Ur III

After the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, there was a long period described as a “dark age” (Not to be confused with the post AD dark ages) which was characterized by the invasion of Gutians. Gutians were barbarians from the Zagros mountain region. Gutians, by their mismanagement, brought about famine, widespread decline of civilization and the cities were increasingly abandoned. The once great city of Akkad, that gave birth to Sargon of Akkad, was so thoroughly destroyed that its location is still disputed.

The Gutian rule was brought to an end by Utu-Hengal of Uruk. Weidner Chronicle, (part of Babylonian Chronicle, tablets that details Babylonian history) mark him as a fisherman who was given the rule by Marduk, the patron deity of Babylon. Utu-Hengal was thus the progenitor of the Sumerian Renaissance. After Utu-Hengal, Ur-Nammu became the king of Sumer. Ur-Nammu was from Ur, the famed birthplace of the Abraham, the first Jew and the patriarch of the Abrahamic faith. Today almost 54% of the world population belong to one of the Abrahamic Religions. Ur-Nammu gave birth to the Third Dynasty of Ur, also known as Neo-Sumerian empire or abbreviated as Ur III, though in some places, Utu-Hengal is named as the first king of Ur III.

Ur-Nammu is known for the Great Ziggurat of Ur and the Code of Ur-Nammu. Ziggurat were massive step pyramids built as religious and administrative centers. The Great Ziggurat of Ur was finished by Shulgi, Son of Ur-Nammu. Ur-Nammu is also known for Code of Ur-Nammu. Though the preamble of the code credits Ur-Nammu, it is believed that the code was given by Shulgi. Thus like a good son, Shulgi completed both the Ziggurat and the code that made the name of his father.

Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest extant code of law, about three centuries older than the code of Hammurabi. Of more than 57 laws, 40 have been reconstructed. The law is very strict about serious crimes with capital punishment for  murder, robbery, rape (of virgin) and adultery (Woman dies but the man goes free).  But unlike the later laws, an eye for an eye is not the evident. An eye was worth three times (half Mina = 30 Shekel) than a foot (10 Shekel) while a limb was worth a full Mina. Perjury was also punished. Surprisingly, there is a strict recompense to be given for cutting of a nose, 2/3 thirds of Mina compared to 1/2 Mina for taking out an eye. Seems like losing nose had the same modern connotation of losing one’s honor. Sorcery was punished by the ordeal of water, in which the accused is submerged in water and is declared not guilty if s/he survived. Accusing someone of witchery was an easy way to get rid of them. And if by bad luck the accused survived, you just needed to pay 3 Shekel. Equality before law irrespective of means and social status (except for slaves) is professed.

Ur-Nammu was followed, as we have already seen, by his son Shulgi. Shulgi was deified in the 23rd year of his 48 year rule. He built resting places along main roads for travelers and boasts of running the 100 miles distance between two cities. He standardized the tax system. No wonder he was a “God”.

Within 50 years of death of Shulgi, the third dynasty of Ur was no more. Severe drought and attacks by Amorites weakened the dynasty making it easy for the Elamite rebels to attack Ur and capture Ibbi-Sin, the last king of Ur III. The Third Dynasty of Ur lasted from 2119 BCE to 2004 BCE in the Middle chronology. Even though the dynasty saw its sun set almost 4009 years ago, the gifts of administration, law, culture it gave humanity is still present. As one Amazon reviewer of the book History Begins at Sumer by Samuel Noah Kramer says, “We are all Sumerians”.

Emergence of Ancient Empires

Empires were the result of military conquests carried out over extended period of time sometimes spanning many generations. Empires encompassed vast territory not restricted to particular geographic zones. Empire were built on the struts of a strong military and was sustained by the tributes received from the conquered territories. Larger the territory, larger the military required to maintain control which required ever larger resources. This resulted in a selfsustaining engine of conquest which desired ever more expansion. This was limited by the problems of command and communication and logistics of the ancient world.

The empires consisted of an elite core group. They are mostly united by a common ethnic or geographic origin. The vast area to be governed required a well-oiled bureaucracy for tax collection and management. A standing army was required to put down the frequent rebellion. Legal code, communication and transport facility was also established. Due to the delay in communication and transport in the ancient world, a federated structure with autonomy to the regional governors was an imperative structure of governance. To avoid rival dynasty being established by these governors, Tiglath-Pileser III would make eunuchs as governors. To prevent the conquered people to rise up in revolt, emperors like Tiglath-Pileser III and Nebuchadnezzar II deported and scattered them across their empire.

Stone Age India

Stone Age:

Culture is how a society lives. The pattern on which the cultures are divided is based on the sophistication of tools (technology). Thus Paleolithic society had larger cruder tools which became smaller and refined in the Mesolithic and further developed in the Neolithic society.  Chalcolithic saw use of both stone and metal (Bronze, Copper) tools.

Homo erectus: Homo Erectus lived in the Soanian sites, named after river Soan in the middle Pleistocene in the Sivalik region spanning the modern Pakistan, India and Nepal. It was first reported by de Terra and Paterson in 1939. The age of this culture can be dated from 300-400,000 BC to the end of Pleistocene epoch.

Homo sapiens:

Homo sapiens arrived in South Asia between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago. The Homo sapiens further spread across South East Asia and reached Australia around 40,000 years ago (mtDNA analysis). Earliest evidence of modern Homo sapiens were found in the cave sites in Sri Lanka. The Bhimbetka cave sites in Madhya Pradesh shows cave paintings and are dated to 7000 years ago (Upper Paleolithic).

Bhimbetka Rock Paintings
Bhimbetka Rock Paintings

Neolithic:

The aceramic neolithic lasted from 7000 to 5500 BCE. The ceramic neolithic lasted till about 3000BCE and blended with the early Harappan (Early Bronze age). The oldest neolithic sites in India have been found at Lahuradewa in middle Ganges region and Jhusi near the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna (7100 BCE).

In the South India, the neolithic culture began around 3000 BCE till 1400BCE and merged into Iron Age skipping the Bronze Age but instead having a Megalithic period. In Adichannalur in TN, 12 burial urns with Brahmi script have been recovered containing human skulls and bones with husks, grains of rice and neolithic celts confirming that it belongs to the neolithic period. Below is a map of some of the major Stone Age Sites. I have marked the approximate locations of the sites. Some names may be difficult to read as I had to keep the image small.

Stone Age Sites
Some of the major Stone Age sites

I believe that a chronological approach is better able to explain the various stone age cultures.

Date

Place

Event

Comments

My Thoughts

30,000 to 10,000 BC

Terraces of Soan River, Potwar Plateau

Rock shelters in Bhimbetka, MP

Caves in Sanghao (Pakistan)

Kurnool (AP)

Hungsi

 

Paleolithic Settlements

Settlements mostly in cave shelters closer to source of water and shrubby areas.

Source of water provided access to smooth stones that were used to create the tools.

Domesticated animals include cattle, sheep and goats.

Mostly hunter, gatherer

Stone tools were hand sized and flaked

It is believed that the people in this culture belonged to the Negrito race.

The original cavemen. They perhaps used stone flints to make their small fires. When did they start moving away from the caves into open? What were their thoughts? What did they imagine about? Did they have a concept of time, years, age? Did they plan ahead? Their night sky would have been clear with millions of stars twinkling with a clear view of the meteor showers. Did they believe the meteors to be Gods? They would have been terrified during eclipses when the most powerful phenomenon that they know of would suddenly vanish. Was painting and art considered to be a waste of time?

10,000 to 5000 BC

Near rock shelters in MP

Langhnaj (Gujarat), Adamgarh (MP), Sarai nahar Rai

Rock paintings are visible in Edakal caves (Western ghats in Kerala)

Mesolithic Settlements

Used Microliths i.e. tiny, around 5 cm, stone tools. These microliths were attached to various other tools to make handaxe, sickles etc.

Usage of quartz, agate for making tools. These materials are found in hilly areas thus resulting in migration from river banks to hilly and forested regions.

Tendency to migrate reduced with greater reliance on domesticated animals and wild grains.

Various arrowheads recovered indicates hunting from a distance thus reducing the danger to the hunter.

Crude handmade pottery makes their appearance here indicating variety in food preparation and perhaps better storage of food.

Burials are accompanied by grave goods.

Average life span was around 30 years.

Edakkal Caves is a cleft in the mountain and contains petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are pictograms created by removing parts of the rock surface.

A painting of “a Man with jar cup”, which is a common motif in Indus valley civilization was found recently in these caves, thus indicating that the cave paintings had some relationship with the Harappan culture. This had led some people to conclude that the Harappan culture to be Dravidian in nature and that this civilization did not “disappear” but rather moved to southern India or that some cultural diffusion took place.

 

Did the loneliness that the death of a young beloved husband led the woman to tell the children that their father is at a better place? This yearning led to the belief in life after death and burial rituals. Remains of infants were found in ritual urns. In a time when infant mortality would have been unimaginable, how did they cope with the loss? Did they love as we know love now to be?

 

The frequent migration would have taken a toll on children and pregnant women. There were no old people so they did not suffer. Perhaps many of the diseases that we see now like arthritis, heart disease, cancer did not get a chance to be weeded out by natural selection as people did not live long enough for these factors to matter in evolution.

 

I sometimes imagine Adam and Eve to be unemotional beings. They were the first ones. They perhaps did not understand the concept of anger, love, jealousy. We feel all these emotions because we compare ourselves with others. They never compared themselves to anyone. What would they be like if they were still alive and able to witness us?

What would a cavemen think, if she/he were here now?

 

 

 

c. 7000 BC to 2500 BC

Galighai in Swat Valley, Krishna, Godavari Valley

Mehrgarh in Bolan area in Baluchistan.

Nal and Kulli culture in southern areas of modern Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Kot Diji and Amri near the Harappa site of Mohenjo Daro near the Indus.

Cholistan and Bahawalpur in the extinct Hakra Valley

Neolithic Settlements

Introduction of Agriculture.

Change in pattern of domestication of animals to better compliment the sedentary agricultural life.

Agriculture may be responsible or a requirement of a fast growing population.

Agriculture may have been developed by women who stayed at home while men ranged far in search of game.

Agriculture did not make a sudden appearance.

Identification of the right species of food crops amongst the thousands available would have taken tens of generations to perfect.

Surplus food may have resulted in hired labor, trade with distant settlements and concentration of power in the hands of those who have the surplus.

Grass huts gave way to foliage huts plastered with mud.

Mud brick structures, wheel pottery (fourth Millennia BC), granaries made their appearance.

Wheat, rice, barley were cultivated.

People of the Kulli culture burnt their dead while those in the Nal culture practiced partial inhumation.

Religion mostly centered around worship of fertility Goddess and figurines of Goddesses and Bull (Associated with the Goddess) have been found.

The Hakra river (The Saraswati river of legends) also saw many settlements near its banks. This leads to a frequent question of whether the Indus Valley Civilization should ideally be called Indus-Saraswati civilization. Romila Thapar answers this by contending that the importance of a region should not be considered just on the basis of number of sites but the role it played in the technological and cultural evolution of the settlements into a modern urban environment. On such a parameter the Indus Valley settlements played a more pivotal role due to their access to metals and thus to Copper and Bronze tools later on.

The earliest known evidence of proto dentistry was found in Mehrgarh

Ornaments of lapis lazuli, sea shells, sandstone, copper have been found in Mehrgarh.

In Mehrgarh, Burial was accompanied with tools, ornaments and even animal sacrifices.

Dolmens, megalithic burial chambers characterized by vertical stone slabs covered with stone roof, have been found near Marayoor in Kerala.

Simple mud buildings with internal division into four.

Mehrgarh is now seen as a precursor to Indus Valley Civilization.

We have not domesticated a new food grain in over 7000 years now. Technological leap of grinding the grains, making dough out of it and then cooking it would have taken a lot of thought. In all fairness, the grains must have first been cooked directly on the fire and eaten. The modification of grinding it may have been thought of due to the necessity of giving the food to babies. Countless people would have died tasting poisonous wild fruits. Perhaps agriculture developed as a type of insurance in case the hunters are unable to find suitable game. Easy storage of grain as against the rapidly perishable meat would have also increased the attractiveness of cultivation. The reduced or no danger involved in cultivation would also be a point in its favor.

Guns, Germs and Steel is an excellent book that deals with similar topics.

Genesis has the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam, the first man. Cain gave a sacrifice of grain to God while Abel gave a sacrifice of animal. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice. A jealous Cain then kills Abel thus becoming the first murderer. Does this story has more in it? Does it depict the struggle between a more sedentary agricultural life versus the traditional hunter gatherer way of life?

Neolithic Mehrgarh - Mud houses with four subdivisions.
Neolithic Mehrgarh - Mud houses with four subdivisions.
Edakkal Stone Carvings
Edakkal Stone Carvings
Dolmen at Marayoor
Dolmen at Marayoor - Doesn't it have a haunted look?
Another Marayoor Dolmen
Another Marayoor Dolmen - Beautiful.