The ancient Mesopotamians did not have libraries in the modern sense - that is, public institutions where people could go to borrow books. A Mesopotamian library was more of an archive, a collection of clay tablets usually kept in one or more rooms in a temple or a palace. Such archives began as a way of retaining records of official administrative, economic, or religious business. over time, however, other kinds of literature, including letters, historical accounts, and epic poems, were also stored in archives. Among the earliest Mesopotamian archives discovered to date are those in Ur and Nippur, compiled when these cities were part of the Third Dynasty of Ur in the late third millennium b.c. A larger archive was found in the ruins of Mari. Dating to the nineteenth century b.c., it contains thousands of documents, including many letters written to and from Zimri-Lim and other rulers of Mari.
   The largest and best-preserved Meso-potamian library-archive is that of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (reigned ca. 668627 b.c.) at Nineveh. It was discovered in 1849 by pioneer Assyriologist Austen Henry Layard. Of the more than twenty thousand tablets in the original collection, about five thousand proved to be in good enough condition to translate. Beginning with translations by German scholar Carl Bezold between 1889 and 1899, experts have revealed the contents of some fifteen hundred complete texts covering a wide range of subjects. Some evidence suggests that the archive was originally divided into several rooms, each devoted to a specific subject.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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