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28 September 2005

Dr. Al-Hamdani on Iraq:
10,000 Years In the Making!

Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani discusses Iraqi history during Academe. (Photo by Alex Stillwagon/ JSU)

By Randy Wilson
JSU News Bureau

A Jacksonville State University professor's presentation to Academe yesterday was a tough assignment: his talk spanned 10,000 years of civilization.

Academe is a faculty support network at JSU that serves as a forum for sharing research interests.

Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani, biology professor, delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Iraq.

Dr. Al-Hamdani is a native of Baghdad, Iraq, who holds a Ph.D. in Botany (1988) from Oklahoma State University. He joined the JSU faculty in 1992 after teaching at Miami (Ohio) University.

"Iraqi civilization began in the region of Mesopotamia about 10,000 years ago," said Al-Hamdani. "It would be inconceivable to attempt to cover all of it in a one hour presentation."

Dr. Al-Hamdani began his presentation with the history of the land and its people that dates back more than to 7,000 BC. The area is most famous for having one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World -- the Hanging Gardens of Babylon -- and for being the home of the mythical Garden of Eden.

The Hanging Gardens were built atop stone arches 76 feet above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. The Garden of Eden was said to be located on a plain from which four rivers flowed. Two of those rivers are still visible today and flow through Iraq--the Euphrates River and the Tigris River.

The recorded history of the area began with a group known as the Sumerians in the time of the Hebrew prophet Abraham. The Old Testament mentions Mesopotamia and Tower of Babel only in historical contexts as it relates to the course of events in Israel and Judah.

According to Dr. Al-Hamdani, the Sumerians began cultivating wheat, domesticating dogs and sheep, and introducing irrigation as well as fine pottery and permanent dwellings about 7000 BC. However, their most important invention was the wheel in 3700 BC.

After the Sumerians, the Babylonians ruled the region 3200-'323 BC. According to Dr. Al-Hamdani, the Babylonians kept time by dividing the day into 24 hours, each hour into 60 minutes, each minute into 60 seconds. This form of counting has survived for 4000 years and is used worldwide today.

The Babylonian capital city of Babylon sits near the modern day city of Baghdad. For more than five centuries, between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, Baghdad became the world's center of education and culture. This period of glory is known as the "Golden Age" of Islamic civilization, when scholars of the Muslim world made important contributions in both the sciences and humanities as well as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, literature, and more.  Under Abbasid rule, Baghdad became a city of museums, hospitals, libraries, and mosques.

 "Iraq has a rich and glorious past," said Dr. al-Hamdani. "I feel fortunate that JSU and Academe has allowed me the the opportunity to share this with a group of my colleagues."

For more information on the history of Iraq, call Dr. Al-Hamdani at (256)782-5801 or send e-mail

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