Sumerian Culture


Sumerian Culture Essay, Research Paper

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 viewpoints. 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 common language.

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

iron now. 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 gods.

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

dictatorship. 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 his advisors. 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.

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