Having studied so much Modern History, my knowledge of Ancient History is rather woeful. Once in a while though I come across something about the ancient world which grabs my attention. This week's In Our Time, about the findings of the archaeological dig which revealed the remains of the Great Library of Nineveh - was brilliant. While 90% of this, the ancient world's greatest collection of books, was destroyed when the Assyrian Empire fell to the Medes and the Babylonians - some has survived. It seems that the Medes (who cared little for such things) burned the palaces in which the library was kept. In so doing they burnt the wax-covered boards on which most of the texts were etched. However, they also inadvertently fired the soft clay tablets on which around 10% of the works were imprinted, saving them for posterity under the rubble.
These were discovered in 1849 by Henry Lanyard a English amateur archaeologist, who couldn't read the texts but shipped them to London. Here the language was deciphered which unlocked enormous new insights into several ancient civilisations, unlocking how they viewed the world, magic, religion, medicine, kingship and government, agriculture, mythology.. which are surveyed in 40 very good minutes of radio. The perfect accompaniment to my Dopiaza!
Listen Again/podcast etc here (Next week it's "Black Death!")