Sumer

Sumer

Overview
Sumer was a civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 and historical region in southern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, modern Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age.

Sumer was first settled between 4500 and 4001 BC by a non-Semitic people who possibly did not speak the Sumerian language
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 (as evidenced by names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc.). These people are now called proto-Euphrateans or Ubaidians
Ubaid period
The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern...

, and had evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

.
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Encyclopedia
Sumer was a civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 and historical region in southern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, modern Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age.

Sumer was first settled between 4500 and 4001 BC by a non-Semitic people who possibly did not speak the Sumerian language
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 (as evidenced by names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc.). These people are now called proto-Euphrateans or Ubaidians
Ubaid period
The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern...

, and had evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. The Ubaidians were the first civilizing force in Sumer, draining the marshes for agriculture, developing trade, and establishing industries, including weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry, and pottery. However, some, such as Piotr Michalowski and Gerd Steiner, contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language.

Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

 (4th millennium BC), continuing into the Jemdat Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. It was conquered by the Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

-speaking kings of the Akkadian Empire around 2270 BC (short chronology). Native Sumerian rule re-emerged for about a century in the third dynasty of Ur (Sumerian Renaissance) of the 21st to 20th centuries BC.

The cities of Sumer were the first civilization to practice intensive, year-round agriculture
History of agriculture
Agriculture was developed at least 10,000 years ago, and it has undergone significant developments since the time of the earliest cultivation. The Fertile Crescent of Western Asia, Egypt, and India were sites of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered...

, by perhaps c. 5000 BC showing the use of core agricultural techniques, including large-scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping
Mono-cropping
Monocropping is the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence rotation through other crops...

, organized irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

, and the use of a specialized labour force
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

.
The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population to settle
Sedentism
In evolutionary anthropology and archaeology, sedentism , is a term applied to the transition from nomadic to permanent, year-round settlement.- Requirements for permanent settlements :...

 in one place, instead of migrating after crops and grazing land. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labour force and division of labour
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

.
Sumer was also the site of early development of writing
History of writing
The history of writing records the development of expressing language by letters or other marks. In the history of how systems of representation of language through graphic means have evolved in different human civilizations, more complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, systems of...

, progressing from a stage of proto-writing in the mid 4th millennium BC to writing proper in the third millennium (see Jemdet Nasr period
Jemdet Nasr period
The Jemdet Nasr period is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia that is generally dated to 3100–2900 BCE. It is named after the type-site Jemdet Nasr, where the assemblage typical for this period was first recognized. Its geographical distribution is limited to south–central Iraq...

).

Origin of name


The term "Sumerian" is the common name given to the ancient non-Semitic inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia, Sumer, by the Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg-ga, phonetically uŋ saŋ giga, literally meaning "the black-headed people". The Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 word Shumer may represent the geographical name in dialect, but the phonological development leading to the Akkadian term šumerû is uncertain. Biblical Shinar
Shinar
Shinar was a geographical locale of uncertain boundaries in Mesopotamia. The name may be a corruption of Shene nahar , Shene or , or Sumer .It has been suggested that Shinar must have been confined to the northern part of Mesopotamia Shinar (Hebrew Šin`ar, Septuagint Σεννααρ Sennaar) was a...

, Egyptian Sngr and Hittite Šanhar(a) could be western variants of Shumer.)

City-states


By the late 4th millennium BC, Sumer was divided into about a dozen independent city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s, 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
ENSI
ENSI is a Sumerian title designating the ruler or prince of a city state...

) or by a king (lugal
Lugal
Lugal is the Sumerian cuneiform sign for leader from the two signs, LÚ.GAL , and was one of several Sumerian titles that a ruler of a city-state could bear . The sign eventually became the predominant Sumerian term for a King in general. In the Sumerian language, lugal is used to mean an owner...

) who was intimately tied to the city's religious rites.

The five "first" cities said to have exercised pre-dynastic
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

 kingship:   
  1. Eridu
    Eridu
    Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

     (Tell Abu Shahrain)
  2. Bad-tibira
    Bad-tibira
    Bad-tibira, "Wall of the Copper Worker", or "Fortress of the Smiths", identified as modern Tell al-Madineh, between Ash Shatrah and Tell as-Senkereh in southern Iraq, was an ancient Sumerian city, which appears among antediluvian cities in the Sumerian King List. Its Akkadian name was Dûr-gurgurri...

     (probably Tell al-Madain)
  3. Larsa
    Larsa
    Larsa was an important city of ancient Sumer, the center of the cult of the sun god Utu. It lies some 25 km southeast of Uruk in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate, near the east bank of the Shatt-en-Nil canal at the site of the modern settlement Tell as-Senkereh or Sankarah.-History:According to...

     (Tell as-Senkereh)
  4. Sippar
    Sippar
    Sippar was an ancient Near Eastern city on the east bank of the Euphrates river, located at the site of modern Tell Abu Habbah in Iraq's Babil Governorate, some 60 km north of Babylon and 30 km southeast of Baghdad....

     (Tell Abu Habbah)
  5. Shuruppak
    Shuruppak
    Shuruppak or Shuruppag was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 35 miles south of Nippur on the banks of the Euphrates at the site of modern Tell Fara in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate....

     (Tell Fara)

Other principal cities:

  1. Uruk
    Uruk
    Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

     (Warka)
  2. Kish
    Kish (Sumer)
    Kish is modern Tell al-Uhaymir , and was an ancient city of Sumer. Kish is located some 12 km east of Babylon, and 80 km south of Baghdad ....

     (Tell Uheimir & Ingharra)
  3. Ur
    Ur
    Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

     (Tell al-Muqayyar)
  4. Nippur
    Nippur
    Nippur was one of the most ancient of all the Sumerian cities. It was the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god Enlil, the "Lord Wind," ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone...

     (Afak)
  5. Lagash
    Lagash
    Lagash is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East...

     (Tell al-Hiba)
  6. Girsu (Tello or Telloh)
  7. Umma
    Umma
    Umma was an ancient city in Sumer. Note that there is some scholarly debateabout the Sumerian and Akkadian names for this site.-History:...

     (Tell Jokha)
  8. Hamazi
    Hamazi
    Hamazi or Khamazi was an ancient kingdom or city-state of some importance that reached its peak ca. 2500-2400 BC...

     1
  9. Adab
    Adab
    Adab or Udab was an ancient Sumerian city between Telloh and Nippur. It was located at the site of modern Bismaya or Bismya in the Wasit Governorate of Iraq.-History:...

     (Tell Bismaya)
  10. Mari
    Mari, Syria
    Mari was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city, located 11 kilometers north-west of the modern town of Abu Kamal on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, Syria...

     (Tell Hariri) 2
  11. Akshak
    Akshak
    Akshak was a city of ancient Sumer, situated on the northern boundary of Akkad, sometimes identified with Babylonian Upi . Its exact location is uncertain. Classicalwriters located it where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers...

     1
  12. Akkad
    Akkad
    The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

     1
  13. Isin
    Isin
    Isin was an ancient city-state of lower Mesopotamia about 20 miles south of Nippur at the site of modern Ishan al-Bahriyat in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate.-History:...

     (Ishan al-Bahriyat)

(1location uncertain)

(2an outlying city in northern Mesopotamia)

Minor cities (from south to north):
  1. Kuara
    Kuara (Sumer)
    Kuara was an ancient Sumerian city located on the western bank of the mouth of the Euphrates River, about 30 km southeast of Ur...

     (Tell al-Lahm)
  2. Zabala
    Zabala (Sumer)
    Zabala was a city of ancient Sumer in what is now the Dhi Qar governorate in Iraq. Zabala was at the crossing of the ancient Iturungal andNinagina canals...

     (Tell Ibzeikh)
  3. Kisurra
    Kisurra
    Kisurra was an ancient Sumerian city situated on the west bank of the middle Euphrates River, 7 kilometers north of Shuruppak. The cities name has been described as...

     (Tell Abu Hatab)
  4. Marad
    Marad
    Marad was an ancient Sumerian city. Marad was situated on the west bank of the then western branch of the Upper Euphrates River west of Nippur in modern day Iraq and roughly 50 km southeast of Kish, on the Arahtu River.The city's ziggurat E-igi-kalama was dedicated to Ninurta the god of...

     (Tell Wannat es-Sadum)
  5. Dilbat
    Dilbat
    Dilbat was an ancient Sumerian minor city located southeast from Babylon on the eastern bank of the Western Euphrates in modern day Al-Qādisiyyah, Iraq....

     (Tell ed-Duleim)
  6. Borsippa
    Borsippa
    Borsippa was an important ancient city of Sumer, built on both sides of a lake about southwest of Babylon on the east bank of the Euphrates. The site of Borsippa is in Babil Governorate, Iraq and now called Birs Nimrud, identifying the site with Nimrod...

     (Birs Nimrud)
  7. Kutha
    Kutha
    Kutha, Cuthah, or Cutha was an ancient city of Sumer on the right bank of the eastern branch of the Upper Euphrates, north of Nippur and around 25 miles northeast of Babylon...

     (Tell Ibrahim)
  8. Der
    Der (Sumer)
    Der was a Sumerian city-state at the site of modern Tell Aqar near al-Badra in Iraq's Wasit Governorate. It was east of the Tigris River on the border between Sumer and Elam. It's namewas possibly Durum.-History:...

     (al-Badra)
  9. Eshnuna (Tell Asmar)
  10. Nagar
    Nagar, Syria
    Tell Brak, ancient Nagar, is a tell, or settlement mound, in the Upper Khabur area in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. The site was occupied between the sixth and second millennia BCE...

     (Tell Brak) 2

(2an outlying city in northern Mesopotamia)


Apart from Mari, which lies full 330 km (205 mi) northwest of Agade, but which is credited in the king list
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

 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
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 in what are now the Bābil, Diyala, Wāsit, Dhi Qar, Basra, Al-Muthannā and Al-Qādisiyyah governorates of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

.

History



The Sumerian city states rose to power during the prehistorical Ubaid
Ubaid period
The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern...

 and Uruk
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

 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, ca. 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 is a brief "Sumerian renaissance" in the 21st century BC, cut short in the 20th century BC by Semitic Amorite invasions. The Amorite "dynasty of Isin
Isin
Isin was an ancient city-state of lower Mesopotamia about 20 miles south of Nippur at the site of modern Ishan al-Bahriyat in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate.-History:...

" persisted until ca. 1700 BC, when Mesopotamia was united under Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n rule. The Sumerians were eventually absorbed into the Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) population.
  • Ubaid period
    Ubaid period
    The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern...

    : 5300 – 4100 BC (Pottery Neolithic
    Neolithic
    The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

     to Chalcolithic)
  • Uruk period
    Uruk period
    The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

    : 4100 – 2900 BC (Late Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age I)
    • Uruk XIV-V: 4100 – 3300 BC
    • Uruk IV period: 3300 – 3000 BC
    • Jemdet Nasr period
      Jemdet Nasr period
      The Jemdet Nasr period is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia that is generally dated to 3100–2900 BCE. It is named after the type-site Jemdet Nasr, where the assemblage typical for this period was first recognized. Its geographical distribution is limited to south–central Iraq...

       (Uruk III): 3000 – 2900 BC
  • Early Dynastic period (Early Bronze Age II-IV)
    • Early Dynastic I period: 2900–2800 BC
    • Early Dynastic II period: 2800–2600 BC (Gilgamesh
      Gilgamesh
      Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, modern day Iraq , placing his reign ca. 2500 BC. According to the Sumerian king list he reigned for 126 years. In the Tummal Inscription, Gilgamesh, and his son Urlugal, rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of...

      )
    • Early Dynastic IIIa period: 2600–2500 BC
    • Early Dynastic IIIb period: ca. 2500–2334 BC
  • Akkadian Empire period: ca. 2334–2218 BC (Sargon
    Sargon of Akkad
    Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" , was an Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned in the last quarter of the third millennium BC...

    )
  • Gutian period: ca. 2218–2047 BC (Early Bronze Age IV)
  • Ur III period: ca. 2047–1940 BC

Ubaid period



The Ubaid period is marked by a distinctive style of fine quality painted pottery which spread throughout Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 and the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. During this time, the first settlement in southern Mesopotamia was established at Eridu
Eridu
Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

, ca. 5300 BC, by farmers who brought with them the Hadji Muhammed
Hadji Muhammed
Hadji Muhammed was a small village in Southern Iraq which gives its name to a style of painted pottery and the early phase of what is the Ubaid culture. The pottery is painted in dark brown, black or purple in an attractive geometric style. Sandwiched between the earliest settlement of Eridu and...

 culture, which first pioneered irrigation agriculture. It appears this culture was derived from the Samarra
Samarra
Sāmarrā is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Salah ad-Din Governorate, north of Baghdad and, in 2003, had an estimated population of 348,700....

n culture from northern Mesopotamia. It is not known whether or not these were the actual Sumerians who are identified with the later Uruk culture. Eridu remained an important religious center when it was gradually surpassed in size by the nearby city of Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

. The story of the passing of the "me"
Me (mythology)
In Sumerian mythology, a me or ñe or parşu is one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible...

 (gifts of civilisation) to Innana, Goddess of Uruk and of Love and War, by Enki
Enki
Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians...

, God of Wisdom and chief God of Eridu, may reflect this shift in hegemony. It appears that this early culture was an amalgam of three distinct cultural influences: peasant farmers, living in wattle and daub or clay brick houses and practicing irrigation agriculture, hunter-fishermen living in woven reed houses and living on floating islands in the marshes (Proto-Sumerians), and Proto-Akkadian nomadic pastoralists, living in black tents.

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
Potter's wheel
In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in asma of round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during process of trimming the excess body from dried ware and for applying incised decoration or rings of color...

 to a great variety of unpainted pottery mass-produced by specialists on fast wheels.

By the time of the Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

 period (ca. 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
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

, 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
Taurus Mountains
Taurus Mountains are a mountain complex in southern Turkey, dividing the Mediterranean coastal region of southern Turkey from the central Anatolian Plateau. The system extends along a curve from Lake Eğirdir in the west to the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the east...

 in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, to the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 in the west, and as far east as Central Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

.

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.

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. It is quite possible that the later Sumerian pantheon
Pantheon (gods)
A pantheon is a set of all the gods of a particular polytheistic religion or mythology.Max Weber's 1922 opus, Economy and Society discusses the link between a...

 was modeled upon this political structure. There was little evidence of institutionalized violence or professional soldiers during the Uruk period, and towns were generally unwalled. During this period Uruk became the most urbanised city in the world, surpassing for the first time 50,000 inhabitants.
The ancient Sumerian king list
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

 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
Alulim
Alulim was the first king of Eridu, and the first king of Sumer, according to the Sumerian King List, presumably making him the first recorded king in the world...

 and Dumizid
Dumuzid, the Shepherd
Dumuzid or Dumuzi, called "the Shepherd", from Bad-tibira in Sumer, was, according to the Sumerian King List, the fifth predynastic king in the legendary period before the Deluge. The list further states that Dumuzid ruled for 36,000 years....

.

The end of the Uruk period coincided with the Piora oscillation
Piora Oscillation
The Piora Oscillation was an abrupt cold and wet period in the climate history of the Holocene Epoch; it is generally dated to the period of c. 3200 to 2900 BCE...

, 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
Holocene climatic optimum
The Holocene Climate Optimum was a warm period during roughly the interval 9,000 to 5,000 years B.P.. This event has also been known by many other names, including: Hypsithermal, Altithermal, Climatic Optimum, Holocene Optimum, Holocene Thermal Maximum, and Holocene Megathermal.This warm period...

.

Early Dynastic Period


The Dynastic period begins ca. 2900 BC and includes such legendary figures as Enmerkar
Enmerkar
Enmerkar, according to the Sumerian king list, was the builder of Uruk in Sumer, and was said to have reigned for "420 years" ....

 and Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, modern day Iraq , placing his reign ca. 2500 BC. According to the Sumerian king list he reigned for 126 years. In the Tummal Inscription, Gilgamesh, and his son Urlugal, rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil, in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of...

—who are supposed to have reigned shortly before the historic record opens ca. 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
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

 whose name is known from any other legendary source is Etana
Etana
Etana was an ancient, legendary Sumerian king of the city of Kish, and was, according to the Sumerian king list, one of the kings who reigned after the deluge. He is listed as the successor of Arwium, the son of Mashda, as king of Kish...

, 13th king of the first Dynasty of Kish. The earliest king authenticated through archaeological evidence is Enmebaragesi
Enmebaragesi
Enmebaragesi was a king of Kish, according to the Sumerian king list. The list states that he subdued Elam, reigned 900 years, and was captured single-handedly by Dumuzid "the fisherman" of Kuara, predecessor of Gilgamesh.He is the earliest ruler on the king list whose name is attested directly...

 of Kish (ca. 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 violence. Cities became walled, and increased in size as undefended villages in southern Mesopotamia disappeared. (Gilgamesh is credited with having built the walls of Uruk).

1st Dynasty of Lagash




ca. 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
Eannatum
Eannatum was a Sumerian king of Lagash who established one of the first verifiable empires in history. One inscription of his, found on a boulder, states that Eannatum was his Sumerian name, while his "Tidnu" name was Lumma.-Conquest of Sumer:...

 of Lagash, who annexed practically all of Sumer, including Kish
Kish (Sumer)
Kish is modern Tell al-Uhaymir , and was an ancient city of Sumer. Kish is located some 12 km east of Babylon, and 80 km south of Baghdad ....

, Uruk
Uruk
Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, on the ancient dry former channel of the Euphrates River, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.Uruk gave its name to the Uruk...

, Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, and Larsa
Larsa
Larsa was an important city of ancient Sumer, the center of the cult of the sun god Utu. It lies some 25 km southeast of Uruk in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate, near the east bank of the Shatt-en-Nil canal at the site of the modern settlement Tell as-Senkereh or Sankarah.-History:According to...

, and reduced to tribute the city-state of Umma
Umma
Umma was an ancient city in Sumer. Note that there is some scholarly debateabout the Sumerian and Akkadian names for this site.-History:...

, arch-rival of Lagash. In addition, his realm extended to parts of Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

 and along the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

. He seems to have used terror as a matter of policy—his Stele of the Vultures has been found, showing violent treatment of enemies. His empire collapsed shortly after his death. He is notable for the policy of having deliberately introduced the use of "terror" as a weapon against his enemies.

Later, Lugal-Zage-Si
Lugal-Zage-Si
Lugal-Zage-Si of Umma was the last Sumerian king before the conquest of Sumer by Sargon of Akkad and the rise of the Akkadian Empire, and was considered as the only king of the third dynasty of Uruk...

, 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 the arrival of the Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 king, Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great "the Great King" , was an Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC. The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned in the last quarter of the third millennium BC...

.

Akkadian Empire



ca. 2270–2083 BC (short chronology
Chronology of the ancient Near East
The chronology of the Ancient Near East provides a framework of dates for various events, rulers and dynasties. Individual inscriptions and texts customarily record events in terms of a succession of officials or rulers, taking forms like "in the year X of king Y". Thus by piecing together many...

)

The Semitic Akkadian language
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 is first attested in proper names of the kings of Kish ca. 2800 BC, preserved in later king lists. There are texts written entirely in Old Akkadian dating from ca. 2500 BC. Use of Old Akkadian was at its peak during the rule of Sargon the Great (ca. 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. Speakers of Akkadian and Sumerian coexisted for about one thousand years, until ca. 1800 BC, when Sumerian ceased to be spoken. Thorkild Jacobsen
Thorkild Jacobsen
Thorkild Jacobsen was a renowned historian specializing in Assyriology and Sumerian literature.He was one of the foremost scholars on the ancient Near East.-Biography:...

 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. However, it is certain that Akkadian was also briefly imposed on neighboring parts of Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

 that were conquered by Sargon.

Gutian period



ca. 2083–2050 BC (short chronology
Chronology of the ancient Near East
The chronology of the Ancient Near East provides a framework of dates for various events, rulers and dynasties. Individual inscriptions and texts customarily record events in terms of a succession of officials or rulers, taking forms like "in the year X of king Y". Thus by piecing together many...

)

2nd Dynasty of Lagash


ca. 2093–2046 BC (short chronology
Chronology of the ancient Near East
The chronology of the Ancient Near East provides a framework of dates for various events, rulers and dynasties. Individual inscriptions and texts customarily record events in terms of a succession of officials or rulers, taking forms like "in the year X of king Y". Thus by piecing together many...

)

Following the downfall of the Akkadian Empire at the hands of Gutians, another native Sumerian ruler, Gudea
Gudea
Gudea was a ruler of the state of Lagash in Southern Mesopotamia who ruled ca. 2144 - 2124 BC. He probably did not come from the city, but had married Ninalla, daughter of the ruler Urbaba of Lagash, thus gaining entrance to the royal house of Lagash...

 of Lagash
Lagash
Lagash is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East...

, rose to local prominence and continued the practices of the Sargonid kings' claims to divinity. Like the previous Lagash dynasty, Gudea and his descendents also promoted artistic development and left a large number of archaeological artifacts. After the fall of their empire, the Akkadians themselves essentially coalesced into two states; Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 in the south and Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 in the north of Mesopotamia.

Sumerian Renaissance




ca. 2047–1940 BC (short chronology
Chronology of the ancient Near East
The chronology of the Ancient Near East provides a framework of dates for various events, rulers and dynasties. Individual inscriptions and texts customarily record events in terms of a succession of officials or rulers, taking forms like "in the year X of king Y". Thus by piecing together many...

)

Later, the 3rd dynasty of Ur
Third Dynasty of Ur
The Third Dynasty of Ur, also known as the Neo-Sumerian Empire or the Ur III Empire refers simultaneously to a 21st to 20th century BC Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state that some historians regard as a nascent empire...

 under Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu founded the Sumerian 3rd dynasty of Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, following several centuries of Akkadian and Gutian rule...

 and Shulgi
Shulgi
Shulgi of Urim was the second king of the "Sumerian Renaissance". He reigned for 48 years, dated to 2029 BCE–1982 BCE...

, whose power extended as far as northern Mesopotamia, was the last great "Sumerian renaissance", but already the region was becoming more Semitic than Sumerian, with the rise in power of the Akkadian speaking Semites and the influx of waves of Semitic Martu (Amorites) who were later to found the Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n Empire. The Sumerian language, however, remained a sacerdotal language taught in schools in Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 and Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, in the same way that Latin was used in the Medieval period, for as long as cuneiform was utilised.

Decline


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 Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

ian and Ur III phases, there was a shift from the cultivation of wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 to the more salt-tolerant barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, 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. This greatly weakened 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
Literary language
A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

 and liturgical
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 language, similar to the position occupied by Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 in medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Europe.

Following an Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

ite invasion and sack of Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

 during the rule of Ibbi-Sin
Ibbi-Sin
Ibbi-Sin, son of Shu-Sin, was king of Sumer and Akkad and last king of the Ur III dynasty, and reigned circa 1963 BC-1940 BC . During his reign, the Sumerian empire was attacked repeatedly by Amorites...

 (ca. 1940 BC), Sumer came under Amorite 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
Sumerian king list
The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

, ending with the rise of Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

 under Hammurabi
Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

 ca. 1700 BCE.

During the third millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

ians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influence of Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 on Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

.

Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate), but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia (Babylonia and Assyria) until the 1st century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

.

Population



In spite of the importance of this region, genetic studies on the Sumerians are limited and generally restricted to analysis of classical markers due to Iraq's modern political instability. It has been found that Y-DNA Haplogroup J2
Haplogroup J2 (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup J2 is a Y-chromosome haplogroup which is a subdivision of haplogroup J. It is further divided into two complementary clades, J2a-M410 and J2b-M12.-Origins:...

 originated in Northern Mesopotamia.
The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, and spoke a "language isolate"; a number of linguists believed they could detect a substrate language beneath Sumerian, names of some of Sumer's major cities are not Sumerian, revealing influences of earlier inhabitants. However, the archaeological record
Archaeological record
The archaeological record is the body of physical evidence about the past. It is one of the most basic concepts in archaeology, the academic discipline concerned with documenting and interpreting the archaeological record....

 shows clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period
Ubaid period
The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern...

 (5300 – 4700 BC C-14
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

) settlements in southern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 and the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 rivers.

It is speculated by some archaeologists that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigation agriculture there [note there is no consensus among scholars on the origins of the Sumerians]. The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected via Choga Mami
Choga Mami
Choga Mami is a Samarra ware archaeological site of Southern Iraq which shows the first canal irrigation in operation at about 6000 BC. It is no longer clear which way cultural developments were flowing in the 6500 to 4500 BC period .-References:...

 Transitional ware to the pottery of the Samarra
Samarra
Sāmarrā is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Salah ad-Din Governorate, north of Baghdad and, in 2003, had an estimated population of 348,700....

 period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC C-14
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

) 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
Larsa
Larsa was an important city of ancient Sumer, the center of the cult of the sun god Utu. It lies some 25 km southeast of Uruk in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate, near the east bank of the Shatt-en-Nil canal at the site of the modern settlement Tell as-Senkereh or Sankarah.-History:According to...

, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where 8 levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware. 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 Arabian bifacial assemblages found on the Arabian litorial. The Sumerians themselves claimed kinship with the people of Dilmun
Dilmun
Dilmun or Telmun is a land mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations as a trade partner, a source of the metal copper, and an entrepôt of the Mesopotamia-to-Indus Valley Civilization trade route...

, associated with Bahrein in the Persian Gulf. Juris Yarins has suggested that they may have been the people living in the region of the Persian Gulf before it flooded at the end of the Ice Age.

Social and family life



In the early Sumerian period (i.e. Uruk), the primitive pictograms suggest that
  • "Pottery
    Pottery
    Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of 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, and one form of vase had a spout protruding from its side. 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, and baskets were woven of reeds or formed of leather."
  • "A feathered head-dress was worn on the head. Beds, stools and chairs were used, with carved legs resembling those of an ox. There were fire-places and fire-altars, and apparently chimneys also."
  • "Knives, drills, wedges and an instrument which 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, and copper, gold and silver were worked by the smith. 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 much evidence that the Sumerians loved music. It seemed to be an important part of religious and civic life in Sumer. Lyres were popular in Sumer; see Sumerian music.

Inscriptions describing the reforms of king Urukagina
Urukagina
Urukagina , alternately rendered as Uruinimgina or Irikagina, was a ruler of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia...

 of Lagash
Lagash
Lagash is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East...

 (ca. 2300 BC) say that he abolished the former custom of polyandry in his country, by which a woman who took multiple husbands was stoned with rocks upon which her crime had been written.

Though women were protected by late Sumerian law
Cuneiform Law
Cuneiform law refers to any of the legal codes written in cuneiform script, that were developed and used throughout the ancient Middle East among the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Elamites, Hurrians, Kassites, and Hittites...

 and were able to achieve a higher status in Sumer than in other contemporary civilizations, the culture was male-dominated. The Code of Ur-Nammu
Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language circa 2100 BC-2050 BC...

, the oldest such codification yet discovered, dating to the Ur-III "Sumerian Renaissance", 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) who could remarry.

Language and writing



The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s written in Cuneiform. Sumerian writing is the oldest example of writing on earth. Although pictures - that is, hieroglyphs
Hieroglyphs
Hieroglyph or hieroglyphics may refer to:*Anatolian hieroglyphs*Chinese character*Cretan hieroglyphs*Cursive hieroglyphs*Dongba script*Egyptian hieroglyphs*Hieroglyphic Luwian*Mayan hieroglyphs...

 were first used, symbols were later made to represent syllables. Triangular or wedge-shaped reeds were used to write on moist clay. This is called cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

. A large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language have survived, such as personal or business letters, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns, prayers, stories, daily records, and even libraries full of clay tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s. 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 the ruling race.
The Sumerian language is generally regarded as a language isolate
Language isolate
A language isolate, in the absolute sense, is a natural language with no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages; that is, one that has not been demonstrated to descend from an ancestor common with any other language. They are in effect language families consisting of a single...

 in linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 because it belongs to no known language family; Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

, by contrast belongs to the Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

. There have been many failed attempts to connect Sumerian to other language groups
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

. It is an agglutinative language
Agglutinative language
An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view...

; in other words, morpheme
Morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

s ("units of meaning") are added together to create words, unlike analytic languages where morphemes are purely added together to create sentences.

Understanding Sumerian texts today can be problematic even for experts. Most difficult are the earliest texts, which in many cases do not give the full grammatical structure of the language.

During the third millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

, they developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkad
Akkad
The Akkadian Empire was an empire centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region in Mesopotamia....

ians, which included widespread bilingualism. The influence of Sumerian
Sumerian language
Sumerian is the language of ancient Sumer, which was spoken in southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism...

 on Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund
Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

.

Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate), but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

 and Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 until the 1st century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

.

Religion


There was no organized set of gods; each city-state had its own patrons, temples, and priest-kings. The Sumerians were probably the first to write down their beliefs, which were the inspiration for much of later Mesopotamian mythology, religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, and astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

.

The Sumerians worshipped:
  • Anu
    Anu
    In Sumerian mythology, Anu was a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, Consort of Antu, spirits and demons, and dwelt in the highest heavenly regions. It was believed that he had the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and that he had created the stars as...

     as the full time god, equivalent to "heaven" - indeed, the word "an" in Sumerian means "sky" and his consort Ki
    Ki (goddess)
    Cuneiform KI is the sign for "earth". It is also read as GI5, GUNNI "hearth", KARAŠ "encampment, army", KISLAḪ "threshing floor" or steath, and SUR7...

    , means "Earth".
  • Enki
    Enki
    Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians...

     in the south at the temple in Eridu
    Eridu
    Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

    . Enki was the god of beneficence, 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
    Enlil
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.-Early life:Members...

    , lord of the ghost-land, in the north at the temple of Nippur
    Nippur
    Nippur was one of the most ancient of all the Sumerian cities. It was the special seat of the worship of the Sumerian god Enlil, the "Lord Wind," ruler of the cosmos subject to An alone...

    . His gifts to mankind were said to be the spells and incantations that the spirits of good or evil were compelled to obey,
  • Inanna
    Inanna
    Inanna, also spelled Inana is the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare....

    , the deification of Venus, the morning (eastern) and evening (western) star, at the temple (shared with An) at Uruk.
  • The sun-god Utu
    Utu
    Utu is the Sun god in Sumerian mythology, the son of the moon god Nanna and the goddess Ningal. His brother and sisters are Ishkur and Inanna and Erishkigal....

     at Ur
    Ur
    Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

    ,
  • The moon god Nanna at Sippar
    Sippar
    Sippar was an ancient Near Eastern city on the east bank of the Euphrates river, located at the site of modern Tell Abu Habbah in Iraq's Babil Governorate, some 60 km north of Babylon and 30 km southeast of Baghdad....

    .


These deities were probably the original matrix; there were hundreds of minor deities
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

. The Sumerian god
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

s thus had 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. If the temples/gods ruled each city it was for their mutual survival and benefit—the temples organized the mass labor projects needed for irrigation agriculture. Citizens had a labor duty to the temple which they were allowed to avoid by a payment of silver only towards the end of the third millennium. The temple-centered farming communities of Sumer had a social stability that enabled them to survive for four millennia.

Sumerians believed that the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 consisted of a flat disk enclosed by a tin dome
Dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

. The Sumerian afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 involved a descent into a gloomy netherworld to spend eternity in a wretched existence
Existence
In common usage, existence is the world we are aware of through our senses, and that persists independently without them. In academic philosophy the word has a more specialized meaning, being contrasted with essence, which specifies different forms of existence as well as different identity...

 as a Gidim (ghost).

Ziggurat
Ziggurat
Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

s (Sumerian temples) consisted of a forecourt, with a central pond for purification. The temple itself had a central nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 with aisles along either side. Flanking the aisles would be rooms for the priests. At one end would stand the podium
Podium
A podium is a platform that is used to raise something to a short distance above its surroundings. It derives from the Greek πόδι In architecture a building can rest on a large podium. Podia can also be used to raise people, for instance the conductor of an orchestra stands on a podium as do many...

 and a mudbrick
Mudbrick
A mudbrick is a firefree brick, made of a mixture of clay, mud, sand, and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. They use a stiff mixture and let them dry in the sun for 25 days....

 table for animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

 and vegetable
Vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

 sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

s. 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 later Ziggurat style.

Agriculture and hunting


By 5000 BC the Sumerians had developed core agricultural techniques including large-scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping
Mono-cropping
Monocropping is the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence rotation through other crops...

, organized irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

, and the use of a specialized labour force, particularly along the waterway now known as the Shatt al-Arab, from its Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 delta to the confluence of the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 and Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

. The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population to settle
Sedentism
In evolutionary anthropology and archaeology, sedentism , is a term applied to the transition from nomadic to permanent, year-round settlement.- Requirements for permanent settlements :...

 in one place instead of migrating after crops and grazing land. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labor force and division of labor. This organization led to the development of writing
History of writing
The history of writing records the development of expressing language by letters or other marks. In the history of how systems of representation of language through graphic means have evolved in different human civilizations, more complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, systems of...

 (ca. 3500 BC).

The Sumerians adopted an agricultural mode of life. In the early Sumerian period (i.e. Uruk), the primitive pictograms suggest that "The sheep, goat, ox and probably ass had been domesticated, the ox being used for draught, and woollen clothing as well as rugs were made from the wool or hair of the two first. ... 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."

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

They grew barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, chickpea
Chickpea
The chickpea is a legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae...

s, lentil
Lentil
The lentil is an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds...

s, wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

, dates, onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s, garlic
Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

, lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important...

, leeks and mustard
Mustard plant
Mustards are several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis whose small mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into the condiment known as mustard or prepared mustard...

. They also raised cattle, sheep, goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

s, and pig
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

s. They used ox
Ox
An ox , also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable...

en as their primary beasts of burden and donkey
Donkey
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E...

s or equids as their primary transport animal. Sumerians caught many fish and hunted fowl
Fowl
Fowl is a word for birds in general but usually refers to birds belonging to one of two biological orders, namely the gamefowl or landfowl and the waterfowl...

 and gazelle
Gazelle
A gazelle is any of many antelope species in the genus Gazella, or formerly considered to belong to it. Six species are included in two genera, Eudorcas and Nanger, which were formerly considered subgenera...

.

Sumerian agriculture depended heavily on irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

. The irrigation was accomplished by the use of shadufs, canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s, channels
Channel (geography)
In physical geography, a channel is the physical confine of a river, slough or ocean strait consisting of a bed and banks.A channel is also the natural or human-made deeper course through a reef, sand bar, bay, or any shallow body of water...

, dykes, weir
Weir
A weir is a small overflow dam used to alter the flow characteristics of a river or stream. In most cases weirs take the form of a barrier across the river that causes water to pool behind the structure , but allows water to flow over the top...

s, and reservoirs. The frequent violent floods of the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

, and less so, of the Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

, meant that canals required frequent repair and continual removal of silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

, and survey markers and boundary stones continually replaced. The government required individuals to work on the canals in a corvee
Corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

, although the rich were able to exempt themselves.

After the flood season and after the Spring Equinox and the Akitu
Akitu
Akitu was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia....

 or New Year Festival, using the canals, farmers would flood their fields and then drain the water. Next they let oxen stomp the ground and kill weeds. They then dragged the fields with pickaxe
Pickaxe
A pickaxe or pick is a hand tool with a hard head attached perpendicular to the handle.Some people make the distinction that a pickaxe has a head with a pointed end and a flat end, and a pick has both ends pointed, or only one end; but most people use the words to mean the same thing.The head is...

s. After drying, they plowed, harrowed
Harrow (tool)
In agriculture, a harrow is an implement for breaking up and smoothing out the surface of the soil. In this way it is distinct in its effect from the plough, which is used for deeper tillage. Harrowing is often carried out on fields to follow the rough finish left by ploughing operations...

, and raked
Rake (tool)
A rake is a broom for outside; an horticultural implement consisting of a toothed bar fixed transversely to a handle, and used to collect leaves, hay, grass, etc., and, in gardening, for loosening the soil, light weeding and levelling, removing dead grass from...

 the ground three times, and pulverized it with a mattock
Mattock
A mattock is a versatile hand tool, used for digging and chopping, similar to the pickaxe. It has a long handle, and a stout head, which combines an axe blade and an adze or a pick and an adze .-Description:...

, 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
Spring (season)
Spring is one of the four temperate seasons, the transition period between winter and summer. Spring and "springtime" refer to the season, and broadly to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth. The specific definition of the exact timing of "spring" varies according to local climate, cultures and...

 in three-person teams consisting of a reaper
Reaper
A reaper is a person or machine that reaps crops at harvest, when they are ripe.-Hand reaping:Hand reaping is done by various means, including plucking the ears of grains directly by hand, cutting the grain stalks with a sickle, cutting them with a scythe, or with a later type of scythe called a...

, a binder
Binder
The reaper-binder, or binder, was a farm implement that improved upon the reaper. The binder was invented in 1872 by Charles Withington. In addition to cutting the small-grain crop, it would also tie the stems into small bundles, or sheaves...

, and a sheaf handler. The farmers would use threshing wagons to separate the cereal
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

 heads from the stalks and then use threshing sleds to disengage the grain. They then winnowed the grain/chaff mixture.

Architecture



The Tigris-Euphrates plain lacked minerals and trees. Sumerian structures were made of plano-convex mudbrick
Mudbrick
A mudbrick is a firefree brick, made of a mixture of clay, mud, sand, and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. They use a stiff mixture and let them dry in the sun for 25 days....

, not fixed with mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

 or cement
Cement
In the most general sense of the word, a cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together. The word "cement" traces to the Romans, who used the term opus caementicium to describe masonry resembling modern concrete that was made from crushed...

. 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 tell
Tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

s, are found throughout the ancient Near East.

According to Archibald Sayce
Archibald Sayce
The Rev. Archibald Henry Sayce , was a pioneer British Assyriologist and linguist, who held a chair as Professor of Assyriology at the University of Oxford from 1891 to 1919.- Life :...

, 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."

The most impressive and famous of Sumerian buildings are the ziggurat
Ziggurat
Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

s, large layered platforms which supported temples. Some scholars have theorized that these structures might have been the basis of the Tower of Babel
Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel , according to the Book of Genesis, was an enormous tower built in the plain of Shinar .According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar, where...

 described in Genesis. Sumerian cylinder
Cylinder seal
A cylinder seal is a cylinder engraved with a 'picture story', used in ancient times to roll an impression onto a two-dimensional surface, generally wet clay. Cylinder seals were invented around 3500 BC in the Near East, at the contemporary site of Susa in south-western Iran and at the early site...

 seal
Seal (device)
A seal can be a figure impressed in wax, clay, or some other medium, or embossed on paper, with the purpose of authenticating a document ; but the term can also mean the device for making such impressions, being essentially a mould with the mirror image of the design carved in sunken- relief or...

s also depict houses built from reeds not unlike those built by the Marsh Arabs
Marsh Arabs
The Marsh Arabs , also known as the Maʻdān , are inhabitants of the Tigris-Euphrates marshlands in the south and east of Iraq and along the Iranian border....

 of Southern Iraq until as recently as 400 AD. The Sumerians also developed the arch, which enabled them to develop a strong type of roof called a dome. They built this by constructing several arches.

Sumerian temples and palaces made use of more advanced materials and techniques, such as buttress
Buttress
A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall...

es, recesses
Alcove
Alcove , a vault) is an architectural term for a recess in a room, usually screened off by pillars, balustrades or drapery.In geography and geology, the term Alcove is used for a wind-eroded depression in the side of a cliff of a homogenous rock type, famous from sandstones of the Colorado Plateau...

, half column
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s, and clay nail
Clay nail
Used by Sumerians and other Mesopotamian cultures beginning in the third millennium BC, clay nails, also referred to as dedication or foundation nails, were inscribed with cuneiform and embedded into walls to serve as evidence that the temple or building was the divine property of the god to whom...

s.

Mathematics



The Sumerians developed a complex system of metrology
Metrology
Metrology is the science of measurement. Metrology includes all theoretical and practical aspects of measurement. The word comes from Greek μέτρον , "measure" + "λόγος" , amongst others meaning "speech, oration, discourse, quote, study, calculation, reason"...

 c. 4000 BC. This metrology advanced resulting in the creation of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. From 2600 BC onwards, the Sumerians wrote multiplication table
Multiplication table
In mathematics, a multiplication table is a mathematical table used to define a multiplication operation for an algebraic system....

s on clay tablets and dealt with geometrical
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

 exercises and division
Division (mathematics)
right|thumb|200px|20 \div 4=5In mathematics, especially in elementary arithmetic, division is an arithmetic operation.Specifically, if c times b equals a, written:c \times b = a\,...

 problems. The earliest traces of the Babylonian numerals
Babylonian numerals
Babylonian numerals were written in cuneiform, using a wedge-tipped reed stylus to make a mark on a soft clay tablet which would be exposed in the sun to harden to create a permanent record....

 also date back to this period. The period 2700–2300 BC saw the first appearance of the abacus
Abacus
The abacus, also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool used primarily in parts of Asia for performing arithmetic processes. Today, abaci are often constructed as a bamboo frame with beads sliding on wires, but originally they were beans or stones moved in grooves in sand or on tablets of...

, and a table of successive columns which delimited the successive orders of magnitude of their sexagesimal number system. 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.http://books.google.com/books?id=BKRE5AjRM3AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=sherlock+holmes+in+babylon&sig=ACfU3U2XZtiWSoTgchQhcKHQD95X3F-35Q#PPA7,M1

Economy and trade


Discoveries of obsidian
Obsidian
Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth...

 from far-away locations in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 and lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

 from Badakhshan
Badakhshan
Badakhshan is an historic region comprising parts of what is now northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan. The name is retained in Badakhshan Province which is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, in the far northeast of Afghanistan, and contains the Wakhan Corridor...

 in northeastern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, beads from Dilmun
Dilmun
Dilmun or Telmun is a land mentioned by Mesopotamian civilizations as a trade partner, a source of the metal copper, and an entrepôt of the Mesopotamia-to-Indus Valley Civilization trade route...

 (modern Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

), and several seals inscribed with the Indus Valley
Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that was located in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of what is now mainly modern-day Pakistan and northwest India...

 script
Indus script
The term Indus script refers to short strings of symbols associated with the Indus Valley Civilization, in use during the Early Harappan and Mature Harappan period, between the 35th and 20th centuries BC. In spite of many attempts at decipherments and claims, it is as yet undeciphered...

 suggest a remarkably wide-ranging network of ancient trade centered around the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

.

The Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

 refers to trade with FAR lands for goods such as wood that were scarce in Mesopotamia. In particular, cedar from Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 was prized.

The finding of resin in the tomb of Queen Puabi
Puabi
Puabi , also called Shubad in Sumerian, was an important person in the Sumerian city of Ur, during the First Dynasty of Ur . Commonly labeled as a "queen", her status is somewhat in dispute. Several cylinder seals in her tomb identify her by the title "nin" or "eresh", a Sumerian word which can...

 at Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, was traded from as far away as Mozambique
Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

.

The Sumerians used slaves, although they were not a major part of the economy. Slave women worked as weavers
Weaving
Weaving is a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. The other methods are knitting, lace making and felting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling...

, pressers, miller
Miller
A miller usually refers to a person who operates a mill, a machine to grind a cereal crop to make flour. Milling is among the oldest of human occupations. "Miller", "Milne" and other variants are common surnames, as are their equivalents in other languages around the world...

s, and porters.

Sumerian potters
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 decorated pots with cedar oil
Cedar oil
Cedar oil, also known as cedarwood oil, is an essential oil derived from the foliage, and sometimes the wood and roots, of various types of conifers, most in the pine or cypress botanical families...

 paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

s. The potters used a bow drill
Bow drill
The bow drill is an ancient tool. While it was usually used to make fire, it was also used for primitive woodworking and dentistry. It consists of a bearing block or handhold, a spindle or drill, a hearth or fireboard, and a simple bow...

 to produce the fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

 needed for baking the pottery. Sumerian masons
Masonry
Masonry is the building of structures from individual units laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone, marble, granite, travertine, limestone; concrete block, glass block, stucco, and...

 and jewelers knew and made use of alabaster
Alabaster
Alabaster is a name applied to varieties of two distinct minerals, when used as a material: gypsum and calcite . The former is the alabaster of the present day; generally, the latter is the alabaster of the ancients...

 (calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

), ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

, iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, carnelian
Carnelian
Carnelian is a brownish-red mineral which is commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone. Similar to carnelian is sard, which is generally harder and darker...

, and lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

.

Military



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. The first war recorded was between Lagash and Umma in ca. 2525 BC on a stele called the Stele of Vultures. It shows the king of Lagash leading a Sumerian army consisting mostly of infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. The infantrymen carried spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

s, wore copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 helmet
Helmet
A helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head to protect it from injuries.Ceremonial or symbolic helmets without protective function are sometimes used. The oldest known use of helmets was by Assyrian soldiers in 900BC, who wore thick leather or bronze helmets to protect the head from...

s and carried leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 or wicker
Wicker
Wicker is hard woven fiber formed into a rigid material, usually used for baskets or furniture. Wicker is often made of material of plant origin, but plastic fibers are also used....

 shield
Shield
A shield is a type of personal armor, meant to intercept attacks, either by stopping projectiles such as arrows or redirecting a hit from a sword, mace or battle axe to the side of the shield-bearer....

s. The spearmen are shown arranged in what resembles the phalanx formation
Phalanx formation
The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar weapons...

, which requires training and discipline; this implies that the Sumerians may have made use of professional
Professional
A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee. The traditional professions were doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and commissioned military officers. Today, the term is applied to estate agents, surveyors , environmental scientists,...

 soldiers.

The Sumerian military used carts harnessed to onager
Onager
The Onager is a large member of the genus Equus of the family Equidae native to the deserts of Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel and Tibet...

s. These early chariot
Chariot
The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

s 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 lance
Lance
A Lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. The lance is longer, stout and heavier than an infantry spear, and unsuited for throwing, or for rapid thrusting. Lances did not have tips designed to intentionally break off or bend, unlike many throwing weapons of the...

s. The Sumerian chariot comprised a four or two-wheel
Wheel
A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

ed device manned by a crew of two and harnessed to four onagers. The cart was composed of a woven basket
Basket
A basket is a container which is traditionally constructed from stiff fibres, which can be made from a range of materials, including wood splints, runners, and cane. While most baskets are made from plant materials, other materials such as horsehair, baleen, or metal wire can be used. Baskets are...

 and the wheels had a solid three-piece design.

Sumerian cities were surrounded by defensive walls. The Sumerians engaged in siege warfare
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

 between their cities, but the mudbrick
Mudbrick
A mudbrick is a firefree brick, made of a mixture of clay, mud, sand, and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. They use a stiff mixture and let them dry in the sun for 25 days....

 walls were able to deter some foes.

Technology


Examples of Sumerian technology include: the wheel
Wheel
A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

, cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

, arithmetic
Arithmetic
Arithmetic or arithmetics is the oldest and most elementary branch of mathematics, used by almost everyone, for tasks ranging from simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations. It involves the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers...

 and geometry
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

, irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 systems, Sumerian boats, lunisolar calendar
Lunisolar calendar
A lunisolar calendar is a calendar in many cultures whose date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. If the solar year is defined as a tropical year then a lunisolar calendar will give an indication of the season; if it is taken as a sidereal year then the calendar will...

, bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

, leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

, saw
Saw
A saw is a tool that uses a hard blade or wire with an abrasive edge to cut through softer materials. The cutting edge of a saw is either a serrated blade or an abrasive...

s, chisel
Chisel
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

s, hammer
Hammer
A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. The most common uses are for driving nails, fitting parts, forging metal and breaking up objects. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features are a handle and a head,...

s, brace
Brace (tool)
A brace or brace and bit is a hand tool used to drill holes, usually in wood. Pressure is applied to the top and the tool is rotated with a U-shaped grip....

s, bit
Bit (horse)
A bit is a type of horse tack used in equestrian activities, usually made of metal or a synthetic material, and is placed in the mouth of a horse or other equid and assists a rider in communicating with the animal. It rests on the bars of the mouth in an interdental region where there are no teeth...

s, nail
Nail (engineering)
In woodworking and construction, a nail is a pin-shaped, sharp object of hard metal or alloy used as a fastener. Formerly wrought iron, today's nails are typically made of steel, often dipped or coated to prevent corrosion in harsh conditions or improve adhesion...

s, pin
Pin
A pin is a device used for fastening objects or material together.Pin may also refer to:* Award pin, a small piece of metal or plastic with a pin attached given as an award for some achievement...

s, rings, hoe
Hoe (tool)
A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural tool used to move small amounts of soil. Common goals include weed control by agitating the surface of the soil around plants, piling soil around the base of plants , creating narrow furrows and shallow trenches for planting seeds and bulbs, to chop...

s, axe
Axe
The axe, or ax, is an implement that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood; to harvest timber; as a weapon; and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol...

s, knives
Knife
A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

, lance
Lance
A Lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. The lance is longer, stout and heavier than an infantry spear, and unsuited for throwing, or for rapid thrusting. Lances did not have tips designed to intentionally break off or bend, unlike many throwing weapons of the...

points, arrowheads, sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

s, glue
Adhesive
An adhesive, or glue, is a mixture in a liquid or semi-liquid state that adheres or bonds items together. Adhesives may come from either natural or synthetic sources. The types of materials that can be bonded are vast but they are especially useful for bonding thin materials...

, dagger
Dagger
A dagger is a fighting knife with a sharp point designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. The design dates to human prehistory, and daggers have been used throughout human experience to the modern day in close combat confrontations...

s, waterskin
Waterskin
A waterskin is a receptacle used to hold water. Normally made of a sheep or cow bladder, it retains water naturally and therefore was very useful in desert crossings up until the invention of the canteen. It is still used in some developing nations...

s, bags, harness
Horse harness
A horse harness is a type of horse tack that allows a horse or other equine to pull various horse-drawn vehicles such as a carriage, wagon or sleigh. Harnesses may also be used to hitch animals to other loads such as a plow or canal boat....

es, armor, quiver
Quiver
A quiver is a container for arrows. Quivers have been traditionally made of leather, bark, wood, furs and other natural materials; modern quivers are often made of metal and plastic....

s, war chariots, scabbard
Scabbard
A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.-Types of scabbards:...

s, boot
Boot
A boot is a type of footwear but they are not shoes. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle and extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece....

s, sandals
Sandal (footwear)
Sandals are an open type of outdoor footwear, consisting of a sole held to the wearer's foot by straps passing over the instep and, sometimes, around the ankle...

, harpoon
Harpoon
A harpoon is a long spear-like instrument used in fishing to catch fish or large marine mammals such as whales. It accomplishes this task by impaling the target animal, allowing the fishermen to use a rope or chain attached to the butt of the projectile to catch the animal...

s, and beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

.
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 wheel
Wheel
A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

ed vehicles appeared in the mid 4th millennium BCE, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia, the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe. The wheel
Wheel
A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

 initially took the form of the potter's wheel
Potter's wheel
In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in asma of round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during process of trimming the excess body from dried ware and for applying incised decoration or rings of color...

. The new concept quickly led to wheeled vehicles and mill wheels. The Sumerians' cuneiform writing system is the oldest which has been deciphered (the status of older inscriptions such as the Vinča signs and the even older Jiahu symbols
Jiahu symbols
Jiahu symbols refer to the 16 distinct markings on prehistoric artifacts found in Jiahu, a neolithic Peiligang culture site found in Henan, China, and excavated in 1999 C.E...

 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. They were also aware of the five planets that are visible to the naked eye.

They invented and developed arithmetic by using several different number systems including a mixed radix
Mixed radix
Mixed radix numeral systems are non-standard positional numeral systems in which the numerical base varies from position to position. Such numerical representation applies when a quantity is expressed using a sequence of units that are each a multiple of the next smaller one, but not by the same...

 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
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

, and archers
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

. 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 is now Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. 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 the age of intensive agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 and irrigation. Emmer wheat, barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, sheep (starting as mouflon
Mouflon
The mouflon is a subspecies group of the wild sheep Ovis aries. Populations of Ovis aries can be partitioned into the mouflons and urials or arkars...

), and cattle (starting as aurochs
Aurochs
The aurochs , the ancestor of domestic cattle, were a type of large wild cattle which inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa, but is now extinct; it survived in Europe until 1627....

) were foremost among the species cultivated and raised for the first time on a grand scale.

See also

  • History of Iraq
    History of Iraq
    Iraq, known in Classical Antiquity as Mesopotamia, was home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world, with a cultural history of over 10,000 years. hence its common epithet, the Cradle of Civilization. Mesopotamia, as part of the larger Fertile Crescent, was a significant part of the...

  • Akkadian Empire
  • Third Dynasty of Ur
    Third Dynasty of Ur
    The Third Dynasty of Ur, also known as the Neo-Sumerian Empire or the Ur III Empire refers simultaneously to a 21st to 20th century BC Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state that some historians regard as a nascent empire...

  • Elamite Empire
  • Sumerian king list
    Sumerian king list
    The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship...

  • History of writing numbers
  • Epic of Gilgamesh
    Epic of Gilgamesh
    Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

  • Ancient Mesopotamian units of measurement
    Ancient Mesopotamian units of measurement
    Ancient Mesopotamian units of measurement originated in the loosely organized city-states of Early Dynastic Sumer. The units themselves grew out of the tradition of counting tokens used by the Neolithic cultural complex of the Near East. The counting tokens were used to keep accounts of personal...

  • Sumerian Farmer's Almanac
    Sumerian Farmer's Almanac
    Sumerian Farmer's Almanac is the first farmer's almanac on record. The farmer's almanac is dated to around 1700 to 1500 BCE. It was discovered in 1949 by an American expedition in Iraq sponsored jointly by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the University Museum of the...

  • Ziggurat
    Ziggurat
    Ziggurats were massive structures built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels.Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq; the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near...

  • Babylon
    Babylon
    Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...


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. Edingurgh: 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
    Samuel Noah Kramer
    Samuel Noah Kramer was one of the world's leading Assyriologists and a world renowned expert in Sumerian history and Sumerian language.-Biography:...

    . Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium BC.
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah. The Sumerians : Their History, Culture, and Character.
  • 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
    Leonard Woolley
    Sir Charles Leonard Woolley was a British archaeologist best known for his excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia...

    . 1929. The Sumerians. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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