Saturday, August 28, 2010

When Akkadian was Lingua Franca - NBIH

Today we will have two similar posts. They will both point to a podcast about ancient history and both these podcasts will teach something fascinating about ancient technologies (writing, metal working and more) even if both podcasts intend to actually talk about some other subject and bring these early technologies only up as an aside. Here is the first.

New Books In History had Amanda Podany on the show to talk about her book Brotherhood of Kings. This is an amazing study about the diplomatic system in the near-East in pre-Hellenic ancient times. It turns out that Mesopotamia and Egypt had full fledged diplomatic traffic that looks more like the 19th century international system than what you'd associate with the second millennium BCE. To give one amazing fact: the diplomatic language was Akkadian and the system was assuming equality between the players. Even the mighty deified pharaohs of Egypt submitted to this.

I was struck by the technology item in this conversation. Host Marshall Poe and Ms Podany discuss at length the intricacies of the cuneiform writing system and this I found truly mind-boggling. You really get a lifelike grip on how the scribes learned the art of writing. How they must have struggled with the stylos and the clay, with the texts, with the dictation and obviously with the languages and the translations. You have to hear for yourself.

More NBIH:
The 1910 Paris flood,
Stasi agents and informants,
War in Human Civilization,
Always recommended: New Books in History,
The best varied history podcast,
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