Girsu (Sumerian Ĝirsu;[1] cuneiform ĝir2-suki 𒄈𒋢𒆠) was a city of ancient Sumer, situated some 25 km (16 mi) northwest of Lagash, at the site of modern Tell Telloh, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq.

Girsu is located in Iraq
Shown within Iraq
LocationTell Telloh, Dhi Qar Province, Iraq
Coordinates31°33′43.3″N 46°10′39.3″E / 31.562028°N 46.177583°ECoordinates: 31°33′43.3″N 46°10′39.3″E / 31.562028°N 46.177583°E


Girsu was possibly inhabited in the Ubaid period (5300-4800 BC), but significant levels of activity began in the Early Dynastic period (2900-2335 BC). At the time of Gudea, during the Second Dynasty of Lagash, Girsu became the capital of the Lagash kingdom and continued to be its religious center after political power had shifted to city of Lagash.[2] During the Ur III period, Girsu was a major administrative center for the empire. After the fall of Ur, Girsu declined in importance, but remained inhabited until approximately 200 BC.


Issue of barley rations
An account of barley rations issued monthly to adults and children written in Cuneiform on clay tablet, written in year 4 of King Urukagina (circa 2350 BC). From Girsu, Iraq. British Museum, London.

Telloh was the first Sumerian site to be extensively excavated, at first under the French vice-consul at Basra, Ernest de Sarzec, from 1877 to 1900, followed by his successor Gaston Cros from 1903–1909.[3][4] Excavations continued under Abbé Henri de Genouillac in 1929–1931 and under André Parrot in 1931–1933.[5][6][7] It was at Girsu that the fragments of the Stele of the Vultures were found. The site has suffered from poor excavation standards and also from illegal excavations. About 50,000 cuneiform tablets have been recovered from the site.[8] Excavations at Tello have now resumed as part of a training program for Iraqi archaeologists organized by the American Schools of Oriental Research. [9] A foundation tablet and a number of inscribed building cones have been found.

See also

Media related to Girsu at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Because of the initial nasal velar ŋ, the transcription of Ĝirsu is sometimes spelled as Ngirsu (also: G̃irsu, Girsu, Jirsu).
  2. ^ Dietz Otto Edzard, Gudea and His Dynasty. University of Toronto Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8020-4187-6
  3. ^ Découvertes en Chaldée, E. de Sarzec, Paris, Leroux, 1884–1893
  4. ^ Nouvelles fouilles de Tello, Gaston Cros, Paris, 1910
  5. ^ Fouilles de Telloh I: Epoques presargoniques, Abbé Henri de Genouillac, Paris, 1934
  6. ^ Fouilles de Telloh II: Epoques d'Ur III Dynastie et de Larsa, Abbé Henri de Genouillac, Paris, 1936
  7. ^ A. Parrot, Tello: vingt campagnes de fouilles 1877–1933, Paris, A. Michel ,1948
  8. ^ Telloh Tablets at Haverford Library
  9. ^ The Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme

Further reading

  • Harriet Crawford, The Construction Inférieure at Tello. A Reassessment, Iraq, vol. 49, pp. 71–76, 1987
  • Benjamin R. Foster, The Sargonic Victory Stele from Telloh, Iraq, Vol. 47, pp. 15–30, 1985
  • Claudia E. Suter, A Shulgi Statuette from Tello, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 43/45, pp. 63–70, (1991–1993)

External links

Bala taxation

Bala, Sumerian for "exchange", is the method by which the Ur III dynasty of Mesopotamia collected goods such as livestock, grain, labor and craft products from its provinces. Individuals of all rank were expected to contribute to this system. These taxes were used to fund building projects within the kingdom such as the building of canals which were vital in this area because the agriculture in this area was irrigated by water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Those projects were built by Gurush/Geme (Sumerian), men and women workers respectively, paid using goods collected from the tax system. The provinces in the Ur III Empire such as Girsu, Umma and Lagash contributed materials according to the nature of goods they produced, their size and the amount of goods they could produce. For instance Girsu was a rich source of grain and would provide grain to the bala system whereas Umma was a source of other goods such as leather, reed, and wood. The central state also provided protection to the provinces as a means of protecting the resources while in transit as well as the cities from being overrun by raiders.


Damu is a god of vegetation and rebirth in Sumerian mythology.

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.

Dudu of Akkad

Dudu was a 21st-century BC king of Akkad, who reigned for 21 years according to the Sumerian king list, although he is poorly attested archaeologically.

He is depicted as becoming king during the time of relative anarchy that had followed the death of Shar-Kali-Sharri. The king list mentions four other figures who had been competing for the throne during a three-year period after Sharkalisharri's death. There are no other surviving records referencing any of these competitors, but a few artifacts with inscriptions confirming Dudu's rule over a rump Akkadian state that may have included little more than the capital, Akkad itself. He also seems to have campaigned against former Akkadian subjects to the south, including Girsu, Umma and Elam. Unlike preceding Akkadian kings, there are no certain "year names" known from this time, thus it is unlikely that Dudu could have actually reigned so long. The inroads of the Gutians seem to have caused a fairly rapid collapse of Akkadian power during this period of instability, and it has even been suggested that one of the four named rivals for the throne, Ilulu, was himself a Gutian ruler.

Dudu was succeeded by his son Shu-turul per the king list.

En-anna-tum I

En-anna-tum I succeeded his brother Eannatum as king of Lagash. During his rule, Umma once more asserted independence under Ur-Lumma, who attacked Lagash unsuccessfully. Ur-Lumma was replaced by a priest-king, Illi, who also attacked Lagash.

Ernest de Sarzec

Ernest Choquin de Sarzec (1832–1901) was a French archaeologist, to whom is attributed the discovery of the civilization of ancient Sumer. He was in the French diplomatic service; on being transferred to Basra in 1872 as a vice-consul, he became interested in the excavations at Ur, started by the British diplomat J. E. Taylor.In 1877, he began a dig at Telloh (the ancient Girsu, as it transpired, rather than Lagash as once supposed). The site, in present-day Iraq in the southern delta lowlands, had been drawn to his attention by local dealers in antiquities. During the 1880s he succeeded in finding evidence of the reign of Gudea. He continued to work on the site until 1901.

Gaston Cros

Colonel Marie Augstin Gaston Cros (known as Gaston Cros) (6 October 1861 – 10 May 1915) was a French army officer and archaeologist. He was born in Alsace and was displaced when that territory was incorporated into the German Empire. He joined the French Army as a lieutenant and saw action in Tonkin before spending several years surveying in Tunisia, receiving the honours of membership of Vietnamese and Tunisian orders and appointment as a chevalier of the Legion of Honour. In 1901 Cros was appointed head of the French archaeological expedition to Girsu, Iraq to continue the work of Ernest de Sarzec. His work over the next five years included the tracing of the 32.5 feet (9.9 m) thick city wall and for his work there received a letter of commendation from Gaston Doumergue, the Minister of Fine Arts, and the award of the Golden Palms of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques. Promoted to lieutenant-colonel, Cros served in the French protectorate of Morocco from 1913, seeing action in the Zaian War.

Upon the outbreak of the First World War Cros was recalled to metropolitan France and fought in defence of Paris at the First Battle of the Marne, leading an ad hoc unit of zouaves and tirailleurs. He was wounded and spent two days directing his troops from a horse-drawn carriage before he was forced to leave his command. On 15 September 1914 he was promoted to colonel and subsequently received command of the 2nd Moroccan Brigade which he led at the Battle of the Yser and the Second Battle of Artois. It was at Artois that he was killed in a German counter-attack. Cros' name is recorded alongside that of Colonel Pein, who commanded the 1st Moroccan Brigade at Artois, on the Moroccan Division Memorial at Vimy.


Gudea (Sumerian 𒅗𒌣𒀀 Gu3-de2-a) was a ruler (ensi) of the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia who ruled c. 2144–2124 BC. He probably did not come from the city, but had married Ninalla, daughter of the ruler Ur-Baba (2164–2144 BC) of Lagash, thus gaining entrance to the royal house of Lagash. He was succeeded by his son Ur-Ningirsu.

Gudea cylinders

The Gudea cylinders are a pair of terracotta cylinders dating to circa 2125 BC, on which is written in cuneiform a Sumerian myth called the Building of Ningursu's temple. The cylinders were made by Gudea, the ruler of Lagash, and were found in 1877 during excavations at Telloh (ancient Girsu), Iraq and are now displayed in the Louvre in Paris, France. They are the largest cuneiform cylinders yet discovered and contain the longest known text written in the Sumerian language.


Ištaran (also Gusilim) was the local deity of the city of Der, a Sumerian city state positioned east of the Tigris on the border between Sumer and Elam. His cult flourished from the Early Dynastic III Period until the Middle Babylonian Period, after which his name is no longer attested in the personal names of individuals. The beast and symbol of Ištaran, as frequently represented on kudurrus, is a snake (presumably representing Nirah, the snake god who acted as Ištaran's minister). The consort of Ištaran was known simply as Šarrat-Deri: "the queen of Der".

As early as the Early Dynastic period, Ištaran was being called upon as a god who might abjudicate in an inter-city border dispute between Umma and Lagaš. Scholars have suggested that his supposed effectiveness in this case might well stem from the border location of his own city, Der. His worship certainly spread beyond his own borders: perhaps in gratitude, Gudea, ruler of Lagaš, records his installation of a shrine to Ištaran in the great temple of Ningirsu at Girsu.


The Kassites () were people of the ancient Near East, who controlled Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire c. 1531 BC and until c. 1155 BC (short chronology). The endonym of the Kassites was probably Galzu, although they have also been referred to by the names Kaššu, Kassi, Kasi or Kashi.

They gained control of Babylonia after the Hittite sack of the city in 1595 BC (i.e. 1531 BC per the short chronology), and established a dynasty based first in Babylon and later in Dur-Kurigalzu. The Kassites were members of a small military aristocracy but were efficient rulers and not locally unpopular, and their 500-year reign laid an essential groundwork for the development of subsequent Babylonian culture. The chariot and the horse, which the Kassites worshipped, first came into use in Babylonia at this time.The Kassite language has not been classified. What is known is that their language was not related to either the Indo-European language group, nor to Semitic or other Afro-Asiatic languages, and is most likely to have been a language isolate although some linguists have proposed a link to the Hurro-Urartian languages of Asia Minor. However, the arrival of the Kassites has been connected to the contemporary migrations of Indo-European peoples. Several Kassite leaders and deities bore Indo-European names, and it is possible that they were dominated by an Indo-European elite similar to the Mitanni, who ruled over the Hurro-Urartian-speaking Hurrians of Asia Minor.


Lagash (cuneiform: 𒉢𒁓𒆷𒆠 LAGAŠKI; Sumerian: Lagaš) is an ancient city located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about 22 kilometres (14 mi) east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah, Iraq. Lagash (modern Al-Hiba) was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East. The ancient site of Nina (modern Surghul) is around 10 km (6.2 mi) away and marks the southern limit of the state. Nearby Girsu (modern Telloh), about 25 km (16 mi) northwest of Lagash, was the religious center of the Lagash state. Lagash's main temple was the E-Ninnu, dedicated to the god Ningirsu.

List of largest cities throughout history

This article lists the largest cities or urban areas by estimated population in history. Many of the figures are uncertain, especially in ancient times.


Ninurta, also known as Ninĝirsu, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, healing, hunting, law, scribes, and war who was first worshipped in early Sumer. In the earliest records, he is a god of agriculture and healing, who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons. In later times, as Mesopotamia grew more militarized, he became a warrior deity, though he retained many of his earlier agricultural attributes. He was regarded as the son of the chief god Enlil and his main cult center in Sumer was the Eshumesha temple in Nippur. Ninĝirsu was honored by King Gudea of Lagash (ruled 2144–2124 BC), who rebuilt Ninĝirsu's temple in Lagash.

Later, Ninurta became beloved by the Assyrians as a formidable warrior. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (ruled 883–859 BC) built a massive temple for him at Kalhu, which became his most important cult center from then on. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Ninurta's statues were torn down and his temples abandoned because he had become too closely associated with the Assyrian regime, which many conquered peoples saw as tyrannical and oppressive.

In the epic poem Lugal-e, Ninurta slays the demon Asag using his talking mace Sharur and uses stones to build the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to make them useful for irrigation. In a poem sometimes referred to as the "Sumerian Georgica", Ninurta provides agricultural advice to farmers. In an Akkadian myth, he was the champion of the gods against the Anzû bird after it stole the Tablet of Destinies from his father Enlil and, in a myth that is alluded to in many works but never fully preserved, he killed a group of warriors known as the "Slain Heroes". His major symbols were a perched bird and a plow.

Ninurta may have been the inspiration for the figure of Nimrod, a "mighty hunter" who is mentioned in association with Kalhu in the Book of Genesis. He may also be mentioned in the Second Book of Kings under the name Nisroch. In the nineteenth century, Assyrian stone reliefs of winged, eagle-headed figures from the temple of Ninurta at Kalhu were commonly, but erroneously, identified as "Nisrochs" and they appear in works of fantasy literature from the time period.


Shu-sin was king of Sumer and Akkad, and was the penultimate king of the Ur III dynasty. He succeeded his brother Amar-Sin, and reigned c. 1972-1964 BC (short chronology).

Following an open revolt of his Amorite subjects, he directed the construction of a fortified wall between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers in his fourth year, intending it to hold off any further Amorite attacks. He was succeeded by his son Ibbi-Sin.

Stele of the Vultures

The Stele of the Vultures is a monument from the Early Dynastic III period (2600–2350 BC) in Mesopotamia celebrating a victory of the city-state of Lagash over its neighbour Umma. It shows various battle and religious scenes and is named after the vultures that can be seen in one of these scenes. The stele was originally carved out of a single slab of limestone, but only seven fragments are known today. The fragments were found at Tello (ancient Girsu) in southern Iraq in the late 19th century and are now on display in the Louvre.

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.


Ur-Nanshe (or Ur-Nina) was the first king of the First Dynasty of Lagash (approx. 2500 BCE) in the Sumerian Early Dynastic Period III. He is known through inscriptions to have commissioned many buildings projects, including canals and temples, in the state of Lagash, and defending Lagash from its rival state Umma. He was probably not from royal lineage, being the son of Gunidu who was recorded without an accompanying royal title. He was the father of Akurgal, who succeeded him, and grandfather of Eanatum. Eanatum expanded the kingdom of Lagash by defeating Umma as illustrated in the Stele of the Vultures and continue building and renovation of Ur-Nanshe’s original buildings.He ascended after Lugal-shag-engur (lugal-šag4-engur), who was the ensi, or high priest.


Uru-ka-gina, Uru-inim-gina, or Iri-ka-gina (Sumerian: 𒌷𒅗𒄀𒈾; c. 24th century BC, short chronology) was a ruler (ensi) of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia. He assumed the title of king, claiming to have been divinely appointed, upon the downfall of his corrupt predecessor, Lugalanda.

He is best known for his reforms to combat corruption, which are sometimes cited as the first example of a legal code in recorded history. Although the actual text has not been discovered, much of its content may be surmised from other references to it that have been found. In it, he exempted widows and orphans from taxes; compelled the city to pay funeral expenses (including the ritual food and drink libations for the journey of the dead into the lower world); and decreed that the rich must use silver when purchasing from the poor, and if the poor does not wish to sell, the powerful man (the rich man or the priest) cannot force him to do so.He also participated in several conflicts, notably a losing border conflict with Uruk. In the seventh year of his reign, Uruk fell under the leadership of Lugal-Zage-Si, énsi of Umma, who ultimately annexed most of the territory of Lagash and established the first reliably documented kingdom to encompass all of Sumer. The destruction of Lagash was described in a lament (possibly the earliest recorded example of what would become a prolific Sumerian literary genre), which stressed that "the men of Umma ... committed a sin against Ningirsu. ... Offence there was none in Urukagina, king of Girsu, but as for Lugal-Zage-Si, governor of Umma, may his goddess Nisaba make him carry his sin upon his neck" (alternatively – "may she carry his sin upon her neck"). Lugal-Zage-Si himself was soon defeated and his kingdom was annexed by Sargon of Akkad.

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