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ancient Mesopotamia-(HEAR IT) a civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which

developed circa 5900 BCE and ended circa 600 CE; is considered by many experts to be the
place where civilization began for the human race
Overview and Timeline of Ancient Mesopotamian Civilization
Mesopotamia is one of the cradles of human civilization. Here, the earliest cities in world history
appeared, about 3500 BC.
Timeline of Ancient Mesopotamian civilization:
c. 5000-3500 BC: The first city-states gradually develop in southern Mesopotamia. This is the
achievement of the Sumerian people.
c. 3500: Writing begins to be developed. At first this is based on pictograms, and takes about a
thousand years to evolve into a full cuneiform script.
c. 2300: King Sargon of Akkad starts conquering the first empire in world history. The empire
reaches its height in c. 2220.
c. 2100: The city of Ur becomes the centre of a powerful Mesopotamian state. It soon falls into
decline. This marks the decline of the Sumerians as the Amorites, a nomadic people, start
moving into Mesopotamia.
1792-49: King Hammurabi of Babylon conquers a large empire. Hammurabi is famous for the
law code which he issues. His empire begins to decline immediately after his death.
c. 1530: Babylonia is conquered by the Kassites, who rule the area for 400+ years.
c. 1500: The Mitanni, an Indo-European people, conquer northern Mesopotamia, plus areas of
Syria and Asia Minor. After 200 years the kingdom of Assyria conquers northern Mesopotamia
from the Mitanni
From 1100: Nomadic peoples such as the Aramaeans and the Chaldeans overrun much of
Mesopotamia. The kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria go into temporary decline.
Please see the articles on Assyrian civilization and Ancient Babylonian civilization for later
developments within Mesopotamia.
Geography of Ancient Mesopotamia
"Mesopotamia" is a Greek word meaning, "Land between the Rivers". The region is a vast, dry
plain through which two great rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, flow. These rivers rise in mountain
ranges to the north before flowing through Mesopotamia to the sea. As they approach the sea,
the land becomes marshy, with lagoons, mud flats, and reed banks. Today, the rivers unite
before they empty into the Persian Gulf, but in ancient times the sea came much further inland,
and they flowed into it as two separate streams.
The land is too dry to grow many crops on. As a result, much of it has been - and is still home to herders of sheep and goat. These nomads move from the river pastures in the summer
to the desert fringes in the winter, which get some rain at this time of year. At various times they
have had a large impact on Mesopotamian history.
Near the rivers themselves, the soil is extremely fertile. It is made up of rich mud brought
down by the rivers from the mountains, and deposited over a wide area during the spring floods.
When watered by means of irrigation channels, it makes some of the best farmland in the world.
The marshy land near the sea also makes very productive farmland, once it had been
drained. Here, the diet is enriched by the plentiful supply of fish to had from the lagoons and
ponds.
It is this geography which gave rise to the earliest civilization in world history. Agriculture
is only possible in the dry climate of Mesopotamia by means of irrigation. With irrigation,
however, farming is very productive indeed. A dense population grew up here along the Tigris
and Euphrates and their branches in the centuries after 5000 BC. By 3500 BC, cities had
appeared. The surplus food grown in this fertile landscape enabled the farming societies to feed
a class of people who did not need to devote their lives to agriculture. These were the craftsmen,
priests, scribes, administrators, rulers and soldiers who made civilization possible.
Language and Writing of Ancient Mesopotamia
At the time when civilization first arose in Mesopotamia, the population was divided into two
distinct groups: those who spoke Sumerian (a language unrelated to any modern language), and

those who spoke Semitic dialects (related to modern Arabic and Hebrew). It was the Sumerianspeakers who lived near the great rivers, and it was they who built the first cities. Their language
therefore became the first to be written down in world history.
The first script to be used was based on pictures, and is therefore known as "pictographic". They
first appeared around 3500 BC. By 3000 BC the pictograms (of which there were more than a
thousand) had become highly stylized, and were losing their original meanings. They were
gradually becoming more "phonetic" - that is, reflecting spoken words. Finally, around 2500 BC,
the script had evolved into "cuneiform" - or wedge-shaped - writing. This was written by means
of triangular-tipped stylus tools being pressed onto wet clay, and the symbols (which had been
reduced to a more manageable 600 or so) were highly stylized and abstract.
Learning to write in cuneiform was a long and rigorous process, and literacy was confined
to a small elite of priests and officials.
Cuneiform was at first written in the Sumerian language. For more than a millennium
Sumerian retained importance as the language of administration, religion and high culture.
However, in the centuries after 2000 BC, it increasingly fell out of everyday use. In its place, a
Semitic dialect, Akkadian (also known as "Old Babylonian") became widespread. Later still, in the
early 1st millennium BC, another Semitic dialect, Amaraic, took its place. The waxing and waning
of these languages reflected population movements within Mesopotamia, and to the rise and fall
of ruling kingdoms and empires with which they were linked.
As each language fell into decline in everyday use, it retained its useage amongst the
conservative temple priests - much like Latin was used in the monasteries of Medieval Europe
long after the rest of society had moved on. The cuneiform script, first developed by the
Sumerians, remained in use, adapted for each successive language.
Ancient Mesopotamia is included in a part of the world that was called "the fertile
crescent". Civilizations arose here because it was easy to grow food here. With the relative ease
of food production, people settled down in place, population grew, and towns and cities were
built.
The Fertile Crescent includes the modern day countries of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan,
Palestine, and others.
Ancient Mesopotamia was located in what is now southern Iraq. It was between two rivers, the
Tigris and Euphrates. In fact, the word Mesopotamia is Greek meaning "the land between the
rivers".
In Mesopotamia, the land is very fertile. In the Northern part of Mesopotamia, there are
rivers and streams that are fed from the mountains. In addition, there is a rainy season that
helps water the soil. While the southern region is much hotter and dryer, the two large rivers the
Tigris and the Euphrates, allow irrigation. The land between the rivers was filled with wildlife and
edible vegetation making it an attractive area for early man to move in to. Once they figured out
how to grow crops there, civilization soon followed.
Ancient Mesopotamias civilization was located in an area between the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers, which developed circa 5900 BCE and ended circa 600 CE.
Cuneiform writing was one of the earliest writing languages developed by
humankind circa 3500 BCE in ancient
Mesopotamia. Scribes used a reed stylus as the
writing instrument to record information on clay tablets. The reedstylus left a wedge shape
mark in the clay.
Writing
Over five thousand years ago, people living in Mesopotamia developed a form of writing to
record and communicate different types of information.The earliest writing was based
on pictograms. Pictograms were used to communicate basic information about crops and taxes.
Over time, the need for writing changed and the signs developed into a script we call cuneiform.
Over thousands of years, Mesopotamian scribes recorded daily events, trade, astronomy, and
literature on clay tablets. Cuneiform was used by people throughout the ancient Near East to
write several different languages.

Hammurabi was a powerful ruler of ancient Mesopotamia from 1792-1750 BCE. He helped
establish a common law known as the "eye for an eye law." According to the Code of Hammurabi,
if a man damaged another man's eye, the man who damaged the eye must have his eye
damaged as well. The punishment was the same as the crime.
Religion
The ancient Mesopotamians worshipped hundreds of gods. They worshipped them every day.
Each god had a job to do. Each city had its own special god to watch over the city. Each
profession had a god to watch over the people who worked in that profession like builders and
fishermen.
To the Sumerians, each person had a god of their own, who looked after them. Their own special
god talked to other gods on their behalf. Their personal god received a great deal of their
worship time and attention. But no one god was more important than another.
The Babylonians and Assyrians believed in nearly all the Sumerian gods, plus more gods that
each added. Unlike the ancient Sumerians, they believed some gods were more powerful than
others, gods like the god of the sky, the sun, the air, and the crops. To the Babylonians, Marduk
was the most powerful god. To the Assyrians, Ashur was the most powerful god.
The Sumerians, and later on, the Babylonians (southern Mesopotamia) and the Assyrians
(northern Mesopotamia) all believed that everything good and bad that happened to them was
the result of their gods pleasure or displeasure. They spent a great deal of time trying to make
their gods happy. Their gods were not often happy. That's why Mesopotamian gods are
sometimes referred to as the gloomy gods of ancient Mesopotamia.
Gods and Goddesses
Ancient Sumer:
The ancient Sumerians were a very religious people. They believed that everything that
happened good or bad was a result of their gods. They worked hard to make their gods happy.
This was quite difficult since their gods, and they had hundreds of gods, were not a happy
bunch. In fact they were downright grumpy. So the Sumerians spent a lot of their time and
effort seeking new ways to please their gods.
Ancient Babylon:
The ancient Babylonians were a lot like the Sumerians. The Babylonians were the invaders who
overthrew the Sumerian city-states in the south and took over the region. They adopted the
Sumerian culture, government, economy, urban living, writing (cuneiform), law, and religion.
They had the same bunch of gods, with some more added to them. The Babylonians differed
from the Sumerians in that their gods had a hierarchy. Marduk, who to the Sumerians was just
another god, was the leader of the gods to the Babylonians. The other gods worked for Marduk
with some being much more important than others. Like the Sumerians, the Babylonians spent
time and effort in trying to make their gods happy. The city of Babylon was built to honor
Marduk.
Ancient Assyria:
The Assyrians worshiped most of the same gods as Sumerians. Like the Babylonians, they added
more gods. They recognized Marduk as an important god, but he was not the most important. To
the Assyrians, the most important god was the god Ashur. They built buildings in their towns and
decorated them with dragons and demons to protect themselves from the gods.
How Marduk Became King of All the Gods
According to Babylonian myths, Marduk was not always the head god. At one time, all the gods
were equal. But there was fighting amongst the gods. One in particular, Tiamat, was evil and
hated the rest of the gods. Now Tiamut was very powerful and the other gods were afraid of her.
One of the other gods developed a plan. Ea, the water god, knew that Marduk could defeat
Tiamut. So Ea went to Marduk and asked if he would be willing to fight Tiamut.

Marduk thought about it. While he figured he could beat Tiamat, what if something went wrong?
What if she captured him or even killed him? It had to be worth his efforts. So Marduk came
back to Ea with a deal. He would fight Taimat if the rest of the gods would make him the head
god forever.
Ea could not make that deal on his own. He had to get the rest of the gods to agree and he knew
that some of them would oppose this idea, some because they were afraid of what would happen
if Tiamat won and others because they didn't want another god to be able to boss them around.
But Ea was a very smart god. He had a plan.
Ea called all the gods together in an assembly. Ea provided the food, entertainment, and most of
all the sweet, strong date wine so many of the gods loved. After allowing the rest of the gods to
feast and drink lots of date wine, Ea put the idea to them. They agreed. So Ea went back to
Marduk and let him know that if Marduk defeated Tiamat he would be the head god forever.
Marduk took a bow and arrows, his thunder club, his storm net, and his trademark - a lightning
dagger - and set out to defeat Tiamat. The fighting that followed was stupendous. The battle
raged for days with Marduk killing monster and demon left and right. Finally he got close enough
to Tiamat that he was able to throw his net over her. Trapped, Tiamat turned to destroy Marduk
with a magical killing scream. Marduk was faster and shot an arrow down her throat killing her.
He then cut her body in half and put half of it in the heavens guarded by the twinkling lights we
call stars and made sure that the moon was there to watch over her. The rest he turned into the
earth.
Now that Tiamat was dead, Marduk was the leader of all the gods.
It is interesting to note that Marduk had to get the consent of the assembly of gods to take on
Tiamat. This is a reflection of how the people of Babylon governed themselves. The government
of the gods was arranged in the same way as the government of the people. All the gods
reported to Marduk just as all the nobles reported to the king. And Marduk had to listen to the
assembly of gods just as the king had to listen to the assembly of people.
Legend of Gilgamesh
Like many ancient people, the ancient Sumerians had a very lively oral tradition. They loved to
tell exciting stories about the great deeds and heroics of their ancestors. One of the stories they
told was the tale of Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh was one of the kings of Uruk (a Sumerian city). His name is on the list of kings of
Sumer recovered from the library atNineveh. Did he actually exist as a real person or was he just
made up by the Sumerians? We may never know. But, according to the story, Gilgamesh was
part god and part human with some of the powers of the gods. Gilgamesh was the first
superhero!
According to the epics, Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu fought monsters, moved mountains and
rivers, rescued people in need, and generally protected the people of Sumer. The epic of
Gilgamesh was written down in cuneiform on clay tablets and preserved at the Library of
Nineveh.
Gods, Goddesses, Demons and Monsters
The people of Mesopotamia believed that their world was controlled by gods and
goddesses, demons and monsters.
There were hundreds of gods who were responsible for everything in the world, from rivers and
trees to making bread and pottery.
Each city was protected by its own special god or goddess and their family. Large temples were
built in the centre of the city for these gods to live in. Priests looked after the gods with
special rituals. There were also smaller temples throughout the city where ordinary people could
make offerings.
Demons were created by the gods with human bodies and animal or bird heads. They could be
either evil or good. Monsters were a mixture of animals and birds.
A Mesopotamian myth about how and why humans were created.
GODS AND GODDESSES
Trade and Transport

During the Old Babylonian period (about 2000-1600 B.C.) merchants from southern Mesopotamia
travelled to cities and distant lands to trade their goods. Many different types of transport were
used for carrying goods from place to place.
Click on the different types of transport below to find out about what was being transported and
where it was going.
foot
gulf boat
coracle
cart
Mesopotamian mythology is essentially the combination of the ancient Babylonian, Assyrian,
Akkadian and Sumerian myths. ... The region once known as Mesopotamia is the area of
southwestern Asia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, an area that is now modern-day Iraq.
Other Mesopotamian Peoples
Akkad Amorites Assyrians Babylonians Chaldeans Hittites Kassites
Mesopotamia The Genesis narrative in the light of recent scholarship
The saga of Abraham unfolds between two landmarks, the exodus from "Ur of the Chaldeans" (Ur
Kasdim) of the family, or clan, of Terah and "the purchase of " (or "the burials in") the cave of
Machpelah. Tradition seems particularly firm on this point. The Hebrew text, in fact, locates the
departure specifically at Ur Kasdim, the Kasdim being none other than the Kaldu of the cuneiform
texts at Mari. It is manifestly a migration of which one tribe is the center. The leader of the
movement is designated by name: Terah, who "takes them out" from Ur, Abram his son, Lot the
son of Haran, another son of Terah, and their wives, the best known being Sarai, the wife of
Abram. The existence of another son of Terah, Nahor, who appears later, is noted.
Most scholars agree that Ur Kasdim was the Sumerian city of Ur, today Tall al-Muqayyar (or
Mughair), about 200 miles (300 km) southeast of Baghdad in lower Mesopotamia, which was
excavated from 1922 to 1934. It is certain that the cradle of the ancestors was the seat of a
vigorous polytheism whose memory had not been lost and whose uncontested master in Ur was
Nanna (or Sin), the Sumero-Akkadian moon god. "They served other gods," Joshua, Moses'
successor, recalled, speaking to their descendants at Shechem.
After the migration from Ur (c. 2000 BC), the reasons for which are unknown, the first important
stopping place was Harran, where the caravan remained for some time. The city has been
definitely located in upper Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, in the
Balikh valley and can be found on the site of the modern Harran in Turkey. It has been shown that
Harran was a pilgrimage city, for it was a center of the Sin cult and consequently closely related
to the moon-god cult of Ur. The Mari tablets have shed new light on the patriarchal period,
specifically in terms of the city of Harran.
There have been many surprising items in the thousands of tablets found in the palace at Mari.
Not only are the Hapiru ("Hebrews") mentioned but so also remarkably are the Banu Yamina
("Benjaminites"). It is not that the latter are identical with the family of Benjamin, a son of Jacob,
but rather that a name with such a biblical ring appears in these extra biblical sources in the
18th century BC. What seems beyond doubt is that these Benjaminites (or Yaminites, meaning
"Sons of the Right," or "Sons of the South," according to their habits of orientation) are always
indicated as being north of Mari and in Harran, in the Temple of Sin. The Bible provides no
information on the itinerary followed between Ur and Harran. Scholars think that the caravan
went up the Euphrates, then up the Balikh. After indicating a stay of indeterminate length in
Harran, the Bible says only that Terah died there, at the age of 205, and that Abraham was 75
when he took up the journey again with his family and his goods. This time the migration went
from east to west, first as far as the Euphrates River, which they may have crossed at
Carchemish, since it can be forded during low-water periods.
Here again, the Mari texts supply a reference, for they indicate that there were Benjaminites on
the right bank of the river, in the lands of Yamhad (Aleppo), Qatanum (Qatna), and Amurru. Since
the ancient trails seem to have been marked with sanctuaries, it is noteworthy that Nayrab, near

Aleppo, was, like Harran and Ur, a center of the Sin cult and that south of Aleppo, on the road to
Hamah, there is still a village that bears the name of Benjamin. The route is in the direction of
the "land of Canaan," the goal of the journey.
If a stop in Damascus is assumed, the caravan must next have crossed the land of Bashan (the
Hawran of today), first crossing the Jabboq, then the Jordan River at the ford of Damiya, and
arriving in the heart of the Samaritan country, to reach at last the plain of Shechem, today
Balatah, at the foot of the Gerizim and Ebal mountains. Shechem was at the time a political and
religious centre, the importance of which has been perceived more clearly as a result of recent
archaeological excavations. From the mid-13th to the mid-11th century BC, Shechem was the
site of the cult of the Canaanite god Ba'al-Berit (Lord of the Covenant). The architecture
uncovered on the site by archaeologists would date to the 18th century BC, in which the
presence of the patriarchs in Shechem is placed.
The next stopping place was in Bethel, identified with present-day Baytin, north of Jerusalem.
Bethel was also a holy city, whose cult was centered on El, the Canaanite god par excellence. Its
name does not lend itself to confusion, for it proclaims that the city is the bet, "house," or
temple, of El (God). The Canaanite sanctuary was taken over without hesitation by Abraham, who
built an altar there and consecrated it to Yahweh, at least if the Yahwistic tradition in Genesis is
to be believed.
Abraham had not yet come to the end of his journey. Between Shechem and Bethel he had gone
about 31 miles. It was about as far again from Bethel to Hebron, or more precisely to the oaks of
Mamre, "which are at Hebron" (according to the Genesis account). The location of Mamre has
been the subject of some indecision. At the present time, there is general agreement in setting it
1.5 miles (3 km) northwest of Hebron at Ramat al-Khalil, an Arabic name which means the
"Heights of the Friend," the friend (of God) being Abraham.
Mamre marked the site of Abraham's encampment, but this did not at all exclude episodic travels
in the direction of the Negeb, to Gerar and Beersheba. Life was a function of the economic
conditions of the moment, of pastures to follow and to find, and thus the patriarchs moved back
and forth between the land of Canaan and the Nile River delta. They remained shepherds and
never became cultivators.
It was in Mamre that Abraham received the revelation that his race would be perpetuated, and it
was there that he learned that his nephew Lot had been taken captive. The latter is an enigmatic
episode, an "erratic block" in a story in which nothing prepared the way for it. Suddenly, the life
of the patriarch was inserted into a slice of history in which several important persons ("kings")
intervene: Amraphel of Shinar, Arioch of Ellasar, Ched-or-laomer of Elam, and Tidal of Goiim.
Scholars of previous generations tried to identify these names with important historical figures-e.g. Amraphel with Hammurabi of Babylon--but little remains today of these suppositions. The
whole of chapter 14 of Genesis, in which this event is narrated, differs completely from what has
preceded and what follows. It may be an extract from some historical annals, belonging to an
unknown secular source, for the meeting of Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most
High (El 'Elyon), and Abraham is impressive. The king-priest greets him with bread and wine on
his victorious return and blesses him in the name of God Most High.
In this scene, the figure of the patriarch takes on a singular aspect. How is his religious behavior
to be characterized? He swears by "the Lord God Most High"--i.e., by both Yahweh and El 'Elyon.
It is known that, on the matter of the revelation of Yahweh to man, the biblical traditions differ.
According to what scholars call the Yahwistic source (J) in the Pentateuch (the first five books of
the Bible), Yahweh had been known and worshiped since Adam's time. According to the so-called
Priestly source (P), the name of Yahweh was revealed only to Moses. It may be concluded that it
was probably El whom the patriarchs, including Abraham, knew.

As noted before, in Mesopotamia the patriarchs worshiped "other gods." On Canaanite soil, they
met the Canaanite supreme god, El, and adopted him, but only partially and nominally,
bestowing upon him qualities destined to distinguish him and to assure his preeminence over all
other gods. He was thus to become El 'Olam (God the Everlasting One), El 'Elyon (God Most
High), El Shaddai (God, the One of the Mountains), and El Ro'i (God of Vision). In short, the god of
Abraham possessed duration, transcendence, power, and knowledge. This was not monotheism
but monolatry (the worship of one among many gods), with the bases laid for a true
universalism. He was a personal god too, with direct relations with the individual, but also a
family god and certainly still a tribal god. Here truly was the "God of our fathers," who in the
course of time was to become the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
It is not surprising that this bond of the flesh should still manifest itself when it came to gathering
together the great ancestors into the family burial chamber, the cave of Machpelah. This place is
venerated today in Hebron, at the Haram al-Khalil (Holy Place of the Friend), under the mosque.
Abraham, "the friend of God," was forevermore the depositary of the promise, the beneficiary of
the Covenant, sealed not by the death of Isaac but by the sacrifice of the ram that was offered
up in place of the child on Mount Moriah.

The Genesis narrative in the light of recent scholarship


The saga of Abraham unfolds between two landmarks, the exodus from "Ur of the Chaldeans" (Ur
Kasdim) of the family, or clan, of Terah and "the purchase of " (or "the burials in") the cave of
Machpelah. Tradition seems particularly firm on this point. The Hebrew text, in fact, locates the
departure specifically at Ur Kasdim, the Kasdim being none other than the Kaldu of the cuneiform
texts at Mari. It is manifestly a migration of which one tribe is the center. The leader of the
movement is designated by name: Terah, who "takes them out" from Ur, Abram his son, Lot the
son of Haran, another son of Terah, and their wives, the best known being Sarai, the wife of
Abram. The existence of another son of Terah, Nahor, who appears later, is noted.
Most scholars agree that Ur Kasdim was the Sumerian city of Ur, today Tall al-Muqayyar (or
Mughair), about 200 miles (300 km) southeast of Baghdad in lower Mesopotamia, which was
excavated from 1922 to 1934. It is certain that the cradle of the ancestors was the seat of a
vigorous polytheism whose memory had not been lost and whose uncontested master in Ur was
Nanna (or Sin), the Sumero-Akkadian moon god. "They served other gods," Joshua, Moses'
successor, recalled, speaking to their descendants at Shechem.
After the migration from Ur (c. 2000 BC), the reasons for which are unknown, the first important
stopping place was Harran, where the caravan remained for some time. The city has been
definitely located in upper Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, in the
Balikh valley and can be found on the site of the modern Harran in Turkey. It has been shown that
Harran was a pilgrimage city, for it was a center of the Sin cult and consequently closely related
to the moon-god cult of Ur. The Mari tablets have shed new light on the patriarchal period,
specifically in terms of the city of Harran.
There have been many surprising items in the thousands of tablets found in the palace at Mari.
Not only are the Hapiru ("Hebrews") mentioned but so also remarkably are the Banu Yamina
("Benjaminites"). It is not that the latter are identical with the family of Benjamin, a son of Jacob,
but rather that a name with such a biblical ring appears in these extra biblical sources in the
18th century BC. What seems beyond doubt is that these Benjaminites (or Yaminites, meaning
"Sons of the Right," or "Sons of the South," according to their habits of orientation) are always
indicated as being north of Mari and in Harran, in the Temple of Sin. The Bible provides no
information on the itinerary followed between Ur and Harran. Scholars think that the caravan
went up the Euphrates, then up the Balikh. After indicating a stay of indeterminate length in

Harran, the Bible says only that Terah died there, at the age of 205, and that Abraham was 75
when he took up the journey again with his family and his goods. This time the migration went
from east to west, first as far as the Euphrates River, which they may have crossed at
Carchemish, since it can be forded during low-water periods.
Here again, the Mari texts supply a reference, for they indicate that there were Benjaminites on
the right bank of the river, in the lands of Yamhad (Aleppo), Qatanum (Qatna), and Amurru. Since
the ancient trails seem to have been marked with sanctuaries, it is noteworthy that Nayrab, near
Aleppo, was, like Harran and Ur, a center of the Sin cult and that south of Aleppo, on the road to
Hamah, there is still a village that bears the name of Benjamin. The route is in the direction of
the "land of Canaan," the goal of the journey.
If a stop in Damascus is assumed, the caravan must next have crossed the land of Bashan (the
Hawran of today), first crossing the Jabboq, then the Jordan River at the ford of Damiya, and
arriving in the heart of the Samaritan country, to reach at last the plain of Shechem, today
Balatah, at the foot of the Gerizim and Ebal mountains. Shechem was at the time a political and
religious centre, the importance of which has been perceived more clearly as a result of recent
archaeological excavations. From the mid-13th to the mid-11th century BC, Shechem was the
site of the cult of the Canaanite god Ba'al-Berit (Lord of the Covenant). The architecture
uncovered on the site by archaeologists would date to the 18th century BC, in which the
presence of the patriarchs in Shechem is placed.
The next stopping place was in Bethel, identified with present-day Baytin, north of Jerusalem.
Bethel was also a holy city, whose cult was centered on El, the Canaanite god par excellence. Its
name does not lend itself to confusion, for it proclaims that the city is the bet, "house," or
temple, of El (God). The Canaanite sanctuary was taken over without hesitation by Abraham, who
built an altar there and consecrated it to Yahweh, at least if the Yahwistic tradition in Genesis is
to be believed.
Abraham had not yet come to the end of his journey. Between Shechem and Bethel he had gone
about 31 miles. It was about as far again from Bethel to Hebron, or more precisely to the oaks of
Mamre, "which are at Hebron" (according to the Genesis account). The location of Mamre has
been the subject of some indecision. At the present time, there is general agreement in setting it
1.5 miles (3 km) northwest of Hebron at Ramat al-Khalil, an Arabic name which means the
"Heights of the Friend," the friend (of God) being Abraham.
Mamre marked the site of Abraham's encampment, but this did not at all exclude episodic travels
in the direction of the Negeb, to Gerar and Beersheba. Life was a function of the economic
conditions of the moment, of pastures to follow and to find, and thus the patriarchs moved back
and forth between the land of Canaan and the Nile River delta. They remained shepherds and
never became cultivators.
It was in Mamre that Abraham received the revelation that his race would be perpetuated, and it
was there that he learned that his nephew Lot had been taken captive. The latter is an enigmatic
episode, an "erratic block" in a story in which nothing prepared the way for it. Suddenly, the life
of the patriarch was inserted into a slice of history in which several important persons ("kings")
intervene: Amraphel of Shinar, Arioch of Ellasar, Ched-or-laomer of Elam, and Tidal of Goiim.
Scholars of previous generations tried to identify these names with important historical figures-e.g. Amraphel with Hammurabi of Babylon--but little remains today of these suppositions. The
whole of chapter 14 of Genesis, in which this event is narrated, differs completely from what has
preceded and what follows. It may be an extract from some historical annals, belonging to an
unknown secular source, for the meeting of Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most
High (El 'Elyon), and Abraham is impressive. The king-priest greets him with bread and wine on
his victorious return and blesses him in the name of God Most High.

In this scene, the figure of the patriarch takes on a singular aspect. How is his religious behavior
to be characterized? He swears by "the Lord God Most High"--i.e., by both Yahweh and El 'Elyon.
It is known that, on the matter of the revelation of Yahweh to man, the biblical traditions differ.
According to what scholars call the Yahwistic source (J) in the Pentateuch (the first five books of
the Bible), Yahweh had been known and worshiped since Adam's time. According to the so-called
Priestly source (P), the name of Yahweh was revealed only to Moses. It may be concluded that it
was probably El whom the patriarchs, including Abraham, knew.
As noted before, in Mesopotamia the patriarchs worshiped "other gods." On Canaanite soil, they
met the Canaanite supreme god, El, and adopted him, but only partially and nominally,
bestowing upon him qualities destined to distinguish him and to assure his preeminence over all
other gods. He was thus to become El 'Olam (God the Everlasting One), El 'Elyon (God Most
High), El Shaddai (God, the One of the Mountains), and El Ro'i (God of Vision). In short, the god of
Abraham possessed duration, transcendence, power, and knowledge. This was not monotheism
but monolatry (the worship of one among many gods), with the bases laid for a true
universalism. He was a personal god too, with direct relations with the individual, but also a
family god and certainly still a tribal god. Here truly was the "God of our fathers," who in the
course of time was to become the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
It is not surprising that this bond of the flesh should still manifest itself when it came to gathering
together the great ancestors into the family burial chamber, the cave of Machpelah. This place is
venerated today in Hebron, at the Haram al-Khalil (Holy Place of the Friend), under the mosque.
Abraham, "the friend of God," was forevermore the depositary of the promise, the beneficiary of
the Covenant, sealed not by the death of Isaac but by the sacrifice of the ram that was offered
up in place of the child on Mount Moriah.
Ziggurats
In the center of each town, was the Ziggurat. The Ziggurat was a temple. The ancient
Sumerians, believed their gods lived in the sky. In order for the gods to hear better, you needed
to get closer to them. Ziggurats were huge, with built in steps. Ziggurats had a wide base that
narrowed to a flat top. When the Babylonians took over in the south, and the Assyrians in the
north, ziggurats continued to be built and used in the same manner as they were in ancient
Sumer.
The Ziggurat was the tallest building in the town. From its top, you could see well into the
farmlands that surrounded the city. The largest ziggurat was probably the one built in ancient
Babylon. The Assyrians also built ziggurats.
Religious ceremonies were held on top of the Ziggurat. Each day, people would leave offerings
to the gods of food, cloth, and wine on the steps of the ziggurat. The priests would collect and
use these gifts since they were the representatives of the gods on earth.
Temples were originally built on platforms. During the third millennium B.C., these were made
higher and bigger. Eventually it was decided to build even higher temples on platforms which
were stepped.
These stepped towers we call ziggurats. By 2000 B.C. mud-brick ziggurats were being
constructed in many Sumerian cities. Later, ziggurats were constructed in Babylonian and
Assyrian cities.
No one knows for certain why ziggurats were built or how they were used. They are part of
temple complexes, so they were probably connected with religion.
The Ziggurat at Ur and the temple on its top were built around 2100 B.C.E. by the king UrNammu of the Third Dynasty of Ur for the moon god Nanna, the divine patron of the city state.
The structure would have been the highest point in the city by far and, like the spire of a
medieval cathedral, would have been visible for miles around, a focal point for travelers and the
pious alike. As the Ziggurat supported the temple of the patron god of the city of Ur, it is likely
that it was the place where the citizens of Ur would bring agricultural surplus and where they

would go to receive their regular food allotments. In antiquity, to visit the ziggurat at Ur was to
seek both spiritual and physical nourishment.
Ziggurat at Ali Air Base Iraq, 2005 Ziggurat of Ur, partly restored, c. 2100 B.C.E. mudbrick and
baked brick Tell el-Mukayyar, IraqClearly the most important part of the ziggurat at Ur was the
Nanna temple at its top, but this, unfortunately, has not survived. Some blue glazed bricks have
been found which archaeologists suspect might have been part of the temple decoration. The
lower parts of the ziggurat, which do survive, include amazing details of engineering and design.
For instance, because the unbaked mud brick core of the temple would, according to the season,
be alternatively more or less damp, the architects included holes through the baked exterior
layer of the temple allowing water to evaporate from its core. Additionally, drains were built into
the ziggurats terraces to carry away the winter rains.
Husseins Assumption
The Ziggurat at Ur has been restored twice. The first restoration was in antiquity. The last NeoBabylonian king, Nabodinus, apparently replaced the two upper terraces of the structure in the
6th century B.C.E. Some 2400 years later in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein restored the faade of
the massive lower foundation of the ziggurat, including the three monumental staircases leading
up to the gate at the first terrace. Since this most recent restoration, however, the Ziggurat at Ur
has experienced some damage. US soldiers decend the Ziggurat of Ur, Tell el-Mukayyar,
IraqDuring the recent war led by American and coalition forces, Saddam Hussein parked his MiG
fighter jets next to the Ziggurat, believing that the bombers would spare them for fear of
destroying the ancient site. Husseins assumptions proved only partially true as the ziggurat
sustained some damage from American and coalition bombardment.
Time
Early civilizations first developed in Mesopotamia over six thousand years ago. Some of the first
cities were established, a writing system was developed, empires were created and monumental
buildings were constructed.
As each new group of people moved into the region, or took control of the government, they
adopted some of the culture, traditions and beliefs of the people who had come before them.
Therefore, certain aspects of civilization in Mesopotamia remained the same, and some changed
over time.
Much of Mesopotamian history lay buried beneath the sand and soil for thousands of years.
However, there were clues, such as the mounds known as 'tells', and the ruins of ziggurats, that
treasures lay below the surface.
In the past two hundred years, people have begun to excavate objects and buildings which
reveal the ancient history of this region.
The Library at Nineveh
One Assyrian king decided he was going to create a library to hold tablets that contained the
history, myths and stories from Sumer, Babylon and Assyria. Assyria had grown into a powerful
empire, whose kings were focused on war and expansion. Typically, the only history of interest
was the history of Assyrian victory in battle. This king was different. He built his library in his
capital city of Nineveh. He believed building this library was his greatest accomplishment.
When archaeologists discovered the library at Nineveh in the 1850s, they found over 30,000 clay
tablets written in cuneiform with different stories, histories, magical texts, letters, medical texts,
government documents and fragments of documents. These tablets are our single most
important source of knowledge about ancient Mesopotamia. They are still being researched
today. What a find!
The Oldest Surviving Library in the World, the library at Nineveh
Hammurabis Code
One of the ancient Babylonian kings was named Hammurabi. King Hammurabi was a very clever
man.

Hammurabi was tired of people changing the laws whenever they wanted an advantage. So
Hammurabi did something no one before him had ever done. He had all the laws written down
on stone and clay tablets. He did this so that everyone could know what the law was and no one,
not poor man or noble, would be able to say that that wasn't the law.
Hammurabi also built the city of Babylon in Marduk's honor. Marduk was the most important god
in Babylonian. All the other gods reported to Marduk, just as all the other nobles had to report to
the king of Babylon. This was very clever of King Hammurabi. People were afraid to attack
Babylon. They did not wish to risk Marduk's anger!
Hanging Garden
In ancient Mesopotamia, King Nebuchadnezzar built the fabulous Hanging Gardens of Babylon so
his beloved wife would have a lovely, private, terraced garden to enjoy. The ancient Greeks
selected the gardens as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
Legend says that The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built in ancient Babylon around 600 BCE
by King Nebuchadnezzar. It is said that the ground on which the garden was planted was built by
raising soil from the Euphrates River using pumps. Pumps also watered the plants, allowing the
gardens a source of constant fresh water to keep things green and growing. If true, this was an
engineering marvel for the times. But then, King Nebuchadnezzar was very clever. He built most
of ancient Babylon, which was an incredibly impressive city.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were rumored to be about 400 feet wide, 400 feet long, and
over 80 feet high, and built on the palace grounds. Some historians believe the gardens were
built in a series of platforms that all together were 320 feet high. The Hanging Gardens had paths
and steps and fountains and gorgeous flowers, all build to make a homesick queen feel
welcomed and loved.
Legend says as you approached ancient Babylon, the gardens could be seen for miles around,
soaring up into the sky. No one knows if the gardens actually existed, but the legend is a lovely
one. If the gardens did exist, they would have been an incredible sight whether you approached
the city by water or by land across the harsh deserts that protected the city to the west and
south. The thought of the lush green gardens was so lovely in fact that the romantic ancient
Greeks, with their enjoyment of legend and romance, selected the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
Inventions and achievement
The Sumerians were very inventive people. It is believed that they invented the sailboat, the
chariot, the wheel, and the plow. For certain they developed cuneiform, the first written
language, games and toys including the game of checkers, cylinder seals (used to sign legal
documents like contracts), the first super hero (Gilgamesh), and many tools and implements to
help with building and farming. They invented and used a system of math based on the number
60. Today we still divide an hour into 60 minutes, and put 360 degrees into a circle. Amazingly
enough, we still use some Sumerian words today, words like crocus, which is a flower, and
saffron which is both a color and a spice.
One of the greatest Babylonian achievements was a written set of laws.
One of the greatest Assyrian achievements was the library at Ninevah.
SUMER
In ancient Mesopotamia, the people who first settled down in the land between two rivers are
known as the Sumerians. The civilization that grew along the riverbanks was named after one of
its more famous cities, Sumer. This civilization started out arranged in small villages and towns
that were agricultural in nature, with of course some hunting and fishing. The villages and towns
gradually grew into great walled cities that traded amongst themselves as well as with other
people. Each city has its own military and its own government. But the people in all the Sumerian
city-states (cities) spoke the same language, believed in the same gods, and moved freely from
one city-state to another, to trade and also to live. They also went to war with each other. The
laws of all the city-states were pretty much universal. Everyone knew them and was expected to
obey them. This was understood.
The Sumerians believed in many gods. To the ancient Sumerians, all gods were important.

The ancient Sumerians were very clever. They invented many things to make their life more
comfortable and to help their civilization grow. They put wheels on carts and probably invented
the sail for sailboats. They developed the first written language, cuneiform. They invented
cylinder seals, which they used to sign legal documents like contracts. They invented the first
super hero, Gilgamesh. They may have invented kilns for bricks and plows for their fields. They
are credited with inventing many other tools and implements to help with building and farming.
The people of ancient Sumer were divided into four main classes of people - the priests, the
upper class, the lower class, and the slaves. Other then the slaves, who were captives of other
cities and tribes, the people of Sumer lived their lives a lot alike. Class distinctions were
generally in the quality of clothing and jewelry one wore. Priests were an exception. They
shaved their heads and wore different types of jewelry.
BABYLON
In ancient Mesopotamia, as the Sumer civilization lost power, the Babylonian civilization grew in
power in the south (in what is now southern Iraq). Their cities were built on the ruins of the
Sumer cities. This civilization was named after its most famous city, Babylon. The city of Babylon
was built in southern Mesopotamia near the Persian Gulf. It was built to honor Marduk, the most
powerful god of all to the Babylonians. Babylon was the jewel of its time. It was a fabulous city!
The city was a sight to behold. It had huge walls surrounding it, and in its center was a 300 foot
tall Ziggurat. The city itself was surrounded by fields, irrigated from a network of canals.
To enter the city you passed along Procession Avenue, a stone road that led between lines of
huge brick animals. You then had to pass through the Ishtar Gate, a massive arched gate
decorated with dragons and bulls.
Once inside the walls, the city itself was very crowded. Everyone lived inside the walled city.
Farmers did not live on their farms but here in the city. Merchants, craftsmen, food vendors all
made their homes here. Each family had their own home. The streets were narrow, flanked on
each side by the three story houses of the inhabitants. Streets and alleyways reached everyone's
front door.
People threw all of their waste and trash into the streets and alleyways so they were quite filthy.
Every so often, the city nobles would cover the trash and filth with a layer of clay, raising the
level of the streets. People would then build steps down to their doorways or maybe even cut a
new door in the second level and build stairs down to the street.
In the center of the city was the great Ziggurat. Over 300 feet tall, it dominated the city. In
addition to the Ziggurat was the palace of the king. One king of ancient Babylon built a garden
inside the palace that was so spectacular that it became one of the seven wonders of the ancient
world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
FIRST CITIES In this painting of Babylon, the artist has recreated the view of the eastern portion
of the city as it is thought to have looked during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC). In
the foreground is the Euphrates River, which ran through the center of the city. Next to the
Euphrates is the sacred temple complex of the god Marduk (the "Esagila") including the ziggurat,
a stepped tower, which probably gave rise to the famed Biblical account of the Tower of Babel.
Beyond the Esagila lies the rest of the eastern section of Babylon and its defensive walls. Beyond
the walls are the open cultivated fields of the Mesopotamian plains. The city of Babylon around
600 BC was considered a marvel of the ancient world, with a population of 200,000, and a
system of defensive walls that ringed the city for ten miles.
For the ancient Mesopotamians, their cities were the centers of life. When they looked back to
the beginning of time, they did not see a Garden of Eden, but rather an ancient site called Eridu,
which they believed was the first city ever to be created. Ancient Mesopotamia is where the
world's first cities appeared around 4000 - 3500 BC.
No one knows for sure why urbanization began in Mesopotamia. The development of cities could
have occurred due to environmental conditions. Lack of rainfall might have been the inspiration
for people to organize themselves in a common effort to build canals for the irrigation of
farmland. Another reason may have been the need for protection on the open plain, which could
have led people to gather together to create walled enclaves. Whatever the reasons, this was the
first time in history that humankind channeled its energies towards addressing the needs of a
community as a whole.

ASSYRIA
At the same time that Babylon was rising to greatness in southern Mesopotamia, in Northern
Mesopotamia another group was growing strong. The Assyrians were a much more warlike
people than the Babylonians. They were also known as great traders. Their caravans traveled
all over the place, bringing goods to trade as well as food and wine to various cities in
Mesopotamia.
They worshiped the same gods as the people of Sumer and Babylon, but they had their own
language. Since they were nomadic warriors, they lived a very different lifestyle then the
Babylonians.
The Assyrians were a very fierce people and soon conquered many nearby tribes and peoples.
They even tried their hand at Babylon, but the walls and warriors of Babylon were too much for
them to defeat. This defeat at the hands of Babylon grew into a great hatred of everything
Babylonian. So they waited.
As the Assyrians waited, they grew stronger and conquered all the tribes and cities that
supported and supplied Babylon. Babylon grew weaker. Finally around 1200 BCE, the Assyrians
attacked again. This time they defeated Babylon. To get their revenge, they made all the people
living in Babylon move out to various parts of the Assyrian kingdom, then they destroyed the city
of Babylon. They leveled it to the ground.
Once their anger had ended and their revenge had been fulfilled, the Assyrians looked back and
thought. Babylon had been built to honor Marduk. What if Marduk got angry at them for
destroying his city? So they rebuilt the entire city of Babylon, but they refused to let anyone live
in the city. It remained an empty city for a long time.
Art:
The Assyrians did not create small statues like the Sumerians or Babylonians. Instead the
Assyrians painted on ceramics. Most of their paintings dealt with battles and the life of a
warrior. We have learned a lot about how the Assyrians went to battle and how soldiers lived
through their paintings.
Religion:
The Assyrians lived in towns. Even though they were herders and goat traders, they also had
places to settle when they grew tired of the nomadic life. In their towns, they sometimes built
huge buildings. We are not sure what these buildings were for but they were decorated with
demons.
Ashur
Ashur (on the Tigris River in northern Iraq) was the first capital of Assyria. The source of the
name of the main Assyrian God (Ashur) as well as the name Assyrian," it first appeared around
2500 B.C. and grew into trading town that prospered from trade with Turkey. For several
centuries it was dominated foreign rulers.
Ashur, also known Assur, was built along the west bank of Tigris River and dominated by a
ziggurat dedicated to Assur. Temples and palaces were built in a bluff above the Tigris. There
were large homes behind walls and small houses crowding around the temples. After the capital
of Assyria moved to Ninmrud and Nineveh, Ashur remained a sacred city. All the kings continued
to be enthroned and buried there. Pilgrims visited its temples.
By 700 B.C. Ashur was home to 34 major temples and three massive ziggurats, including ones
for the goddess Inana and the god Ashur. Two and half miles of walls surrounded the city, most of
which sat well-defended on the top the bluff. Today the great ziggurats look like eroded hills. The
best preserved monument is the city's Tabira Gate which features three arches one in front of the
other.
Ashur was excavated at the turn of the 20th century by German archaeologists, who uncovered
monuments and tablets that related to entire span of Assyrian history. Before the second Persian
Gulf war there were plans to be build a huge dam here that would have submerged much of
ancient Ashur and 60 other Assyrian sites in the valley that are for most part are unexcavated
and unsurveyed.. If the dam is built as planned the bluff will become a waterlogged island and
not doubt clay buildings, cuneiform tablets and statues will melt into mud.
Nimrud

Nimrud (23 miles southeast of Mosul, Iraq) was the second capital of the Assyrian empire. King
Ashurnasirpal II (883 to 859 B.C.) moved the capital of Assyria there in 879 B.C. He built a vast
walled city , with a citadel, temples, royal places and residences for thousands of people forcibly
settled there. Among the extraordinary treasures unearthed in Nimrud are 169 pounds of gold
treasures, mysterious ivory plaques and delightful sculptures and bas-reliefs.
Nimrud was known as Kalhu in Assyrian times. It is mentioned in the Bible. Genesis 10:8-12
discusses the great city of Calah---same as Kalhu---and how the mighty hunter Nimrod
established the dynasty of the Assyrians.
Nimrud is one of the best preserved of Iraq's ancient cities. Enriched by plunder and tribute, it
was the home of huge buildings and monumental sculptures .The ruins of several buildings and
sections of the 8-kilometer-long wall remain today. The most impressive structure is the palace of
King Ashurnasirpal II built around 700 B.C. At two of the entrances are sculptures of humanheaded lions with bird wings. Inside are some lovely bas-reliefs. At the entrance to the throne
room is a human-headed winged bull called lamassu and four-winged deity called a apkallu .
Unfortunately, many of the bas-reliefs and sculptures that remained have been damaged or
removed by looters The wonderful collection of ivories displayed in the National Museum in
Baghdad were found in a well of the Royal Palace. In the early 2000s, a gateway with mythical
figures carved from Mosul marble was excavated at the city's Temple of Ishtar.
Nineveh
Nineveh (on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq) was the third capital of the Assyrian Empire. It began as
a trade center of a province of Babylonia. By 1400 B.C. it had developed into a strong
independent state. The capital of Assyria moved from Nimrud to Nineveh by King Ashurnasirpal II
(883 to 859 B.C.) in 863 B.C. Describing as the exceeding great city," it was at its peak from 883
to 612 B.C., when it was home to 100,000 people---twice the size of Babylon when it at its peak.
In 612 B.C. Nineveh was destroyed by an alliance of Medes (former vassals of the Assyrians),
Cimmerians (sometimes confused with Scythians) and Chaldeans, bringing the Assyrian Empire
to an end.
Nineveh was mentioned in The Bible several times. Jonah traveled there by whale. The Old
Testament's Book of Nahum described the months-long siege of Nineveh by Medes: Woe to the
city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims. The crack of the whips, and
rumble of wheel, galloping horses, and jilting chariots. Charging cavalry, flashing swords, and
glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead bodies without number, people stumbling over
the corpses---all because the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress sorceries, who
enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft,""
Ancient Nineveh covered 1,730 acres and boasted gardens, temples and a royal library.It was
surrounded by a 12-kilometer-square wall with 15 gates, each named after an Assyrian god.
Much of this wall was rebuilt in the early Saddam Hussein years. Several of the gates have been
reconstructed.
The palace without rival? of the Assyrian Ling Sennacherib boasted inner walls lined with two
miles of stone sculptures depicting the king's campaigns. Within the palace archeologists
discovered thousands of cuneiform tablets, some of the earliest known collection of writing.
Many sculptures and stone slabs with bas reliefs have been hacked away by looters.
Dur Sharrukin (near Nineveh) was the forth capital of Assyria. Also known as Khorsabad, it is the
home of a palace of Sargon II (reigned 721-705 B.C.). Monumental sculptures found here were
have been put on display in Baghdad and Paris. In the 1990s, a magnificent human-headed
winged bull was found here. The ancient city was excavated by an archaeological team from the
University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. See looters, Iraq
BABYLON
Babylon (bbln) [key], ancient city of Mesopotamia. One of the most important cities of the
ancient Middle East, it was on the Euphrates River and was north of the cities that flourished in
S Mesopotamia in the 3d millennium B.C. It became important when Hammurabi made it the
capital of his kingdom of Babylonia.
URUK

Uruk (rk) or Erech (rk), ancient Sumerian city of Mesopotamia, on the Euphrates and
NW of Ur (in present-day S Iraq). It is the modern Tall al Warka. Uruk, dating from the 5th
millennium BC, was the largest city in S Mesopotamia and an important religious center. The
sanctuaries of the goddess Inanna (who corresponds to the Babylonian Ishtar and is also called
Nana or Eanna) and Anu, the sky god, date from the early 4th millennium BC The temple of Anu,
known as the white temple, stood on a terrace and seems to have been a primitive form of
ziggurat. Uruk was the home of Gilgamesh and is mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 10.10). There
have been excavations at the site since 1912.
UR
Ur
The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Copyright The Columbia University Press
Ur (r), ancient city of Sumer, S Mesopotamia. The city is also known as Ur of the Chaldees. It
was an important center of Sumerian culture (see Sumer) and is identified in the Bible as the
home of Abraham. The site was discovered in the 19th cent., but it was not until the excavations
of C. Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and 30s that a partial account of its history could be
constructed. Remains found at the site seem to indicate that Ur existed as far back as the late Al
Ubaid period (see Mesopotamia) and that the city was an important commercial center even
before the first dynasty was established (c.2500 BC). Among the most important remains of the
first dynasty, which has revealed a luxurious material culture, are the royal cemetery, where the
standard of Ur was found, and the Temple of Ninhursag at Ubaid, bearing the inscriptions of the
kings of the first dynasty. Ur was captured c.2340 by Sargon, and this era, called the Akkadian
period, marks an important step in the blending of Sumerian and Semitic cultures. After this
dynasty came a long period of which practically nothing is known except that a second dynasty
rose and fell. The third dynasty was established c.2060 BC under King Ur-Nammu, who built the
great ziggurat that has stood, although crumbled and covered with sand, throughout the
centuries. An inscription in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in stanbul was identified (1952) as
a fragment of the code of Ur-Nammu. It predates the code of Hammurabiby 300 years and is the
oldest known law code yet discovered. The third dynasty of Ur fell (c.1950 BC) to the Elamites
and later to Babylon. The city was destroyed and rebuilt throughout the years by various kings
and conquerors, including Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus in the 6th cent. About the middle of
the 6th cent., Ur went into a decline from which it never recovered. A record dated 324 BC
mentions it as being inhabited by Arabs, but by that time its existence as a great city was
forgotten. The change in the course of the Euphrates, which had been the source of the city's
wealth, probably contributed to the final decline of Ur. Ur is mentioned often in the Bible (Gen.
11.28,31; 15.7; Neh. 9.7) and was at one period known to the Arabs as Tall al-Muqayyar [mound
of pitch].
Eridu: (Sumerian City State).
Said to be the first and oldest Sumerian city and capital of the Early Dynastic Period. According
to Sumerian tradition, the city that was founded by and belonged to the god Enki, the god of
wisdom.