After a half century of intensive research in Mesopotamia, scientists still know little about the diseases which plagued the people of the most famous kingdoms of the ancient world.
So far, the research focused on excavations in towns and settlements, and analysis of cuneiform texts. Arkadiusz Sołtysiak of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw decided to fill this gap and collected all previously published reports of anthropologists who examined human remains in the area of Mesopotamia.
"I was able to find only 44 publications mentioning traces of disease on human bones. This clearly indicates that palaeopathology of the area of Mesopotamia is very poorly developed in comparison with Europe and Egypt" - explained Sołtysiak. Read more.
Analysis of non-metric tooth crown traits of the ancient inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia conducted by the Polish team showed that there were no large migrations in this region from the 3rd millennium BC until the Middle Ages.
It was not until the invasion of the Mongols in the thirteenth century that a significant change of population occurred. Until now, researchers have believed on the basis of written sources that the movements of population in this part of the Middle East were much larger. Read more.
Researchers studying clay balls from Mesopotamia have discovered clues to a lost code that was used for record-keeping about 200 years before writing was invented.
The clay balls may represent the world’s “very first data storage system,” at least the first that scientists know of, said Christopher Woods, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, in a lecture at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, where he presented initial findings.
The balls, often called “envelopes” by researchers, were sealed and contain tokens in a variety of geometric shapes — the balls varying from golf ball-size to baseball-size. Only about 150 intact examples survive worldwide today. Read more.
The continuing debate regarding the origins of people inhabiting ancient Mesopotamia during the region’s long history led the authors of a new report published in the Open Access journal PLoS ONE to attempt an isolation and analysis of mtDNA sequences from the area.
Ancient DNA methodology was applied to analyse sequences extracted from freshly unearthed remains (teeth) of 4 individuals deeply deposited in the slightly alkaline soil of Tell Ashara (ancient Terqa) and Tell Masaikh (ancient Kar-Assurnasirpal) – Syrian archaeological sites, both in the middle Euphrates valley.
Research was also carried out by another team (Sołtysiak et al 2013) examining fifty-nine dental non-metric traits on a sample of teeth from 350 human skeletons excavated at three sites in the lower middle Euphrates valley. Read more.
The accomplishments of ancient Mesopotamian society are being celebrated in a new Toronto exhibit, but the showcase is also shining a light on a contemporary crisis: the looting and destruction of artifacts, architecture and archeological sites in Syria.
The Royal Ontario Museum is unveiling Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World this weekend, the sole Canadian venue of the show’s international tour.
The exhibition explores more than 3,000 years of the ancient society’s story through more than 180 priceless artifacts drawn from the vast collection of the British Museum and bolstered by items from the ROM and museums in Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. Read more.
Spoke-like dirt paths extend as far as five kilometers from several ancient Mesopotamian cities that have been excavated in what’s now northeastern Syria. Although often regarded as transportation features unique to these more than 5,000-year-old sites, new evidence reveals similar radial paths in western Syria and southwestern Iran that date to as recently as 1,200 years ago.
Archaeologist Jesse Casana of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville made these discoveries by analyzing declassified, Cold War–era satellite images that show Middle Eastern landscapes before intensive farming erased all traces of ancient dirt roads. Read more.
After nearly a century, archaeologists have finally returned to excavate and conserve the ancient remains of Karkemish (Carchemish), a monumental capital city near the northwestern edge of Mesopotamia that was mentioned in both Biblical and extra-Biblical texts.
Here, kings and conquerors of the Mittani, Hittite, and Neo-Assyrian empires established seats of power and here, the Babylonian forces of Nebuchadnezzar II defeated the combined troops of Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt and Assyrian allies at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.
But today, its decaying remains straddle the border between Turkey and war-torn Syria, with 55 hectares of the site falling within Turkey and 35 hectares in Syria. Adjacent to the cities of Karkamis in Turkey and Jarablus in Syria, the ruins are divided into inner and outer areas by traces of massive earthen ramparts. Read more.
MOSUL, Iraq — On land where Assyrian kings once reigned, an Iraqi farmer named Araf Khalaf surveyed the scrap of earth that has nurtured three generations of his family. It is little more than a mud hut and a scraggly vegetable patch, yet his land has become a battleground, one pitting efforts to preserve Iraq’s ancient treasures against the nation’s modern-day poor.
With violence ebbing, Iraqi and international archaeologists are again excavating and repairing the country’s historic sites. But they are running into a problem: thousands of Iraqis have taken up residence among the poorly guarded ruins of Mesopotamia, in illegally built homes and shops, greenhouses and garages. And they do not want to leave.
“My father grew up here,” Mr. Khalaf said. “This is our land.” Read more.