Where

map of Mesopotamia around 1200 BC
Map of Mesopotamia around 1200 BC, by Ian Mjadlov

Thin End of the Wedge talks mostly about ancient Iraq. It also includes nearby regions, especially western Iran, Syria, and central and southern Turkey. Many names have been used to describe this area. “The Fertile Crescent” was common in 20th century. Or the “Cradle of Civilisation”. Most experts say “the ancient Near East”; some say “ancient Western Asia”. An increasing number of experts now say “ancient Middle East”. I’m using that one, because everyone knows roughly where it is. “Mesopotamia” is an ancient Greek name that means “land between the rivers” (Tigris and Euphrates). It was used as a name for what is now the modern state of Iraq until the early 20th century. Experts often use it to mean ancient Iraq and eastern Syria. All of these names have problems.

There is no term available for the people who lived in the wider area in which cuneiform was written. You will often see “Mesopotamians”. That refers to the people who lived in ancient Iraq and eastern Syria. This doesn’t mean that there was a single culture, though. It’s a catch-all term for many different peoples who lived in this area. The best known are “Sumerians”, “Akkadians”, “Babylonians” and “Assyrians”. “Sumer” refers to the southern part of southern Iraq during the third millennium BC. “Akkad” refers to the northern part of southern Iraq during the third millennium BC. Together, this area is later called “Babylonia”. Northern Iraq after the third millennium is called “Assyria”.

“Elam” refers to western Iran during our part of antiquity.

“Urartu” refers to an area of what is now Armenia and eastern Turkey during our part of antiquity. The kingdom of Urartu was active from about 860-590 BC.

Abu Habbah: SITE: site of ancient Sippar. EPISODE 16

Abu Tbeirah: SITE: site on southern Iraq. Remains of a Sumerian town. EPISODE 10

Akkad: CITY: northern part of southern Iraq

Al-Muhannawiyah: CITY: modern town near Tell Abu Antiq. EPISODE 5

Ashur: CITY: city in northern Iraq. Home to a famous family of exorcists. EPISODE 4. EPISODE 16, EPISODE 17, EPISODE 18

Assyria: REGION: northern Iraq

Babylon: CITY: city in Iraq

Babylonia: REGION: area in central/southern Iraq

Bagastan: SITE: ancient name for Behistun. EPISODE 8

Bagastanon: SITE: ancient Greek name for Behistun. EPISODE 8

Behistun: SITE: site of a monument commemorating the victories of Darius the Great. The trilingual inscription provided the key to the decipherment of cuneiform. EPISODE 8

Bisitun: SITE: alternate name for Behistun. “Place without column”. EPISODE 8

Bisutun: SITE: alternate name for Behistun. EPISODE 8

Carchemish: SITE: city now on the Turkish/Syrian border. EPISODE 13

Dilmun: CITY: port on the Persian Gulf, in what is today Bahrain. EPISODE 12

Diwaniyah: REGION: area in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Diyala: REGION: region in central Iraq. Location of Eshnunna

Ebla: SITE: city in Syria. EPISODE 13

Ecbatana: CITY: important city in ancient Iran. Capital of the Median empire. Key centre in the Persian empire. Modern Hamadan. EPISODE 8

Elam: REGION: western Iran

Emar: CITY: city on the middle Euphrates, in what is today Syria. EPISODE 12

Eshnunna: CITY: city in central Iraq. Kingdom during the Old Babylonian period.

Hatra: SITE: city in the Nineveh Governorate, Iraq. EPISODE 13

Hattusa: CITY: capital of the Hittites. Turkey. EPISODE 16, EPISODE 17

Jericho: SITE: site in West Bank Palestine. EPISODE 13

Kanesh: CITY: site of the main trading hub of the Old Assyrian network in Turkey. Ancient name for modern Kültepe. EPISODE 12. EPISODE 16

Kermanshah: REGION: province in Iran. Home to Behistun. EPISODE 8

Khorsabad: SITE: site of Assyrian capital, Dur-Sharrukin. EPISODE 14

Kish: CITY: city in central Iraq. EPISODE 5. EPISODE 6. EPISODE 10

Kujunjik: PLACE: mound at Nineveh. EPISODE 13

Kültepe: SITE: Modern name for ancient Kanesh. Near the city of Kayseri, in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. EPISODE

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kur: CONCEPTUAL AREA: Sumerian word for mountain, and the Netherworld. EPISODE 4

Lagash: SITE: site in southern Iraq. EPISODE 7

Luristan: REGION: province in western Iran. Source of “Luristan bronzes”, looted from 1920s. EPISODE 6

Malgium: SITE: city in central Iraq. EPISODE 5

Marad: SITE: city in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Mari: SITE: city in eastern Syria. EPISODE 3

Mosul: CITY: city in northern Iraq. Location of ancient Nineveh. EPISODE 13

Nebi Yunus: PLACE: mound at Nineveh, thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah. EPISODE 13

Nineveh: SITE: ancient capital of Assyria. Located in Mosul. EPISODE 13

Nippur: SITE: city in southern Iraq. Religious centre of Sumer. EPISODE 2. EPISODE 3. EPISODE 7. EPISODE 16

Pi-Kasi: SITE: city in southern Iraq. Ancient name of Tell Abu Antiq. EPISODE 5

Rahmaniyah: PLACE: village on the site of Nineveh. EPISODE 13

Shaduppum: SITE: city in central Iraq. Part of the kingdom of Eshnunna. EPISODE 1

Sippar: SITE: city in northern Babylonia. EPISODE 12, EPISODE 16, EPISODE 17

Sultantepe: SITE: site in southern Turkey. EPISODE 7, EPISODE 17

Sumer: REGION: southern part of southern Iraq

Susa: SITE: important city in ancient Iran. Home to the Elamites. And one of the capitals of the Achaemenid Persian empire. EPISODE 7. EPISODE 8

Tasli Geçit: SITE: site in Turkey. EPISODE 13

Tell Abu Antiq: SITE: site in southern Iraq. Modern name for Pi-Kasi. EPISODE 5

Tell Asmar: SITE: site in central Iraq. EPISODE 5

Tell Harmal: SITE: site in central Iraq. Modern name of ancient Shaduppum. EPISODE 1

Tell Jeghayman: SITE: site in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Tell Khaysh: SITE: site in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Tell Masbah: SITE: site in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Tell Zeghaytan: SITE: site in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Tilmen Höyük: SITE: site in Turkey. EPISODE 13

Turukku: REGION: area in northern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Ugarit: CITY: city on the Syrian coast. Ancient name of modern Ras Shamra. EPISODE 3, EPISODE 17

Ur: CITY: city in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5. EPISODE 6. EPISODE 7. EPISODE 10

Urartu: REGION: Armenia/eastern Turkey

Uruk: CITY: city in southern Iraq. EPISODE 5

Yahrurum shaplum: REGION: “lower Yahrurum”. Ancient province in southern Iraq. Home to the city of Pi-Kasi. EPISODE 5