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Lamentation Over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur

A treatise published in 2000 BC or so, The Lamentation Over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur bemoaned the fate of Ur, a Sumerian city destroyed in 2400 BC by the Gutian army.

In it the goddess Ningal cries for the loss of her city, appealing to the angry god Enlil in an attempt to avert his destructive wrath. This apocryphal tale of destruction, havoc and the end of a way of life represents the fear that an entire society will be annihilated, a civilization wiped from the face of the earth.

Mesopotamians were not alone in this fear, and in fact, to a certain extent, we still worry about this kind of destruction today. The current attention to the Mayan calendar, which is purported to “end” in 2012, is an indication that human fear of annihilation has not changed, and provides some evidence that we are no more rational nowadays than we were thousands of years ago.

An archeology source says about Ur, that it “is known in the Bible as Ur of the Chaldees. This biblical name, Ur of the Chaldees, refers to the Chaldeans, who settled the area about 900 B.C. It is known as the ancient city of the Sumerian civilization and the home of Abraham, father of the Hebrews. Its ruins are between the modern city of Baghdad, Iraq, and the head of the Persian Gulf. The site is now known as Tall al Muqayyar, Iraq. The site of ancient Ur is located 140 miles south of Babylon. It was the capital of a small wealthy empire during the third millennium B.C. Most of the great ziggurat of Ur is still standing.

Archaeologists were spurred by biblical accounts to excavate mounds in what is now Iraq. There they uncovered the ancient civilizations of Assyria, Babylonia, Sumeria, and Ur. These excavations, along with others, confirmed and expanded on the historical accounts offered in the Bible.”

Here is a satellite image of the ancient city of Ur:

The interesting thing is that we still carry a fundamental fear that annihilation and the destruction of our world is possible, and we imagine all sorts of scenarios to account for this fear.

My favorite is the remote possibility that Earth will be hit by a random asteroid large enough to cause an enormous dust cloud to obscure the sun (since this possibility seems the most likely).

However, what we have in common with the Mesopotamians is our fear of the unknown, that a disaster we are powerless to stop will overcome us eventually. The current attention to the apocryphal fears of disaster presaged by the Mayan calendar indicates that Nicholas Campion‘s assertion that humans have not ‘progressed’ at all in some ways, is absolutely true.


The massive and impressive ziggurat of the great ancient city of Ur, still standing in Iraq

More about Ur, for those who are interested:

1. Chronology of Ancient Mesopotamian History
2. An overview of ancient mesopotamian History
3. Why mesopotamian Myths?

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