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The Ancient Near East Portal
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Sumerian inscription
The Sumerian language was the language of ancient Sumer, spoken in Southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the first century AD. Then, it was forgotten until the 19th century, when Assyriologists began deciphering the cuneiform inscriptions and excavated tablets left by these speakers. Sumerian is a language isolate.

The Sumerian language is the earliest known written language. It first appeared as numerical records, with symbols added to represents the things counted, which then developed into a logographic script representing the whole language, not just accounting objects. The logographic symbols were then generalized using a wedge-shaped stylus to impress the shapes into wet clay, giving rise to the name cuneiform, meaning "wedge-shape". These distinctive wedge shapes were imitated even in carved inscriptions. By ca. 2600 BC, the large set of logographic signs had been simplified into a syllabary of several hundred signs, allowing modern Assyriologists to understand many aspects of the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language.

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Assur and Mesopotamia
Tiglath-Pileser I (Akkadian, Tukultī-apil-Ešarra, "my trust is in the son of Eshara", reigned c. 1115 – 1076 BC (short chronology)) was the most notable Assyrian ruler between the Old and Neo-Assyrian kingdoms. In the wake of the Bronze Age collapse, he conquered all the lands in northern Mesopotamia. From his surviving inscriptions, he seems to have carefully cultivated a fear of himself in his subjects and enemies alike. Ultimately, his kingdom did not survive long after his death.

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Shedu
Credit: Luidger
Shedu
Sargon II's palace, Dur-Sharrukin, Assyria, 721-705 BC (Louvre)

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Did you know...

Silver cup from Marvdasht with Linear Elamite inscription on it, c. 3rd millennium BC (National Museum of Iran)
...that the ancient Elamite language is proposed to be distantly related to the modern Dravidian languages? It is attested from c. 2500 BC, and a still undeciphered "proto-Elamite" goes back to c. 3000 BC.

...that the earliest attested Semitic language is Akkadian, c. 2500 BC?

...that the earliest attested Indo-European language is Hittite, from c. the 18th century BC?

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61 news items

Christian Science Monitor

Catholic Online
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:07:18 -0700

The ancient village possessed large buildings made of mud bricks and a great number of silos that could each store between 15 and 30 tons of wheat and barley, an unprecedented scale for the ancient Near East. The village had many roasting ovens, ...
 
Raw Story
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 06:52:30 -0700

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base ...

International Business Times UK

International Business Times UK
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 06:31:16 -0700

The team, comprising researchers from universities in Israel and the US, stated that it was the largest and oldest palatial wine cellar ever to be found in the Ancient Near East. The study, Characterizing a Middle Bronze Palatial Wine Cellar from Tel ...

Yahoo News Canada (blog)

HeritageDaily
Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:56:40 -0700

The influence of climate on agriculture is believed to be a key factor in the rise and fall of societies in the Ancient Near East. Dr. Simone Riehl of Tübingen University's Institute for Archaeological Science and the Senckenberg Center for Human ...
 
The Conversation UK
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 11:11:15 -0700

My approach to the subject of wine in the ancient Near East differs from previous material that has been researched in a seemingly one-dimensional manner. There is undoubtedly a large variety of work in the areas of viticulture, cultural interaction ...
 
The Guardian Nigeria
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0700

The silos reached a storage capacity estimated at 15–30 tons of grain, a clear indication of the accumulation of surpluses on a scale unprecedented in the ancient Near East. Archaeologists also discovered rich assemblages of painted pottery, over 2,500 ...
 
Strategy Page
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 08:45:00 -0700

Nevertheless, while intended primarily for a scholarly audience, Rituals of Triumph in the Mediterranean World, a volume in the Brill series “Culture and History of the Ancient Near East,” may be read with profit by the layman with an interest in ...
 
Middle East Forum
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:18:45 -0700

The dissolution of the colonial creation named "Iraq" is now almost complete. Perhaps what comes next is a return to the past; not a brutal Islamic "caliphate," but something more basic. Today, Mesopotamia is reappearing. The term is a Greek word ...
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