Eridu (Sumerian: 𒉣𒆠, NUN.KI/eridugki; Akkadian: irîtu; modern Arabic: Tell Abu Shahrain) is an archaeological site in southern Mesopotamia (modern Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq). Eridu was long considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia and is still today argued to be the oldest city in the world. Located 12 km southwest of Ur, Eridu was the southernmost of a conglomeration of Sumerian cities that grew around temples, almost in sight of one another. These buildings were made of mud brick and built on top of one another. With the temples growing upward and the village growing outward, a larger city was built. In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was originally the home of Enki, later known by the Akkadians as Ea, who was considered to have founded the city. His temple was called E-Abzu, as Enki was believed to live in Abzu, an aquifer from which all life was believed to stem.
The ruins of Eridu in 2011.
Shown within Iraq
|Location||Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq|
|Area||At most 10 ha (25 acres)|
|Founded||Approximately 54th century BC|
|Abandoned||Approximately 6th century BC|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Official name||Tell Eridu Archaeological Site|
|Part of||Ahwar of Southern Iraq|
|Inscription||2016 (40th Session)|
|Area||33 ha (0.13 sq mi)|
|Buffer zone||1,069 ha (4.13 sq mi)|
Location of Eridu in Iraq
The site at Tel Abu Shahrain, near Basra, has been excavated four times. It was initially excavated by John George Taylor in 1855, R. Campbell Thompson in 1918, and H.R. Hall in 1919. Excavation there resumed from 1946 to 1949 under Fuad Safar and Seton Lloyd of the Iraqi Directorate General of Antiquities and Heritage. These archaeological investigations showed that, according to Oppenheim, "eventually the entire south lapsed into stagnation, abandoning the political initiative to the rulers of the northern cities", probably as a result of increasing salinity produced by continuous irrigation, and the city was abandoned in 600 BC.
The king list gave particularly long reigns to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred and shows how the centre of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country. Adapa, a man of Eridu, is depicted as an early culture hero. Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea (Abgallu, from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man), he was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim.
In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was the home of the Abzu temple of the god Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian god Ea, god of deep waters, wisdom and magic. Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god who, according to the later cosmology, came to share the rule of the cosmos with Anu and Enlil. His kingdom was the sweet waters that lay below earth (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).
The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization. At first Enki, the god of Eridu, attempted to retrieve these sources of his power but later willingly accepted that Uruk now was the centre of the land. This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward.
Babylonian texts talk of the foundation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, "the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight".
In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient's body and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.
According to the Sumerian King List Eridu was the first city in the world. The opening line reads,
"[nam]-lugal an-ta èd-dè-a-ba
When kingship from heaven was lowered,
the kingship was in Eridu
Eridu appears to be the earliest settlement in the region, founded c. 5400 BC, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River. Because of accumulation of silt at the shoreline over the millennia, the remains of Eridu are now some distance from the gulf at Abu Shahrain in Iraq. Excavation has shown that the city was founded on a virgin sand-dune site with no previous occupation. P. Steinkeller has hypothesised that the earliest divinity at Eridu was a Goddess, who later emerged as the Earth Goddess Ninhursag (Nin = Lady, Hur = Mountain, Sag = Sacred), with the later growth in Enki as a male divinity the result of a hieros gamos, with a male divinity or functionary of the temple.
According to Gwendolyn Leick, Eridu was formed at the confluence of three separate ecosystems, supporting three distinct lifestyles, that came to an agreement about access to fresh water in a desert environment. The oldest agrarian settlement seems to have been based upon intensive subsistence irrigation agriculture derived from the Samarra culture to the north, characterised by the building of canals, and mud-brick buildings. The fisher-hunter cultures of the Arabian littoral were responsible for the extensive middens along the Arabian shoreline, and may have been the original Sumerians. They seem to have dwelt in reed huts. The third culture that contributed to the building of Eridu were the Semitic-speaking nomadic herders of herds of sheep and goats living in tents in semi-desert areas. All three cultures seem implicated in the earliest levels of the city. The urban settlement was centered on a large temple complex built of mudbrick, within a small depression that allowed water to accumulate.
Kate Fielden reports "The earliest village settlement (c. 5000 BC) had grown into a substantial city of mudbrick and reed houses by c. 2900 BC, covering 8–10 ha (20–25 acres)". Mallowan writes that by the Ubaid period, it was as an "unusually large city" of an area of approx. 20–25 acres, with a population of "not less than 4000 souls". Jacobsen describes that "Eridu was for all practical purposes abandoned after the Ubaid period", although it had recovered by Early Dynastic II as there was a Massive Early Dynastic II palace (100 m in each direction) partially excavated there. Ruth Whitehouse called it "a Major Early Dynastic City". By c. 2050 BC the city had declined; there is little evidence of occupation after that date. Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the site underlie the unfinished Ziggurat of Amar-Sin (c. 2047–2039 BC). The finding of extensive deposits of fishbones associated with the earliest levels also shows a continuity of the Abzu cult associated later with Enki and Ea.
Eridu was abandoned for long periods, before it was finally deserted and allowed to fall into ruin in the 6th century BC. The encroachment of neighbouring sand dunes, and the rise of a saline water table, set early limits to its agricultural base so in its later Neo-Babylonian development, Eridu was rebuilt as a purely temple site, in honour of its earliest history.
The urban nucleus of Eridu was Enki's temple, called House of the Aquifer (Cuneiform: 𒂍𒍪 𒀊, E2.ZU.AB; Sumerian: e2-abzu; Akkadian: bītu apsû), which in later history was called House of the Waters (Cuneiform: 𒂍𒇉, E2.LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: e2-engur; Akkadian: bītu engurru). The name refers to Enki's realm. His consort Ninhursanga had a nearby temple at Ubaid.
During the Ur III period a ziggurat was built over the remains of previous temples by Ur-Nammu.
Aside from Enmerkar of Uruk (as mentioned in the Aratta epics), several later historical Sumerian kings are said in inscriptions found here to have worked on or renewed the e-abzu temple, including Elili of Ur; Ur-Nammu, Shulgi and Amar-Sin of Ur-III, and Nur-Adad of Larsa.
|Level||Date (BC)||Period||Size (m)||Note|
|XIV||5000–4500||Early Ubaid||-||No structure found|
|XIII||5000–4500||Early Ubaid||-||No structure found|
|XII||5000–4500||Early Ubaid||-||No structure found|
|V||3800–3500||Early Uruk||-||Only platform remains|
|IV||3800–3500||Early Uruk||-||Only platform remains|
|III||3800–3500||Early Uruk||-||Only platform remains|
|II||3500–3200||Early Uruk||-||Only platform remains|
|I||3200||Early Uruk||-||Only platform remains|
The Abzu or Apsu (Cuneiform: 𒍪 𒀊, ZU.AB; Sumerian: abzu; Akkadian: apsû, ), also called engur (Cuneiform:𒇉, LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru - lit., ab='water' zu='deep'), was the name for fresh water from underground aquifers which was given a religious fertilising quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology. Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu. In this respect, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology it referred to the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above.Ahwar of Southern Iraq
The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in south Iraq.
The Ahwar currently consists of seven sites, including three cities of Sumerian origin and four wetland areas of the Mesopotamian Marshes:
East Hammar Marshes
West Hammar Marshes
Uruk Archaeological City
Ur Archaeological City
Tell Eridu Archaeological SiteAlalngar
Alalngar (also written as: Alalĝar, Alalgar, or Alaljar) was the second ensí of Eridu, according to the Sumerian King List. He was also the second king of Sumer. Also according to the Sumerian King List: Alalngar was preceded by Alulim. Additionally, Alalngar was succeeded by En-men-lu-ana of Bad-tibira. Alalngar was said to have reigned for thirty-six-thousand years (if not legendary, he may have ruled c. 2900 BC.)Alulim
Alulim was both the first king of Eridu and the first king of Sumer, according to the mythological antediluvian section of the Sumerian King List. Enki, the god of Eridu, is said to have brought civilization to Sumer at this point, or just shortly before.
The Sumerian King List has the following entry for Alulim:
After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug (Eridu). In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years.
In a chart of antediluvian generations in Babylonian and Biblical traditions, Professor William Wolfgang Hallo of Yale University associates Alulim with the composite half-man, half-fish counselor or culture hero (Apkallu) Uanna-Adapa (Oannes), and suggests an equivalence between Alulim and Enosh in the Sethite genealogy given in Genesis chapter five. Hallo notes that Alulim's name means "stag". Professor William H. Shea suggests that Alulim was a contemporary of the biblical figure Adam, who may have been derived from Adapa of ancient Mesopotamian religion.Amar-Sin
Amar-Sin (initially misread as Bur-Sin) (ca. 1981–1973 BC short chronology) was the third ruler of the Ur III Dynasty. He succeeded his father Shulgi (ca. 2029–1982 BC).His name translates to 'immortal moon-god'.
Year-names are known for all nine years of his reign. These record campaigns conducted against Urbilum, and several other regions with obscure names: Shashrum, Shurudhum, Bitum-Rabium, Jabru, and Huhnuri. Amar-Sin is otherwise known to have campaigned against Elamite rulers such as Arwilukpi of Marhashi, and the Ur Empire under his reign extended as far as the northern provinces of Lullubi and Hamazi, with their own governors. He also suppressed a rebellion in Assur where he appointed an Akkadian governor, Zariqum as confirmed by his monumental inscription.Amar-Sin's reign is notable for his attempt at regenerating the ancient sites of Sumer. He apparently worked on the unfinished ziggurat at Eridu. Eridu was abandoned during his reign. Salinity problems had made agricultural pursuits in this region unprofitable.
The Babylonian Weidner Chronicle records the following: "Amar-Sin... changed the offerings of large oxen and sheep of the Akitu festival in Esagila. It was foretold that he would die from goring by an ox, but he died from the [scorpion?] 'bite' of his shoe."Dhi Qar Governorate
Dhi Qar Governorate (Arabic: ذي قار, translit. Dhī Qār) is a governorate in southern Iraq. The provincial capital is Nasiriyah. Prior to 1976 the governorate was known as Muntafiq Governorate. Dhi Qar was the heartland of the ancient Iraqi civilization of Sumer, and includes the ruins of Ur, Eridu, Lagash, Larsa, Girsu, Umma, and Bad-tibira. The southern area of the governorate is covered by Mesopotamian Marshes.Enki
Enki (; Sumerian: dEN.KI(G)𒂗𒆠) is the Sumerian god of water, knowledge (gestú), mischief, crafts (gašam), and creation (nudimmud). He was later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians. He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus). Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for "40", occasionally referred to as his "sacred number". The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk) was, in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.
A large number of myths about Enki have been collected from many sites, stretching from Southern Iraq to the Levantine coast. He is mentioned in the earliest extant cuneiform inscriptions throughout the region and was prominent from the third millennium down to Hellenistic times.
The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is "Lord of the Earth". The Sumerian En is translated as a title equivalent to "lord" and was originally a title given to the High Priest. Ki means "earth", but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning "mound".
The name Ea is allegedly Hurrian in origin while others claim that his name 'Ea' is possibly of Semitic origin and may be a derivation from the West-Semitic root *hyy meaning "life" in this case used for "spring", "running water". In Sumerian E-A means "the house of water", and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the god at Eridu. It has also been suggested that the original non-anthropomorphic divinity at Eridu was not Enki but Abzu. The emergence of Enki as the divine lover of Ninhursag, and the divine battle between the younger Igigi divinities and Abzu, saw the Abzu, the underground waters of the Aquifer, becoming the place in which the foundations of the temple were built. With some Sumerian deity names as Enlil there are variations like Elil. En means "Lord" and E means "temple". It is likely that E-A is the Sumerian short form for "Lord of Water", as Enki is a god of water. Ab in Abzu also means water.Enmerkar
Enmerkar (Sumerian: 𒂗𒈨𒅕𒃸 EN.me.er.kar2) is a legendary king listed as the builder of the Sumerian city of Uruk. He was said to have reigned for "420 years"; some copies read "900 years".
The king list adds that Enmerkar became king after his father Mesh-ki-ang-gasher, son of Utu, had "entered the sea and disappeared."
Enmerkar is also known from a few other Sumerian legends, most notably Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, where a previous confusion of the languages of mankind is mentioned. In this account, it is Enmerkar himself who is called 'the son of Utu' (the Sumerian sun god). Aside from founding Uruk, Enmerkar is said here to have had a temple built at Eridu, and is even credited with the invention of writing on clay tablets, for the purpose of threatening Aratta into submission. Enmerkar furthermore seeks to restore the disrupted linguistic unity of the inhabited regions around Uruk, listed as Shubur, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (the region around Akkad), and the Martu land.
Three other texts in the same series describe Enmerkar's reign. In Enmerkar and En-suhgir-ana, while describing Enmerkar's continued diplomatic rivalries with Aratta, there is an allusion to Hamazi having been vanquished. In Lugalbanda in the Mountain Cave, Enmerkar is seen leading a campaign against Aratta. The fourth and last tablet, Lugalbanda and the Anzu Bird, describes Enmerkar's year-long siege of Aratta. It also mentions that fifty years into Enmerkar's reign, the Martu people had arisen in all of Sumer and Akkad, necessitating the building of a wall in the desert to protect Uruk.
In these last two tablets, the character of Lugalbanda is introduced as one of Enmerkar's war chiefs. According to the Sumerian king list, it was this Lugalbanda "the shepherd" who eventually succeeded Enmerkar to the throne of Uruk. Lugalbanda is also named as the father of Gilgamesh, a later king of Uruk, in both Sumerian and Akkadian versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
In a legend related by Aelian (ca. AD 200), the king of Babylon, Euechoros or Seuechoros (also appearing in many variants as Sevekhoros, earlier Sacchoras, etc.), is said to be the grandfather of Gilgamos, who later becomes king of Babylon (i.e., Gilgamesh of Uruk). Several recent scholars have suggested that this "Seuechoros" or "Euechoros" is moreover to be identified with Enmerkar of Uruk, as well as the Euechous named by Berossus as being the first king of Chaldea and Assyria. This last name Euechous (also appearing as Evechius, and in many other variants) has long been identified with Nimrod.The controversial historian David Rohl has claimed parallels between Enmerkar, builder of Uruk, and Nimrod, ruler of biblical Erech (Uruk), who, according to some extra-biblical legends, was supposedly the architect of the Tower of Babel. One parallel Rohl has noted is between the epithet "the Hunter", applied to Nimrod, and the suffix -kar at the end of Enmerkar's name, which means "hunter". Rohl has also argued that Eridu near Ur is the original site of the city of Babel and that the incomplete ziggurat found there is none other than the Biblical tower itself.Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period (ca. 21st century BC).
It is one of a series of accounts describing the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug-Kulaba (Uruk), and the unnamed king of Aratta (probably somewhere in modern Iran or Armenia).
Because it gives a Sumerian account of the "confusion of tongues", and also involves Enmerkar constructing temples at Eridu and Uruk, it has, since the time of Samuel Kramer, been compared with the Tower of Babel narrative in the Book of Genesis.Eridu, Florida
Eridu is an unincorporated area in Taylor County, Florida. It was likely named for Eridu in Mesopotamia and was a rail stop on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
Eridu was named by J.E. Willoughby, chief engineer of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1926 (he also named Iddo, Florida) which was also a stop on an Atlantic Coast Line Railroad track. The company filed to decommission the stop in 1940.
Eridu is in northern Taylor County by the Madison County, Florida border. The State of Florida's photo archives include an image of True Sheats cypress furniture from Eridu. The Eridu Baptist Church was organized in the area.Garden of the gods (Sumerian paradise)
The concept of a Garden of the gods or a divine paradise might be of Sumerian origin, or so it is argued by Samuel Noah Kramer. The concept of this home of the immortals was later handed down to the Babylonians who conquered Sumer.Gilgamesh flood myth
The Gilgamesh flood myth is a flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Many scholars believe that the flood myth was added to Tablet XI in the "standard version" of the Gilgamesh Epic by an editor who used the flood story from the Epic of Atrahasis. A short reference to the flood myth is also present in the much older Sumerian Gilgamesh poems, from which the later Babylonian versions drew much of their inspiration and subject matter.History of Sumer
The history of Sumer, taken to include the prehistoric Ubaid and Uruk periods, spans the 5th to 3rd millennia BC, ending with the downfall of the Third Dynasty of Ur around 2004 BC, followed by a transitional period of Amorite states before the rise of Babylonia in the 18th century BC.
The first settlement in southern Mesopotamia was Eridu. The Sumerians claimed that their civilization had been brought, fully formed, to the city of Eridu by their god Enki or by his advisor (or Abgallu from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man), Adapa U-an (the Oannes of Berossus). The first people at Eridu brought with them the Samarran culture from northern Mesopotamia and are identified with the Ubaid period, but it is not known whether or not these were Sumerians (associated later with the Uruk period).
The Sumerian king list is an ancient text in the Sumerian language listing kings of Sumer, including a few foreign dynasties. Some of the earlier dynasties may be mythical; the historical record does not open up before the first archaeologically attested ruler, Enmebaragesi (c. 2600 BC), while conjectures and interpretations of archaeological evidence can vary for earlier events. The best-known dynasty, that of Lagash, is omitted from the kinglist.Marduk
Marduk (cuneiform: 𒀭𒀫𒌓 dAMAR.UTU; Sumerian: amar utu.k "calf of the sun; solar calf"; Greek Μαρδοχαῖος, Mardochaios; Hebrew: מְרֹדַךְ, Modern: Mərōdaḵ, Tiberian: Merōḏaḵ) was a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon. When Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi (18th century BC), he slowly started to rise to the position of the head of the Babylonian pantheon, a position he fully acquired by the second half of the second millennium BC. In the city of Babylon, Marduk was worshiped in the temple Esagila. Marduk is associated with the divine weapon Imhullu. "Marduk" is the Babylonian form of his name.The name Marduk was probably pronounced Marutuk. The etymology of the name Marduk is conjectured as derived from amar-Utu ("immortal son of Utu") or ("bull calf of the sun god Utu"). The origin of Marduk's name may reflect an earlier genealogy, or have had cultural ties to the ancient city of Sippar (whose god was Utu, the sun god), dating back to the third millennium BC.By the Hammurabi period, Marduk had become astrologically associated with the planet Jupiter ]].Mesopotamian myths
Mesopotamian mythology refers to the myths, religious texts, and other literature that comes from the region of ancient Mesopotamia in modern-day West Asia. In particular the societies of Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria, all of which existed shortly after 3000 BCE and were mostly gone by 400 CE. These works were primarily preserved on stone or clay tablets and were written in cuneiform by scribes. Several lengthy pieces have survived, some of which are considered the oldest stories in the world, and have given historians insight into Mesopotamian ideology and cosmology.Sumer
Sumer () is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages, and one of the first civilizations in the world along with Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus of which enabled them to settle in one place. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts, from c. 3300 BC, come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr; early cuneiform script emerged around 3000 BC.Modern historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a West Asian people who spoke the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc., as evidence), an agglutinative language isolate. These prehistoric people are now called "proto-Euphrateans" or "Ubaidians", and are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia. The Ubaidians, though never mentioned by the Sumerians themselves, are assumed by modern-day scholars to have been the first civilizing force in Sumer. They drained the marshes for agriculture, developed trade, and established industries, including weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry, and pottery.Some scholars contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language; they think the Sumerian language may originally have been that of the hunting and fishing peoples who lived in the marshland and the Eastern Arabia littoral region and were part of the Arabian bifacial culture. Reliable historical records begin much later; there are none in Sumer of any kind that have been dated before Enmebaragesi (c. 26th century BC). Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians lived along the coast of Eastern Arabia, today's Persian Gulf region, before it was flooded at the end of the Ice Age.Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period (4th millennium BC), continuing into the Jemdet Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. During the 3rd millennium BC, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians, who spoke a language isolate, and Akkadians, which gave rise to widespread bilingualism.
The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund. Sumer was conquered by the Semitic-speaking kings of the Akkadian Empire around 2270 BC (short chronology), but Sumerian continued as a sacred language. Native Sumerian rule re-emerged for about a century in the Third Dynasty of Ur at approximately 2100–2000 BC, but the Akkadian language also remained in use.The Sumerian city of Eridu, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, is considered to have been the world's first city, where three separate cultures may have fused: that of peasant Ubaidian farmers, living in mud-brick huts and practicing irrigation; that of mobile nomadic Semitic pastoralists living in black tents and following herds of sheep and goats; and that of fisher folk, living in reed huts in the marshlands, who may have been the ancestors of the Sumerians.Sumerian creation myth
The earliest record of a Sumerian creation myth, called The Eridu Genesis by historian Thorkild Jacobsen, is found on a single fragmentary tablet excavated in Nippur. It is written in the Sumerian language and dated to around 1600 BC. Other Sumerian creation myths from around this date are called the Barton Cylinder, the Debate between sheep and grain and the Debate between Winter and Summer, also found at Nippur.Ubaid period
The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.É (temple)
É (Cuneiform: 𒂍) is the Sumerian word or symbol for house or temple.
The Sumerian term É.GAL ("palace", literally "big house") denoted a city's main building. É.LUGAL ("king's house") was used synonymously. In the texts of Lagash, the É.GAL is the center of the ensi's administration of the city, and the site of the city archives.
Sumerian É.GAL "palace" is the probable etymology of Semitic words for "palace, temple", such as Hebrew היכל heikhal, and Arabic هيكل haykal. It has thus been speculated that the word É originated from something akin to *hai or *ˀai, especially since the cuneiform sign È is used for /a/ in Eblaite.
The term temen appearing frequently after É in names of ziggurats is translated as "foundation pegs", apparently the first step in the construction process of a house; compare, for example, verses 551–561 of the account of the construction of E-ninnu:
He stretched out lines in the most perfect way; he set up (?) a sanctuary in the holy uzga. In the house, Enki drove in the foundation pegs, while Nanshe, the daughter of Eridu, took care of the oracular messages. The mother of Lagash, holy Gatumdug, gave birth to its bricks amid cries (?), and Bau, the lady, first-born daughter of An, sprinkled them with oil and cedar essence. En and lagar priests were detailed to the house to provide maintenance for it. The Anuna gods stood there full of admiration.
Temen has been occasionally compared to Greek temenos "holy precinct", but since the latter has a well established Indo-European etymology (see temple), the comparison is either mistaken, or at best describes a case of popular etymology or convergence.
In E-temen-an-ki, "the temple of the foundation (pegs) of heaven and earth", temen has been taken to refer to an axis mundi connecting earth to heaven (thus re-enforcing the Tower of Babel connection), but the term re-appears in several other temple names, referring to their physical stability rather than, or as well as, to a mythological world axis; compare the Egyptian notion of Djed.