The Sumerians

Sumer (/ˈsuːmər/) is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq), during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages, and one of the first civilizations in the world, along with Ancient Egypt, Norte Chico and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers grew an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus from which enabled them to form urban settlements. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr, and date to between roughly c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC.

Origin of Name

The term Sumerian is the common name given to the ancient non-Semitic-speaking inhabitants of Mesopotamia by the East Semitic-speaking Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg ga (cuneiform: 𒌦 𒊕 𒈪 𒂵), phonetically /uŋ saŋ ɡi ɡa/, or sang-ngiga, literally meaning "the black-headed people", and to their land as ki-en-gi(-r) (cuneiform: 𒆠𒂗𒄀) ('place' + 'lords' + 'noble'), meaning "place of the noble lords". The Akkadians also called the Sumerians "black-headed people", or tsalmat-qaqqadi, in the Semitic Akkadian language. The Akkadian word Shumer may represent the geographical name in dialect, but the phonological development leading to the Akkadian term šumerû is uncertain. Hebrew Shinar, Egyptian Sngr, and Hittite Šanhar(a), all referring to southern Mesopotamia, could be western variants of Shumer.

Most historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a West Asian people who spoke the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc., as evidence), a non-Semitic and non-Indo-European agglutinative language isolate.In contrast to its Semitic neighbours, it was not an inflected language.

Others have suggested that the Sumerians were a North African people who migrated from the Green Sahara into the Middle East and were responsible for the spread of farming in the Middle East. Although not specifically discussing Sumerians, Lazaridis et al. 2016 have suggested a North African origin for the pre-Semitic cultures of the Middle East, particularly Natufians, after testing the genomes of Natufian and Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture-bearers. Alternatively, recent genetic analysis of ancient Mesopotamian skeletal DNA tends to suggest an association of the Sumerians with India, possibly as a result of ancient Indus-Mesopotamia relations: Sumerians, or at least some of them, may have been related to the original Dravidian population of India.

Sumer (/ˈsuːmər/) is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq), during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages, and one of the first civilizations in the world, along with Ancient Egypt, Norte Chico and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers grew an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus from which enabled them to form urban settlements. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr, and date to between roughly c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC.

Origin of Name

The term Sumerian is the common name given to the ancient non-Semitic-speaking inhabitants of Mesopotamia by the East Semitic-speaking Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg ga (cuneiform: 𒌦 𒊕 𒈪 𒂵), phonetically /uŋ saŋ ɡi ɡa/, or sang-ngiga, literally meaning "the black-headed people", and to their land as ki-en-gi(-r) (cuneiform: 𒆠𒂗𒄀) ('place' + 'lords' + 'noble'), meaning "place of the noble lords". The Akkadians also called the Sumerians "black-headed people", or tsalmat-qaqqadi, in the Semitic Akkadian language. The Akkadian word Shumer may represent the geographical name in dialect, but the phonological development leading to the Akkadian term šumerû is uncertain. Hebrew Shinar, Egyptian Sngr, and Hittite Šanhar(a), all referring to southern Mesopotamia, could be western variants of Shumer.

Most historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a West Asian people who spoke the Sumerian language (pointing to the names of cities, rivers, basic occupations, etc., as evidence), a non-Semitic and non-Indo-European agglutinative language isolate.In contrast to its Semitic neighbours, it was not an inflected language.

Others have suggested that the Sumerians were a North African people who migrated from the Green Sahara into the Middle East and were responsible for the spread of farming in the Middle East. Although not specifically discussing Sumerians, Lazaridis et al. 2016 have suggested a North African origin for the pre-Semitic cultures of the Middle East, particularly Natufians, after testing the genomes of Natufian and Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture-bearers. Alternatively, recent genetic analysis of ancient Mesopotamian skeletal DNA tends to suggest an association of the Sumerians with India, possibly as a result of ancient Indus-Mesopotamia relations: Sumerians, or at least some of them, may have been related to the original Dravidian population of India.