Archaeological evidence suggests the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia around 4500 BCE. But about 300 years, it was used for making household implements, not transportation.
When the wheel was put on a vehicle, it was only for war, not cargo. With heavy, cumbersome wooden wheels they were perfect for driving through – or over – enemy soldiers. Lack of good roads delayed the wheel’s civilian usage for a couple more centuries.
In the ancient world, textiles were a valuable commodity, because every piece of cloth had to be made by hand. Clothing was important economically. Early Bronze Age Linear B tablets from the Aegean Sea document the careful attention given to managing textile production, and on the other side of the globe, the Incan Empire levied tribute in textiles. Unfortunately, clothing and the cloth they are made form tend not to survive in the archaeological record. They often have to be studied indirectly, by examining the scraps of textile that survive in the extremes of arid or waterlogged conditions, and comparing the scraps to visual or sculptural records of clothing. Recent frozen discoveries from the retreating glaciers of the Alps offer new insight into ancient Greek and ancient Roman textiles.
Iron Age Italians seem to have favored a weave known as a twill. When colors are used, they will create neat diagonal patterns (most notably in the modern tweed). Currently, the earliest known examples of twills are from Hallstatt in Austria. The Italians likely shared textile production preferences with their northern European neighbors, placing the Romans firmly in the European textile tradition.
In Greece, a form of weave known as a tabby was the most popular. It is considered the simplest type of textile available, when in purest form: horizontal and vertical threads repeatedly pass over and under each other. The ancient Greeks favored a particular type of tabby, however, where the horizontal threads were beaten into the weave so hard that the vertical strands become near-invisible. It is perfect for bold blocks of color, and can make more varied designs than just diagonals; such a technique has been used to produce spectacular tapestries and Turkish carpets. Early examples of this tabby have been found in ancient Ur, in Iraq, and in Turkey. Twill weaves have notably not been found in ancient Greece or in the ancient Near East. That situates the Greeks in the Eastern textile tradition, relatively uninfluenced by their northwestern neighbors.
By looking at their textiles, then, we can tell that Iron Age Italy and ancient Greece were culturally in two different spheres. Italy took after its European neighbors, while Greece took after the Near East. They were a small example of the wider break between East and West.
The ancient Sumerians are known for having created one of the earliest agricultural civilizations in the world. A new discovery in southern Iraq suggests they also conducted some of the earliest maritime trade.Remains of brick ramparts, docks, and an artificial basin created to be the town’s port have been found at the site of Abu Tbeirah since 2016. That suggests they knew how to build boats and fish, at least. But what about maritime trade?
At the same site, researchers found some unusual artifacts that show the ancient Sumerians almost certainly had long-distance contacts, likely by sea. Vases made of alabaster, a stone not found in Mesopotamia. Carnelian beads from India. A necklace in the style of the Indus River Valley; the Indus River Valley civilization flourished at the same time as Sumer.
Ancient Sumerian texts mainly talk about agriculture, and little about maritime trade. The is understandable. Agriculture required the most organization, and effort by the state. Archaeology is uncovering a relatively hidden aspect of ancient Sumerian life. They had farmers, yes, but also sailors.
Enantuma, the daughter of King Ishme-Dagan, was the high-priestess of Ur. Known as the entu, this position was often filled by the king’s daughter. What makes Enantuma special is her role as a builder: she is the only woman known to have authorized a major building project at Ur. Enantuma authorized the building of the Giparu, or “cloister” as it has been translated, south of the major ziggurat.
“Cloister” is a small word. It doesn’t convey how important the Giparu was. Not only did the Giparu house the residence of the high-priestess, it also housed important burial vaults, and the temple of Ningal, consort of the moon god.
Irisagrig is a Sumerian city which has never been found. But we know it existed, from the cuneiform tablets it left behind, and mentions in tablets from other cities.
Recently, a new cache of ancient Mesopotamian tablets was found. The discovery is a little crazy: US law enforcement seized thousands of looted artifacts from Hobby Lobby! The company had illegally purchased the artifacts after they were looted from Iraq.
Among the seized artifacts were at least 450 tablets from Irisagrig, which appear to have been written between
Archaeologists have known that cats and humans have had a relationship that goes back a long ways – eight to ten thousand years, to give numbers. That’s about when agriculture first appeared in the Fertile Crescent. However, actually domestication of cats took longer. And that’s just what the cats wanted.
A new study by the University of Leuven and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences used DNA to look closely at cat domestication. They found that full domestication was slow. DNA samples from 200 cats dating across the past 9,000 years revealed modern domestic cats come from two lineages of Felis silvestris lybica, a subspecies of wildcat. The first lineage was an Asian population, which likely were mousers for Fertile Crescent granaries. These cats traveled with humans into Europe as early as 4,400 BCE.
The second feline lineage was traced back to ancient Egypt. The cat-worshippers. This lineage came to Europe around 1,500 BCE. When the Asian and the African lineages met, they began to mix, and develop into the domestic cat we would recognize today.