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Ruins of Ur
Map of Sumer

As Sumer the southern part is called the cultural landscape of the Mesopotamian flood plain located between the present city of Baghdad and the Persian Gulf stretches. In this region , the Sumerians living there made the transition to high culture for the first time in human history and invented writing with cuneiform .

The origin of the ethnic group that shaped Sumerian culture remains hypothetical . Two theories are advocated in current research. On the one hand, that the Sumerian culture emerged from the previously existing Obed culture , which dates from around 5500 to 3500 BC. Chr. Lasted. The second theory assumes immigration from northeastern regions, for example (secondary) from the Iranian highlands or (primarily) directly from the Caucasus region.

However, Sumer was never a coherent political entity, but rather a region of city-states, each with its own king or head.

The settlement and cultural conditions are divided into six epochs based on historical developments:

  • Obed period, around 5000–4100 BC Chr.
  • Uruk period, 4100-2900 BC Chr.
  • early dynasty, 2900–2334 BC Chr.
  • Akkadian period, 2334–2218 BC Chr.
  • Gutian Period, around 2218-2047 BC Chr.
  • Ur III period (also known as the Sumerian Renaissance), 2047–1750 BC Chr.


The proper name of the Sumerians to that country was ki en -ĝir , their language they called emegi (r) . The name Sumer, on the other hand, goes back to the Akkadian word šumeru , which denoted both the country and the inhabitants of southernmost Mesopotamia. It is found above all in royal titles from the ancient Babylonian period , where the rulers referred to themselves as "King of Sumer and Akkad". This already in the 3rd millennium BC The name attested in the Sumerian language ( lugal ki engi ki uri (m) ) expresses the claim to rule over the entire southern Mesopotamia , later called Babylonia , which in addition to the southern part of Sumer also has a northern part, based on the Empire of Akkade , called Akkad, had. After the Akkadian language was first reconstructed in the 19th century , the Akkadian word became commonplace to denote the Sumerian language, which could be derived from the Akkadian sources .

Natural conditions

The majority of the country of Sumer is located in the southern part of Iraq , in the floodplain of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers . This region is particularly characterized by the coastal marshland , with the Gulf coast in ancient times being much further inland and since then has retreated further and further to the southeast due to sediment deposits from the rivers. It is precisely these sediments that form fertile soils that are generally suitable for growing crops . However, due to the low and variable rainfall there, this is only possible in the vicinity of the rivers or through artificial irrigation. Unlike in Egypt , however, the spring flood comes very late and could endanger the harvest. In addition, high temperatures cause large amounts of evaporation . The resulting salinization can only be counteracted by flushing the soil and by fallow land .

Contrary to its agricultural potential, the land of Sumer has almost no mineral resources. Neither rocks nor metals are available locally, so they had to be imported from far away, and the same applies to timber. The most important building materials were therefore the ubiquitous mud, thatch and Erdpeche .

Classification and comparison of cultures, climatic conditions

Investigations by Konfirst (2012) suggest a long period of drier weather in the Middle East and Mesopotamia around 4,200 years ago. This climate anomaly caused the annual rainfall in this region and in the number of rainfall to decrease significantly. As a result, 74 percent of the old Mesopotamian settlements were abandoned, reducing the populated area by 93 percent.

The times are approximate, more precise in the individual articles. The Iron Age followed after the Bronze Age .
Middle East climate and postglacial expansion (in BP ).
Neues Reich Mittleres Reich Altes Reich Frühdynastische Periode (Ägypten) Prädynastik (Ägypten) Altes Ägypten Kassiten Altbabylonisches Reich Assyrisches Reich Ur-III-Zeit Reich von Akkade Sumerische Königsliste späte Bronzezeit mittlere Bronzezeit frühe Bronzezeit Alter Orient Klassische Bronzezeit


6th millennium BC BC (Ceramic Neolithic)

From when the land known as Sumer was regularly settled by people has not yet been definitively clarified. The oldest settlement remains date from the 6th millennium BC. BC , although possible earlier settlements are not yet accessible to archeology due to the thickness of the sediments deposited by the rivers and the high groundwater level in southern Iraq . Based on these earliest traces of settlement, however, a more or less continuous development towards larger social systems can be traced back to the late 4th millennium BC. BC found its first climax with the emergence of the first city in Uruk .

3rd millennium BC BC (Chalcolithic)

From the early 3rd millennium BC Then there are also written sources available that inform us about a number of cities that are also known archaeologically. These are mainly the city-states of Adab , Eridu , Isin , Kiš , Kullab , Lagaš , Larsa , Nippur , Ur and Uruk. Local dynasties ruled in these cities , which often conflicted with one another, as evidenced by the inscription on the vulture stele. The much more recent Sumerian list of kings suggests that these dynasties alternated and that an “abstract kingship over an old Sumerian empire ” existed and was exercised by one dynasty each. However, this is not a historically correct representation.

In the second half of the 3rd millennium, a territorial state was formed for the first time . These efforts were mainly carried out by Sargon von Akkad , who claimed to have brought all of Mesopotamia under his control. As a result of various local unrest, the penetration of the Gutians mentioned peoples and possible climatic changes that first went territorial state in the early 22 century BC. Chr. Finally under. Around the time 3200 BC The Sumerian cuneiform was first developed as a syllabic script . The scribes used a blunt pen with which wedges were pressed into the still soft clay, which was then dried or burned.

Reconstruction of the evolution of writing. With the hypothesis that the Sumerian cuneiform script is the origin of many writing systems.

2nd millennium BC BC (Early Bronze Age)

In the following period primarily city-states existed again, until after about a century the ruler of Uruk was able to bring larger parts of the country under his control and thus became a pioneer for the 3rd Dynasty of Ur , whose founder was able to establish a large territorial state. This state existed for about 100 years and then went under in the course of raids by the Elamites from what is now Iran . The population decreased. The Amurites immigrated from the north into the areas that were being freed and seized power in the country until Hammurabi I of Babylon was finally able to establish a great empire again. At the latest at this time the Sumerian culture was completely in the Semitic on, although the Sumerian language as the language of scholars continue for at least a millennium passed on was.

Connections of the Sumerian-Akkadian deities


Web links

Commons : Sumer  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sumer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Compare the hypotheses of the Dene-Caucasian macro family , in which some authors u. a. and Caucasian languages and the Sumerian be combined because of structural similarities.
  2. ^ Benno Landsberger : Three Essays on the Sumerians. December 1973 ( [1] on here p. 6
  3. Matthew Konfirst : Nomads, No Moisture, No More Sumerian: The 4.2 ka Climate Anomaly and the Death of a Language. 2012 Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting, San Francisco, California 2012
  4. ^ Bettina Bader: Egypt and the Mediterranean in the Bronze Age: The Archaeological Evidence. Egyptian Archeology, August 2015, doi: 10.1093 / oxfordhb / 9780199935413.013.35 , see also Early Bronze Age in the Near Eastern cultures , Middle Bronze Age
  5. Cyprian Broodbank: The Birth of the Mediterranean World. From the beginning to the classical age. CH Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-71369-9 , pp. 8-16.
  6. Before Present is an age given to English before present "before today" and is used for uncalibrated 14 C data needed
  7. ^ Geoffrey Barraclough, Norman Stone: The Times Atlas of World History. Hammond Incorporated, Maplewood, New Jersey 1989, ISBN 978-0-7230-0304-5 , p. 53. ( [2] on