By Rauf MUNCHAYEV, Corresponding Member of RAS, Director of the RAS Institute of Archeology; and Nikolai MERPERT, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), chief researcher of the same Institute
A team of Russian archeologists working abroad has merited a State Prize in science and engineering for major accomplishments in studying one of the cradles of human civilization...
Our archeologists were working in the Tigris/Euphrates interfluve which ancient Hellenes called Mesopotamia, an area that has long been drawing attention from historians and all people with an interest in human culture. This vivid interest is quite natural, for Mesopotamia has made a signal contribution to human civilization. It innovated in such crucial areas as a productive economy, housing construction and industries; in a settled mode of life, written language and transportation (by inventing the wheel). The very first cities and states arose in that land, Mesopotamia.
Archeological studies there were started in the 1840s when the French and the British discovered luxurious palaces that belonged to the potentates of the late Assyrian kingdom of the llth to 7th centuries B.C. The world was amazed at the finds: huge stone bulls with human features, battle and hunting scenes, those of court ceremonies and cult rituals representing an ancient art quite unknown before. All that was a solid stratum of the humanity's historical and cultural development, a stratum taking shape many centuries before the Greeko-Roman civilization, a traditional starting point for human progress.
But even an earlier stratum of Mesopotamian history was recovered in the 1860s-one dealing with a mysterious and fantastic people, the Sumerians (latter half of the 4th-3th millennium B.C.). Chronologically, this ancient civilization is contemporary with that of Egypt, while the earlier period of Sumer, that of Uruk, dates back at least to the latter half of the fourth millennium B.C., which fact enables us to consider it contemporaneous ... Read more