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Atlas of Mesopotamia


Auteur : Martin A. Beek
Éditeur : Nelson Date & Lieu : 1962, London
Préface : Pages : 164
Traduction : ISBN :
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 260x340mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Bee. Atl. N° 2210Thème : Géographie

Présentation
Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
Atlas of Mesopotamia

Atlas of Mesopotamia

Martin A. Beek

Nelson

Mesopotamia, the ‘land between the rivers’, is the name given by the Greek historian Polybius (second century b.c.) and the geographer Strabo (first century a.d.) to a part of the region enclosed between the Euphrates and the Tigris. They confined the name to an area stretching from the edge of the highlands in the north, where the rivers enter the plain, to what is now Baghdad, where the Euphrates and Tigris approach each other most closely. Not until later did the name acquire a much wider significance than that intended by the two Greeks, and it came to include southern ‘Chaldaea’. When we speak of Mesopotamia nowadays, we always mean the whole of the region between the great rivers, from the mountain country to the Persian Gulf.
The name Mesopotamia became known in Europe as a result of the translation of the Bible. The Old Testament (Gen. 24: 10) mentions a district called Aram Naharaim, which literally means ‘Aram of the two rivers’. The Hebrew writer probably did not mean the Euphrates and the Tigris. It is more likely ...



FOREWORD

The Atlas of Mesopotamia directs our attention to a region, which may justly be regarded as the cradle of European civilisation, in so far as this was influenced by Judaism and Christianity. The Bible informs us that Abraham originated from Ur of the Chaldees, a city which we may perhaps identify with the Ur in south Iraq, west of the Euphrates, excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley. The narratives about the patriarchs thereafter make mention of the connections existing with the district of Haran, which lay enclosed behind the great bend of the northerly course of the Euphrates. The historical and the prophetic books of the Old Testament alike bear witness not only to the alarm aroused throughout Palestine by the Assyrians and to the exile of Israel and Judah under the heavy yoke of a Sargon or a Nebuchadnezzar, but also to the cultural and religious influence which Nineveh and Babylon exerted there.

It is therefore not surprising that a curiosity inspired by interest in the Bible should turn towards the region where men thought that they had found again Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and even traces of the Garden of Eden. To seek for such things in the land of the two great rivers proved perhaps rather disappointing for some, but for most it might be compared to the journey of Saul, who went to seek his father’s asses and found a kingdom. On the banks of the Euphrates and the Tigris, of their tributaries, and of the age-old irrigation canals, a culture was found which had flourished for centuries and which could speak through both its monuments and its literature. From the time when perhaps 7,000 years ago men in the mountains of modem Kurdistan passed through one of the most momentous transitions in the history of civilisation, that from food gathering to food producing, to the fall of Babylon in 539 b.c., the culture of Mesopotamia is recognisable by its individual hallmark.

It is a somewhat unsatisfactory undertaking to compress these forty-five centuries of the history of civilisation into brief compass, all the more as the material at our disposal has grown to unmanageable bulk. This applies both to the objects exhibited in museums and to literature. It is especially the cuneiform literature recorded upon clay that gives us insight into the daily life of Mesopotamia in all its facets. To this material we are indebted for authentic texts, sometimes tens of thousands of them from a single period and from a single region. And what varieties of interest are not involved in these texts ? Theology, law, economics, medicine, astronomy, philology, mathematics, history, literature — to name a number of categories at random, are all well represented, and each of them now demands a specialisation to which a scholar could devote his whole life. Thus we have become increasingly aware that foundations were laid by the Sumerians in south Mesopotamia upon which we have without knowing it continued to build; and thence it is that the great expert on Sumerian civilisation, S. N. Kramer, could give his excellent book on the subject the challenging title: History Begins at Sumer.

We are not conscious of our dependence on our spiritual ancestors. It would be a rewarding experience to follow the life of an educated European step by step through a whole day, and from action to action remind him of the spiritual inheritance of the ancient world, from the moment in the morning when his alarm-clock goes off and, still half-asleep, he looks to see what time it is and has recourse to the culture of the Mesopotamian scholars, to whom he owes the division of the day into hours and of the hours into minutes.

An atlas of this kind gives more to see than to read. Thus the written sources come off badly. It is however a consoling reflection that so much of these has been made readily accessible to every one by good translations. This applies especially to the masterpiece of Babylonian-Assyrian literature, the heroic epic of Gilgamesh. In addition compilations of texts of importance for their contemporary association with the Old Testament have appeared in both German and English and have long fulfilled a useful function in Biblical exegesis. To these the user of this atlas is referred if he wishes to read sources, even if only in translation. This atlas counts on the characteristic, becoming increasingly recognised in the age of television, of man as ‘an animal who secs’.

In choosing the illustrations the purpose has been to communicate to the viewer something of the wonder which must fill the visitor to the Iraq Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad when he contemplates the results of creative skill from period after period displayed there. To these magnificent collections I am indebted for the enthusiasm required to bring this atlas to completion, much though it necessarily leaves unshown and unspoken. But above all I am indebted to the unforgettable journey that I was privileged to make in the winter of 1956 throughout the whole of Iraq in company with my friend Dr P. Buringh. My travelling companion, who as a soil expert in the service of the Iraqi government had learnt to know the land through and through, passed on to me valuable information and arresting insights. I will further express the hope that the co-operation of soil experts and archaeologists, which in the low-lying lands of the Netherlands has already shown itself so fruitful at the mouths of the great rivers, may be extended to Mesopotamia also. I am convinced that many striking results would emerge from this, especially in what concerns the earliest history of Mesopotamia, as to which such stubborn misconceptions are still prevalent.

In planning this atlas I asked myself carefully to whom its contents were primarily addressed. In this I was not to think overmuch of the small circle of specialists, who will certainly possess in their libraries, in books and journals, everything that they find collected here. In any case they have a much more copious and better documented compilation in the work of Svend Aage Fallis, The Antiquity of Iraq (Copenhagen, 1956); I must record gratefully that I have often profitably consulted its wealth of material. I have, however, in writing, in choosing the illustrations, in composing the maps, thought rather of the wide interests of the educated layman. In this I kept before my eyes as an inspiration the articles written by Dr G. Roux on Mesopotamian antiquity in the monthly Iraq Petroleum. It is greatly to be regretted that his series had to be cut short when the journal ceased to exist in 1959.

Although the composition of an atlas such as this can speak for itself, I will however say one more word as to my purpose. Tt seemed well to me first to transport the reader to the soil and climate of Mesopotamia, because in many respects they conditioned the inhabitants’ conception of the world. Then I would make him share the adventure of the discoveries, both of the buried sires and of the literature in cuneiform script. The sketches and engravings of the pioneers can help us to experience afresh, as it were, their emotion and their astonishment.

In treating of the history of civilisation I have not consistently maintained chronological order, so that in this way what belongs together thematically might better be kept together. Thus I have not divided the two periods of the Sumerian culture by the domination of Agade but have placed this Semitic interlude separately at a later point in the order of events. I hope, moreover, that the division into chapters and subsections will facilitate study of the material.

I / long hesitated as to whether I should include also illustrations which overstepped the bounds of the Mesopotamian civilisation, both in time and place. I finally yielded to the argument that the expression of a culture gains relief by comparison with its closest environment and its most immediate heirs. Therefore a few products of the sculpture of Asia Minor and Persia have been included.

I am conscious of having given only a fraction of the factual material that is now at our disposal. But I have endeavoured to make the most profitable use possible of my space. This means that the text, the illustrations with their letterpress, and the maps, must complement without repeating one another. I trust that taken together they may indicate the broad lines of what we know so far of our spiritual ancestors in Mesopotamia.

M. A. Beek



The Land and Climate of Mesopotamia

The Inhabited Ground (see Map 5)

Mesopotamia, the ‘land between the rivers’, is the name given by the Greek historian Polybius (second century b.c.) and the geographer Strabo (first century a.d.) to a part of the region enclosed between the Euphrates and the Tigris. They confined the name to an area stretching from the edge of the highlands in the north, where the rivers enter the plain, to what is now Baghdad, where the Euphrates and Tigris approach each other most closely. Not until later did the name acquire a much wider significance than that intended by the two Greeks, and it came to include southern ‘Chaldaea’. When we speak of Mesopotamia nowadays, we always mean the whole of the region between the great rivers, from the mountain country to the Persian Gulf.

The name Mesopotamia became known in Europe as a result of the translation of the Bible. The Old Testament (Gen. 24: 10) mentions a district called Aram Naharaim, which literally means ‘Aram of the two rivers’. The Hebrew writer probably did not mean the Euphrates and the Tigris. It is more likely that he was referring to the Euphrates and the Khabur. But when the translator of the Old Testament in Alexandria was searching for a Greek equivalent, he hit upon the name Mesopotamia, which was subsequently introduced into the cultural sphere of Christianity by way of numerous Bible translations. To readers of the Bible Mesopotamia became a familiar sound, a word full of associations, because it designated the country from which came the father of the faithful, Abraham.

For us, therefore, the term Mesopotamia covers a variety of regions between the mountains of Kurdistan in the north and the marshes of the river delta in the south, between the steppes and deserts in the west and the mountain slopes of Iran in the east. Virtually the whole of this area is now included in the Republic of Iraq. The etymology of the Arab name Iraq is uncertain. Some think it can be translated as ‘cliff’, suggesting that the heights facing the traveller who approaches from the southwestern steppe have given their name to the whole country on the principle of pars pro toto.

If we wish to conjure up clearly the form of the ancient civilisation which flourished for roughly 4,000 years, from the Stone Age to the fall of Babylon in 5 39 b.c., it is exceedingly important that we should know under what conditions of climate and terrain its inhabitants lived. Over the last few years most intensive investigations have been carried out in which modern methods have been applied, extensive use being made, for example, of atrial photography. These have given astonishing results and are now compelling us to revise many traditional ideas on the subject.

The climate has not changed significantly since the time when the mountain dwellers came down to the river plains and began to develop primitive agriculture there in the fifth millennium b.c. This migration to therivervalleys, like thatfrom the Sahara to Egypt, must have been the result of climatic changes. These must have taken place slowly, almost imperceptibly to human awareness, over a period of generations, although their consequences were much more drastic than those of battles lost or technical achievements. Geologists speak of pluvial and interpluvial periods in which the rainfall, the rise and fall of the sea coast, and temperature fluctuations determined the lot of humanity until relative stability was reached about 5000 b.c. From then on the inhabitants of Mesopotamia lived in climatic conditions which probably differed little from those existing at present.

The soil, however, has suffered very great changes, mainly as a result of layers of sediment deposited by the rivers, whilst aeolian formations have also contributed, though in a smaller measure. We will now examine in greater detail what these mean to the soil of Mesopotamia.

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