|Author||Charles River Editors|
|Publisher||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
|Publication Date||November 1, 2016|
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*Includes pictures *Examines the Sumerians' culture, daily life at the cities, and architecture *Includes ancient accounts describing the cities *Includes a bibliography for further reading In southern Iraq, a crushing silence hangs over the dunes. For nearly 5,000 years, the sands of the Iraqi desert have held the remains of the oldest known civilization: the Sumerians. When American archaeologists discovered a collection of cuneiform tablets in Iraq in the late 19th century, they were confronted with a language and a people who were at the time only scarcely known to even the most knowledgeable scholars of ancient Mesopotamia. The exploits and achievements of other Mesopotamian peoples, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, were already known to a large segment of the population through the Old Testament and the nascent field of Near Eastern studies had unraveled the enigma of the Akkadian language that was widely used throughout the region in ancient times, but the discovery of the Sumerian tablets brought to light the existence of the Sumerian culture, which was the oldest of all the Mesopotamian cultures. Although the Sumerians continue to get second or even third billing compared to the Babylonians and Assyrians, perhaps because they never built an empire as great as the Assyrians or established a city as enduring and great as Babylon, they were the people who provided the template of civilization that all later Mesopotamians built upon. The Sumerians are credited with being the first people to invent writing, libraries, cities, and schools in Mesopotamia (Ziskind 1972, 34), and many would argue that they were the first people to create and do those things anywhere in world. No site better represents the importance of the Sumerians than the city of Uruk. Between the fourth and the third millennium BCE, Uruk was one of several city-states in the land of Sumer, located in the southern end of the Fertile Crescent, between the two great rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Discovered in the late 19th century by the British archaeologist William Loftus, it is this site that has revealed much of what is now known of the Sumerian, Akkadian, and Neo-Sumerian people. Although Uruk was not the only city that the Sumerians built during the Uruk period, it was by far the greatest and also the source of most of the archeological and written evidence concerning early Sumerian culture (Kuhrt 2010, 1:23). Uruk went from being the world’s first major city to the most important political and cultural center in the ancient Near East in relatively quick fashion. Long before Alexandria was a city and even before Memphis and Babylon had attained greatness, the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur stood foremost among ancient Near Eastern cities. Today, the greatness and cultural influence of Ur has been largely forgotten by most people, partially because its monuments have not stood the test of time the way other ancient culture’s monuments have. For instance, the monuments of Egypt were made of stone while those of Ur and most other Mesopotamian cities were made of mud brick and as will be discussed in this report, mud-brick may be an easier material to work with than stone but it also decays much quicker. The same is true to a certain extent for the written documents that were produced at Ur. At its height Ur was the center of a great dynasty that controlled most of Mesopotamia directly through a well maintained army and bureaucracy and the areas that were not under its direct control were influenced by Ur’s diplomats and religious ideas. Ur was also a truly resilient city because it survived the downfall of the Sumerians, outright destruction at the hands of the Elamites, and later occupations by numerous other peoples, which included Saddam Hussein more recently.