Mental topographies of ancient Mesopotamia: textual perspectives on learned and lived highland-lowland interactions

Author(s): Matthew Rutz

Year: 2015


Textual sources from southern Iraq’s early historical periods constitute a surprisingly rich body of material for exploring highland-lowland interactions in ancient southwest Asia. Cuneiform inscriptions typically convey only one perspective on these interactions, namely, that of the elite inhabitants of city-states and territorial polities of the southern Mesopotamian alluvium. However, these decidedly one-sided representations were hardly monolithic, and in this paper I explore the various views found in the written record by attending to the archaeological and historical contexts in which the texts were produced. First, focusing in particular on the third and early second millennia BCE, I briefly survey the prominent literary topoi, historical episodes, and epigraphic/iconographic landscapes that shed light on long-term trends in how mountainous regions and their populations were imagined by Babylonian states and their scribes. I then look in specific at the ways in which early second-millennium educational practices at sites such as Nippur and Ur created geographic knowledge. By treating textual remains as material culture it is possible to ground the ancient production of literature in practices of cognitive socialization.

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Cite this Record

Mental topographies of ancient Mesopotamia: textual perspectives on learned and lived highland-lowland interactions. Matthew Rutz. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396481)


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;