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Uruk 5000 Years of the Megacity
Past Horizons ^ | 1-8-2013

Posted on 01/09/2013 4:13:48 AM PST by Renfield

Exactly one hundred years ago, finds from an excavation in the south of present-day Iraq sent shockwaves around the academic world as archaeologists working at the site of the Mesopotamian city of Uruk, (modern day Warka in Iraq), brought to light the first known urban culture.

Uruk the first city of Sumer

For thousands of years, southern Mesopotamia was home to hunters, fishers and farmers exploiting the fertile soil and abundant wildlife, but by 3200 B.C., the largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia, if not the world, was Uruk: a true city dominated by monumental buildings of mudbrick decorated with painted clay cones embedded in the walls.

Reconstruction of a clay cone mosaic from Uruk © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum / photo: Olaf M. Teßmer

Reconstruction of a clay cone mosaic from Uruk © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum / photo: Olaf M. Teßmer

Large-scale sculpture appears here for the first time, together with metal casting using the lost-wax process. Pictographs were marked on clay tablets to record the management of goods and the allocation of workers’ rations. These pictographs are the earliest formal writings, and are the precursors of later cuneiform writing.

Until around 3000 B.C., objects inspired by Mesopotamia were found in central Iran to the Egyptian Nile Delta however, this culture underwent a collapse and became introspective for the next few centuries.

 

Colossal statue of a hero, ‘Gilgamesh’, plaster cast, original in Khorsabad,late 8th c. BCE © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum / photo: Olaf M. Teßmer

Colossal statue of a hero, ‘Gilgamesh’, plaster cast, original in Khorsabad,late 8th c. BCE © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum / photo: Olaf M. Teßmer

City of legend

Yet even after this Uruk expanded and during the following Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.), when city-states dominated Mesopotamia, the city rulers gradually grew in importance and expressed power through consumption of luxury goods from across the ancient world, acquired either by trade or conquest.

Uruk was surrounded by a massive wall, which according to tradition was built on the orders of Gilgamesh. Although he may have been an actual king of Uruk around 2700 B.C., Gilgamesh becomes the legendary hero of later stories including the famous Epic.

Although Uruk had been one of the prominent cities of Early Dynastic Sumer, it was ultimately annexed into the Akkadian Empire and went into decline, partly due to agricultural failures as well as the north taking pre-eminence. Later, in the Neo-Sumerian period, Uruk enjoyed revival as a major economic and cultural centre under the sovereignty of Ur. Several buildings were restored as part of an ambitious programme, which included a new temple for Inanna.

Following the collapse of Ur (2000 BC), Uruk went into a steep decline until about 850 BC when the Neo-Assyrian Empire annexed it as a provincial capital. Uruk, now known as Orchoë to the Greeks, continued to thrive under the Seleucid Empire (312 BC–63 BC), but with a shift in the Euphrates River by 300 AD, the city was mostly abandoned and by c 700 AD it was completely deserted.

Uruk/Warka Excavation in 1929/30 © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient Abteilung

Uruk/Warka Excavation in 1929/30 © Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient Abteilung

The excavations

After the German Oriental Society was granted the necessary license from the Ottoman Empire, teams commenced excavation work in Uruk in November 1912. The turbulent political situation and ensuing military conflict soon put a stop to their endeavour, setting a trend that has continued to affect work at the site to this day.

More than forty excavation campaigns have taken place so far in all. Even though less than five percent of the huge area that once made up the city has been explored, the current findings provide us with a wealth of details on the ancient Near-Eastern city.

It was customary at the time to divide up finds from a single site and remove them from the country of their origin. This led to scores of finds making their way to Germany, where they were not only preserved at the Museum of the Ancient Near East in the Pergamonmuseum, but also at the DAI’s Uruk-Warka’s Collection, which is housed at the University of Heidelberg.

Thanks to the unique cooperation of the four institutions involved in today’s project, objects from long-separated collections will now go on display to the public under one roof for the first time.

These artefacts will be joined by numerous valuable loans from major European museums such as the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London and the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, as well as by newly created digital reconstructions of both the ancient city’s layout and several of its key monuments.

Discovery of the statuette of a 'high priest' in a vesse. l© Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient Department

Discovery of the statuette of a ‘high priest’ in a vesse. l© Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient Department

Major new exhibition

To mark the 100th anniversary of the ongoing excavation project at the ancient city, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum has joined forces with the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim to present the major exhibition ‘URUK – 5000 Years of the Megacity’. The exhibition is the result of the two museums’ close collaboration with the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and the German Oriental Society.

This spectacular exhibition shines a spotlight on the genesis and flourishing of the first known city in the history of humankind some 5000 years ago, and its special importance for the ancient Near East as a whole. ‘URUK – 5000 Years of the Megacity’ will be on show from 25 April to 8 September 2013, at the Pergamonmuseum and from 20 October 2013 to 21 April 2014 at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim.

The exhibition at Berlin

The first stage of the show will be presented in a part of the Vorderasiatisches Museum’s permanent exhibition in the south wing of the Pergamonmuseum. Since its opening in 1930, the Pergamonmuseum has been home to breath-taking reconstructions of the more than 5000 year-old clay cone mosaics that characterized the large architectural monuments that arose as a consequence of the burgeoning urban culture. As part of the major exhibition ‘URUK – 5000 Years of the Megacity’, these earliest examples of urban architecture will be presented along with newly produced virtual reconstructions.
Source: Pergamonmuseum


TOPICS: History; Science
KEYWORDS: archaeology; godsgravesglyphs; iraq; mesopotamia; uruk

1 posted on 01/09/2013 4:14:00 AM PST by Renfield
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping


2 posted on 01/09/2013 4:15:45 AM PST by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield
Thanks for posting this story! Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Learn all that is learnable.
3 posted on 01/09/2013 4:42:44 AM PST by 2001convSVT (Going Galt as fast as I can.)
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To: 2001convSVT

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” - Proverbs 1:7


4 posted on 01/09/2013 5:09:31 AM PST by Bosco (Remember how you felt on September 11?)
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To: Renfield

A city east of Eden. The formation of this city isn’t long after the death of Adam if you believe the timeline laid out in the Bible.


5 posted on 01/09/2013 5:33:04 AM PST by uncommonsense (Conservatives believe what they see; Liberals see what they believe.)
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To: uncommonsense

Boy Adam and Eve must of had a whole lot of kids.


6 posted on 01/09/2013 5:42:31 AM PST by Blackirish (Forward Comrades!!!!!!!!!)
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To: Blackirish

1 a year for 900 years, and 50% of those having 1 a year for 900 years and so on. The population growth from healthy stock who live over 800 years is fairly profound.


7 posted on 01/09/2013 5:51:06 AM PST by uncommonsense (Conservatives believe what they see; Liberals see what they believe.)
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To: Renfield

Thanks for posting, Renfield. The whole area is very interesting. Seems like the concept of ‘city’ is embedded in human brains.

The book ‘After The Ice’ has a detailed look at the growth of agricultural societies in this area shortly after the Younger Dryas event, I recommend it.


8 posted on 01/09/2013 6:30:55 AM PST by squarebarb ( Fairy tales are basically true.)
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To: uncommonsense

Too bad you have to latch onto this interesting article in order to spew out some anti-Christian rhetoric.

I suppose archaeology either frightens or confuses you.


9 posted on 01/09/2013 6:32:35 AM PST by squarebarb ( Fairy tales are basically true.)
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To: Renfield
Don't underestimate mud brick cities, as they can be most impressive. Bam, Iran, for one, features a great medieval citadel that withstood a devastating earthquake not too long ago.

Likewise, the palace at Timbuktu is quite something.


10 posted on 01/09/2013 6:54:41 AM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Best WoT news at rantburg.com)
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To: squarebarb
"Too bad you have to latch onto this interesting article in order to spew out some anti-Christian rhetoric."

I think you replied to the wrong person. I said nothing anti-Christian. Quite the contrary.

11 posted on 01/09/2013 7:04:01 AM PST by uncommonsense (Conservatives believe what they see; Liberals see what they believe.)
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To: squarebarb; uncommonsense

What did he say that is anti Christian?? Not seeing it.


12 posted on 01/09/2013 7:06:55 AM PST by HereInTheHeartland (Witty saying goes here...)
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the vast knowledge folks had, since God created them, going back to adam and eve, is quite evident in this subject. hardly the half-ass backward types that folks assume they were....

after the tower of babel despersion, that vast treasure trove of God given knowledge and talent, dissipated as folks spread out over the earth and moved further away from their roots.


13 posted on 01/09/2013 7:42:21 AM PST by raygunfan
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To: Renfield

Five thousand years history, and what do the current inhabitants have to show for it? Not much. They are probably more savage now than they were back then.


14 posted on 01/09/2013 1:30:29 PM PST by TexasRepublic (Socialism is the gospel of envy and the religion of thieves)
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To: Renfield; blam

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Renfield. Nice one! After the boys of Sumer have gone...

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


15 posted on 01/09/2013 6:32:50 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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Chapter 28: Was the Dispersion at Babel a Real Event? -- Answers in Genesis -- According to Archbishop Ussher, the date of Babel would have been near 2242 B.C.5 See table 1 for a comparison to other events according to Ussher.

Table 1. Major Dates According to Ussher

Major event Date (According to Ussher)
Creation 4004 B.C.
Global Flood 2348 B.C.
Tower of Babel 2242 B.C.
Call of Abraham 1921 B.C.
Time of the Judges (Moses was first) 1491 B.C. (God appeared to Moses in the burning bush)
Time of the Kings (Saul was the first) 1095 B.C.
Split Kingdom 975 B.C.
Christ Was Born 5 B.C.

It was during the days of Peleg that the family groups left the plain of Shinar and traveled to different parts of the world, taking with them their own language that other families couldn’t understand. Not long after this, Babylon (2234 B.C.), Egypt (2188 B.C.), and Greece (2089 B.C.) began.6 Civilizations that were closer to Babel (e.g., those in the Middle East) were established prior to civilizations farther from Babel (e.g., those in Australia or the Americas).


16 posted on 01/09/2013 6:46:08 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Fake answers for people who don't ask enough questions.)
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To: SunkenCiv; uncommonsense; Renfield

I’m starting to remember why I don’t do archaeology/anthropology much any more, especially on FR.


17 posted on 01/09/2013 9:19:48 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

What you said. :’) The key is in the previous tagline.


18 posted on 01/10/2013 3:48:06 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: SunkenCiv
-Roll Tide-
19 posted on 01/10/2013 6:37:31 AM PST by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

As Bishop Ussher and his ilk persecuted some of my ancestors, I have never felt like adhering to his opinions, among other reasons.


20 posted on 01/10/2013 11:18:42 AM PST by colorado tanker
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