By Peter Knight
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Extra resources for Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives
Knowledge of the ancient Mesopotamian world was filtered through the hostile lens of the Bible and the Classical works known to Medieval Europe. More information survived in the educated Muslim world, but its literature was largely unknown to Europeans. The Bible, however, ensured an enduring interest in the great and, from the biblical perspective, wicked and decadent cities of Babylon and Nineveh. Medieval pilgrims and travelers, both Jewish and Christian, visited the mound that was still known as “Babil” covering part of Babylon.
They therefore created a post, consular agent at Mosul, for Paul-Emile Botta, who in 1842 began digging in the Kuyunjik mound, part of ancient Nineveh. The finds here were unpromising, and Botta was easily seduced away in 1843 when sculptures were discovered at nearby Khorsabad, which he took to be more of Nineveh. E. transferred the capital here from Nimrud. Here Botta soon discovered Sargon’s palace, its walls resplendent with carved reliefs and gateways guarded by monumental human-headed winged bulls and lions.
38 ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA Leonard Woolley brushing earth away from 4000-year-old records in the temple of the Moon God Nanna in Ur. (Bettmann/Corbis) Searching for the Antecedents of Mesopotamian Civilization. In 1923–1924 Woolley also excavated at al ‘Ubaid, a small site 6 kilometers west of Ur, where he found “a primitive settlement . . of huts constructed of mud and wattle or slight timber ramming filled in with reed mats” (Woolley 1950: 15). The villagers used distinctive painted pottery of a type that Woolley also found in the early deposits at Ur.
Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives by Peter Knight