Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods


by Jean Bottéro, translated by Zainab Bahrani & Marc Van De Mieroop

Our ancestors, the Mesopotamians, invented writing and with it a new way of looking at the world. In this collection of essays, the French scholar Jean Bottéro attempts to go back to the moment which marks the very beginning of history.

To give the reader some sense of how Mesopotamian civilization has been mediated and interpreted in its transmission through time, Bottéro begins with an account of Assyriology, the discipline devoted to the ancient culture. This transmission, compounded with countless discoveries, would not have been possible without the surprising decipherment of the cuneiform writing system. Bottéro also focuses on divination in the ancient world, contending that certain modes of worship in Mesopotamia, in their application of causality and proof, prefigure the “scientific mind.”

Buy from Amazon


Jean Bottéro was the emeritus director of l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, quatrième section, Paris. He was the author of The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia; Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, and coauthor of Ancestor of the West: Writing, Reasoning, and Religion in the Ancient Near East, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

Teresa Lavender Fagan has translated more than a dozen books for the University of Chicago Press.