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King of Ur

The ancient Sumerians created one of humanity’s first great civilizations. Their homeland in Mesopotamia, called Sumer, emerged roughly 6,000 years ago along the floodplains between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq and Syriloga. 

The Sumerians learned to farm on a grand scale in the so-called Fertile Crescent, a thin, crescent-shaped sliver of Mesopotamia often tied to the dawn of farming, writing, mathematics and astronomy.

Picture: A Sumerian king of Ur recorded around 2600 B.C. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons) 

And while the arid, ancient landscapes of the Middle East may not seem like the most likely location for an agricultural breakthrough, Sumer actually had a massive advantage. By settling between two large rivers, the Sumerians benefited from rich floodplain soil and ample water to irrigate crops. Their success was accelerated by Sumerian technological innovations like canals and plows. With time, Sumer got so good at growing food that they started to have enough resources left over to focus on building the cities and temples.


Emergence of Sumerian Cities:

Roughly 10,000 years ago, villages started popping up across Mesopotamia. The people who lived in the region raised animals and grew grains, even as they continued to hunt and gather. Over time, those villages expanded and their people became increasingly dependent on farming. 

Archaeologists still aren’t sure exactly what life was like for these early cultures. However, similarities in pottery styles and stamp seals placed on a variety of containers suggests some level of administrative control emerged between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago. 

Meanwhile, people started constructing a series of temples using mud bricks at a site called Eridu. The city seems to have been founded around 5400 B.C. and it was occupied for thousands of years until it was finally abandoned for good around 600 B.C.

Eridu’s status was legendary even in ancient times. Babylonians actually believed that Eridu was the oldest city on Earth, having been created by the gods themselves. That kind of reverence attracted modern researchers, too. Even before archaeologists discovered Eridu, they had read about its existence in ancient texts.

Have a great day!

Prof. Carl Boniface

Source: Discover Magazine (Read full article about the first great civilization and the ancient Sumerians) 


Vocabulary builder:

Floodplains (n) = an area of low-lying ground adjacent to a river, formed mainly of river sediments and subject to flooding. (syn) valleys, mudflats, water meadow

Fertile (adj) = productive, abundant, rich, fruitful, luxuriant

Arid (adj) = dry, baked, waterless, scorched, unfertile, bone-dry

Breakthrough (n) = advance, innovation, invention, revolution, discovery

Soil (n) = earth, dirt, mud, dust, topsoil, land 

Crops (n) = harvests, yields, reaps, garners, collects, produces

Meanwhile (adv) = temporarily, in the meantime, in the interim, in the intervening time, for now, for the time being

Mud (n) = clay, muck, filth, dirt, sludge, mire

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