Mesopotamia before History

Mesopotamia before History

Mesopotamia before History

Mesopotamia before History

Synopsis

Mesopotamia was one of the earliest regions to produce writing, literature and the fine arts, as well as being one of the first areas to construct states. This comprehensive and detailed survey of the region's prehistory and protohistory shows how these fascinating developments were possible.Petr Charv¿¿t explores the economic, social and spiritual spheres in Mesopotamia from the Palaeolithic to the time of the early states, c. 100,000 BC to 2334 BC. The narrative is supplemented by numerous descriptions of the principal archaeological sites for each phase, and by conclusions outlining the most important developments and changes.

Excerpt

This book was written in 1991-1992 but incorporates elements of research that I carried out much earlier, in fact, since the beginning of the 1970s. It is an account of my work over a period of time when I was labouring ad maiorem Orientis antiquissimi gloriam only in my spare time, having had, principally for existential reasons, quite different official commitments. A further impulse towards the writing of this text has been constituted by my lectures on the archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia at the Faculty of Philosophy of Charles University, Prague, in 1982-1983 and then in 1990-1991. Things have changed considerably since 1993 and now courses on ancient Oriental archaeology have been included in the curricula of two other universities in the Czech Republic. I greatly appreciate the interest in my book expressed by colleagues both at home and abroad, as well as the decision by Routledge to launch a new edition of this treatise, on which I worked for most of the years 2000-2001.

As to the spatiotemporal dimension of this book, 'Mesopotamia' is to be understood in terms of the present territory of the Republic of Iraq. Sites outside this are cited for parallels but not systematically investigated. 'Ancient' means from the earliest human occupation of Mesopotamia down to 2334 BC when a fully fledged territorial state emerged in the territory in question.

In all my subsequent considerations, I view archaeology as the study of material traces of human behaviour in the past. I fear that all definitions concerning only the utilitarian aspects of past human activities are, for one thing, too narrow, and, for another, too much biased by the modern point of view. I believe that there is no a priori division of ancient, and especially pre-literate, human activities into 'utilitarian' and those which we have perceived until recently, in coarsest pseudo-Marxist terms, as 'determined by the economic base'. If we fall prey to putting forward questions determined by our own vision of the past, we clearly run the risk of finding in our materials only answers to precisely this kind of interrogation which, in such a case, will be a loss well merited on our part. For myself, I can only confess that I have never felt conceited enough to prescribe to the ancients what they should and what they should not have done. My chief concern and fascination has always been best expressed by the famous maxim of Vere Gordon Childe, namely 'what happened in history'. This orientation, in its essence rather palaeo-historic than purely archaeological and incorporating data yielded by written sources as soon as they appear, leads me to rely especially on two categories of evidence: those singular sources that comprise the greatest possible amount of information about human behaviour in the past, and then whole sets of data compared among one another, either on various sites in a single time segment or on a single site throughout subsequent periods of time. In this vision, a single corn of grain gives evidence on the behaviour of whole generations of ancient agriculturalists and is to be preferred to whatever ingenious spiritual constructs may be put forward by modern specialists to classify such evidence as pottery rims, architectural plans or art motifs. Of course, I hasten to add

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