Irving Finkel 2017. The Writing in the Stone. Surbiton, Surrey: Medina Publishing.

This extraordinary little conceit (as the author himself describes it), is a thought experiment: what if a priest in Mesopotamia discovered a naturally-occuring rock that looked like cuneiform writing, but, being inorganic in origin, was unintelligible? Would it perhaps be used in a power play between priests and king? Irving Finkel of the British Museum indulges himself in a story making use of this theme. Since he is an authority on Mesopotamian language and writing, and has a beard to match, he should be qualified. And maybe he is. There are two messages: psychopaths are not a recent phenomenon (they, like other personalities and social pathologies, were not so different then from now); and, the advent of writing conveyed great power. The story is slight but enjoyable and well-enough constructed to convey these messages.

There are a couple of pages of postscript where Irving Finkel explains a bit about the back-story to his idea but even there he provides no detail on what kind of geology generates rocks that are the centre of his story. They are granite with embedded crystals, often in a semi-regular pattern known among geologists as pegmatite, or graphic granite. (I think the same inclusions may occur in other rocks, like marble or even limestone?)

Check out The Ark Before Noah for a product of Irving Finkel’s day job.