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Neo-Assyrian period, 9th to 7th centuries BC. The earliest language written in Mesopotamia was Sumerianan agglutinative language isolate.
Along with Sumerian, Semitic languages were also spoken in early Mesopotamia. Akkadian came to be the dominant language during the Akkadian Empire and the Assyrian empires, but Sumerian was retained for administrative, religious, literary and scientific purposes.
Different varieties of Akkadian were used until the end of the Neo-Babylonian period. Old Aramaicwhich had already become common in Mesopotamia, then became the official provincial administration language of first the Neo-Assyrian Empireand then the Achaemenid Empire: Akkadian fell into disuse, but both it and Sumerian were still used in temples for some centuries. The last Akkadian texts date from the late 1st century AD. Early in Mesopotamia's history around the mid-4th millennium BC cuneiform was invented for the Sumerian language.
Cuneiform literally means "wedge-shaped", due to the triangular tip of the stylus used for impressing signs on wet clay. The standardized form of each cuneiform sign appears to have been developed from pictograms. The early logographic system of cuneiform script took many years to master. Thus, only a limited number of individuals were hired as scribes to be trained in its use. It was not until the widespread use of a syllabic script was adopted under Sargon's rule[ citation needed ] that significant portions of Mesopotamian population became literate.
Massive archives of texts were recovered from the archaeological contexts of Old Babylonian scribal schools, through which literacy was disseminated.
During the third millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerian and the Akkadian language users, which included widespread bilingualism.
Akkadian literature Libraries were extant in towns and temples during the Babylonian Empire. An old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn. A considerable amount of Babylonian literature was translated from Sumerian originals, and the language of religion and law long continued to be the old agglutinative language of Sumer.
Vocabularies, grammars, and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of students, as well as commentaries on the older texts and explanations of obscure words and phrases. The characters of the syllabary were all arranged and named, and elaborate lists were drawn up. Many Babylonian literary works are still studied today.
Each division contains the story of a single adventure in the career of Gilgamesh. The whole story is a composite product, although it is probable that some of the stories are artificially attached to the central figure. Science and technology Main article: Babylonian mathematics Mesopotamian mathematics and science was based on a sexagesimal base 60 numeral system.
This is the source of the minute hour, the hour day, and the degree circle. The Sumerian calendar was based on the seven-day week. This form of mathematics was instrumental in early map-making. The Babylonians also had theorems on how to measure the area of several shapes and solids. They measured the circumference of a circle as three times the diameter and the area as one-twelfth the square of the circumference, which would be correct if p were fixed at 3.
The volume of a cylinder was taken as the product of the area of the base and the height; however, the volume of the frustum of a cone or a square pyramid was incorrectly taken as the product of the height and half the sum of the bases.
This measurement for distances eventually was converted to a time-mile used for measuring the travel of the Sun, therefore, representing time. Babylonian astronomy From Sumerian times, temple priesthoods had attempted to associate current events with certain positions of the planets and stars.
This continued to Assyrian times, when Limmu lists were created as a year by year association of events with planetary positions, which, when they have survived to the present day, allow accurate associations of relative with absolute dating for establishing the history of Mesopotamia. The Babylonian astronomers were very adept at mathematics and could predict eclipses and solstices. Scholars thought that everything had some purpose in astronomy. Most of these related to religion and omens.
Mesopotamian astronomers worked out a month calendar based on the cycles of the moon. They divided the year into two seasons: The origins of astronomy as well as astrology date from this time. During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Babylonian astronomers developed a new approach to astronomy.
They began studying philosophy dealing with the ideal nature of the early universe and began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems. This was an important contribution to astronomy and the philosophy of science and some scholars have thus referred to this new approach as the first scientific revolution.
In Seleucid and Parthian times, the astronomical reports were thoroughly scientific; how much earlier their advanced knowledge and methods were developed is uncertain. The Babylonian development of methods for predicting the motions of the planets is considered to be a major episode in the history of astronomy. The only Greek-Babylonian astronomer known to have supported a heliocentric model of planetary motion was Seleucus of Seleucia b. He supported Aristarchus of Samos' heliocentric theory where the Earth rotated around its own axis which in turn revolved around the Sun.
According to PlutarchSeleucus even proved the heliocentric system, but it is not known what arguments he used except that he correctly theorized on tides as a result of Moon's attraction. In addition, the Diagnostic Handbook introduced the methods of therapy and aetiology and the use of empiricismlogicand rationality in diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. The text contains a list of medical symptoms and often detailed empirical observations along with logical rules used in combining observed symptoms on the body of a patient with its diagnosis and prognosis.
If a patient could not be cured physically, the Babylonian physicians often relied on exorcism to cleanse the patient from any curses. Esagil-kin-apli's Diagnostic Handbook was based on a logical set of axioms and assumptions, including the modern view that through the examination and inspection of the symptoms of a patient, it is possible to determine the patient's diseaseits aetiology, its future development, and the chances of the patient's recovery.
These include the symptoms for many varieties of epilepsy and related ailments along with their diagnosis and prognosis. They were also one of the first Bronze Age societies in the world. They developed from copper, bronze, and gold on to iron.
Palaces were decorated with hundreds of kilograms of these very expensive metals. Also, copper, bronze, and iron were used for armor as well as for different weapons such as swords, daggers, spears, and maces.
According to a recent hypothesis, the Archimedes' screw may have been used by Sennacherib, King of Assyria, for the water systems at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Nineveh in the 7th century BC, although mainstream scholarship holds it to be a Greek invention of later times.
Mesopotamians believed that the world was a flat disc,[ citation needed ] surrounded by a huge, holed space, and above that, heaven. They also believed that water was everywhere, the top, bottom and sides, and that the universe was born from this enormous sea.
In addition, Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic. Although the beliefs described above were held in common among Mesopotamians, there were also regional variations. The Sumerian word for universe is an-ki, which refers to the god An and the goddess Ki. They believed that Enlil was the most powerful god. He was the chief god of the pantheon. The Sumerians also posed philosophical questions, such as: Philosophy The numerous civilizations of the area influenced the Abrahamic religionsespecially the Hebrew Bible ; its cultural values and literary influence are especially evident in the Book of Genesis.
Babylonian reason and rationality developed beyond empirical observation. Babylonian thought was axiomatic and is comparable to the "ordinary logic" described by John Maynard Keynes. Babylonian thought was also based on an open-systems ontology which is compatible with ergodic axioms.
Babylonian thought had a considerable influence on early Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy. In particular, the Babylonian text Dialogue of Pessimism contains similarities to the agonistic thought of the Sophiststhe Heraclitean doctrine of dialecticand the dialogs of Platoas well as a precursor to the Socratic method.
The theme of the rituals and festivals for each month was determined by at least six important factors: The Lunar phase a waxing moon meant abundance and growth, while a waning moon was associated with decline, conservation, and festivals of the Underworld The phase of the annual agricultural cycle The local mythos and its divine Patrons The success of the reigning Monarch The Akituor New Year Festival First full moon after spring equinox Commemoration of specific historical events founding, military victories, temple holidays, etc.
Music of Mesopotamia Some songs were written for the gods but many were written to describe important events. Although music and songs amused kingsthey were also enjoyed by ordinary people who liked to sing and dance in their homes or in the marketplaces.
Songs were sung to children who passed them on to their children. Thus songs were passed on through many generations as an oral tradition until writing was more universal. These songs provided a means of passing on through the centuries highly important information about historical events.
The oldest pictorial record of the Oud dates back to the Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia over years ago. It is on a cylinder seal currently housed at the British Museum and acquired by Dr. The image depicts a female crouching with her instruments upon a boat, playing right-handed. This instrument appears hundreds of times throughout Mesopotamian history and again in ancient Egypt from the 18th dynasty onwards in long- and short-neck varieties.
The oud is regarded as a precursor to the European lute. The Arabic name, with the definite article, is the source of the word 'lute'. Games Hunting was popular among Assyrian kings. Boxing and wrestling feature frequently in art, and some form of polo was probably popular, with men sitting on the shoulders of other men rather than on horses.
They also played a board game similar to senet and backgammonnow known as the " Royal Game of Ur ".
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Family life The Babylonian marriage market by the 19th-century painter Edwin Long Mesopotamia, as shown by successive law codes, those of UrukaginaLipit Ishtar and Hammurabiacross its history became more and more a patriarchal societyone in which the men were far more powerful than the women.
For example, during the earliest Sumerian period, the "en", or high priest of male gods was originally a woman, that of female goddesses, a man. Thorkild Jacobsen, as well as many others, has suggested that early Mesopotamian society was ruled by a "council of elders" in which men and women were equally represented, but that over time, as the status of women fell, that of men increased.
As for schooling, only royal offspring and sons of the rich and professionals, such as scribes, physicians, temple administrators, went to school. Most boys were taught their father's trade or were apprenticed out to learn a trade. Some children would help with crushing grain or cleaning birds. Unusually for that time in history, women in Mesopotamia had rights.
They could own property and, if they had good reason, get a divorce. In the city of Urmost people were buried in family graves under their houses, along with some possessions. A few have been found wrapped in mats and carpets.
The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbours prepared their father's body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home.
As flames consumed the corpse, Ganjanan, 12, and Kalpana, 14, faced a grim future. While Shankara Mandaukar had hoped his son and daughter would have a better life under India's economic boom, they now face working as slave labour for a few pence a day. Landless and homeless, they will be the lowest of the low.
A farmer and child in India's 'suicide belt' Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide. Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years' earnings, he was in despair.
He could see no way out. There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on - they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless - as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.
Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end.
As neighbours gathered to pray outside the family home, Nirmala Mandaukar, 50, told how she rushed back from the fields to find her husband dead. The mental anguish was too much. We have lost everything.
Of course, famine and pestilence are part of India's ancient story. But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.
Prince Charles has set up charity Bhumi Vardaan Foundation to address the plight of suicide farmers Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts - and no income. So Shankara became one of an estimatedfarmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.
The crisis, branded the 'GM Genocide' by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a 'global moral question' - and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.
Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning 'the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming Ranged against the Prince are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.
The rest of the world, they insist, should embrace 'the future' and follow suit. So who is telling the truth? To find out, I travelled to the 'suicide belt' in Maharashtra state. What I found was deeply disturbing - and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.
For official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1, farmers kill themselves here each month.
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Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide - a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops. It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.
Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and 'agrarian distress' that is the real reason for the horrific toll. But, as I discovered during a four-day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.
A Greenpeace protester sprays milk-based paint on a Monsanto research soybean field near Atlantic, Iowa In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands - only to kill themselves as well. Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed - two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.
She left her ten-year-old son, Rashan, in the care of relatives. Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds. The price difference is staggering: But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were 'magic seeds' - with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.
Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks. The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U. In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.
But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers' lives have slid back into the dark ages. Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years - up to 17 million acres - many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.
Far from being 'magic seeds', GM pest-proof 'breeds' of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite. Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death. With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.
Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.
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When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year. But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That's because GM seeds contain so- called 'terminator technology', meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.
Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children. As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.
He sent his children to school and paid his taxes. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year.
It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here. But pointing out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years, a spokesman added that there are other reasons for the recent crisis, such as 'untimely rain' or drought, and pointed out that suicides have always been part of rural Indian life.
During the course of my inquiries in Maharastra, I encountered three 'independent' surveyors scouring villages for information about suicides. They insisted that GM seeds were only 50 per cent more expensive - and then later admitted the difference was 1, per cent. A Monsanto spokesman later insisted their seed is 'only double' the price of 'official' non-GM seed - but admitted that the difference can be vast if cheaper traditional seeds are sold by 'unscrupulous' merchants, who often also sell 'fake' GM seeds which are prone to disease.
With rumours of imminent government compensation to stem the wave of deaths, many farmers said they were desperate for any form of assistance. India's farmers are also starting to fight back. As well as taking GM seed distributors hostage and staging mass protests, one state government is taking legal action against Monsanto for the exorbitant costs of GM seeds. He just said it was better to die.
They will lose their land, joining the hordes seen begging in their thousands by the roadside throughout this vast, chaotic country. Here in the suicide belt of India, the cost of the genetically modified future is murderously high.
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