India and Egypt

The Babylonian Collections of the University Museum

By: Leon Legrain

Originally Published in 1944

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Semitic supremacy over lower and upper Mesopotamia was thus achieved at the beginning of the second millennium by the kings of Babylon. In this they followed the traditions of another famous Semitic ruler, Sargon of Agade, who before the middle of the third millennium could boast that he ruled the four corners of the world and controlled the land from the Upper to the Lower Sea, from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. He probably visited Cyprus and planted colonies of Semitic merchants in Cappadocia. Recent excavations have confirmed the fact that even in the early dynastic period, in a purely Sumerian time, the trade roads were opened from Mesopotamia to India, and eventually towards Egypt.

Curious flat seals of Indian origin found at Kish, Ur, Umma, Lagash, and stone vases from Tell Agrab carved with reliefs in Indian style, point toward early trade relations with the East. They have been confirmed by the discovery in 1924 of similar seals and reliefs at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus Valley by Sir John Marshall. The Mesopotamian finds helped to date the Indian sites. The seals are mostly made of grey glazed steatite, square or round like a button, with the back slightly convex or ridge-shaped, perforated lengthwise. The engraved figures are purely Indian: elephant, rhinoceros, humped bull tied to a manger, water-carrier with jars and yoke. The inscriptions are in the strange characters of an unknown Indian script. Five examples from Ur are shown in the Babylonian Section of the University Museum. (cf. C. J. Gadd, “Seals of the Indian style found at Ur,” Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. XVIII.)

Sumerian culture seems to have reached the Nile Valley even before the first dynasty of Egypt and the unification of the land under Menes. For a while, in sharp contrast with Egyptian predynastic tradition, objects and methods of distinctly Sumerian origin, like the cylinder seal, the pear-shaped mace-head, the stone vases, the recessed brick constructions, were adopted, but not being native, they soon disappeared. The penetration of the Sumerian culture into Egypt may be dated at the Jemdet-Nasr period or soon after.

Cite This Article

Legrain, Leon. "India and Egypt." Museum Bulletin X, no. 3-4 (June, 1944): 50-51. Accessed July 23, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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