The Invention of Cities, States, and Writing in Mesopotamia
I came here to see the bowls during the episode and there it was!
I really like how you bring it back to what life was like for the ordinary people, who were of course the majority of people then. That ubiquitous bowl really is a crude thing.
I remember a panel in Larry Gonick's "Cartoon History of the Universe" showing a Sumerian couple eating from a bowl. A bowl like that one?
The mans asks "Do you ever get tired of onions?" and the woman replies "tired of food?"
Years ago, I was experimenting with ancient bread making techniques using sourdough, of course. One of those was clay pot baking. I used flower pots rather than something as lumpy as the bowl. One of the techniques is to use a very wet dough which the sourdough turns into the super elastic dough that makes great bread. But the down side is it can bake a little flat. There's a sweet spot of just enough flour and not too much and baking at the right moment to get the strong spring from the hot oven before the sourdough organisms die to get the perfect loaf. But a cheater method of using a bowl can make a big difference without having to time it precisely. Plus their wheat probably had less gluten than ours so it would be even trickier.
What I learned from the flower pot method is that it is tricky to bake the bread and not have it glued to the porous clay. Among the methods was to oil the pot very well and have a thick layer of dry flour between the bowl and the bread. Both were needed to allow the baked bread to come out of the pot. Do you know if the bowl's chemical analysis showed fat absorbed into the bowl?
Love this episode! I'm really fascinated by the "earliest." Hoping someday to be able to visit Ur and Uruk.
One note: I wish you, Patrick, would list your bibliography here on substack for each episode. I am often listening on a walk or at some time when I can't make a note of books you recommend, and I do like to check them out.
In 2003, I was a US serviceman in Iraq. We lived at the base of the temple of Ur, and spent a lot of time in Humvees traveling around the region. On one of our missions, we went far into the desert... many hours without seeing any signs of life. The expanse of empty dusty desert was spotted with the occasional dead bloated camel. We came across a fenced abandoned looking archaeological compound, the interpreter called "Warka". We relied a lot on him for what we saw. It seemed like something out of an Indiana Jones novel. There was a main later-built building in the middle that was supposedly built by the Nazis on an archaeological expedition and abandoned. Inside were all sorts of old pieces of things - statues, figurines, encased mummies. And... Just like in your podcast, there were pottery shards EVERYWHERE.
Thanks for connecting everything and for the fascinating portrayal. Keep doing what you're doing!
Hi Patrick, love your work, but it's kind of getting me down a bit. I mean, you talk about how many 'defensive' injuries there are in ancient cultures, and that one of the first written words was for 'female slave' closely followed by 'male slave'. It seems like people would run hundreds of bison off a cliff and only actually use a few of them.
It's made me realise that many of these cultures were just a kind of 'lord of the flies' with a bunch of 15 to 25 year olds running around with no rules and if they couldn't shag it, they would kill it or eat it. I dunno man, how do you not be pessimistic? Have people in general really changed that much when we see the 'elites' still doing pretty much whatever it is they want to do?
Sorry for the barely legible rant
My understanding is that typically the ziggurats (and maybe other buildings?) in Mesopotamia were constructed with dried mud bricks on the interior and were faced with fired bricks for durability. Does anyone know what fuel was used to heat the kilns? Making masses of fired bricks must have consumed a lot of fuel. I have wondered about bitumin, can it be used to heat a kiln?
You always link these articles to your podcast at apple.com. Not all of use apple equipment or software. If you linked us to your site at https://wondery.com/shows/tides-of-history/ anyone could listen or download there.