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Diary of Margaret Isabella Jones - Great Mesopotamian Archaeologist

Mesopotamia is one of the most oldest civilisation in the world. In ancient civilisations, a woman’s life revolves around marriage and bearing children from childhood.

Today, you will viewing contents from the diary of Margaret Isabelle Jones, a famous archaeologist well known for her work in Mesopotamia, Persia and Ancient Egypt. You will be reading her diary content written while she was on a dig at the city of Nuzi after excavations at Assur, Mari, Sumer, Ur, and a few others - present day Iraq and Syria.

Word on the Word

Word on the Word

Have you ever wondered how the alphabet came about? Before literacy, how did people document their communication occurrences? We’re sure this is completely relatable to those who speak a second language where learning it for conversational terms is easier to execute than it is to read and write a whole new set of alphabets and characters. (Yes, we’re referring to all you Mandarin speakers out there!)

Writing had to begin somewhere. Think of the things we wouldn’t be able to do without it right now - even this simple blog post wouldn’t have been possible. Communication in this sense was a 2-dimensional instantaneous exchange where any form of written work was done in pictorial form. And the Sumerians weren't having any of it! At last, the first form of conventional writing was invented - the cuneiform!  

Am I Made in China?

Am I Made in China?

Abacuses from different regions and time frames are what we call ‘same same but different’ in Singlish. They are same because the materials needed to make the various abacuses are economical, whereby very basic materials are used. Yet they differ because of the material used as the basis of the abacus. 

The Ascend to Man's Best Friend

Ever heard of the saying that “Dogs are Man's Best Friend”? Well, the first known account of that statement was first made by Fredrick II, King of Prussia in 1789. Enough about him, let us focus on the tale at hand. Dogs have been part of human history that date back to at least 13,000 BCE (With some researchers speculating that the dogs may have dated back to 100,000 years ago). Dogs were seen as protectors of agriculture, hunting companions, as well as many other variations throughout different cultures and time periods. Loyalty to the us homo-sapiens was a key trait that kept our bond strong, so strong that even part of our anatomy - our canines, resemble their name. This led to the Canis Familiaris (Scientific name for dogs) being featured in many myths and legends that have withstood the test of time.

Historical dog pictures are still dog pictures. And what better way to view them than Tumblr.

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For those of you out there who really dig history and love dogs, we hope you loved the article as much as dogs love you. Please do not hesitate to share your experiences with dogs in the comments below. Stay pawsome.



If you are interested in where to find specific information from our blogpost, you may view the url links below:

Interesting Related Videos that inspired this post to be created:

Mesopotamia (c. 5000 - 3500 BC)

Ancient Egypt (c. 3100 - 2686 BC),_305_B.C.E.-395_C.E.,05.308.jpg,_Nordisk_familjebok.png

Ancient China (2070 - 1600 BCE)

Ancient Greece and Rome (800-500 BCE),_from_Pydna.jpg,_San_Francisco).jpg

Medieval Europe (5th - 15th Century),_indicating_a_plague_bubo_on_his_gro_Wellcome_L0022461.jpg

Aztec (14th - 16th Century)

Hope you enjoyed the post.


Lost Cities: Now you see me, now you don't


The colossal Indus region, which remained undiscovered until the 1920s, was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, South Asia and China around 2500BCE. Much of its ruins have yet to be excavated, but one can tell that the cities were well planned with wide streets, public and private wells, drains bathing platforms and reservoirs. Currently, many questions about the Indus people who created this highly complex culture remain unanswered. This is because despite having many remnants of the script on pottery vessels, seals, and amulets, without a "Rosetta Stone" linguists and archaeologists have been unable to decipher it. Nevertheless, other aspects of their society can be understood through various types of archaeological studies.

Mohenjo-Daro translates to “Mound of the Dead Man” in Sindhi and it is an archaeological site built in the province of Pakistan around 2500 BCE. Dubbed as being one of the largest settlements of the Indus Valley Civilizations and the world’s earliest major urban settlements, it was unfortunately abandoned in the 19th century BCE as the civilization declined.

Regardless, the discovery of Mohenjo-Daro led to excitement for archaeologists and historians as this was their outlet for renewing their passion. The ruins surrounding Mohenjo-Daro were left undocumented for around 3,700 years and was only re-discovered in 1920s. Many rounds of excavation have since been taking place in that region and it was designated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

It is known for its unique layout dating back to its ancient roots as part of the Indus Valley Civilization. Its ruins were once part of this ancient society and at its peak, its population might have been well over five million as documented by the archaeologists. It had a well-planned grid that had structures constructed of dried bricks made from baked mud and burned wood. The occupants of that time and the urbanistic nature of the architectural layout hints a relatively high level of social organization prevalent at that time.

Religious practices and norms were carried out through the ritualistic act of bathing in what was known as ‘The Great Bath’. Bathing was considered to be a significant part of their life and while how the ‘Great Bath’ was used remains a mystery, one could probably tell the significance water had in their lives, probably using it as a means of cleansing or purifying themselves.

Besides Mohenjo-Daro itself, Harappa was another neighboring city, located just 350 miles to the north of the tributary river, Ravi. Many similarities arose between the two cities and they were both considered a part of Indus Valley Civilization. The main streets of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa had shops and the houses built were connected to a vast network of drainage system that provided sufficient sanitation. There was also a distinct feature notable in Mohenjo-Daro and that was the underground furnace and dressing rooms hinting an air of sophistication. Also, this was seen again through their usage of sophisticated system of weights and measures and although it is unclear as to whether that symbolized written-language, some scholars have highlighted that while inscriptions that were seen engraved and symbols on religious possessions may have been there for their own mode of communication, it is not evidence for a fully developed written language.

Also, the Harappans utilized the same size sun-dried bricks and standardized weights as were used in other Indus cities such as Mohenjo-Daro. Material culture and the skeletons from the Harappa cemetery and other sites also testified to a continual intermingling of communities from both the west and the east.

Similarities between Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro transcend mere geographical and infrastructural entities. The civilization's economy appears to have depended significantly on trade, which was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. The Indus River Valley Civilization may have been the first civilization to use wheeled transport, in the form of bullock carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today.

In terms of governance, Mohenjo-Daro was governed as a city-state with no obvious sign of government or evidence of kings or queens. It appears that the Harappan and other Indus rulers governed their cities through the control of trade and religion, not by military might. There were regardless, certain rules or law they abided by such as the preference for modesty, having a certain sense of order and cleanliness were preferred themes they valued.

Art was also a much valued topic by the people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. They mass-produced pottery with fine designs and made clay figurines that were representative of their own attitudes and reflective of their own background that they came from. There was also clear signs of trade as seen by the seals and weights and even the art, pottery, that they valued was standardized from having tool made of copper and stone.

Seals are one of the most commonly found objects in Harappan cities. They are decorated with animal motifs such as elephants, water buffalo, tigers, and most commonly unicorns. Some of these seals are inscribed with figures that are prototypes to Hindu religious figures as seen today. Ivory, Capis, Carnelian and gold beads and baked-brick city structures symbolized the city’s wealth and stature. However, just as quickly as the entire civilization thrived, it diminished soon after between 1800 and 1700 BCE.

What led to its decline remains a mystery but it is perpetrated that the Aryans supposedly destroyed many ancient cities around 1500 B.C. and this could account for the decline of the Indus civilization. However, the continuity of religious practices makes this unlikely. In addition, more probable explanations for the decline of the Indus Valley civilization have been proposed in recent years; such as climate shifts which caused great droughts around 2200 B.C. that forced abandonment of the Indus cities impelled a westward migration. Recent findings have brought to light that the Sumerian empire declined sharply around this time due to a climate shift that caused major droughts for several centuries. The Harappans being so close to Sumer, would in all probability have been affected by this harsh shift in climate.

Ancient Music

Although the earliest form of music in the world can be traced back to the Upper Paleolithic era, also known as the late stone ages (c. 50,000 – 10,000 BCE), historical records of musical practices were only done much after the development of writing at c.3000 BCE. In this post, I will be sharing with the class about the earliest recorded music of literate civilization in history. This era of music is also known as Ancient music, and I will mainly be covering the Ancient music of the two civilizations we had come across since the start of the semester: Mesopotamia and Greece.

Ancient music was characterized by the development of music notation systems, instruments, and music theories – such as scales and modes – across various ancient civilizations namely the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Indian, Chinese, Greece, Rome, etc. These music systems appeared separately and were unique to each of these ancient empires. Here is a brief timeline suggesting the development of music theories, instruments, and systems for those who are interested.

Ancient Music of The Mesopotamian Empires

Most of what we know about Mesopotamian Empires came through excavated cuneiform tablets. These tablets gave us "evidence for the uses of music in ancient Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, and among their neighbors in Anatolia, Iran, and Syria-Palestine". One of the most notable findings of Ancient music in Mesopotamia is the Lyres (and harp) of Ur. The earlier lyres were recovered by British Archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley during his excavations of Ur's Royal Cemetery. Each of the lyres have their own unique features; however, they do share some similar features such as the ornament of a bovine's (bull or ox) head and the use of jewels and precious metals (Lapis Lazuli, mother of pearl, gold, silver, and copper) to decorate the lyre. Here are images of two prominent lyres found in the tombs of the King and Queen; The Great Lyre on the left (above), and The Queen's Lyre on the right (below):

In addition to the Lyres of Ur, information about the Ancient Mesopotamian musical scales have been identified by cuneiformists in the late 1950s. So far, they have identified ten cuneiform tablets which gave evidence that "standardized tun­ing procedures that operated within a heptatonic, dia­tonic system consisting of seven different and interrelated scales" existed during the Old Babylonian period of ancient Mesopotamia (c.1800 BCE). What is surprising is that these seven scales can be associated to the seven musical scales of Ancient Greek even though the development of the Greek scales were only created after about 1400 years later! Furthermore, one of the Mesopotamian scale is similar to what we know as a modern Major scale today. This shows the influence Ancient music might have in the shaping of civilizations throughout history.

Ancient music of The Greek

In general, the Greek music system of scales generally consist of tetrachords - a four note descending adjacent intervals - which is referred to as a "genera". Based on the different ways intervals within the tetrachord were divided, three different genera - the diatonic, chromatic, and enharmonic genera - were classified. Seven-tone scales were then created by putting these genera together using two methods: conjunct and disjunct.

Apart from having the system of scales and the seven different modes of music [previously mentioned in the section of Mesopotamia music], the music systems of ancient Greece was largely influenced by the philosophies of notable philosophers such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. As we have discussed in class, due the Greek's belief in the nine muses and art, they held music in high regard. Therefore, the functions of music include playing "in homes, in theatres [sic], during religious ceremonies, to accompany athletics, provided rhythm during military training, accompanied agricultural activities such as harvesting, and was an important element in the education of children".

In addition to being the "Father" of mathematics and geometry, Pythagoras was also deemed as the "Father of Music" due to his studies and discovery of musical intervals, harmonics, and the medicinal properties of music. At c.500 BCE, Pythagoras devised the Pythagorean Scale based on the relationship between frequencies and the vibrations of different lengths of strings. Here is an interactive site introducing his system of harmony in terms of Music and Space.

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle discusses music as a power that can influence the spirituality, behavior, and soul due to its potential to affect the emotional states of an individual. Plato emphasized on the relationship of music and the society, stating in The Republic Book IV that "When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them". Similarly, Aristotle observed that music can shape human behavior as it connects deeply with human emotions. In chapter V of his Politics Book VIII, Aristotle describes how "anger and mildness, courage and modesty, and their contraries, as well as all other dispositions of the mind, are most naturally imitated by music and poetry; which is plain by experience, for when we hear these our very soul is altered". With this potential to affect emotional states, he emphasized that music should be considered as an influence that can improve, and also decline human's morality.


(Click on image for source)

Thank you for reading

Here marks the end of my blog post regarding the Ancient music of Mesopotamia and Greece. By now, we would have realized how the information provided in this post is just the tip of an iceberg as compared to the vast history and complexity of Ancient music and its various music systems. However, I hope you have enjoyed reading and learning more about what I have shared. One last thing, how could a topic introducing Ancient music end without any audio references?


To offer an idea of ancient music, the video embedded above is an interpretation of the Hurrian Hymn no. 6 from ancient Mesopotamia (c.1400 BCE); one of the oldest written music discovered thus far!

Once again, thank you for reading.

Link Love: Epic of Gilgamesh

A newly discovered tablet V of the epic of Gilgamesh. The left half of the whole tablet has survived and is composed of 3 fragments. The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq. Photo © Osama S.M. Amin.
A newly discovered tablet V of the epic of Gilgamesh. The left half of the whole tablet has survived and is composed of 3 fragments. The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq. Photo © Osama S.M. Amin.

This Sept. 2015 article from details newly found lines from the fifth tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Of particular note for our class, the author notes that the twenty new lines suggest that Humbaba is not in fact a monster in the cedar forest, but rather a wealthy king who appears in  Gilgamesh's territory (and whom Enkidu may have spent some time with before meeting Gilgamesh). That quite alters the story, I think...