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Ancient Sumer History

Important Sumer City-States

ERIDU, KISH, URUK, UR, SIPPAR, NIPPUR, ADAB, UMMA, LAGASH, LARSA
ESHNUNNA, SHADUPPUM, ISIN, JEMDET NASR and SHURUPPAK

See Also Cities of Sumer by James Bell

Genesis 10:10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and
Erech and Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar (Sumer) ...

Genesis 11:2 And it came to pass as they journeyed
from the east that they found a plain in the
land of Shinar; and they dwelt there ...

Overview ... The Sumerians may have migrated from the East -- either ancient India or Iran -- and were unrelated on the basis of their language to the various groups speaking Semitic languages in the Ancient Near East (F) ... Sumer may very well be the first civilization in the world (although long term settlements at Jericho and Catal Hoyuk predate Sumer and examples of writing from Egypt may predate those from Sumer). From its beginnings as a collection of farming villages before 5000 BC through its conquest by Sargon (Sharrukin) of Agade (Akkad) around 2370 BC and its final collapse from the Amorite invasion around 2000 BC the Sumerians developed a religion and a society which influenced both their neighbors and their conquerers. Sumerian cuneform -- the earliest written language -- was borrowed by the Old Babylonian Kingdom which also took many of their religious beliefs (A) ...

Abstract ... Sumer was a collection of city-states around the Lower Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq. Each of these cities had individual rulers although as early as the mid fourth millenium BC the leader of the dominant city-state was considered to have been the king of the region (ibid) ... Although evidence for human presence exists in western Asia far back into paleolithic times the prehistory of southern Iraq is relatiely late in coming; there are no archaeological remains preceding the sixth millennium BC (1) ...

The history of Sumer tends to be divided into five periods. They are the Uruk Period -- which saw the dominance of the city-state of that same name -- the Jemdet Nasr Period -- the Early Dynastic Periods (2900-2370 BC) -- the Akkadian Period -- Ur III Period; the entire span lasting from circa 3800 to 2000 BC (A) ...

PreHistory

Ubaid Culture ... The earliest settlement of the southern alluvial flood plain in the late 6th millenium (G) was by a non-Semitic people called proto-Euphrateans (H) ... This prehistoric Ubaid Culture had a long duration beginning before 5000 BC and lasting until the beginning of the Uruk Period. In the mid-5th millennium BC the Ubaid Culture spread into northern Mesopotamia and replaced the Halaf Culture. It is characterised by large village settlements and the appearance of the first temples in Mesopotamia ... The Ubaid Culture developed as a result of increasing sophistication in irrigation techniques. Ubaid pottery was more austere in form and decoration than that of the Halaf ... Thus the distinctive types of pottery serve to delineate strigraphic layers and cultures as well. This culture is properly divided into two phases which both precede and are also regarded as proto-Ubaidian; the earlier Eridu and later Hajji Muhammed ...

The earliest known settlement in Sumer however has been excavated at the small site Tell (mound) Oueili. The lowest levels of this hamlet are earlier than the hitherto attested phases of the Ubaid Culture. The culture to which this Oueili Phase is linked is unknown but certain architectural similarities suggest a connection with the Hassunan Culture of Samarra (1) ... French excavations at Tell Oueili (J.-L. Huot) near Larsa have revealed a predecessor Ubaid 0 occupation which appears to be derived from the Samarran Culture (B 4 5) ... The Ubaid Period in Lower Mesopotamia was particularly critical because it immediately preceded urbanization (1) ...

Uruk: Ubaid II Period Temple Bricks (The Oriental Institute of Chicago)

The Uruk Period stretched from 3800 to 3200 BC. This time saw an enormous growth in urbanization with impressive structures and the earliest evidence of writing. Uruk probably had a population of around 45000 at the end of the period. Irrigation innovations as well as a supply of raw materials for craftsmen provided an impetus for this growth. In fact the city-state of Uruk also seems to have been at the heart of a trade network which stretched from southern Turkey to eastern Iran (A) ... It remained in occupation throughout the following two millennia until the Parthian Period at which time it was only a minor centre ...

The Jemdet Nasr Period lasted from 3200 to 2900 BC. This city-state gave its name to a distinctive wheel-turned painted pottery (K) ... The period represents the transition from prehistory to history and literate civilization [urban revolution] ... Occupation commences in the Ubaid Period (circa 4000 BC) and flourishes from 3400 to 2800 BC during the Late Uruk -- Jemdet Nasr -- Early Dynastic I Periods. This period was a time of retrenchment [anti-expansionism] and relative cultural isolation in southern Mesopotamia. In sum the material culture of Jemdet Nasr reflects the consolidation of administrative and social developments in the centuries following the invention of Proto-cuneiform writing in the Late Uruk Period in southern Mesopotamia. These developments were to underpin the spectacular achievements of Sumerian civilization in the succeeding Early Dynastic Period (1) ...

History

Early Dynastic Period (2900-2350) ... Sumer was divided between some thirty city-states each with a patron deity and a ruler generally called Ensi. They shared a set of religious beliefs that recognized the supremacy of the patron deity Enlil of Nippur -- the Sumerian religious centre. The history of this period is not widely known and the use by some historians of later literary narratives concerning earlier legendary rulers is questionable (Page 809 2) ...

For Another Historical View and Chronology See
For Instance: Old Sumerian Age by John Heise

EARLY DYNASTIC I (29002700 BC) ... The Sumerian King List names eight antediluvian kings who reigned for tens of thousands of years but it is not known if these names have any historical basis. The Royal Tombs of Ur contain the graves of Meskalamdug and Akalamdug -- among others -- which probably date to this period (L) ...

Gold Helmet of King Meskalamdug from the Royal Cemetery of Ur: LOST TREASURES FROM IRAQ (The Oriental Institute of Chicago) EARLY DYNASTIC II (27002600 BC) ... According to the King Lists the first dynasty after the Great Flood (recorded in the Gilgamesh Epic) was the 1st Dynasty of Kish. The last two kings -- Enmebaragesi and Agga -- are the first rulers attested in contemporary inscriptions. According to the King List kingship or Lugal then passed on to the 1st Dynasty of Uruk which included Enmerkar -- Lugalbanda -- Gilgamesh; heroes of epic tradition -- and then finally to the 1st Dynasty of Ur. Epigraphic evidence shows that these dynasties (and at Mari on the Middle Euphrates River) were all contemporary and date to circa 27002600 BC. Many rulers known from contemporary inscriptions are not found in the King Lists (ibid) ...

EARLY DYNASTIC III (26002334 BC) ... The King Lists record eleven more dynasties before Sargon of Akkad. Except for the 3rd Dynasty of Uruk little is known of them and many were probably contemporaneous. By 2500 BC the city-state of Kish seems to have established hegemony over Sumer. Thereafter the title King of Kish lent preeminence to the sovereigns of later city-states seeking their supremacy acknowledged (L and Page 809-10 2) ...

The 1st Dynasty of Lagash (Telloh) is well known from inscriptions though it is not mentioned in the King List. It started with Mesilim (circa 2550 BC) but it was Eannatum (circa 2450 BC) who conquered much of Sumer and extended Lagash's power into Elam and Mari. UruInimGina of Lagash (circa 2350 BC) was the earliest known social reformer: he established freedom or amargi in the land -- the first recorded use of the term in a political sense (L) ...

The 3rd Dynasty of Uruk had only one king. LugalZagesi as King of Umma seized Uruk and established domination over Lagash; thus taking the title Lugal over all the rulers of Sumer. He claimed to rule from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean -- though this is doubtful. Under his rule Akkadians began to rise to high positions in government. The population of Mesopotamia probably reached half a million in this period. He was defeated and replaced by Sargon -- whose rise ushered in a new phase of Mesopotamian history that saw for the first time the political unification of Sumer and Akkad (L and Page 809-10 2) ...

Akkad and Guti Period (2334-2112 BC) ... The Akkadians are a Semitic-speaking people who lived in the northern part of what was later to be called Babylonia beginning with the accession of Hammurabi. The period usually refers to the 141 years circa 2334-2193 BC defined by the reign of the five kings of the Sargonic Dynasty. The area extended from north of Nippur to Sippar. Some scholars add another 40 years to this period (see below) to include the 2 later kings of the city-state Agade -- which has not yet been found by archaeologists. Sargon was King of Kish which implied suzerainty over northern Babylonia when he defeated the principal ruler in Sumer -- King Lugalzagesi of Uruk (1) thus uniting the non-Semitic Sumer with the more northerly Akkad under one kingship ...

The actual Sargonic Dynasty ended with SharKaliSharri in 2193 BC ... The collapse of the embattled state of Akkad may have been the result of internal weaknesses and rebellion and foreign attack especially -- according to Sumerian tradition -- the Gutians (ibid) of the Zagros Moutains on the Iraq-Iran border ... They then subjugated and laid waste the whole of Sumer (C) ... With the collapse of the Akkadian Empire the land lost its common leadership and collective power. The wild Gutian hordes were not very qualified for the leadership so the individual cities in Sumer and Akkad fell back to the old city-state (D) localized hegemony ... The now obscure and impotent Akkadian Dynasty survived for another 40 years in name only with Dudu and ShuDurul as kings but there realm was limited to the region of the capital. The instumental role of the Gutian tribes in the fall of Akkad is uncertain. It seems more likely that they filled the vaccuum created by the decay of the empire (Page 811 2) ...

On the overlap between the Gutian line and the later kings of Agade
etcetera read
Pages 42-3 of Babylon by John Oates (1979)
Library of Congress # DS 71 O35

The Ur Ziggurat from the SouthEast : Photograph by Leonard Wooley Third Dynasty of Ur (2112-2002 BC) ... Ancient historiography ascribed to King UtuKhegal of city-state Uruk (2133-2113) the actual role of liberating Sumer by ousting the Gutian hordes. After the death of Utukhegal his brother and general Ur-Nammu asserted his independence and established a kingship in Ur and its surroundings -- thus establishing the Third Dynasty of Ur in 2112 BC (ibid C E) ... At first however the kingdom of Ur was probably overshadowed by Lagash. The Dynasty of King Gudea partly overlaps the reign of UrNammu (Page 811 2) ... UrNammu consolidated his control by defeating the rival dynast in Lagash and soon gained control of all of the Sumerian city-states (A) ... The Third Dynasty of Ur came to an end when the Elamites destroyed the city-state and captured Ibbi-Sin (2029-2002) and deported him to Elam (Excerpt 60) ...

The city-state ruler who finally achieved a temporary supremacy and whose dynasty was in some senses the heir to the Third Dynasty of Ur was IshbiErra of Isin. Larsa alternated with Isin in controlling southern Mesopotamia in the first two centuries of the 2nd millennium BC. Neither state could properly be regarded as sole legitimate ruler of Babylonia (ibid) ...

It is clear that the migrations of the Amorites toward the end of the Third Dynasty of Ur played a role in the collapse of the empire yet some historians have rightly pointed to evidence of growing internal decay in the period before the invaders destroyed this political entity (Page 812 2) ...

Under the Third Dynasty of Ur Babylon had been a small city-state ruled by an Ensi. The founder of the First Dynasty -- Sumu-Abum -- was of West Semitic origin (Excerpt 60) ...

Hammurabi .................... 1792-1749 BC

Language ... Sumerian is a linguistically isolated and extinct language. All attemts to connect Sumerian with any other tongue have so far failed. Sumerian is preserved only on clay tablets in a considerable corpus of texts written in cuneiform. After 2000 BC the Semitic language Akkadian became dominant (lingua franca) and Sumerian was relegated to the status of a literary language (1) ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium