Cuneiform is considered the single most significant legacy of the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. It was developed c. 3500-3000 BCE, is considered the first written language created, and was used for well over 1000 years. The oldest-dated cuneiform tablets mostly contain records of business transactions. However, over the centuries, cuneiform tables covered various different topics such as affairs of state, religion, magic, history, contracts, and were used for personal and professional communication (letters).
An example of an interesting cuneiform collection is the Amarna Letters. These letters were found in Upper Egypt at Amarna and there are 382 known tablets in total. The letters are mostly diplomatic correspondence between the Ancient Near East and Egypt and contain a structure for the first known diplomatic system. However, the letters have additional significance for two different types of research: Egyptology and biblical studies. Egyptologists are interested in the letters because they are mostly written in Akkadian cuneiform which was used in ancient Mesopotamia rather than ancient Egypt. Biblical studies make use of these letters to understand the culture and language of the Canaanite peoples in pre-biblical times.
Cuneiform tablet inscribed with a letter from Tushratta, king of Mitanni, to Amenhotep III of Egypt. It was found in Tell el-Amarna and dates from c. 1350 BC, when the city was known as Akhetaten. In this letter, the kings were negotiating a diplomatic marriage between Amenhotep III and a Mitanian princess. Tushratta asks for much gold as a bride-price. (The British Museum, London). Photo © Priscila Scoville.
Secrets of the Nile, prelude for the Memoirs of Nathanial Kenworthy series. Photo © Roger Kenworthy.
Jade Koekoe, Blog Editor of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), recently spoke with novelist Dr. Roger Kenworthy, to discuss his series Memoirs of Nathanial Kenworthy. Roger writes historical fiction covering topics such as ancient history, adventure, reincarnation, time travel that is based on a variety of ancient cultures.
Ancient art and archaeological remains have provided archaeologists and historians today with clues to how the ancients practiced their sexuality and their overall attitude toward sex. To the causal observer, it seems the ancients were more open about their sexuality then we are today. In ancient Rome there were artworks in living rooms or studies depicting erotic images of lovers performing various sexual acts and in ancient Mesopotamia mass-produced terracotta plagues would show couples having sex.
The Secret Cabinet
For the Romans, sex was a part of their everyday lives, state affairs, religious rites, myths, even warfare, and featured prominently in their art. One of the most famous collections of erotic art from Roman culture is the artwork featured in the secret cabinet (gabinetto segreto). The secret cabinet collection is now part of the Naples National Archaeological Museum. It is said when King Francis I of Naples visited with his wife and daughter in 1819 he was so shocked by the contents of the collection he had them locked away. A brick wall was even built over the doorway to keep the scenes from corrupting people.
The following are a few select images of the artwork and artifacts found in the secret cabinet collection.
This Roman fresco shows the act of making love. It was found in the bedroom (cubiculum) of the Casa del Centenario (IX 8,3) in Pompeii. 1st Century CE. Photo © Heinrich Stürzl.
When you enter the main hall of the Sulaymaniyah Museum of Iraqi Kurdistan, you will encounter two large replicas of the rock-reliefs from the Mountains Merquli and Rabana. I was interested to know how to reach the originals and asked one of the Museum’s employees about it. He said they lie on two mountains outside the city of Sulaymaniyah and that you need someone to take you there because there are no clues on their precise location.
Replica of Mountain Merquli’s rock-relief. The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
If you’re staying in Athens then you will almost certainly visit the world famous National Museum and so have your breath pleasurably taken from you as you marvel at the treasures of Greece‘s glorious past. As this stupendous collection seems to have been pillaged from every local museum across Greece you might be forgiven for thinking that those other museums must have nothing more to present than empty shelves and little cards indicating, with some apology, that said artefact has been moved to Athens. Astonishingly though, even more wonders await the more intrepid traveller, in this case just down the road in nearby Piraeus.
A bronze statue of Artemis attributed to the sculptor Euphranor, mid-4th century BCE.
Here is another image post for you all to enjoy, today’s topic is the Greek temples!
Greek temples (naos – meaning dwelling place in reference to the belief that the god dwelt in that place, or at least temporarily visited during rituals) were places of formal worship. Each Greek community had its own sacred sites and temples which were looked after by priests.
The temple of Zeus at Nemea was constructed in c. 330 BCE and replaced an earlier temple which had stood from the 6th to 5th century BCE. Inside was a cult statue of the god. The temple was composed of an exterior Doric peristyle (6×12 unusually tall and slim columns) with an interior Corinthian colonnade, topped by a second story of the Ionic order. There were no sculpted decorations on the exterior. It is regarded as the last of the great Doric temples of the Classical tradition. The temple measures a little over 20×42 m, the material used is locally quarried limestone. Three of the now standing columns have stood since original construction (slightly darker colour), the others have been repositioned in the early 2000’s CE using the original, fallen drums. Photo © Mark Cartwright.