Discoveries in Babylonia (1909)

Babylonia at the Time of Hammurabi
Babylonia at the Time of Hammurabi [Source: Wikipedia Commons]
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Theophilus G. Pinches [1856-1934], “Discoveries in Babylonia and the Neighbouring Lands,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 41 (1909): 99-122.

Discoveries in Babylonia and the Neighbouring Lands

Gradually, but surely and ever more speedily, Assyriology is becoming the most important study in the domain of Oriental archaeology. The language of the Babylonians and Assyrians proves to be a tongue of the most engrossing importance, whilst that of the seemingly earlier race-the Sumerians-with which it was brought into contact, is regarded by some as the coming study for those who wish to acquire renown as true archaeological linguists. But besides the languages, with their dialects, a very specially interesting and important field of study is their archaeology in general, their beliefs, their manners and customs, their arts and sciences, and the geography of the land. Whether we shall ever obtain information as to their original home, we do not know, but we may, by chance, acquire, ultimately, the information needed to find out where that place may have been; and in any case, we shall know all the better what influence those nations may have had in the world, to say nothing of the bearing of their records on the all-important subject of Bible hi13tory, thought, and beliefs. A number of closely-connected nations whose influence extended from Elam on the ea.st to the Mediterranean and Egypt on the west, and from the Caspian Sea on the north to Arabia on the south, cannot fail to have exercised considerable influence beyond those borders and boundaries – an influence of which we shall not obtain a full idea for many years to come.

Now that we have learned so much about these ancient nations, and their peculiar wedge-formed characters, we know also something of their power and the wide influence of their writing. It is now known that the so-called Phoenician goes back to 1,500 or 2,000 years before Christ, but there was a time when the cuneiform script, in one form or other, was used all over Western Asia within the limits I have indicated. In addition, therefore, to Semitic Babylonian, the cuneiform script, derived from that of Babylonia, was used by the Assyrians, who spoke the same language; the Elamites, who spoke Babylonian and ancient Elamite; the Armenians, who seem to have obtained the syllabary they used from Assyria; the Palestinian states, who got their script from Babylonia; the Mitannians, who also employed the Babylonian style; the Cappadocians, who at first used ancient Babylonian, though they seem to have been an Assyrian colony; and the Hittites, who also used the Babylonian style. These are the nationalities who are known to have used some form of the Babylonian wedge-writing, and the list omits ancient Persian on account of the impossibility of tracing any sure connection between their cuneiform alphabet{for that is, perhaps, the best word to use) and the complicated characters of the Babylonians and Assyrians….

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