Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lapis Lazuli Trade Route ... Bactria to Sumeria (4000 BC)


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The legendary, 'mythical' 7-gated Sumerian city of Aratta, the original homeland of the Sumerians .... appears to refer to Bactria at the eastern end of the "Great Khorasan Road".... the source of valuable gems and minerals, in particular lapis lazuli.....'Civilization' may have traveled from East to West along the Sun’s path rather than blossoming first in the land of the Two Rivers of Genesis....

"Sar-i Sang lapis lazuli mine, probably dating from proto-historic times. It consists of one old disused shaft and two new shafts. This was the main source of lapis lazuli in the ancient world, with lapis from here occurring in such famous archaeological discoveries as the Royal Treasure of Ur and the Tomb of Tutankhamun.....

"Badakshan Lapis Lazuli.....By the second half of the 4th millennium BCE, Badakshan lapis lazuli (stone of blue) was being traded in countries as far west as Sumer and Akkad (Mesopotamia), and the Nile Delta (Egypt) (cf. Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries by Peter Roger Stuart Moorey, p. 86). The 2500m / 9,000ft high Sar-e Sang, Badakshan mines, now in north-eastern Afghanistan, were the main source of lapis lazuli in the ancient world. By the 3rd millennium BC, the lapis lazuli trade had extended south to Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley Civilization (Hapta Hindu of the Vendidad's list of nations. Modern day Pakistan and north-western India)......

"By the time of the emergence of the first cities, in late-fourth millennium Mesopotamia, there was sufficient demand for high-value materials to move certain precious materials over impressive distances. Lapis lazuli (lazurite) is a rare mineral formed under unusual geological conditions, and restricted to certain sources on the western margins of the Himalayas (and otherwise in Siberia, the Andes, and the western USA). Its intense ("azure") blue colour made it especially desirable for aesthetic and religious reasons....During the third millennium, new sources of lazurite were opened up in Badakhshan, ancient Bactria. This distribution-area indicates the size of the catchment from which early urban communities obtained precious materials, including also silver and gold...., the Lapis Lazuli route was one of the precursors of the later transcontinental 'Silk Route'.

"Lapis & Gilgamesh, the Priest-King of Uruk (ca. 2500 BC. )....Gilgamesh constructed the great city of Uruk....., and surrounded it intricately decorated walls. He also built a temple for the goddess Ishtar, the goddess of love, and her father Anu, the father of the gods. Gilgamesh is credited with opening passages through the mountains. He traveled to the Nether World and beyond it, where he met Utnapishtim, the sole survivor of the great flood that almost ended the world, the one who had been given immortality. When he returned to Uruk, he wrote everything down on a tablet of lapis lazuli and locked it in a copper chest.......When Gilgamesh returns to Uruk....he looks so splendid that Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, is overcome with lust. She pleads with Gilgamesh to be her husband. She promises him a harvest of riches if he plants his seed in her body. She tells him they will live together in a house made of cedar, and that she will give him a lapis lazuli chariot with golden wheels. She says that kings and princes will offer him all their wealth. ........the great goddess arrived, lifted up her flies (beads), and said "Ye gods, as surely as I shall not forget this lapis lazuli [amulet] around my neck, I shall be mindful of these days and never forget them!..." Gilgamesh XI,164

"The British Museum ....states, "The Sar-i Sang mines in the region of Badakhshan in north-east Afghanistan were probably the source for all lapis lazuli used in the ancient Near East. From here it was carried across Iran, where several lapis working sites have been discovered, and on to Mesopotamia and Egypt. Another source for lapis lazuli exists in southern Pakistan (a region of the Indus Valley civilization) but it is unclear if they were mined at the time of this seal."

"Aratta was a city, city-state, or country with which Sumerians had close trade and religious ties in the third millennium B.C. Its location is not known......Aratta, apparently, was under the special protection of the Sun god's daughter, Inanna, the goddess of love and war. In "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta", the goddess and/or her statue were taken from Aratta to the Sumerian city of Uruk by the ruler of Uruk, Enmerkar. Now believing himself to have the goddess' protection, the Sumerian king challenged the lord of Aratta.....The four myths outlined above portray Aratta as a wealthy and militarily powerful state with which Sumer had relations from very early times. It was located some distance from Sumer and protected by its forbidding mountains, but it was not so distant as to prevent trade relations. Aratta had building materials, precious stones, metals and craftsmen skilled in their transformation. Aratta also had primacy with regard to the religion of the mother goddess, Inanna, who resided in Aratta, was the patron of that state, and was taken or lured south to Sumerian cities. Uruk and Aratta also were in contest for military superiority—each demanding the submission of the other. The method of transporting the "stones of the mountain" from Aratta to Uruk and of transporting grain from Uruk to Aratta...the Aratta cycle of myths is that Aratta played a seminal role in the development of religion in Sumer, as well as in the construction of its cult structures; and that trade and diplomacy between the two states was of such importance that writing was developed specifically for them.".....

Marco Polo visited the Sar-e Sang mines during his travels along the Silk Road. The area is rich in other gemstones such as rubies and emeralds and precious metals such as silver and gold that were actively traded throughout the ages (see GeoVision / Gem Hunter & Gubelinlab sites).

"The Lapis Lazuli Route originated in the Chagai Mountains in Pakistan and traveled to Hierakonpolis, Egypt, in the 4th millennium B.C.E., marking it as one of the oldest known trade routes in human history. As with many major trade routes, it is named after the commodity that was transported—lapis lazuli. A precious mineral prized for its bright blue color, lapis lazuli was used for a number of luxurious and religious items in ancient Egypt in particular. ".....

"Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.....Aratta is described as follows in Sumerian literature: It is a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them.
It is remote and difficult to reach.
It is home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk.
It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.
Cohen, Sol (1973). "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta". Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania


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