Ten incredible texts from our ancient past
The Copper Scroll is part of the extraordinary cache of 1st Century documents first discovered in caves at Qumran, popularly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Copper Scroll, however, is very different from the other documents in the Qumran library. In fact, it is so anomalous among the Dead Sea Scrolls – its author, script, style, language, genre, content, and medium all differ to the other scrolls – that scholars believe it must have been placed in the cave at a different time to the rest of the ancient documents. As Professor Richard Freund stated, the copper scroll is "probably the most unique, the most important, and the least understood." Unlike the other scrolls, which were literary works, the copper scroll contained a list. It was no ordinary list, rather it contained directions to 64 locations where staggering quantities of treasure could be found. Sixty-three of the locations refer to treasures of gold and silver, which have been estimated in the tonnes. Tithing vessels are also listed among the entries, along with other vessels, and three locations featured scrolls. One entry apparently mentions priestly vestments. In total, over 4,600 talents of precious metal are listed on the scroll, making the total haul worth in excess of a billion dollars.
Out of the many incredible artefacts that have been recovered from sites in Iraq where flourishing Sumerian cities once stood, few have been more intriguing that the Sumerian King List, an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) from Sumerian and neighbouring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship. What makes this artefact so unique is the fact that the list blends apparently mythical pre-dynastic rulers with historical rulers who are known to have existed. Among all the examples of the Sumerian King List, the Weld-Blundell prism in the Ashmolean Museum cuneiform collection in Oxford represents the most extensive version as well as the most complete copy of the King List. The 8-inch-high prism contains four sides with two columns on each side. It is believed that it originally had a wooden spindle going through its centre so that it could be rotated and read on all four sides. It lists rulers from the antediluvian (“before the flood”) dynasties to the fourteenth ruler of the Isin dynasty (ca. 1763–1753 BC). The list is of immense value because it reflects very old traditions while at the same time providing an important chronological framework relating to the different periods of kingship in Sumeria, and even demonstrates remarkable parallels to accounts in Genesis.
In 2013, archaeologists unearthed 920 bamboo strips within four Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) tombs located in the town of Tianhui in the south-western city of Chengdu in China, containing recipes for treating ailments that date back 2,000 years. Analyses of the texts revealed that some of them were written by the legendary Bian Que, China’s earliest known physician. Translation work has also revealed the remarkable contents of these ancient medical manuscripts. Experts say the works are based mainly on studies of determining disease by taking the patient's pulse. Other practices mentioned include internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology, dermatology, ophthalmology as well as traumatology. In addition, 184 tiles are related to the medical treatment of horses, considered by the experts as one of the most important veterinarian works in ancient China.
Hammurabi’s Code of Laws is one of the most famous collections of laws from the ancient world. Hammurabi (reigned from 1792-1750 B.C.) was the sixth ruler of the First Dynasty of Babylon. During his long reign, he oversaw the great expansion of his empire, and made Babylon a major power in Mesopotamia. By the time of Hammurabi’s death, Babylon was in control of the whole of Mesopotamia, although his successors were not able to maintain this control. Despite the rapid disintegration of his empire, his code of laws has survived the ravages of time, though it was only in the 20th century that they were rediscovered by archaeologists. These laws defined various types of crimes and the penalties to be applied, and is typically described as an ‘eye for an eye’ system of justice.
The Takenouchi manuscripts are a set of mysterious documents that were rewritten by a man named Takenouchino Matori 1,500 years ago in a mixture of Japanese and Chinese characters, transcribed from even older texts. According to legend, the original documents were written in divine characters many millennia ago by ‘the gods’. The unusual texts tell a story of humanity in a way that has never been told before, starting from the beginning of creation up until the emergence of Christianity. They talk of an era in our ancient past where mankind lived in peace and harmony, united under the rule of the son of a Supreme God. Trying to unravel the origins and authenticity of the Takenouchi documents is now an impossible task as the original manuscripts were allegedly confiscated by government authorities and later lost. As a result, much speculation has circulated regarding the accuracy, and indeed the agenda, of the Takenouchi texts.