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Ancient Sumer


... becomes famous for his excavations at Ur, an ancient Sumerian city-state. ... Whenever open warfare broke out, a city's council of elders would elect a 'lugal' ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Ancient Sumer

Ancient Sumer
  • Tells are found in the desert of Iraq
  • Even after their discovery, Sumer is still
    considered to be a legendary, not actual, place.
  • 1800s Archaeology is still not very scientific
    dig a hole in the ground and look for treasures.
  • A lot of precious artefacts are likely thrown out
    in the dirt
  • 1900s Archaeology becomes much more scientific
  • Sir Leonard Wooley becomes famous for his
    excavations at Ur, an ancient Sumerian
  • Digging down into the depths of the tell, he hit
    a layer of silt 9 to 12 feet deep, indicating a
    major flood.

Sumerian City-States
  • By 4000 BCE, populations were growing and
    villages became towns. By 3500 BCE, these towns
    had grown into cities.
  • Such as Ur, Kish, Lagash, and Uruk (Erech)
  • Whenever open warfare broke out, a citys council
    of elders would elect a lugal (meaning great
    man or big man) who would have absolute power.

The first Empire
  • Around 2340 BCE, Sargon, in legend a gardeners
    son, became the leader of Kish, and went on to
    conquer a number of other city-states.
  • This first empire was centered in the city of
    Akkad, and the language of the empire was
  • Later, his descendents were overthrown because of
    discontent and the city-state of Ur in the South
    became the most powerful city in the region.

Religion and Government
  • These two components are inextricably tied
  • Kings were careful to link themselves to all
    facets of their lands religion and would turn to
    temple priests and councils of elders for advice.
  • Sumerians believed in as many as 3000 to 4000
    gods (polytheism).
  • Of those, 4 were superior to the others the
    gods of heaven, air, and water, and the goddess
    of earth.
  • To honour these deities, the Sumerians built many
    temples and shrines. The grandest of these
    temples were known as ziggurats (mountain of
  • The Kings maintained their high status in society
    by being the ones who are responsible for looking
    after the temples.
  • This is in addition to being the one primarily
    responsible for the citys defense, maintenance
    of city walls, raising of an army, and expansion
    of territory.

Society and the Economy
  • The economy of Sumer is based in agriculture.
  • Wheat, barley, and sheep (for wool) are the most
  • Society is broken into
  • (1) the ruling class which includes the most
    powerful families
  • From these we get the priests, officials, and
  • (2) The commoners
  • Most of whom are farmers others are workers,
    artisans (craft-workers), traders, and lesser
  • (3) Slaves
  • These slaves did have rights they could own
    land, marry free people, work for money (if they
    had time), and buy their freedom.
  • Trade is the second most important activity after
    farming it is trade that gives the cities in
    the region their wealth and influence.
  • Grain, wool, and manufactured articles are sold
    to neighboring peoples for timber, ivory, and
    metals (all of which Sumer lacked).

  • Sometime between 3500 and 3000 BCE, writing
    developed in Mesopotamia.
  • First, written matters were simple matters
  • Property ownership, lists of goods, etc.
  • Gradually, Sumerian writing evolved into a tool
    to communicate not only business contracts and
    tax or military records, but also religious
    ideas, laws of astronomy, mathematics, and
  • Sumerian writing is known as cuneiform (Latin for
    wedge shaped

Other Sumerian Achievements
  • Tools of farming irrigation, the pickax and the
  • Tools for religion (tracking the celestial
    bodies) phases of the moon, the equinoxes, and
    a 12 month calendar
  • Tools for math their numerical system based on
    the number sixty (60) divided the circle into
  • Tools for telling time 60 is also how we,
    today, break down our minutes and seconds.
  • The may have also devised the first wheel around
    3500 BCE what came first, the pottery wheel or
    the cart wheel, we may never know. Both gave
    Sumerians a strong trade advantage for some time.

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