Early Dynastic Period


by British Museum
published on 03 August 2011
Gypsum statue of a man (Trustees of the British Museum)

Southern Mesopotamia was divided between competing city-states during the period 2900-2300 BCE. This so-called Early Dynastic period has three subdivisions based on archaeological finds made by the Oriental Institute of Chicago in the area of the Diyala, east of modern Baghdad. Early Dynastic I (around 2900-2800 BCE) saw the emergence of large independent cities such as Uruk. The cities were controlled by a king and his family, who owned vast estates.

Early Dynastic II (around 2800-2600 BCE) saw an increase in building and an improvement in the quality of artistic products like chlorite bowls, which also show connections with regions beyond Mesopotamia. The Early Dynastic II may be the period of rulers, like Gilgamesh, whose names survive in later legends.

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The earliest writing is largely administrative, but by the beginning of Early Dynastic III (2600-2300 BCE) inscribed clay tablets contain many literary texts, including poetic hymns. Some of the best evidence for this period comes from the Royal Graves at Ur and the Dynasty of Lagash.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

Museum, B. (2011, August 03). Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia). Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Early_Dynastic_Period_(Mesopotamia)/

Chicago Style

Museum, British. "Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified August 03, 2011. https://www.ancient.eu/Early_Dynastic_Period_(Mesopotamia)/.

MLA Style

Museum, British. "Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 03 Aug 2011. Web. 23 Oct 2017.

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Visual Timeline
  • 4,500 BCE
    First walled cities. Uruk in Mesopotamia first city.
  • c. 2,800 BCE
    Probable date of the regional Great Flood when the river Euphrates rose.
  • 2,750 BCE
    Secular rulers replace priests.
  • c. 2,750 BCE
    The city of Tyre is founded.
  • 2,700 BCE
    Hatti people establish trade with the city of Sumer.
  • c. 2,600 BCE
    Uruk ruled by Gilgamesh for 126 years according to the Sumerian King List.
  • c. 2,600 BCE
    The Myth of Etana written.
  • c. 2,500 BCE
    Beginning of literature in Sumerian.
  • 2,400 BCE
    First use of war chariots in Mesopotamia.
  • 2,350 BCE
    First code of laws by Urukagina, king of Lagash.
  • c. 2,330 BCE
    Sargon of Akkad sacks Ur.
  • c. 2,300 BCE
    The Eridu Genesis is composed.
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