” This speaks volumes, especially when attached to all the other things I found.

As expected, Mesopotamians associated the female form with fertility. Many statues believed to be those depicting fertility have been unearthed throughout Mesopotamia. They usually feature mother goddesses with prominent breasts held up suggestively with folded arms underneath (see above), while some statues feature only one of the breasts being held up as if it were an offering. (Source)

Akkadian female figurines, ca. 2334-2147 BC. Note the figurine on the left holding up only one breast. (Source)

Emphasis was also placed on breasts in erotic scenes, as pictured below.

Plaque depicting Sumerian lovers in an embrace. Note the woman clutching her breast suggestively. (Source)

Mythological Breasts

The prominence of breasts in Ancient Mesopotamian culture is also evident in the descriptions of the defining characteristics of mythological figures. For instance, a characteristic of Lilith, a female demon who snatches and kills children, also a bearer of disease, illness and death, is described as having no milk in her breasts and unable to bear children. Nonetheless, Lilith’s epithet was “the beautiful maiden,” and would appear in men’s erotic dreams.

Although this relief is believed to be depicting Ishtar or Ereshkigal, it was thought to depict Lilith at one time. It serves as a good example of the demoness’s characteristics including woman’s breasts, bird talons for feet, and wings. (Source)

Lamashtu is another such demon, and her breasts are a prominent part of her description. She has the head of a lion, donkey’s teeth and a hairy body, but unlike Lilith, she is portrayed nursing a pig and a dog from her bare breasts. Instead of being the subject of erotic dreams, however, Lamashtu was bringer of nightmares, and was also considered bad news to children and their mothers, so much so that amulets were used to ward off her evil, particularly during childbirth. (Source)

Lamashtu had a lion’s head, donkey’s teeth and ears, naked breasts, a hairy body, long fingers and nails, and bird talons. She clutched snakes in her hands while nursing a piglet and a puppy at her breasts. Her image was put on metal or stone plaques with incantations to ward off her evil. Amulets were worn of the demon Pazuzu, who was believed to be the only one able to keep Lamashtu away from pregnant women, as she was believed to kill unborn babies by touching their mothers’ wombs seven times, or kidnapping them once they are born. (Source)

Even so, breasts were still a source of good nourishment in mythology, and it wasn’t just for humans (or mammals). The breasts of Nissaba, the Sumerian goddess of grain, served to nourish the fields ready for planting.

Breast Feeding

Of course, breasts were also associated with child bearing, but there is a flip side. On the one hand it was a source of nourishment for babies, serving as their lifeline, for up to three years. On the other hand, a woman’s breasts were also a birth control tool.

A woman’s fertility is relatively low while she is breastfeeding, and so the concept of the wet nurse became widespread in Mesopotamia, as it helped nourish newborn babies with breast milk when their mothers were unable to provide them with it, and it also helped keep the wet nurses themselves from getting pregnant during the time they were nursing.

Hammurabi (1728-1686 BC) wrote a law covering the category of wet nursing, in which a two to three-year contract is held between a wet nurse and her employer, and gives her the right to sell the child of that employer should she not be compensated properly. Yikes! (Source)

Breast Cancer in Mesopotamia?

Ancient Mesopotamians also believed that disease came from demons that would enter a person’s body through any opening and begin attacking certain areas. Babylonians believed that each body part was attacked by a designated demon, and the demon that attacked the breasts was Alu, a night-dwelling demon, who when not attacking breasts was bent on terrifying those trying to sleep. (Source)

A final piece I gathered in putting this post together is one that I feel is especially indicative of the prominence of the breast in Mesopotamia. In the ruins of the ancient city of Nuzu, in northeast modern-day Iraq, excavations unearthed an infant buried under a private home, its remains inside a jar in the shape of a woman’s breast. (Source, page 94)

So, having said all that, I think it’s safe to say that breasts were almost revered in Mesopotamian culture. And for all the right reasons, too. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments!

Sources and further reading:

http://www.academia.edu/873588/Womens_Roles_in_Ancient_Mesopotamia, page 94

http://factsanddetails.com/world.php?itemid=1521&catid=56&subcatid=363  (under “Mesopotamian Hygiene, Perfume and Sex”)

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-d88npMh9sPo/TXDRGLhUeNI/AAAAAAAAAnw/9sGn7Xh-1XU/s1600/sumerian-love.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamashtu

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sumer_anunnaki/esp_sumer_annunaki15e.htm

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sumer_anunnaki/esp_sumer_annunaki12e.htm

http://orthocj.com/2006/06/historical-perspective-on-breast-feeding-and-nursing/

http://www.answers.com/topic/alu-demon

http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/new_history/ancient_history/mesopotamia.html

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Art, Women

 

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Part II: Hammurabi!

As part of “The Mesopotamians” band he is the lead singer with sharply side-swept hair, one visible eye, and a ring in his lower lip. They Might Be Giants (TMBG) made him out to look part hipster, part emo, and at least to me, made his personality reminiscent of that of Ralph from The Lord of the Flies (LOF).

He is Hammurabi.

Clearly the picture above shows that Hammurabi was nothing like the lead singer of The Mesopotamians, but perhaps if Hammurabi lived today, he might just be a guy named Ralph who’s a natural leader, maybe a lawyer or a judge or a law professor, maybe even the president of a very wise nation, who leads by doing right even in the face of a not-so-right society, with hipster hair and the face of an emo accented with a lip ring. Who knows?

(I mean, I don’t even know if Hammurabi’s hairstyle in the video was just a way to camouflage his other eye, which he might have had to give for an eye? Are TMBG trying to tell us that Hammurabi was so just that he did not exempt even himself from the Lex Talionis?)

What we do know is that there’s only one Hammurabi, and he was like the new sheriff in town, or Ralph in LOF. He was really into keeping everyone civilized and under control.

He was a great military leader who transformed a small city-state into one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. He was also one heck of an administrator. It is even said that he personally oversaw navigation, irrigation, agriculture, tax collection, and the erection of many temples and other buildings in Mesopotamia, which left him super busy, I’m sure.

He even wrote about all the stuff he did in some 55 letters that were discovered, and the letters give a glimpse into what he had to deal with as the king of an eventual empire; on the side, Hammurabi had to deal with floods, making changes to the Babylonian Calendar and taking care of livestock.

Hammurabi built only the second extensive empire in Mesopotamia, and ruled it justly by first allowing the leaders of the city-states he’d conquered to continue to rule over their city-states. He in turn ruled over them with laws that were fair enough to keep his reign as the first king of the Babylonian Empire relatively peaceful.

Hammurabi was a generally peaceful guy. No blood was shed for his acquirement of the throne. Hammurabi succeeded his father to the throne of Babylon when it was still just a city-state around what scholars believe to be 1792 BC. This made him the sixth king of the city-state of Babylon, and nothing too special.

But then, around 1786 BC, Hammurabi began working, or dictating to scribes scribing over tablets that measured eight feet in height and seven feet in width, rather, on what we know today as the Code of Hammurabi. Most people have heard of this big deal thing for humanity, or know of Hammurabi through it, and it is what made Hammurabi one of the most recognized leaders of the ancient world, and the lead singer of The Mesopotamians. Not to mention pretty special.

Hammurabi’s Code

The most recognizable ancient artifact the world over has got to be the Code of Hammurabi stele on which 282 laws, or judgments, are written in Akkadian Cuneiform script. The stele has a bas relief at the top that depicts Hammurabi standing before the throne on which it is believed the sun-god Shamash (also the god of justice), or as some have speculated, even Marduk, the patron deity of the city of Babylon, sits. It is this illustration that tells the story of how Hammurabi came to be the authority on what were dubbed the dinat mesarim or “just verdicts”.

Hammurabi’s Code dealt with every aspect of Mesopotamian life, from trade to incest, and it is where the Lex Talionis or “Law of Retaliation,” or the “eye for an eye, tooth for tooth” deal first appeared. The Code of Hammurabi also introduced the idea of the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, which gave the accused and accuser the opportunity to present evidence.

Hammurabi introduces the purpose of his laws, which are really more like judgements, in this way:

“To promote the welfare of the people, I, Hammurabi, the devout, god-fearing prince, cause justice to prevail in the land by destroying the wicked and the evil, that the strong might not oppress the weak.”

No doubt when we look at certain offenses and the corresponding punishments, Hammurabi’s judgments may seem severe by our standards, seeing as how the punishments varied from disfigurement (he really meant eye for an eye, guys!) to just plain old death:

“If anyone steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.”

And although Hammurabi introduces his Code as a tool that stops the strong from oppressing the weak, it still maintained the social classes:

“If a man strikes the cheek of a freeman who is superior in rank to himself, he shall be beaten with 60 stripes with a whip of ox-hide in the assembly.”

(A side note) My favorite lyric in the song “The Mesopotamians” that drives home further the brand of justice, or logic, Hammurabi implemented throughout his Code is this:

This is my last stick of gum/

I’m going to cut it up so everybody else gets some/

Except for Ashurbanipal, who says my haircut makes me look like a Mohenjo-Daroan.

On the Job

Over a span of some 42 years after he took the job of king, Hammurabi did his daddy proud, as he went from being the sixth king of a mere city-state, to the king of an empire he himself established by conquering other Mesopotamian warring city-states, including Sumer, Akkad and others to the south of Babylon around 1760 BC. He did this by knowing when to move in on his opponent, and when to stand back and strengthen not only his offense, but also his defense; he spent a lot of time heightening walls and improving fortifications of his cities, and continued to do so until the very end of his reign.

As a result of his smart strategies, Hammurabi was even bring Assyria under his empire, a strong opponent he had to wait and build strength to acquire, and even northern Syria. He built and kept his empire with his military prowess first, and diplomatic justice wielding persona second.

Although his reign was relatively peaceful, Hammurabi still had to fight wars, particularly in the last 14 years of his rule. The wars ranged from acquiring more city-states to his empire, including the city of Larsa, which helped him acquire older Sumerian cities in the south. In 1763 he fought to protect his empire’s access to metal-producing areas in Iran.

An Innovator and Humanitarian

Hammurabi was also an innovator and all-around improver. He built temples, dug canals and improved the irrigation process by implementing perhaps the world’s first use of windmills.

“King Hammurabi of Babylon used wind powered scoops to irrigate Mesopotamia.” (Source)

No doubt the improvement in irrigation kept city-states happy, and mostly peaceful, considering they were fighting each other for fertile agricultural land to begin with.

Hammurabi also promoted astronomy, mathematics and literature. I’m guessing he probably also promoted literacy, and I surmise this from the fact that his code of laws was put on public display for everyone to read.

He was really a humanitarian

The Legacy of Hammurabi

When Hammurabi died an old and sick man around 1750 BC, he left his empire to his son, and for humanity an eternal legacy.

Although the dates of his reign are questioned, they do seem to coincide with biblical accounts that give him a possible place in the Bible as Nimrod, the great grandson of Noah. The Ten Commandments and the justice system as a whole are also linked to Hammurabi and his Code.

Under Hammurabi’s rule, Mesopotamians enjoyed a time during which all sorts of amenities flourished, marking the Babylonian Empire as one with strong influences still seen today. When he died, no one was able to do what he did as well as he did, but it was going to be okay, because we’re still talking about him today and living by many laws he set in stone that continue to define our humanity.

Hammurabi on Supreme Court Frieze. (Source)

 

That’s a pretty great king, and a pretty great lead singer of a band like The Mesopotamians.

Sources and Further Reading:

http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/bios/b1hammurabi.htm

http://www.harris-greenwell.com/HGS/Hammurabi

http://www.thenagain.info/WebChron/MiddleEast/Hammurabi.html

http://www.ancient.eu.com/hammurabi/

http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/people/p/Hammurabi.htm

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07125a.htm

http://www.ivt.ntnu.no/offshore2/?page_id=266

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.asp

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Babylon, Kings

 

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“The Mesopotamians”

Since I try to keep things fun around here, even though it doesn’t seem like it at first glance (I wrote about asphalt!), I thought I’d use a fun song to introduce a mini-series of posts that will elaborate on what this song, “The Mesopotamians” by They Might Be Giants, is about…

Actually, I should say I will be elaborating on who this song is about, because the day has come when someone gives a damn!

Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal and Gilgamesh had plenty scratched down onto the clay about them in the kingdoms where they not-so-secretly reigned, and I’ve taken it upon myself to relay all the highlights of what was written to you.

To get you started, you can find the song’s lyrics here, and a general (and very enthusiastic) analysis of those lyrics here.

Stay tuned! (And sorry about getting the song stuck in your head. That’s tough.)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Music, Video

 

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