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After centuries of Akkadian and Gutian rule, it was back in Sumerian hands under the authority of Ur-Nammu. His program of reforms included a written code of law and the completion of Ur’s massive Great Ziggurat, which loomed over the city like a sacred fortress. 1 A silver currency system of shekels, minas, and talents had begun, and the economy was thriving. The common language had recently transitioned from Sumerian to Akkadian, but most prayers and texts were still written in Sumerian. It is likely many adult residents of the city spoke both languages to some degree.

Indd 56 10/30/14 11:07 AM were also expected to comb and style their beards, and women were often expected to wear a head covering. Clothing for both sexes consisted of a skirt, sandals, a wool tunic, and distinctive jewelry. Then it was off to work. Most mushkinu were farmers. Others worked as potters, tailors, stonemasons, brewers, or in other skilled trades. After a hard day’s work, a Babylonian might eat a grain cake cooked with dates or some other fruit, along with dried fish and a pitcher of beer.

By traditional measurements, the Babylon of 560 BCE did not look like the capital of an empire in decline. The 300-foot (91 m) Etemenanki dominated a Babylonian landscape that was walled, densely populated, and eight miles (13 km) wide. 4 But it would not remain so for long. The enormous walls and gates of Babylon defended it against competing cities and armies. indd 62 10/30/14 11:08 AM CHAPTER 6 DEATH AND THE GODS I n Sumerian religion, as in Sumerian politics, Eridu was the beginning of all things.

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Ancient Mesopotamia by Tom Head


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