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Talk Like A Babylonian

Tablet telling the first few lines of the Descent of Ishtar to the underworld. istockphoto.com hide caption

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Martin Worthington studies Babylonian and Assyrian at St. John's College, Cambridge. He says whenever he tells people what he does, he's asked the same question, "What did Babylonian sound like, and how do you know?"

Well he's decided to answer that question. He's put up recordings of people reading Babylonian poetry on his website. The poetry is from clay tablets found in Mesopotamia, which includes present day Iraq, and parts of Syria, Turkey, and Iran.

"It's essentially detective work," Dr. Worthington said. "We will never know for sure that a Babylonian would have approved of our attempts at pronunciation, but by looking at the original sources closely, we can make a pretty good guess."

The collection includes mythology, tales of gods and goddesses, part of the code of Hammurabi, and my personal favorite "Incantation for a Dog Bite," which could certainly prove useful.