There were two superpowers in the Near East in ancient times: Egypt and Sumer.
Each, as far as we know, was the first literate civilized society on its own
continent. These are Sumerians as they saw themselves:
Where was Sumer? Egypt relied on the Nile river; the Sumerians relied on the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers:
The Sumerians didn't have stone they could quarry, like the Egyptians, but they
had lots of mud. They constructed their buildings with mud and straw made into
bricks and that's how we have come to have bricks today, made of dried mud.
Here's a modern reconstruction of some of their brick work:
At first they had a pictogram method of writing, like pictures. Later this became
marks made with the tip of a cut reed on clay 'tablets.' The marks are called
cuneiform writing, like this:
This round tablet is just a student's exercise (they had schools):
We have found hundreds of thousands of these tablets. Most of them are still not
translated. To explain the problem better, I wrote this little verse:
The Sumerians like the early Hebrews and Egyptians didn't use vowels, so let's
take out the vowels, and that is how I actually wrote it:
But there's something else. The Sumerians didn't use punctuation marks or
separate their words as we do, so the verse would really look more like this in
And that is why the slabs of clay their scribes had written on, which became their
library books after they were baked into tablets, look like this:
Now you can see why so many tablets are still not translated, and why there are
some apparent mistranslations in those that have been translated. But if we can
translate their tablets correctly we will have exactly what it was they wrote down
close to 5000 years ago.
What has this to do with obelisks? Nothing so far, but I suggest the Sumerians
had a great deal of experience with obelisks. They wrote some of it down, and that
is what we'll discuss in the next chapter.