Ghosts have inspired, fascinated and frightened us for centuries. The belief in the existence of an afterlife, as well as manifestations of the spirits of the dead, is widespread, dating all the way back to pre-literate cultures. Whether we personally ‘believe’ in them or not, we have an awareness of ghosts and the mythologies surrounding them.
Dr Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum, has embarked on an ancient ghost hunt, scouring to unlock the secrets of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians to breathe new life into the first ghost stories ever written. Responsible for the world's largest collection of cuneiform clay tablets, the oldest known form of writing which dates back to 3400BC, Irving gives us a full picture of the ancient Mesopotamian ghost experience. As one of only a handful of people left in the world that can read this ancient language, Irving has uncovered an extraordinarily rich seam of ancient spirit wisdom which has remained hidden for nearly 4000 years.
Author of the upcoming The First Ghosts, Irving joins Dan to explore what ghosts are, why the idea of them remains so powerful despite the lack of concrete evidence and how a belief in ghosts emerges as a key feature of humanity from its beginning.