Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sumerian Influences on Urdaisunia

(This is an old post from my main site, updated and refreshed to celebrate Urdaisunia's new cover)

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When I first started writing Urdaisunia back in the early 90s, I was interested in really really ancient civilizations. I also wanted to write something that wasn't in the usual medieval-European-influenced fantasy setting. Ancient Sumeria fit the bill perfectly. It's so old it makes Ancient Greece and Rome look like whippersnappers, and had a rich and influential culture and level of development. The physical setting (read about my fascination with desert settings here) offered a lot of possibiities for conflict, and I also found the Sumerian pantheon and mythology fascinating. And then there was the idea of a great and ancient civilization falling into ruin, which is also full of possible stories. We didn't have the internet back then, or at least not in its current form, where you can find out anything about anything with just a few clicks, but we do have it now, so here are some links to things that have inspired Urdaisunia.

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The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has a long-term exhibit called Iraq's Ancient Past with a lot of pictures and information about Sumeria and the archaeological work that has been done on the sites there. The headress of Queen Puabi, which inspired the headdress of Shairu-Az in Urdaisunia, is the third picture down. Here is more about Queen Puabi, including a video of some museum workers dressing a mannequin in the headdress and jeweled cloak that were found on Puabi's remains in her tomb. Also on the Penn Museum site is a feature where you can make your name in cuneiform. The picture on this post is my last name the way the Sumerians would have written it.

You can see more of Queen Puabi's headdress and jewelry at Sumerian Shakespeare. The site also has images and translations of Sumerian writings.

The International World History Project has an extensive section devoted to Sumeria. You can read a rundown of the gods and goddesses, a summary of Sumerian history and culture, and a section of the creation myth which gives a sampling of the divine soap opera the gods and goddesses had going on (a major influence on Urdaisunia!).

And, of course, we have to have ziggurats. The first and third pictures were particularly influential in how I envisioned the Royal Palace and the Temple of Ar at Zir.

A few more odds and ends: some ancient ships, and some Bronze Age swords. In Urdaisunia, these are the swords the Urdai used before the Conquest; the Sazars' swords are a new model and were inspired by Japanese katana.

Urdaisunia was only loosely inspired by Sumeria, so don't look to the novel for any kind of historical accuracy. But it was a fun world to play in, and I'll probably go back to it someday.

Finally, let me leave you with a musical tribute to the ancient world:



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