Saturday, November 30, 2013

Humanity in Ancient Ur

Hi, Benjamin here. Thanks to my Middle Eastern History class,  I've been reading through archaeological accounts of Ur, a great city in ancient Mesopotamia. I expected a dull read, but was surprised by the accessibility of what I found. I've paraphrased the most interesting bit:
When kings or queens died in ancient Ur, they would be buried along with a couple dozen of their court, attendants to help them in the next life. Whether this was a voluntary act is a bit unclear, but the sacrifice of the courtiers was most likely not violent, in any case. In one tomb, almost all the female attendants had gold or silver ribbons in their hair, but one was found with a coil of silver ribbon still in the folds of her decayed robes. It seems that this particular woman was late to the death ceremony, possibly hurrying off in the morning without taking the time to put the ribbon in her hair. She ended up never getting around to it.
History can often be boring or distant, but it's things like these that keep me engaged. Not the macabre human sacrifice, but the realization that people in ancient Mesopotamia were also human. They made mistakes and had feelings just like us.
I'm not going to convince everyone to enjoy history lessons, but I hope that we can begin to consider the past not as a list of dates and names, but as a series of people with pride, hatred, curiosity, greed, and everything else that comes with being human.
As an aside, my history courses have seared on my mind the ultimate evil of quoting or even mentioning a source without having a bibliography, so here you go:
Woolley, Leonard. Ur of the Chaldees. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1952.

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