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Mountains in Sumerian Creation Myths

Archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania excavated the ancient Sumerian city Nippur, in present-day Iraq, between 1889 and 1900. Near Nippur’s most important temple, Ekur (lit. “mountain house”), they unearthed a cache of clay tablets.1 Archaeologists estimate that these cuneiform tablets date as far back as the 3rd millennium BCE. They are humanity’s earliest extant written records. One of the tablets contains a creation myth, the so-called Debate between Sheep and Grain....

04 August 2021 · 3 min · 572 words · Jeremy Bassetti
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Artificial Mountains in the Desert of the Real

“Here, you can find it all,” my Uber driver mumbled behind his facemask. “You want girls? You got it. You want drugs? You got it. You want to visit Paris? You got it. Whatever you want”—he locked eyes with me in the rearview mirror—“you can find it in Vegas.” He wasn’t offering, I don’t think. He was merely stating the facts. Built in the middle of nowhere, Vegas is a spectacle of stimulation and simulation where one can find anything....

08 July 2021 · 9 min · 1818 words · Jeremy Bassetti
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Reading Mountains as Cultural Phenomena

For a vast majority of people, mountains are little more than geological formations abruptly protruding from the earth. They are merely the byproduct of tectonic plates shifting and slowly colliding into each other, the earth buckling and sending pinnacles of rock into the sky. Some might see them as a retreat from wordly affairs or city life, or as a place to camp, hike, climb, or ski. But I’d venture to say that most people don’t think about mountains much more than that, if at all....

08 March 2021 · 3 min · 512 words · Jeremy Bassetti
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Axis Mundi and the Sacred Mountain

In the mid-20th century, the late comparative religion scholar Mircea Eliade popularized the idea that a mountain can be an Axis Mundi. An Axis Mundi is an archetype of any sacred place that connects heaven to earth, gods to humans. It is a sacred, spiritual, or a holy center on earth. While the Axis Mundi appears in various forms throughout the world’s religious texts (as trees, pillars, ladders, towers, temples, altars, etc....

25 February 2021 · 3 min · 448 words · Jeremy Bassetti