The Drumbeat Forever After

Alex

A podcast focusing on the Bronze Age in the Middle East, from the development of agriculture during the Neolithic to the collapse of the Late Bronze Age world system at the end of the second millennium BCE and everything in between. Every episode also includes a look at a particular myth or ancient text. I recommend starting with episode 17 (on Tell Brak) until I re-record the earlier episodes, but episode 31 (season 3 episode 1) is also a great place to start!

2: Göbekli Tepe & Early Neolithic cereal domestication, 9600-8000 BCE (Ninurta vs Asag)
19-08-2021
2: Göbekli Tepe & Early Neolithic cereal domestication, 9600-8000 BCE (Ninurta vs Asag)
(Re-recorded as of November 28, 2022) Guest: Kelten First, the warrior-prince of an orderly Sumerian heaven hears of a challenge to his authority and sets out to meet it with his obsequious talking mace. Then, we begin our look at the agricultural revolution with a look at the domestication process that turned wild large-seeded grasses on the fringes of Epipaleolithic forests into domestic staple crops of large, complex societies. What role did the volcano Karaca Dağ play in cereal domestication? What does "domestication" mean, anyway? Then, we follow the histories of specific grains: emmer, einkorn, and barley. Also, humans indulge their fondness for getting drunk and find their oral health scourged by the sequent effects. What do humans give up in return for a reliable grain surplus? Then, we visit Göbekli Tepe, which ties together a number of threads that will be important throughout this podcast's entire run: monumental construction, feasts, collective labor projects, the role of leaders in their communities, and the various ways those factors interact with each other. Also, more relevant to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic specifically, we take a look at the local head cult! Finally: After the battle, because Sumerian mythology is rarely subtle, Ninurta invents forced labor, hydraulic engineering, and intensive agriculture. Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
5: Early Neolithic Iran & livestock domestication, 8200-6500 BCE (Animal proverbs, Enkidu)
01-09-2021
5: Early Neolithic Iran & livestock domestication, 8200-6500 BCE (Animal proverbs, Enkidu)
(Re-recorded as of November 29, 2022) Guests: Annika, Kelten First, some Sumerian proverbs about animals, including written language's first merciful lion and Mr. Monkey's plaintive cry to his mother Lusalusa. Pigs, foxes, donkeys, mongeese, elephants— they're just like us! Then, we learn how foragers' attempts to manage wild herds gradually transformed into a lifestyle centered around domestic livestock, and how Neolithic hunters permanently altered the genetics of wild sheep without even having to domesticate them first. Then, we take a look at the process of domesticating wild herds of ruminants, focusing on goats in Ganj Dareh, in the highlands of western Iran. It turns out every domestic goat on the planet can trace its genealogy to a single lineage of wild male goats in the Zagros mountains in the late 9th millennium! We also visit the nearby sites of Ali Kosh and Chogha Bonut, to see how southwestern Iran adapts to new ways of life on the cusp of the Pottery Neolithic. Finally, we meet Enkidu, Gilgamesh's enemy and future soulmate, as he roams the hills eating wild grass with the gazelles, makes a new friend, and finds out whether or not the instincts that served him so well as a wild animal might, in new circumstances, alter every aspect of his being and sever his connection with the wilderness altogether! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
9: Late Neolithic gender & politics, 7000-5300 BCE (Inanna & Enki)
11-10-2021
9: Late Neolithic gender & politics, 7000-5300 BCE (Inanna & Enki)
(Re-recorded as of June 4, 2022) Guests: Kimberly, Sheila First, we meet two of the most important gods in the Sumerian pantheon, as one of them gets drunk and goes on a gift-giving spree. Then, we visit Sabi Abyad in northern Syria. What can this site cluster tell us about the state of Late Neolithic gender relations and political development? Then, a look at gender across the world created by the widespread adoption of the Neolithic lifestyle: skeletal evidence that women did more manual labor in northern Syria, a transregional and disproportionate drop in life expectancy for women during the Neolithic, the use of newly domestic livestock as wedding gifts, and an introduction to textile crafting (usually associated with women in ancient societies). Then, we take a look at some of the first stamp seals and the type of administrative system that used them. Were female figurines related to the early stages of the development of written language? Finally: the more things change... "What has been is what will be,  and what has been done is what will be done;  there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there a thing of which it is said, 'See, this is new'?  It has already been, in the ages before us.  The people of long ago are not remembered,  nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come  by those who come after them." (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11) Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
12: Ubaid daily life & the ”Sumerian question”, 6500-4200 BCE (Enki & the world order)
29-11-2021
12: Ubaid daily life & the ”Sumerian question”, 6500-4200 BCE (Enki & the world order)
(Re-recorded as of June 30, 2022) Guests: Kelsey, Michaela, Annika First, Enki, patron god of Eridu, creates the world, invents agriculture, blesses foreign lands, and produces the Tigris and the Euphrates as part of an extremely convoluted and mildly unsettling metaphor. Then, we visit Eridu, the first city in Sumerian legendary history, and possibly the oldest continuously occupied settlement when the first historical texts were written. What can it tell us about life during the Ubaid? Then, we follow the extended household (which first developed during the Pottery Neolithic in the north) as its Ubaid incarnation spreads across the Near East. Also, we look at the relationship between women and these new social institutions. Then, we visit one of the most famous cities in Mesopotamia in its infancy. Ur, home to Enheduanna and Shulgi and the biblical Abraham, has a long history ahead of it, and its earliest levels date to the Ubaid. We also visit the nearby site of the eponymous al-'Ubaid. Then, a look at domestic life during the Ubaid. Also, just for fun, head-shaping! Then, we tackle the "Sumerian question": what can we know about the language(s) spoken in the alluvium over a millennium before the development of written language? (In other words, "were they Sumerians?") Along the way, we raise a few other questions: how would we know if it replaced other, earlier languages? How much of a language's history appears in its vocabulary? Can there even be such thing as a proto-Sumerian language unaffected by contact with any other language? Finally, Inanna confronts Enki about ignoring her in his cosmic plan, so he grants her the heaping up of human heads like piles of dust, among other blessings. How does she feel about that? We actually won't find out! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
13: Ubaid society & Mesopotamia’s first temples, 6500-4200 BCE (Thersites vs Odysseus)
04-12-2021
13: Ubaid society & Mesopotamia’s first temples, 6500-4200 BCE (Thersites vs Odysseus)
(Formerly episode 16, partially re-recorded as of June 30, 2022) Guest: Kelten First, one of the common soldiers at Troy tells Agamemnon what everyone else is thinking and Odysseus threatens to smack him upside the head. Then, we tour Tell Abada (on the far northeastern edge of the Ubaid world), with interesting evidence of political centralization around 5000 BCE. Then, we talk about increasing social & economic complexity in the late 4000s & early 3000s BCE. What makes cereals more conducive to state formation than other Neolithic crops (like lentils)? Then, we look at the administrative centers in Ubaid towns like Eridu, both as socio-political institutions and as architectural monuments. At this point, they're in the process of transforming from the domestic houses of prominent families to the sprawling temple bureaucracies which dominate the early history of Mesopotamia. Then, we visit one of the other most famous cities in Mesopotamia. Unug, alias Uruk, alias Erech, alias Warka, home to Gilgamesh and Inanna and the biblical Nimrod, will be the world's largest city throughout the late 4th millennium BCE, during which time humanity will invent bronze, the state, and the written word. Then, we take one last look at Ubaid society. How does the concept of chiefdom apply to the Ubaid alluvium? Finally, Odysseus & Thersites resolve their dispute like civilized men! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
14: Ubaid sea trade & the Persian Gulf, 5500-4500 BCE (Flood myth)
13-01-2022
14: Ubaid sea trade & the Persian Gulf, 5500-4500 BCE (Flood myth)
(Formerly episode 13, partially re-recorded as of June 30, 2022) Guests: Annika, Kelsey First, we start with the Sumerian flood story (which later inspired the flood stories in the Bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh), pieced together from fragmentary tablets. What does this have to do with the Arabian Neolithic? Then, we meet the shepherds & fishers of the Arabian Neolithic during the Holocene Humid Period, living amidst forests, grasslands, rivers, and inland lakes large enough to support herds of hippopotami.  Then, we visit Dosariyah, a seasonal campsite, oyster processing center on the modern Saudi Arabian coast, and trade outpost. Did they have any boat-related ideas about the afterlife in common with an Ubaid site in northern Syria? Then, we look at the sea trade between the Ubaid alluvium and the Persian gulf. What can pottery tell us about the role of feasting in bringing together Mesopotamian sailors and Arabian shepherds? Then, we visit as-Sabiyah on the Kuwaiti coast, a settlement with intensive trade links with the alluvium and possibly an "ethnically Ubaid" population. What would that mean? Can we know for sure? Finally, the Sumerian goddess Nanshe builds a home for her fish. Who's invited to the housewarming party? Which species of fish isn't allowed as a temple offering? The answer probably won't surprise you! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
15: Northern Mesopotamia before & after the Ubaid, 6000-3800 BCE (Nanna-Suen)
23-01-2022
15: Northern Mesopotamia before & after the Ubaid, 6000-3800 BCE (Nanna-Suen)
(Formerly episode 14) Guests: Kelsey, Kelten First, we meet the moon god Nanna-Suen (alias Sin, alias Ashimbabbar), as he prepares to journey from Ur upriver to the city of his father Enlil. Then, a brief look at the Halaf culture (early-mid 5000s BCE) in late Neolithic upper Mesopotamia, which managed to avoid social hierarchy and wealth inequality millennia after developing agriculture and herding. How did they do it? Then, the southern Ubaid culture reaches the north. In just a few centuries (ca 5300-4500 BCE), the southerners managed to export not just their material culture (tools, pottery, building styles, etc) but also an economy centered on the large households of wealthy and well-connected families, which coordinated not only grain storage and redistribution but also manual labor projects, long-distance trade, and religious activity. How did they do it? Then, a visit to our new friends at Tepe Gawra, a town in northern Iraq occupied more or less continuously from the Halaf period well into the Bronze Age. We'll be back! (Correction: Level 19 is Gawra's oldest Ubaid level. Level 20, dating to the Halaf, is the earliest occupation at Gawra). How did northerners navigate different markers of identity in the face of cultural transformation? What can stamp seals tell us about the growing power of one particular household and/or the breed of dogs at Gawra? We wrap up with a tour of the Post-Ubaid north (ca 4500-3800 BCE). Even as southern influence subsided, northern chiefs appear to have enjoyed their newfound power, at least enough to find new and interesting ways to turn other people's labor into jewelry for their children. Then, we return to Tepe Gawra until the beginning of the Uruk period. What's a town so small doing with all this treasure? And why is so much of it buried with children? Finally, Enlil's little fellow who eats sweet cakes arrives at his father's dinner table to exchange porcupines, long-tailed bush rats, turtles, and various birds and fishes for bread, beer, sweet cake, syrup, crescent cake, and clear water. May Lord Ashimbabbar make you be born for seven days! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
18: The fall of Tell Brak & the Middle Uruk expansion, 3800-3400 BCE (Enmerkar vs Ensuhkeshdanna)
18-03-2022
18: The fall of Tell Brak & the Middle Uruk expansion, 3800-3400 BCE (Enmerkar vs Ensuhkeshdanna)
Guests: Kirra, Jojo First, Ensuhkeshdanna, the haughty lord of faraway Aratta, demands the submission of our hero Enmerkar, the wise king of noble Unug. When Enmerkar refuses to so debase himself, the lord of Aratta plots a campaign of economic sabotage by means of dark sorcery. Then, an introduction to the Uruk expansion (or the Uruk phenomenon), a process of intensive trade, migration, and cultural interaction spanning most of the Near East for most of the 4th millennium BCE. This episode focuses on the Middle Uruk period (3800-3400 BCE). Then, we return to Susiana, in southwestern Iran, to pick up right after the end of the Susa 1 period (in episode 16). A population explosion accompanies the introduction of Uruk-style material culture (that is, similar to the culture of southern Mesopotamia). We tour the small rural village of Shafarabad and the revitalized city of Susa. What can we know about Susiana's relationship to the Mesopotamian alluvium during this period? Then, we return to Tell Brak in northeastern Syria as it, too, is incorporated into the Middle Uruk economy. The climate is drying and the city is shrinking, but they do manage to build a pretty cool temple! Then, a handful of other sites incorporated into the Uruk world: Tell Hamoukar (near Brak), Tepe Gawra (from episode 15), and Nineveh (more famous as the capital of the Neo-Assyrian empire). Then, we visit Hacınebi in southeastern Anatolia, one of several pre-existing large towns with their own history of administrative record-keeping subsumed within the Uruk trade network. Finally: wizard fights are the continuation of diplomacy by other means! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited
21: Late Chalcolithic metallurgy & the dawn of the Bronze Age, 4500-3100 BCE (Copper vs Silver)
21-04-2022
21: Late Chalcolithic metallurgy & the dawn of the Bronze Age, 4500-3100 BCE (Copper vs Silver)
Guest: Sheila First, strong Copper casts his legitimate insults, insults of a miserable dog, against Silver. In my delusional hubris, I've arbitrarily pieced this particular debate text together from disparate fragments and granted it unnatural life beyond death via galvanic abominations beyond the comprehension of its original creator. As usual, I'm using the ETCSL translation. Then, we track the development of copper metallurgy in the Near East, stretching from the early Neolithic to the Uruk and beyond. Sheila, actual chemistry expert, helps us understand the reactions occurring inside these Chalcolithic crucibles. Then, a look at specific metals: copper, silver, gold, lead, and iron— all available to smiths at the very beginning of the so-called Bronze Age. Speaking of which, why do we call it that anyway? Now that this podcast about the Bronze Age has finally reached the beginning of the story, it's worth explaining what exactly the familiar Stone Age / Bronze Age / Iron Age trichotomy means for our understanding of world history.  Then, we learn about arsenical bronze, the first intentional copper alloy to spread across the Near East. This, predictably, segues into an examination of the various health effects of these various metals on the people working with them. I learned something new about some familiar gods, and now you will too! Finally, the conclusion (such as it is) to Copper's debate with Silver. Silver puts up a valiant defense, given that the constraints of the genre preordained his failure. Father Enlil be praised! Questions? Feedback? Email us at drumbeatforeverafter@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @drumbeatforever Works cited