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“From what we know, the earliest form of true writing was that invented in Mesopotamia in the late fourth millennium BC. Closely followed by Egypt, not long after. It’s probably only a matter of a couple of hundred years, if that. But Mesopotamia seems to have it by a nose.”

Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was home to some of the world’s first cities. Beginning around 3400 BC, people came together in this region to build elaborately decorated buildings, form complex trade relationships, create great works of art and literature, and develop new scientific knowledge. Central to these many advancements was written language, which emerged earlier in Mesopotamia than anywhere else in the world. An exhibition at the Getty Villa, composed largely of objects on loan from the Louvre, explores the history of these first urban societies through their art and writings.

In this episode, Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the Getty Museum and curator of the Villa exhibition Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins, discusses the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia.

Blue-green tiled wall with roaring lion walking left.

Wall Panel with a Striding Lion, 605–562 B.C., Neo-Babylonian period. Glazed brick, 39 1/4 × 90 3/4 × 4 3/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1931 (31.13.1)

More to explore:

Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins explore the exhibition
Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins buy the book

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
TIMOTHY POTTS: From what we know, the earliest form of true writing was that invented in Mesopotamia...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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