25 February 2009
"The origin of the Sumerians is
The intriguing question keeps
returning into the literature but has so far unsatisfactory
answers. The Sumerians were not the first people in Mesopotamia.
They were not present before 4000 BCE, while before that time
village communities existed with a high degree of organization.
The 'principle of agriculture' was
not discovered by the Sumerians. This is evident from words the
Sumerians use for items in relation to the domestication of
plants and animals.
A language (in particular as it appears in proper names and
geographical names) may show signs of so called substrate
languages (like the influence of Celtic on ancient Gaul; compare
some Indian geographical names in the US attesting the original
Some professional names and
agricultural implements in Sumerian show that agriculture and
the economic use of metals existed before the arrival of the
Sumerian words with a pre-Sumerian origin are:
professional names such as
simug 'blacksmith' and tibira 'copper smith',
'metal-manufacturer' are not in origin Sumerian words
Agricultural terms, like
engar 'farmer', apin 'plow' and absin 'furrow', are
neither of Sumerian origin
Craftsman like nangar
'carpenter', agab 'leather worker'
Religious terms like sanga
Some of the most ancient cities,
like Kish, have names that are not Sumerian in origin.
These words must have been loan words from a substrate language.
The words show how far the division in labor had progressed even
before the Sumerians arrived."
"Soon after 8,000 BC sedentary
communities and domestic plants and animals began to appear in
many areas of South-west Asia.
These domesticates and allied
agricultural economies were to prove both successful and
adaptable to the extent that within centuries of their first
appearance they had spread far outside the Fertile Crescent.
By 7,000 BC farmers in Greek
Thessaly were subsisting on cultivated emmer-wheat and barley as
well as domestic cattle and pigs."
"This site, currently undergoing
excavation by German and Turkish archaeologists, was erected by
hunter-gatherers at perhaps 11,500 B.C. (This is believed to be
before the advent of sedentariness).
It is currently considered the
oldest known shrine or temple complex in the world, and the
planet's oldest known example of monumental architecture."
One of the most exciting discoveries in Turkish
archaeology this century. It currently stands as the oldest
known Megalithic Temple complex in the world (9,000 BC).
site has numerous intricately carved T-shaped megaliths, covered
with exquisite images of birds and animals."
"Hacilar is an early human
settlement in southwestern Turkey, 25 km southwest of present
day Burdur. It has been dated back 7040 BC at its earliest stage
Archaeological remains indicate that the site
was abandoned and reoccupied on more than one occasion in its
"Hacilar is another important center in Central Anatolia, near
the modern city of Burdur.
There is evidence there of
agriculture dating back 9,000 years. Archaeologists have found
considerable amounts of wheat, barley and lentils in the houses
at Hacilar, giving clues to people’s diet and the history of
Catalhoyuk and Hacilar are also considered two of the earliest
clay pottery centers. The existence of pottery is one very
important indirect benefits of the sedentary lifestyle created
by the ability to produce food year-round and even amass
Assured of their ability to eat, and
able to feed more than just the people who produced food, these
stone-age city dwellers had the opportunity and time invent and
East Central Israel
"Jericho is believed to be one of
the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, with
evidence of settlement dating back to 9000 BC, providing
important information about early human habitation in the Near
The first permanent settlement was
built near the Ein as-Sultan spring between 8000 and 7000 BC by
an unknown people, and consisted of a number of walls, a
religious shrine, and a 23-foot (7.0 m) tower with an internal
"The earliest settlement was located at the present-day Tell es-Sultan
(or Tell Sultan), a couple of kilometers from the current city.
Arabic tell means "mound" -
consecutive layers of habitation built up a mound over time, as
is common for ancient settlements in the Middle East and
The Neolithic settlements were
contemporary with Catalhoyuk and had a similar technology
"The next people who came to Ein es Sultan are called PPNA (The
initials stand for
Pre-Pottery Neolitiic A).
They made their settlement at the
spring around 8,000 BC. As the name indicates, they had no
pottery. (Though as a well-preserved site at Catal Huyuk, Turkey
shows they had wooden vessels).
But the PPNA culture also raised their own domesticated wheat.
(The bones of domesticated sheep and goats and the grains of
domesticated wheat can be distinguished from the wild varieties
The PPNA people built circular dome-shaped one-room huts of
curved adobe bricks covered over with plastered mud.
circular huts are still built by peasants in northeastern Syria
and southeastern Turkey. Sites of the PPNA culture are found all
over Israel, Jordan, Syria, and northern Iraq and a similar
early agricultural village of what was probably a closely
related culture is found
at Catal Huyuk in south-central Turkey.
PPNA is the first agricultural society known.
The spread of PPNA probably went
along with the spread of a particular language across the Middle
East, so PPNA culture was probably spread by one particular
people who drove out or absorbed other peoples."
"Excavations have shown strata of
occupancy going back to the Neolithic period (7,000-5,000 BC),
but the most outstanding features of the site were constructed
during the early, middle and late Bronze Ages (5,000-2,000 BC).
Inscriptions found within the
excavation go back as far as the Neolithic period, and a
sophisticated pictograph form of writing was developed as early
as 2000-1800 BC.
The “Metsamor Inscriptions” have a likeness to
The excavation has uncovered a large metal
industry, including a foundry with 2 kinds of blast furnaces
(brick and in-ground).
Metal processing at Metsamor was
among the most sophisticated of its kind at that time: the
foundry extracted and processed high-grade gold, copper, several
types of bronze, manganese, zinc, strychnine, mercury and iron."
"The Çayönü settlement which is not
far from the city of Diyarbakir has been unearthed by the
expedition teams under the leadership of Cambel, Braidwood, Mehmet Ozdogan, Wulf Schirmen and it is dated back to 7250-6750
In the middle of the settlement is a
center and around it are monumental, rectangular structures and
houses. The foundation of the structures is stone and above is
sun-dried brick. The inhabitants of Çayönü are the first farmers
of Anatolia. They raised sheep and goat, and domesticated dog.
The woman figurines among the finds
discovered are the earliest traces of the Mother Goddess cult."
If you try to find this site using
Google Maps or Google Earth you will not be directed to the correct
location. In fact both of those locations have differing references
as to where Çayönü is located which is too far north for both.
The below bottom map is correct
and the actual dig is at the top which has a small stream flowing
through it and not at the center which is
Zagros Mountains, eastern Iraq
"Jarmo is an archeological site
located in northern Iraq on the foothills of the Zagros
For a long time it was known as the
oldest known agricultural community in the world, dating back to
7000 BC. It is also one of the oldest Neolithic village sites to
be excavated. The Jarmo archeological site was one of the first
means of documentation for the way of life of civilization's
first farmers and herders.
The people reaped their grain with stone sickles, stored their
food in stone bowls, and possessed domesticated goats, sheep,
They also grew emmer and einkorn
wheat, barley, and lentils. In addition to their agriculture,
they also foraged for wild plants such as the field pea, acorns,
pistachio nuts, and wild wheat.
The later levels of settlement
contained evidence of domesticated pigs and clay pottery. Since
many of their tools were made of obsidian from beds 300 miles
away, a primitive form of commerce must have existed. Bone
tools, especially awls, were abundant from the site.
Carefully made bone spoons and beads
were also found."
"Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000-3200
BC) site on the Kachi plain of Balochistan, Pakistan, and one of
the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley)
and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in south Asia.
The site is
located on the principal route between what is now Afghanistan
and the Indus Valley.
A number of terracotta figurines have been found from sites in
Mehrgarh dating from the fourth millennium BCE. These represent
the earliest forms of female imagery (formerly believed to
represent the 'mother goddess') found in the subcontinent (Elgood,
If you go looking for this site you will
find it difficult as the Google markers are too far north.
This map (at bottom page) is correct but
even at a higher resolution the detail is not apparent. It could be
that this image is too early in the archaeological process or there
is not enough detail to see from satellite.
"In the period 6500-5500 B.C., a
farming society emerged in northern Mesopotamia and Syria which
shared a common culture and produced pottery that is among the
finest ever made in the Near East.
This culture is known as Halaf,
after the site of Tell Halaf in northeastern Syria where it was
first identified. The Halaf potters used different sources of
clay from their neighbors and achieved outstanding elaboration
and elegance of design with their superior quality ware. Some of
the most beautifully painted polychrome ceramics were produced
toward the end of the Halaf period.
This distinctive pottery has been
found from southeastern Turkey to Iran, but may have its origins
in the region of the River Khabur (modern Syria).
How and why it spread so widely is a
matter of continuing debate, although analysis of the clay
indicates the existence of production centers and regional
copying. It is possible that such high-quality pottery was
exchanged as a prestige item between local elites.
The Halaf culture also produced a
great variety of amulets and stamp seals of geometric design, as
well as a range of largely female terracotta figurines that
often emphasize the sexual features.
Among the best-known Halaf sites are
Arpachiyah, Sabi Abyad, and Yarim Tepe, small agricultural
villages with distinctive buildings known as tholoi.
These rounded domed structures, with
or without antechambers, were made of different materials
depending on what was available locally:
limestone boulders or mud and
The Halaf culture was eventually
absorbed into the so-called Ubaid culture, with changes in
pottery and building styles."
"The best preserved early village so
far uncovered [is] by Catal Huyuk in southern Turkey, excavated
The large, 32-acre site, first
occupied shortly before 6000 B.C., contains some of the most
advanced features of Neolithic culture: pottery, woven textiles,
mud brick houses, shrines honoring a mother goddess, and
plastered walls decorated with murals and carved reliefs.
It is generally thought that because
of their earlier role as gatherers of wild foods, women were
responsible for the invention of agriculture. As long as the
ground was prepared by hoeing rather than by plowing, women
remained the cultivators.
They also invented and performed the
making of pots from clay, and the spinning and weaving of
textiles from cultivated flax and animal wool."
"The most developed examples of the Neolithic culture in
Anatolia have been found in Catalhoyuk, the foundation of which
dates back to 6500 BC.
Great technological developments are
observed in the working of obsidian and flint used for making
tools in Catalhoyuk which was an urban settlement center and
where there is also proof of foreign trade with neighboring
"Archaeologists believe they have
uncovered the world's oldest city in a remote part of Syria.
Dating back to 6,000BC, the
discovery is 2,500 years older than any known site and will
prompt a dramatic reappraisal of ancient history. The huge
settlement, called Hamoukar, is located between the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, an area known throughout ancient history as
The city spread over 750 acres and
is believed to have been home to up to 25,000 people.
The discoveries will prompt a re-think of how mankind developed
in the "cradle of civilization" between the two great Middle
Eastern rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. It was here that
Babylon and Mesopotamia were established and the oldest known
civilization, the Sumerians, were identified to have lived
But Hamoukar is thought to have been
constructed between 6000BC and 4000BC.
At his office at the Museum of Raqqa, 300 miles north-east of
the Syrian capital Damascus, Dr Maktash said the discovery would
challenge conventional notions of the development of
"Hamoukar is at least 1,000
years older than Sumeria," he said.
"But we don't know who the
people were who lived at Hamoukar. If they were here first
the big question is: where did the Sumerian civilization
come from - from nothing? It's possible they came from
Hamoukar. This will change many things in our understanding
McGuire Gibson, professor of Chicago
University's Oriental Institute, said:
"We need to reconsider our ideas
about the beginnings of civilization, pushing the time
This would mean that the development
of kingdoms or early states occurred before writing was
"Tel Hassuna is a Neolithic site
found in the Assyrian region, located 22 miles south of Mosul in
modern Iraq. In its prime, Tel Hassuna may have been surrounded
by a stream on three sides.
It is one of the earliest
Mesopotamian sites, which dates back to late 7th millennium to
late 6th millennium BCE, and is the type site for the Hassuna
culture. These people, who used chipped stone hoes, represent
some of the earliest farmers in northern Mesopotamia. There is
evidence for the domestication of animals such as sheep, goats,
Hassuna inhabitants lived in houses
made of tauf, or packed mud, surrounding open courtyards. In the
central area of the site, the buildings were larger in size and
seemed to have specific purposes other than housing inhabitants.
Some material remains uncovered from
previous excavations have included ovens used for baking, pots
for grain storage possibly lined with bitumen or gypsum plaster
to keep out moisture, and grinding stones to process grains such
as emmer and barely. The pottery found at the site is called
Hassuna pottery and is characterized by red slip on
Herring-bone lines decorate the
pottery. Stamp seals, which may have been used for indication of
contents or ownership, usually accompany the pottery. There is
evidence of turquoise in Hassuna, which would have been
imported, and is an unusual find at early sites in Iraq.
Other pottery included
grey-burnished pieces which were probably attained through
At earlier levels there is a considerable amount of stone
objects, flint, and obsidian. Beads, pendants, and other small
pieces of jewelry have also been found. Evidence found at Tel Hassuna excavations indicates a reverence for the afterlife.
A dozen pottery-jar infant burials
have been found alongside more jars containing food and drink
meant to sustain the child in the afterlife. Small figurines of
a "mother-goddess" form made from reddish clay have been found.
One figurine had a headdress created
for her, molded from a type of green clay."
"The Tell Hassuna people had a Neolithic culture in northern
Their culture flourished about 6000-5250 B.C. We do
not know what these people called themselves, so Tell Hassuna is
a name given as a matter of convenience. They had no form of
writing, so we do not know what their language was like.
The Tell Hassuna people had a settled lifestyle. Their
communities varied in size; the maximum population of their
towns was about 500. Most were small villages that covered areas
of 2-8 acres. The houses were rectangular and most had more than
one room. Mud-brick formed the composition of most of the
Residences typically had yards with walls around
them. The residents did much of their cooking in outdoor ovens.
However, there were also some indoor ovens with chimneys. Floors
were plastered and niches in walls were used for storage.
Farming provided much of the food. The Tell Hassuna people
raised barley and wheat. They also did a considerable amount of
hunting. The game that they hunted included onagers (wild
donkeys) and gazelles. It is obvious that they did not
domesticate donkeys or horses.
Archaeologists have excavated several sites of this culture.
Tell Hassuna is the largest community. It had some large central
buildings that were divided into small square rooms. These
structures had dirt floors and no hearths. The evidence
indicates that they were used for storage. An archaeological
team found 2,400 clay objects that are thought to have been
projectiles propelled by slings.
There were also about 100 large
balls made of baked clay; these items may have been used as
The inhabitants of the Tell Hassuna towns used stamp seals to
make images on clay. They created an enormous amount of pottery.
Alabaster and terracotta were commonly used for making pottery.
Red paint was used to make linear designs on the pots, bowls,
and goblets. Banded designs were common; the stripes were
horizontal on some vessels and vertical on others.
Many statuettes were created by the Tell Hassuna people. These
figurines were often made of alabaster or terracotta. The small
sculptures frequently represented female figures.
I learned a considerable amount of information about the Tell
Hassuna culture during my time as a graduate student at the
University of Texas.
The Tell Hassuna people were of the stone
age, but were quite advanced for that time frame."
"An understanding of the rise of
complex cultures in southwest Asia should begin with the Ubaid
Period which falls chronologically between the origins of
agriculture and the rise of urbanism.
During the Ubaid a new social order
was evolving in southern Mesopotamia and the Susiana Plain
(Elam) of SW Iran out of which emerged complex societies with a
centralized state structure. During the fifth millennium BC
Ubaid culture spread northward up the Tigris-Euphrates drainage
as far west as Cilicia and the Amuq.
This foreshadows a similar expansion
of what has been interpreted as Uruk trading colonies or
enclaves established to obtain essential raw materials lacking
in the alluvial plain... PreHistoric Ubaid Culture (5500-4000
Tell (mound) of Ubaid near Ur in southern Iraq has given its
name to the prehistoric culture which represents the earliest
settlement on the alluvial plain of south Mesopotamia.
The Ubaid culture has a long
duration beginning before 5000 BC and lasting until the
beginning of the Uruk Period.
In the mid 5th millennium BC the
Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia replacing the
Halaf Culture. The Ubaid culture is characterized by large
village settlements and the appearance of the first temples in
Equipment includes a buff or
greenish colored pottery decorated with geometric designs in
brown or black paint; tools such as sickles were often made of
hard fired clay in the south but in the north stone and
sometimes metal were used for tools..."
"In the period 5500-4000 B.C., much of Mesopotamia shared a
common culture, called Ubaid after the site where evidence for
it was first found.
Characterized by a distinctive type
of pottery, this culture originated on the flat alluvial plains
of southern Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) around 6200 B.C. Indeed,
it was during this period that the first identifiable villages
developed in the region, where people farmed the land using
irrigation and fished the rivers and sea (Persian Gulf).
Thick layers of alluvial silt
deposited every spring by the flooding rivers cover many of
Some villages began to develop into
towns and became focused on monumental buildings, such as at
Eridu and Uruk. The Ubaid culture spread north across
Mesopotamia, gradually replacing the Halaf culture.
Ubaid pottery is also found to the
south, along the west coast of the Persian Gulf, perhaps
transported there by fishing expeditions. Baked clay figurines,
mainly female, decorated with painted or appliqué ornament and
lizardlike heads, have been found at a number of Ubaid sites.
Simple clay tokens may have been
used for the symbolic representation of commodities, and
pendants and stamp seals may have had a similar symbolism, if
During this period, the repertory of seal designs
expands to include snakes, birds, and animals with humans.
There is much continuity between the
Ubaid culture and the succeeding Uruk period, when many of the
earlier traditions were elaborated, particularly in
Left: Stamp seal
with animal and bird, 6th–5th millennium B.C.; Ubaid period
Syria or Anatolia.
Right: Stamp seal, 6th millennium B.C.; Halaf period Syro/Cilicia
The impressing of carved stones into clay to seal containers had
a long tradition in Mesopotamia, with the earliest evidence
found in Syria dating to the seventh millennium B.C.
During the Ubaid period, the variety
of designs carved on seals expanded from simple geometric forms
to include animals with humans, snakes, and birds.
this above one with deeply carved animal motifs became characteristic
of northern Syria and southeastern Anatolia. It is decorated
with a four-legged horned animal.
Above the animal is a leaf shape,
possibly a stylized bird, while two bent lines under its body
may represent vegetation or perhaps snakes."
"During the 6th and 5th millennium BC the peoples of Ubaid
Mesopotamia and the Arabian Neolithic met and interacted.
This was first realized during the
1960's and 1970's, when numerous sites were identified in the
Central Gulf region which contained pottery in the Ubaid style.
These were mostly coastal, and were mainly found in the
northeastern province of Saudi Arabia, though sites were also
identified in Bahrain and Qatar. The majority were small and
ephemeral, but a handful were large, with deep deposits and
Abdullah Masry studied these sites (Masry 1974), and excavated
three of the most promising ones (Abu Khamis, Dosariyah and Ain
Qannas). Excavations also occurred at smaller Ubaid sites in
Bahrain and Qatar (Roaf 1976; de Cardi 1978).
Masry concluded that this part of
Arabia had enjoyed a close and integral relationship with
More controversially, he suggested that
the Mesopotamian and Ubaid-related Arabian sites should be
regarded as part of the same social and economic system, and
that the origins of Mesopotamian civilization lie as much in the
Arabian Peninsula as in Mesopotamia.
Meanwhile, Joan Oates and her
collaborators proved through petrographic and compositional
analysis that the Ubaid-style painted pottery from the Gulf
states originated in Southern Mesopotamia (Oates et al. 1977).
She had a simpler explanation than
Masry, suggesting that Ubaid visitors travelled down the Gulf in
search of fish and perhaps pearls, trading their pottery with
local communities along the way."
"After three phases of excavations,
the head of the team Roman Ghirshman published a book that
amazed the academic society of the time.
According to Ghirshman, sialk was
the place where man first used a form of mortar in construction.
It is also the first place where cloth-weaving, spooling and
casting were invented. Evidence suggests that the site was not
only the starting point of Persian civilization but also the
first place where religious thought took form.
Further studies by Iran's Cultural
Heritage Organization revealed that sialk was as old as 7000 to
Settlers first inhabited the region
somewhere around 5500 B.C. - 6000 B.C., drawn to the region due
to the abundant water supply provided by what is known today as
Cheshmeh ye Soleiman (or 'Solomon's Spring').
"Though the present archaeological
site covered by mud-brick ruins is vast, the site of Samarra was
only lightly occupied in ancient times, apart from the
Chalcolithic Samarran Culture (ca 5500-4800 BC) identified at
the rich site of Tell Sawwan, where evidence of irrigation -
including flax - establishes the presence of a prosperous
settled culture with a highly organized social structure.
The culture is primarily known by
its finely-made pottery decorated against dark-fired backgrounds
with stylized figures of animals and birds and geometric
This widely-exported type of pottery, one of the first
widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient
Near East, was first recognized at Samarra.
The Samarran Culture was the
precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period."
"Samarra is now one of the largest archaeological sites in the
"Archaeologists have found five
levels of occupation at Tell es-Sawwan.
The first two are designated as I
and II; they are generally thought to be of the Tell Hassuna
culture. These levels have a tripartite building plan. These
tripartite buildings were made around a central room. It was
divided into three parts and a corridor bordered it on each
side. The areas were further subdivided into chambers.
Some children's graves have been
discovered in the floors. A number of goods were found with the
remains of the children. These burial items consisted of pottery
and figurines made of alabaster.
Radiocarbon dating was made from a floor sample of level I; it
was dated to 5506+73 B.C. A similar date (also taken from a
floor) was given for Level II.
In Level III the architecture has a different pattern. Level
IIIA has T-shaped buildings with fortification features.
These include walls, ramparts, and
ditches. In Level IIIB the buildings are converted into
granaries. The radiocarbon dating was made from a floor and is
5349+86 B.C. This level is dated to the Samarra period. [Note -
The Samarra time frame is 5500-500 B.C.]
I should mention that not all of the
pottery of Level III is Samarra; some of it is Hassuna. Levels
IV and V are also dated to the Samarra.
A major change is apparent in Level IV. The fortifications are
no longer used. Level V has been dated to the Halaf period."
"Tell as-Sawwan was fortified early today in Iraq, 110 km
northwest of Badgadista fairly close to Samarraa. Place is
located in northern and central Mesopotamia frontier
rain-growing border, south of .
This early settlement was the central Mesopotamia, the Tigris
river, archaeologists running of perhaps about 6300-6100 BC ,
Whose inhabitants lived kasteluviljelyllä and store grain.
Clay utensils and copper machining,
cold, perhaps you know. Miniature judging palvottiin men and
women on fertility liiittyen so later than the Middle East and
Tel es-Sawwanin village joined the broader Samarran
culture, which is considered to be the Middle East
sivilisaatiokehityksen pre-operational phase. sawwan located in
the cultural area of the southern border."
(translated from Finnish)
Eridu - The
First Known Sumerian City
After the kingship descended from heaven, the
kingship was in Eridu
"I chose the archeological site
Eridu, now known as modern Abu Shah Rain.
Eridu is 196 miles southeast of
Baghdad, Iraq. It was the earliest known city of Sumer (Southern
Mesopotamia). There are also an important group of temples in
Eridu (Britannica, 1999)
Eridu was located by the mound called Abu Shayhrayan.
This was one of the most important
prehistoric urban centers in southern Babylonia. It was built on
sand dunes probably in the fifth millennium B.C. It completely
showed the sequence of the preliterate Ubaid civilization. Eridu
had a long succession of super imposed temples portraying the
growth and development of intricate mud brick architecture
The apparent continuity of occupation and religious observance
at Eridu provide convincing evidence for the indigenous origin
of Sumerian civilization.
The site was excavated between 1946
and 1949 by the Iraq Antiquities Department (McDonald).
The city continued to be occupied
until 600 B.C. but was less important in historic periods."
cities now lost:
Dilmun, Akkade and