Why does someone forge an ancient-looking text? The practice of falsely creating a testimony in the voice of a famous person long-dead appears throughout world history and often seeks financial gain – the monetary value of the manuscript itself (as an object, for example, fake Dead Sea scrolls) or the price of the information contained in it (as a message, for example, the Hitler diaries). The creator also manipulates time, however, rewriting the past as a message for the present often for very different reasons than utilitarian ones. This lecture will look at one of the best known and most elaborate ancient Babylonian textual fakes –both a forged object and a forged message-, the Cruciform Monument of King Manishtushu, to investigate its construction and its form, its rationale, and its subversion of the dimensions of time.
Marc Van De Mieroop is professor in Ancient Near Eastern History at the University of Columbia.