Country in southeastern Mesopotamia, corresponding to modern southern Iraq.
Votive stone plaques from Ur. The hole in the middle was for the wooden peg by which it was fixed to the temple wall. From between 2600 and 2400 BCE.
Zoomorphic jar, most probably for oil. Found in the Sin temple at Tutub (modern Khafajeh). Ca. 2600 BCE.
Statuette, most likely depicting a male god. Found in one of the temples in the Diyalah region, ca. 2600-2400 BCE.
Cylinder seal of Uruk. Between 2800 and 2600 BCE.
It is the birthplace for the first civilization in world history. The history of Sumer is counted as lasting from about 3500 BCE until 2000 BCE, where after other cultures, based upon the Sumerian, continued the civilization. These cultures were principally the Assyrian and the Babylonian.
Sumer represented one half of Mesopotamia, where Akkad, to the north, represented the other half. The heartland of Sumer corresponds much to the heartland of Babylonia.
In Mesopotamian protohistory the cities of Eridu, Uruk, Bad-tibira, Nippur and Kish are the earliest known of.
As Sumer emerge in historical accounts it is defined by 12 city-states, of which 11 can be identified clearly by modern research:
The two other city-states defining Sumer are and Larak. Erech has been shown to be identical with Uruk, while Larak seems unique, but there is no evidence of it. Lack of evidence is never a proof of non-existence, and Larak is believed to have existed, and been in the region of modern Wasit in Iraq.
These city-states were independent entities, that often waged war against each other, but there were also wars against a unity of them and Akkad (north) and Elam (east).
Central in every city was the temple, and every city had its own deity, that was believed to protect the city.
Society and Economy
While the city was fortified to some point, it was still the centre of a rural zone where agriculture was performed. The major crops of Sumer were barley, wheat, dates and vegetables. They also raised cattle, donkeys, sheep and goats. Textiles were made from wool from the sheep.
The Sumerians also performed trade with foreign countries, they even trade with other peoples out in the Persian Gulf, from where they among other things bought home ivory and other luxury items.
Culture and Science
The Sumerians were the first to start using the alloy bronze, which allowed them the development of much better instruments than what had been possible before. The discovery of how to mould bronze soon spread all over the rest of the Middle East.
Among the earliest cultural expressions in Sumer, was pottery. Around 3000 BCE the Sumerians started carving in stones and shells, and creating statues. Jewellery was also created from gold and silver.
It was the inhabitants of Sumer that developed the first pictographic writing system, which after a few hundred years developed into the writing style that we now call cuneiform. They also developed what is the oldest known law system, as well as the city-state, as it is known through cities like principally Ur. The city-state was a prerequisite for urbanization in those days the city had to precede the state.
The Sumerians also developed the studies of mathematics, astronomy, along with other sciences. The Sumerians developed many ways of understanding time. They even had an accurate calendar, that was vital to planning agriculture.
The Sumerians also developed pseudo-science like astrology, within the context of religion. The believed that the stars on the sky were gods that controlled the events in the world, and that the position between these gods could be used to predict events in the world, as well as the fortune for individuals.
The architecture of Sumer was limited, in the respect that there were no solid building materials available in the region. Stone, metal and wood had to be imported. Therefore, they had to use mud and reed for most houses, but this gradually developed into using mud brick.
Of technical developments, Sumerians developed the potter's wheel, the sailboat and the seed plow.
Second half 5th millennium BCE: A non-Semitic people moves into Mesopotamia, and gradually start developing the area. The people are called proto-Euphrateans or Ubadians (after the village Al-Ubaid, where their earliest remains were discovered). The main achievements of the Ubaidians were draining the marshes so that they could be used in agriculture, they developed trade and established industries like weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, masonry and pottery.
Around 4000: Semites move in from the desert of modern Syria and Arabia.
Around 3500: The oldest document describing the wheel.
Around 3300: A people called Sumerians move into the territory. We do not know with certainty from where they came, but it is often suggested that their homeland was today's Turkey.
Around 3100: The cuneiform writing system is starting to be used.
Around 2800: The king of Kish, Etana, manages to defeat the other city states, and unites the country.
28th century: King Meskiaggasher of Erech takes control of Sumer and extends his kingdom an area from Mediterranean Sea to the Zagros Mountains.
Around 2700: King Enmebaragesi becomes the ruler of Sumer, and wins over Elam. He makes Nippur the cultural centre of Sumer.
27th century: King Mesanepeda of Ur defeats the ruler of Sumer, and founds what is referred to as the 1st dynasty of Ur.
Around 2500: King Lugalanemundu of Adab extends Sumer to cover the area from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, bordering the Taurus mountains in the north, and the Zagros mountains in the east.
25th century: Conflicts between the city-states of Sumer, making the entire country weaker.
Around 2330: Sargon 1 the Great conquers all of Sumer, and makes the north-mesopotamian city Agade his new capital. This became the beginning of the Akkadian dynasty.
Around 2220: The Gutians from the Zagros mountains conquer and take control over Akkad and Sumer.
Around 2150: The rulers of Lagash rise to become important political factors in Sumer, but is still under the governance of Gutian rulers.
Around 2115: Sumer comes back under local rulers, when Utuhegal of Erech beats the Gutians.
Around 2100: Ur-Nammu, a general, founds the 3rd dynasty of Ur.
21st century: Sumer flourishes under stable leadership.
Around 2000: The Elamites destroy Ur and capture the king.
20th century: Many wars between city-states in Sumer, at first between Isin and Larsa, later between Larsa and Babylon.
Around 1900: The Semitic tribe Amorites conquers most of Mesopotamia, and establishes their kings in Babylon.
1792: Hammurabi becomes king of Babylonia, and over the next 3 decades he made Babylon the strong power in Mesopotamia. From him, we stop talking about Sumer, and start talking about Babylonia. However, Sumerian culture became a central part of Babylonian society.
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