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  • Sumerian Culture
    many thousands of them some dated earlier than 3000 BC The earliest writing of the Sumerians was picture writing similar in some ways to Egyptian hieroglyphs They began to develop their special style when they found that on soft wet clay it was easier to impress a line than to scratch it To draw the pictures they used a stylus probably a straight piece of reed with a three cornered end An unexpected result came about the stylus could best produce triangular forms wedges and straight lines Curved lines therefore had to be broken up into a series of straight strokes Pictures lost their form and became stylized symbols This kind of writing on clay is called cuneiform from the Latin cuneus meaning wedge See also Cuneiform Writing Hieroglyphics Writing A tremendous step forward was accomplished when the symbols came to be associated with the sound of the thing shown rather than with the idea of the thing itself Each sign then represented a syllable Although cuneiform writing was still used long after the alphabet appeared it never fully developed an alphabet Sumerian Schools Cuneiform was difficult to learn To master it children usually went to a temple school Using a clay tablet as a textbook the teacher wrote on the left hand side and the pupil copied the model on the right Any mistakes could be smoothed out The pupil began by making single wedges in various positions and then went on to groups of wedges Thousands of groups had to be mastered Finally the pupil was assigned a book to copy but the work was slow and laborious Many first chapters of all the important Sumerian works have been handed down from students tablets but only fragments of the rest of the books survive The pupils also studied arithmetic The Sumerians based their number system on 10 but they multiplied 10 by 6 to get the next unit They multiplied 60 by 10 then multiplied 600 by 6 and so on The number 60 has the advantage of being divisible by 2 3 4 5 6 10 12 15 20 and 30 The Sumerians also divided the circle into 360 degrees From these early people came the word dozen a fifth of 60 and the division of the clock to measure hours minutes and seconds The Sumerians had standard measures with units of length area and capacity Their standard weight was the mina made up of 60 shekels about the same weight as a pound There was no coined money Standard weights of silver served as measures of value and as a means of exchange From the earliest times the Sumerians had a strong sense of private property After they learned to write and figure they kept documents about every acquired object including such small items as shoes Every business transaction had to be recorded Near the gates of the cities scribes would sit ready to sell their services Their hands would move fast over a lump of

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  • Sumerian words and language 1
    33 person si am lu 34 fish kua 35 bird musen 36 dog ur 37 wolf ur 38 tick nit šar an 39 tree ngis 40 woods ngis 41 seed mu 42 leaf pa 43 folliage thick lam 44 root ta 45 origin ur 46 ship mu 47 boat bark 48 skin cover bar 49 flesh zu 50 blood ùri 51 bone Akk esentu 52 fat he 2 53 egg 1 nunus 54 egg 2 nuz 55 horn twisted si 56 tail kun 57 feather dal 58 to fly 59 hair suhur su siki 60 head sag 61 chief sang 62 ear g estug 63 hear ngestug 64 eye see igi 65 nose kiri 66 mouth ka mouth 67 lipp su lipp talk 68 tooth zú 69 tongue eme 70 lick 71 fingernail hur scratch 72 leg walk g iri 73 knee dug 3 74 elbow 75 hand kiš ib su 78 stomack abdom haš 79 neck joint kuk joint 80 breast gaba breast 81 heart suck sa sa a 82 liver bà ur 5 liver 83 drink na 8 nañ 84 eat su 5 6 feed kú eat 85 bite kur 5 86 look lá ug 6 87 see igi 88 watch ngíz al 89 listen aka 90 know tal 91 wise smart nges tu sú 92 sleep ù 93 dream u di 94 die hal hal am 95 kill murder gil gil im 96 swim us 97 to fly dal 98 walk travel ngir road step du walk go 99 come goes ngen 100 lie down ku 101 sit seat suš 102 stand zi zig 103 give ba 104 say call sa 105 sun ud sun time 106 moon shine ud 4 8 it 4 moon hád shine 107 star shine zall ag star zall be light 108

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  • Institutions and practices Ensiand Lugal
    and in the case of UruKAgina of their social measures On the other hand there is the archive of some 1 200 tablets insofar as these have been published from the temple of Baba the city goddess of Girsu from the period of Lugalanda and UruKAgina first half of the 24th century For generations Lagash and Umma contested the possession and agricultural usufruct of the fertile region of Gu edena To begin with some two generations before Ur Nanshe Mesilim another king of Kish had intervened as arbiter and possibly overlord in dictating to both states the course of the boundary between them but this was not effective for long After a prolonged struggle Eannatum forced the ruler of Umma by having him take an involved oath to six divinities to desist from crossing the old border a dike The text that relates this event with considerable literary elaboration is found on the Stele of Vultures These battles favouring now one side now the other continued under Eannatum s successors in particular Entemena until under UruKAgina great damage was done to the land of Lagash and to its holy places The enemy Lugalzagesi was vanquished in turn by Sargon of Akkad The rivalry between Lagash and Umma however must not be considered in isolation Other cities too are occasionally named as enemies and the whole situation resembles the pattern of changing coalitions and short lived alliances between cities of more recent times Kish Umma and distant Mari on the middle Euphrates are listed together on one occasion as early as the time of Eannatum For the most part these battles were fought by infantry although mention is also made of war chariots drawn by onagers wild asses The lords of Lagash rarely fail to call themselves by the title of ensi of as yet undetermined derivation city ruler or prince are only approximate translations Only seldom do they call themselves lugal or king the title given the rulers of Umma in their own inscriptions In all likelihood these were local titles that were eventually converted beginning perhaps with the kings of Akkad into a hierarchy in which the lugal took precedence over the ensi Institutions and practices Ensi and Lugal It appears that Sumerian rulers were first known as Ensi while military leaders were called Lugal After a period of time the military leaders became kings and the new title for them was ensi lugal They were king military and religious leaders all at the same time City state and national state In early dynastic times probably as far back as historians can trace its history Mesopotamia was divided into small units the so called city states consisting of a major city with its surrounding lands The ruler of the city usually entitled ensi was also in charge of the temple of the city god The spouse of the ensi had charge of the temple of the city goddess and the children of the ensi administered the temples of the

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  • The Genesis narrative in the light of recent scholarship
    would be overhasty to assume a revolutionary change in the population In the quarter or third of a millennium between Uruk Level IV and Enmebaragesi southern Mesopotamia became studded with a complex pattern of cities many of which were the centers of small independent city states to judge from the situation in about the middle of the millennium In these cities the central point was the temple sometimes encircled by an oval boundary wall hence the term temple oval but nonreligious buildings such as palaces serving as the residences of the rulers could also function as centers Enmebaragesi king of Kish is the oldest Mesopotamian ruler from whom there are authentic inscriptions These are vase fragments one of them found in the temple oval of Khafajah Khafaji In the Sumerian king list Enmebaragesi is listed as the penultimate king of the 1st dynasty of Kish a Sumerian poem Gilgamesh and Agga of Kish describes the siege of Uruk by Agga son of Enmebaragesi The discovery of the original vase inscriptions was of great significance because it enabled scholars to ask with somewhat more justification whether Gilgamesh the heroic figure of Mesopotamia who has entered world literature was actually a historical personage The indirect synchronism notwithstanding the possibility exists that even remote antiquity knew its Ninus and its Semiramis figures onto which a rapidly fading historical memory projected all manner of deeds and adventures Thus though the historical tradition of the early 2nd millennium believes Gilgamesh to have been the builder of the oldest city wall of Uruk such may not have been the case The palace archives of Shuruppak modern Tall Fa rah 125 miles southeast of Baghdad dating presumably from shortly after 2600 contain a long list of divinities including Gilgamesh and his father Lugalbanda More recent tradition on the other hand knows Gilgamesh as judge of the nether world However that may be an armed conflict between two Mesopotamian cities such as Uruk and Kish would hardly have been unusual in a country whose energies were consumed almost without interruption from 2500 to 1500 BC by clashes between various separatist forces The great empires after all formed the exception not the rule First historical personalities The specifically political events in Mesopotamia after the flourishing of the archaic culture of Uruk cannot be pinpointed Not until about 2700 BC does the first historical personality appear historical because his name Enmebaragesi Me baragesi was preserved in later tradition It has been assumed although the exact circumstances cannot be reconstructed that there was a rather abrupt end to the high culture of Uruk Level IV The reason for the assumption is a marked break in both artistic and architectural traditions entirely new styles of cylinder seals were introduced the great temples if in fact they were temples were abandoned flouting the rule of a continuous tradition on religious sites and on a new site a shrine was built on a terrace which was to constitute the lowest stage of the later

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  • FLOOD LEGENDS
    Such was the destructive force of this flood that few land animals and plants survived it For readers in Western society the most famous version is the story of Noah and the Ark as recounted in Genesis the first book of the Bible Although it may be the best known the account of Noah s adventure is neither the only nor the oldest such legend Legends of a flood can be found in the folklore of such diverse places as the Middle East India China Australia southern Asia the islands of the Pacific Europe and the Americas But the best known flood legend that on which the story of Noah is based had its origins among the peoples of ancient Mesopotamia in the Tigris Euphrates river valley Excavations in Mesopotamia have led archaeologists and other scientists to conclude that a number of serious floods occurred there between 4000 and 2000 BC It is possible that one of these floods was so destructive that it made a lasting impression on the population and became a subject for the ancient literature of the period In a fully developed form the Mesopotamian flood myth appeared in the Epic of Gilgamesh one of the first literary masterpieces which relates the adventures of a hero king of Sumer The earliest versions of the epic derive from the first part of the 2nd millennium BC The story of the flood is told to Gilgamesh by Utnapishtim the counterpart of Noah in the story Advised by the god Ea that his city is to be destroyed by flood Utnapishtim is told to build a ship for his family servants and animals After a seven day flood the vessel comes to rest on a mountaintop The wrath of the gods has been appeased and Utnapishtim and his wife

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  • Sumerian Flood Story
    the temple he would merely write Build Temple As a result it makes it very difficult to understand Sumerian particularly the oldest texts The later texts written as Sumerian became a dead language are much easier to read because the language was written less as a mnemonic device and more as a reproduction of speech Another problem with the early texts is that the signs were not always written in the proper but rather in whatever order was prettiest or best fit the space available Once again this practice changed as the language died Sumerian is an ergative agglutinative language English by way of contrast is a nominative accusative language That is English uses a nominative case for the subject of a transitive verb or intransitive verb and an accusative case for the direct object Sumerian is an ergative language That is 1 The subject of a transitive verb is put in the ergative case 2 The subject of an intransitive verb and the direct object of a transitive verb both get put into the absolute case Example Lugal e e 0 munandu The king a house he builds Lugal 0 i gin The king does good Isolating Language Analytic Example Chinese Each morpheme is expressed by a separate word Inflecting Language Combination Verbs contain within themselves number gender and person Example Hebrew Akkadian Latin eqtol I will kill yiqtol he will kill tiqtol you m s will kill Agglutinative Fusion Examples Sumerian Turkish Separate morphemes are combined in one word namtilanishe For his long life Sumer in Sumerian is called Kienger In Akkadian it was called Shumeru This is where the English designation originates From about 3000 BC on the clay tablet records found in the ruins of Ur present an account of the accessions and coronations uninterrupted victories and sublime deaths of petty kings who ruled the city states of Ur Lagash Uruk and the rest the writing of history is a very ancient thing One king Urukagina of Lagash was a royal reformer an enlightened despot who issued decrees aimed at correcting the exploitation of the poor by the rich and of everybody by the priests The high priest according to one of his edicts must refrain from coming into the garden of a poor mother and taking the wood from it or gathering tax in fruit from it Burial fees were to be cut to one fifth of what they had been and the clergy and high officials were forbidden to share among themselves the revenues and cattle offered to the gods It was the king s boast that he gave liberty to his people and the tablets that come down to us from this man reveal the oldest known code of laws in history The reign of Urukagina of Lagash ended in the normal manner another king named Lugal Zaggisi invaded Lagash overthrew Urukagina and sacked the city The temples were destroyed the citizens were massacred in the streets and the statues of the gods were taken away into bondage One of the world s earliest known poems 3800 years old describes the destruction of Lagash My soul sighs in anguish for the city and its precious things My soul sighs in anguish for Lagash and its precious things The children are in distress in holy Lagash Because the invader has pressed into the splendid shrine And stolen away the Exalted Queen from her temple O Lady of my desolated city when will you return After Lugal Zaggisi comes Lugal Shagengur Lugal Kigubnindudi Ninigi dubti Lugal Andanukhunga but we will pass over most of these kings Meanwhile another group of people Semitic by background had built the kingdom of Akkad under the leadership of Sargon I who established his capital at Agade 200 miles northwest of the Sumerian city states A monolith found at Susa portrays Sargon with a long beard dressed in royal authority His origin despite his end was not royal In fact no father is listed for him and his mother from all indications was a temple prostitute Of course you know what that makes Sargon His origins are described this way in a relatively late text My humble mother conceived me in secret she brought me forth She placed me in a basket boat of rushes with pitch she closed my door The text goes on to say that rescued by workmen he became a cupbearer to the king grew in favor and influence and as so often happens in these situations he rebelled and killed his master thereby becoming the ruler of Agade Sargon I called himself King of the Universe but he actually at that time ruled only a tiny corner of Mesopotamia Historians refer to Sargon I as Sargon the Great because in the course of his career he invaded many cities captured much booth and left behind many many widows and orphans Among his victims was Lugal Zaggisi the king who had overthrown Urukagina and sacked Lagash Sargon defeated him and took him away in chains to Nippur Sargon marched north south east and west conquering Elam and washing his weapons in symbolic triumph in the Persian Gulf crossing western Asia reaching the Mediterranean establishing the first great empire in recorded history He ruled for a total of fifty five years In the end his empire was in revolt Three sons succeeded him in turn the third Naram sin was a great builder but the only things left of his building projects are a few scattered bricks with his inscription on them reminding one of the poem Ozimandius By the twenty sixth century BC Lagash was once again flourishing under an enlightened monarch named Gudea He was a short plump right jolly old elf He was not known as a great warrior Instead he was noted for his literature and his piety that is he built a lot of temples In one of his inscriptions he writes During seven years the maidservant was the equal of her

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  • Sumerian Gods and Goddesses
    than we can handle Therefore we are asking you to please donate anything you can to help keep us on the web Please Help Click Here Care to express an opinion on a current or past historical event Need to ask a question from our many visitors Just visit our Message Board and leave your message Message Board Weekly Poll Sumerian Gods and Goddesses The Sumerians thought that a great domed roof contained the sky the stars the moon and the sun which lighted the cities beneath it they also believed that below the earth swirled the dim netherworld a fearsome abode of demons and the kingdom of the dead Enlil and Enki are credited with creating the cattle sheep plants the yoke and the plow to provide sustenance for themselves and less important deities but these minor gods lacked the resolution to make use of this bounty so man was fashioned from clay and given breath so he might tend the sheep and cultivate the fields for the gods The gods of Sumer much like mortal men suffered the vicissitudes of fate and many legends tell of their often ineffective exploits Nammu Goddess of the Primeval Sea the mother who gave birth to heaven and earth An God of the Heavens leading Sumerian deity from Fourth Millennium B C until the city of Erech began to lose its power c 2500 B C Ki Goddess of the Earth Enlil God of Air and Storms son of An and Ki Enlil is credited with separating the heavens from earth and therefore described as the father of the gods king of the universe king of all lands For about a thousand years after 2500 B C Enlil is supreme ruler of Sumerian pantheon of gods and guardian of the city of

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  • Sumerian Homes
    Urukagina Sumerian Creation Sumerian Inscription Sumerian King List Sumerian Proverbs The Art of Sumeria Sumerian Art Harpist from Ur by Liliana Osses Adams Other Mesopotamian Peoples Akkad Amorites Assyrians Babylonians Chaldeans Hittites Kassites Mesopotamia Map Ziggurat Ziggurat Please Help Keep Us On the Web We are a Non Profit Organization and the cost of continuing is becoming more than we can handle Therefore we are asking you to please donate anything you can to help keep us on the web Please Help Click Here Care to express an opinion on a current or past historical event Need to ask a question from our many visitors Just visit our Message Board and leave your message Message Board Weekly Poll Sumerian Homes The earliest Sumerian houses were built of bundles of reeds but after cities began to develop sun baked mud brick was used These mud brick houses were more permanent and larger than the reed dwellings Reed built house The houses in the cities were very close together with most sharing a wall with its neighbor They were not well ventilated and most had no windows Many consisted of two floors The lower section was used when protection from the weather

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