Monday, August 9, 2010

Intro to the Sumerian Civilization

According to Samuel Noah Kramer, until the middle of the 19th century no one knew that “a Sumerian people and language had ever existed”! The Sumerians preceded the Semitic inhabitants of Assyria and Babylonia and it is suggested that it was they who invented the cuneiform system of writing, which had previously been attributed to the Semitic inhabitants of Assyria and Babylonia. The name “Sumerian” is attributed to Jules Oppert in 1869 which was based upon many inscriptions found of the early rulers titled “ King of Sumer and Akkad” (p.21). Over the next century, archeological excavations were carried out at certain sites within Iraq, such as Nippur, Lagash, Fara (ancient Shuruppak), Bismaya, Kish, Waka (also known as Uruk by Sumerians and Akkadians and Erech in the Bible), Ur (or Urim acc. To Sumerians), and al Ubaid.

Kramer informs us that the two important dates for Sumerian chronology are the end of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, “where the Sumerians lost their predominant political position in Mesopotamia and the beginning of the reign of the Hammurabi of Babylon”. These dates are approximately 1945 B.C. (the beginning of the decline) and 1750 B.C. (the takeover). There is enough conclusive archeological evidence to suggest that the Sumerian civilization dates back to 2500 B.C, however any further back than this, Kramer cautions, that it is dependent upon “archeological, stratigraphic, epigraphic inferences and the results of carbon-14 tests” which are not as conclusive as what was originally anticipated.

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