The Sumerian civilization is the first great civilization in the history of mankind. Located in ancient Mesopotamia in the Middle East , they managed to create a great empire that lasted for many years. His legacy reaches the present day through his great discoveries, where the calendar , the wheel and the cuneiform writing stand out. Sumerian civilization timeline
In this article we will talk more about the Sumerians, this great civilization that gave rise to organized societies under state logics.
Who were the Sumerians?
They are considered as the first existing civilization, therefore, it is the oldest of humanity . The name that this town received was of Semitic origin. However, the Sumerians called themselves “the black-headed people.” Its population settled in the flat regions that were between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was the first society to manipulate plants, cultivating on a large scale, and the first to domesticate and breed wild animals on a large scale.
Timelines of the Sumerians
In Mesopotamia there are inhabitants since 100,000 BC. C., just with the arrival of the Neolithic the nomadic peoples settle in the area, in the second half of the fourth millennium BC. C. occurs the arrival of the Sumerians forming the town of Sumer . The history of the first civilization known to mankind is divided into five time periods ranging from the Age of Copper to the Bronze Age :
- Uruk (3500-3000 BC) : Since the exact moment when they arrived in Mesopotamia is not really known, this moment has been defined as their starting point until the moment when the bases of the city of Uruk were completed and began to evolve. Here the cuneiform writing originates.
- Archaic dynastic (3000 – 2350 BC): The construction of protective walls in the city begins, so it is presumed that the risks of wars were constant. Sumerian civilization timeline
- Akkadian Empire (2350 – 2200 BC) : It was marked by the first unification in Mesopotamia, this occurs between the Arcadians and the Sumerians. It is noteworthy that this was not a peaceful process, but that the Sumerians were subjugated by the Arcadians after a battle. For more than 140 years they were under the government of this nation, beginning with that of Sargon.
- Renaissance (2200 – 2100 BC) : The nomadic people called Gutis had taken control of Arcadia, however, they were defeated in 2100 BC. C. by the army of the city Utu-hengal. They ruled for almost a hundred years until the people of the Amorites, who populated the Arab countries, attacked them in 2003 BC.
- Ur III (2100 – 2000 BC) : It was a city that developed into a state in the full sense of the word, we have in this period a marked administrative centralization . The inhabitants of Ur had an advanced cultural, educational and developmental system for their time, yet they could not victoriously resist the siege of the Amorite army.
Social organization of the Sumerians
The Sumerians were a culture that was divided into social strata that ranged from the most important characters to ordinary citizens. The king appeared in the highest hierarchy, this in turn performed religious functions as a priest and administered decisions in social, economic and legal matters . The king was followed by prominent members of the army , who were in charge of leading in battles and ensuring the security of the state. The merchants were in the next social rung , since the activity they carried out was very important for the Sumerians and they were in charge of the exchange of goods with neighboring nations. Finally, there were the peasants and slaves, who had no rights or property, were completely dependent on the mercy of their masters.
Organization of the Sumerian state
The political organization of the Sumerians was theocratic, that is, they were under the command of a Sacred King who brought together the different city-states into which civilization was divided.
Each of these city-states had the same pattern in terms of organization, since for the Sumerians the most important thing was religion, therefore in the middle of each city was a Ziggurat, which was a temple in the form of pyramid . The size of this place of worship exemplified the wealth and power of the city in which it was located. The population of the city was scattered around the worship center. Sumerian civilization timeline
On the other hand, each of the cities of the Sumerian civilization was independent in every way, they had their own means of agricultural production, economic activity, deity, army and king. It is not surprising that with the passage of time, one city was more developed and influential than another. Some examples of these city-states were the following:
- Bad tibira
- Little girl
The main form of worship was polytheism . In addition, they believed in spirits and magic, the latter being the explanatory reason for the phenomena of nature . The gods had human-like features, such as feelings, and were reflected in every aspect of creation, such as the stars in the sky.
On the other hand, the Sumerians believed that their deities were in control of time, and that these were the sources of the advances they made as a civilization . The idea that was formed regarding the devotion to their gods was that bad things happened because they had angered one of their gods and they punished them. Some of their deities were:
- Enlil : Deity that represented the wind.
- Nannar : The god who represented the moon in the city-state of Ur.
- Utu : Name given to the god who represented the sun.
- Nammu : The deity that the Sumerians viewed as mother.
- An : Denomination of the God of heaven.
The Sumerians believed that everything that existed had become the work of the god Nammu. The pigs, birds and fish were his work, as well as the appearance of the earth and the sky. For them, the land consisted of a form of plate that floated in a giant sea, which changed seasons annually with the life and death of its deities. For example, when summer came and the intense heat caused the plantations to wither, the Sumerians thought that their gods died, while in rainy or spring time, they thought that their gods came back to life. Sumerian civilization timeline
The existence of the afterlife was also one of his beliefs. When imagining it, they thought of a kind of hellish torment that people were subjected to by dying eternally.
Productive activities of the Sumerians
The Sumerians were able to skillfully develop activities related to farming and livestock. Among its crops were: mustard, leek, lettuce, garlic, onion, dates, turnip, wheat, millet, lentils, chickpea and barley . Additionally, they knew how to raise animals such as pigs, goats, lambs and cows. They practiced fishing and used large animals such as donkeys and oxen to carry heavy loads.
The Sumerians developed an irrigation system that allowed them to obtain the best fruits from the soil , and although they suffered due to the constant flooding due to the strong currents of the rivers that surrounded them, they designated specific people to take care of this work. They knew how to take advantage of each time of the year to work and with the passage of time, their activity evolved, making it faster and more organized.
The origin of the Sumerian language is Semitic. However, their language is unlike that of any other civilization . Although the Caucasians, Urartians, and Elamites used similar languages, no other civilization has yet been found that spoke the same language as the Sumerians.
As for the written language, the Sumerians were the creators of the kind of writing known as cuneiform. This was changing over time, since from the beginning it was a set of hieroglyphs to which later a constant meaning was given . In the discoveries that have been made to date, documents on medicine, astronomy, mathematics, prayers, hymns, laws, receipts, letters on clay tablets have been found.
The art of copying texts over and over again was common among the Sumerians . Many of the texts found are copies that managed to survive the passage of time and climatic conditions. They also used a sacred language when transcribing documents related to religion and law. Sumerian civilization timeline
Culture of the Sumerians
The cultural features of the Sumerian civilization are perceived by:
- Architecture : Due to the type of terrain and the scarcity of trees in the region, the architectural style was simple, using bricks that were joined with bitumen. Also, some homes were built with reeds. The problem with this class of constructions was their durability, since they were simple materials and quickly gave way to wear and tear due to weather conditions. Usually, as they wore out, they rebuilt them. Among the most relevant constructions of this civilization were the Ziggurats, which were pyramid-shaped towers that ended in a temple.
- Literature : The genres that stand out in Sumerian literature are three: lamentations, hymns and myths. In these are related the qualities of their gods and the feats they performed both to reward their worshipers and to punish them. The hymns were used as a repertoire of songs that were used in the worship of the deities, while the lamentations were a capitulation of disastrous events that had occurred in the cities due to the force of nature. Other literary forms that have been found over time have been proverbs and poetry.
- Medicine : The Sumerians wrote the first known book of medicine, in which there are recipes to cure diseases, as well as a list of remedies that combined the use of dates, pears, figs, willows, thymus, myrtle, cassia, milk and some substances animals to eliminate digestive problems. The use of beer or wine was useful for injured people. Diseases were perceived as the possession of an evil spirit within the person and the healing process was for it to leave the body in which it resided.
Contribution of the Sumerians to our days
- Democracy : The first elections were held in one of the Sumerian city-states. The election ballots consisted of small pieces of clay in which the citizen carved his decision.
- Astronomy : They dedicated themselves to the study of the stars in the sky. They were the first to define the behavior of time from the study of lunar changes. They concluded that a year comprised 365 days, 12 months, and instituted the 12 signs of the zodiac.
- The wheel : Its appearance was in the year 4000 BC and according to the discoveries made, the Sumerians were its inventors and the first to use it. Sumerian civilization timeline
- Construction of an irrigation system : They waited for the overflowing of the rivers that surrounded them during certain seasons of the year to use the water and make their land productive. They created artificial channels that carried the water from the rivers to the cultivated fields, these channels can still be seen today. They built the first known canal around 2500 BC. C. under the command of the governor of Lagash.
- The writing : In the beginning, the Sumerians used simple figures as a representation of the commercial transactions they made. However, to tell the stories of what was happening, they evolved, using symbols that told a succession of events. When this was not enough, lyrics began to appear. These were sculpted from durable materials such as clay or metals to record contracts, laws, or business documents.
- In addition, they were responsible for the appearance of such useful aspects as mathematics, geometry , the war chariot , finance, the calendar, beer, the potter’s wheel, among others .