The Sumerian People
While researching Sumerian culture I learned many
interesting things that I was not aware of before. Many
little known facts about Sumer will change the way that
people feel about other ancient societies. Many advances
that are not attributed to Sumeria, often were pioneered by
this advanced culture long before others. Most people don't
even know much about the origan of the Sumerian culture.
The people who originally lived in Sumer in 4000 BC were
not really Sumerians. Sumers original inhabitants were in
fact Ubaidians. The Ubaidian culture was already quite
advanced for that time, and had a large variety of unique
farming techniques. Between 4000 and 3000 BC Sumer was
infiltrated by many nomadic tribes. This constant movement
of peoples caused a cross-fertilization of culture.
Technology from many different regions were becoming
centralized in Sumer. So were different theological
During this millennium the people that we think of as
Sumerians moved into Sumer. These people originated near
the Caspian sea and did not even arrive in Sumer until 3300
BC. When these people ended up in Sumer it created the
worlds first "high civilization". All who lived in Sumer
were now recognized as Sumerian, because Sumerian was the
Sumer, like most early middle-eastern nations, was in the
fertile crescent. These small waterways provided excellant
irrigation, and transportation.
Sumer was one of the first large civilizations that had a
very developed textile industry. Wool sheared from goats
and sheep was made into garments. The usage of linen was
reserved for only high priests and other dignitaries. Flax
and wool was used for everyone else. Farming was also a
very predominant industry in this nation. All of the mixed
culture taught the Sumerians about many different farming
methods. Sickles and other tools aided in the farming. The
harvested grain was preserved in granaries and pots. This
allowed grain to be shipped without spoiling or molding.
All of the waterways in Sumeria allowed products to be
shipped up and down rivers to other destinations. One
popular shipping method was called the "Turnip". The turnip
was a buoy shaped boat that was attached to a long rope.
The turnip would float along in the water, while the
merchant rode on horseback on a near by road.
Transportation methods increased in efficiency and new
types of them arrived during the Sumerian rule, for
instance, more types of boats were invented, and the
Sumerians introduced the sail to the world of travel. The
wheel was also first implemented in the Sumerian nation.
When these advanced forms of transportation were not
available, people still used donkeys with baskets strapped
to their sides.
Iron working was used to create tools that aided in the
growth of the economy. Harpoons and scythes were
constructed from metal so that they were stronger and more
affective. Plows and other farming tools were made out of
Cuneiform writing was pioneered by the Sumerian society.
Cuneiform was writing that was shaped like wedges. This
writing style was used for thousands of years after the
Sumerian empire was overtaken.
Sumerians were the first known users of "real" medicine.
Their medicine did not rely upon magical incantations or
blessings from gods. Tablets were excavated in the
city-state of Nippur that provided detailed instructions
for some type of balm. The instructions involved boiling,
filtering, and pulverizing plants. Also, directions also
often required scrubbing of washing wounds. This is the
first mention of knowledge of germs. Doctors were referred
to as A-ZU, which means Water-Knower. It is unsure if
Sumerians knew about surgery yet, but there were many
bodies that were found with the skulls sliced through,
possibly for study or to relieve pressure on the brain. It
is thought that veterinarians also existed. This is because
references were made to "donkey doctors" and "horse
doctors". Sumerians had massive knowledge of the anatomy of
humans and animals. This was evident because of the
elaborate dissections involved in ritual sacrifice.
Sumer did not have an official religion, but they still
worshipped many gods. There were gods for each city-state,
and for many other parts of nature. Sumerians were
especially pessimistic. They believed that when dead,
people went down to an eternally silent, dark underworld.
Sumerians realized that the cycle of the seasons and
rivers were unrelated to god, but still erected giant
temples, called Ziggurats, to worship their gods. There was
a ziggurat for Inanna, the goddess of love, and many other
Sumerians were quite good at art. It was used often to
honor royalty, and nobility. The first schools for the arts
originated in Sumeria. Sculptures made from all sorts of
materials were found in Nippur, and other Sumerian cities.
Statues of many gods were constructed, as well as
sculptures of rulers.
Each city-state had its own king. Although they had power,
they were not permitted to act with ultimate power, or
Contrary to popular belief, Hammurabis code of laws were
not the oldest. Recently, a tablet was excavated in Sumeria
dating back to 2350 BC. that set codes of conduct for newly
conquered a city. This tablet is the first list of laws
known to man.
The Government enforced taxes to support the city-state.
The government used to take all of a dead mans possessions,
but one city-state changed that. All of the others shortly
followed its lead.
The king was at the top of the social ladder, followed by
A king chose advisors to help him rule, and make sure that
people obey his laws.
Priests still had a decent amount of power, but they still
had an incredible amount of respect. Merchants and other
artisans held the next rung of the social ladder. At the
bottom of this imaginary ladder are commoners, followed
only by slaves.
Taking all evidence into hand, we can safely that Sumerian
culture was quite advanced for its time. They introduced
many important devices, ideas, and other important
information that still aids our everyday life. Imagine life
without the wheel.
I believe that, under better circumstances, the Sumerian
nation would still be flourishing today.