Archaeologists hear all about ancient Babylon

by George Topp, Lanark & Carluke

ASSYRIA and Babylon were the subject of a recent talk to Lanark and District Archaeological Society by Ed Archer.

Ed explained that, although he had not visited Iraq, he was interested in the story of Assyrians and Babylonians through studying the Bible as a child.

He had become fascinated with people like the Assyrian King Sennachenib who in 702 BC had attacked Judah and this had been described as’ a wolf coming down on the fold’. Apart from an interest in Biblical History, Ed had recently been to London to the British Museum, and as a result had been inspired to do a lecture by an exhibition on Babylon and a visit to the Assyrian galleries.

The lecture started with an introduction to the history of Assyria covering the period 950-612 BC. Then Ed described the palaces of Ancient Assyria, in particular Nimrud and Nineveh. He showed pictures of the bas reliefs to be found in both places. These showed some of the events described in the Bible such as the conquest of Judah by Sennacherib.

Ed pointed out that some of the reliefs showed designs which were to be copied by the Persians after they conquered the Assynian Empire with their allies the Babylonians. These were similar Gods, similar style of dress and similar cultural habits. Today the respect attached to somebody with a beard in the Middle East is similar to the respect shown in the times of Ancient Assyria. He also pointed out that the cruel habit of waterboarding is not a CIA invention, the Assyrians invented it.

Ed then described Babylon, an Empire that lasted less than a hundred years and was taken over by the Medes and Persians. He mentioned the story of Balshazzar’s feast at which the hand of God wrote “Mene, Mene tekel upharsin” – literally ‘things are weighed and found in balance’ – but in Scots vernacular ‘Your time is up pal!’

Ed also described how Nebuchanezzar deported the Jews from Judah to Iraq and how they spent 58 years at Babylon till the Persians sent them home.

The Hanging Gardens were also described and compared to Castlebank Park, Lanark, once described as the Hanging Gardens of Lanarkshire. Ed explained that the gardens did exist and that they were filled with both familiar herbs and flowers of a more exotic taste.

He finished off by talking about the Tower of Babel and how that referred to the enormous zigarrat at Babylon.

He also described the origin of the term “Whore of Babylon” and how all women had to take part in ritual prostitution at the temple. He surmised that this indicated that the Babylon society had values which were clearly unacceptable in the modern world.

Dr John Young thanked Ed for a fantastic lecture and told the audience of 27 members and friends that the next meeting would be on Monday, November 9, at 7.30pm in Lanark Library.

The speaker will be Tam Ward, Scotland’s greatest amateur archaeologist, who is going to speak on the recent discoveries of Early Human Occupation in Scotland.

Ed Archer finished the meeting by conferring free society membership on Calum McNab from Lanark who had done a week’s work experience with the Society and had made an outstanding contribution to the Society during his period with them.