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Kiš in Mesopotamia

Kiš or Kisch (Arab. Tall al-Uhaymir , including el-Oheimir ) was a city in Mesopotamia in the floodplain of the Euphrates and near the Tigris in what is now central Iraq , 13 kilometers east of Babylon and about 80 kilometers south of Baghdad located .

It existed from around 3000 BC. BC with partial settlement until 1335 AD. According to the tradition of the Sumerian king list, Kiš was the first kingdom in Mesopotamia and arose immediately after the flood. The location in the narrowing between the Euphrates and Tigris have probably contributed to the rapid upswing of the city. The kings of Kiš were always considered to have been legitimized by the gods, which is why the title "King of Kiš" was very popular with various rulers. Kiš was the starting point for the rule of the Akkadians and for most of the time a comrade-in-arms of Babylon.

The ruin of Kiš consists of over 40 settlements within a radius of about eight kilometers, the two most important places being Uhaimir and Ingharra.

History of exploration

Ruins of the Ziggurat Unirkutshumah of Kish. Babel Governorate, Iraq.

The ruins of Kiš were first mentioned by Claudius James Rich in 1811 when he was driving from the ruins of Babylon to Baghdad. Further brief notes followed by James Silk Buckingham in 1816 and Robert Ker Porter in 1818

The first visitors believed to have found the walls or at least fortified extensions of the nearby ruins of Babylon here. It was only Austen Henry Layard who realized the true meaning of the ruins when he visited them during his Babylon excavation in 1850.

The first excavation took place in 1852 by Fulgence Fresnel and Jules Oppert . They did not yet know Layard's publication, as it had not yet appeared, and also suspected an outer part of Babylon, Kutha , to be in front of them. Tragically, all finds from that time were lost in a shipwreck on the Tigris when they were to be driven to Basrah.

The next organized excavation took place under Herni de Genoulla in 1912. In the meantime, various scientists such as Friedrich Delitzsch , Fritz Hommel and Hermann Volrath Hilprecht had suggested that this ruined city was not an outer area of ​​Babylon, but could be identical to the city of Kiš. These excavations had to be interrupted with the outbreak of the First World War.

In 1923 the largest excavation took place in Kiš. The so-called Oxford Field Museum Survey, led by Ernest JH Mackay and Stephen Herbert Langdon . The ruins of Kiš were excavated for eleven campaigns. Due to various problems with the documentation and storage of the finds, however, the findings had to be reconstructed and processed again between 1962 and 1965 and were not really informative until then.

The most recent excavation in Kiš took place in three campaigns between 1988 and 2001 under the direction of Ken Matsumoto from Kokushikan University Japan.

The excavation finds show a cemetery, a ziggurat , which was built around 2500 BC in honor of the state god Zababa . And a temple from the 6th century BC. BC, which was probably dedicated to the Sumerian goddess Inanna . The construction of the temple is associated with Nebuchadnezzar II . The most outstanding monument for the early epoch is above all the royal palace, possibly of the first historically established Sumerian ruler Mesilim ( ED II ).


Gemdet Nasr period 3000–2800 BC Chr.

The first settlements took place in the Ǧemdet-Nasr period . There are two main settlement points that are growing rapidly.

Early Dynastic Period 2900 / 2800-2340 BC Chr.

The heyday of Kisch begins with the beginning of the early dynastic period . The first Sumerian kingdom is proclaimed in Kish. According to the Sumerian royal list, Kish is the first kingship after the flood. Up until the Neo-Babylonian era, being able to call oneself King of Kish was a special distinction that many rulers claimed for themselves. In the second phase of the early dynastic period, the famous Kish chariot graves are laid. and show the prosperity that the common people had. But even before the end of the third phase of the early dynastic period, the fame of Kisch is running out and the power of the real kings of Kisch will never be so great again.

Akkad time. 2340-2200 BC Chr.

The period of the archaic dynasties ends with the unification of the city-states by Sargon I of Akkad . He came from Kiš and although his residence was in Akkad, Kiš became a provincial capital in the Akkadian Empire.

Ur III time 2340-2000 BC Chr.

In the UrIII period, Kisch became a provincial town of Ur.

Isin - Larsa period 2000–1800 BC Chr.

After the fall of Ur, Kiš is subject to Isin before resuming his autonomy for some time.

Shortly afterwards it is subjugated by King Mananana , who founded the Amurri Manana dynasty in Kiš. At the end of the 19th century BC, Sumulael of Babylon stopped the hustle and bustle at the gates of Babylon and subjugated the city of Kiš to the Babylonian Empire .

Old Babylonian Period 1800–1595 BC Chr.

In the Old Babylonian period, Kiš sank into the insignificance of a medium-sized settlement. Nevertheless, individual works were carried out on the structures.

Hammurabi repairs the ziggurat and the temple of Zababa and Ishtar as a tribute to his Amurri ancestors.

Samsuiluna extends the courtyard of the ziggurat and builds a wall on the banks of the Euphrates.

Neo-Babylonian period 1025–627 BC Chr.

In the New Assyrian and New Babylonian times, Kiš is often mentioned as a bone of contention in the border area between Assyria and Babylon. But Kiš remained just one town among many. Minor repairs are being carried out on the ziggurat.

In an inscription in the temple of Hursagkalama the city of Kiš is mentioned as one of several cities conquered by Tiglath Pileser III .

Late Babylonian Period 626-539 BC Chr.

Kiš stood by Babylon as a partner in the war between Sannherib and Marduk-Apla-Idina II, and the famous battle was fought on the Kish plain. When the Assyrian army approached, an inscription says that the gods were brought to Babylon from Kish. The ensuing battle lost Babylon, however, and out of anger over the murder of his son, Sennherib had the city of Babylon razed and rerouted the Euphrates, so that the city was flooded by the Euphrates.

Achaemenid period 539–330 BC Chr.

After the Achaemenid rulers, Kiš is no longer mentioned in the written sources. Archaeological sources, however, show that the city continued to flourish until the Sassanid period.

Seleucids (305–129 BC) Arsacids (approx. 240 BC – 224 AD)

The city of Kisch is no longer specifically mentioned.

Sassanid period 224-640

In Kiš, in excavation area H, a Sassanid settlement is being built.

Ilkhan dynasty 1256–1335

Around the year 1335 at the end of the Ilkhan dynasty , Kish was destroyed by the Mongols and no longer settled.

Famous rulers of Kiš

Club head of Mesilim, King of Kiš Louvre AO2349
  • Etana , "the shepherd who came down from heaven". According to the Sumerian king list, he is the first ruler in Mesopotamia after the flood. His city is Kiš. According to the Sumerian royal list, he ruled for 1560 years. However, 30 years is probably realistic. He is the main actor in the so-called "Etana Myth".
  • Mebaragesi (ca.2615 BC - ca.2585 BC). The Tummal inscription says about him that he had the Temple of Enlil built in Nippur. And so that he is not only king of Kiš, but also has to be ruler of Nippur. His son is King Agga of Kis.
  • Agga of Kis (approx. 2585 BC - approx. 2550 BC), was the adversary of Gilgamesh in the myth " Gilgamesh and Agga ". The epic shows, even if Agga loses in it, that Uruk was under the rule of Kiš. According to the Tummal inscription, Agga built the Temple of Ninlil in Nippur and must therefore also have been ruler of Nippur. With the end of his reign, the glory of the kings of Kiš passed. The title "King of Kiš" is still very popular and many conquerors of Kiš give themselves this title.
  • Mesilim (approx. 2600 BC) a ruler who is not mentioned on the Sumerian king list and probably originally not from Kiš, but from Der . But through many votive offerings and through its historical intervention in the Lagaš-Umma War , it was preserved for posterity. The mace head of Mesilim, which bears his title "King of Kiš", is famous.
  • Ku-baba (approx. 2400 BC) "The barmaid". Is the only female ruler over Kiš and in the Sumerian royal list. She represents the only person from the third dynasty of Kis and her descendants form the fourth dynasty of Kiš. In the list of kings it is reported that Marduk made her queen of Kiš from a bartender after Kiš was defeated in the power struggle with Uruk. To what extent this story has a historical background has not yet been clarified. Some scholars are of the opinion that it was subsequently mystified to the point that it was worshiped as the goddess Kubaba or Kubebbe and Cybele.
  • Sargon I of Akkad (2356 BC - 2300 BC) is one of the most famous rulers of the Akkad period . With him began the Akkade dynasty and the domination of the Semitic population. According to legend, he was the cupbearer of Ur-Zababa from the fourth dynasty of Kis, who he dethroned and made himself ruler of Kis. He then conquered various city-states and founded the still undetectable city of Akkad as the center of his Akkadian empire.

See also


  • Peter Roger Stuart Moorey: Kiš excavations 1923-1933 , Clarendon Press, Oxford 1978
  • McGuire Gibson: The city and Area of ​​Kiš , Coconut Grove, 1972

Web links


  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l Moorey, PRS (Peter Roger Stuart), 1937-, Ashmolean Museum .: Kish excavations, 1923-1933: with a microfiche catalog of the objects in Oxford excavated by the Oxford- Field Museum, Chicago, Expedition to Kish in Iraq, 1923-1933 . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1978, ISBN 978-0-19-813191-5 .
  2. ^ Bienkowski, Piotr., Millard, AR (Alan Ralph): Kish in Dictionary of the ancient Near East . University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA 2000, ISBN 978-0-8122-2115-2 .
  3. ^ Claudius James Rich: Babylon and Persepolis, Narrative of a journey to the site of Babylon in 1811 . London 1838, p. 37 ( ).
  4. James Silk Buckingham: Travels in Mesopotamia II. London 1827, p. 240 ff . ( ).
  5. ^ Robert Ker Porter: Travels II in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, ancient Babylonia. London 1821, p. 245 ( ).
  6. ^ Austen Henry Layard: Nineveh and Babylon; a narrative of a second expedition to Assyria during the years 1849, 1850 & 1851. London 1881, p. 269 ff . ( ).
  7. Friedrich Delitzsch: Where was paradise? A Biblical Assyriological Study. Leipzig 1881, p. 219 .
  8. ^ Fritz Hommel: Outline of the geography and history of the Old Orient: First half: Ethnology of the Old Orient. Babylonia and Chaldea. Munich 1904.
  9. ^ HV Hilprecht: The Excavations In Assyria And Babylonia . Philadelphia 1904, p. 49 ( ).
  10. ^ EJH MacKay: A Sumerian Palace and the "A" cemetery at Kish, Mesopotamia. Chicago 1929 ( ).
  11. K. Matsumoto and H. Oguchi: Excavations at Kish, 2000 . al-Rafidan 2002, p. 1-16 ( ).
  12. ^ A b c d e McGuire Gibson: The city and Area of ​​Kish . Coconut Grove 1972.
  13. DJWiseman: Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings . British Museum of London, London 1956 ( ).
  14. a b c d Th. Jacobsen: The Sumerian King List . Chicago 1939 ( [PDF]).
  15. HGGuterbock: The historical tradition and its literary interpretation with Babylonians and Hittites to 1200 . In: Journal of Assyriology and Allied Areas . tape 42 , 1934, pp. 51, 54 ( ).
  16. EF Weidner: Historical material in the Babylonian Omina literature . In: Messages of the ancient oriental society . tape 4 . Leipzig 1928, p. 229 ff .

Coordinates: 32 ° 32 '24.7 "  N , 44 ° 36" 16.8 "  E