Can You Identify These Ancient Texts?

HISTORY

By: Jonnathan Chadwick

7 Min Quiz

Can you name this stone that helped the world understand Egyptian hieroglyphs?

The Rosetta Stone was discovered by the French when they occupied Egypt in the 1790s. It's written in hieroglyphs and Ancient Greek and lists the accomplishments and rewards of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemy V Epiphanes issued it in 196 BC.

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Do you know the collection of Indian texts considered some of the first scripture in the world?

The four Vedas are the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and the Atharvaveda. The scriptures lay the foundation for Hinduism, which is considered the world's oldest religion. The writings date back as far as 1700 BC.

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The "eye for an eye" punishment is one of the 282 laws carved into this stone slab. What is it?

The Code of Hammurabi dates back to 1700s BC, and the "eye for an eye" law is probably the most famous of the 282 laws. The code also sets forth the concept of "innocent before proven guilty," and was created by King Hammurabi of Babylon.

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Can you name this famous vow taken by medical professionals all over the world?

The oldest existing fragments of the Hippocratic Oath date back to the 3rd century. Doctors around the world swear by the oath to this day, and it is believed to have been written in the 5th century BC. The most famous interpreted vow is "do no harm."

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What's the name of this epic poem about the Trojan War?

"The Illiad" is believed to be written by Homer and dates back to the 8th century BC. The poem tells the story of the Trojan War and its hero, Achilles. Along with "The Odyssey," the poems are considered the oldest existing works of Western literature.

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Do you know the oldest surviving book of the Mayan civilization?

The Dresden Codex, like most Mayan codices, is a folding book created with bark paper. It's written in hieroglyphs, numbers, calculations, calendars, descriptions, instructions and more. The book is 39 bark leaves with writing on both sides that total 78 pages.

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Can you name this Ancient Egyptian book that helped guide the dead through the afterlife?

The "Book of the Dead" is a collection of texts written by many different authors over centuries. The texts are spells that were buried with the dead to help guide them through the underworld. About 200 independent books were eventually combined to create "The Book of the Dead."

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Do you know the oldest surviving code of laws on Earth?

The Code of Ur-Nammu dates back to 2100 BC in Mesopotamia and is written in Sumerian. It's considered the oldest surviving code of laws in the world. Some laws written on the tablet say the punishment for murder, robbery or infidelity is death.

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Can you name Plato's most famous work, written in 380 BC?

Plato's "Republic" was written in 380 BC. The book discusses moral and philosophical issues in the realm of society and politics and is one of the most influential works in the world. Some of the oldest surviving fragments of the work date back to the 3rd century.

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What's the name of these parables written by an Ancient Greek slave in 600 BC?

Aesop's "Fables" are believed to be written by a Greek slave in the 6th century BC. There are 725 fables, and their authorship is often debated. The stories discuss the most important issues of morality and often feature animals and insects as the main characters.

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Do you know this slab that lists Ancient Egyptian kings between 3150 and 2283 BC?

The Palermo Stone is one of several pieces of a much larger slab that dates back to the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. It is written in some of the oldest known Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and is housed in Palermo, Sicily.

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The "Flood Tablet" holds one of the oldest pieces of literature ever. What is it?

The "Epic of Gilgamesh" was written in 1800 BC in Mesopotamia. It tells the story of King Gilgamesh, who goes on an epic journey across the world, trying to understand the meaning of life. It's written across a dozen clay tablets.

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The King of Caere wrote a letter to the goddess Ashtaret on these golden leaves. What are they called?

These gold leaves are written in Etruscan and Phoenician and date back to the 6th century BC. The goddess Ashtaret was worshiped by people all around the area at the time. The text was discovered in 1964 on the southern coast of Italy.

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Do you know the epic story written on this good luck charm?

Erra is the Akkadian goddess of chaos, and this stone amulet is supposed to protect against chaos and destruction. The story of Erra is called "The Epic of Erra," and it can be found written on five separate tablets.

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What's the name of this Ancient Greek set of laws where death was the punishment for almost every crime?

Today, the word "draconian" means excessively harsh, and it stems from the Draconian Constitution (aka Draco's Code). Legend has it the punishment for stealing a piece of fruit was death, and the laws were written in blood.

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Can you name this medical text recognized as the first to diagnose and treat illness based on science instead of magic?

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a 15-foot scroll that describes 48 medical ailments from fractures and dislocations to wounds and tumors. It was one of the first to make medical diagnoses based on science instead of magic, and it dates back to 1650 BC.

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Do you know this text that can be considered one of the first ever self-help books?

The "Instruction of Amenemope" was written during the 20th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. The book contains many chapters of wise teachings meant to help guide readers through life. Amenemope wrote the guide to honor his son.

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What's the name of this black stone that holds some of the oldest Latin inscription in the world?

Lapis Niger translates to "black stone" in Latin, and it survived from Ancient Rome. The inscription is written in Old Latin, and it used to be part of the primary meeting space of Ancient Rome. It dates back to the 5th century BC.

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What's the name of this tragedy by Sophocles that centers around a man who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother?

The Oedipus Cycle consists of three stories written by Sophocles in the 5th century BC. The stories tell the tale of a man named Oedipus, who is told he cannot control his fate but does not believe it. He ends up learning it the hard way.

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Do you know the name of these correspondence letters between Egyptian and Canaan officials?

The Amarna Letters consist of almost 400 clay tablets that describe back-and-forth between the governments of Ancient Egypt and Canaan. The tablets date back to the 1300s BC and are written in Akkadian instead of Egyptian.

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Can you name this Ancient Chinese military text commonly attributed to military legend Sun Tzu?

"The Art of War" is one of the most influential books not just in military strategy, but politics, business, and life in general. It dates back to the 5th century BC and is believed to be written by Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.

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Close to 1,000 ancient scrolls were discovered in the Judaean Desert in the 1950s. What are they called?

It's believed the Dead Sea Scrolls date back to the third century BC, but the exact dates of each scroll widely vary. The longest manuscript reaches almost 30 feet long, and the scrolls are mostly copies of the Old Testament.

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Do you know Egypt's oldest medical text that deals strictly with female health?

This text is the oldest surviving medical text from Ancient Egypt and dates back to 1800 BC. It consists of more than 30 sections that all deal with female medical issues from disease to pregnancy. The text does not describe any medical procedures. It's more along the lines of magic.

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Can you name the list of vows on these tablets from 1500 BC?

Military officers responded, "so be it" when taking the vows of the Hittite military oath. The oath listed fates for those who broke any of the oaths. For example, any soldier who breaks their oath will see their weapons break in battle.

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What's the name of these Ancient Egyptian texts carved into pyramid walls?

The Pyramid Texts are some of the oldest texts in the world and date back to 2600 BC. They are Egypt's oldest religious texts, and they comprise of a bunch of spells that help the dead thrive in the afterlife.

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Do you know the collection of 700,000 ancient texts discovered in the middle of nowhere?

Timbuktu is in the middle of Mali but has become a misnomer for the middle of nowhere. The Timbuktu Manuscripts date back to the 13th century and the height of the Mali empire. The texts cover art, science, religion and more.

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Can you name these texts and drawings that tell the history of the Ancient Aztecs?

The Codex Mendoza was created sometime between 1529 and 1553 and is broken into three sections. The texts and pictograms cover 200 years of Aztec history and list the rulers and the lands they conquered. The illustrations depict the daily life of the Aztecs.

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Do you know the oldest printed book in the world?

The Diamond Sutra is one of the Buddhist Sutras and was discovered in 1900. The book is dated May 11, 868, making it, according to the British Library, the oldest dated book in the world. Most ancient texts are tablets, scrolls or incomplete books.

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Can you name this Classical Chinese text of 81 verses that teach the way of life?

Although the Tao Te Ching is written in 6th-century Chinese and has no punctuation, no case, no tense, no number, no gender and there is no difference between singular and plural words, it is one of the most widely translated texts in the world.

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Do you know the set of laws considered the first recorded law code in the world?

Urukagina was a Mesopotamian ruler way back in 2400 BC, and his set of laws is considered to be the first example of recorded law code in the world. His laws spared women and orphans from paying taxes and forced rich people to use silver when buying from the poor.

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What ancient list is written on the eight-inch, four-sided tablet?

This specific tablet is called the Weld-Blundell prism and contains a list of Ancient Sumerian kings and their time of reign. The tablet even lists kings who reigned before the great biblical flood. The first ruler, Alulim, reigned for 28,800 years. The last ruler reigned for 23 years.

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Can you name this Ancient Egyptian fable that tells the story of two siblings?

This Egyptian fable tells the story of brothers Anpu and Bata, who love each other, hate each other, love each other again and eventually become rulers of the kingdom and live happily ever after. It's one of the more well known Egyptian fables.

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What's the name of these texts that helped Ancient Egyptians thrive in the afterlife?

The Pyramid Texts are spells that helped Egyptian royalty thrive in the afterlife. The Coffin Texts are similar spells but were available to anyone who could afford to be buried in a coffin. The first coffin texts date back to 2100 BC.

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Do you know the definitive books on Confucianism?

This book is broken up into nine parts that analyze the teachings of Confucius. The Four Books focus on teachings from Confucius and conversations with others close to him. The Five Classics offer more historical context.

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Can you name this Ancient Egyptian medical text that is one of the oldest in the world to focus on herbal medicine?

The Ebers Papyrus is one of the best examples of Ancient Egyptian medical knowledge. It doesn't differentiate between science and magic the way the Edwin Smith Papyrus does. It correctly labeled the heart as the center of blood flow, but incorrectly labeled it for other functions.

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Do you know this famous example of an Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead?

The Book of the Dead was written for select Egyptians. Over centuries, hundreds of them were compiled to create a collection of books that is also known as the Book of the Dead. Each book (or chapter) stands alone. The Papyrus of Ani is one of the more well-known books.

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This has been the authoritative text of Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. Can you name it?

This ancient Chinese text is officially known as the Huangdi Neijing. The text contains 162 chapters of questions and answers that focus on diagnoses, medicine and acupuncture. It has formed the foundation for Chinese medicine for centuries.

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Do you know the oldest surviving manuscript of the Old and New Testament?

"Codex Vaticanus" dates back to the 4th century, making it one of the oldest books in the world. It's regarded as the oldest version of the Greek Bible and has been housed in the Vatican for several centuries.

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Can you name this mournful text that marked the fall of Ur in Sumeria?

This stone tablet dates way back to 2000 BC when enemies overtook the Sumerian city of Ur. There are more than 430 lines that describe how the gods wept after the destruction of the city. The text was discovered in the early 20th century.

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Do you know this epic poem by Virgil that tells the story of the hero Aeneas?

Virgil's "Aeneid" was written in the 1st century BC. Along with Homer's "Illiad" and "Odyssey," it's considered one of the most famous epics in western literature. Legend has it Virgil wanted his drafts of "Aeneid" to be burned when he died, but they were published instead.

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About This Quiz

The world is a big place, and the history of the world is even bigger. We're beyond lucky to have come across some of the ancient texts we now possess, and we're beyond unlucky to have lost some of the ancient texts that we did. We still don't know exactly how the pyramids were built, but we do know the politics, religion and social mores of Egyptians of the time. We know members of Egyptian royalty were buried with riches and spells to guide them through the afterlife. And we know these things because they were written down and preserved for millennia.

The only history we know is written history, and without ancient texts, our knowledge is limited. It's because of ancient engravings, inscriptions, drawings and writings that the world has a rich history. It's because of ancient texts the world is filled with religions, governments and societies. You've probably heard about the Rosetta Stone, the Hippocratic Oath, Draconian Law, Plato, Sophocles, Virgil and the Book of the Dead, but do you know why they're important? Or more importantly, do you know what they look like? Take a look at these 40 ancient texts and see if you can name them all.

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