Thursday, October 24, 2013

The lapis-lazuli dagger exumed at Ur is apparently alive and well in the Baghdad Museum

Lapis-lazuli dagger exhumed at Ur
    I've been trying to read Will Durant's Story of Civilization. It's a slow go. It's not exactly bathroom reading, but that's where I keep it. But I also try to make myself read a few pages every day while sitting on the sofa.
    I've only made it to page 134 in the first volume. The 11-volume series has about 10,000 pages, so I'm just over one percent through it.
    I had to stop reading and go to the Internet when I read Durant's description of Sumarian artifacts. This is the oldest civilization that we know of, dating to about 4,000 B.C. He describes the Sumarians as terrible potters but good goldsmiths and mentions some of these elaborate artifacts. "Best of all is the gold sheath and lapis-lazuli dagger exumed at Ur," which he said touches on perfection. His footnote says that this artifact is in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
    Of course, I had to rush to the Internet to see if the dagger was one of the items looted after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The failure of our military to secure this museum quickly is inexcusable. As best I can tell, the dagger remains in the museum. But many priceless Sumarian artifacts were stolen or simply destroyed. These are the oldest man-made artifacts in the world and they aren't making any more.
    So the dagger apparently survives. I can go on with my reading, three or four pages at a time.

    It's the nature of Internet searches that one will discover facts tangental to one's original search. The excavations at Ur took place at the start of the 20th century and eventually stalled. The ancient city is only 20 percent excavated, and current excavation activity is limited.
    I found a webpage filled with photos of the artifacts exhumed from the royal tombs of Ur. The website is worth a visit. As you look at these items, remember that they come from the oldest civilization that we know of. Pretty amazing.


Pugnacious said...


Checkout this April 2003 report on the sacking of Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities. I followed Robert Fisk's on site reporting of the looting of Baghdads's museums as it occurred, and it is unfair to blame the looting on "poor, Shia Muslim looters." As this WSWS report proves, the looting was a calculated theft of targeted artifacts. It has been claimed that civilian contract thieves, with a laundry list of prize archelogical targets, rode in with members of the US Fourth I.D. as it entered Baghdad.

Micha said...

Will Durant is the king, but I recommend Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve for bathroom reading, its very inspiring and makes yoi understand why you actually should read Durant, Epicurus, etc. etc.

(This is not an Amazon bot, I was googling for the same dagger you jusr described, I love the interweb :)