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An Introduction to the Sumerian Civilization
About 6,000 years ago, a civilization with such advanced technology at that time suddenly appeared as a stranger in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, called the “Fertile Crescent”.
This area was first called by the early Greeks Mesopotamia, which means “the land between the rivers”. These people (we know them today as Sumerians) called themselves hi-giga, “black heads” and they called their land ki-en-gir. The the Akkadianshowever, it is referred to as people Sumer (which may actually refer to language); The Bible refers to this region Shinar. The area is located in southeastern Iraq today.
The events that took place there are considered to be one of the most important events in human history. Shortly after settling in Mesopotamia, the Sumerians developed a very sophisticated system of irrigation and agriculture. The irrigation system made full use of the waters of the two rivers, which led to a significant increase in their agricultural output. The Sumerians then built magnificent cities, perfected their administrative laws, and invented a written language. Where did these people come from?
Unfortunately, historians are uncertain about the origins of the Sumerians. Some archaeologists claim that the Sumerians originated from the lands northeast of Mesopotamia, while others claim that they were actually from Anatolia. Indeed, no one is quite sure where these people came from. When the Sumerians arrived in Mesopotamia, there were already people (Ubaidians) living there, but they were quickly crowded out by newcomers.
The ancient Sumerians probably invented the wheel while spinning clay to make pottery on a simple wheel. Finally, the wheel was used for transport, in carts pulled by donkeys. Later it was used for chariots. They also invented a mathematical system based on the number 60. We still divide hours into 60 minutes and minutes into 60 seconds. The idea of dividing a circle into 360 degrees, dividing a day into 24 hours and a year into twelve months is one of them. Archaeologists have found evidence that the Sumerians developed writing between 3500 and 3000 BC. The first form of Sumerian writing consisted of pictures. Images were then simplified, using symbols to represent sounds. This style of writing is known as today cuneiform writingis from the Latin word cuneus (wedge).
The Sumerians also appear to have developed one of the first monarchical systems of government. The early Sumerian states, the first states in human history, were ruled by a kind of priest-king. Their government was essentially a combination of monarchy and democracy. Elected officials in the Assembly also governed the people: kings had to consult the Assembly in matters of state. The laws written during the Babylonian period were actually the laws created by the ancient Sumerians.
The Sumerians had twelve city-states, each with its own ruler and its own temple. One city, Ur, contained about 24,000 inhabitants. These city-states were surrounded by walls that surrounded nearby lands and villages. The central structure of the city is the so-called temple ziggurats.
The Sumerians were polytheistic; that is, they worshiped many gods, including goddesses. They were the main gods Enkiwhich orders the universe and Don’t believe (later known as Ishtar), “Queen of Heaven”.
Sumerian society had three classes: an upper class consisting of nobles, priests, government officials, and warriors; freemen consisting of merchants, traders, and artisans; a lower class of serfs and slaves. Women could own property, but they did not have the same rights as men. A husband can divorce his wife for any reason, but the wife cannot initiate divorce proceedings on her own. However, women played an important role in these ancient kingdoms. Their society was matriarchal and women were highly respected.
At the beginning of each year, the goddess Inanna must enter into a sacred “ritual marriage” with the ruler in order to ensure a bountiful harvest for the coming year. In this “marriage” with the king, the goddess was represented by a priest.
Other Sumerian inventions include the sailing boat, pans, razors, cosmetic sets, pottery, and the plow. The Sumerians also created a lunar calendar based on the lunar month and even divided the stars into constellations, which later became the zodiac. These people also created the first official schools.
There were many skilled Sumerian craftsmen. They made beautifully crafted jewelry from gold and precious stones, furniture, and pottery. They also created colorful mosaics in intricate and beautiful patterns using pieces of painted clay. The Sumerians also used musical instruments such as harps, reed pipes, drums, and lyres.
The modern world learned about the existence of Sumer through references in the literature of ancient civilizations; these literatures talk about an even more ancient civilization, which is the civilization of the Sumerians. Excavations in different parts of Mesopotamia between 1842 and 1854 led to the discovery of these remarkable people and their achievements.
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