3. 'He Who Saw the Deep': History as Ritual in the Material World of Mesopotamia
Paul Collins [+]
University of Oxford
In many respects the Mesopotamian view of the universe had no room for history as a concept. Yet there was an acknowledged sense of deep time, made evident through inscribed and sculpted objects created by kings to inform posterity of their achievements. Such texts and images were fashioned from materials that ensured they existed beyond the lives of their creators. In this way rulers aligned themselves with future kings, who would uncover and even curate these works, but also, and perhaps more significantly, established a connection with past monarchs whose own records were preserved in the structure and foundations of buildings. This chapter explores the ways in which the creation of temples, palaces and associated monuments were understood as ritual acts that were tied to a historical consciousness and to the notion of a contractual relationship between the king and the gods established at the beginning of time. Indeed, images and monuments were the medium through which the symbiotic relationship between the king and the gods was maintained and the restoration of a divinely ordered world of the past achieved.