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    Sumerian Culture: A Lesser Known, but More Advanced Society

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    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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