Nowruz Persian New Year

Persepolis all nations staircase.

People from across Persia bring Nowruz gifts for the king.

Nowruz is the traditional Iranian festival of spring which starts at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring. It is considered as the start of the New Year among Iranians. The name comes from Avestan meaning “new day/daylight”. Noruz is celebrated March 20/21 each year, at the time the sun enters Aries.

Noruz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. Today the festival of Noruz is celebrated in Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Tajikestan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The Zoroastrian Parsis of India celebrate Noruz twice, firstly in common with their Iranian brethren on the vernal equinox as Jamshedi Navroz (also referred to as the Fasli New Year) and secondly on a day in July or August, depending upon whether they follow the Kadmi or the Shahenshahi calendar. This is because the practice of intercalation in the Zoroastrian calendar was lost on their arrival in India. The Kadmi New Year always precedes the Shahenshahi New Year by 30 days. In 2005, Noruz is celebrated on August 20 (Shahenshahi).

The Baha’i Faith, a religion with its origin in Iran, celebrates this day (spelling it “Naw Ruz”) as a religious holiday marking not only the new year according to the Baha’i calendar, but the end of their Nineteen Day Fast. Persian Baha’is still observe many Iranian customs associated with it, but Bahai’s all over the world celebrate it as a festive day, according to local custom. American Baha’i communities, for example, may have a potluck dinner, along with prayers and readings from Baha’i scripture. While Naw Ruz, according to scripture, begins on the vernal equinox, Baha’is currently celebrate it on March 21, regardless of what day the equinox falls. Baha’is are required to suspend work and school in observance.

Although the Persian Calendar is very precise about the very moment of turn of the new year, Noruz itself is by definition the very first calendar day of the year, regardless of when the natural turn of the year happens. For instance, in some years, the actual natural moment of turn of the year could happen before the midnight of the first calendar day, but the calendar still starts at 00:00 hours for 24 hours, and those 24 hours constitue the Noruz. Iranians typically observe the exact moment of the turn of the year.

History of Noruz

The name of Noruz does not occur until the second century AD in any Persian records. We have reasons to believe that the celebration is much older than that date and was surely celebrated by the people and royalty during the Achaemenid times (555-330 BC). It has often been suggested that the famous Persepolis Complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Noruz. However, no mention of the name of Noruz exists in any Achaemenid inscription.

Our oldest records of Noruz go back to the Arsacid/Parthian times (247 BC-224 AD). There are specific references to the celebration of Noruz during the reign of Arsacid Emperor Vologases I (51-78 AD). Unfortunately, the lack of any substantial records about the reign of the Arsacids leaves us with little to explore about the details of Noruz during their times.

After the accession of Ardashir I Pabakan, the founder of the Sasanian Dynasty (224 AD), consistent data for the celebration of Noruz were recorded.

Throughout the Sasanian era (224-650 AD), Noruz was celebrated as the most prominent ritual during the year. Most royal traditions of Noruz such as yearly common audiences, cash gifts, and pardon of prisoners, were established during the Sasanian era and they persisted unchanged until the modern times.

Noruz, along with Sadeh that is celebrated in mid-winter, were the two pre-Islamic celebrations that survived in the Islamic society after 650 AD.

Other celebrations such Gahanbar and Mehragan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians who carried them as far as India. Noruz, however, was most honoured even by the early founders of Islam.

There are records of the Four Great Caliphs presiding over Noruz celebrations, and during the Abbasid era, it was adopted as the main royal holiday.

Following the demise of the Caliphate and re-emergence of Persian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Noruz was elevated into an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sasanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the Caliphate. Even the Turkish and Mongol invaders of Iran did not attempt to abolish Noruz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Noruz remained as the main celebration in the Persian lands by both the officials and the people.


During the Noruz holidays people are expected to pay house visits to one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbours) in the form of short house visits and the other side will also pay you a visit during the holidays before the 13th day of the spring.

Typically, on the first day of Noruz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, on the very first day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members.

Typically, the youngers visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later. The visits naturally have to be relatively short, otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on their list. Every family announces in advance to their relatives and friends which days of the holidays are their reception days.

A visit generally lasts around 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time. Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and special nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items plus tea or syrup.

Many Iranians will throw large Noruz parties in a central location as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.

Some Noruz celebrants believe that whatever a person does on Noruz will affect the rest of the year. So, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors on Noruz, then the new year will be a good one. On the other hand, if there are fights and disagreements, the year will be a bad one. Also, many people do a significant amount of “Spring Cleaning” prior to Noruz to rid the house of last year’s dirt and germs in preparation for a good new year.

One tradition that may not be very widespread (that is, it may belong to only a few families) is to place something sweet, such as honey or candy, in a safe place outside overnight. On the first morning of the new year, the first person up brings the sweet stuff into the house as another means of attaining a good new year.

The traditional herald of the Noruz season is called Haji Pirooz, or Hadji Firuz. He symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year. Wearing black make up and a red costume, Haji Pirooz sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer and the news of the coming New Year.

The thirteenth day of the New Year festival is called Sizdah Bedar (meaning “thirteen outdoors”). It often falls on or very close to April Fool’s Day, as it is celebrated in some countries. People go out in the nature in groups and spend all day outdoors in the nature in form of family picnics. It is a day of festivity in the nature, where children play and music and dancing is abundant. On this day, people throw their sabzeh away in the nature as a symbolic act of making the nature greener, and to dispose of the bad luck that the sprouts are said to have been collecting from the household.

The thirteenth day celebrations, Seezdah Bedar, stem from the belief of the ancient Persians that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of which, the sky and the earth collapsed in chaos.

Hence, Noe-Rooz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.

At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen spread (which has symbolically collected all the sickness and bad luck) is thrown away into running water to exorcise the demons (divs) and evil eyes from the house hold. It is also customary for young single women to tie the leaves of the sabzeh, prior to discarding it, symbolizing their wish to be married before the next year’s Seezdah Bedar. When tying the leaves, they whisper.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam,
The Astronomer-Poet of Persia.

Omar Khayyam was born at Naishapur in Khorassan in the latter half of our Eleventh, and died within the First Quarter of our Twelfth Century. The Slender Story of his Life is curiously twined about that of two other very considerable Figures in their Time and Country: one of whom tells the Story of all Three. This was Nizam ul Mulk, Vizier to Alp Arslan the Son, and Malik Shah the Grandson, of Toghrul Beg the Tartar, who had wrested Persia from the feeble Successor of Mahmud the Great, and founded that Seljukian Dynasty which finally roused Europe into the Crusades. This Nizam ul Mulk, in his Wasiyat–or Testament–which he wrote and left as a Memorial for future Statesmen–relates the following, as quoted in the Calcutta Review, No. 59, from Mirkhond’s History of the Assassins. Continue reading Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Interview with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Director of the Pyramids

NOVA: Recently your crews unearthed one of the only intact tombs found since the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s. What was that like?

Hawass: Very exciting. When I attended the opening of the tomb, it was like looking at the past and the future. There was a big, six-ton sarcophagus. I had to ask myself, Is it empty? Is there something? In archaeology, you have to be a lucky person. If you are unlucky, you can excavate your entire life and discover nothing. Therefore, when we took off the lid of this sarcophagus and found inside another five-ton anthropoid sarcophagus, beautifully inscribed, and underneath that a mummy, it was a moment that no one could really describe.

text here Relief from the tomb of Kai, showing traces of 4,600-year-old paint.

NOVA: You’ve been excavating the tombs of the Pyramid builders. What have you found?

Hawass: We’ve uncovered titles of the craftsmen, draftsmen, tombmakers, the overseer of the east side of the Pyramid, the overseer of the west side of the Pyramid, and so on. We found that the average age at death of the workmen was very early, 30 to 35, while officials died at 50 to 60. We’ve also studied the bones in these tombs, which have provided much information. All the skeletons of men and women show signs of stress in their backs, because people were involved in moving heavy stuff. We determined through x-rays that someone had syphilis, and we found evidence of brain surgery on a workman, who lived for two years afterwards. The ancients even had emergency treatment for workers on site, because we discovered that they were fixing broken bones and even amputating legs that had been crushed by a falling stone.

We have unearthed another 65 tombs, the best being that of the priest Kai, which is dated to the reign of Khufu. It is a beautiful painted tomb with a unique artistic style. One relief shows Kai’s daughter affectionately putting her arm around his shoulder. At the entrance to the tomb it says that it is the tombmakers and craftsmen who made his tomb. He says, “I paid them beer and bread. I made them to make an oath that they were satisfied.”

NOVA: Egyptologists often talk about pyramids as “complexes,” especially at Giza. How do the Pyramids integrate with the Sphinx and the temples at Giza?

Hawass: People always look at the Pyramids by themselves, but each lies within a group of related architectural components, including subsidiary pyramids, solar-boat pits, a palace, a harbor, workshops, and a funerary temple connected by a causeway to a valley temple. Together these constituted the physical elements of the cult of the pharaoh, in which the king was worshipped after his death. The Sphinx itself is connected to the Pyramid of Khafre.

text here A lone camel driver makes his way home against Pyramids gilded by a late-afternoon sun.

NOVA: It is difficult to get an inside sense of what life was like during the Pyramid Age. Can you give us a glimpse of what you’ve learned about the life of the pharaohs in Dynastic times?

Hawass: Well, the basic design was for the king to become a god. To achieve that status, he had to do certain things in his lifetime. He had to build a tomb, such as a pyramid. He had to erect temples for worshipping the gods, such as the funerary and valley temples at Giza or the great mortuary temples at Luxor. He had to “smite his enemies,” that is, win victories in battle against foreigners. And he had to sustain the unification of the two lands, Upper and Lower Egypt.

Then, after the king’s death, he was buried in his tomb. The walls of the tomb depict scenes to help guide him through the afterlife. A funerary cult developed, and his followers worshipped him as a deity for years afterward. The ancient Egyptians believed their kings would live again for all time.

NOVA: Do most Egyptians today feel an ancestral link to the ancient Egyptians?

Hawass: Of course, because we are the descendants of the pharaohs. If you look at the faces of the people of Upper Egypt, the relationship between modern and ancient Egypt is very clear. Habits in the villages, our celebrations when we finish a project, are similar to what they had in ancient Egypt. After someone dies, we make a celebration after 40 days, just like the ancient Egyptians did during the mummification process. Everything in our lives is like ancient Egypt.

text here Zahi Hawass poses with the future gilded capstone.

NOVA: What are your plans for celebrating the new millennium at the Pyramids?

Hawass: We are approaching the third millennium A.D., and we’re celebrating the third millennium B.C. If you ask people where they would like to spend the change of millennium, many would say near the Pyramids, because the Pyramids have magic and mystery. Many people even dream about the Pyramids!

Our celebration of the millennium will consist of two parts. The first part will happen December 31st, 1999. Jean-Michel Jarre, the well-known composer, is designing a party that will extend from sunset to sunrise, through the change from night to day. Who knows? It could be that something incredible will happen here. We’re also designing a capstone encased in gold, which we’ll place on top of the Great Pyramid by helicopter on that day.

In excavations at Abusir, I discovered two important scenes in blocks. One scene shows the king and his workmen dragging a capstone; other scenes depict people dancing and singing. My interpretation is that when the king finished building the Pyramid, he had his workmen place a capstone sheathed in gold on top. Then everyone danced and sang—one million individuals celebrating—because the Pyramid was a national project. Every household in every village, in the north and south, participated in building it. (If you thought today of building a pyramid, you’d never do it, because you don’t have what drove the Egyptians. Pyramids were built in Eygpt, because the ancient Egyptians made technology for the afterlife, while we make technology for our life today.)

The second part of the millennium celebration will take place at the beginning of January. Several years ago, in cooperation with the Germans, we found a stone inside the Great Pyramid with two copper handles on it. We will send a robot to see what’s behind this door. This will be something that everyone all over the world will be waiting to find out.

NOVA: Are tourists a danger to the Pyramids and, if so, what are you doing about it?

Hawass: When tourists enter the Pyramid, they leave behind a lot of water in their breath. This becomes salt, which can create cracks. We are now removing this salt mechanically, with ventilation systems, and restoring the cracks. But to tell you the truth, if I had the power, I would close such things as the Pyramids and the tombs of Seti, Nefertari, and King Tut at Luxor. These are things we cannot repeat; we should close them to save them.

text here The Giza Plateau.

We’re undertaking a major conservation project on the Giza Plateau. This will include a ring road around the plateau. All cars will have to use this; none will be permitted around the Pyramids themselves. We’re building a new stable for camels and horses in the desert to the south of the Pyramids. And we’re demolishing all unnecessary buildings on the plateau, including guard houses, rest houses, and even my office. Only then can we have the plateau as a sacred, divine place, where visitors can have private time to enjoy the magic and mystery.

Soon I will open a site located between Sakkara and Giza called Abusir, which contains 11 pyramids. They call them the “forgotten pyramids,” because no one knows anything about them. If we open these, then hopefully fewer people will visit the Great Pyramid, which when it’s open is visited by 5,000 people a day, Egyptians and foreigners.

NOVA: Do you think there’s too much excavation and not enough restoration and conservation?

Hawass: I personally think that excavations should be stopped completely in Upper Egypt—completely, for ten years. We’ll concentrate in Upper Egypt only in conservation, restoration, epigraphy, photography, and publication. (In the Delta, on the other hand, you can encourage excavations, because moisture is quickly deteriorating the monuments.)

Egyptologists have to stop being selfish. I know to get funding you’ve got to excavate, but we have to think about future generations, what they will say about us. UNESCO now is telling everyone that in 200 years these monuments will be finished because of massive tourism. We have to think about site management and preservation.

text here A restored Sphinx dwarfs its chief modern guardian, Zahi Hawass.

NOVA: The Sphinx has undergone extensive restoration in recent years. Is it possible that we run the risk of losing it, and what’s being done?

Hawass: When Emile Baraize cleared sand from around the Sphinx in 1926, he found that the mother rock had completely deteriorated. This is why I say the Sphinx has cancer. It has suffered a lot from poor restoration, including the use of cement. Limestone, the rock it’s carved from, is like a human being—it needs to breath. When you put cement on it, you stop the limestone’s ability to breath. Recently we did an enormous modern restoration, but it requires constant vigilance.

NOVA: Do you recommend young people become Egyptologists?

Hawass: I do, I do. I mean, it’s the best job in the world! I believe that Egyptologists have a mission to teach interested young people about working in the past. Archaeology, after all, is not Indiana Jones. I encourage young people to study and prepare for the field.

NOVA: Do you think that finding remains of ancient Egypt hidden in the sands will be ongoing for hundreds of years?

Hawass: I believe that we’ve only found about 30 percent of Egyptian monuments, that 70 percent of them still lie buried underneath the ground. You never know what the sand will hide in the way of secrets.

text here “I would love to be Khufu!”

NOVA: Have you ever wished you could have lived during that time?

Hawass: An interviewer once asked me something like, “If you lived in ancient times, what time would you pick?” And I said, “The time of the Great Pyramid.” Another time, the actor Omar Sharif asked me during the filming of a program, “If you believe in reincarnation, who would you wish to be?” I said, “If I believe in reincarnation, I would love to be Khufu!”

Dr. Zahi Hawass is Director of the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt. He is also in charge of the pyramids at Dashur, Abusir, Saqqara, and the Bahariya Oasis. His most recent book is The Secrets of the Sphinx: Restoration Past and Present (American University in Cairo Press, 1998).

Photos: (1,4) Peter Tyson; (2,3,5-7) Aaron Strong.

Ancient egypt woman’s

Unlike the position of women in most other ancient civilizations, including that of Greece, the Egyptian woman seems to have enjoyed the same legal and economic rights as the Egyptian man – at least in theory. This notion is reflected in Egyptian art and historical inscriptions.

It is uncertain why these rights existed for the woman in Egypt but no where else in the ancient world. It may well be that such rights were ultimately related to the theoretical role of the king in Egyptian society. If the pharaoh was the personification of Egypt, and he represented the corporate personality of the Egyptian state, then men and women might not have been seen in their familiar relationships, but rather, only in regard to this royal center of society.

Since Egyptian national identity would have derived from all people sharing a common relationship with the king, then in this relationship, which all men and women shared equally, they were–in a sense–equal to each other. This is not to say that Egypt was an egalitarian society. It was not. Legal distinctions in Egypt were apparently based much more upon differences in the social classes, rather than differences in gender. Rights and privileges were not uniform from one class to another, but within the given classes, it seems that equal economic and legal rights were, for the most part, accorded to both men and women.

Most of the textual and archaeological evidence for the role of women that survives from prior to the New Kingdom pertains to the elite, not the common folk. At this time, it is the elite, for the most part, who leave written records or who can afford tombs that contain such records. However, from the New Kingdom onward, and certainly by the Ptolemaic Period, such evidence pertains more and more to the non-elite, i.e., to women of the middle and lower classes. Actually, the bulk of the evidence for the economic freedom of Egyptian women derives from the Ptolemaic Period.

The Greek domination of Egypt, which began with the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C., did not sweep away Egyptian social and political institutions. Both Egyptian and Greek systems of law and social traditions existed side-by-side in Egypt at that time. Greeks functioned within their system and Egyptians within theirs. Mixed parties of Greeks and Egyptians making contractual agreements or who were forced into court over legal disputes would choose which of the two legal systems in which they would base their settlements. Ironically, while the Egyptians were the subjugated people of their Greek rulers, Egyptian women, operating under the Egyptian system, had more privileges and civil rights than the Greek women living in the same society, but who functioned under the more restrictive Greek social and legal system.


The Egyptian woman’s rights extended to all the legally defined areas of society. From the bulk of the legal documents, we know that women could manage and dispose of private property, including: land, portable goods, servants, slaves, livestock, and money (when it existed), as well as financial instruments (i.e., endowments and annuities). A woman could administer all her property independently and according to her free will. She could conclude any kind of legal settlement. She could appear as a contracting partner in a marriage contract or a divorce contract; she could execute testaments; she could free slaves; she could make adoptions. She was entitled to sue at law. It is highly significant that a woman in Egypt could do all of the above and initiate litigation in court freely without the need of a male representative. This amount of freedom was at variance with that of the Greek woman who required a designated male, called a kourios, to represent or stand for her in all legal contracts and proceedings. This male was her husband, father or brother.


There were several ways for an Egyptian woman to acquire possessions and real property. Most frequently, she received it as gifts or as an inheritance from her parents or husband, or else, she received it through purchases–with goods which she earned either through employment, or which she borrowed. Under Egyptian property law, a woman had claim to one-third of all the community property in her marriage, i.e. the property which accrued to her husband and her only after they were married. When a woman brought her own private property to a marriage (e.g., as a dowry), this apparently remained hers, although the husband often had the free use of it. However, in the event of divorce her property had to be returned to her, in addition to any divorce settlement that might be stipulated in the original marriage contract.

A wife was entitled to inherit one-third of that community property on the death of her husband, while the other two-thirds was divided among the children, followed up by the brothers and sisters of the deceased. To circumvent this possibility and to enable life to receive either a larger part of the share, or to allow her to dispose of all the property, a husband could do several things:

1) In the Middle Kingdom, he could draw up an imyt-pr, a “house document,” which was a legal unilateral deed for donating property. As a living will, it was made and perhaps executed while the husband was still alive. In this will, the husband would assign to his wife what he wished of his own private property, i.e., what he acquired before his marriage. An example of this is the imyt-pr of Wah from el-Lahun. 2) If there were no children, and the husband did not wish his brothers and sisters to receive two-thirds of the community property, he could legally adopt his wife as his child and heir and bequeath all the property to her. Even if he had other children, he could still adopt his wife, so that, as his one of his legal offspring, she would receive some of the two-thirds share, in addition to her normal one-third share of the community property.

A woman was free to bequeath property from her husband to her children or even to her own brothers and sisters (unless there was some stipulation against such in her husband’s will). One papyrus tells us how a childless woman, who after she inherited her husband’s estate, raised the three illegitimate children who were born to him and their female household slave (such liaisons were fairly common in the Egyptian household and seem to have borne no social stigma). She then married the eldest illegitimate step-daughter to her younger brother, whom she adopted as her son, that they might receive the entire inheritance.

A woman could also freely disinherit children of her private property, i.e., the property she brought to her marriage or her share of the community property. She could selectively bequeath that property to certain children and not to others. Such action is recorded in the Will of Naunakht.


Women in Egypt were consistently concluding contracts, including: marriage and divorce settlements, engagements of wet-nurses, purchases of property, even arrangements for self-enslavement. Self-enslavement in Egypt was actually a form of indentured servitude. Although self-enslavement appears to have been illegal in Egypt, it was practiced by both men and women. To get around the illegality, the servitude was stipulated only for a limited number of years, although it was usually said to be “99 years.”

Under self-enslavement, women often technically received a salary for their labor. Two reasons for which a woman might be forced into such an arrangement are:

(1) as payment to a creditor to satisfy bad debts;

(2) to be assured of one’s provisions and financial security, for which a person might even pay a monthly fee, as though they were receiving a service. However, this fee would equal the salary that the provider had to pay for her labor; thus, no “money” would be exchanged. Since this service was a legal institution, then a contract was drawn up stipulating the conditions and the responsibilities of the involved parties.

In executing such an arrangement, a woman could also include her children and grandchildren, alive or unborn. One such contract of a woman who bound herself to the temple of Saknebtynis states:

The female servant (so & so) has said before my master, Saknebtynis, the great god, ‘I am your servant, together with my children and my children’s children. I shall not be free in your precinct forever and ever. You will protect me; you will keep me safe; you will guard me. You will keep me sound; you will protect me from every demon, and I will pay you 1-1/4 kita of copper . . . until the completion of 99 years, and I will give it to your priests monthly.’

If such women married male “slaves,” the status of their children depended on the provisions of their contracts with their owners.


Egyptian women had the right to bring lawsuits against anyone in open court, and there was no gender-based bias against them, and we have many cases of women winning their claims. A good example of this fact is found in the Inscription of Mes. This inscription is the actual court record of a long and drawn- out private land dispute which occurred in the New Kingdom. Significantly, the inscription shows usfour things: (1) women could manage property, and they could inherit trusteeship of property; (2) women could institute litigation (and appeal to the court of the vizier); (3) women were awarded legal decisions (and had decisions reversed on appeal); (4) women acted as witnesses before a court of law.

However, based upon the Hermopolis Law Code of the third century B.C., the freedom of women to share easily with their male relatives in the inheritance of landed property was perhaps restricted somewhat. According to the provisions of theHermopolis Law Code, where an executor existed, the estate of the deceased was divided up into a number of parcels equal to the number of children of the deceased, both alive and dead. Thereafter, each male child (or that child’s heirs), in order of birth, took his pick of the parcels. Only when the males were finished choosing, were the female children permitted to choose their parcels (in chronological order). The male executor was permitted to claim for himself parcels of any children and heirs who predeceased the father without issue. Female executors were designated when there were no sons to function as such. However, the code is specific that–unlike male executors–they could not claim the parcels of any dead children.

Still, it is not appropriate to compare the provisions of the Hermopolis Law Code to the Inscription of Mes, since the latter pertains to the inheritance of an office, i.e., a trusteeship of land, and not to the land itself. Indeed, the system of dividing the estate described in the l aw code–or something similar to it- -might have existed at least as early as the New Kingdom, since the Instructions of Any contains the passage, “Do not say, ‘My grandfather has a house. An enduring house, it is called’ (i.e., don’t brag of any future inheritance), for when you take your share with your brothers, your portion may only be a storehouse.”


It is uncertain, generally, how literate the Egyptian woman was in any period. Baines and Eyre suggest very low figures for the percentage of the literate in the Egypt population, i.e., only about 1% in the Old Kingdom (i.e., 1 in 20 or 30 males). Other Egyptologists would dispute these estimates, seeing instead an amount at about 5-10% of the population. In any event, it is certain that the rate of literacy of Egyptian women was well behind that of men from the Old Kingdom through the Late Period.

Lower class women, certainly were illiterate; middle class women and the wives of professional men, perhaps less so. The upper class probably had a higher rate of literate women. In the Old and Middle Kingdoms, middle and upper class women are occasionally found in the textual and archaeological record with administrative titles that are indicative of a literate ability. In the New Kingdom the frequency at which these titles occur declines significantly, suggesting an erosion in the rate of female literacy at that time (let alone the freedom to engage in an occupation). However, in a small number of tomb representations of the New Kingdom, certain noblewomen are associated with scribal palettes, suggesting a literate ability. Women are also recorded as the senders and recipients of a small number of letters in Egypt (5 out of 353). However, in these cases we cannot be certain that they personally penned or read these letters, rather than employed the services of professional scribes.

Many royal princesses at court had private tutors, and most likely, these tutors taught them to read and write. Royal women of the Eighteenth Dynasty probably were regularly trained, since many were functioning leaders. Since royal princesses would have been educated, it then seems likely that the daughters of the royal courtiers were similarly educated. In the inscriptions, we occasionally do find titles of female scribes among the middle class from the Middle Kingdom on, especially after the Twenty- sixth Dynasty, when the rate of literacy increased throughout the country. The only example of a female physician in Egypt occurs in the Old Kingdom. Scribal instruction was a necessary first step toward medical training.


The Egyptian woman in general was free to go about in public; she worked out in the fields and in estate workshops. Certainly, she did not wear a veil, which is first documented among the ancient Assyrians (perhaps reflecting a tradition of the ancient semitic- speaking people of the Syrian and Arabian Deserts). However, it was perhaps unsafe for an Egyptian woman to venture far from her town alone.

Ramesses III boasts in one inscription, “I enabled the woman of Egypt to go her own way, her journeys being extended where she wanted, without any person assaulting her on the road.” A different view of the traveling women is found in the Instructions of Any, “Be on your guard against a woman from abroad, who is not known in town, do not have sex with her.” So by custom, there might have been a reputation of impiousness or looseness associated with a woman traveling alone in Egypt.

Despite the legal freedom of women to travel about, folk custom or tradition may have discouraged that. So, e.g., earlier in the Old Kingdom, Ptahhotep would write, “If you desire to make a friendship last in a house to which you have access to its master as a brother or friend in any place where you might enter, beware of approaching the women. It does not go well with a place where that is done.”

However, the theme of this passage might actually refer to violating personal trust and not the accessibility of women, per se. However, mores and values apparently changed by the New Kingdom. The love poetry of that era, as well as certain letters, are quite frank about the public accessibility and freedom of women.


In general, the work of the upper and middle class woman was limited to the home and the family. This was not due to an inferior legal status, but was probably a consequence of her customary role as mother and bearer of children, as well as the public role of the Egyptian husbands and sons who functioned as the executors of the mortuary cults of their deceased parents. It was the traditional role of the good son to bury his parents, support their funerary cult, to bring offerings regularly to the tombs, and to recite the offering formula. Because women are not regularly depicted doing this in Egyptian art, they probably did not often assume this role. When a man died without a surviving son to preserve his name and present offerings, then it was his brother who was often depicted in the art doing so. Perhaps because it was the males who were regularly entrusted with this important religious task, that they held the primary position in public life.

As far as occupations go, in the textual sources upper class woman are occasionally described as holding an office, and thus they might have executed real jobs. Clearly, though, this phenomenon was more prevalent in the Old Kingdom than in later periods (perhaps due to the lower population at that time). In Wente’s publication of Egyptian letters, he notes that of 353 letters known from Egypt, only 13 provide evidence of women functioning with varying degrees of administrative authority.

On of the most exalted administrative titles of any woman who was not a queen was held by a non-royal women named Nebet during the Sixth Dynasty, who was entitled, “Vizier, Judge and Magistrate.” She was the wife of the nomarch of Coptos and grandmother of King Pepi I.

However, it is possible that the title was merely honorific and granted to her posthumously. Through the length of Egyptian history, we see many titles of women which seem to reflect real administrative authority, including one woman entitled, “Second Prophet (i.e. High Priest) of Amun” at the temple of Karnak, which was, otherwise, a male office. Women could and did hold male administrative positions in Egypt. However, such cases are few, and thus appear to be the exceptions to tradition. Given the relative scarcity of such, they might reflect extraordinary individuals in unusual circumstances.

Women functioned as leaders, e.g., kings, dowager queens and regents, even as usurpers of rightful heirs, who were either their step-sons or nephews. We find women as nobility and landed gentry managing both large and small estates, e.g., the lady Tchat who started as overseer of a nomarch’s household with a son of middling status; married the nomarch; was elevated, and her son was also raised in status. Women functioned as middle class housekeepers, servants, fieldhands, and all manner of skilled workers inside the household and in estate-workshops.

Women could also be national heroines in Egypt. Extraordinary cases include: Queen Ahhotep of the early Eighteenth Dynasty. She was renowned for saving Egypt during the wars of liberation against the Hyksos, and she was praised for rallying the Egyptian troops and crushing rebellion in Upper Egypt at a critical juncture of Egyptian history. In doing so, she received Egypt’s highest military decoration at least three times, the Order of the Fly. Queen Hatshepsut, as a ruling king, was actually described as going on military campaign in Nubia. Eyewitness reports actually placed her on the battlefield weighing booty and receiving the homage of defeated rebels.


These ordinary and extraordinary roles are not the only ones in which we see Egyptian women cast in ancient Egypt. We also see Egyptian women as the victims of crime (and rape); also as the perpetrators of crime, as adulteresses and even as convicts.

Women criminals certainly existed, although they do not appear frequently in the historical record. A woman named Nesmut was implicated in a series of robberies of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the Twentieth Dynasty. Examples of women convicts are also known.

According to one Brooklyn Museum papyrus from the Middle Kingdom, a woman was incarcerated at the prison at Thebes because she fled her district to dodge the corvee service on a royal estate. Most of the concubines and lesser wives involved in the harim conspiracy against Ramesses III were convicted and had their noses and ears cut off, while others were invited to commit suicide. Another woman is indicated among the lists of prisoners from a prison at el-Lahun. However, of the prison lists we have, the percentage of women’s names is very small compared to those of men, and this fact may be significant.


Marrige was a very important part af ancient Egyptian society. Some people say it was almost a duty to get married. Husbands could marry more than one wife, and people of close relations (first cousins, brothers and sisters, ect.) could also wed one another. For the most part, however, incest was frowned upon, except in the royal family, where incest was used to safeguard the dynastic succession.

There was no age limit as to when people could be married, but generally a girl did not get married until she had begun to menstruate at about the age of 14. Some documents state that girls may have been married at the age of eight or nine, and a mummy of an eleven year-old wife has also been found. Marriage required no religious or legal ceremony. There were no special bridal clothes, no exchange of rings, no change of names to indicate marriage, and no word meaning wedding.

A girl became universally acknowledged as a wife after she physically left the protection of her father’s house and entered her new home. The new husband in no way became the new wife’s legal guardian. The wife kept her independence, and still kept control her own assets. Although the husband usually controlled any joint property obtained during the marriage it was acknowledged that a share of this belonged to the wife; if and when the marriage ended, she could collect he share. If the husband died while married, the wife got one-third of her husband’s property. re-marriage after widowhood was very common, and some grave sites indicate three or four marriages between one person.

Divorce was a private matter, and for the most part, the government did not interfere, unless upon the request of the “divorcees”. Almost any excuse could be used to end a marriage, and an alliance could be terminated at will. Anyone who had drawn up a marriage contract would have to honor those terms, and those who hadn’t could, if they wished, could invest in a legal document. Legal cases, however, were very unusual; most marriages ended with the wife moving back to the matrimonial home, returning to her family, therefore setting both parties free to marry again.

The more intimate parts of married life were very important to the Egyptians. They saw life as a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Much of their theology was based on the “cycle-principal”. Sexual intercourse was a very important part of this cycle, and the Egyptians were not modest about sex, like today’s society. The Egyptians, unlike us, were not concerned with the spiritual part of the afterlife, but rather about potency and fertility. Consequently, false penises were put on the mummified bodies of men, and artificial nipples were put on the mummified bodies of women. Both of these were designed to be fully functional in the afterlife.

Pregnancy was very important to ancient Egyptian women. A fertile woman was a successful woman. By becoming pregnant, women gained the respect of society, approval from their husbands, and the admiration of their less-fortunate sisters and sterile friends. Men needed to prove their “manliness” by fathering as many children as the possibly could, and babies were seen as a reason for boasting.

Although the mechanism of menstruation was not fully understood the significance of missing periods was clear, and many Egyptian women were able to determine if the were pregnant or not. If women were not sure, they could go to a doctor, who would perform a detailed examination of the woman’s breasts eyes, and skin. If a woman was sterile, and could not produce babies, many men solved this problem by divorcing them. But this treatment was harsh, and for the most part, frowned upon. A more publicly-accepted way of solving the problem of sterility was adoption, and due to the short life expectancy and high birth rate, there was always a supply of orphaned children.

A mother named her child immediately following birth, thereby making sure the child would have a name in the afterlife in the unfortunate case of a miscarriage. The Egyptians feared the “second-death” even more than the first one. The second-death was the complete obliteration of all earthly memory, which is why names were so important to the Egyptians. Spells were painted on the coffin of the deceased to ensure nobody would forget him or her. Many people say the Egyptian time was a good time to live. It seems that it was, at least, a nice place for women to live. It was filled with equality for them, and gave them some basic rights that today’s society is lacking.

The First Women Doctor in Ancient Egypt

Like mathematics and astronomy, medicine was quite well-developed in the Old Kingdom. Many of the physicians sunu were attached to the royal palace. Among them, there were degrees of specialization. Specialists included the physician of the eyes of the Great House sunu irty per-aa: an oculist. Other physicians were also described as dentists, entereo-gastrits, etc.

Medical instructions and precepts were written down as early as the Fifth Dynasty (2465-2322 B.C.). In the Vizier (Prime Minister) Wash-Ptahs tomb at Saqqara, an event is recorded in which the King, Neferirkare Kakai (2446-2436 B.C.), ordered the chief of physicians to bring books with which to cure an illness from which his high official suffered. Some medical works of later times – such as the so-called Edwin Smith Papyrus, for example – have been credited with great antiquity.

In 1930, in a text entitled Excavations at Giza I, 1929-1930, Dr. Selim Hassan published the stela of Peseshet, which was discovered within an Old Kingdom tomb{3}. Dr. Hassan translated Peseshets title as follows: “Overseer of the doctors.” In fact, the word imyt-r, “overseer,” does exist for the feminine gender. Moreover, the word swnu (sunu), “doctor,” is written in the text with the grammatical ending for the feminine gender, the symbol for “t”. It is clear, then, that Peseshet was a woman doctor (swnwt) and the director (imyt-r) of the women doctors (swnwwt). The fact that the word swnu, “physician,” was used declares that this title involved a question of medicine. That the word “swnwt” was used indicates a woman physician.

Lady Peseshet had another title which reads as follows: imyt-r hm(wt)-ka, that is “woman director of the soul-priestesses.” The soul-priests (or priestesses) were appointed to tend the funerary cults of private persons. As we know, women in Egyptian society enjoy high social and professional status like men. All professions were open to educated women and men, including the clergy, administration, business, and medicine, among other fields.

Apparently There was a body of female physicians in Ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom and Lady Peseshet was their director. The contemporary problem of exlucing women in special professions was absent in Ancient Egypt.

There were more than a hundred prominent female physicians in Ancient Egypt. In contrast, we do not know of any female physicians in Mesoptamian history. The medical historiography must include the fact that Lady Peseshet was indeed the first female physician in Africa and in world history. This is a fact absolutely verifiable: historical scholarship in Europe, in Africa, and across the globe has not previously brough this important historical moment to the consciousness of humanity.

Persian philosophs and sciences

It’s sure that they were Muslim but no Arab.

770-840 A.D. Mohanmmad Khwarizmi
864-930 A.D. Mohammad ibn Zakariya AL-RAZI
870-950 A.D. Farabi
900-971 A.D. born in Khorasan Mohammad ibn al-Hasan Khazin
940-997 A.D. born in Nishapur Abul Wafa Mohammad AL-BUZJANI
940-1020 A.D. born in Tus Ferdosi Faren til den modern Persisk
953-1029 A.D. born in Afschana Al-Karaji IBN SINA
1048-1131 A.D. born in Nishapur Omar Khayyam
1058-1128 A.D. born in Khorasan
1099- 1177 A.D
Hamid Ghazali
1201-1274 A.D. born in Tus Nasir al-Din Tusi
1207 A.D. born in Balkh, Persia Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
1194 A.D. born in Shiraz Sa’di
1320-1389 A.D. born in Shiraz Shams-od-Din Mohammad Hafez
1380-1429 A.D. in Kashan, Iran Ghiyath al-Din Jamshid Mas’ud al-Kashi
Abu Bekr ibn Mohammad ibn al-Husayn

Iranians have always been interested in philosophic matters.
In the pre-Islamic period, philosophy was closely linked to theology, as indeed it also was in the early Islamic period.

Gradually, however, phi!osophy developed into a separate science, and most of the great Muslim philosophers were Iranians, although since they wrote mainly in Arabic, the universal language of Islam, they are often known in the West as Arab philosophers.
Iran adopted the Indian decimal system and numerals, transmitting them to the West as the “Arabic” numerals used today. Omar Khayyam wrote the most important medieval treatise on algebra, and systematized a very accurate calendar, which is the basis of the official Iranian calendar today.
Alchemy, the forerunner of chemistry, was widely studied, and Iranian alchemists discovered many important substances, including alcohol, and developed some of the apparatus used by modern chemists.
The philosophic tradition was kept alive by Sadr-od-Din Shirazi, who in Safavid times synthesized the various threads of Islamic philosophy into a comprehensive new system, and Sabzevan, a nineteenth-century philosopher who continued and revived the tradition.
Although scientific activity declined after the fifteenth century, the present century has seen a revival. Iranian scientists, at home and abroad, they are again making valuable contributions to mankind’s store of knowledge.

Muhammad Khwarizmi (770-840 A.D. born at Khwarizm, a town south of river Oxus in present Uzbekistan.)
(Uzbekistan, a city in Persia which was taken over by the Russians in 1873.)
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was an Iranian mathematician, founder of Algebra.
He is best known for introducing the mathematical concept Algorithm, which is so named after his last name.

Abu Bakr Muhammed ibn Zakariya al-Razi auch Ar-Razi, Rhazes (865-925 A.D.)
He born in in Raj, bei Teheran (Iran)
Razi was an Iranian alchemist and a philosopher

Farabi (870-950 A.D. born in a small village Wasij, near Farab in Turkistan)
Abu Nasr Mohammad Ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi along with Ibn Sina added much to what the Greeks taught in the theory of Music
His parents were originally of Persian descent. Known as al-Phrarabius in Europe, Farabi was the son of a general. He completed his earlier education at Farab and Bukhara but, later on, he went to Baghdad for higher studies, where he studied and worked for a long time viz., from 901 A.D. to 942 A.D. During this period he acquired mastery over several languages as well as various branches of knowledge and technology. He lived through the reign of six Abbasid Caliphs. As a philosopher and scientist, he acquired great proficiency in various branches of learning and is reported to have been an expert in different languages.
Farabi travelled to many distant lands and studied for some time in Damascus and Egypt, but repeatedly came back to Baghdad, until he visited Saif al-Daula’s court in Halab (Allepo). He became one of the constant companions of the King, and it was here at Halab that his fame spread far and wide. During his early years he was aQadi (Judge), but later on the took up teaching as his profession. During the course of his career, he had suffered great hardships and at one time was the caretaker of a garden. He died a bachelor in Damascus in 339 A.H./950 A.D. at the age of 80 years.

Muhammad ibn al-Hasan Khazin (900-971 A.D. born in Khorasan)
Abu Jafar al-Khazin may have worked on both astronomy and number theory or there may have been two mathematicians both working around the same period, one working on astronomy and one on number theory.
As far as this article is concerned we will assume that al-Khazin worked on both topics. There seems no way of being certian which position is correct.

Abul Wafa Muhammad AL-BUZJANI (940-997 A.D. born in Nishapur, Persia)
He flourished as a great mathematician and astronomer.
Abul Wafa’s main contribution lies in several branches of mathematics, especially geometry and trigonometry.
Ferdosi Faren til den modern Persisk ( 940-1020 A.D. born in Toos ) 329-416 A.H..>
Ferdosi was one of the greatest poets of Persian language. He gave a new life to Irans poetry.
His work is ShahNameh.
ShahNameh includes historical, heroic and fictional stories. Some of his other works like lyric,
fragment, quatrain and elegy are available.

IBN SINA (980-1037 A.D.)
He born in Afschana (bei Buchara; Usbekistan) and died in 1037 in Hamadan (Persien)
He was the most famous physician, philosopher, encyclopaedist, mathematician and astronomer of his time.
His major contribution to medical science was his famous book al-Qanun, known as the “Canon” in the West.
The Qanun fi al-Tibb is an immense encyclo- paedia of medicine extending over a million words

Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (born in 1207 Balkh, Persia)
The name Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi stands for Love and ecstatic flight into the infinite.
Mevlana is one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind and was the founder of the Mevlevi Sufi order.
Escaping the Mongol invasion, Rumi and his family travelled extensively in the Muslim lands, performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and finally settled in Konya, Anatolia (Turkey), where he succeeded his father in 1231 as professor in religious sciences.
He was introduced into the mystical path by a wandering dervish, Shamsuddin of Tabriz. His love and his bereavement for the death of Shams found their expression in a surge of music, dance and lyric poems, `Divani Samsi Tabrizzi’. Rumi is the author of a huge didactic work, The `Mathnawi’, and discourses, `Fihi ma Fihi’, written to introduce his disciples to metaphysics. If there is `Fihi ma Fihi’, written to introduce his disciples to metaphysics. If there is any general idea underlying Rumi’s poetry, it is the absolute love of God. His influence on thought, literature and all forms of aesthetic expression in the world of Islam cannot be overrated.

Omar Khayyam (1048-1131 A.D. in Nishapur, Persia)
Omar Khayyam’s full name was Ghiyath al-Din Abu’l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami.
Khayyam was an outstanding mathematician and astronomer and, despite the difficulties which he described in this quote, he did write several works includingProblems of Arithmetic, a book on music and one on algebra before he was 25 years old.
In 1070 he moved to Samarkand in Uzbekistan which is one of the oldest cities of Central Asia. There Khayyam was supported by Abu Tahir, a prominent jurist of Samarkand, and this allowed him to write his most famous algebra work,Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra from which we gave the quote above. We shall describe the mathematical contents of this work later in this biography.

Norooz in History of Iran
The first person who re-organized the calendar successfully was Omar Khayyam, the mathematician and astronomer of 5th century HG (11-12th A.D.). He drew a chart for the year and put the start of the year at the moment of Aries entrance to the house of Sun. He made a calendar of 6 months with 31 days, and 6 months with 30 days making a year of 365 days, and suggested the addition of 1 day every four years and also addition of a months every 13,000 years. This is the most complete calendar ever made. Khayyam called it ‘the Jalali Calendar’ because of ‘Jalal’ al-Din Malekshah Saljuqi, his patron king.
This calendar called the ‘Khorshidi’(Sun based) calendar, as oppose to the Arabic ‘Ghamari’ (moon based) calendar.

Although Khayyam was Iranian and he created this calendar based on the pre-Islamic calendar of Zoroastrians, it was not used widely in Iran until the 1925 AD(1304 HS) when Reza Shah Pahlavi ordered it to be used instead of ‘Ghamari’ calendar. In the process of finding names for the months, there are some interesting mistakes happened which are note-worthy.
Norooz, in word, means a new day. It is a new day that starts the year, traditionally in the exact astronomical beginning of the Spring, but it was not always like this!

Abu-Saiid-e-Abul-Kheyr (fl. 11th century) was an Iranian Gnostic.
He was born in Meehneh-a village in the old Khorasan. His father was a pharmacist who was a firm believer in the tenets of sufi mysticism. Abu-Saiid came to know sufi mysticism through the gatherings of sophists to which his father frequented. He was taught theology and literature in his hometown, as well as in the towns of Marve and Sarakhs. He then began practicing asceticism-the cleansing of the soul through self-denial, under the guidance of some great masters and teachers. This metamorphosed him into a complete Gnostic. Thereafter, aside from a short period of preaching in Neyshaboor,he spentmost of his life in his hometown of Meehneh.

Hamid Ghazali (1058- 1128 A.D. born in Khorasan, Iran)
Abu Hamid Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad al-Tusi al-Shafi’i al-Ghazali an Iranian Philosopher.
His father died while he was still very young but he had the opportunity of getting education in the prevalent curriculum at Nishapur and Baghdad. Soon he acquired a high standard of scholarship in religion and philosophy and was honoured by his appointment as a Professor at the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, which was recognised as one of the most reputed institutions of learning in the golden era of Muslim history.

Abu-Rayhaan-e-Birooni (1099-1177 A.D)
Birooni was an Iranian mathematician, astronomer, historian, and geographer

Shaikh Sadi Shirazi (1194 born in Shiraz)
originally named Muslih-uddin..He remained there for about 30 years, establishing his fame as a great Persian poet and popular writer. He took the name Sadi in honor of his patron Sad b. Zengi. Between 1226 and 1256 he traveled widely, visiting Europe, Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Turkey, Arabia, Iran, and beyond the Indus to Hindustan. In a prose work called The Gulistan (or The Rose Garden) he provided prose stories that touch on practical wisdom and moral questions in an easy and entertaining style.

Shams-od-Din Muhammad Hafez (1320-1397 A.D.)
A Classic Poet from Shiraz Hafez created the best literary and Gnostic concepts in the form of eloquent and pithy lyrics. His concepts surpassed those of other contemporary philosophers, thinkers and scholars.

Ghiyath al-Din Jamshid Mas’ud al-Kashi (about 1380-1429 Kashan, Iran)
Kashi was an Iranian mathematician and astronomer
Details of Jamshid al-Kashi’s life and works are better known than many others from this period although details of his life are sketchy.
One of the reasons we is that he dated many of his works with the exact date on which they were completed, another reason is that a number of letters which he wrote to his father have survived and give fascinating information.

Abu Bekr ibn Muhammad ibn al-Husayn Al-Karaji (953 – 1029)
Karaji was an Iranian Mathematician
It appears both as al-Karaji and as al-Karkhi but this is not a simple matter of two different transliterations of the same Arabic name.
The significance is that Karaj is a city in Iran and if the mathematician’s name is al-Karaji then certainly his family were from that city. On the other hand Karkh is one of the original suburbs of Baghdad which grew up outside the southern gate of the original city. The name al-Karkhi would indicate that the mathematician came from the suburb of Baghdad.

Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274 A.D. was born in Tus, Khorasan and died in Baghdad)
He was an astronomer who worked at the Il-Khanid Observatory situated in Persia. In his astronomical studies, Al-Tusi was able to obtain an accurate value for the solar procession. In addition to his work on the solar procession, Al-Tusi attempted to come up with an alternative to Ptolemy’s system of epicycles.

Ancient Torkey Language

In earlier stages of research, the terms Mitanni language and Subarian were used as designations for Hurrian. In Hittite cuneiform texts, hurlili “language of the Hurrian” is used. In the last centuries of the 3rd millennium BC, Hurrians were already present in the Mardin region, which, from a geographical point of view, belongs to the North Mesopotamian plain. In Mesopotamian texts (from the time of the Akkad dynasty) some Hurrian personal names and glosses have been found. The customary assumption is that this non-Semitic and also non-Indo-European ethnic group had come from the Armenian mountains. During the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, the Hurrians apparently spread over larger parts of southeast Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia.

Still later, during the intermediary “Dark Age,” they are supposed to have infiltrated into Cilicia and the adjacent Taurus and Antitaurus regions (Kizzuwatna in 2nd millennium texts). Before the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, an Indo-Aryan ruling caste wielded some type of authority over parts of Hurrian territory. Some names and words in ancient Near Eastern texts bear witness to their presence. Among these words are a group of technical terms related to the training of horses that found its way into Hittite treatises on that subject; they are most important from a historical point of view. After Sumerian, Akkadian, Hattic, Palaic, and Luwian, Hurrian and these Indo-Aryan glosses constitute the sixth and seventh additional languages of the Hittite archives.

Below, the ruins of mount Nemrud. In 62 BC, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene built on the mountain top a tomb-sanctuary flanked by huge statues

Hurrian texts have been found in Urkish (Mardin region, c. 2300 BC), Mari (on the middle Euphrates, 18th century BC), Amarna (Egypt, c. 1400 BC), Bogazköy-Hattusa (Empire period), and Ugarit (on the coastline of northern Syria, 14th century). Amarna yielded the most important Hurrian document, a political letter sent to Pharaoh Amenhotep III. From Mari came a small number of religious texts; from Bogazköy-Hattusa, literary and religious texts; and from Ugarit, vocabularies belonging to the more “scholarly literature” described above and Hurrian religious texts in Ugaritic alphabetic script. Hurrian personal names, found in texts from many sites (Bogazköy-Hattusa, Alalakh, Ugarit, and especially Nuzu), constitute a second linguistic source of major importance.