Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives by Peter Knight

By Peter Knight

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Nabonidus (r. ) investigated and restored many sacred places in Sumer and Akkad, including the ancient Akkadian capital Agade. Here after some three years of fruitless searching he at last discovered the remains of the temple of Ishtar: A heavy rainstorm cut a trench revealing the temple. Nabonidus was a devotee of the moon god Sin (Nanna), whose temples at Ur and Harran he restored. While excavating the residence of the entu-priestess of Sin at Ur, Nabonidus was thrilled to find ancient inscriptions.

The names of kings and places familiar from the Bible began regularly to appear, whetting public appetite for further investigations. Intrepid explorers like Robert Mignan and J. Bailie-Fraser observed and described southern Mesopotamian mounds that hid the remains of other major cities, including Ur. In the late 1840s and 1850s, serious excavations began at Babylon and in the Assyrian cities around Mosul. The impressive results sparked considerable international rivalry, especially between Britain and France, and substantial public funds began to be committed to the investigation of ancient Mesopotamian cities.

E. Prolonged irrigation had another significantly detrimental effect—salinization. Small amounts of salts carried down by the rivers from the sedimentary rocks of the north have over the millennia accumulated in the groundwater of southern Mesopotamia. , when the volume of water in the rivers is reduced. Intensive irrigation raises the water table, bringing this saline water close to the surface, where it is drawn up by capillary action, causing salts to accumulate in the subsoil and on the surface where water spread for irrigation also contains salts.

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