Ten incredible texts from our ancient past

Ten incredible texts from our ancient past

(Read the article on one page)

There are literally thousands of incredible texts that have survived from the ancient world, which are etched onto copper, beautifully inscribed on papyrus, chipped onto tablets, and even written using the ink of ground down gold and precious stones. While it is impossible to choose the best of the bunch, we have chosen ten incredible texts to feature, which have served to open a window onto the daily lives of our ancestors and enhanced the knowledge we hold about our ancient past. 

1. The Dunhuang Manuscripts

The Dunhuang Manuscripts

The Dunhuang Manuscripts are a cache of around 20,000 important scrolls found in the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang. The Dunhuang manuscripts date to between the 5th and 11th centuries A.D., and were sealed up in a chamber in a cave, hidden for about 900 years. Although the Dunhuang Manuscripts contain mostly Buddhist texts, there were other forms of sacred texts as well. These include Taoist, Nestorian Christian, and Manichaean texts. In addition, there were also secular texts that dealt with various areas of knowledge, such as mathematics, history, astronomy and literature. One of the significant aspects of the Dunhuang Manuscripts can be seen in the large amount of folk literature in it. As this form of literature is about the lives of ordinary people, it provides a unique perspective on their experiences, the way they associated with the wider society and the government, as well as their relationships with family and friends.

2. The Kangyur Written with 9 Precious Stones

The Kangyur Written with 9 Precious Stones

Tibetans practised a form of Shamanism called Bon. From the 6th to 8th centuries A.D., Buddhism slowly penetrated this mountainous region. The teachings of the Buddha were translated into Tibetan, but its final compilation was only achieved in the 14th century. This resulted in the creation of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, which consisted of the Kangyur, the “translated words (of the Buddha)”. As copies were made of the original Kangyur, this text was disseminated throughout Tibet.  One of these copies is the Kangyur written with 9 precious stones, which is the only copy in the world. The ink used in the writing of this Kangyur is literally made from precious stones. 9 types of ‘precious stones’, namely gold, silver, coral, pearl, mother of pearl, turquoise, lapis lazuli, copper and steel, were first made into powder and placed into cups designated for each ‘stone’. Some fresh water from a mountain spring or rain water would then be mixed with special sweet adhesives, goat’s milk, and added to the cups to produce the ink. Then, using a painting brush made of sable fur, the ink would be used to write on processed black paper. In addition to the text, paintings were also added to the Kangyur. These images were painted according to the artistic tradition of Zanabazar, and is said to “immediately give peace of mind and admiration to anybody who looks at it.”

3. The Legendary Emerald Tablet

The Legendary Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet is said to be a tablet of emerald or green stone inscribed with the secrets of the universe. The source of the original Emerald Tablet is unclear, hence it is surrounded by legends. The most common legend claims that the tablet was found in a caved tomb under the statue of Hermes in Tyana, clutched in the hands of the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus himself. Another legend suggests that it was the third son of Adam and Eve, Seth, who originally wrote it. Others believed that the tablet was once held within the Ark of the Covenant. Some even claim that the original source of the Emerald Tablet is none other than the fabled city of Atlantis.  The Emerald Tablet would become one of the pillars of Western alchemy. It was a highly influential text in Medieval and Renaissance alchemy, and probably still is today. In addition to translations of the Emerald Tablet, numerous commentaries have also been written regarding its contents.  Yet, despite the various interpretations available, it seems that none of their authors claim to possess knowledge of the whole truth. Furthermore, readers are encouraged to read the text and try to interpret and find the hidden truths themselves.

4. The Egyptian Dream Book

The Egyptian Dream Book

The Egyptian ‘Dream Book’ is preserved in the form of a papyrus with a hieratic script. This papyrus was found in the ancient Egyptian workers’ village of Deir el-Medina, near the Valley of the Kings. This papyrus has been dated to the early reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 B.C.). Each page of the papyrus begins with a vertical column of hieratic signs which translates as ‘If a man sees himself in a dream’. In each horizontal line that follows, a dream is described, and the diagnosis ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as well as the interpretation is provided. Thus, as an example: ‘If a man sees himself in a dream looking out of a window, good; it means the hearing of his cry’. The good dreams are listed first, followed by the bad ones (written in red, as it is the colour of bad omens).

Comments

Hi Folks,

Can anyone provide a status update on the texts of Timbuktu? Recent fighting in Mali has left me worried about this amazing city and wondering about the current condition of the texts.

Anyone out there have connections in the region?

Thanks.

Jefraize

rbflooringinstall's picture

This is excellent! It gave me a lot of things that i need to read up on. Thank you!

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

Thanks for this wonderful website.

fantastic topics

Many people can remember being reincarnated from very early civilizations going back millennia in time. If one can recall an earlier lifetime in ancient societies, it should be possible to recall details of daily life and the world and activities in ancient times. This might include the culture, languages, crafts, technologies and history of previous peoples, based on early reincarnation memories.

angieblackmon's picture

Now if I could only read this in their original form...so much beautiful information can so easily be lost in translation!

love, light and blessings

AB

WTF are the "Mogao Caves of Dunhuang"???

Whomever is writing these needs to do a better job.

aprilholloway's picture

They are precisely as described - a series of caves called 'Mogao Caves' located near Dunhuang. 

Rudeness and arrogance is not welcome here. 

Bill, do a research before you post a comment showing ignorance ... Mogao Caves is a well known UNESCO protected site in China...

Come to Tamil Nadu (South India)...we have lot of ancient palm leaves, inscriptions of sangam period...

Ragnar Taltos's picture

I'm looking online for an English translation of the Dunhuang Manuscripts. Having a look into the daily lives of people who lived so long ago is fascinating and I'd love to be able to read about them. Does anyone happen to know if an English translation is available online somewhere?

Excellent article Btw! I love this kind of thing. :)

“Under the Capitalist Sun, there is Nothing Sacred” Dr. Li-Chuan Chen

I see our recent past Renaissance, was done Much earlier and this text is proof of that :)
That is a serious piece of archeology :) Double Thumbs up to who found that !

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Ancient Places

Can Different Religions Peacefully Share a Sacred Site? A Temple Mount Tragedy
One of the major points of contention between Israel and the Arab/Moslem world is over the most sacred piece of real estate on the planet. At 37 acres, the Temple Mount is the focal point of prayer and contention for the three western religious traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While Christianity has Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem vying for spiritual “seniority;” and Islam has Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem; Judaism has Jerusalem, and Jerusalem, and Jerusalem.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article