Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
- The Sumerians and Mesopotamia
- Sumerian art, an introduction
- White Temple and ziggurat, Uruk
- Archaeological reconstructions
- Warka Vase
- Standing Male Worshipper from Tell Asmar
- Perforated Relief of Ur-Nanshe
- Cylinder seals
- The Standard of Ur
- Standard of Ur and other objects from the Royal Graves
- Standard of Ur
- The ‘Ram in a Thicket’
The Sumerians and Mesopotamia
The ancient Sumerians, the "black-headed ones," lived in the southern part of what is now Iraq. The heartland of Sumer lay between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in what the Greeks later called Mesopotamia. This territory, once skillfully irrigated, proved very fertile, and major cities had long been in existence before the period when archaeologists can identify the Sumerian people themselves.
The Sumerians were characteristically inventive, and are likely to have been responsible for the development of the first writing. Well before 3000 B.C.E. Sumerians were recording their language using simple pictures. They wrote on tablets of clay, later evolving the script that to us is known as cuneiform, or "wedge-shaped."
They were energetic farmers, traders and sailors. Their religion recognized many gods, whose feats and escapades were described in stories that were often preserved for generations. Rituals as well as parties were enlivened by skillful harpists and singers, and Sumerian musical instruments have even been excavated by modern archaeologists.
Silver lyre from Ur, southern Iraq, c. 2600-2400 B.C.E., 106 x 97 cm
This lyre was found in the “Great Death-Pit,” one of the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur accompanied by seventy-four bodies—six men and sixty-eight women—laid down in rows on the floor of the pit. Three lyres were piled one on top of another. They were all made from wood which had decayed by the time they were excavated, but two of them, of which this is one, were entirely covered in sheet silver attached by small silver nails. The plaques down the front of the sounding box are made of shell. The silver cow's head decorating the front has inlaid eyes of shell and lapis lazuli. The edges of the sound box have a narrow border of shell and lapis lazuli inlay. When found, the lyre lay in the soil. The metal was very brittle and the uprights were squashed flat. First it was photographed, and then covered in wax and waxed cloth to hold it together for lifting. The silver on the top and back edge of the sounding box had been destroyed. Some of the silver preserved the impression of matting on which it must have originally lain. Eleven silver tubes acted as the tuning pegs. Such instruments were probably important parts of rituals at court and temple. There are representations of lyre players and their instruments on cylinder seals, and on the Standard of Ur being played alongside a possible singer.
Book-keeping was a feature of Sumerian life, and very detailed records on clay tablets of offerings, rations, taxes and agricultural work have come down to us. Their favorite board game achieved popularity throughout the whole Middle Eastern world. Imported lapis lazuli and carnelian was much prized for inlays and jewelry.
Archaeology has shown that in about 2500 B.C.E. the ruling elite in the city of Ur went to their final resting place surrounded by their wealth and the attendant bodies of their court personnel.
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Want to join the conversation?
- This article paints a rather romantic picture of Summerian society with talk of harps, board games, and lapis lazuli. Was the civilization known to be largely wealthy and happy? Or is the article just romanticizing proverbial "1%".(11 votes)
- Is there more places/sites where I can learn more.(5 votes)
- You might like to look here: http://www.ancient.eu/sumer/(7 votes)
- In the last paragraph you say that "Archaeology has shown that in about 2500 B.C.E the ruling elite in the city of Ur went to their final resting place surrounded by their wealth and the attendant bodies of their court personnel", but how did archaeology show that?, where did they found the evidence? Thanks for answering.(6 votes)
- What was "Their favorite board game achieved popularity throughout the whole Middle Eastern world."?(6 votes)
- Why were the Sumerians called he black headed ones(3 votes)
- what innovation did the sumerian people first develop. why was this an important characeteristic of civilizations(3 votes)
- They moved from being a hunter-gatherer society to a settled agricultural society. That's important, because civilization builds when a group is in a fixed location. See http://www.ancient.eu/sumer/(1 vote)
- It is interesting how all the art didn't only consist of just sculptors or buildings but also brought the musical aspect of it into sight, was music as valued back then as it is today?(2 votes)
- Maybe even more so, is my guess. Remember that the Old Testament has a whole book of songs (Psalms) and David's skills on the harp were specifically mentioned.(2 votes)
- What was one important feature of the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia?(2 votes)
- the sand or somthng(2 votes)
- Did the ancient Sumerians have a leader(1 vote)
- Life-changing article. After reading this my life turned around. My previously minimum wage of 9-5 turned into 2000 per hour. I literally started to fly after reading this. While I was flying I found a genie pot and wished for some sunglasses and the other 2 wishes were for different color sunglasses. I got married and won the lottery 972 times. This article was the best thing to ever happen to me.(2 votes)
- From the author:Glad we could be of service. I hope you also learned something about the ANE.(1 vote)