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Thin End of the Wedge

Author: Jon Taylor

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Thin End of the Wedge explores life in the ancient Middle East. There are many wonderful stories we can tell about those people, their communities, the gritty reality of their lives, their hopes, fears and beliefs. We can do that through the objects they left behind and the cities where they once lived. Our focus is on the cultures that used cuneiform (“wedge-shaped”) writing, so mostly on ancient Iraq and nearby regions from about 3000 BC to about 100 AD. Thin End of the Wedge brings you expert insights and the latest research in clear and simple language. What do we know? How do we know anything? And why is what we know always changing? Why is any of this important today? We won’t talk to you like you’re stupid. But you won’t need any special training to understand what we’re talking about. This is an independent production by me as an individual. It is not supported by my employer or any other organisation I am involved with, and the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect theirs.
29 Episodes
Sophus explains the most famous piece of literature from ancient Iraq: the Epic of Gilgamesh. He guides us through the many meanings that have been found in it, from antiquity to the present day. Why does it fascinate us, and what can it offer us?2:21 about the Gilgamesh Epic6:38 what Gilgamesh meant in antiquity9:39 meanings in the modern world15:51 what Gilgamesh has meant for Iraqis in particular22:21 Sophus’s new book, and a reading from his translation by Ruba HillawiWebsite: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: wedgepod@gmail.comTwitter: @wedge_pod Patreon:
Reinhard reveals the wealth of information recorded in the so-called "astronomical diaries". The astronomical component was, and still is, a valuable resource. But there is so much more. The diaries document fascinating historical details, help us understand the Babylonian economy, and offer remarkable details about the ancient environment. 2:32 introduction to astronomical diaries5:40 what do the diaries say?10:37 who wrote them?12:21 why were they written?13:47 why are they important?16:23 relation to other texts19:19 what they tell us about the Babylonian economy22:21 what they tell us about the environment25:21 computer aided analysisReinhard's Academia page: Music by Ruba HillawiWebsite: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: wedgepod@gmail.comTwitter: @wedge_pod Patreon:
Müge introduces us to the Hittites and their artistic world. We focus on kings, and why there are so few depictions of kings in human form. What do they look like? What are they communicating and who to? What does it tell us about the relationship between human and divine worlds? 3:45 nature and scope of Hittite art7:22 who is it for?10:49 relation to other ancient Middle Eastern traditions12:41 why are there so few representations of kings in human form?15:37 individuality or timeless kingship?18:25 what does the king look like? 21:03 portraits or generic forms?22:22 relation between human and divine worlds23:55 can we identify historical events in art? Müge's university page:üge's Academia page: by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Adelheid, Nicolò, and Ingolf explain about the ICAANE. Why was it started, and how did it become what it is today? What does it take to organise an ICAANE? What lessons were learned from the recent, virtual ICAANE? And what can we expect from future ICAANEs? What can be done to make them more inclusive? Adelheid:2:49 About ICAANE5:10 Scope of ICAANE8:11 Who runs it?10:22 Logistics of in-person ICAANE Nicolò14:21 Significance of ICAANE16:20 Logistics of virtual ICAANE23:17 Successes of virtual ICAANE Bologna Ingolf27:17 Why is ICAANE always in Europe?28:55 What can we expect from ICAANE 2023 in Copenhagen?34:10 Inclusion, and the future of ICAANE Access to ICAANE 12 Bologna lectures: ICAANE 12 Bologna website: OrientLab YouTube channel: Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
The world’s first Assyrian museum opened in 1847 in Paris, at the Louvre. Since then, the Louvre has curated one of the most important collections of antiquities from the ancient Middle East. What is the modern approach to curation there? Ariane discusses the curatorial role, from displays, research, combatting illegal antiquities, heritage protection, and partnerships with colleagues and institutions in the Middle East.   2:29 what a curator at the Louvre does 4:12 display at the Louvre12:28 how research fits in15:50 acquisitions and combatting illegal antiquities 20:40 Louvre’s activities in the Middle East25:50 about the department of Ancient Near Eastern Antiquities 30:01 what the future might hold at the Louvre  Ariane in the news: On the Louvre website: Louvre on Twitter: Louvre on YouTube: ALIPH:  Music by Ruba Hillawi  Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Many of us have spent a lot of time at home this year. What would that have been like in ancient Babylon? Heather talks about housing in the first millennium BC. What were houses like, who lived in them, and how did they use them? She discusses what houses meant to Babylonians, and how they were split and reconstituted by the family.  2:34 where was housing in the city?4:13 where did people want to live?6:42 did houses have kerb appeal?8:54 a typical house12:17 how rooms were used15:13 who lived in a typical house?18:09 keeping a family home22:04 what about water?26:01 how did you find where someone lived?   Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Jaafar explains his love for the ancient waterways of southern Iraq. He tells us why they are so important, and what they can tell us about life in ancient Iraq. How do you find ancient waterways? And how do you investigate them?  2:44 Jaafar's interest in waterways4:26 why are they important?6:35 what they can tell us11:39 the relationship between sites and waterways17:06 how to study waterways21:36 collaborations Twitter: Facebook: Publications:  University website:  Nahrein Network: Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
21. Fabienne Huber Vuillet: Meanings from the mundaneFabienne introduces us to the Mesopotamian science of predicting the future based on things that happened during daily life. What might have meaning, and how would you find it? Who used this kind of expertise? And was there anything you could do to change the future predicted for you? 2:34 omens from daily life5:20 what had meaning10:20 how did divination worked16:49 who used the omens19:51 could you change the future?25:15 how the mass of knowledge was organised Project site: Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Xiaoli introduces us to silver in the Sumerian city of Umma. She explains where it came from and how people got hold of it. Who was able to use it and what for? She tells us how we might understand whether it could be called money. And explains the physical form in which silver circulated. 5:42 What is money?8:46 Who used silver?13:00 How they got silver16:55 Did silver actually circulate?22:26 How was value set?Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon:  
19. Shiyanthi Thavapalan: Colour in Mesopotamia Shiyanthi throws light on how colour was interpreted in Mesopotamia. What cultural meanings were attached to colours? What was the relation between materials and colours? She explains where they sourced their pigments and how they made paints.   2:26 Mesopotamia as a colourful place6:01 How they saw colour12:00 How we know about colour14:47 Materials and colour16:56 Sources of pigments21:56 Experimental archaeology23:33 The meaning of colours Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
18. Carmen Gütschow: Archaeological conservationCarmen introduces the work of an archaeological conservator. She discusses the issues that arise in different materials, and the range of treatments and tools she uses. What are the pressures of conservation work on an archaeological site? And what does she do differently in Europe and the Middle East. As an expert in treating cuneiform tablets, Carmen explains about firing and salts. 3:03 what a conservator does4:23 ceramics7:38 organics and humidity8:54 metals11:40 work on an archaeological site versus work in a lab13:38 work in the Middle East16:23 cuneiform tablets17:42 firing tablets21:46 preserving original condition24:37 working in museumsCarmen’s book Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg/Excavation in Assur and Bakr Awa and Ninive in Iraq/Kurdistan Shamlu Archaeological Mission (SAM) is part of the DFG Emmy Noether project "Flight - Migration - Interaction. Artefact related diversity in Ancient Near Eastern contexts of the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC" LMU/ Iran. Das elamische Archiv aus Goshtaspi. Staatliche VerwaltungSippar library/ Baghdad, Iraq. „Electronic Babylonian Literature“ (Professor Enrique Jiménez). Hilprecht collection, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena •••  /Uruk-Warka collection, Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg• iDAI.publications: › efb › article › download•öhl-Collection NINO /Leiden, Netherlands•• Berlin “Das Vorprojekt BABylo-tec”. Erinnerung an das ende der deutschen Babylon- ExpeditionMuseum of Islamic art Berlin/ Afghanistan. A museum project in Herat Afghanistan••• of Islamic art Berlin/ Karachi, Pakistan. A project and exhibition in KarachiA new museum project in Yazd•••• by Ruba HillawiWebsite: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_p
17. Strahil Panayotov: Assyrian eye medicineStrahil explains how Assyrian medicine worked. Who were the doctors and what did they do? Would their treatments have been effective? He discusses the problems caused by taxonomy. Different ideas about the human body and the diseases affecting it make it more difficult for us to understand Assyrian medicine. One of our most important sources is a newly reconstructed reference work, The Nineveh Medical Encyclopaedia. 2:46 Assyrian doctors5:24 how medicine worked8:44 eye problems and their treatment12:25 the problem of taxonomy15:25 about our sources17:30 the Nineveh Medical Encyclopaedia BabMed:’s Academia: Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Ilgi and Selim explain their collaborative project to document and eventually publish an important group of texts from Turkish-sponsored excavations at Sippar in the late 19th century. They discuss the number and content of these tablets, and how they came to Istanbul. What are the project’s aims and what progress has been made so far?  5:07 About the Project5:47 Why Sippar?7:27 About the tablets9:25 How they came to Istanbul13:15 Results and further goals18:45 Wider dissemination20:56 Mesopotamia in schools  Sevin Kutlu and Teoman Duralı's translation based on N.K. Sandars's translation: Gılgamış Destanı (The Gilgamesh Epic)Muazzez İlmiye Çığ, Gilgameş. Tarihte İlk Kral Kahraman (Gilgamesh. The First Hero King in History)Sait Maden, Gılgamış Destanı (The Gilgamesh Epic)Orhan Suda's translation of Jean Bottéro's translation, Gılgamış Destanı. Ölmek İstemeyen Adam (The Gilgamesh Epic. The Man Who Does Not Want To Die)Muzaffer Ramazanoğlu, 2010, Gılgamış Destanı (The Gilgamesh Epic) ilgigercek (at) (at) by Ruba HillawiWebsite: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Daniel Nicky explains how he uses music to help teach school children about history. His Mesopotamia song has been incredibly successful. How does he do it, and what does it take? His work with youth groups in West Java may offer inspiration for engaging youth in the Middle East. 03:15 origins of the Mesopotamia Song06:43 why it’s popular10:00 the Mesopotamia Song13:41 making the Song16:22 researching the Song23:37 plans for the future27:09 working with youth groups  The Mesopotamia SongMr Nicky's World History Songs Music by Ruba Hillawi  Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Aaron discusses the ideas from his new book, The Idols of Isis: from Assyria to the Internet. The ISIS video of men smashing statues in Mosul Museum reminded him of a lost scene from Sargon’s palace. What are images? Why do we need them? Can they ever be anything other than incomplete and imperfect? And does that matter?2:53 images, idolatry and iconoclasm5:39 meanings of images in relation to Iraqi heritage9:09 ISIS videos 12:44 Sargon of Assyria and ancient iconoclasm17:52 virtuous iconoclasm?21:55 how museums might display meanings Idols of Isis is available from the University of Chicago Press:   Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon:   
Nicolò discusses the work of the Iraqi-Italian team at the site of Nineveh in 2019 and 2020. What is the situation at Nineveh now? How has the site been affected in recent years? New research has revealed new information and insights. But far more importantly, Nicolò discusses the forms that archaeology can take, and why it is done.  2:24 about Nineveh6:51 new work at Nineveh9:55 what archaeology means at Nineveh20:32 collaboration with SBAH26:28 why this work, at Nineveh, now?30:45 archaeological park36:41 engaging communities Academia: University page: Researchgate: EDUU: Barry McGuire - Eve Of Destruction:  Music by Ruba Hillawi  Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Gojko reveals the amazing scale and scope of international trade in the ancient Middle East. And the incredible detail in which we can study it. The Assyrian trade network was not the exception we used to think it was. The traders’ business records document a system that has much to offer wider historical study. 2:39 what is trade?5:10 about the Old Assyrian Colony Period9:31 what the ancient archives tell us12:49 was Assur normal or exceptional?17:44 the significance of the scope and scale of the trade21:52 who were these traders?30:43 the relation between trade and political organisation  Academia: University page:  Music by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Carlos introduces us to the social setting of Mesopotamian maths. What form did maths take? Who used it and what for? Are Mesopotamian practices related to what we know from other ancient cultures, or from the modern world? Carlos explains how our understanding of Mesopotamian maths has changed over the years.Academia:    2:19 about Mesopotamian maths5:34 the oldest maths10:10 connections to other ancient cultures, and to the modern world14:57 how they wrote numbers17:22 how Mesopotamians thought about numbers23:51 changing modern understandings of Mesopotamian maths28:42 Carlos' workMusic by Ruba Hillawi Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon: 
Licia talks about her work at the Sumerian site of Abu Tbeirah in southern Iraq. She explains what the burials found there, and elsewhere in Iraq, tell us about the beliefs and practices of the Sumerians. Why are bodies oriented to the western horizon? And why are the heads sometimes missing?  2:25 about Abu Tbeirah3:14 why excavate at Abu Tbeirah?6:50 where were the dead buried?14:56 the orientation of bodies18:18 grave goods21:10 after death24:58 how burials are excavated  Academia: ResearchGate: Facebook: Instagram:   Music by Ruba Hillawi  Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon:   
Elisa talks about terracottas as physical images. What different sorts are there? What images were popular? She tackles the difficult questions of who used them, and what for. What do broken examples tell us? And she explains how we understand the meaning of ancient images.  3:05 what is a terracotta?9:24 what kinds of terracotta are there?11:36 what images were popular?13:11 how were terracottas used?17:52 how do discover the meaning of terracottas?22:51 what was the significance of breaking terracottas?24:35 how to follow Elisa’s work  University page: Academia: Twitter:  ACAWAI-CS:   Music by Ruba Hillawi  Website: http://wedgepod.orgYouTube: Email: Twitter: @wedge_pod  Patreon:  
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