Ancient Sumerians

The people that settled in Mesopotamia about 3500 B. C. were a short, stocky, black-haired people called the Sumerians. The area that they settled in was called Sumer. Continue reading Ancient Sumerians

Sumerian People

The people of Sumer could own slaves, although the majority of residents were free. Slaves had a number of rights, including the right to borrow money, transact business, and even buy their own freedom. The children of Sumer had few rights — the authority of their parents was supreme. Continue reading Sumerian People

Akkadian Language

Akkadian was a Semitic language (part of the greater Afro-Asiatic language family) spoken in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly by the Assyrians and Babylonians. It used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated, non-Semitic language. The name of the language is derived from the city of Akkad, a major center of Mesopotamian civilization.

Dialects

Akkadian is divided into dialects based on geography and historical period:

  • Old Akkadian – 2500 ­ 1950 BCE
  • Old Babylonian/Old Assyrian – 1950 ­ 1530 BCE
  • Middle Babylonian/Middle Assyrian – 1530 ­ 1000 BCE
  • Neo-Babylonian/Neo-Assyrian – 1000 ­ 600 BCE
  • Late Babylonian – 600 BCE ­ 100 CE

Clay Tablets – Cuneform

Akkadian scribes wrote the language using cuneiform script, an earlier writing system devised by the Sumerians using wedge-shaped signs pressed in wet clay that in Akkadian could represent either (a) Sumerian logograms (i.e. picture-based characters as in Chinese), (b) Sumerian syllables, (c) Akkadian syllables, and (d) phonetic complements. Cuneiform was in many ways unsuited to Akkadian: among its flaws was its inability to represent important phonemes in Semitic, including a glottal stop, pharyngeals, and emphatic consonants. In addition, cuneiform was a syllabary writing system – i.e. a consonant plus vowel comprised one writing unit – frequently inappropriate for a Semitic language made up of triconsonantal roots (i.e. three consonants minus any vowels). Older Sumerian cuneiform also distinguished between the vowels i and e; this distinction, though not originally present in Akkadian, was adopted by scribes to compensate for the disappearance (or non-writing) of the original Semitic pharyngeals.

Akkadian grammar

Akkadian is an inflected language, and as a Semitic language its grammatical features are highly similar to those found in Classical Arabic. It possesses two genders (masculine and feminine), distinguished even in second person pronouns (you-masc., you-fem.) and verb conjugations; three cases for nouns and adjectives (nominative, accusative, and genitive); three numbers (singular, dual, and plural); and unique verb conjugations for each first, second, and third person pronoun.

Akkadian nouns are declined according to gender, number and case. There are three genders; masculine, feminine and common. Only a very few nouns belong to the common gender. There are also three cases (nominative, accusative and genitive) and three numbers (singular, dual and plural). Adjectives are declined exactly like nouns.

Akkadian nouns are declined according to gender, number and case. There are three genders; masculine, feminine and common. Only a very few nouns belong to the common gender. There are also three cases (nominative, accusative and genitive) and three numbers (singular, dual and plural). Adjectives are declined exactly like nouns.

The remaining root stems are all derived from the first eight and are very similar in meaning. Akkadian verbs usually display the tri-consonantal root, though some roots with two- or four-consonant roots also exist. These are called radicals. There are three tenses, present, preterite and permansive. Present tense indicates incomplete action and preterite tense indicates complete action, while permansive tense expresses a state or condition and usually takes a particle.

Akkadian, unlike Arabic, has mainly regular plurals (i.e. no broken plurals), although some masculine words take feminine plurals. In that respect, it is similar to Hebrew.

Word Order

Akkadian sentence order was subject + object + verb (SOV), which sets it apart from most other Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, which typically have a verb + subject + object (VSO) word order. (South Semitic languages in Ethiopia are another matter altogether.) It has been hypothesized that this word order was a result of influence from the Sumerian language, which was also SOV. There is evidence that native speakers of both languages were in intimate language contact, forming a single society for at least 500 years, so it is entirely likely that a sprachbund could have formed. Further evidence of an original VSO or SVO ordering can be found in the fact that direct and indirect object pronouns are suffixed to the verb. Word order seems to have shifted to SVO/VSO late in the 1st millennium BC to the 1st millennium AD, possibly under the influence of Aramaic.

Akkadian literature

Among the works written in Akkadian cuneiform are the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atrahasis Epic. The Atrahasis Epic was a story writted in the early 2nd millennium B.C. in Akkadian. It is a cosmological epic that depicts the creation and early human history, including a flood. Its hero is Atrahasis. The flood account in tablet III of the Atrahasis Epic has much resemblance to that contained in the Gilgamesh Epic.

Reference: Mercer, Samuel A B (1961) Introductory Assyrian Grammar

A letter on a clay tablet, written in Akkadian cuneiform, found in Amarna  - Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

A letter on a clay tablet, written in Akkadian cuneiform, found in Amarna

Akkadian period, reign of Naram-Sin  -  Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

Akkadian period, reign of Naram-Sin

Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

Akkad اكد -  Chaldean Assyrian Syrian Iraqi Arab in Toronto Chaldean

Sumerians

The Standard of Ur

The ancient Sumerians, the ‘black-headed ones,’ lived in the southern part of what is now Iraq. The heartland of Sumer lay between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in what the Greeks later called Mesopotamia. This territory, once skilfully irrigated, proved very fertile, and major cities had long been in existence before the period when archaeologists can identify the Sumerian people themselves. Continue reading Sumerians

Sumerians Writing and Religion

Writing and Religion

By 7000 BCE, in what is called the Fertile Crescent, in West Asia where hunter-gatherers had roamed, planting had grown into the major source of food. There true farming had begun, and farming required permanent settlement. By 4500 BCE people archaeologists would call Ubaidians were living in towns in West Asia, in Mesopotamia (Greek for “between two rivers”) near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers emptied into the Persian Gulf. The Ubaidians drained marshes. They grew wheat and barley and irrigated their crops by digging ditches to river waters. They kept farm animals. Some of them manufactured pottery. They did weaving, leather or metal work, and some were involved in trade with other societies. Continue reading Sumerians Writing and Religion

Nazca Lines and Culture

Stretching across the Nazca plains like a giant map or blueprint left by ancient astronauts, lie the famous Nazca Lines of Peru. Peru is associated with the Incan Civilization who many link with alien visitors who still interact with local people to this day.

The Nazca Lines are an engima. No one has proof who built them or why. Since their discovery, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations from ancient gods, a landing strip for returning aliens, a celestial calendar created by the ancient Nazca civilization — putting the creation of the lines between 200 BC and 600 AD, used for rituals probably related to astronomy, to confirm the ayllus or clans who made up the population and to determine through ritual their economic functions held up by reciprocity and redistribution, or a map of underground water supplies.

There are also huge geoglyphs in Egypt, Malta, United States (Mississippi and California), Chile, Bolivia and in other countries. But the Nazca geoglyphs, because of their numbers, characteristics, dimensions and cultural continuity, as they were made and remade through out the whole prehispanic period, form the most impressive, as well as enigmatic, archeological group.

Location

The Nazca Lines are located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the pampa (a large flat area of southern Peru). The desolate plain of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, is 400 Km. South of Lima, covers an area of approximately 450 km2, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes. They cover nearly 400 square miles of desert. Etched in the surface of the desert pampa sand about 300 hundred figures made of straight lines, geometric shapes most clearly visible from the air.

Nazca Plain

The Nazca plain is virtually unique for its ability to preserve the markings upon it, due to the combination of the climate (one of the driest on Earth, with only twenty minutes of rainfall per year) and the flat, stony ground which minimises the effect of the wind at ground level. With no dust or sand to cover the plain, and little rain or wind to erode it, lines drawn here tend to stay drawn. These factors, combined with the existence of a lighter-coloured subsoil beneath the desert crust, provide a vast writing pad that is ideally suited to the artist who wants to leave his mark for eternity.

The pebbles which cover the surface of the desert contain ferrous oxide. The exposure of centuries has given them a dark patina. When the gravel is removed, they contrast with the color underneath. In this way the lines were drawn as furrows of a lighter color, even though in some cases they became prints. In other cases, the stones defining the lines and drawings form small lateral humps of different sizes. Some drawings, especially the early ones, were made by removing the stones and gravel from their contours and in this way the figures stood out in high relief.

The concentration and juxtaposition of the lines and drawings leave no doubt that they required intensive long-term labor as is demonstrated by the stylistic continuity of the designs, which clearly correspond to the different stages of cultural changes.

Designs, Myths and Metaphors

There appear to be various designs consisting of figures of animals, flowers and plants, objects, and anthropomorphic figures of colossal proportions made with well-defined lines. An example of this is the drawing of a weird being with two enormous hands, one normal and the other with only four fingers.


Gray Alien hand vs. Human Hand?

Also represented are drawings of man-made objects such as yarn, looms and “tupus” (ornamental clasps). All these figures have well-defined entrances which could be used as paths or to allow people to line together along the conformations of the drawings. Continue reading Nazca Lines and Culture