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Dead medium: Horse Posts and Fire Signals of Ancient Mesopotamia
From: bruces@well.com (Bruce Sterling)

Source(s): DAILY LIFE IN ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA by Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat, Greenwood Press, 1998,
ISBN 0-313-29497-6 and D. J. Wiseman, NEBUCHADREZZAR AND BABYLON, Oxford University Press, 1985,
ISBN 0-19-726040-3

page 53

"Around the time of Sargon (2334-2279 BCE) envelopes were invented; they were slips of clay formed around the (((cuneiform))) tablet. Envelopes protected the contents from damage and even fraud; that is, the envelopes safeguarded against someone moistening the clay and changing the numbers. Sometimes the text was repeated on the envelope and also sealed. In the case of a dispute, the enevloped could be opened and the contents examined and compared. Sometimes envelopes opened in modern times have been found with information written on them different from that of the tablets inside."

pages 241-241

"From the second millennium BCE onwards, rulers frequently corresponded by mail. Major archives have been discovered at Mari on the middle Euphrates and at El- Amarna in Egypt. More than three hundred letters were found at El-Amarna from Hittite, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Mitannian kings and from Egyptian vassals in Syria and Palestine. The language commonly used was Akkadian, the language of diplomacy."

pages 273-274

"The Neo-Assyrian Empire (ninth-seventh centuries BCE) did little to improve the roads it inherited in conquered territories. A few roads were even abandoned. But the Assyrian empire made one major change: the central government took over the management of the roads. Government maintenance brought about speedy messenger service to and from the capital and the rapid movement of troops against enemies within and without. The roads were kept in good repair, and exact information as to the terrain and distances was essential. The principal roads were called 'royal roads.'

"Official letters and legal documents referred to stations built along the royal roads, used as resting places for troops and civilian travellers and as way stations in delivering royal mail. A royal correspondent wrote: 'People at the road stations pass my letters to each other and bring them to the king, my lord.' A regular postal service was provided by mounted couriers, with relays at each road station. The roads were measured with great precision, not only in 'double hours' but in smaller measures from 360 meters down to 6 meters. That is, the distances on the royal roads were based on actual measurements using surveyor's cords of standard lengths.

"Highways were well defined and sufficiently permanent to be named as boundaries of fields in documents of land sales. (...) These were clearly recognized as permanent highways, maintained by the state. (...) Kings Sargon II and Sennacherib had those segments of royal roads closest to their respective capitals, Dar-Shurukkin and Nineveh, paved with stone slabs and supplied with roadside stelae as milestones. The roads were paved for a short distance outside the cities and then quickly degenerated into a track and finally disappeared completely. This practice was subsequently discontinued until the Romans applied it, on a far greater scale, to their own imperial road network."

From: From: D. J. Wiseman, NEBUCHADREZZAR AND BABYLON page 17

"How the news reached Nebuchadrezzar has been a matter of some speculation. In Old Babylonian times fire and smoke signals were used on the Euphrates in the Mari district." (Footnote 118: Revue d'assyriologie et d'archeologie orientale #35, 1938, pages 174-186).

"In Sargonid Assyria prearranged signals using piles of brushwood (*abru*) transmitted messages as far as Babylon from Asshur with the lighted piles set a third of a mile apart." (Footnote 119: R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons Konigs von Assyrien, Graz. 1956, 88:19; M. Streck, Assurbanipal und die letzten assyrischen Konige bis zum untergange Niniveh's, 1916, 264 iii 10; A.D. Crown, "Tidings and Instructions: How News Travelled in the Ancient Near East," in Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 17, 1974, pages 244-271)

"Fire signals were in use in Judah in 588/7" (((BC))).

(Footnote 120: Jeremiah 6:1, Zephaniah 1:16, Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1982, page 107).

Bruce Sterling (bruces@well.com)