LOST CONTINENT OF ATLANTIS:
Myth or Reality
|The Atlantis We Look For|
|The Circle of Evolution|
|Old Maps and Writings|
|Can Lands Sink and Rise?|
|Old Texts – Just Stories?|
|The Underwater Search|
|Mysteries on Shore|
|The Current Search|
|Location Theories I|
|Location Theories II|
|Location Theories III|
|Is it Mesopotamia?|
|Mysteries of Ancient Civilizations: Solved|
|Last Update: February 26, 2007 ©1997 – 2007Andreea Haktanir|
Chapter XIV: Mesopotamia (Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia)
Soon after I put this page together, in 2005, I started wondering about a possible connection between Atlantis and the Middle East civilizations. I didn’t have time back then, but each time I read anything related to Mesopotamia or some of the Persian Empire civilizations, I end up wondering again.
By approaching Atlantis from this angle, we accept that Plato had in mind a story of an ancient but great civilization for its time, something as fascinating as Homer’s Troy. We also accept that Atlantis is a story based on real events, but enriched for deeper philosophical reasons. While many would argue that this is not the Atlantis we search for, my opinion differs; given that many of the theories listed before have ignored most of Plato’s writing, and also given the fact that no Atlantis found in the future would ever be what Plato has described, our theories are as close to the truth as all the other ones.
According to my research no one has investigated this idea before. For me, it’s the most obvious and I prefer it to all the others. To be honest, after investigating the Mesopotamia’s history and re-reading Plato and some of the ancient Greek texts, I reached my final conclusion: Atlantis is Mesopotamia.
If you want to find out why, bare with me for the next chapters. It might take a while to write everything down.
‘Mesopotamia’, in ancient Greek, means ‘between the rivers’ of Euphrates and Tigris. The region has seen the rise and decay of wealthy civilizations, the most important for us being the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians.
I will start with the beginning, with the Sumerian civilization.
Called Ki-en-gir by the natives, and Sangar by the Egyptians, the country name meant “the land of the civilized lords”. Mesopotamia pretty much laps the territory of nowadays Iraq. Its existence started around 4,500-4,000 B.C. and went on for a millennium, until 2,000 B.C. It is, by far, the most interesting civilization, for the Sumerians had time to develop a lot and become the one of the most important ancient civilizations through their discoveries.
Picture of Gilgamesh from Talaria Enterprises museum store.
When the Sumerians came to the land, they merged and took over the Ubaidians, the previous owners, of which we don’t know much. The Sumer people found a fertile land and their crops, on the banks of the river, yielded enough to help a civilization grow, to build villages and then great cities.
Their temples started small then became the basis for the future ziggurats or temple-towers. A specialized priesthood came into being, and hymns and prayers, rites and rituals, sacred festivals had to be created.
They excavated irrigation canals and reservoirs of considerable size, for their crops. This helped the Sumerians evolve, and soon they had a democratic administration. But the growing of the cities and the fight for land and water brought the inevitable kingship, dynasties and despotism. From king being elected, they ended up being appointed by heaven and their legend even became that the first king had reigned for 28,800 years.
Starting with 3,000 B.C., when the kingship was established, the warfare began. Cities, like the ones quoted in the Bible – Ur and Erech, – fought until foreigners stepped in and the Sumerian had to bow to them. But as soon as the dominance was shaken off, the strife would continue. The states raised armies and developed a class of specialized soldiers. They had infantry and wheeled chariots. They became so professional that they conquered the whole Mesopotamia. This inevitably lead to the fall of the Sumerian empire. The Babylonians won ascendancy in Mesopotamia.
Image belonging to African Diaspora.
The people of Sumer were mostly farmers. They grew plants, like barley, and animals – sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, oxen. Trade was intense and they traveled to Iran and Asia Minor, bringing back timber, stone, and metals.
Given the arid land (part of the country not found on the banks of the two rivers) in which they had to farm, Sumerians had to manage Tigris and Euphrates to supply water for their crops all year through. This is why the Sumerians have many terms for words like canals, dikes, and reservoirs.
Funnily enough, the Sumerians popped into existence (a figure of speech) at the end of the a warm and wet climate that lasted from 7,000 BC to 3,000 BC.
During the Uruk period (4,500 – 3,100BC), the Sumerians expended wildly as far as the Mediterranean, Taurus and Zagros. This is the legendary time of Enmerkar and Gilgamesh. Later on, during the early dynastic period, Uruk became a capital and the country became en empire reaching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.
The biggest invention of the Sumerians was the cuneiform writing on clay tablets.
When it comes to architecture, the Sumerians built ziggurats. Some scholars believe that these ziggurats might have been the basis for the Tower of Babel, as it was mentioned in Genesis.
The Sumerian culture had two main centers: Nippur and Eridu. Enlil, the deity of Nippur, governed a mountain. Enki was the god of Eridu. Later on, Babylonians called Enlil, Ea. Eridu was a benefic god. Their collective Gods were Anu (sky) and Ki (earth), from where their gods were called Anunnaki (offspring-of-the-lord).
Sumerians were also good jewelers and used alabaster (calcite – white, translucent), ivory, gold, silver, carnelian (red or reddish-brown), and lapis lazuli (deep blue).
Sumer had developed strong military technology for its time. It had professional soldiers that carried spears and were equipped with copper helmets and leather shields. They used two-wheeled or four-wheeled chariots pulled by a species of horse called onager. Given their constant wars, the cities were protected by defensive walls. They also had boats.
III. Assyrian and Babylonian Empire
Around 2,000 B.C. Ur was destroyed and the Sumerian power ended. However, their culture lived on.
From the East, the Amorites, coming from Syrian and Arabian deserts, entered Sumer when its power subdued, took over the cities, and mingled with the population. They borrowed from the Sumerian literature, religion, law and art. They kept, however, their Semitic tongue. One of the small cities they ruled was Babylon, city that would start developing slowly but surely and reach great power under Hammurabi’s rule.
Assyria refers to the northern region of Mesopotamia, while Babylon refers to the southern part. Over time, both Babylon and Assyria reached the point of conquering each other. They still respected the other territory as a state, but the ‘king’ was one and the other territory was supposed to pay tributes and taxes.
Both Assyria and Babylon had their ‘conquering’ moments.
Assyria’s name comes from its capital, Assur. According to archeological findings, Assur was inhabited since the Sumerian times, about 3,000 B.C. Around 1,800 B.C., king Shamshi-Adad I built the Great Royal Palace and the temple of Assur was expanded with a ziggurat.
Later on, as Assyria became an empire, the capital became Nineveh. Assyria was first mentioned around 2,000 B.C. Assyria soon created little colonies in Cappadocia (now in Turkey), ports that traded goods (mostly metals and textiles for precious metals) with Assyria.
Assyria became a big empire three times in its history. The first creator of an Akkadian Empire was Sargon I, “the true king”. He expanded the boundaries by taking over Elam and Mesopotamia, all the way to the Mediterranean and conquering parts of Anatolia (in Turkey today). The records show him crossing the Mediterranean Sea and reaching Cyprus. His story is very similar to – if not the the source for – Moses’ story: “She set me into a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me. Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener. While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me her love, and for four and […] years I exercised kingship.”
Another good period for Assyria started around 1,800 B.C. when the country managed to conquer all northern Mesopotamia. Their expansion stopped when Hammurabi’s Babylon became more powerful and conquered Assyria. During the Middle Assyrian Period, the empire reached all the way to nowadays Turkey and conquered the Hittites then, as the Hittite power crumbled, they attacked the Amorites. In 1,120 B.C. one of their kings crossed the Euphrates, defeated the Phrygians and advanced to the Mediterranean, by also conquering Phoenicia. He conquered Babylon for a short time as well.
The king that subjugated nations by terror was Ashurnasirpal II, during the Neo-Assyrian Empire, around 800 B.C. According to his annals his usually placed the cities under siege and if the population didn’t surrender, he would move to the nearest village and attack it. He would set the place on fire, kill everyone or mutilate them by cutting their arms, legs, noses or ears, or making them blind. He would cut their heads and pile them apart from their bodies. These actions usually convinced cities to surrender without fight and ‘pursued’ them to pay tributes.
Image of Ishtar Gate taken from ESIEE Paris.
Ashurnasirpal II’s son continued the policy of the father and Babylonia became a vassal state. Many of the kings that followed conducted a merciless policy of expansion. Assurbanipal even recorded his deeds: “Like the onset of a terrible hurricane I overwhelmed Elam in its entirety, I cut off the head of Teumman, their blaggart king, who had plotted evil.”
Egypt was many times the target for Assyria and it was finally conquered around 670 B.C.
To summarize, the Assyrians were a nation of soldiers. Given that the king was doing the acts of god, the Assyrians never undermined the king’s attacks on other states.
Their main God was Assur, the equivalent of the Babylonian God, Marduk.
Babylonia‘s capital was Babylon, built on the river Euphrates. The name first appeared in the tablets belonging to Sargon of Akkad, about 2,300 B.C. Babilu, in Akkadian, meant “gateway of the God(s)”.
The Amorite king that gave to Babylonia hegemony over Mesopotamia was Hammurabi. He ruled around 1,800 – 1,700 B.C. but the exact dates are unknown.
Babylon was the largest city in the world during and a century after Hammurabi’s rule. The city might have reached 200,000 inhabitants. The city was considered a ‘holy city’. The king was the agent of Marduk (their main god) on earth. Hammurabi is well known for its laws, written on a stela and placed in a public place. He also improved the security of Babylon by building walls and he improved the irrigation system. The city of Babylon was surrounded by a wall of 300 feet (91m) high, 80 feet (24m) wide, and 60 miles (97km) in circumference. In the soil, the wall reached depths of 35 feet (11m).
After Hammurabi’s death, the country was conquered by the Hittites.
In 689 B.C. the Assyrians wiped out Babylon. But the city will become again wonderful during the reign of Nabuchadnezzar, during 605 – 562 B.C. He ordered the reconstruction of the imperial grounds, the temples and palaces; the rebuilt the Etemenanki ziggurat and constructed the Ishtar Gate. He is also credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The ruins left today are from his reign.
Book I in the “History” of Herodotus talks about Babylon. The city was divided into two portions by the river Euphrates.
“The houses are mostly three and four stories high; the streets all run in straight lines, not only those parallel to the river, but also the cross streets which lead down to the water-side. At the river end of these cross streets are low gates in the fence that skirts the stream, which are, like the great gates in the outer wall, of brass, and open on the water.
The outer wall is the main defense of the city. There is, however, a second inner wall, of less thickness than the first, but very little inferior to it in strength. The centre of each division of the town was occupied by a fortress. In the one stood the palace of the kings, surrounded by a wall of great strength and size: in the other was the sacred precinct of Jupiter Belus (note: Marduk), a square enclosure two furlongs each way, with gates of solid brass; which was also remaining in my time. In the middle of the precinct there was a tower of solid masonry, a furlong in length and breadth, upon which was raised a second tower, and on that a third, and so on up to eight. The ascent to the top is on the outside, by a path which winds round all the towers.”
Picture of Babylon from Ucdavis.edu.
On top of the tower there is a temple and below, one more. “Below, in the same precinct, there is a second temple, in which is a sitting figure of Jupiter, all of gold. Before the figure stands a large golden table, and the throne whereon it sits, and the base on which the throne is placed, are likewise of gold. […] Outside the temple are two altars, one of solid gold, on which it is only lawful to offer sucklings; the other a common altar, but of great size, on which the full-grown animals are sacrificed. […] In the time of Cyrus there was likewise in this temple a figure of a man, twelve cubits high, entirely of solid gold.”
“Many sovereigns have ruled over this city of Babylon, and lent their aid to the building of its walls and the adornment of its temples.
Among them two were women. Of these, the earlier, called Semiramis, held the throne five generations before the later princess. She raised certain embankments well worthy of inspection, in the plain near Babylon, to control the river, which, till then, used to overflow, and flood the whole country round about. The later of the two queens […] was Nitocris.” Nitocris was also identified as one of the rulers of Egypt, part of the 6th Dynasty, around 2,000 B.C. Expecting to be attacked, she build reservoirs, excavated a lake, and made the river to wind. She built an immense bridge over the Euphrates to link the two sides of Babylon.
According to Herodotus, Babylonia is intersected with canals. One of them is large enough for boats to travel. It links Euphrates with Tigris.
Babylonia was also very fruitful in grains, especially in barley. They grew the fig, the olive, the vine, and any other tree of the kind. They had sesame and all sorts of palm-trees that bear fruit, supplying them with bread, wine, and honey.
Plato’ “Dialogues“ and Mesopotamia
This chapter will once again examine Plato’s Dialogues.
First, let us talk about the cities of Athens and Sais. Both cities had the same goddess, Athena (Neith), “the goddess who is the common patron and parent and educator of both our cities. She founded your city a thousand years before ours.” So we learn that Athens was founded 1,000 years before Sais. Discoveries in 1971, in Amphion Hill, showed an Egyptian tomb dating from 2,900-2,400 B.C. Archeological findings in Sais show that the city was founded about 1,250-1,100 B.C. Adding the 1,000 years the Egyptian priest is talking about, we get 2,250-2,100 B.C. The Egyptians spells Neith’s name as “Ht” and read it as “Ath” or “At”. They even called their city Athanait.
Plato also says that the people of Atlantis had wars with the Athenians. This is one reason why we cannot push the Atlantis history back to 9,000-10,000 B.C. No archeological evidence was found to prove the existence of any real civilization during that time, and without evidence, we cannot start assuming blindly these things.
About 2,000 B.C. Sumer was no longer existent, but Assyria and Babylon were. And their kings fought wars to expand their empire, some reaching, like I have mentioned before, Egypt and Anatolia, the Mediterranean Sea and Cyprus. We cannot know if they had any attempts to reach any further, because, if the battles were lost (and according to Plato the Athenians won), they didn’t record the deal. Besides, the Athenians were not registering anything back in those times. The Egyptians were, however.
Now let’s interpret Plato. We take into consideration the ‘mezon’ and ‘meson’ factors. Let’s assume that the translation is wrong, and that Atlantis is found ‘between’ Asia and Lybia. To me, it makes no sense saying that something is bigger than Lybia and Asia put together. It makes sense saying that something is placed in between them though. It is not an island (because the Ancient Greeks did not have a term for ‘peninsula’), but a peninsula. To give you an example, Peloponnese is a large peninsula, but the Greeks called it ???????????? (Peloponnesos), where “nesos” means “island”.
In between Asia and Lybia (Northern Africa) we have Arabia and the Tigris and Euphrates valley.
Plato also says that Atlas was Zeus’ son, but no other ancient Greek writer claims that. Actually Atlas is supposed to be a Titan, coming from entirely different parents. His name was given to the mountains in the North-Western Africa. Plato also says that the names were translated from the Egyptians, who also translated them from the Atlantean civilization. In other words, either these civilizations had something in common, or the translations were made according to the Egyptian’s closest god in definition. Atlas was perceived as the god who taught mankind astronomy. Sumerians, and later on Babylonians, were the most developed in terms of astronomical data.
“Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valor. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable.” Both the Assyrians and the Babylonians tried to expand as much as they could. Let me also remind you that back then even the Indian Ocean was considered Atlantic Ocean.
Mesopotamia, especially as it expanded through its empires to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is facing Gibraltar and is the connection to the true big continent of Asia and Europe together.
To conclude the first part: Mesopotamia is in between Lybia and Asia, it is facing the Gibraltar, and is situated and has expanded to Arabia (a peninsula). They were very advanced and it is believed that Egyptians learnt from Sumerians many things related to astronomy. Mesopotamia also has a very rich religious and cultural heritage. As for the Sumerian gods, they got translated in Egyptian.
The Pillars of Heracles, while accepted to be the Gibraltar Strait, in the West, were also related to the Strait in between Iran and United Arab Emirates (Strait of Hormuz), in the East. Either way, Mesopotamia stands in front of them.
Let us examine now the religious aspects of Plato’s work. “I have before remarked in speaking of the allotments of the gods, that they distributed the whole earth into portions differing in extent, and made for themselves temples and instituted sacrifices. And Poseidon, [received] for his lot the island of Atlantis.” In Mesopotamia, and especially in ancient Sumer, just like in Egypt and Greece, each city had its own god. Poseidon is the equivalent of Neptune, the god of water. If we were to translate it into Mesopotamia’s religion he would become Ea or Enki, the Sumerian god of water, and also the heir of An. During Hammurabi, like I’ve already said, about 1,800 B.C. in Babylonia, Marduk became the most important deity. He was the son of Ea and Enlil and their powers were transferred to Marduk.
“There was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile.” The Tigris and Euphrates valley was extremely fertile. “Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side.” These can be the Zagros Mountains. As it can be seen on the map, Mesopotamia has a fertile plain in the middle and is surrounded by mountains.
Plato says that the bull was important in Atlantis’ culture. Since the beginning of Sumer the bull was lunar and the horns represented the crescent moon. Bulls and dragons were drawn on Ishtar’s gate in Babylon.
Source: Some wonderful series of pictures can be found on the site of The University of Haifa Library. It’s their copyright.
Let us move on. In “Critias”, Plato continues “Nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis.” Let me remind you one more time that 9,000 is an impossible number. Plato simply contradicts himself. If we accept some people’s opinions that Atlantis could have existed in 9,500 B.C. and that it was an extremely developed civilizations but no records are found because of the volcanic eruption, then we should also assume that in 9,500 B.C. Athens and the other countries around the Mediterranean were very developed. How else could we explain the fact that the Athenians had won? So let us assume that there are no traces of Atlantis, but then there should be traces of developed civilizations in the Med around 9,500 B.C. But there aren’t. So 9,000 falls. No way, no how.
If Plato was wrong with the years – a very important aspect – then he could have been wrong about many other things as well.
I tend to believe in the volcanic eruption even though I do not believe that it happened in Mesopotamia. We are probably dealing with Santorini’s (Thera’s) eruption in 1620BC or 1470BC. They did create a barrier of mud in the Mediterranean. The earthquake might have affected the eastern side of the Mesopotamia, just like the tidal waves.
We don’t know if Plato got this right – or for that matter, Solon – but he says that this inundation was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion. Deucalion refers to the end of the First Brazen Age 1628 to 1472 BC and the beginning of the Heroic Age (or the Second Brazen Age) – also the time of the Trojan war. The deluge preceding this one was called by the Greeks the Ogygyan Deluge and it ended the Silver Age (1674 to 1628 BC). It seems that this flood left the country without kings for a long period of time. According to scientists, most of the glacial melt had occurred by around 8,000 years ago.
Studies show that about 15,000 BC, Mesopotamia was a dry land. About 12,000 years ago sea levels dropped and the Mesopotamian plain was very fertile. The setting was perfect for the pre-Sumerian civilization to develop. The climate was temperate, just as Plato described. Those ancient people were actually the ones that gave birth to Sumer, later on, and then, by splitting and mixing, to Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria.
Now it’s also the time to ask the question: why have I chosen Mesopotamia as Atlantis? Because, the Mesopotamian culture is still believed to be the ‘cradle of civilization’ and because they were the great inventors of the past. Generally speaking, without getting too much into details, one feels that the one and only great culture -huge even – in those time were the Sumerians. They were there long before the other Med countries became states. Their influence touched the Egyptians and probably so did their stories.
Let us look again at the flood myth of the Sumerians. Their kings’ chronology lists kings that belonged to the period before the deluge, the ante-diluvian period. Some of these kings are thought to be only legends, especially because of their long lives (e.g. Alalgar of Eridug lived 36,000 years). Actually, the first king, from the complete list of kings, documented so far was Enmebaragesi, who probably ruled before 2,600 B.C. He is said to have lived 900 years, after the deluge.
There are 10 kings before the great deluge. The first city built (also in the world, they claim) was Eridu, very close to Ur. The cuneiform chronicle of Shulgi, the king of Ur, says that the city was found on the sea. Nowadays, scholars believe it was actually found near a marsh. One of the main two temples, according to http://babel.massart.edu/~tkelley, was located on a hill about 300 meters in diameter. They also believe that some of the earlier levels were washed away. Eridu was once located on the Euphrates, but the accumulation of silt ‘moved’ it further away from the river. In any case, the city is thought to have been found around 4,000 BC.
The first king of Eridu, probably, was the first king in the chronicles. His name was Abgallu (ab-water; gal-great; lu-man). He was a half-man, half-god and founded Eridu (http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=15770). It sounds very familiar to the story of Atlantis. The course of the Euphrates changed in time. And it changed a lot. A proof is the fact that Babylon was founded on the two sides of the river, according to Herodotus’ “History”. At the moment, it’s barely on one side of it. For a map of what it could have been, please access this link.
Back to the flood, excavations showed that the cities of Shuruppak, Uruk, and Kish were affected by a flood around 2,900 B.C. The fun does not stop here. The earliest version of the flood, from the 18th century BC, comes from an Akkadian epic called the Atra-Hasis (or Atrahasis) Epic (Atrahasis and Atlantis sound alike, don’t they? That is, if you pronounce Atlantis not the American way, but as the Greeks had). The first part of the epic talks about the creation of the world, how the three main gods were given the earth, the heaven, and the fresh seawater. The second tablet talks about how Enlil sent famine and diseases to decrease the population. Then Enlil and Enki decide upon the plan to flood the earth. Enki warns Atrahasis of Shuruppak about the flood. The rest of the story bares an astonishing resemblance to Noah’s arc story.
The same story appears at the Sumerians, with the name Ziusudra instead of Atrahasis. It seems that Ziusudra’s boat went down the Euphrates river and ended up in the Persian Gulf, on an island called Dilmun. If Atlantis is actually Atrahasis, it would make more sense for this name to remain with the Egyptians, given the influence of Hammurabi’s reign when the story was written.
Dilmun also appears in the story of Gilgamesh and is sometimes interpreted as the Eden of the Mesopotamian civilization. Dilmun was called ‘the place where the sun rises’. Archeologists also identify Dilmun (or Telmun) with the civilization that has lived on the island of Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf. The island developed in 3,000 BC while the oldest relics were dated 4,100BC – 3,700BC. If we put together the information taken from Mesopotamian legends and make sense of them in our own terms, 3,000 BC was a date right after or around the great deluge of 2,900 BC, when the great river flood occurred. The island was a big commercial port and Mesopotamian civilizations traded with them for a long time. The goods came from the Indus Valley as well. Probably timber and precious woods, ivory, lapis lazuli, gold, and luxury goods such as carnelian and glazed stone beads, pearls from the Persian Gulf, shell and bone inlays, were among the goods sent to Mesopotamia. (“For because of the greatness of their empire many things were brought to them from foreign countries, and the island itself provided most of what was required by them for the uses of life.” – Plato, Critias.) The civilization saw a decline starting 2,600 BC. Why it has happened is not known. However, the trade routes were affected at the cost of the Mesopotamian civilization.
Dilmun Burial Mounds; Picture taken by Philip Game
Back to Plato’s story now and the alternating circles or water and land. According to him, Poseidon built them. If the building is not attributed to people, and since we do not believe in gods building alternating circles with equidistant circumferences, we have to give Nature credit for building them. We are either talking about a small volcanic island, where the continuous eruptions created this natural feature or, even better, we may be talking about a delta. For example, the Euphrates nd Tigris delta in Mesopotamia. Nowadays, according to a US report, the Euphrates delta became almost inexistent. The land is winning more and more territory. But in those times, the delta and the marshes were a splendor.
I don’t think there were any hot and cold springs in Mesopotamia, but never say never. The climate was completely different back then. Let us also keep in mind that, while the surface is covered in sand, there is plenty of water when digging.
According to Rzóska, wild oxen, elephants, and rhinos seemed to have existed in the Mesopotamia until the 13th century BC. The Bible talks about the existence of elephants. It is possible that we are talking about a smaller species of Asian elephants that became extinct, while the big elephants migrated to India.
“[…] they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And at the very beginning they built the palace in the habitation of the god and of their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to the utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to behold for size and for beauty.” Needless to say how impressive the ziggurats looked back then; impressive enough to shock us even nowadays. Most of the temples and palaces fell or were destroyed, then rebuilt in a grander style.
“[…] beginning from the sea they bored a canal of three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbor, and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to find ingress.” Mesopotamians were the best at building canals. Actually, kings were as proud of building canals and improving irrigation as they were of their warfare. Every deal was recorded. They were very skilled in building digs and aqueducts. The city was not on the shore of the ocean or the sea, but a little inland, probably bordering a river. They also built large canals for boat travel and for connecting cities.
“Also whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flower, grew and thrived in that land.” The Plato mentions and implies the fruits of the dessert, of the marshes, or of the plains and mountains. Mesopotamia had them all. They had pulse (peas and beans) and coconuts. Their marshes in the South and the shores of the rivers were rich in palm trees. They used them for food, wood, fibers, and fodders. According to scholars, they also had chickpeas, lentils, leeks, garlic, onions, barley, wheat, apples, pears, pomegranates, turnips, and pistachios. The climate in the North was different than the one in the South and that allowed them to crop a great variety of food. They also grew spices, herbs, and many delicious fruits, such as the fig. They used grapes to produce wine and they were among the first civilizations to make beer. The olive oil is native to Mesopotamia.
A list of 800 different items of food and drink from 1,900 BC remained to us in cuneiform script. They knew how to make cheese, they prepared soups and 300 types of bread. They had a cult for food, especially the rich ones.
Although around 2,000 BC the arch construction techniques appeared in Mesopotamia, theoretically no bridges were built until around 600 BC. Funnily enough, Herodotus does mention mobile bridges over the Euphrates in his “History” (see above).
In 1998, archeologists reported that Mesopotamians were already creating synthetic rock by 4,000 BC. It was created by heating up river silt to very high temperatures. Normally, they would have had to bring rock from 1,000 kilometers, from Turkey and Iran.
Mesopotamians had tin, silver, gold, brass, and possibly imported ivory, red gold, and cornelian. They also made use of lapis lazuli, copper alloy, shell, red limestone, and bitumen.
You can see a cornelian on the right. (Picture from Bahamas Glomat)
(to be continued)
Copyright: Andreea Haktanir 1997-2007