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Ancient Egyptian North Star Eclipsed By Astronomical Discovery

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Photo Credit: Aliaksei/Adobe Stock

Ashley Cowie, Ancient Origins

The star used by ancient Egyptians as their North Star has just been discovered to be one part of a pair of binary stars that periodically eclipse one another, according to NASA scientists.

The team’s astronomical findings were  published Oct. 31, 2019 in the Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), astronomers found that from Earth‘s perspective, Thuban, and its fainter companion star, pass in front of each other (eclipse) every 51.4 days at an average distance of about 38 million miles apart.

Also known as Alpha Draconis, the star is located 270 light-years from Earth in the constellation of  Draco, the dragon , and Thuban is estimated to be five times brighter and nearly double the size of its stellar companion, and while it is not a particularly bright star to us it held a special place in the hearts of ancient stargazers.

Stella pyramid alignments. ( Aliaksei / Adobe Stock)
Stella pyramid alignments. ( Aliaksei / Adobe Stock)
Ancient Dragon Star of The Egyptians

Caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon on the Earth the 26,000-year-long precession cycle determines which star is seen at the north celestial pole at any given time. Several historical sources claim Thuban lay almost exactly at the north celestial pole in the year 2787 BC and this can be confirmed with modern astronomical models. Thuban, therefore, as a part of the constellation ‘Draco’, the Dragon, lay at the fixed celestial North Pole when the Egyptians were building the pyramids.

In the 1960s, the so-called ‘air shafts’ in the Great Pyramid of Giza, that were once thought to serve for ventilation as the pyramids were being built, were found to align to the star Thuban at the north celestial pole, around which the heavens appeared to turn. And now, scientists find as the dragon star flies around the universe at a certain stage in its cycle, viewed from Earth, it is eclipsed by another star.

Thuban or Alpha Draconis (shown here in an image of the northern sky) was the North Star at the time of the building of the pyramids. ( NASA)
Thuban or Alpha Draconis (shown here in an image of the northern sky) was the North Star at the time of the building of the pyramids. ( NASA)
How Did We Miss This?

In a NASA statement, scientist Dr. Angela Kochoska, a postdoctoral researcher at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, says the first question that comes to mind is “how did we miss this?” And proposing an answer she said that the eclipses only last six hours so they are easily missed, and furthermore, the star is so bright the detectors on NASA’s  Kepler observatory would have been saturated, ‘masking the eclipses.’

Using TESS, the stellar pair’s brightness was tracked for 27 days at a time revealing that Thuban and its companion are among the brightest ‘eclipsing binaries’, which are pairs of stars that pass in front of one another, but neither star completely concealing the other, the astronomers said in a statement. And it is by observing these eclipses that astronomers hope to get a more accurate measurement of the mass and size of each star.

Precision Precession Targeting Takes Time

Discovering eclipses in a well-known, bright, historically important star highlights how TESS impacts the broader astronomical community, said Padi Boyd, the TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In this case, the high precision  TESS data  can be used to help constrain fundamental stellar parameters at a level we’ve never before achieved, said the NASA scientist, whose forefathers in the ancient world regarded eclipses as powerful omens that foretold death and destruction.

The modern pole star, Polaris, formerly Phoenice, will get as close as it will get to the celestial north pole on March 24, 2100, but Thuban’s precision, as seen from Earth, will only be beaten by the star  Alderamin, which will take its turn at the apparently fixed north pole around 7500 AD.

This article (Ancient Egyptian North Star Eclipsed By Astronomical Discovery) was originally published at Ancient Origins and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

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This Creepy Abandoned Italian Town Is Straight Out Of Biblical Times

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Photo Credit: Pexels

Even though the residents of Craco, Italy are long gone, the majesty of this medieval hill town remains. Located in the instep of Italy’s boot, the once-thriving village stands atop a 1,300-foot cliff overlooking the river valley below.

Defensively, the town’s builders got everything right; but enemy attacks were not the cause of Craco’s demise.

In fact, the plucky village survived several occupations, plunderers, and some substantial drama brought on by the Unification of Italy. Then the Black Death arrived in the mid-1600s, taking out hundreds of residents. Yet Craco by and large survived; by 1815, it was even big enough to divide into two districts.

Regardless of its strengths, Craco found itself in a Catch-22 regarding its location. While its perch atop a hill kept marauders at bay, exposure to the elements is what effectively brought down the village. Earthquakes, landslides, floods; once residents began evacuating because of these natural disasters, things were never quite the same.

It’s no wonder people stayed in Craco for so long — its views are incredible.

Now Craco is effectively a ghost town, reduced to nothing but ancient ruins for half a century.

It’s comforting that the grand architecture still keeps diligent watch over Craco, despite the fact that its only invaders these days are curious tourists and festival attendees.

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DEA / V. GIANNELLA via Getty Images
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Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
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Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Image
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Andrea Gattino/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Craco Today

In 2007, the descendants of the immigrants of Craco in the U.S. formed The Craco Society. Their website memorializes the village, saying, “Although ‘Craco Vecchio’ is no longer inhabited, it remains robust in the minds and hearts of the Crachese people everywhere.”

Craco began caving in near the millennium. Buildings in the old town are either collapsed or on the verge of collapse. One of the first monuments to crumble was the WWI statue, inaugurated in 1932.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

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Medieval Wine ‘Supertanker’ Saved By Community In Wales

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Medieval Wine ‘Supertanker’ Saved By Community In Wales
Photo Credit: The Newport Medieval Ship

Ed Whelan, Ancient Origins

A unique project is taking place in the United Kingdom to rebuild a ‘one-of-a-kind’ 15 th century ship in Wales. This vessel is from the Age of Discovery and is the best surviving example from this period. The restoration is also unique because it is driven by the local community, who have taken great pride in the vessel and are committed to preserving their heritage.

The ship was found in the historic port city of Newport in southeast Wales in the River Usk. It was found during the construction of a new theatre on the waterfront, in 2002, sunk into the mud and silt. The ship was remarkably well-preserved, although some of its hull had been warped over time. It was found in what was going to be the orchestra pit of the new Riverfront Theatre. The vessel has become popularly known as the ‘Newport Medieval Ship’.

A Rare 15 th Century Medieval Ship

This vessel was revealed to have a displacement of approximately 400 tons and originally was over 100 feet (30m) in length. It was a clinker type of vessel, constructed of overlapping planks of timber, and would have been used as a merchantman. Bob Evans, chairman of the Friends of the Newport Ship told Wales Online , “in her time the Newport Ship was one of the biggest vessels afloat.” 

It appears that the ship was engaged in the wine trade, which involved transporting English cloth to Iberia in exchange for wine. Evans told Wales Online that “she could carry up to 200 tons of wine in one voyage – that’s 50,000 gallons or around 200,000 bottles – truly a 15 th century wine supertanker.” Analysis of the timbers indicates that she was probably made in the Basque Country in Northern Spain. A small French silver coin was found in a niche in the timbers that indicated that it was not built before 1447.

The Newport Medieval Ship being excavated and restored. ( Friends of the Newport Ship )
The Newport Medieval Ship being excavated and restored. ( Friends of the Newport Ship )
Seized by Pirates?

Painstaking archaeological and historical research has helped to piece the story of the ship together. It probably sailed into Newport damaged in some way. There is some speculation that it was seized on the orders of the notorious pirate the Earl of Warwick, who played an important role in the Wars of the Roses . It appears that while it was berthed on a special cradle that the vessel toppled over into the inlet and was left there, until it was found in 2002.

Originally the vessel was going to be left in the mud and covered over by the new theatre. However, the authorities did not expect the intense public interest in the find. They demanded that the ship be restored, and a public campaign was launched that had the support of, among others, Sir Anthony Hopkins. The Friends of the Newport Ship group was established, and it staged a vigil by the vessels to protect it. The Welsh government gave in and agreed to fund a restoration project.

Piecing the Puzzle Together

Archaeologists are working on the massive restoration project, in a converted warehouse now known as the Medieval Ship Centre. They used newly developed software to identify every plank on the vessel. The timber was freeze-dried to preserve them and removed from the mud. Just this year, the group working on the ship received two shipments of preserved planks, including the big-framing timbers, and this allowed them to begin reconstructing the ship in earnest.

Shot of original restored planks from the Newport Medieval Ship. ( Friends of the Newport Ship )
Shot of original restored planks from the Newport Medieval Ship. ( Friends of the Newport Ship )

The planks are being slowly pieced together and the experts are recreating the 15 th century ship. Evans told Wales Online that “reassembling a 600-year-old ship from its original timbers is like doing a 3D jigsaw puzzle with 2,500 pieces, without the picture on the box.” It is important that the team knows where the planks go as they need to get it right the first time. They are also working with Swansea University to create a cradle that will hold the reconstructed vessel.

Restored timber plank from the Newport Medieval Ship. ( Friends of the Newport Ship )
Restored timber plank from the Newport Medieval Ship. ( Friends of the Newport Ship )
Impossible Without the Community

None of this would have been possible without the support of the public. This project illustrates the role of communities in preserving our heritage. Evans told Wales Online that “it is important to remember that the ship was saved by actions of the local Newport community and there is nothing like her anywhere else in the world.” Indeed, the city takes a great deal of pride in the Newport Medieval Ship and a local craft brewery has even named a beer after the 15 th century vessel.

According to the ‘Friends of Newport Ship’ Facebook Page: “The Medieval Ship Centre will be free of charge on the weekends.” The group hopes to find a suitable location for the restored 15 th century ship by spring 2020 and is then due to open to the public. A book based on the vessel and its history, the ‘World of the Newport Medieval Ship’, has been published.

This article (Medieval Wine ‘Supertanker’ Saved By Community In Wales) was originally published at Ancient Origins and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

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A Description Of The Lost Land Of Atlantis & The Reason For Its Downfall – According To Plato

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A Description Of The Lost Land Of Atlantis & The Reason For Its Downfall – According To Plato
Photo Credit: Ancient Code

Advanced ancient civilizations are a big topic of interest among researchers, historians, archaeologists, and scientists. Every single year we are gifted with a mysterious find that has us questioning the origins of the human race and imagining the cultures which roamed our planet before us. We have found much evidence to suggest that there may have been civilizations in existence before us which were intellectually, and even technologically superior. That being said, this theory is still thought to be quite fantastical; despite all of the evidence which has been brought to light in recent years to support this notion, it is still largely ignored by the mainstream. If you are interested in looking at some of this evidence, a great place to start is with author Graham Hancock, in his book titled The Magicians of The Gods.

Atlantis

If you start talking about the lost, ancient city of Atlantis, most people will probably think that you’re living in ‘la la’ land. Many people are unaware that this city has been seriously studied for hundreds of years. For example, we can see that it was a subject of significant importance for researchers at the Smithsonian Institution, as emphasized by their Annual Report of the Board of Regents of The Smithsonian Institution for the year ending June 30th, 1915.

In the report, author M. Pierre Termeir, a member of the Academy of Sciences and Director of Service of the Geologic Chart of France, gives a lecture regarding the Atlantean civilization.  He makes a compelling case for further study of this lost city:

“After a long period of disdainful indifference, observe how in the last few years science is returning to the study of Atlantis. How many naturalists, geologists, zoologists, or botanists are asking one another today whether Plato has not transmitted to us, with slight amplification, a page from the actual history of mankind? No affirmation is yet permissible; but it seems more and more evident that a vast region, continental or made up of great islands, has collapsed west of the Pillars of Hercules, otherwise called the Straight of Gibraltar, and that its collapse occurred in the not far distant past. In any event, the question of Atlantis is placed anew before men of science; and since I do not believe that it can ever be solved without the aid of oceanography, I have thought it natural to discuss it here, in this temple of maritime science, and to call to such a problem, long scorned but now being revived, the attention of oceanographers, as well as the attention of those who, though immersed in the tumult of cities, lend an ear to the distant murmur of the sea.”

You can read this full report here, starting on page 219.

In his lecture, M. Termeir goes on to present zoologic, geographic, and geologic data to support the existence of the lost Atlantean civilization. Not only that, archaeological discoveries on the ocean floor have also raised some questions…

Plato’s Description of Atlantis

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, provides a description of Atlantis in his dialogue Critias, which was never completed. The following is a summary of his depiction, these are a few of many points I am taking from Manly P. HallsThe Secret Teachings of All Ages

  • Atlantis was inhabited by ‘earth-born’ and ‘primitive’ human beings. One of them was wooed by the god Poseidon, who interbred with the human beings, and they eventually bore five children. This interbreeding between gods and humans is a common theme in many historical texts found throughout the world.
  • The land was divided into concentric zones of land and water. Two zones of land and three zones of water surrounded the central island, which had warm springs of water and cold springs of water.
  • Atlantis became an established country, with a wise government and an industry that sprung them to advanced technological heights — beyond even what we have reached today.
  • Atlantis had limitless resources, wild animals, and precious metals, and was heavily populated.
  • Atlantis was full of large and beautiful palaces, temples, docks, and a network of various bridges and canals that united different sections of the kingdom.
  • White, black and red stones were used in the construction of public buildings. “They circumscribed each of the land zones with a wall, the outer wall being covered with brass, the middle with tin, and the inner, which encompassed the citadel, with orichalch. The citadel, on the central island, contained the palaces, temples, and other public buildings. In its center, surrounded by a wall of gold, was a sanctuary dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon.” (source)
  • Atlantis had a number of gardens, full of hot and cold springs. There were countless temples, public baths, and exercise facilities for both man and animal.
  • “The part of Atlantis facing the sea was described as lofty and precipitous, but about the central city was a plain sheltered by mountains renowned for their size, number, and beauty. The plain yielded two crops each year, in the winter being watered by rains and in the summer by immense irrigation canals, which were also used for transportation. The plain was divided into sections and in time of war each section supplied its quota of fighting men and chariots.” (source)
  • Atlantis was massive, ruled by multiple kings who all had control over their land. Their relationships with the other kings were governed by an original code of ethics that was engraved by the first ten kings. “The chief laws of the Atlantean kings were that they should not take up arms against each other and that they should come to the assistance of any of their number who was attacked.” (source)
The Downfall of Atlantis

These are the essential points Plato makes about Atlantis. He described it as a great and powerful empire, almost magical, and said that this was the same empire which attacked the Hellenic states. He attributes the power and glory they tasted after this venture to their eventual demise, writing that the love for these ego-driven desires that soon developed among Atlantean kings “lured” them from “the pathway of wisdom and virtue.”

 “Filled with false ambition, the rulers of Atlantis determined to conquer the gods into his holy habitation and addressed them. Here Plato’s narrative comes to an abrupt end, for the Critias was never finished.” (source)

Plato also tackles the subject of Atlantis in his Timaeus, writing of a story told by Solon — who himself is said to have heard the story in Egypt, passed on to him by a priest via hieroglyphic inscriptions in a temple in Sais — in which a violent cataclysm sank the continent. Thus, the Island of Atlantis completely disappeared. (source)

A technologically sophisticated but morally bankrupt evil empire – Atlantis – attempts world domination by force. The only thing standing it its way is a relatively small group of spiritually pure, morally principled and incorruptible people – the ancient Athenians. Overcoming overwhelming odds . . . the Athenians are able to defeat their far more powerful adversary simply through the force of their spirit. Sound familiar? Plato’s Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of ‘Star Wars.’ ” – Ken Feder, professor of archaeology, taken from his book “Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology.”

The Egyptian connection is also interesting to bring up here because Crantor, another ancient Greek philosopher, asserted that the Egyptian priests declared the story of Atlantis to be written upon pillars which were still preserved circa 300 B.C.

Manly P. Hall has noted that, before this cataclysm, a portion of the population left and did not succumb to the egoistic tendencies which apparently led to the downfall of Atlantis. Was the philosophic, religious, and scientific knowledge of Atlantis passed on? There are many similarities between the reported teachings of Atlantis and those of other cultures, such as the Mayas of Central America.

According to Manly P. Hall, from the Atlanteans, “the world received not only the heritage of arts and crafts, philosophies, and sciences, ethics and religions, but also the heritage of hate, strife, and perversion. The Atlanteans instigated the first war; and it has been said that all subsequent wars were fought in a fruitless effort to justify the first one and right the wrong which it caused.” (source)

“Before Atlantis sank, its spiritually illuminated Initiates, who realized that their land was doomed because it had departed from the Path of Light, withdrew from the ill-fated continent. Carrying with them the sacred and secret doctrine, these Atlanteans established themselves in Egypt, where they became its first divine rulers. Nearly all the great cosmologic myths forming the foundation of the various sacred books of the world are based upon the Atlantean Mystery Rituals.” (source)

One of the most interesting parts of this story, to me, is the fact that this place is often remembered as a place of glory, light, and abundance, which it was. But they were not immune to the dangers of avarice, either, as H.P. Blavatsky makes clear: “Under the evil insinuations of their demon, Thevatat, the Atlantis race became a nation of wicked magicians. In consequence of this, war was declared, the story of which would be too long to narrate; its substance may be found in the disfigured allegories of the race of Cain, the giants, and that of Noah and his righteous family. The conflict came to an end by the submersion of the Atlantis, which finds its imitation in the stories of the Babylonian and Mosaic flood.” (source)

This article (A Description of the Lost Land of Atlantis & The Reason For Its Downfall – According To Plato) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Eridu: The Sumerian Garden Of Eden & The Oldest City In The World?

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Eridu: The Sumerian Garden of Eden and the Oldest City in the World?
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

Wu Mingren, Ancient Origins

Today, Eridu is often considered to be one of the oldest permanent settlements in Mesopotamia, and perhaps even in the world. The ancient Sumerians also believed that Eridu was the first city in the world and they documented that belief in the Sumerian King List and the Eridu Genesis . At least 18 layers of settlement are found at the site, so could the ancient Sumerian belief be possible?

Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest structures date to the 6th millennium BC. The city reached its zenith during the 4th millennium BC and continued to be inhabited until around the 7th century BC. By then, however, the city had lost its importance. 

Some of the baked bricks used in the construction of the Sumerian ziggurat at Eridu, southwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq, are stamped with the name of King Ur-Nammu (2123-2106 BC). (David Stanley/ CC BY 2.0 )
Some of the baked bricks used in the construction of the Sumerian ziggurat at Eridu, southwest of Nasiriyah, Iraq, are stamped with the name of King Ur-Nammu (2123-2106 BC). (David Stanley/ CC BY 2.0 )
A Tell of 18 Levels

Eridu (known today as Tell Abu Shahrain) is located about 20 km (12.5 miles) to the southwest of the famous city of Ur. As its modern name indicates, the archaeological site is a tell, which is a huge mound formed over the millennia as a result of new settlements being built over the ruins of the previous ones. The tell rises to a height to 7 meters (23 feet), and is formed by 18 levels of occupation, according to the archaeological excavations. The bulk of this has been dated to the Ubaid and Uruk periods, which lasted from the 6th to 4th millennia BC.

The ruins of Eridu in 2011. (Ltybcc1/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
The ruins of Eridu in 2011. (Ltybcc1/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

The ancient Sumerians themselves made mention of Eridu’s antiquity. In the Sumerian King List , for example, it is written that “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug.” In addition, in the creation myth known as the Eridu Genesis , it is said to have been one of the five cities that existed before the Deluge, the others being Bad-Tibira, Larak, Sippar, and Suruppak. 

The God of Eridu Temple

The patron god of Eridu was Enki (known also in Akkadian as Ea), the god of water. According to Sumerian mythology, the settlement was founded by Enki, and it was from this city that civilization was spread to other parts of the land. Although Enki was initially a local god, he rose in importance as the city grew in influence, resulting in him being incorporated into the pantheon of other cities as well. In Eridu, Enki’s temple is known as E-Abzu (Abzu may be translated as ‘Deep Ocean’, and refers to the underground spring from which all life is believed to have begun).

Rough map of the Eridu mound showing the main ziggurat, temple, and a few buildings. (Cush/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Rough map of the Eridu mound showing the main ziggurat, temple, and a few buildings. (Cush/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Archaeological excavations of the E-Abzu have revealed that the temple began as a small room containing what has been referred to by scholars as a ‘cult niche’ and an ‘offering table’. Over the millennia, however, the inhabitants built new temples over the ruins of the old ones, each bigger than the last. The E-Abzu eventually became a large ziggurat, an apt reflection of Enki’s status as a major deity. It has been proposed that the E-Abzu may have been the largest of the ancient Mesopotamian ziggurats.

Economic Activities

Although the E-Abzu is the focal point of the site’s archaeology, there are either elements of interest. More recent excavations, for instance, have revealed that during the Ubaid period, the city was a pottery production center. This is evident in the pottery works, which had large scatterings of pottery fragments and kiln waste. Additionally, remains of fishing nets, weights, and even models of reed boats have been found at the site, suggesting that fishing was a major economic activity carried out by the inhabitants.

There are nine lines of cuneiform inscriptions on this fired clay brick; stamp of the king Amar-Sin (Amar-Suen, previously misread as Bur-Sin), king of Ur. 2100-2000 BC. From Eridu (modern-day Tell Abu Shahrain), southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is currently housed in the British Museum in London. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
There are nine lines of cuneiform inscriptions on this fired clay brick; stamp of the king Amar-Sin (Amar-Suen, previously misread as Bur-Sin), king of Ur. 2100-2000 BC. From Eridu (modern-day Tell Abu Shahrain), southern Mesopotamia, Iraq. It is currently housed in the British Museum in London. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

Eridu was the dominant city in southern Mesopotamia during the Ubaid period, but it was eventually superseded by Uruk. Nevertheless, it continued to be revered as the first city, and it retained its religious significance thanks to the E-Abzu.

It has been suggested that ecological changes, i.e. the recession of the gulf coast and the increasingly unreliable water table, were responsible for the decline of Eridu around the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The city continued to be inhabited up until around the 7th century BC, although by then it had become a mere shadow of its former glory.

In 2016, Eridu was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the ‘Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities’.

This article (Eridu: The Sumerian Garden Of Eden And The Oldest City In The World?) was originally published at Ancient Origins and is re-posted here under Creative Commons.

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