Following the movement of people into more fixed settlements during the Ubaid Period, the first Cities emerged in Sumer with some of the most notable of these being Nippur, Larsa, Lagash, Ur, Uruk, Eridu, and Kish.
From amongst these Cities, the City of Uruk provides us with one of the best pictures of life in these early Sumerian Cities.
The Ubaid Period witnessed a shift towards settled communities, giving rise to the first cities in Sumer. Noteworthy among them were Nippur, Larsa, Lagash, Ur, Uruk, Eridu, and Kish.
Uruk, in particular, provides a vivid window into life in these early Sumerian cities.
During the Uruk Period, roughly 5,500 years ago, in the region we now recognize as modern Iraq or Mesopotamia, emerged one of the most significant cities of the time – Uruk. This city, also known as Erech in the Hebrew Torah, stood between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, earning it the moniker “land between two rivers.”
The fertile banks of these rivers were instrumental in encouraging human settlement. They provided sustenance for domesticated animals and the cultivation of primarily wheat-based agriculture. The resulting surplus liberated individuals from exclusive farming duties, leading to the proliferation of various specialized occupations.
Inscriptions on clay tablets found in Uruk unveil a diverse list of established professions, including cooks, potters, weavers, stonemasons, jewelers, and gardeners.
This agricultural surplus, however, brought about the necessity for accurate record-keeping of harvests and domestic animal counts. This, in turn, led to the inception of the earliest form of writing, known as Cuneiform. Initially employing pictorial representations, it progressed to symbols and a numerical system based on units of 10 and 60.
This base-60 “sexagesimal” system remains influential to this day and is the reason why a circle is divided into 360 degrees.
The management demands imposed by agricultural surplus were met through written records. These records were instrumental for a rising class of King-Priests in managing the distribution of grain and other surpluses within the city-states.
At its zenith, Uruk boasted a population of approximately 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. The city-states engaged in relentless conflicts with each other, vying for vital resources such as water and land.
To safeguard these cities, leaders emerged, known as Lugals, eventually evolving into the individual Kings of each City-State under the concept of Divine Kingship.
Uruk’s religious beliefs centered around a supreme sky God named An, alongside his daughter Inanna, the goddess of war and love, also known as Ishtar, who held a prominent place in Uruk’s pantheon.
While aspects of Uruk’s religion are often categorized as mythology, some theories suggest that the development of cities like Uruk might have been influenced by the Anunnaki Gods, an experience that the people of Uruk may have interpreted as the dawn of civilization.
For the inhabitants of Uruk, their civilization was considered a gift from the Anunnaki Gods. Over time, their religious practices grew in complexity, incorporating hymns and heroic epics like the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of humanity’s earliest tales of a superhero.
Ultimately, a series of wars and weak rulers contributed to Uruk’s decline. Around 2300 BC, it fell under the conquest of Sargon of Akkad, marking the advent of the world’s first empire in the aftermath of Uruk’s downfall.
The Sumerian Civilization is renowned for pioneering critical aspects of modern society. It introduced fixed occupations, established political structures, produced early literature, developed complex religious beliefs, formulated writing systems, and erected monumental architecture. This rich legacy laid the foundation for many aspects of civilization that we recognize today.
Originally posted 2020-01-31 06:00:56.