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Recently Deciphered 4,500-Year-Old Pillar Shows First Known Record of a Border Dispute

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tags: archaeology, Mesopotamia, British Museum



A recently interpreted 4,500-year-old marble pillar from ancient Mesopotamia shows that even at the dawn of civilization, people were bickering about their borders.

As James Pickford at The Financial Times reports, the pillar sat in British Museum for 150 years until Irving Finkel, a curator in the Middle East department, deciphered the Sumerian cuneiform writing on the cylinder this year. As it turns out, the object, now on view in an exhibit called “No Man’s Land,” was erected to establish a border between the warring city states of Lagash and Umma, located in present-day southern Iraq.

According to the museum, the two cities were disputing over a fertile area called Gu’edina or the ‘Edge of the Plain.’ Around 2400 B.C. Enmetena, king of Lagash, had the pillar erected to stake his claim to the territory. Rachel Campbell-Johnston at The Times reports it is likely the earliest written evidence of a border dispute and is also the first time the term “no man’s land” is used.

Read entire article at Smithsonian

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