For a Civilization that was perhaps the first to do a number of things that we take for granted, it is time we give due significance to the people of Sumer. This cradle of Civilization that began in sixth century BC in the territory where South Iraq lies today, made many important contributions in the evolution of human society.
The Cradle of Civilization
Sumerians refer to the people of the earliest historically documented civilization that existed for over three thousand years from sixth millennium B.C. to second millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia, around what is the South Iraq today.
Often referred to as the'cradle of civilization', the Sumerians have left a legacy of historical evidence about their existence as well as about other civilizations that existed in their time including those of Egypt and India, which suggest that they were advanced enough to have trade across different continents, even in those times. Sufficient historical evidence is also available about their language, literature, religion and culture.
The Times of Sumerian People
The Sumerian civilization seems to have taken roots in sixth millennium B.C. and they mastered the art of agriculture which they began practicing the year round from around 5300 B.C. They are also credited with inventing the wheel, which probably revolutionized their existence and helped them built the first cities in the world. Their urban density was sufficient to dictate division of labor and they also developed their own Sumerian language which is considered a language isolate as it does not belong to any particular linguistic family. It is an agglutinative language, where different units of meaning are added to create words rather than sentences.
The History of Sumerian Civilization
Their history is divided in to Ubaid period in the Neolithinc to Chalcolithic age (from 5300 to 4100 B.C.), Uruk period which lasted upto the early Bronze age (from 4100 to 2900 B.C.), early Dynastic period (2900 -2334 B.C.), and the age of empires Akkadin, Gutianand Ur III dynasties, which lasted upto 1940 B.C., when the Sumerian civilization was finally replaced by the Babylonian rule.
The Cultural Advances of Sumer
The most impressive and well known part of Sumerian culture is their pottery. The primitive pictograms suggest that there were all types of pottery made since early times, including dishes, vase, bowels and jars of all sizes. There are many metal artifacts found with written inscriptions in Sumerian language, as are seals of Indus valley civilization of India found there, suggesting extensive trade links across the world. Sumerians followed a lunar calendar, and a religion of gods worshipped as humans. The early region is dominated by existence of spirits while the late periods are devoted to human gods. Every city was built as a temple centered inhabitation, where the king-priest dominated the power. Every city had a different god.
'An' was the Sumerian god of heaven or sky, while 'Enki' was the earth god. Other major deities included 'Enlil', the god of the ghost-land, 'Inanna' was Venus, 'Utu' the Sun god and 'Nanna' the Moon god. In addition there were hundreds of minor deities. Their agriculture was highly developed, with crops including wheat, barley, lentils, date, onions, garlic, lettuce and mustard. The agriculture thrived on irrigation systems that they developed, and their final downfall was brought about by the increasing salinity of soil resulting from poorly drained land.
Sumerians have left numerous legacies for mankind including instruments of agriculture, pottery and war trade. They invented many new techniques and skills in different wakes of life in their time including mathematics, boat and ship making, armory and communication.