Sumer

Sumer (/ˈsuːmər/)[note 1] 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.[1]

Sumer
Main cities of ancient Sumer. The coastline was nearly reaching Ur in ancient times.
Geographical rangeNear East, Middle East
PeriodLate Neolithic, Middle Bronze Age
Datesc. 4500 – c. 1900 BC

Origins

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), a non-Semitic agglutinative language isolate.[2][3][4][5][6] It was not an inflected language, contrary to its Semitic neighbours.[2]

These prehistoric people are now called "proto-Euphrateans" or "Ubaidians",[7] and are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia.[8][9][10][11] 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.[7]

Enthroned King of Ur
Enthroned Sumerian king of Ur, with attendants. Standard of Ur, c. 2600 BC.

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[14] This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund.[14] 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.[15]

The Sumerian city of Eridu, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, is considered to have been one of the oldest cities, 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.[15]

Name

Head of Gudea
Sculpture of the head of Sumerian ruler Gudea, c. 2150 BC

The term Sumerian is the common name given to the ancient non-Semitic-speaking inhabitants of Mesopotamia by the East Semitic-speaking Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg ga (cuneiform: 𒌦 𒊕 𒈪 𒂵), phonetically /uŋ saŋ ɡi ɡa/, or sang-ngiga,[16] literally meaning "the black-headed people", and to their land as ki-en-gi(-r) (cuneiform: 𒆠𒂗𒄀) ('place' + 'lords' + 'noble'), meaning "place of the noble lords".[17] The Akkadians also called the Sumerians "black-headed people", or tsalmat-qaqqadi, in the Semitic Akkadian language.[16]

The Akkadian word Shumer may represent the geographical name in dialect, but the phonological development leading to the Akkadian term šumerû is uncertain.[18] Hebrew Shinar, Egyptian Sngr, and Hittite Šanhar(a), all referring to southern Mesopotamia, could be western variants of Shumer.[18]

City-states in Mesopotamia

In the late 4th millennium BC, Sumer was divided into many independent city-states, which were divided by canals and boundary stones. Each was centered on a temple dedicated to the particular patron god or goddess of the city and ruled over by a priestly governor (ensi) or by a king (lugal) who was intimately tied to the city's religious rites.

The five "first" cities, said to have exercised pre-dynastic kingship "before the flood":

  1. Eridu (Tell Abu Shahrain)
  2. Bad-tibira (probably Tell al-Madain)
  3. Larsa (Tell as-Senkereh)
  4. Sippar (Tell Abu Habbah)
  5. Shuruppak (Tell Fara)

Other principal cities:

  1. Uruk (Warka)
  2. Kish (Tell Uheimir and Ingharra)
  3. Ur (Tell al-Muqayyar)
  4. Nippur (Afak)
  5. Lagash (Tell al-Hiba)
  6. Girsu (Tello or Telloh)
  7. Umma (Tell Jokha)
  8. Hamazi 1
  9. Adab (Tell Bismaya)
  10. Mari (Tell Hariri) 2
  11. Akshak 1
  12. Akkad 1
  13. Isin (Ishan al-Bahriyat)
  • (1location uncertain)
  • (2an outlying city in northern Mesopotamia)

Minor cities (from south to north):

  1. Kuara (Tell al-Lahm)
  2. Zabala (Tell Ibzeikh)
  3. Kisurra (Tell Abu Hatab)
  4. Marad (Tell Wannat es-Sadum)
  5. Dilbat (Tell ed-Duleim)
  6. Borsippa (Birs Nimrud)
  7. Kutha (Tell Ibrahim)
  8. Der (al-Badra)
  9. Eshnunna (Tell Asmar)
  10. Nagar (Tell Brak) 2

(2an outlying city in northern Mesopotamia)

Apart from Mari, which lies full 330 kilometres (205 miles) north-west of Agade, but which is credited in the king list as having "exercised kingship" in the Early Dynastic II period, and Nagar, an outpost, these cities are all in the Euphrates-Tigris alluvial plain, south of Baghdad in what are now the Bābil, Diyala, Wāsit, Dhi Qar, Basra, Al-Muthannā and Al-Qādisiyyah governorates of Iraq.

History

Portrait of a Sumerian prisoner on a victory stele of Sargon of Akkad
Portrait of a Sumerian prisoner on a victory stele of Sargon of Akkad, circa 2300 BC.[19] The hairstyle of the prisoners (curly hair on top and short hair on the sides) is characteristic of Sumerians, as also seen on the Standard of Ur.[20] Louvre Museum.

The Sumerian city-states rose to power during the prehistoric Ubaid and Uruk periods. Sumerian written history reaches back to the 27th century BC and before, but the historical record remains obscure until the Early Dynastic III period, c. the 23rd century BC, when a now deciphered syllabary writing system was developed, which has allowed archaeologists to read contemporary records and inscriptions. Classical Sumer ends with the rise of the Akkadian Empire in the 23rd century BC. Following the Gutian period, there was a brief Sumerian Renaissance in the 21st century BC, cut short in the 20th century BC by invasions by the Amorites. The Amorite "dynasty of Isin" persisted until c. 1700 BC, when Mesopotamia was united under Babylonian rule. The Sumerians were eventually absorbed into the Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) population.

Ubaid period

Frieze-group-3-example1
Pottery jar from Late Ubaid Period

The Ubaid period is marked by a distinctive style of fine quality painted pottery which spread throughout Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. During this time, the first settlement in southern Mesopotamia was established at Eridu (Cuneiform: nun.ki 𒉣 𒆠), c. 6500 BC, by farmers who brought with them the Hadji Muhammed culture, which first pioneered irrigation agriculture. It appears that this culture was derived from the Samarran culture from northern Mesopotamia. It is not known whether or not these were the actual Sumerians who are identified with the later Uruk culture. The rise of the city of Uruk may be reflected in the story of the passing of the gifts of civilization (me) to Inanna, goddess of Uruk and of love and war, by Enki, god of wisdom and chief god of Eridu, may reflect the transition from Eridu to Uruk.[21]:174

Uruk period

The archaeological transition from the Ubaid period to the Uruk period is marked by a gradual shift from painted pottery domestically produced on a slow wheel to a great variety of unpainted pottery mass-produced by specialists on fast wheels. The Uruk period is a continuation and an outgrowth of Ubaid with pottery being the main visible change.[22][23]

Cylinder seal king Louvre AO6620
Cylinder-seal of the Uruk period and its impression, c.3100 BC. Louvre Museum.

By the time of the Uruk period (c. 4100–2900 BC calibrated), the volume of trade goods transported along the canals and rivers of southern Mesopotamia facilitated the rise of many large, stratified, temple-centered cities (with populations of over 10,000 people) where centralized administrations employed specialized workers. It is fairly certain that it was during the Uruk period that Sumerian cities began to make use of slave labor captured from the hill country, and there is ample evidence for captured slaves as workers in the earliest texts. Artifacts, and even colonies of this Uruk civilization have been found over a wide area—from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and as far east as central Iran.[24]

The Uruk period civilization, exported by Sumerian traders and colonists (like that found at Tell Brak), had an effect on all surrounding peoples, who gradually evolved their own comparable, competing economies and cultures. The cities of Sumer could not maintain remote, long-distance colonies by military force.[24]

Sumerian cities during the Uruk period were probably theocratic and were most likely headed by a priest-king (ensi), assisted by a council of elders, including both men and women.[25] It is quite possible that the later Sumerian pantheon was modeled upon this political structure. There was little evidence of organized warfare or professional soldiers during the Uruk period, and towns were generally unwalled. During this period Uruk became the most urbanized city in the world, surpassing for the first time 50,000 inhabitants.

The ancient Sumerian king list includes the early dynasties of several prominent cities from this period. The first set of names on the list is of kings said to have reigned before a major flood occurred. These early names may be fictional, and include some legendary and mythological figures, such as Alulim and Dumizid.[25]

The end of the Uruk period coincided with the Piora oscillation, a dry period from c. 3200–2900 BC that marked the end of a long wetter, warmer climate period from about 9,000 to 5,000 years ago, called the Holocene climatic optimum.[26]

Early Dynastic Period

Meskalamdug helmet British Museum electrotype copy original is in the Iraq Museum, Bagdad
Golden helmet of Meskalamdug, possible founder of the First Dynasty of Ur, 26th century BC.

The dynastic period begins c. 2900 BC and was associated with a shift from the temple establishment headed by council of elders led by a priestly "En" (a male figure when it was a temple for a goddess, or a female figure when headed by a male god)[27] towards a more secular Lugal (Lu = man, Gal = great) and includes such legendary patriarchal figures as Enmerkar, Lugalbanda and Gilgamesh—who reigned shortly before the historic record opens c. 2700 BC, when the now deciphered syllabic writing started to develop from the early pictograms. The center of Sumerian culture remained in southern Mesopotamia, even though rulers soon began expanding into neighboring areas, and neighboring Semitic groups adopted much of Sumerian culture for their own.

The earliest dynastic king on the Sumerian king list whose name is known from any other legendary source is Etana, 13th king of the first dynasty of Kish. The earliest king authenticated through archaeological evidence is Enmebaragesi of Kish (c. 26th century BC), whose name is also mentioned in the Gilgamesh epic—leading to the suggestion that Gilgamesh himself might have been a historical king of Uruk. As the Epic of Gilgamesh shows, this period was associated with increased war. Cities became walled, and increased in size as undefended villages in southern Mesopotamia disappeared. (Both Enmerkar and Gilgamesh are credited with having built the walls of Uruk[28]).

1st Dynasty of Lagash

c. 2500–2270 BC

The dynasty of Lagash, though omitted from the king list, is well attested through several important monuments and many archaeological finds.

Although short-lived, one of the first empires known to history was that of Eannatum of Lagash, who annexed practically all of Sumer, including Kish, Uruk, Ur, and Larsa, and reduced to tribute the city-state of Umma, arch-rival of Lagash. In addition, his realm extended to parts of Elam and along the Persian Gulf. He seems to have used terror as a matter of policy.[29] Eannatum's Stele of the Vultures depicts vultures pecking at the severed heads and other body parts of his enemies. His empire collapsed shortly after his death.

Later, Lugal-Zage-Si, the priest-king of Umma, overthrew the primacy of the Lagash dynasty in the area, then conquered Uruk, making it his capital, and claimed an empire extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. He was the last ethnically Sumerian king before Sargon of Akkad.[15]

Akkadian Empire

Prisoners on the victory stele of an Akkadian king circa 2300 BCE Louvre Museum Sb 3
Sumerian prisoners on a victory stele of an Akkadian king Sargon, circa 2300 BC.[19][20] Louvre Museum.

The Akkadian Empire dates to c. 2270–2083 BC (short chronology). The Eastern Semitic Akkadian language is first attested in proper names of the kings of Kish c. 2800 BC,[29] preserved in later king lists. There are texts written entirely in Old Akkadian dating from c. 2500 BC. Use of Old Akkadian was at its peak during the rule of Sargon the Great (c. 2270–2215 BC), but even then most administrative tablets continued to be written in Sumerian, the language used by the scribes. Gelb and Westenholz differentiate three stages of Old Akkadian: that of the pre-Sargonic era, that of the Akkadian empire, and that of the "Neo-Sumerian Renaissance" that followed it. Akkadian and Sumerian coexisted as vernacular languages for about one thousand years, but by around 1800 BC, Sumerian was becoming more of a literary language familiar mainly only to scholars and scribes. Thorkild Jacobsen has argued that there is little break in historical continuity between the pre- and post-Sargon periods, and that too much emphasis has been placed on the perception of a "Semitic vs. Sumerian" conflict.[30] However, it is certain that Akkadian was also briefly imposed on neighboring parts of Elam that were previously conquered, by Sargon.

Gutian period

c. 2083–2050 BC (short chronology)

2nd Dynasty of Lagash

Ur-Ningirsu ruler of Lagash portrait circa 2110 BCE
Portrait of Ur-Ningirsu, son of Gudea, c.2100 BC. Louvre Museum.

c. 2093–2046 BC (short chronology)

Following the downfall of the Akkadian Empire at the hands of Gutians, another native Sumerian ruler, Gudea of Lagash, rose to local prominence and continued the practices of the Sargonid kings' claims to divinity. The previous Lagash dynasty, Gudea and his descendants also promoted artistic development and left a large number of archaeological artifacts.

Ur III period

c. 2047–1940 BC (short chronology)

Later, the 3rd dynasty of Ur under Ur-Nammu and Shulgi, whose power extended as far as southern Assyria, was the last great "Sumerian renaissance", but already the region was becoming more Semitic than Sumerian, with the resurgence of the Akkadian speaking Semites in Assyria and elsewhere, and the influx of waves of Semitic Martu (Amorites) who were to found several competing local powers in the south, including Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna and some time later Babylonia. The last of these eventually came to briefly dominate the south of Mesopotamia as the Babylonian Empire, just as the Old Assyrian Empire had already done so in the north from the late 21st century BC. The Sumerian language continued as a sacerdotal language taught in schools in Babylonia and Assyria, much as Latin was used in the Medieval period, for as long as cuneiform was utilized.

Fall and transmission

This period is generally taken to coincide with a major shift in population from southern Mesopotamia toward the north. Ecologically, the agricultural productivity of the Sumerian lands was being compromised as a result of rising salinity. Soil salinity in this region had been long recognized as a major problem. Poorly drained irrigated soils, in an arid climate with high levels of evaporation, led to the buildup of dissolved salts in the soil, eventually reducing agricultural yields severely. During the Akkadian and Ur III phases, there was a shift from the cultivation of wheat to the more salt-tolerant barley, but this was insufficient, and during the period from 2100 BC to 1700 BC, it is estimated that the population in this area declined by nearly three fifths.[31] This greatly upset the balance of power within the region, weakening the areas where Sumerian was spoken, and comparatively strengthening those where Akkadian was the major language. Henceforth, Sumerian would remain only a literary and liturgical language, similar to the position occupied by Latin in medieval Europe.

Following an Elamite invasion and sack of Ur during the rule of Ibbi-Sin (c. 1940 BC), Sumer came under Amorites rule (taken to introduce the Middle Bronze Age). The independent Amorite states of the 20th to 18th centuries are summarized as the "Dynasty of Isin" in the Sumerian king list, ending with the rise of Babylonia under Hammurabi c. 1700 BC.

Later rulers who dominated Assyria and Babylonia occasionally assumed the old Sargonic title "King of Sumer and Akkad", such as Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria after c. 1225 BC.

Population

Ancient cities of Sumer, Akad and Elam
The first farmers from Samarra migrated to Sumer, and built shrines and settlements at Eridu.

Uruk, one of Sumer's largest cities, has been estimated to have had a population of 50,000–80,000 at its height;[32] given the other cities in Sumer, and the large agricultural population, a rough estimate for Sumer's population might be 0.8 million to 1.5 million. The world population at this time has been estimated at about 27 million.[33]

The Sumerians spoke a language isolate, but a number of linguists have claimed to be able to detect a substrate language of unknown classification beneath Sumerian because names of some of Sumer's major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants.[34] However, the archaeological record shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the early Ubaid period (5300–4700 BC C-14) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Some archaeologists have speculated that the original speakers of ancient Sumerian may have been farmers, who moved down from the north of Mesopotamia after perfecting irrigation agriculture there. The Ubaid period pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700–4900 BC C-14) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries. The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli, Oueili) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where eight levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware. According to this theory, farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centered social organization for mobilizing labor and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment.

Others have suggested a continuity of Sumerians, from the indigenous hunter-fisherfolk traditions, associated with the bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian littoral. Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians may have been the people living in the Persian Gulf region before it flooded at the end of the last Ice Age.[35]

Culture

Social and family life

Reconstructed sumerian headgear necklaces british museum
A reconstruction in the British Museum of headgear and necklaces worn by the women at the Royal Cemetery at Ur.

In the early Sumerian period, the primitive pictograms suggest[36] that

  • "Pottery was very plentiful, and the forms of the vases, bowls and dishes were manifold; there were special jars for honey, butter, oil and wine, which was probably made from dates. Some of the vases had pointed feet, and stood on stands with crossed legs; others were flat-bottomed, and were set on square or rectangular frames of wood. The oil-jars, and probably others also, were sealed with clay, precisely as in early Egypt. Vases and dishes of stone were made in imitation of those of clay."
  • "A feathered head-dress was worn. Beds, stools and chairs were used, with carved legs resembling those of an ox. There were fire-places and fire-altars."
  • "Knives, drills, wedges and an instrument that looks like a saw were all known. While spears, bows, arrows, and daggers (but not swords) were employed in war."
  • "Tablets were used for writing purposes. Daggers with metal blades and wooden handles were worn, and copper was hammered into plates, while necklaces or collars were made of gold."
  • "Time was reckoned in lunar months."

There is considerable evidence concerning Sumerian music. Lyres and flutes were played, among the best-known examples being the Lyres of Ur.[37]

Inscriptions describing the reforms of king Urukagina of Lagash (c. 2300 BC) say that he abolished the former custom of polyandry in his country, prescribing that a woman who took multiple husbands be stoned with rocks upon which her crime had been written.[38]

Sumerian princess of the time of Gudea circa 2150 BCE
Sumerian princess of the time of Gudea circa 2150 BC.
Sumerian princess of the time of Gudea 2150 BCE. Louvre Museum AO 295
Frontal detail.
Louvre Museum AO 295.

Sumerian culture was male-dominated and stratified. The Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest such codification yet discovered, dating to the Ur III, reveals a glimpse at societal structure in late Sumerian law. Beneath the lu-gal ("great man" or king), all members of society belonged to one of two basic strata: The "lu" or free person, and the slave (male, arad; female geme). The son of a lu was called a dumu-nita until he married. A woman (munus) went from being a daughter (dumu-mi), to a wife (dam), then if she outlived her husband, a widow (numasu) and she could then remarry another man who was from the same tribe.

Marriages were usually arranged by the parents of the bride and groom;[39]:78 engagements were usually completed through the approval of contracts recorded on clay tablets.[39]:78 These marriages became legal as soon as the groom delivered a bridal gift to his bride's father.[39]:78 One Sumerian proverb describes the ideal, happy marriage through the mouth of a husband who boasts that his wife has borne him eight sons and is still eager to have sex.[40]

The Sumerians generally seem to have discouraged premarital sex,[41] but it was probably very commonly done in secret.[39]:78 The Sumerians, as well as the later Akkadians, had no concept of virginity.[42]:91–93 When describing a woman's sexual inexperience, instead of calling her a "virgin", Sumerian texts describe which sex acts she had not yet performed.[42]:92 The Sumerians had no knowledge of the existence of the hymen[42]:92 and whether or not a prospective bride had engaged in sexual intercourse was entirely determined by her own word.[42]:91–92

From the earliest records, the Sumerians had very relaxed attitudes toward sex[43] and their sexual mores were determined not by whether a sexual act was deemed immoral, but rather by whether or not it made a person ritually unclean.[43] The Sumerians widely believed that masturbation enhanced sexual potency, both for men and for women,[43] and they frequently engaged in it, both alone and with their partners.[43] The Sumerians did not regard anal sex as taboo either.[43] Entu priestesses were forbidden from producing offspring[44][40] and frequently engaged in anal sex as a method of birth control.[44][43][40]

Prostitution existed but it is not clear if sacred prostitution did.[45]:151

Language and writing

P1150884 Louvre Uruk III tablette écriture précunéiforme AO19936 rwk
Tablet with pictographic pre-cuneiform writing; late 4th millennium BC; limestone; height: 4.5 cm, width: 4.3 cm, depth: 2.4 cm; Louvre
Development of writing
Standard reconstruction of the development of writing, showing Sumerian cuneiform at the origin of many writing systems.[46][47]

The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of clay tablets written in cuneiform script. Sumerian writing is considered to be a great milestone in the development of humanity's ability to not only create historical records but also in creating pieces of literature, both in the form of poetic epics and stories as well as prayers and laws. Although pictures—that is, hieroglyphs—were used first, cuneiform and then ideograms (where symbols were made to represent ideas) soon followed. Triangular or wedge-shaped reeds were used to write on moist clay. A large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language have survived, such as personal and business letters, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns, prayers, stories, and daily records. Full libraries of clay tablets have been found. Monumental inscriptions and texts on different objects, like statues or bricks, are also very common. Many texts survive in multiple copies because they were repeatedly transcribed by scribes in training. Sumerian continued to be the language of religion and law in Mesopotamia long after Semitic speakers had become dominant.

A prime example of cuneiform writing would be a lengthy poem that was discovered in the ruins of Uruk. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in the standard Sumerian cuneiform. It tells of a king from the early Dynastic II period named Gilgamesh or "Bilgamesh" in Sumerian. The story is based around the fictional adventures of Gilgamesh and his companion, Enkidu. It was laid out on several clay tablets and is claimed to be the earliest example of a fictional, written piece of literature discovered so far.

The Sumerian language is generally regarded as a language isolate in linguistics because it belongs to no known language family; Akkadian, by contrast, belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages. There have been many failed attempts to connect Sumerian to other language families. It is an agglutinative language; in other words, morphemes ("units of meaning") are added together to create words, unlike analytic languages where morphemes are purely added together to create sentences. Some authors have proposed that there may be evidence of a substratum or adstratum language for geographic features and various crafts and agricultural activities, called variously Proto-Euphratean or Proto Tigrean, but this is disputed by others.

Understanding Sumerian texts today can be problematic. Most difficult are the earliest texts, which in many cases do not give the full grammatical structure of the language and seem to have been used as an "aide-mémoire" for knowledgeable scribes.[48]

During the 3rd millennium BC a cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism.[14] The influences between Sumerian on Akkadian are evident in all areas including lexical borrowing on a massive scale—and syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence.[14] This mutual influence has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian of the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund.[14]

Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC,[49] but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary, and scientific language in Babylonia and Assyria until the 1st century AD.[50]

Early writing tablet recording the allocation of beer

Early writing tablet for recording the allocation of beer; 3100–3000 BC; height: 9.4 cm; width: 6.87 cm; from Iraq; British Museum (London)

Cuneiform tablet- administrative account with entries concerning malt and barley groats MET DP293245

Cuneiform tablet about administrative account with entries concerning malt and barley groats; 3100-2900 BC; clay; 6.8 x 4.5 x 1.6 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Bill of sale Louvre AO3766

Bill of sale of a field and house, from Shuruppak; circa 2600 BC; height: 8.5 cm, width: 8.5 cm, depth: 2 cm; Louvre

Stele of Vultures detail 02

Stele of the Vultures; circa 2450 BC; limestone; found in 1881 by Édouard de Sarzec in Girsu (now Tell Telloh, Iraq); Louvre

Religion

Bas-relief of Ninsun-AO 2761-IMG 7786-gradient
Fragment of a bas-relief with a seated woman; 2255-2040 BC; steatite; height: 14 cm; Louvre

The Sumerians credited their divinities for all matters pertaining to them and exhibited humility in the face of cosmic forces, such as death and divine wrath.[39]:3–4

Sumerian religion seems to have been founded upon two separate cosmogenic myths. The first saw creation as the result of a series of hieroi gamoi or sacred marriages, involving the reconciliation of opposites, postulated as a coming together of male and female divine beings; the gods. This continued to influence the whole Mesopotamian mythos. Thus, in the later Akkadian Enuma Elish, the creation was seen as the union of fresh and salt water; as male Abzu, and female Tiamat. The products of that union, Lahm and Lahmu, "the muddy ones", were titles given to the gate keepers of the E-Abzu temple of Enki, in Eridu, the first Sumerian city. Describing the way that muddy islands emerge from the confluence of fresh and salty water at the mouth of the Euphrates, where the river deposited its load of silt, a second hieros gamos supposedly created Anshar and Kishar, the "sky-pivot" or axle, and the "earth pivot", parents in turn of Anu (the sky) and Ki (the earth). Another important Sumerian hieros gamos was that between Ki, here known as Ninhursag or "Lady of the Mountains", and Enki of Eridu, the god of fresh water which brought forth greenery and pasture.

At an early stage, following the dawn of recorded history, Nippur, in central Mesopotamia, replaced Eridu in the south as the primary temple city, whose priests exercised political hegemony on the other city-states. Nippur retained this status throughout the Sumerian period.

Deities

Ea (Babilonian) - EnKi (Sumerian)
Akkadian cylinder seal from sometime around 2300 BC or thereabouts depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, Enki, and Isimud.

Sumerians believed in an anthropomorphic polytheism, or the belief in many gods in human form. There was no common set of gods; each city-state had its own patrons, temples, and priest-kings. Nonetheless, these were not exclusive; the gods of one city were often acknowledged elsewhere. Sumerian speakers were among the earliest people to record their beliefs in writing, and were a major inspiration in later Mesopotamian mythology, religion, and astrology.

The Sumerians worshiped:

  • An as the full-time god equivalent to heaven; indeed, the word an in Sumerian means sky and his consort Ki, means earth.
  • Enki in the south at the temple in Eridu. Enki was the god of beneficence and of wisdom, ruler of the freshwater depths beneath the earth, a healer and friend to humanity who in Sumerian myth was thought to have given humans the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization; the first law book was considered his creation,
  • Enlil was the god of storm, wind, and rain.[51]:108 He was the chief god of the Sumerian pantheon[51]:108[52]:115–121 and the patron god of Nippur.[53]:231–234 His consort was Ninlil, the goddess of the south wind.[54]:106
  • Inanna was the goddess of love, beauty, sexuality, prostitution, and war;[21][45]:109 the deification of Venus, the morning (eastern) and evening (western) star, at the temple (shared with An) at Uruk. Deified kings may have re-enacted the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzid with priestesses.[45]:151, 157–158
  • The sun-god Utu at Larsa in the south and Sippar in the north,
  • The moon god Sin at Ur.
Genealogy of Sumero-Akkadian Gods
Sumero-early Akkadian pantheon

These deities formed a core pantheon; there were additionally hundreds of minor ones. Sumerian gods could thus have associations with different cities, and their religious importance often waxed and waned with those cities' political power. The gods were said to have created human beings from clay for the purpose of serving them. The temples organized the mass labour projects needed for irrigation agriculture. Citizens had a labor duty to the temple, though they could avoid it by a payment of silver.

Cosmology

Sumerians believed that the universe consisted of a flat disk enclosed by a dome. The Sumerian afterlife involved a descent into a gloomy netherworld to spend eternity in a wretched existence as a Gidim (ghost).[55]

The universe was divided into four quarters:

  • To the north were the hill-dwelling Subartu, who were periodically raided for slaves, timber, and other raw materials.
  • To the west were the tent-dwelling Martu, ancient Semitic-speaking peoples living as pastoral nomads tending herds of sheep and goats.
  • To the south was the land of Dilmun, a trading state associated with the land of the dead and the place of creation.
  • To the east were the Elamites, a rival people with whom the Sumerians were frequently at war.

Their known world extended from The Upper Sea or Mediterranean coastline, to The Lower Sea, the Persian Gulf and the land of Meluhha (probably the Indus Valley) and Magan (Oman), famed for its copper ores.

Temple and temple organisation

Ziggurats (Sumerian temples) each had an individual name and consisted of a forecourt, with a central pond for purification.[56] The temple itself had a central nave with aisles along either side. Flanking the aisles would be rooms for the priests. At one end would stand the podium and a mudbrick table for animal and vegetable sacrifices. Granaries and storehouses were usually located near the temples. After a time the Sumerians began to place the temples on top of multi-layered square constructions built as a series of rising terraces, giving rise to the Ziggurat style.[57]

Funerary practices

It was believed that when people died, they would be confined to a gloomy world of Ereshkigal, whose realm was guarded by gateways with various monsters designed to prevent people entering or leaving. The dead were buried outside the city walls in graveyards where a small mound covered the corpse, along with offerings to monsters and a small amount of food. Those who could afford it sought burial at Dilmun.[58] Human sacrifice was found in the death pits at the Ur royal cemetery where Queen Puabi was accompanied in death by her servants.

Agriculture and hunting

The Sumerians adopted an agricultural lifestyle perhaps as early as c. 5000 BC – 4500 BC. The region demonstrated a number of core agricultural techniques, including organized irrigation, large-scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping involving the use of plough agriculture, and the use of an agricultural specialized labour force under bureaucratic control. The necessity to manage temple accounts with this organization led to the development of writing (c. 3500 BC).

Ur mosaic
From the royal tombs of Ur, made of lapis lazuli and shell, shows peacetime

In the early Sumerian Uruk period, the primitive pictograms suggest that sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs were domesticated. They used oxen as their primary beasts of burden and donkeys or equids as their primary transport animal and "woollen clothing as well as rugs were made from the wool or hair of the animals. ... By the side of the house was an enclosed garden planted with trees and other plants; wheat and probably other cereals were sown in the fields, and the shaduf was already employed for the purpose of irrigation. Plants were also grown in pots or vases."[36]

Issue of barley rations
An account of barley rations issued monthly to adults and children written in cuneiform script on a clay tablet, written in year 4 of King Urukagina, c. 2350 BC

The Sumerians were one of the first known beer drinking societies. Cereals were plentiful and were the key ingredient in their early brew. They brewed multiple kinds of beer consisting of wheat, barley, and mixed grain beers. Beer brewing was very important to the Sumerians. It was referenced in the Epic of Gilgamesh when Enkidu was introduced to the food and beer of Gilgamesh's people: "Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land... He drank the beer-seven jugs! and became expansive and sang with joy!"[59]

The Sumerians practiced similar irrigation techniques as those used in Egypt.[60] American anthropologist Robert McCormick Adams says that irrigation development was associated with urbanization,[61] and that 89% of the population lived in the cities.

They grew barley, chickpeas, lentils, wheat, dates, onions, garlic, lettuce, leeks and mustard. Sumerians caught many fish and hunted fowl and gazelle.[62]

Sumerian agriculture depended heavily on irrigation. The irrigation was accomplished by the use of shaduf, canals, channels, dykes, weirs, and reservoirs. The frequent violent floods of the Tigris, and less so, of the Euphrates, meant that canals required frequent repair and continual removal of silt, and survey markers and boundary stones needed to be continually replaced. The government required individuals to work on the canals in a corvee, although the rich were able to exempt themselves.

As is known from the "Sumerian Farmer's Almanac", after the flood season and after the Spring Equinox and the Akitu or New Year Festival, using the canals, farmers would flood their fields and then drain the water. Next they made oxen stomp the ground and kill weeds. They then dragged the fields with pickaxes. After drying, they plowed, harrowed, and raked the ground three times, and pulverized it with a mattock, before planting seed. Unfortunately, the high evaporation rate resulted in a gradual increase in the salinity of the fields. By the Ur III period, farmers had switched from wheat to the more salt-tolerant barley as their principal crop.

Sumerians harvested during the spring in three-person teams consisting of a reaper, a binder, and a sheaf handler.[63] The farmers would use threshing wagons, driven by oxen, to separate the cereal heads from the stalks and then use threshing sleds to disengage the grain. They then winnowed the grain/chaff mixture.

Art

Royal Tombs of Ur Objects from tomb PG 580
Gold dagger from Sumerian tomb PG 580, Royal Cemetery at Ur.

The Sumerians were great creators, nothing proving this more than their art. Sumerian artifacts show great detail and ornamentation, with fine semi-precious stones imported from other lands, such as lapis lazuli, marble, and diorite, and precious metals like hammered gold, incorporated into the design. Since stone was rare it was reserved for sculpture. The most widespread material in Sumer was clay, as a result many Sumerina objects are made of clay. Metals such as gold, silver, copper, and bronze, along with shells and gemstones, were used for the finest sculpture and inlays. Small stones of all kinds, including more precious stones such as lapis lazuli, alabaster, and serpentine, were used for cylinder seals.

Some of the most famous master pieces are the Lyres of Ur, which are considered to be the world's oldest surviving stringed instruments. They have been discovered by Leonard Woolley when the Royal Cemetery of Ur has been excavated between from 1922 and 1934.

Cylinder seal and modern impression- ritual scene before a temple facade MET DP270679

Cylinder seal and impression in which appearsritual scene before a temple façade; 3500-3100 BC; bituminous limestone; height: 4.5 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Raminathicket2

Ram in a Thicket; 2600-2400 BC; gold, copper, shell, lapis lazuli and limestone; height: 45.7 cm; from the Royal Cemetery at Ur (Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq); British Museum (London)

Denis Bourez - British Museum, London (8747049029) (2)

Standard of Ur; 2600-2400 BC; shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli on wood; length: 49.5 cm; from the Royal Cemetery at Ur; British Museum

Bull's head ornament for a lyre MET DP260070

Bull's head ornament from a lyre; 2600-2350 BC; bronze inlaid with shell and lapis lazuli; height: 13.3 cm, width: 10.5 cm; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Architecture

Ancient ziggurat at Ali Air Base Iraq 2005
The Great Ziggurat of Ur (Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq), built during the Third Dynasty of Ur (Sumerian Renaissance), dedicated to the moon god Nanna

The Tigris-Euphrates plain lacked minerals and trees. Sumerian structures were made of plano-convex mudbrick, not fixed with mortar or cement. Mud-brick buildings eventually deteriorate, so they were periodically destroyed, leveled, and rebuilt on the same spot. This constant rebuilding gradually raised the level of cities, which thus came to be elevated above the surrounding plain. The resultant hills, known as tells, are found throughout the ancient Near East.

According to Archibald Sayce, the primitive pictograms of the early Sumerian (i.e. Uruk) era suggest that "Stone was scarce, but was already cut into blocks and seals. Brick was the ordinary building material, and with it cities, forts, temples and houses were constructed. The city was provided with towers and stood on an artificial platform; the house also had a tower-like appearance. It was provided with a door which turned on a hinge, and could be opened with a sort of key; the city gate was on a larger scale, and seems to have been double. The foundation stones—or rather bricks—of a house were consecrated by certain objects that were deposited under them."[36]

The most impressive and famous of Sumerian buildings are the ziggurats, large layered platforms that supported temples. Sumerian cylinder seals also depict houses built from reeds not unlike those built by the Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq until as recently as 400 CE. The Sumerians also developed the arch, which enabled them to develop a strong type of dome. They built this by constructing and linking several arches. Sumerian temples and palaces made use of more advanced materials and techniques, such as buttresses, recesses, half columns, and clay nails.

Mathematics

The Sumerians developed a complex system of metrology c. 4000 BC. This advanced metrology resulted in the creation of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. From c. 2600 BC onwards, the Sumerians wrote multiplication tables on clay tablets and dealt with geometrical exercises and division problems. The earliest traces of the Babylonian numerals also date back to this period.[64] The period c. 2700–2300 BC saw the first appearance of the abacus, and a table of successive columns which delimited the successive orders of magnitude of their sexagesimal number system.[65] The Sumerians were the first to use a place value numeral system. There is also anecdotal evidence the Sumerians may have used a type of slide rule in astronomical calculations. They were the first to find the area of a triangle and the volume of a cube.[66]

Economy and trade

Bill of sale Louvre AO3765
Bill of sale of a male slave and a building in Shuruppak, Sumerian tablet, c. 2600 BC

Discoveries of obsidian from far-away locations in Anatolia and lapis lazuli from Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan, beads from Dilmun (modern Bahrain), and several seals inscribed with the Indus Valley script suggest a remarkably wide-ranging network of ancient trade centered on the Persian Gulf. For example, Imports to Ur came from many parts of the world. In particular, the metals of all types had to be imported.

The Epic of Gilgamesh refers to trade with far lands for goods, such as wood, that were scarce in Mesopotamia. In particular, cedar from Lebanon was prized. The finding of resin in the tomb of Queen Puabi at Ur, indicates it was traded from as far away as Mozambique.

The Sumerians used slaves, although they were not a major part of the economy. Slave women worked as weavers, pressers, millers, and porters.

Sumerian potters decorated pots with cedar oil paints. The potters used a bow drill to produce the fire needed for baking the pottery. Sumerian masons and jewelers knew and made use of alabaster (calcite), ivory, iron, gold, silver, carnelian, and lapis lazuli.[67]

Trade with the Indus valley

Ur Grave gold and carnelian beads necklace
Some of the beads in this necklace from the Royal Cemetery dating to the First Dynasty of Ur are thought to have come from the Indus Valley. British Museum.[68]
Mesopotamia-Indus
The trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus would have been significantly shorter due to lower sea levels in the 3rd millennium BCE.[69]

Evidence for imports from the Indus to Ur can be found from around 2350 BCE.[70] Various objects made with shell species that are characteristic of the Indus coast, particularly Trubinella Pyrum and Fasciolaria Trapezium, have been found in the archaeological sites of Mesopotamia dating from around 2500-2000 BCE.[71] Carnelian beads from the Indus were found in the Sumerian tombs of Ur, the Royal Cemetery at Ur, dating to 2600-2450.[72] In particular, carnelian beads with an etched design in white were probably imported from the Indus Valley, and made according to a technique of acid-etching developed by the Harappans.[73][68][74] Lapis Lazuli was imported in great quantity by Egypt, and already used in many tombs of the Naqada II period (circa 3200 BCE). Lapis Lazuli probably originated in northern Afghanistan, as no other sources are known, and had to be transported across the Iranian plateau to Mesapotamia, and then Egypt.[75][76]

Several Indus seals with Harappan script have also been found in Mesopotamia, particularly in Ur, Babylon and Kish.[77][78][79][80][81][82]

Gudea, the ruler of the Neo-Summerian Empire at Lagash, is recorded as having imported "transluscent carnelian" from Meluhha, generally thought to be the Indus Valley area.[72] Various inscriptions also mention the presence of Meluhha traders and interpreters in Mesopotamia.[72] About twenty seals have been found from the Akkadian and Ur III sites, that have connections with Harappa and often use Harappan symbols or writing.[72]

The Indus Valley Civilization only flourished in its most developed form between 2400 to 1800 BC, but at the time of these exchanges, it was a much larger entity than the Mesopotamian civilization, covering an area of 1.2 million square meters with thousands of settlements, compared to an area of only about 65.000 square meters for the occupied area of Mesopotamia, while the largest cities were comparable in size at about 30-40.000 inhabitants.[83]

Money and credit

Large institutions kept their accounts in barley and silver, often with a fixed rate between them. The obligations, loans and prices in general were usually denominated in one of them. Many transactions involved debt, for example goods consigned to merchants by temple and beer advanced by "ale women".[84]

Commercial credit and agricultural consumer loans were the main types of loans. The trade credit was usually extended by temples in order to finance trade expeditions and was nominated in silver. The interest rate was set at 1/60 a month (one shekel per mina) some time before 2000 BC and it remained at that level for about two thousand years.[84] Rural loans commonly arose as a result of unpaid obligations due to an institution (such as a temple), in this case the arrears were considered to be lent to the debtor.[85] They were denominated in barley or other crops and the interest rate was typically much higher than for commercial loans and could amount to 1/3 to 1/2 of the loan principal.[84]

Periodically, rulers signed "clean slate" decrees that cancelled all the rural (but not commercial) debt and allowed bondservants to return to their homes. Customarily, rulers did it at the beginning of the first full year of their reign, but they could also be proclaimed at times of military conflict or crop failure. The first known ones were made by Enmetena and Urukagina of Lagash in 2400–2350 BC. According to Hudson, the purpose of these decrees was to prevent debts mounting to a degree that they threatened the fighting force, which could happen if peasants lost the subsistence land or became bondservants due to the inability to repay the debt.[84]

Military

Standard of Ur chariots
Early chariots on the Standard of Ur, c. 2600 BC
Stele of Vultures detail 01-transparent
Phalanx battle formations led by Sumerian king Eannatum, on a fragment of the Stele of the Vultures

The almost constant wars among the Sumerian city-states for 2000 years helped to develop the military technology and techniques of Sumer to a high level.[86] The first war recorded in any detail was between Lagash and Umma in c. 2525 BC on a stele called the Stele of the Vultures. It shows the king of Lagash leading a Sumerian army consisting mostly of infantry. The infantry carried spears, wore copper helmets, and carried rectangular shields. The spearmen are shown arranged in what resembles the phalanx formation, which requires training and discipline; this implies that the Sumerians may have made use of professional soldiers.[87]

The Sumerian military used carts harnessed to onagers. These early chariots functioned less effectively in combat than did later designs, and some have suggested that these chariots served primarily as transports, though the crew carried battle-axes and lances. The Sumerian chariot comprised a four or two-wheeled device manned by a crew of two and harnessed to four onagers. The cart was composed of a woven basket and the wheels had a solid three-piece design.

Sumerian cities were surrounded by defensive walls. The Sumerians engaged in siege warfare between their cities, but the mudbrick walls were able to deter some foes.

Technology

Examples of Sumerian technology include: the wheel, cuneiform script, arithmetic and geometry, irrigation systems, Sumerian boats, lunisolar calendar, bronze, leather, saws, chisels, hammers, braces, bits, nails, pins, rings, hoes, axes, knives, lancepoints, arrowheads, swords, glue, daggers, waterskins, bags, harnesses, armor, quivers, war chariots, scabbards, boots, sandals, harpoons and beer. The Sumerians had three main types of boats:

  • clinker-built sailboats stitched together with hair, featuring bitumen waterproofing
  • skin boats constructed from animal skins and reeds
  • wooden-oared ships, sometimes pulled upstream by people and animals walking along the nearby banks

Legacy

Evidence of wheeled vehicles appeared in the mid 4th millennium BC, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia, the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe. The wheel initially took the form of the potter's wheel. The new concept quickly led to wheeled vehicles and mill wheels. The Sumerians' cuneiform script is the oldest (or second oldest after the Egyptian hieroglyphs) which has been deciphered (the status of even older inscriptions such as the Jiahu symbols and Tartaria tablets is controversial). The Sumerians were among the first astronomers, mapping the stars into sets of constellations, many of which survived in the zodiac and were also recognized by the ancient Greeks.[88] They were also aware of the five planets that are easily visible to the naked eye.[89]

They invented and developed arithmetic by using several different number systems including a mixed radix system with an alternating base 10 and base 6. This sexagesimal system became the standard number system in Sumer and Babylonia. They may have invented military formations and introduced the basic divisions between infantry, cavalry, and archers. They developed the first known codified legal and administrative systems, complete with courts, jails, and government records. The first true city-states arose in Sumer, roughly contemporaneously with similar entities in what are now Syria and Lebanon. Several centuries after the invention of cuneiform, the use of writing expanded beyond debt/payment certificates and inventory lists to be applied for the first time, about 2600 BC, to messages and mail delivery, history, legend, mathematics, astronomical records, and other pursuits. Conjointly with the spread of writing, the first formal schools were established, usually under the auspices of a city-state's primary temple.

Finally, the Sumerians ushered in domestication with intensive agriculture and irrigation. Emmer wheat, barley, sheep (starting as mouflon), and cattle (starting as aurochs) were foremost among the species cultivated and raised for the first time on a grand scale.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The name is from Akkadian Šumeru; Sumerian kig̃ir, written 𒆠𒂗𒄀 ki-en-gi and 𒆠𒂗𒂠 ki-en-ĝir15, approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". ĝir15 means "native, local", in(ĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian) from The Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary). Literally, "land of the native (local, noble) lords". Stiebing (1994) has "Land of the Lords of Brightness" (William Stiebing, Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture). Postgate (1994) takes en as substituting eme "language", translating "land of the Sumerian heart" (John Nicholas Postgate (1994). Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History. Routledge (UK).. Postgate believes it not that eme, 'tongue', became en, 'lord', through consonantal assimilation.)

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  54. ^ Black, Jeremy A.; Cunningham, Graham; Robson, Eleanor (2006), The Literature of Ancient Sumer, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-929633-0
  55. ^ Black, Jeremy; Green, Anthony (1992). Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-70794-8.
  56. ^ Leick, Gwendolyn (2003), Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City' (Penguin)
  57. ^ Crawford, Harriet (1993), "Sumer and the Sumerians" (Cambridge University Press, (New York 1993)), ISBN 0-521-38850-3.
  58. ^ Bibby Geoffrey and Carl Phillips (2013), "Looking for Dilmun" (Alfred A. Knopf)
  59. ^ Gately, Iain (2008). Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. Gotham Books. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-59240-303-5.
  60. ^ Mackenzie, Donald Alexander (1927). Footprints of Early Man. Blackie & Son Limited.
  61. ^ Adams, R. McC. (1981). Heartland of Cities. University of Chicago Press.
  62. ^ Tannahill, Reay (1968). The fine art of food. Folio Society.
  63. ^ By the sweat of thy brow: Work in the Western world, Melvin Kranzberg, Joseph Gies, Putnam, 1975
  64. ^ Duncan J. Melville (2003). Third Millennium Chronology, Third Millennium Mathematics. St. Lawrence University.
  65. ^ Ifrah 2001:11
  66. ^ Anderson, Marlow; Wilson, Robin J. (2004). Sherlock Holmes in Babylon: and other tales of mathematical history. ISBN 978-0-88385-546-1. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  67. ^ Diplomacy by design: Luxury arts and an "international style" in the ancient Near East, 1400–1200 BC, Marian H. Feldman, University of Chicago Press, 2006, pp. 120–121
  68. ^ a b British Museum notice: "Gold and carnelians beads. The two beads etched with patterns in white were probably imported from the Indus Valley. They were made by a technique developed by the Harappan civilization" Photograph of the necklace in question
  69. ^ Reade, Julian E. (2008). The Indus-Mesopotamia relationship reconsidered (Gs Elisabeth During Caspers). Archaeopress. pp. 12–14. ISBN 978 1 4073 0312 3.
  70. ^ Reade, Julian E. (2008). The Indus-Mesopotamia relationship reconsidered (Gs Elisabeth During Caspers). Archaeopress. pp. 14–17. ISBN 978 1 4073 0312 3.
  71. ^ Gensheimer, T. R. (1984). The Role of shell in Mesopotamia : evidence for trade exchange with Oman and the Indus Valley. pp. 71–72.
  72. ^ a b c d McIntosh, Jane (2008). The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. pp. 182–190. ISBN 9781576079072.
  73. ^ For the etching technique, see MacKay, Ernest (1925). Sumerian Connexions with Ancient India. p. 699.
  74. ^ Guimet, Musée (2016). Les Cités oubliées de l'Indus: Archéologie du Pakistan (in French). FeniXX réédition numérique. p. 355. ISBN 9782402052467.
  75. ^ Demand, Nancy H. (2011). The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 71–72. ISBN 9781444342345.
  76. ^ Rowlands, Michael J. (1987). Centre and Periphery in the Ancient World. Cambridge University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780521251037.
  77. ^ For a full list of discoveries of Indus seals in Mesopotamia, see Reade, Julian (2013). Indian Ocean In Antiquity. Routledge. pp. 148–152. ISBN 9781136155314.
  78. ^ For another list of Mesopotamian finds of Indus seals: Possehl, Gregory L. (2002). The Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective. Rowman Altamira. p. 221. ISBN 9780759101722.
  79. ^ "Indus stamp-seal found in Ur BM 122187". British Museum.
    "Indus stamp-seal discovered in Ur BM 123208". British Museum.
    "Indus stamp-seal discovered in Ur BM 120228". British Museum.
  80. ^ Gadd, G. J. (1958). Seals of Ancient Indian style found at Ur.
  81. ^ Podany, Amanda H. (2012). Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East. Oxford University Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-19-971829-0.
  82. ^ Joan Aruz; Ronald Wallenfels (2003). Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-58839-043-1. Square-shaped Indus seals of fired steatite have been found at a few sites in Mesopotamia.
  83. ^ Cotterell, Arthur (2011). Asia: A Concise History. John Wiley & Sons. p. 42. ISBN 9780470829592.
  84. ^ a b c d Hudson, Michael (1998). Michael Hudson and Marc Van De Mieroop (ed.). Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East. Bethesda, Maryland: CDL. pp. 23–35. ISBN 978-1-883053-71-0.
  85. ^ Van De Mieroop, Marc (1998). Michael Hudson and Marc Van De Mieroop (ed.). Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East. Bethesda, Maryland: CDL. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-883053-71-0.
  86. ^ Roux, Georges (1992), "Ancient Iraq" (Penguin)
  87. ^ Winter, Irene J. (1985). "After the Battle is Over: The 'Stele of the Vultures' and the Beginning of Historical Narrative in the Art of the Ancient Near East". In Kessler, Herbert L.; Simpson, Marianna Shreve. Pictorial Narrative in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Symposium Series IV 16. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art. pp. 11–32. ISSN 0091-7338
  88. ^ Gary Thompson. "History of Constellation and Star Names". Members.optusnet.com.au. Archived from the original on 2012-08-21. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  89. ^ "Sumerian Questions and Answers". Sumerian.org. Retrieved 2012-03-29.

Further reading

  • Ascalone, Enrico. 2007. Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians (Dictionaries of Civilizations; 1). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-25266-7 (paperback).
  • Bottéro, Jean, André Finet, Bertrand Lafont, and George Roux. 2001. Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Crawford, Harriet E. W. 2004. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Leick, Gwendolyn. 2002. Mesopotamia: Invention of the City. London and New York: Penguin.
  • Lloyd, Seton. 1978. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: From the Old Stone Age to the Persian Conquest. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea. 1998. Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. London and Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah (1972). Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C. (Rev. ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-1047-7.
  • Roux, Georges. 1992. Ancient Iraq, 560 pages. London: Penguin (earlier printings may have different pagination: 1966, 480 pages, Pelican; 1964, 431 pages, London: Allen and Urwin).
  • Schomp, Virginia. Ancient Mesopotamia: The Sumerians, Babylonians, And Assyrians.
  • Sumer: Cities of Eden (Timelife Lost Civilizations). Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1993 (hardcover, ISBN 0-8094-9887-1).
  • Woolley, C. Leonard. 1929. The Sumerians. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

External links

Geography
Language

Coordinates: 32°00′N 45°30′E / 32.0°N 45.5°E

Abzu

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'), is 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.

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.

Ancient Near East

The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, southwest Iran, northeastern Syria and Kuwait), ancient Egypt, ancient Iran (Elam, Media, Parthia and Persia), Anatolia/Asia Minor and Armenian Highlands (Turkey's Eastern Anatolia Region, Armenia, northwestern Iran, southern Georgia, and western Azerbaijan), the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan), Cyprus and the Arabian Peninsula. The ancient Near East is studied in the fields of Near Eastern archaeology and ancient history.

The history of the ancient Near East begins with the rise of Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, though the date it ends varies. The term covers the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in the region, until either the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC, that by Macedonian Empire in the 4th century BC, or the Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD.

The ancient Near East is considered one of the cradles of civilization. It was here that intensive year-round agriculture was first practiced, leading to the rise of the first dense urban settlements and the development of many familiar institutions of civilization, such as social stratification, centralized government and empires, organized religion and organized warfare. It also saw the creation of the first writing system, the first alphabet (Abjad), the first currency in history, and law codes, early advances that laid the foundations of astronomy and mathematics, and the invention of the wheel.

During the period, states became increasingly large, until the region became controlled by militaristic empires that had conquered a number of different cultures.

Dargah

A Dargah (Persian: درگاه‎ dargâh or درگه dargah, also in Urdu and Bengali: দরগাহ dorgah) is a shrine built over the grave of a revered religious figure, often a Sufi saint or dervish. Sufis often visit the shrine for ziyarat, a term associated with religious visits and pilgrimages. Dargahs are often associated with Sufi eating and meeting rooms and hostels, called khanqah or hospices. They usually include a mosque, meeting rooms, Islamic religious schools (madrassas), residences for a teacher or caretaker, hospitals, and other buildings for community purposes. The same structure, carrying the same social meanings and site of the same kinds of ritual practice, is called maqam in the Arabic-speaking world.

Wahabi religious scholars argue against the practice of constructing shrines over graves and turning them into places of worship, and consider it as associating partners to God or shirk, though visiting graves is encouraged. Muhammad (according to Wahabbi sects) forbade turning graves into places of worship. The current Wahabbi rulers of Saudi Arabia have destroyed thousands of years old grave sites of Prophet Muhammad, Ali, Ayesha amongst others. but encouraged visiting the graves to remember life after death (sahih Muslim 977).

Eannatum

Eannatum (Sumerian: 𒂍𒀭𒈾𒁺 É.AN.NA-tum2) was a Sumerian king of Lagash circa 2500–2400 BCE. He established one of the first verifiable empires in history. One inscription found on a boulder states that Eannatum was his Sumerian name, while his "Tidnu" (Amorite) name was Lumma.

Geography of Mesopotamia

The geography of Mesopotamia, encompassing its ethnology and history, centered on the two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. While the southern is flat and marshy, the near approach of the two rivers to one another, at a spot where the undulating plateau of the north sinks suddenly into the Babylonian alluvium, tends to separate them still more completely. In the earliest recorded times, the northern portion was included in Mesopotamia; it was marked off as Assyria after the rise of the Assyrian monarchy. Apart from Assur, the original capital of Assyria, the chief cities of the country, Nineveh, Kalaḫ and Arbela, were all on the east bank of the Tigris. The reason was its abundant supply of water, whereas the great plain on the western side had to depend on streams flowing into the Euphrates.

Gutian dynasty of Sumer

The Gutian dynasty, also Kuti or Kutians (Sumerian: 𒄖𒋾𒌝𒆠, gu-ti-umKI) was a dynasty that came to power in Mesopotamia c. 2135—2055 BC [ short ] after displacing the Akkadian Empire. It ruled for roughly one century; however, some copies of the Sumerian King List (SKL) vary between 4 and 25 years. The end of the Gutian dynasty is marked by the accession of Ur-Nammu (founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur, which fl. c. 2112 BC [ middle ] or 2055 BC [ short ] ).

The Gutian people (Guti) were native to Gutium, presumably in the central Zagros Mountains, though almost nothing is known about their origin.

Hammurabi

Hammurabi (c. 1810 BC – c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of the First Babylonian Dynasty, reigning from 1792 BC to 1750 BC (according to the Middle Chronology). He was preceded by his father, Sin-Muballit, who abdicated due to failing health. During his reign, he conquered Elam and the city-states of Larsa, Eshnunna, and Mari. He ousted Ishme-Dagan I, the king of Assyria, and forced his son Mut-Ashkur to pay tribute, bringing almost all of Mesopotamia under Babylonian rule.Hammurabi is best known for having issued the Code of Hammurabi, which he claimed to have received from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice. Unlike earlier Sumerian law codes, such as the Code of Ur-Nammu, which had focused on compensating the victim of the crime, the Law of Hammurabi was one of the first law codes to place greater emphasis on the physical punishment of the perpetrator. It prescribed specific penalties for each crime and is among the first codes to establish the presumption of innocence. Although its penalties are extremely harsh by modern standards, they were intended to limit what a wronged person was permitted to do in retribution. The Code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses in the Torah contain numerous similarities, but these are probably due to shared background and oral tradition, and it is unlikely that Hammurabi's laws exerted any direct impact on the later Mosaic ones.

Hammurabi was seen by many as a god within his own lifetime. After his death, Hammurabi was revered as a great conqueror who spread civilization and forced all peoples to pay obeisance to Marduk, the national god of the Babylonians. Later, his military accomplishments became de-emphasized and his role as the ideal lawgiver became the primary aspect of his legacy. For later Mesopotamians, Hammurabi's reign became the frame of reference for all events occurring in the distant past. Even after the empire he built collapsed, he was still revered as a model ruler, and many kings across the Near East claimed him as an ancestor. Hammurabi was rediscovered by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century and has since become seen as an important figure in the history of law.

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.

Kish (Sumer)

Kish (Sumerian: Kiš; transliteration: Kiški; cuneiform: 𒆧𒆠; Akkadian: kiššatu) was an ancient tell (hill city) of Sumer in Mesopotamia, considered to have been located near the modern Tell al-Uhaymir in the Babil Governorate of Iraq, east of Babylon and 80 km south of Baghdad.

Meluhha

Meluḫḫa or Melukhkha ((Me-luh-haKI 𒈨𒈛𒄩𒆠) is the Sumerian name of a prominent trading partner of Sumer during the Middle Bronze Age. Its identification remains an open question, but most scholars associate it with the Indus Valley Civilization.

Sumer, Bhopal

Sumer is a village in the Bhopal district of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located in the Berasia tehsil.

Sumer Khedi

Sumer Khedi is a village in the Bhopal district of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located in the Huzur tehsil and the Phanda block.

Sumerian King List

The Sumerian King List is an ancient stone tablet originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of the kingship. Kingship was seen as handed down by the gods and could be transferred from one city to another, reflecting perceived hegemony in the region. Throughout its Bronze Age existence, the document evolved into a political tool. Its final and single attested version, dating to the Middle Bronze Age, aimed to legitimize Isin's claims to hegemony when Isin was vying for dominance with Larsa and other neighboring city-states in southern Mesopotamia.

Sumerian literature

Sumerian literature is the earliest known literature and it was written in the Sumerian language during the Middle Bronze Age.

The Sumerians invented one of the first writing systems, developing Sumerian cuneiform writing out of earlier proto-writing systems by about the 30th century BC.

The Sumerian language remained in official and literary use in the Akkadian and Babylonian empires, even after the spoken language disappeared from the population; literacy was widespread, and the Sumerian texts that students copied heavily influenced later Babylonian literature.

Sumerian religion

Sumerian religion was the religion practiced and adhered to by the people of Sumer, the first literate civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerians regarded their divinities as responsible for all matters pertaining to the natural and social orders.Before the beginning of kingship in Sumer, the city-states were effectively ruled by theocratic priests and religious officials. Later, this role was supplanted by kings, but priests continued to exert great influence on Sumerian society. In early times, Sumerian temples were simple, one-room structures, sometimes built on elevated platforms. Towards the end of Sumerian civilization, these temples developed into ziggurats—tall, pyramidal structures with sanctuaries at the tops.

The Sumerians believed that the universe had come into being through a series of cosmic births. First, Nammu, the primeval waters, gave birth to An (the sky) and Ki (the earth), who mated together and produced a son named Enlil. Enlil separated heaven from earth and claimed the earth as his domain. Humans were believed to have been created by Enki, the son of An and Nammu. Heaven was reserved exclusively for deities and, upon their deaths, all mortals' spirits, regardless of their behavior while alive, were believed to go to Kur, a cold, dark cavern deep beneath the earth, which was ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal and where the only food available was dry dust. In later times, Ereshkigal was believed to rule alongside her husband Nergal, the god of death.

The major deities in the Sumerian pantheon included An, the god of the heavens, Enlil, the god of wind and storm, Enki, the god of water and human culture, Ninhursag, the goddess of fertility and the earth, Utu, the god of the sun and justice, and his father Nanna, the god of the moon. During the Akkadian Period and afterward, Inanna, the goddess of sex, beauty, and warfare, was widely venerated across Sumer and appeared in many myths, including the famous story of her descent into the Underworld.

Sumerian religion heavily influenced the religious beliefs of later Mesopotamian peoples; elements of it are retained in the mythologies and religions of the Hurrians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and other Middle Eastern culture groups. Scholars of comparative mythology have noticed many parallels between the stories of the ancient Sumerians and those recorded later in the early parts of the Hebrew Bible.

Third Dynasty of Ur

The Third Dynasty of Ur, also called the Neo-Sumerian Empire, refers to a 22nd to 21st century BC (middle chronology) Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state which some historians consider to have been a nascent empire. The Third Dynasty of Ur is commonly abbreviated as Ur III by historians studying the period.

The Third Dynasty of Ur was the last Sumerian dynasty which came to preeminent power in Mesopotamia. It began after several centuries of control by Akkadian and Gutian kings. It controlled the cities of Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna and extended as far north as the Jazira. The dynasty corresponded to a Sumerian renaissance following the fall of the First Dynasty of Ur.

Uruk

Uruk (; Cuneiform: 𒌷𒀕 or 𒌷𒀔 URUUNUG; Sumerian: Unug; Akkadian: Uruk; Arabic: وركاء‎, Warkāʼ; Aramaic/Hebrew: אֶרֶךְ ʼÉreḵ; Ancient Greek: Ὀρχόη, translit. Orkhoē, Ὀρέχ Orekh, Ὠρύγεια Ōrugeia) was an ancient city of Sumer (and later of Babylonia), situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the dried-up, ancient channel of the Euphrates, some 30 km east of modern Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk is the type site for the Uruk period. Uruk played a leading role in the early urbanization of Sumer in the mid-4th millennium BC.

At its height c. 2900 BC, Uruk probably had 50,000–80,000 residents living in 6 km2 (2.32 sq mi) of walled area; making it the largest city in the world at the time. The legendary king Gilgamesh, according to the chronology presented in the Sumerian king list, ruled Uruk in the 27th century BC. The city lost its prime importance around 2000 BC, in the context of the struggle of Babylonia against Elam, but it remained inhabited throughout the Seleucid (312–63 BC) and Parthian (227 BC to 224 AD) periods until it was finally abandoned shortly before or after the Islamic conquest of 633–638.

William Kennett Loftus visited the site of Uruk in 1849 and led the first excavations from 1850 to 1854; he had identified it as "Erech", known as "the second city of Nimrod".The Arabic name of Babylonia, which eventually became the name of the present-day country, al-ʿIrāq, is thought to derive from the name Uruk, via Aramaic (Erech) and possibly via Middle Persian (Erāq) transmission.

In Sumerian the word uru could mean "city, town, village, district".

Özkan Sümer

Özkan Sümer (born January 20, 1937) is a Turkish former footballer and coach. He played as defender in Trabzonspor (and later coached the same club), Galatasaray SK, and the Turkey national football team. He also served as president of Trabzonspor.

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