Portal:Ancient Near East

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Sumerian inscription
The Sumerian language was the language of ancient Sumer, spoken in Southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the first century AD. Then, it was forgotten until the 19th century, when Assyriologists began deciphering the cuneiform inscriptions and excavated tablets left by these speakers. Sumerian is a language isolate.

The Sumerian language is the earliest known written language. It first appeared as numerical records, with symbols added to represents the things counted, which then developed into a logographic script representing the whole language, not just accounting objects. The logographic symbols were then generalized using a wedge-shaped stylus to impress the shapes into wet clay, giving rise to the name cuneiform, meaning "wedge-shape". These distinctive wedge shapes were imitated even in carved inscriptions. By ca. 2600 BC, the large set of logographic signs had been simplified into a syllabary of several hundred signs, allowing modern Assyriologists to understand many aspects of the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language.

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Nabopolassar (Akkadian: Nabû-apal-usur, reigned 625 – 605 BC) was the founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Along with the Medes, he rose in revolt against the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and together they captured its capital at Nineveh. Nabopolassar then went on to destroy the remaining remnants of the Assyrian empire, carving out a new empire in the process.

He also waged war against Egypt and started rebuilding Babylon. His son, crown prince Nebuchadrezzar II, defeated Egypt shortly before Nabopolassar died, and would then go on to make Babylon one of the wonders of the world.

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Persian Warriors
Credit: mshamma
Persian Warriors
Darius I's palace at Susa, ca. 510 BC (Pergamonmuseum)

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Did you know...

Nabonidus Cylinder
...that the Hurrian language and the Urartian language are proposed to be distantly related to the modern Armenian language?

...that the Aramaic language, the lingua franca of the ancient Near East in Biblical times is still spoken as a first language today?

...that the syllabic cuneiform script was adapted to create a phonetic alphabet twice, for the Ugaritic language and for the Old Persian language?

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Ancient Near East on Wikimedia Commons Ancient Near East on Wikisource Archaeology on Wikinews Languages of the Ancient Near East on Wiktionary Ancient Near East on Wikibooks History on Wikiversity Ancient Near East on Wiktionary
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