The British Museum Has Discovered the Oldest Ghost Drawing in History


The British Museum Has Discovered the Oldest Ghost Drawing in History

A researcher at the British Museum discovered what is believed to be the oldest ghost drawing in the world.

The findings come in the form of an ancient Babylonian tablet that dates back 3500 years, which was inscribed with directions on how to perform an exorcism on unwanted spirits. In those days, as it is in some sectors of society today, ghosts are just an accepted part of daily life. Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum published the findings in a new book called The First Ghosts: Most Ancient of Legacies, which will release at the end of this month.

Finkel is an expert on Mesopotamian script, language, and culture at the British Museum. He was inspired to write The First Ghosts after reading an 18th Century book that surveyed the history of ghosts until that point. In an interview with Artnet News, he said it suddenly dawned on him after reading that text that there was a treasure trove of artifacts, namely from Mesopotamia, which is “completely unknown as a resource to people who are interested in how old the story of ghosts is, and how far back we can trace it.”

The small clay tablet can fit in the palm of your hand and depicts a faint outline of a miserable bearded man who is being dragged into the afterlife by his former lover. “You can’t help but imagine what happened before,” Finkel told The Guardian, adding, “‘Oh God, Uncle Henry’s back.’ Maybe Uncle Henry’s lost three wives. Something that everybody knew was that the way to get rid of the old bugger was to marry him off. It’s not fanciful to read this into it. It’s a kind of explicit message. There’s very high-quality writing there and immaculate draughtsmanship.”

Many of the findings, such as the quotes above will be featured in Finkel’s upcoming book, which can be pre-ordered on a number of sites, such as the Book Depository for roughly $30 USD.

On the topic of books, Phaidon will release a new study on contemporary African art.

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The British Museum Has Discovered the Oldest Ghost Drawing in History


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