Z I N D A   M A G A Z I N E

Volume V                Issue 33
Tishrin II  30, 6749                                                                       November 30, 1999

T H I S  W E E K I N  Z I N D A

The Lighthouse Zahrireh d'Bahra Magazine (Rays of Light)
Good Morning Bet-Nahrain Iraq's Ministry of Education Threatens School Admins
News Digest 10 Million Dollar Chaldean Cultural Center to Open in 2001
Israeli Rabbi Prohibits Public Celebration of Christmas
Assyrian Holiday Festival at Mar Zaia Church in Modesto
Surfs Up "I am appalled at some of the claims made in the article"
Surfers Corner Naoum Faik Book Fund at Columbia University
Assyro-Chaldean Center in Paris Seeks Financial Support
Literatus Nippur, Sacred City of Enlil
Pump Up the Volume Constant & Regular
Back to the Future Rimush in Elam and the Oldest Church of the Church of the East
This Week in History The First Assyrian Book
Calendar of Events December 1999

All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.


(Maghalta d'Zahrireh d'Bahra)

The most important factor in ushering a new sense of Assyrian nationalism in mid-Nineteenth century was the introduction of printing press brought to Urmia, Iran by the American Missionaries.  A dynamic group of activists began publishing flyers, manuscripts, journals, and books in Syriac language-- with topics ranging from the Lord's Prayer to the liberal values of a free and democratic society.  In the five decades to come, the gradual development of an enlightened group of men and women influenced the Assyrian activists and journalists whose work, in turn, culminated in the pro-independence movement of early 1900's.

Last month on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Assyrian periodical, Zahrireh d'Bahra or Rays of Light, Zinda Magazine asked Mr. Daniel P. Wolk, a Ph.D.-candidate at the University of Chicago to translate two German articles by Dr. Gabriele Yonan and Dr. Rudolf Macuch.  Drs. Gabriele and Macuch clearly illustrate the importance of this Assyrian periodical in the life of this newly self-actualized nation.  The struggle for recognition and justice which began with the first issue of this periodical continues today through the journalistic efforts of every Assyrian magazine, including ours.  It is with a sublime sense of pride and honor that we salute the spirit of the first Assyrian journalists at Zahrireh d'Bahra and their hunger for freedom, justice, and truth.

Zinda Magazine

Article I:  Missionary Periodicals in the Nineteenth Century
Zahriré d-Bahra (Rays of Light)     1849-1918
Urmia, Iran

Yonan, Gabriele. Journalismus bei den Assyrern: Ein Überblick von seinen Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart [Journalism among the Assyrians: an overview from its beginnings until the present]. Gilgamesch: Materialien Zur Kulturgeschichte der Assyrer Im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, no. 1. Berlin: Zentralverband der Assyrischen Vereinigungen in Deutschland und Mitteleuropa, 1985. Pp. 22-3.

After the American Board of Missions in Boston decreed a mission by Lake Urmia in northwestern Persia for the Nestorians, the group from which the Assyrian movement arose at the beginning of the 20th century, it established a mission station in the city of Urmia under the leadership of Justin Perkins (1805-69). With the help of local scholars, a modern written language was devised for these Christians.

After 1840 the first printed works in Modern Assyrian appeared, and in 1849 the missionary periodical Zahriré d-Bahra was launched. At first it appeared monthly, later biweekly, in the new written language, using the Eastern Syriac alphabet. It lasted until the end of the First World War -- nearly eight decades. The contributions in the early decades mainly addressed missionary, religious themes, but in the course of its existence, the paper's scope widened, leading to the publication of articles on history, geography, language and literature, whose authors were usually Assyrians. Macuch characterizes the 80 annual volumes justifiably as the "annals of the Assyrian people," and in his work furnishes German summaries of the last 20 years of its publication. Incidentally, owing to the connections of the American missionaries to German orientalists, issues of the magazine regularly came to Germany, shortly after they appeared, and served as an interesting source for a variety of rigorous philological works. Copies were kept in the German Oriental Society Library.

Zahriré d-Bahra was the very first newspaper in Iran, and it provides, with its many literary contributions by Assyrian scholars, an important contemporary record.

In the beginning, the newspaper fell chiefly under the supervision of the American missionaries. Among it early editors was Dr. Labaree (1834-1906). In the 1890s, an Assyrian, Rabi Shmu`el el Badi d-Khangaldé took over its editorship. Under him, this missionary magazine took on a more and more nationalistic character.

The stated goal was the unity and education of the people. As such, the newspaper was indeed able to serve as the most important forum for the discussion of language, and as the most widely distributed literary vehicle aside from the vernacular translation of the Bible. Already by the 1860s and 70s, the magazine had subscribers in the Assyrian diaspora colonies in America and Russia, and frequently received from them literary contributions, sent in for publication. These reports from abroad unleashed new waves of emigration, which by the early 20th century aroused the open criticism of the Persians. If the magazine, Zahriré d-Bahra, had positive effects on the cultural life of the Assyrians, it also should be seen as having had a negative impact inasmuch as it stimulated the out-migration of hundreds of Assyrians, long before political circumstances made emigration necessary.

Article II

Macuch, Rudolf. Geschichte der spät- und neusyrischen Literatur. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1976. Pages 136-37.

For the wider strata of the population [wider than their other publications were intended for], the evangelical missionaries established the newspaper, Zahrire d-ba(h)ra, which appeared uninterruptedly from 1849 until the end of the first World War -- at first monthly, later biweekly. It was the very first newspaper in Iran, it came out over a longer period of time than any other Iranian newspaper, and it had the largest number of readers both at home and abroad (especially in America and Russia). These facts alone sufficiently attest to the importance of this newspaper. Even more important, however, is that it became the first platform for neo-Syriac writers. Its editorial circle was comprised of both missionaries and their local collaborators.

Numerous articles, mission reports, and news reports from at home and abroad were actually published anonymously, as they originated primarily from the editors. Now and then, however, there appeared names of native-born preachers, scholars, writers and poets. The proportion of such signed articles steadily grew. The newspaper, which was printed in quarto format, with three columns per page, was principally of ecclesiastical and religious content, as one would expect from a missionary periodical, but alongside of evangelical themes, one already finds nationalistic, pedagogical, archaeological, historical, geographical, and ethnographic themes, as well as themes concerning grammar, comparative religion, and other subjects. One also finds book reviews and interesting reports from all over the world, through which a people, formerly of mountaineers, pastoralists, and peasants, from then on could feel connected to the world.

This expanded the narrow horizon of "Assyrians", who had never seen beyond their mountains, valleys, and villages. They began to take interest in the world and in their own history. Their national consciousness was strengthened, their problems discussed, and their progress reported. From the obituaries of those famous among the people, as well as reports of the churches, schools, and later also of nationalistic institutions, one gains not only an overview of the historical relations of the time, but also of details of Assyrian history during the second half of the century up until the end of the First World War that otherwise would have been lost.

The 80 volumes of this newspaper are genuine annals of the Assyrian/Syrian [(as)syrian] people. One can only regret its cessation, which was a consequence of the disbanding of the mission station after the First World War. The first four years of the newspaper were early on utilized by Nöldeke as he prepared his Neo-Syriac grammar [Grammatik der neusyrischen Sprache, 1868]. The first neo-Syriac newspaper enjoyed especial interest among the Neo-Aramaicists of the last century. The 1849-71 volumes can be found in the British Museum, although unfortunately Volumes 9 and 18 are missing, as well as many numbers in other volumes (C. Moss, Catalogue of Syriac Books and Related Literature in the British Museum, London, 1962, p. 873). The format and the headings of the journal hardly varied over the eight decades of its existence. The paper was of a high standard, which it maintained up until the end. As the school system progressed, the number of the paper's readers increased, as did the number of its native collaborators.

Both articles were translated for Zinda Magazine by Mr. Daniel P. Wolk (October 1999).


In our last issue we mistakenly attributed the authorship of the article "Assyrians & the Assyrian Identity in the Ottoman Empire" to Dr. Racho Donef.   The article was indeed written by Dr. Salahi Ramsdan Sonyel who was invited from London by the Turkish government to attend the conference and to deny accusations against the Turkish involvement in the genocide of the Assyrian people.  Dr. Sonyel holds a Ph.D. in Political History from the University of London (1971).

Zinda Magazine offers a sincere apology to Dr. Donef who despite our honest mistake remains an avid reader of our magazine.



(ZNDA:  Baghdad)  Last week, Iraq's Ministry of Education warned the people of northern Iraq against enrolling school children into any curricula taught by Assyrian and other non-Arabic administrators.  These schools were then identified as "phony" and their administrators were threatened to be punished for enrolling students into a non-authorized curriculum.  Baghdad's government called the act of establishing schools in northern Iraq as "an act of treason threatening the unity and sovereignty of Iraq."  Currently, thousands of Assyrian children in northern Iraq, grades one through six, learn basic courses in science, mathematics, and language in Arabic and Assyrian as taught be qualified Assyrian teachers.  Last year over 30,000 textbooks in the Assyrian (Syriac) language were distributed among these school children.  Northern Iraq is currently the most active center of Assyrian learning for children under the age of 18.



November 5, 1999
Courtesy of Detroit Free Press Newspaper
Article by Mei-Ling Hopgood

(ZNDA:  Detroit) In two years, the Chaldean community plans to open a cultural center in West Bloomfield -- the first of its kind for Chaldean Americans in metro Detroit.

Here, families will gather, speaking to each other in their ancestral language and in English. They will eat in the new restaurant or work out in the athletic club. A Chaldean women's group will play bingo, and business people will close deals in the meeting rooms. Proud parents will host weddings for their sons and daughters in the banquet hall.

And here, in the Chaldean Cultural Center, Chaldeans will be able to teach non-Chaldeans -- and their own youth -- about their heritage, through displays and seminars.

For many Chaldean families in the United States, cultural preservation is key, said Sharkey Haddad of West Bloomfield. He and his wife don't want their children -- two daughters, ages 13 and 3, and a 5-month-old son -- to lose touch with their culture.

"The sooner a teenager or individual has a clear understanding of who they are, the more confident they are when they pursue their goals," said Haddad, who works for the West Bloomfield School District.

The center, to be located on the site of the Shenandoah Country Club at 5600 Walnut Lake Road, marks a rite of passage for the Detroit's Chaldean community.

Like immigrant groups before them, Chaldeans who came to Detroit from Iraq in the 1960s and '70s first focused on survival and establishing themselves. Today, they have become more concerned with preserving their culture and improving relations with the people around them.

Thus bloomed the idea of an all-encompassing cultural center.

The approximately 700 families who belong to the Chaldean Iraqi American Association put up $10 million to build it. The group bought the country club and about 140 acres around it nearly 10 years ago, said Jamal Shallal, association president.

Currently, the group holds many of its activities at Southfield Manor, located on Telegraph near 10 Mile Road. Most of the association's activities are to move to the new center near Drake Road once it opens.

Architects still are piecing together a plan for the new center, which will likely be about 70,000 square feet. But Shallal expects the center to include an athletic club, swimming pool and meeting and banquet rooms, in addition to the golf course already there. A restaurant will serve Chaldean-American food. There may even be a theater, Shallal said. It's unclear whether they will add on to the country club or tear it down.

One of the center's most important features, however, will be an area dedicated to teaching people about Chaldean heritage and history. Anyone will be able to visit the displays there and attend cultural seminars, organizers said. Other activities in the center also will be open to the public.

"We happen to be a force in the community, and we often intermingle with society at large," said Isam Yaldo, a land developer and grocer. "There is a need for us to show others where we come from."

Chaldean groups estimate that more than 100,000 people in Michigan are of Chaldean descent -- meaning they belong to a Christian sect whose followers are usually Iraqi or Iraqi American.

"The center will be an additional resource for me and my wife," Haddad said, "where our children can learn about where they came from and who they are. Where we can meet new families, new friends and socialize with our families and have our children play together."


(ZNDA:  Jerusalem)  This year pilgrims in Israel will celebrate Christmas behind closed doors thanks to a decree issued by Meir Lau, the principle Rabbi of the Ashkenazim in Israel.  According to Zenit Vatican News Agency all crucifixes and christmas trees will be prohibited in hotel lobbies this Christmas because they are offensive to Jews.  Although the principal Rabbis of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are allowing celebrations on Christmas eve and Christmas Day in hotels, these must be held behind closed doors in private rooms. "The crucifix is contrary to Jewish religion," says Rabbi Lau and adds that the exposition of a cross or Christmas tree "is prohibited for a Jew." This year, the situation is complicated because Christmas eve is on a Friday, when the Jewish Sabbath begins. Lau said that on Friday night there can be no music in hotels because "music, with microphones is a profanation of the Sabbath." However, he said Christmas could be celebrated behind closed doors in a private room.


Courtesy of Modesto Bee Newspaper
November 17, 1999

(ZNDA: Modesto)  The Assyrian Hall at St. Zaia Church [was] bustling [last] week as parish members prepared for their 11th annual Assyrian Holiday Festival.

An array of Middle Eastern specialties was available to eat there or take out Saturday. Diners filled up on dolmas (grape leaves or cabbage leaves stuffed with meat, rice and vegetables), Assyrian rice roasted in butter, chicken kabobs, sandwiches of sautéed beef with vegetables wrapped in pita bread, tabboulleh (bulger and vegetable salad) and harresa, the special holiday meal of chicken cooked with cracked wheat.

And, for dessert, an assortment of Assyrian and Middle Eastern sweets, and even good old American chocolate cake.

"We'll be cooking for about four days," says Diane Yohannan, who was helping to present this year's festival.

Many of the St. Zaia parish members of the Church of the East were in ethnic costumes. And, there were booths selling jewelry and other items.

The 11th annual Assyrian Holiday Festival took place last Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at St. Zaia Church, on 1457 Mable Ave., Modesto.


"Up until now, I faithfully and earnestly looked forward to reading Zinda Magazine weekly. When I read this article, however, I was completely and thoroughly disgusted. Since when does Zinda Magazine publish articles (whomever wrote them) which claim that we, somehow, are responsible for the nearly 1700 years of Muslim atrocities against us???   I am appalled at some of the claims made in the article. They include the statements below, along with my comments (to throw some sanity into the picture):

"...the Assyrians did not like a centralised and more efficient system of government, and intensified their intrigues with Russian agents"

The Assyrians were supposed to "like" a government which they did not recognize, nor had ever recognized, as their own? And for that matter, they were supposed to "like" a government such as the nationalistic-turkic blood-thirsty regime of the "Young Turks", whom Mustafa Ataturk (the founder of modern-day Turkey) himself condemned, and said in a 1926 interview with a Swiss reporter that the Young Turks "should be made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred. . . ." ????? After the war, the Turks held courts-martial to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of the Genocide. Several were sentenced to death.
"...These Christians, in consequence...made themselves generally unpleasant towards the Muslim population."

EXCUSE ME??? Oh yeah, and the Jews made themselves unpleasant towards the Nazi's by dominating the economic landscape of pre-war Germany, and suffocating the superior Aryan culture and genetic pool. PA-LEEZE.

"Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, the Assyrians living within the Ottoman boundaries had no cause to take up arms against their rulers"

We Assyrians of Hakkiari, at least, recognized no one but the Patriarch as our ruler. But if the wanna-be historian who wrote this article purports to know his or her facts, he/she would realize that the Assyrians "living within the Ottoman boundaries" (sic,,,we lived within no one's boundaries but our own) had every reason in the world (and then some) for 1300 years to fight against Muslim domination. Prior to the outbreak of the Great War.....oh, let's see, there was that scourge of humanity, Timurlane (the Turk) who piled up 80,000 Christian heads against the gates of Baghdad during the great massacre, of which our historian Bar-Hebraeus laments in his "Chronology":

"And in those days, (Timurlane and the Turks and Mongols) stretched out their hands to Tabriz, and they destroyed all the churches which were there and there was great sorrow among the Christians in all the world. The persecutions, and disgrace, and mockings and ignominy which the Christians suffered at this time, especially in Baghdad, words cannot describe."

that was in the 14th century. Oh yes, then there was the massacre in 1578, in which the Turkish Pasha of Rawandoz sacked the villages of Alqosh and Tel Kepe, and pillaged the monastery of Rabban Hormizd, killing many monks and one bishop.
Let's not forget 1842, when another huge massacre took place.

And, who can forget 18 years later, in 1860, when In Lebanon, from April to July, more than sixty villages of Al-Matn and Al-Shuf were burned to ashes by the Druze and Kurdish forces. The large towns then followed. The Ottoman garrison commander offered the Maronite population asylum, as he had offered to the small villages, asking for the surrender of their arms and then slaughtering them in the local serai. Such was the fate of Dayr al-Qamar, which lost 2600 men; Jazzin and environs, where 1500 were slaughtered; Hasbayya, where 1000 of 6000 were cold bloodedly killed; Rashayya, where 800 perished.

The orders for Hasbayya were that no male between seven and seventy years of age should be spared. Hardly a house escaped the flames. The total loss of life within the span of three months and a space of a few miles was estimated at 12000. From Lebanon the spark of hate flew to Damascus and ignited a reservoir of Muslim ill-feeling generated by the policy of Ibrahim Pasha and the egalitarian provisions of Khatti Humayun. The Assyrian quarter was sent on fire and some 11000 of its inhabitants were put to the sword.

Then there was the massacre on 1895-1896 in the city of Urfa (i.e., Ancient Urhai), where 13,000 men, women and children were slaughtered. Assyrian population centers were attacked in the following order: Village of Soyirkah City of Bila Jokah City of Amid Village of Mlatiya Mar'ash and Siwas, and all their surrounding villages. Although the number of murdered victims is approximate, several fleeing eyewitnesses as well as captive women all agree that the number exceeds 100,000.
That's only to name a few.

"...the Assyrians live (sic) ‘quite happily’ in the hills of southeastern Turkey in pre-war days"

If you say so, are you an Assyrian who lived in Turkey in pre-war days?? My grandparents were, my grandmother watched as both her father and mother were put to the sword for not converting to Islam before the war, and my grandfather used to show us the large scar he brandished on his neck from a failed attempt to kill him (he was 13 at the time.)

"They had no serious trouble for over 200 years, and although they were surrounded by the tribal Muslims, those Muslims were quite friendly towards them, before the advent of Europeans to those regions."

The Assyrians had come to learn that, even though it had been so many years before the last massacre, with Muslims as your self-appointed rulers....it would only be a matter of time. That's why we took up arms with our fellow Christians, the Armenians, Greeks, Serbs and Russians.

"Disaster did not befall them until they, like the Armenians, made common cause with the Russians and betrayed the Turks and their own country during World War 1.

Betrayed the Turks???? GET REAL. How do you betray someone you never had allegiance to? And for betraying "their own country", they did just the opposite, they spilled their blood for it. Not for the Ottoman empire, but for Assyria.

"The Patriarch replied that his people would remain neutral on condition that the Turks, on their part would promise not to ill-treat them. (FO 371/8993/E 84 and FO 371/10089/E 8457; see also FO 371/7793/E 12115, ‘The Assyrians during the Great War’ by W.A..Wigram, 12.12.1919). This promise the Turks undertook to fulfill."

Yeah, they might have. But their intentions to fulfill it was probably as honorable as the British intention to create a homeland for their smallest ally.

"Over the centuries a fine balance of coexistence had developed among the peoples of eastern Anatolia - Turks, Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians and others - but this harmony had now begun to fray simply because the chauvinistic leaders of the Turkish Armenians and Assyrians had decided to join forces with the enemies of their country."

Chauvinistic leaders of the Assyrians?? Not only is this very offensive, but it borders on stupidity. Do you know anything about the subject you are speaking about, or are you truly (as I suspect) a mouthpiece for Turkish propaganda ??? If you knew half what you pretend to know about the history of "eastern Anatolia", you would know that those various ethnic groups shared not only a mutual hatred and animosity towards one another, but among themselves as well. This is akin to boasting about the fine sense of camaraderie in northern Iraq today.

"Over 100,000 Turks and other Muslims were estimated to have lost their lives during the Sarikamis catastrophe, as a result of direct and indirect Armeno-Assyrian actions."

Yes, 100,000 Muslims probably did die in Sarikamis, but so did twenty million Christians at the hands of the Turks in WW1.

The Turks died, unfortunately, because their own government led them into World War I against the European Allies. Many Turkish Muslims also died fighting Arab Muslims, who were seeking their freedom from Ottoman oppression, and Indian Muslims who where with the British Middle East army in Mesopotamia. All this Muslim blood, then, is on the head of the Ottoman Turkish government and not on the victimized and helpless Assyrians.

There were only around 80,000 Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire, most of them old men, women, and children, and they can hardly be blamed for the death of 100,000 "Turks or Muslims."

"whereupon the Assyrians, under Mar Shimoun, and at the instigation of the Russians who made lavish promises to them, including armed assistance and ‘a national territory of their own, with autonomy,’ (FO 371/9006/E 10167, Memo by Agha Petros, 1923), attacked isolated Turkish posts and settlements in their neighbourhood (FO 371/16894/E 6229, Humphrys to Simon, 12.10.1933) perpetrating, in the process, many atrocities against the Turks and other Muslims."

OH MAN. Claiming that the Assyrians were the war criminals during WW1 because their forces, acting in self-defense, attacked Turkish army posts who were slaughtering their people is so utterly idiotic that it needs no further refutation. What did you want them to do, sit back and allow themselves to be thrown into mass graves after their throats were slit by the Turkish scimitars?

"In committing a number of atrocities the Assyrians were merely following the example of the Russians..."

You obviously have never lived under Islamic rule as a religious and ethnic minority, have you?

"Agha Petros was the leader of the Assyrian bands which perpetrated many atrocities against the Muslims."

More Turkish propaganda......

"The Turks had done their best to remain on good terms with the Assyrians..."

PAAAAA-LEEEEEZE !!!!!!!! Read the eyewitness accounts!

"The tragedy of the Assyrians, particularly of those who were Ottoman subjects, who themselves admit that their homeland in the Ottoman Empire, before their self-inflicted exodus took place....."

Self-inflicted exodus? It was because of the blood-thirsty Turks that we had our initial "self-inflicted exodus" into the Hakkiari mountains to begin with!! Learn your history!!!

"It is the betrayal of a Christian minority that had lived under autonomous conditions, benefiting from Ottoman Muslim toleration, and all the advantages of the millet system..."

Only someone who has never lived under "Muslim toleration" would be ignorant enough to call it tolerance. And as for the "advantages of the millet system", oh my, we had it great!! As Christians, we were not allowed to have rings on our right hand, nor ride on a horse (only on donkeys). If we disregarded the order, our whole property was forfeited to the state, and we were expelled from our country. We could not serve in any political office whatsoever. And the armed forces, forget about it. Let's see, taxation was double the rate that the Muslims enjoyed. We had to wear special clothing to distinguish ourselves from the Moslems, and usually this required a yellow cross to be stitched to our outer garments (sound familiar? The Nazi's learned a lot from their war-time ally.)

"and were persuaded to take up arms against their own state and its government. "

THE ASSYRIANS ARE, ALWAYS HAVE BEEN, AND ALWAYS WILL BE INDEPENDENT OF TURKISH RULE. Got it? Stop trying to portray it as a rebellion against "their own state and it's government", okay? You are fooling no one with your Turkish propaganda but yourself.

"The Assyrians themselves admit the folly of their ecclesiastical and lay leaders, who had led them to the path of treachery, rebellion, atrocities, and all kinds of misdeeds incompatible with the tenets of a people who were supposed to be the congregation of the Christian Church of the East. It is, perhaps, as a result of their misguidance and ‘sins’ that they were ultimately deprived of ‘Christ's Kingdom on Earth'"

Which Assyrians admit any "folly" and "sin" on the part of their religious leaders during this war ??? The Assyrians did not commit treachery, rebellion, and certainly not atrocities any more than the Jews did in Auschwitz. Your claims are not only ridiculous, but any educated person can see right through to your real intentions, and that is to re-write history and portray the murderers as the victims, and vice-versa.

When the armed government of 25 million people turns on and exterminates a minority of 80,000 men, women, and children, it is hardly a "rebellion", "misdeed", or "atrocity" on the part of the victims; it is nothing more or less than genocide on the part of that government. Snap out of your delusion. And things haven't changed in modern times, either. Have you bothered to read Amnesty International's report on modern-day Turkey (http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/intcam/turkey/index.php) ???

"If the Assyrians of today are in danger of ‘complete extinction’, as Perley seems to suggest (p.13), it is a travesty of justice to put the blame on the Ottoman Empire and to accuse the Turks of having ‘exterminated’ them together with the Armenians, another Ottoman Christian minority that benefited from Ottoman lenience and Muslim toleration for centuries...."

Ottoman lenience, and Muslim toleration? Two oxymoron's in a row!! Congrats!

"After all, the Turks were by no means illiberal, for they allowed minorities a large measure of autonomy, and encouraged them to maintain their own religion, laws, language and customs. According to A.H. Hamilton (Road through Kurdistan, p.135; see also John Foster, The Church of the T’ang Dynasty, p.34), ‘Neither Mohammed nor the Caliphs, nor the all-conquering Mongols, nor the Seljuk Turks did them (the Assyrians) much harm. "

Encouraged them to maintain their own religion, laws, language, and customs??? Where are the Greeks of Anatolia?? What happened to the Church of Hagia Sophia?? Where are the Armenians and their churches and customs and laws??? How about the Assyrians and their churches and customs and laws?? How about the Kurds of today, are they even recognized as a distinct people??? If so, why are they called "mountain Turks?"

Do you realize how many people, cultures, religions, and glorious civilizations were displaced by these central-Asiatic people?

"But they rebelled against their own government, left their mountain heights and poured every man into the ranks of the Allies’ armies..."

And we would do it again, and again. I would rather die for my land and my people with the Allies than suffer under Ottoman or Islamic oppression.

"they must surely remember with nostalgia the good old days of the Ottoman Empire"
Oh yeah. We sit back and lament when thinking 'bout the good ole' days, the smell of burning churches, the stench of rotting corpses, the prohibition against speaking our native Aramaic in public, the double-tax rate...makes me very nostalgic! "

Paul Younan



The Assyrian community living in the New York/New Jersey area constitutes one of the oldest immigrant communities' from the Middle East. Relocating from Ottoman Lands and Iran to Manhattan, Yonkers, and Bergen County, New Jersey, the flow of immigrants began during the late 19th century with young men who came to work, often temporarily, in order to return with funds to better their family circumstances in the Middle East. From 1914 onward, the immigrants were refugees.

Events around the World War I proved devastating to the Assyrians in Ottoman lands. As Christians, they suffered massacre and pillage in eastern Turkey and when Turkish armies marched into northern western Iran; the Assyrian community there likewise became a victim of war. Up to two-thirds of the entire Assyrian population died or disappeared. A limited number found means to flee to Europe and the United States where they joined existing communities along the East Coast.

Naoum Faik (1868-1930) was a leading Assyrian intellectual and patriot of the new Assyrian renaissance generation crippled by the Massacre of Assyrians during the World War I. Born in Diyarbeker with the full given name of Naoum bin Elias bin Ya'qub Balakh (Palek), he became an educator, publisher of the first western Syriac periodical, KOVKAB AL_SHARQ (Star of the East), and a poet in Suroyo Assyrian and Arabic. Among his poems is the Lebanese National Anthem. Having experienced previous attacks on Anatolian Christians Living under the Ottomans, at the age of forty-four, Faik fled to the United States. IN northern New Jersey, he became a key member of the Assyrian community as it struggled to maintain itself in a foreign cultural setting. Under the name N.E. Pale, he continued publishing his most widely read periodical, BET NAHRAIN-"land between the two rivers"- from 1916 until his death.

With this endowment, the Assyrian community honors the memory of Naoum Faik, with the knowledge that:



Assyrians and friends of Assyrians can help to build and maintain the goals of the Naoum Faik Assyrian Book Fund in these ways: If you or your family has books, photographs, documents such as birth, marriage, citizenship or other papers, consider donating them to the Columbia collection.

Make a generous contribution to the Faik Fund, so that there will be adequate money available to buy, maintain and preserve the record of our past for the sake of our future…


All donations to the Naoum Faik Assyrian Book Fund are fully tax-deductible. Checks should be made out to Columbia University Libraries (noted the N. F. Assyrian Book Fund) and send to:

NEW YORK, N.Y. 10015

To make donations in appreciated securities, real estate, wills or bequests, please inquire first.


The Naoum Faik Assyrian Book Fund is a library endowment fund intended for the use of Columbia University in building and maintaining a collection of materials related to the Assyrian history and culture during the Christian era. While it is expected that the University will collect materials in all necessary languages, particular attention is directed to Assyrian language materials, including manuscripts.

Every year, the University is requested to deliver a statement regarding the Assyrian holdings to the Assyrian Academic Society, which will publish such information in its journal.

A three-member committee composed of the head of the Middle East Division of Columbia Libraries, a member of the faculty from the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures, and a member of the Assyrian community undertakes regular meeting (s) about the Fund.


For many years the Assyro-Chaldean community in Paris and its surroundings felt the need for a "centre", for a "club", for a "home", for a "representation point". With the goal to answer these needs and to conform with the demands of our community the Association of Assyro-Chaldeans of France attempted to answer such expectation. It took an account of the important points as to the dimension of the project, its importance, its perfect adaptation to the considered goal and its capacity to answer to the communal needs.  The work begun has been pursued and deepened without interruption.

We were interested in "the Cottage Hotel" situated at 2, avenue Des Erables - ZAC Tissonvillers - to Villiers-le-Bel and we acquired it on September 15, 1998 with the help of our community that participated hugely in the purchase plan.

The building will be a place to learn and to promote our native tongue, the Aramean; our culture, our history and civilisation. It will be a place to watch over our social rights, to solve our problems and to orient our community.

The Centre will be in contact with all Assyrians, Syriacs and Chaldeans of the world in order to cooperate with them. It will also be the point where from we will establish relations with other communities, organisations and authorities.

The Centre will give courses of the Aramaic language for our children in several classrooms and, as far as possible, it will organise training periods, courses, conferences and congress for our community.

A well-equipped library rich in books and documents concerning the social life the general knowledge; our language, culture and history will find its place naturally in this Centre.

Offices will be open to answer to needs of all kind in our community. Possibilities to pursue some sports, folk and musical activities will be offered to the young. The necessary conditions specifically for ladies' activities will be provided within the Centre. Possibilities will be offered to the elderly so that they can spend their time pleasantly and usefully.

Individual offices will be allocated to every special activity, particularly to activities of the youth group, to those concerning broadcasts, the publication of the "Hammurabi" magazine, the committee of women and the business association. All meetings, cultural feasts, animations and ceremonies, etc. will be organised in this Centre.

The marriage and engagement ceremonies, baptism and reunions of the members of the community will find their place in the Centre. The Centre will be available free of charge at the disposal of families of the community for funeral ceremonies and to offer condolences. We will have the possibility to welcome our guests in the Centre and to offer a shelter to the most disadvantaged members of our community. In addition, a permanent shop stands and exhibitions on different aspects of our social life, our identity symbols and our handicraft under all its shapes will be organised.

At present, these are the activities that we intend. We hope that ino the future they will be again more numerous and various.  In order to carry them effectively, it is necessary to proceed to the structural modifications of the present building. Some of the 22 pieces situated to the ground floor and some of the 22 pieces that are in the first floor will be transformed in classrooms and in offices. The most important modification will be the construction of a hall that will be as big as possible. For this hall we intend to have a surface of about 700 m². To be able to proceed with all these modifications we need of 3,500,000 Francs ($US 570,000).

It is why, we solicit you for financial help, to talk about this project, to inform, and to mobilise our compatriots whereever you are, so that you support and participate in this project.

"No Assyro-Chaldean has the right not to do anything for his people". You can send us your donations by bank transfer, to the following address:

Association des Assyro-Chaldéens de France
9, boulevard Henri Poincaré,
Tél. : 00 33 1 39 90 87 11
Fax: 00 33 1 34 19 84 72

E-mail: acc_f@club-internet.fr
Bank number: 18206
Agency number: 00137
Account number: 30291886001
RIB Key: 68

Address of the Bank:
112, avenue Pierre Sémard

Naman Adlun
Chairman of the A.A.C.F.

Links to Other Assyrian Websites

Assyrian Music:  MP3 Website


Supreme God of Sumer & Akkad

This article originally appeared in Al-Rafidan, Vol. XIV, 1993, and is made available electronically with the permission of the editor.

The importance of the Mesopotamian holy city, Nippur (Fig. 1), is reflected even today in the great size of the mound, Nuffar (Fig. 2), located between Baghdad and Basra in southern Iraq. Nippur was one of the longest-lived sites, beginning in the prehistoric Ubaid period (c. 5000 B. C. ) and lasting until about A. D. 800, in the Islamic era (Gibson 1992).

From earliest recorded times, Nippur was a sacred city, not a political capital. It was this holy character which allowed Nippur to survive numerous wars and the fall of dynasties that brought destruction to other cities. Although not a capital, the city had an important role to play in politics. Kings, on ascending the throne in cities such as Kish, Ur, and Isin, sought recognition at Ekur, the temple of Enlil, the chief god of the Mesopotamian pantheon (Fig. 3). In exchange for such legitimization the kings lavished gifts of land, precious metals and stones, and other commodities on the temples and on the city as a whole.

At the end of successful wars, rulers would present booty, including captives, to Enlil and the other gods at Nippur. Most important, kings carried out for the city elaborate construction and restoration of temples, public administrative buildings, fortification walls, and canals. Even after 1800 B. C., when the Babylonians made Marduk the most important god in southern Mesopotamia, Enlil was still revered, kings continued to seek legitimization at Nippur, and the city remained the recipient of pious donations. The city underwent periodic declines in importance [Gibson 1992) but rose again because its function as a holy center was still needed. The greatest growth of the city (Fig. 2), which occurred under the Ur III kings (c. 2100 B.C), was almost matched in the time of the Kassites (c. 1250 B.C.) and in the period when the Assyrians, from northern Iraq, dominated Babylonia (c. 750-612 B.C.).

The strength of Mesopotamian religious tradition, which gave Nippur its longevity, can be illustrated best by evidence from the excavation of the temple of Inanna, goddess of love and war. Beginning at least as early as the Jemdet Nasr Period (c. 3200 B.C.), the temple continued to flourish as late as the Parthian Period (c. A.D. 100), long after Babylonia had ceased to exist as an independent state and had been incorporated into larger cultures with different religious systems (Persian, Seleucid, and Parthian empires). The choice of Nippur as the seat of one of the few early Christian bishops, lasting until the city's final abandonment around A.D. 800, was probably an echo of its place at the center of Mesopotamian religion. In the Sasanian Period, 4th to 7th Centuries, A.D., most of the major features of Mesopotamian cultural tradition ceased, but certain aspects of Mesopotamian architectural techniques, craft manufacture, iconography, astrology, traditional medicine, and even some oral tradition survived, and can be traced even today not just in modern Iraq but in a much wider area.

The origins of Nippur's sacred character cannot be determined absolutely, but some suggestions can be made. The city's special role was derived, I would suggest, from its geographic position on an ethnic and linguistic frontier. To the south lay Sumer, to the north lay Akkad; the city was open to the people from both areas and probably functioned as an arbiter in disputes between these potential enemies. The existence of the frontier can be demonstrated from texts as early as the Early Dynastic III period (c. 2600 B.C.), when Sumer was the dominant cultural entity. In tablets from Shuruppak, a city 45 kilometers southeast of Nippur, more than 95% of the scribes had Sumerian names, while the rest had Akkadian names. In contrast, at Abu Salabikh, 12 kilometers to the northwest of Nippur, literary and other scholarly texts were written in equal numbers by Sumerian and Akkadian scribes [Biggs 1967]. But, Biggs notes that in the preparation of administrative texts at Abu Salabikh there was a greater representation of Sumerian scribe names, about 80%. This fact may indicate that although Akkadians were deeply involved in all aspects of life in the area just north of Nippur, government affairs may have remained predominantly the preserve of Sumerians in the pre-Sargonic period. For Nippur, we do not know as yet what percentage of scribes had Akkadian names in Early Dynastic III, but Biggs [1988] has suggested that the percentages at Nippur would be more like those of Shuruppak than like those of Abu Salabikh. I would suspect, however, that the percentages for non-governmental texts were closer to those at Abu Salabikh, with a good number of Akkadian scribes in evidence.

As is the case with the world's other holy cities, such as Jerusalem, Mecca, and Rome, Nippur was a vibrant economic center. Besides the economic benefits derived from gifts and on-going maintenance presented by kings and rich individuals, there was probably a continuing income from pilgrims. Nippur was the center of an agricultural district, with much of the land in the possession of temples. The temples produced manufactured goods, predominantly textiles and finished items, some of which were meant for export. But the temples were only part of the economic picture [Maekawa 1987]. Even though it was more dominated by religion than other towns, Nippur, like them, had a mixed economy, with governmental, religious, and private spheres (see, e.g. Westenholz [1987]). Steadily accumulating evidence indicates that the public spheres were closely integrated, with final control in the hands of government officials (see esp. Maekawa [1987]).

The work-force for much of the large-scale manufacture was probably connected with the major institutions, especially the temples. As in most countries until modern times, the temples in Mesopotamia had an important function as social welfare agencies, including the taking in of widows and orphans who had no families or lineages to care for them [Gelb 1972]; temples also were the recipients of war prisoners, especially those from foreign lands, who worked in agricultural settlements belonging to temples or in other temple service [Gelb 1973]. Such dependent people probably worked for generations in the service of one temple as workers and soldiers (gurus/erin), rather than as slaves (sag) [Gelb 1973: 94-95].

All institutions, whether the governor's palace, a government-sponsored industry, or a temple, were not just buildings and not just abstract bureaucratic hierarchies or economic establishments, but were social organizations within a broader social network. As happens in most societies, large institutions in ancient Mesopotamia tended to be dominated by families, lineages, and even larger kinship groups and I would argue that it is this web of kinship that furnishes the long-term, underlying continuity for civilizations, making it possible to reassemble the pieces even after disastrous collapses. For Mesopotamia, the role and power of such kinship organizations is best observed ironically in the Ur III Period, the most centralized, bureaucratized period in Mesopotamian history. The abundance of records of administrative minutiae allows the reconstruction not just of the administrative framework, but of the social network underlying and imbedded within it. The best reconstruction of such a kin-based organization within an institution is Zettler's [1992] work on the Inanna temple. One branch of the Ur-me-me family acted as the administrators of the temple, while another dominated the governorship of Nippur and the administration of the temple of Enlil.

It is important to note that the Ur-me-me family remained as adminstrators of the Inanna temple from some time within the Akkadian period to at least as late as the early years of the Isin dynasty. Thus, while dynasty replaced dynasty and the kingship of Sumer and Akkad shifted from city to city (Akkad to Ur to Isin) the family remained in charge of the Inanna temple.

From the listing of members of two and three generations as minor figures on the temple rolls, it is clear that it was not just the Ur-me-me family that found long-term employment within the temple's economic and social skucture. Through the continued association of families with the institution, not only were generations of people guaranteed a livelihood, but the institution was guaranteed a cadre which would pass on the routines that made the institution function. The temple could add key personnel not only through a kind of birth-right (family or lineage inclusion), but also through recruitment; important individuals within the institution's adrninistration would have acted as patrons not just for nephews, nieces, and more distant relatives but also for unrelated persons. By incorporating clients of its important men and women, an institution could forge linkages with the general population in the city as well as in the supporting countryside and in other cities; these recruits, in taking up posts within a temple, a municipal establishment, the royal bureaucracy, or in a large family business, would ensure that the patron had loyal adherents.

We know from cuneiform texts found at Nippur and elsewhere that the temples, rather than controlling the cities through a "Temple Economy," as was proposed earlier in this century, were under supervision by a king or a royally appointed governor, even in the Early Dynastic III period (c. 2600 B.C.) [Foster 1981; Maekawa 1987]. In the Akkadian period (c. 2300 B.C.), the temples of Inanna and Ninurta seem to have been under very close control of the governor, but the ziggurat complex, dedicated to Enlil, appears to have been more autonomous, reporting directly to the king in Agade [Westenholz 1987: 29]. During the Ur III period (c. 2100 B.C.) at Nippur, the administrator of the Inanna temple had to report to his cousin, the governor, on the financial affairs of the temple, and even had to go to the governor's storehouse to obtain the ritual equipment for specific feasts of the goddess [Zettler 1992].

The situation was much the same in the Isin-Larsa period, with texts from one agency (presumably the governor's office) recording distribution of goods to several temples; it is unfortunate that a recent article [Robertson 1992] revives, again, the notion of "temple economy" to cover these transactions. The characteristics of administration and support that can be reconstructed from texts for a few temples at Nippur must be assumed to have been operative in the rest of Nippur's temples. The relationship of those temples to governmental institutions and to private entities and individuals is only beginning to be worked out. To reconstruct life in ancient cities one cannot rely on written documents alone, since they do not cover the entire range of ancient activity. Often, crucial insights can be obtained by the correlation of non-inscribed evidence, for instance the repeated co-occurrence of a set of artifacts in one type of find-spot. Especially valuable are correlations that illustrate human adaptations to natural environrnental conditions. When one can bring texts into such correlations, truly innovative syntheses can be made. Whenever possible, documents must be viewed in their archaeological contexts, treating them as an extraordinarily informative class of artifacts to be studied in relationship to all other items. When such relationships are studied, a much more detailed picture emerges.

Although that procedure would appear to be self-evidently valuable, it is rare that texts have been treated in this manner. At Nippur, we have made a concerted effort to combine all kinds of information in our interpretations of the site, and we think that we have made some important discoveries by so doing.

Nippur has been the focus of major excavation since 1889 when the University of Pennsylvania opened the first American expedition in the Middle East. Finding the site a rich source for cuneiform tablets, that expedition continued to excavate at Nippur until 1900 [Hilprecht 1903; Peters 1897]. The main achievements of the expedition were to locate the ziggurat and temple of Enlil and to recover more than 30,000 cuneiform tablets of extraordinary literary, historical, grammatical, and economic importance. More than 80% of all known Sumerian literary compositions have been found at Nippur. Included were the earliest recognized versions of the Flood Story, parts of the Gilgamesh Epic, and dozens of other compositions. It was these Sumerian works, plus an invaluable group of lexical texts and bilingual (Sumerian/Akkadian) documents that allowed scholars to make real progress in deciphering and understanding Sumerian. As important in historical terms are royal inscriptions from all periods, especially those of the Kassite Dynasty which ruled Mesopotamia from about 1600 to 1225 B. C. More than 80% of our knowledge of this dynasty has come from Nippur texts. In a special category of Nippur texts are the business archives of the Murashu family, merchant bankers who controlled vast commercial and agricultural interests under the Achaemenid Persian kings (c. 500 B.C.) [Stolper 1985].

For almost a half-century after the University of Pennsylvania left the site, Nippur lay unexcavated. In 1948 the University of Chicago initiated a Joint Expedition to Nippur with the University of Pennsylvania. It was felt at that time that although Nippur had been inundated by a sea of dunes since the 1920's, the information to be gained, especially on Sumerian culture, justified the extraordinary expense and difficulty caused by those dunes. A stated goal of the new excavations was to establish an archaeological context for the extraordinary artifacts, especially the tablets, that the earlier expedition had found. When the University of Pennsylvania withdrew from the expedition in 1952 it was succeeded by the American Schools of Oriental Research until 1962. The University of Chicago has continued its commitment to the site to the present day, and the last season of work in the winter of 1990 constituted the nineteenth campaign since 1948.

For the first three seasons of modern work, 1948-52, excavation was concentrated on the area of the ziggurat and the adjacent mound called Tablet Hill (Fig. 2). The early Pennsylvania excavators gave the name Tablet Hill or The Scribal Quarter to that mound in the belief that all or most of the scribes at Nippur had lived in that one part of the site. Although many important tablets were found in Tablet Hill, a study of all the records of the old Pennsylvania expedition shows that even more texts were found in the southern end of the West Mound. Recent excavations have proven that tablets, including school texts, probably are to be found in every part of the site. Because it had more than a hundred temples [Berhnardt and Kramer 1975] as well as governmental offices and numerous private businesses, it is not surprising that written records are to be found all over Nippur. But, so far, Sumerian literary texts do appear to be more highly concentrated at Tablet Hill. The Joint Expedition's work in Trenches TA and TB on Tablet Hill yielded a valuable sequence of houses with artifacts in situ. This sequence, especially the pottery, dating from the Akkadian through the Achaemenid period (2300-500 B.C.) became a standard of reference for all of Mesopotamia [McCown and Haines 1967].

While working on Tablet Hill, the expedition began to make exploratory trenches at numerous locations in the eastern half of the site. In one of these trenches, R.C. Haines exposed the North Temple [McCown et al. 1978], dedicated to a god/goddess as yet unidentified (Fig. 2). More important, another trench encountered the temple of Inanna [Zettler 1992], goddess of love and war, one of the most important deities in the Mesopotamian pantheon. For ten years (Seasons 3-8, 1953-62) the expedition concentrated on this one area, and exposed seventeen rebuildings of the temple, one upon another, dating from the Jemdet Nasr Period (c. 3200 B.C.) until the Parthian Period (c. A.D. 100). As with other temples built of unbaked mudbrick, when the Inanna Temple began to age, it was demolished and a new, larger, more elaborate building was constructed upon its ruins. This long sequence of temples, especially the earliest ten (3000-2200 B.C.) with their thousands of artifacts (statues, reliefs, stone bowls, cylinder seals, and pottery), has furnished yet another standard of comparison for all other Mesopotamian sites [ Hansen 1965; Porada et al. 1992].

In 1964, Chicago, by then the sole sponsors of the Nippur expedition, signed a revised agreement with the Iraqi government, promising to continue excavating on a long-term basis. It was decided that the ziggurat area should once more be the focus of research, since that is the most important single structure at Nippur. This focus required the re-excavation of a large Parthian fortress that Pennsylvania had exposed partially in the 1890's. After recording the fortress, the expedition was supposed to demolish it so that the Sumerian levels around the ziggurat could be exposed fully. The 9th and 10th Seasons (1964-67) were expended in excavating the fortress, but when the task was finished, the expedition was not permitted to remove the remains to continue its proposed program because the fortress was judged to have value for tourism.

For five years, the site lay neglected. In 1972, when I became director of Nippur, I instituted a new program, meant to bring to light not just the religious aspects of the city, but its governmental and private sectors as well. I wanted to investigate the city's origins and history, the function of various parts, and the relationship of the city to its region and its environment. I proposed to examine the city walls, put trenches into parts of the site that had never been sampled, and also try to fill gaps in the Mesopotamian sequence (especially the Akkadian and Kassite Periods), and examine the later periods (Sasanian and Islamic) that had rarely been excavated systematically in Mesopotamia. Very important in our work was a commitment to linking archaeological to epigraphical data and an attempt to understand the ecological and social systems of ancient Nippur. We also introduced a new, up-to-date method of excavation, recording, and analysis of material. And we proposed to bring to the archaeology of the historical periods of Mesopotamia some of the techniques and theoretical viewpoints, called the "New Archaeology," that had been developed for prehistoric sites elsewhere. Such an approach was new to Mesopotamia, as it was to the historical ranges of most other parts of the Near East. Now, twenty years later, these methods and viewpoints have become commonplace not just in Iraq, but in the area as a whole.

To carry out our new program, we turned away from the eastern mounds, which were considered to be the more religious side of the city, and began to work on the West Mound, which had not been touched since 1899. Our first operation, WA (=West Mound, Operation A) was located in the bottom of a huge pit left by Pennsylvania (Fig. 2). Here, that expedition had found a large villa of Parthian data (c. 100 A.D.), and, in nearby locations, the Murashu archive and a group of Kassite administrative tablets. We thought we had a chance to expose, eventually, not only buildings that might relate to the Murashu family, but also a Kassite administrative building. Very soon we realized that we had come down upon yet another sequence of temples (Fig. 4), dating from at least the Ur III (c. 2100 B.C.) to the Neo-Babylonian period (c. 600 B.C..). We worked here for three seasons, having great difficulty because of the continual movement of dunes into our excavations, and were able to expose only a part of successive levels of a very large and important temple. We could not identify the deity venerated there. We assumed that this sequence of buildings would be much older than the lowest level we reached at that time (Ur III) and that it would rival the Inanna Temple in importance if conditions made it possible to carry the excavations to conclusion.

In Area WB, toward the south end of the West Mound (Fig. 2) we did, in fact, discover a totally unexpected Kassite administrative building, a badly destroyed palace (c. 1250 B.C.). This building (Fig. 5), half the size of the Kassite royal palace at Dur Kurigalzu near Baghdad, was the governor's palace, according to tablets found there [Gibson 1978a]. We know from other cuneiform documents, found by the old Pennsylvania expedition in the area to the south of WB, that the administrative center of the city and the province was located in this area from at least the Akkadian Period (c. 2300 B.C.) to the 7th Century B.C. The existence of governmental buildings in this part of the city must explain the great number of tablets found in this part of the site by the old Pennsylvania expedition.

Directly below the Kassite palace in Area WB was an Old Babylonian house (c. 1750 B.C.) owned by a family of bakers, who used the front half of the building as an office and shop and the space outside for the baking of bread and meat [Gibson 1978a]. Texts found in the house show that the family baked on contract for the city administration, temples, and individuals. On the floor of the building we found dozens of objects left in place-pottery, a bread oven, grinding tools, cuneiform tablets, and other items. The debris on the last occupation floor gave the impression that the occupants had left suddenly, expecting to return soon, but never did. In time, sand drifted over the artifacts on the floor, and the walls of the house were eroded by rain and finally collapsed. This dramatic instance of sudden abandonment brought into clear focus evidence of similar breaks in stratigraphy in other Old Babylonian contexts on the site. We realized that there had been a crisis in the history of the city that had resulted in a total, or almost total, abandonrnent. The cessation of dated texts at around 1720 B.C., noticed by earlier excavators but not discussed [McCown and Haines 1967: 74-76], had to be correlated with the archaeological evidence. I knew that there was a similar halt in dated texts at other sites in Babylonia (e. g., Ur, Larsa, Isin) during the reign of Samsuiluna, and I knew that only those cities lying along or close to the river's western branches, such as Babylon, Kish, Sippar, Borsippa, and Dilbat, continued to produce dated texts. I began to suggest in lectures, as early as 1973-74, that there may have been a general catastrophe in Babylonia at that time, due to a major environmental crisis, probably the shifting of water away from the main branch of the Euphrates that had passed through Nippur. Elizabeth Stone, in an important restudy of Tablet Hill [Stone 1977; 1987], summarized the available evidence for the crisis and abandonrnent at Nippur. Hermann Gasche [1989: 109-43] subsequently laid out the evidence, in very graphic form, for a general collapse of central and southern Babylonia during the period.

The catastrophic abandonment of the heart of Babylonia, with a subsequent formation of dunes, was not to be reversed until about 1300 B.C., when irrigation water was brought back to the center of the country by the Kassite dynasty. As the Kassites began to revive Nippur and the other cities, they must have done a kind of archaeology to allow them to identify individual buildings. Only such a procedure can explain how, after hundreds of years of abandonment, the Kassites could have placed their versions of the Inanna Temple, the North Temple, the temple in WA, and other buildings, over their Old Babylonian predecessors. The reconstruction by the Kassites of this holiest of cities on so grand a scale and with such care for detail is consistent with that dynasty's deliberate efforts to revive other aspects of ancient Mesopotamian culture, such as a resurrection of the long-dead Sumerian language and literature.

Our appreciation for that effort of reconstruction was heightened by work we carried out on the lowest parts of the site. In our 13th Season of excavation, 1975, we began to investigate Area WC in the southernmost corner of the city (Fig. 2). We had noticed that a ridge, appearing on an air photograph of the site (Fig. 6), seemed to coincide with a corner of the city wall on a Kassite map that had been found at Nippur by the University of Pennsylvania (Fig. 7). This city plan shows the ziggurat complex, Ekur and Ekiur, "the canal in the middle of the city," and a number of city gates, as well as measurements along sections of the city wall. I was already convinced that Samuel Kramer [1956] had been correct in arguing that the Kassite map represented the entire city, not just the eastern half, as other scholars have thought [Fisher 1905]. Miguel Civil, our expedition epigrapher, in conducting a new study of the map, showed me that the measurements along the walls made sense only if the entire city were represented and if the map were oriented as I present it here.

The correct orientation of the map was proven by the cutting of trenches WC-1 and WC-2 (Fig. 2) across the ridge at the southern corner of the site, where we found evidence of a city wall more than 14 meters in thickness [Gibson 1978b: 118-20]. There is difficulty in overlaying the ancient plan on the topographical plan of the site (Fig. 8), however, because of inaccuracies in the angles of the city wall as given by the Kassite scribe; if Ekur and the southern corner of the city (Area WC) are aligned, many of the other features are skewed and if the river Euphrates is laid over the Kassite canal that we excavated to the west of WC, another set of features is then skewed. Even with the difficulty in alignment, however, the similarity of detail in both maps is obvious. By excavation, we also determined that an ancient canal west of WC-1 was Kassite in date and it lay approximately where the Euphrates is located on the ancient map. We even located what must be the Birdu canal, which branches off from the Euphrates at the western corner of the city. In a long trench at the northwest of the mound, we discovered at four meters below the present plain level many thousands of Kassite pottery vessels embedded in greenish clay, laid down in conditions that our soil specialist interpreted as ponded water. This area on the ancient map is marked hirtum, which can be translated "moat, " that is, an area of ponded water. In summary, I can say that we have been able to verify Kramer's interpretation of the map by a combination of archaeological, geomorphological, and philological evidence.

While we worked for three seasons on the southern end of the mound, exposing private houses of several periods just inside the city wall, the dunes that had hampered our excavations on the high mounds began to retreat rapidly towards the east. This phenomenon allowed us to carry out investigations of the city wall east of the ziggurat (Areas EA, EB, EC) and a very important operation, TC, at the end of the TA trench on Tablet Hill (Fig. 2). In Area TC, we were able to prove that not only had there been a crisis and abandonment of Nippur during the Old Babylonian period, but also a second crisis in the period after the Kassite occupation. James A. Armstrong, in an outstanding example of archaeological excavation and reasoning [Armstrong 1989], proved that the original excavations from 1948 to 1952 had involved a misunderstanding of the stratigraphy. When correctly reassembled, the evidence clearly shows sharp breaks in pottery traditions not only in the Old Babylonian period but also in the post-Kassite period. And in both periods of abandonment, dunes invaded the site, just as they have done in the past hundred years. The abandonment at the end of the 2nd Millenrlium meant that there was the necessity for a second revival of Nippur, which seems to have taken place in the 8th Century B.C., reaching its peak under Assurbanipal in the late 7th Century. The breaks in the pottery sequence, which reflected the abandonments, had been somewhat apparent in a table in the original publication of Tablet Hill [McCown and Haines 1967: Table II] but were made indistinct by the confusion of stratigraphy. Armstrong's revision of that table, now nearing completion, will illustrate very graphically the two gaps in occupation of the city. We cannot state, absolutely, that the entire city was abandoned each time; there is a possibility that the ziggurat and the Enlil temple may have survived with a small staff that could derive water from wells and could have been supplied with food from the irrigated areas to the west. In future, we hope to investigate the problem in the ziggurat area.

By 1989, with most of the sand off the site, we decided to return to Area WA to reopen the investigation of the sequence of temples that we had found in the early 1970's. In the years that we had been working on the lower parts of Nippur, we had achieved several of our objectives, such as sampling unexcavated parts of the city through surface collection of sherds and soundings; we have not yet uncovered any industrial areas except the bakery of Area WB and some areas of pottery production of various periods, but we do have a better idea of the history of occupation of the city as a whole; we have also examined the city walls in Areas WC, EA, EB, EC (Fig. 2); and, by the inclusion of environmental specialists on the expedition since 1972, we have made significant strides in understanding the environment both in modern times and in antiquity (e.g., Brandt [1990] ).

Our first step in reopening work on the high mound in 1989 was to make a sizable excavation of Sasanian and Islamic levels in Area WG, just to the southwest of Area WA. With this operation we achieved yet another of our long-range goals, the systematic investigation of the last two periods of occupation at Nippur. The excavation of this area was also meant to give us room to expand Area WA toward the location of the Murashu archive. At the same time, we sank a deep pit (WF) in the southern end of WA, in order to expose levels that would make possible a revision in our understanding of the transition from the Early Dynastic to the Akkadian period.

In the winter of 1990 we resumed excavation on the temple sequence in Area WA. Although we did not expose the entire temple at any level, we were able to gain enough information to hazard an estimate that the latest (Neo-Babylonian, c. 600 B.C.) building was probably about 100 meters by 40 meters in size. In addition, although only the bottoms of the walls of the 7th Century and Kassite (13th Century) levels remain (Fig. 9), we were able to recover enough artifacts in these buildings to identify the deity to whom this temple is dedicated. On floors, and buried in the plaster on walls, we found several figurines of dogs (Fig. 10). We also found fragmentary figurines of human beings in attitudes of pain; for instance one with his hand to his throat, another with one hand to his head and one to his stomach (Fig. 11) and (Fig. 12). Knowing that the dog was the special symbol of Gula, the goddess of medicine, we began to hypothesize that this was her temple, even though there are very few mentions of a Gula Temple in Nippur tablets. The identification was made positive by the finding of a small fragment of a lapis lazuli disc with the incription a-na dGu-la "to Gula." Muhammad Ali Mustafa, an Iraqi scholar, had excavated a small Kassite mound near Dur Kurigalzu, where he had discovered dozens of similar figurines [Mustafa 1947]. On some of his animal figurines there were prayers to Gula, making certain the association of such figurines with the goddess.

We had been assuming since 1973 that the WA temple, being so large, might be dedicated to Ninurta, who is the second most important god at Nippur. It may be proven in future that the temple of Gula lies beside a large temple dedicated to Ninurta, but it is more likely that the part of the WA temple that we have thus far exposed is only the Gula section of the temple of Ninurta, since Gula was the wife of Ninurta from the Old Babylonian period onwards. The situation in WA may, then, be the reverse of what has been found at Isin, where Gula, the chief deity of that city, shared her temple with Ninurta [Hrouda 1981: 200]. At least one other scholar, A. Westenholz [1987: 97-98], has argued that the Ninurta temple is to be located in the West Mound.

Our plan to continue excavation of the Gula Temple in the winter of 1991 was cancelled by the Gulf War. We still hope to spend several years exposing the temple systematically, level by level, until we reach the earliest one. We wish to examine not just the temple but also the area around it, to try to put it in its urban context. And we will be conducting analyses of soil and floral and faunal remains that can expand our knowledge of the environment of ancient Mesopotamia. In the early levels, we know that the temple will not be dedicated to Gula, whose name appeared only at about 2,000 B.C.; the early versions of the temple probably will be dedicated to a Sumerian counterpart, Bau or another of the goddesses of medicine.

If we can carry out our program, we may gain important new information on Mesopotamian medicine, on its practitioners the asu and the asipu, as well as on their relationship to the temple. We know that the asu was something like a modern doctor, making diagnoses, prescribing remedies, and recording the results. We also know that the asipu was a magician, performing rituals and giving potions. We do not know how the two professions related to Gula or to her temple. Perhaps the Mesopotamians dealt with illness as many people do today. They went to the doctor for a cure. If that didn't work, they tried alternative medicine-a faith healer or a folk healer. Maybe at the same time, they went to the temple to leave a figurine or obtain a figurine and say a prayer. In their attitude toward medicine, as in other things, I would suggest that the ancient people of Nippur and of Mesopotamia in general, rather than having "mythopoeic minds" [Frankfort 1946], were only a little less complex than we are and probably just as sensible. As is the case with most people, the ancient Mesopotamians had contradictory aspects to their personalities, being religious when it was called for but forgetting religion in most situations. In my understanding of written records, the ancient Mesopotamians, even those at a religiously dominated city such as Nippur, were in most aspects of life very pragmatic and extremely rational in working out problems. They were the inventors of many procedures that still underlie modern life, e.g. in commerce and law. Their art objects show an ability to objectify reality, but there are also artifacts, such as figurines of monsters, that express superstition and fear. They could express lofty ideas of justice and mercy, but punish with severity, and even carry out acts of senseless brutality. And besides great art and literature, they could create riddles and jokes and probably pornography.

As a culture, ancient Mesopotamia must be recognized as a tremendously resilient and strong tradition. In a harsh and demanding environment, Mesopotamians created the world's first civilization and sustained it for more than three thousand years. That culture was, in fact, so elaborate, changing, and elastic an adaptation that it could be maintained even when major states collapsed. Nippur, its spiritual center, was probably more intimately involved in that continuation of tradition than most other sites. The city is, then, an extraordinarily important focus for sustained research and deserves continued excavation well into the future, even though there has already been a century of archaeological research on the site.

McGuire Gibson
Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology
The Oriental Institute
The University of Chicago



BC (2312)

King Rimush of Akkad, son of Sargon, faught the Elamites at Susa and captured their country.  As token for his victory he brings back thirty pounds of gold, three thousand six hundred pounds of copper and six slaves of both sexes to his god, Enlil in Bet-Nahrain.

The Lost World of Elam, Hinz

AD (3/4th Century)

It is believed that the oldest remaining church of the Church of the East is at Mar Sargis village in the plains of Urmia, Iran.  Historians are convinced that this church was built around 3rd or 4th centuries A.D.

Assyrian Mothers' Cookbook:  Our Heritage, Chicago


November 30, 1840:   The first Assyrian book is published by the American Mission Press.

Dec 5

Delicious food, crafts, gifts, and face painting
Sponsored by the Assyrian Church of the East
10 am - 6 pm
3939 Lawton Street

Dec 31

The Assyrian American Association of San Jose proudly presents
"Year 2000 Dinner Dance" with Ogin & Martik
Westin Hotel, Santa Clara

Package includes complete dinner with appetizer and dessert, two complimentary Wine/Beer drinks or four soft drinks, Champagne toast , after mid-night coffee/tea service and the best Assyrian and international dance music
Ticket Information:
   Saturdays from   10:00 AM to  2:00 PM
   Wednesdays from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM

Tickets will only be sold at the Assyrian American Association of San Jose

20000 Almaden Road, San Jose 
408-927-8100  or  408-927-9100

October 2nd to October 21           member $120   non-member $130
October 23rd to November 21      member $130    non-member $140 
November 24th to December 30   member $140    non-member $150 
          ***********Absolutely no refunds or exchanges***************

Dec 31

Celebrate the Millennium
St. Paul Assyrian-Chaldean Catholic Church
Entertainment:  Julie Youseff & Leila Forouhar & Ishtar Band
Hollywood Park Casino
Sit-down dinner, buffet dessert & coffee station, free soda bar, 10 special Middle Eastern appetizers, special meal for children and all night Disney movie on a big screen tv.
Tickets:  $80-95 (adults)    $45-60 (children)
   Walter (909) 982-7237
   Lawey (909) 605-0695
Tickets sold every Sunday at St. Paul Church Hall, 12-1 pm
Limit one week to hold reservations.  No refunds on purchased tickets

Jan 28,

Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Assyrian Rite (Chaldean and Malabarese)
Basilica of St Cecilia in Trastevere

This Week's Contributors:
in alphabetical order

 Carlo Ganjeh
Surfers Corner 
 George Khawahie
Assyrian Surfing Posts


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