The capital of southern Mesopotamia is Uruk, Iraq

The capital of southern Mesopotamia is Uruk, Iraq

Ancient Mesopotamia
Regions and States
Sumerian city-states – Upper Mesopotamian states – Akkad – Sumerian-Akkadian kingdom – Isin – Amorean kingdoms – Babylonia – Assyria – Subartu – Seaside
Mesopotamian natives – Sumerians – Akkadians – Babylonians – Assyrians – Amorites – Arameans – Kassites – Kutians – Lullubaeans – Subareans – Chaldeans – Hurrians
Writings and Languages
Sumerian – Akkadian – Proto-Euphrates languages – Prototigrid (Banana) languages – Hurrian
Sumero-Akkadian mythology
Prehistoric Mesopotamia
Uruk period – Jemdet-Nasr.
Early Dynastic Period
Early Despotisms
Old Babylonian.

Uruk (Sumerian Unug, biblical Erech, Greek Orkhoy, modern Warka) – In the 3rd millennium BC the ancient city-state of the Sumerians in the Southern Dvurech’e (Southern Iraq).

It was Uruk that became the first city of the Southern Mesopotamia. A wall was erected around it, indicating that Uruk was a city and not just a settlement. This city had up to 6,000 inhabitants, representing 3 or 4 peoples who spoke different languages. The city became the temple and military center of southern Mesopotamia.

The excavations have uncovered architectural monuments dating back to the 4th millennium B.C.: the Red Building (possibly a place for folk assemblies; remains of a platform with columns and half-columns decorated with mosaics of tricoloured terracotta cones and stairs), the White Temple (on a rectangular plinth) and the Kassite temple of King Karaindash (15th century BC). B.C.), the Hellenistic temple of Anu-Antum (about 170 B.C.; in the traditions of Babylonian architecture); monuments of sculpture, glyptics, All Dictionaries

Centuries of warfare in this region and the desert climate have almost completely destroyed this city. Today, in place of Uruk is the village of Warqa in southern Iraq (65 km NW of Nasiriyah), and about 30 km west of it is a major city of Es-Samawah.


History of Uruk

In the 28th-27th centuries B.C. (under the semi-legendary rulers – Enmerkar, Lugalband and Gilgamesh, about whom some epic tales are extant) Uruk united cities-states of the Southern Burech (the 1st dynasty of Uruk). In the 24th century BC under Lugalzaghisi Uruk was the capital of Sumer. After the conquest by Sargon the Ancient (24 c.) Uruk became part of his kingdom. At the end of the 22nd century the king of Uruk Utuhegal created the united “kingdom of Sumer and Akkad” in Dvurech’e. After his death the power shifted to Ur-Nammu – the founder of the III dynasty of Ur. Uruk remained an important city until the end of the 1st millennium BC. In the 8-2 century BC – an autonomous temple city in the Babylonian, then the Achaemenid and Seleucid kingdoms. In the 3rd century B.C. the city was ruined by the Sasanids. Uruk has been systematically excavated since the beginning of the 20th century by a German expedition led first by J. Jordan, then A. Neldecke and H. Lentsen (FRG).

Uruk, one of the oldest cities in the world, developed in parallel with the entire history of Mesopotamia. Varqa hill is located north-west of Ur, 56 km upstream of the Euphrates. The site has been studied since 1912 by a number of German expeditions, the work of which was distinguished by great scientific rigor. The early layers of the settlement gave its name to the archaeological culture of Varqa (second half of the 4th millennium BC), which replaced its predecessor, the Ubaid culture.

In the middle of the 4th millennium BC the place of the future city was a rural district – about a hundred villages located around a network of channels and small artificial canals. The center of the district was the walled sacred site of E-Ana, the place of worship of the goddess known in the historical era as Inanna. On the sacred ground the foundations of several temples were discovered, of which the so called White Temple (ca. 3000 BC) on a high, up to 13 m high, raw platform – the prototype of future ziggurats. Nearby there was an architectural complex modern to the White Temple, called the Red Building, which may have been the seat of the council of the elders. It had a wide walled courtyard of about 600 m² which had an elevated area of mud bricks. Walls and massive columns of the building were decorated with polychrome mosaic made of burnt clay cones, which were pressed into the damp plaster and formed geometrical ornament.

In the early 3rd millennium BC Uruk was the largest of the agricultural settlements of the Two Rivers. center of the cult of the Sumerian goddess Inanna and god of heaven Anu. This city was formed as a result of the merger of E-Ana, Uruk and Kulaba. It covered an area of about 125 hectares and was the center of a small state. According to the legend, the territory of Uruk was fenced by a brick wall 9 km long built by the legendary king Gilgamesh. The construction of the wall testifies to the wars that Uruk waged with the neighboring city-states of the Two Kingdoms.

The epic tale of Gilgamesh and Agha tells of Uruk’s struggle with the city of Kish, whose ruler undertook its siege. The victory of Gilgamesh brought Uruk to power over the Southern Dvurech, maintained during the rule of the first Uruk Dynasty (c. 2615-2500 b.c.). In the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. B.C. it was replaced by the 1st dynasty of Ur, which took over the control over the irrigation systems in the lower reaches of the Euphrates.

At the end of the early dynastic period Uruk joined the alliance of the cities of Dvurech, created as a result of military conquests Lugalzagisi (24 B.C.), who called himself the king of Uruk and king of the land. In the end. B.C. Uruk was conquered by Sargon the Ancient, who destroyed the city walls and incorporated it into the state of Akkad. In the following periods of Mesopotamian history Uruk preserved its significance as a large commercial, craft and religious center. Ruins of the ziggurat, the temple built by Karaindash, the king of the Kassite dynasty, and the palace of the Parthian kings have been preserved. Uruk remained the center of the common Sopotamian epic tradition narrating about its gods and the deeds of King Gilgamesh, connected with the ideas about the beginning of Sumerian history.

In the 26th century BC, beginning with Gilgamesh, the rulers of Uruk dominated southern Dworech. However, around the twenty-fifth century BC the hegemony in the region passed to the city of Uru.

Structure of the nome

The city of Uruk consisted of the merged settlements of E-An, Uruk and Kulab. The communal gods of Uruk were An and Inanna. Also belonged to this nome later emerged cities Larsa (Larsa[m], now Sengere) at the junction of Euphrates and Iturungal (community god of Larsa was god Utu), Kutallu (now Tell-Syfr), as well as one of the oldest cities of the Two Rivers – Bad Tibira (“Copper city fortress”).

Archaeological culture

Archaeological culture of the Eneolithic period, widespread in the 4th millennium BC in southern Mesopotamia. It is named by characteristic finds in XIV-IV layers of excavations of the ancient city of Uruk (see below). It is preceded by Elobeid culture, represented in Uruk earlier layers (XVIII-XV). Uruk culture is characterized by red and gray pottery made on the potter’s wheel and developed metallurgy. At this time cylindrical seals appear (layer X), the most ancient Sumerian pictographic documents on clay tablets (layer IV), monumental buildings made of mud bricks are erected – “Red Building” (probably the place of people’s meetings) and “White Temple” discovered by excavations in the city center of Uruk. The bearers of Uruk culture were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding. There was the decomposition of the primitive communal relations and there were elements of the class relations, which further developed in the next stage (end of the 4th millennium BC), characterized by finds (in layer III of Uruk and other places) of Jemdet-Nasr type.

Varqa culture is characterized by a number of outstanding achievements in the history of Sumerian civilization formation. In this era appears potter’s wheel and first potter’s workshops producing unpainted pottery of different types. Carved cylindrical seals with images of animals, ritual scenes and heraldic compositions are widespread in Varqa period. To the beginning of 3rd millennium BC belong the earliest monuments of writing – clay tablets covered with ideograms which reflect economical activity of Uruk inhabitants: lists of goods, number of livestock, expense records. Interesting are the findings of the first learning texts, which served to memorize the signs and their combinations, lists of professions and names of officials.

Specialists of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences attribute the artifacts of the lower layer of the excavations at Tell Khazna l to the Uruk culture [1].

The first city in history. Uruk

Uruk was an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia. It was once the most important city in ancient Mesopotamia. It was located in the southern part of Sumer (modern Warka, Iraq), northeast of the Euphrates River.

A massive ziggurat at the entrance to Uruk. Photo by David Stanley CC BY 2.0

Thousands of clay tablets dug into the ruins of what was once the great city of Uruk show that it was indeed a religious and scientific center. It was here that, according to the Journal of Archaeology, the oldest texts in the world were written.

The writing system known as cuniform, a series of wedge-shaped symbols pressed into wet clay with tongues, was developed around 3200 BC by Sumerian scribes at Uruk. The combination of forms represented different sounds, so the system could be adopted by scribes who spoke different languages. This writing system was used by several cultures for about 3,000 years.

Neo-Assyrian clay tablet. Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 11. Uruk is also known as the city of Gilgamesh. In 1853, the mythological Sumerian hero king became famous in the modern world through the discovery of a collection of stories known as the Epic of Gilgamesh. The 12 cuneiform tablets on which the stories were written were discovered by archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam at the site of Ashurbanipal’s Royal Library.

According to Professor John Mayer of the State University of New York College at Brockport, “The ancient writings point to the existence of a real, historical figure we now call Gilgamesh. He lived, according to our best estimate, around 2600 B.C. “

It is also believed that Uruk is the biblical city of Erech, the second city of Nimrod’s kingdom in Shinar (Genesis 10:10).

Plan of the Ruins of Warka (Ancient Erech) – from ‘Travel and Research in Chalda and Susiana; with an account of the excavations at Warka, Nimrod’s “Erech,” and Shusha, Esther’s “Shushan Palace,” in 1849-52. Loftus, by William Kennett.

Archaeologists distinguish nine different periods of the city’s rise from a simple settlement to the world’s first urban center.

The foundations of the first settlements on the site date from about 5000 B.C., the Eridu period. According to the Sumerian List of Kings (an ancient stone tablet listing all the kings of Sumer in Sumerian), Uruk was founded by King Enmerkar around 4500 BC. This was during the Ubeid era (5000-4100 BC).

Pottery from the Late Ubeid Period

After 4000 BC. Uruk grew from small agricultural villages to a much larger and more complex center. This was due in part to a period of climate change; there was less rainfall in the area, so people living in the hills migrated to the valley of the ancient Euphrates River.

The current of the Euphrates has since shifted, which was an important factor that led to the decline of the city.

Being located in the lush and fertile river valley, the population of Uruk continued to grow during the Early Uruk period (4000-3500 BC), the Middle Uruk period (3800-3400 BC), and Late Uruk (3500-3100 BC). Farming and irrigation methods were improved, providing a surplus of food for the community.

Around 3200 BC the city of Uruk was the largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia, and probably in the world.

The organization of Uruk has been the basis for cities ever since. Photo by Osama Alcazaba CC BY-SA 4.0

It was an urban center with a full-fledged bureaucracy, a stratified society, and a regular army. It was also the main center of trade and administration.

The organization of Uruk during this period has been the basis for cities ever since. There is evidence of social hierarchies and power political structures that would be familiar to most of us today. Clay tablets containing a “standard list of occupations” have been found, listing about 100 occupations.

Ruins of the Temple of Inanna

As the city became increasingly wealthy, those at the top looked for ways to demonstrate their wealth and power. Luxury items were acquired through conquest or trade of lands as far away as the Nile Delta of Egypt.

Uruk was a city of extraordinary architecture and art. The remains of monumental clay brick buildings were excavated, the walls of which were decorated with mosaics of painted clay cones pressed into clay plaster, a technique known as clay cone mosaic.

The most impressive creations of this Sumerian craft discovered to date are the two large temple complexes in the center of Uruk.

Part of the relief from the temple of Inanna. Photo by Marcus Cyron CC BY 3.0

One was dedicated to Anu, the god of heaven, and the other, known as the Mosaic Temple of Uruk, to Inanna (or Ishtar), goddess of love, procreation and war. There was a clear division of the city into the districts of Anu and Enna.

Another famous work of art, “The Lady of Uruk” or “The Mask of Warka” was discovered in 1939 by the German Archaeological Institute in Uruk. Dated to 3100 B.C., it is most likely that the mask was part of a much larger work from one of the temples and is thought to represent Inanna. The marble sculpture is one of the earliest depictions of the human face.

The Warka mask was stolen during the Battle of Baghdad in April 2003. It was found in September 2003 – buried in a farmer’s field – and returned to the National Museum of Iraq.

To date, the mask is the most significant artifact found at the excavation site, and it is part of the collection of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. It is also called the “Sumerian Mona Lisa.”

Uruk continued to expand and, being a center of luxurious materials and possessions, required more protection.

Zodiacal calendar of the Virgo cycle Clay tablet of the Seleucid period, late 1st millennium BC, copy of the older original of Varq, formerly Uruk, southern Mesopotamia (Iraq). Photo by Applejuice – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

Although traditionally believed that the Great Wall of Uruk was built by King Gilgamesh himself, as written in the Epic of Gilgamesh, it may have been created during the reign of King Ennatum, who established the first empire in Uruk during the Jemdet Nasr period. (3100-2900 BC).

By the time the wall was raised, it protected an area of 2.32 square miles and a population of nearly 80,000.

During the Early Dynasty (2900-2350 B.C.), Mesopotamia was ruled by city-states whose rulers gradually became more important and influential.

A possible representation of Gilgamesh as Lord of the Animals, clutching a lion in his left hand and a serpent in his right hand, in a relief of the Assyrian palace from Dur-Sharrukin, now in the Louvre.

Beginning about 2004 B.C. The struggle between the Sumerians in Babylonia and the Elamites of Elam, a pre-Iranian civilization, developed into serious national conflicts.

Uruk was still a prominent center at this time, but suffered greatly.

There are recollections of the conflicts in the epic of Gilgamesh. Some time after 2000 BC. Uruk lost importance, but was not abandoned.

The Parthian temple of Harei at Uruk (Warka), 25 miles east of Samawah, Iraq, was built before 110 AD and is thus thousands of years younger than the surrounding Sumerian remains. Photo by David Stanley CC BY 2.0

The city remained inhabited during the Seleucid (312-63 BC) and Parthian (227 BC-224 BC) periods. The last people who lived there left Uruk after the establishment of Islam in Persia in 633-638.

The remains of what is probably the world’s oldest city were buried until 1850 when the archaeologist William Loftus made the first excavations at the site and identified the city as “Erech, the second city of Nimrod.

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