Art Collection From Royal Tombs at Ur From 3,750 BC
A Black Man in New Guinea Today
Were our first ancestors civilized or uncivilized? Did they wander constantly and hunt and fight for a living? Could they write?
Modern science once thought it had the answer to those questions, and the answer, science said, was that our first ancestors were the most ignorant of barbarians.
But the recent findings of archaeologists have altered this concept. Dr. W.W. Bell Dawson, a Canadian scientist has this to say in his book, The Bible Confirmed by Science: "Neither in Egypt nor in Babylon has any beginning of civilization been found. As far back as archaeology can take us, man is already civilized, building cities and temples, carving hard stone into artistic form, and even employing a system of picture writing. And of Egypt it may be said, the older the country the more perfect it is found to be. The fact is a very remarkable one, in view of modern theories of development, and of the evolution of civilization out of barbarism. Such theories are not born out by the discoveries of archaeology. Instead of the progress we should expect, we find retrogression and decay; where we look for the rude beginnings of art, we find an advanced society and artistic perfection. Is it possible that the Biblical view is right after all, and that civilized man has been civilized from the outset?"
W.W. Prescott, in his book, The Spade and the Bible, says, "Not a ruined city has been opened up that has given any comfort to unbelieving critics or evolutionists. Every find of archaeologists in Bible lands has gone to confirm Scripture and confound its enemies."
Life in the early ages centered around the temple. All the temple towers of early Babylonia were of the same design; a series of vast, almost square platforms rising one above the other, with stairways leading up. The shrine of the god was on the top.
The Ziggurat at Ur had three platforms, some had as many as eight. The shrine at the top was in blue glazed brick with a golden metal roof. The Babylonian word ziggaratu means pinnacle on top of mountain. The theory is that the ancient conquerors of these plains, in remote ages, were mountaineers who, either from homesickness or from religious conservatism, or both, wished to worship their god on the high places, as they had always done. In Chaldea they had to make the high places with their own hands, and the account of the building of the tower of Babel is the record of such an event.
In Genesis 11:2-3 we read, "And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they said one to another, 'Go to, let us make brick and burn them thoroughly'. And they had brick for stone, and asphalt had they for mortar. And they said 'Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.'"
These temples were not merely places of worship; about their courts were store-houses for the tithes and offerings brought in by the faithful worshippers, or paid as rent by tenants of the sacred estates. There were living quarters for the priests and the temple servants. There were workshops and factories where the men and women attached to the temple were employed, spinning and weaving into cloth the wool which the farmers brought, casting and hammering into art objects the copper and silver paid as tithes by the merchants of the city.
Exhaustive accounts were kept of what was received and what was disbursed. Immense cattle yards were kept where the live-stock given to the temple were cared for. They found contracts setting forth their responsibilities and regulating their profits; documents referring to granaries, freight boats, etc.
The temple stood in relation to the people as the State does in modern times and the records here are of administration. They show an efficient and well organized community.
Each person had a cylinder seal, they were rolled across the wet clay and used in place of a signature. These seals are very small, some only 5/ 8th of an inch long. It took great skill and very tiny tools to carve on this small cylinder. Various semi-precious stones were used, one of gold was found in the tomb of a queen. About 3,750 B.C. the art of the seal reached perhaps its highest expression. They carved figures whose physical characteristics were emphasized realistically, and at the center of the composition there was a panel containing an inscription. One shows a bearded hero watering buffalos from a vase out of which flow two streams, then it shows water and a rock border at the bottom. The inscription names Ibnisharrum, as the owner of the seal and diedicates it to Shargalisharri king of Akkad. He was a grandson of Sargon, or Cain. This whole scene was on a cylinder seal less than an inch long and perhaps the size of my little finger. No modern jewel engraver could do better.
Because it is difficult to imagine life other than in terms of that which we know, they assumed that man's occupations and needs hereafter will be similar to what they have been in the past that the next world is a continuation of this. Whatever a man used in his lifetime he will use after death. The woman takes her spindle, her needle, her mirror and her cosmetics. The carpenter takes his saw and chisels, the soldier his weapons of war.
The king must be provided with a goodly sample of his pomp on earth. It is not surprising then that the archaeologists derives most of his material from the cemeteries of the old world, and what he finds illustrates their beliefs and burial-customs.
From the Royal tombs at Ur dating about 3,000 B.C. come some very beautiful things. The famous gold dagger of Ur, a weapon whose blade is gold, its hilt of lapis lazuli decorated with gold studs, and its sheath of gold filigree work. With it was another object scarcely less remarkable, a cone shaped container of gold, ornamented with a spiral pattern and containing a set of little toilet instruments, tweezers, lancet, and pencil also of gold. The royal graves all have a harp. The most magnificent yet found has a sounding-box bordered with a broad edging of mosaic in read, white and blue. The two uprights wee encrusted with white shell and lapis lazuli and red stone arranged in zones separated with wide gold bands. Shell plaques engraved with animal scenes adorned the front, and above these projected a splendid head of a beared bull wrought in heavy gold, with a lapis lazuli beard.
Queeen Shubad on her deathbed wore an ornate headdress made of a long gold hair ribbon covered by beaded wreaths with gold pendants, heavy earrings of gold and a golden spanich type comb with five points ending in lapid centered flowers of gold. By the side of the body lay a second headdress. On a diadem made of soft white leather had been sewn thousands of minute lapis lazuli beads, and against this background of solid blue were set a row of exquisitely fashioned gold animals, stags, gazelles, bulls and goats, with between them clusters of pomegranates, three fruit hanging together shielded by their leaves.
There is a helmet of beaten gold made to fit low over the head with cheek-pieces to protect the face. It was in the form of a wig, the locks of hair hammered up in relief, the individual hairs shown by delicate lines. The ears are rendered in high relief and are pierced so as not to interfere with hearing. Sir Leonard Wooley, who headed the excavation at Ur said, "As an example of the goldsmiths work this is the most beautiful thing we have found, and if there were nothing else by which the art of these ancient Summerians could be judged we should still on the strength of it alone, accord them high rank in the roll of civilized races."
The contents of the tombs illustrates a very highly developed state of society. A society in which the architect was familiar with all the basic principles of construction known to us today. They commonly used not only the column, but the arch, the vault, and the dome. Architectural forms which were not to find their way into the western world for hundred of years. The craftsman in metal possessed a knowledge of metallurgy and a great technical skill. The merchant carried on a far-flung trade and recorded his transactions in writing; the army was well organized and victorious, agriculture prospered, and great wealth gave scope to luxury.
I do not mean that all the world had a high culture for basically only those who have it now, had it then. Sir Charles Marston in his book, "The Bible Comes Alive" says, "All stages of civilization exist today throughout the world, and so far as we are aware, always have existed. And where glorious monuments certify to a great past, those who now dwell around them often testify to a great decay."
The old truths of the Bible, which are ever new, will abide. Like their Author, they are 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever." They cannot be shaken. Current world history is fulfilling its prophecies. Its truth is written on the ruins of earthly kingdoms. Neither the Bible nor Babylonian excavation know anything of uncivilized man. Life at the beginning was necessarily simple, but it was not only enlightened, it was cultured.