43 days
France, 2020

Original music : Simon McCorry Production : CNRS, MSH Mondes

Programmed by Pierre Oscar Lévy

French, English, Turkish French, English, Italian

Science History


About 4 000 years ago, Assyrian merchants established a commercial settlement in the ancient city of Kaneš, within Central Anatolia. They came from Aššur, north of Mesopotamia. We have come to understand their history through their writings on clay tablets that have stood the test of time: more than 22 500 cuneiform tablets have been unearthed from the archaeological site of Kültepe. How did these Mesopotamian clay tablets arrived in Anatolia and what do they tell us? The voice of Tarām-Kūbi, an Assyrian woman who corresponded with her brother and her husband in Kaneš, takes us back in time.

Tënk's opinion

This is a classic television documentary that, like fiction, offers us an Assyrian woman’s story from beyond the grave. The calm voice talks directly to us, explaining how she stayed at home while her brother and husband were trading merchandise a thousand miles away. The film gets the dead to speak through this rich correspondence, analysed and authenticated by numerous scientists. It’s a rare film, perfect for those curious enough to want to understand what life was like around 4000 years ago over there in the birthplace of civilisation. And it’s funny that already, even in those days on these cuneiform tables are the words "You have too much love for silver, yet you despise your own life!"

Pierre Oscar Lévy


Cécile Michel

Cécile Michel

Vanessa Tubiana-Brun

Vanessa Tubiana-Brun

Cécile Michel is a director of research with France’s CNRS and professor at the University of Hamburg. As an Assyriologist and member of the Kültepe archaeology mission, she is in charge of deciphering the cuneiform tablets that have been excavated there. She has published several papers about the history of Mesopotamia, the learning and practice of writing and arithmetic, and material culture. She also conducts research on the social history, gender history and the economic role of women in the Ancient Near East. The film "Thus Speaks Taram-Kubi" was inspired by her latest book "Women of Assur and Kanesh. Texts from the Archives of Assyrian Merchants" (Atlanta, 2020). She also writes the Brèves Mésopotamiennes blog for the magazine Pour la Science.