Cultures > Sumer



Sumer was one of the oldest civilizations that existed in Mesopotamia and one of the original six of the Cradle of Civilization theory. There is some debate between researchers of where and when the civilization exactly started, but most agree it was somewhere on the Persian Gulf. The first recovered human settlements grew up along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers around 6,000 BC and were populated by a non-semitic people called the Sumerians. These settlements soon became independent and autonomous city-states with their own unique religious and cultural identity.

Eventually all of the city-states together led to the development of the civilization of Sumer. The loose collection of city-states often ruled by the most powerful priest-king lasted until about the 23rd century BC when it was conquered and incorporated into the Akkadian Empire. The ancient Sumerians started the first group work projects that involved draining the marshes and otherwise altering the environment to develop a larger human settlement.

They also were responsible for the development of different industries such as pottery, masonry, metalwork, leatherwork and weaving. These developments show a sophisticated interaction between humans that had decided to settle down and adopt agriculture and begin creating cities. The Sumerians were in fact non-Semitic people while the Akkadians to the north of them were Semitic people. The name Sumerian actually comes from the Akkadian word for these people.

The ancient Sumerians spoke and wrote a unique language called the Sumerian language, with their written language called cuneiform. In fact, one of the worlds first known fusions of language into the concept of bilingualism was established in connection with the neighboring Akkadian Empire. The Sumerian civilization at its height included approximately 800,000 to 1.5 million inhabitants. There were about 27 million people in the entire world at this time so this was a significant percentage.



Origin Myth


Ubaid Period

See Ubaid Period

Uruk Period

See Uruk Period

Early Dynastic Period

See Early Dynastic Period of Sumer

Akkadian Empire

See Akkadian Empire

Under the leadership of Sargon the Great, the Akkadian Empire achieved the zenith of its power. Around 2270 BC the Akkadians managed to conquer Sumer in the Battle of Uruk and incorporated it into their empire. Elam would be conquered as well and Sargon would control a uniform empire from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf as well. There is a mixture of Akkadian and Sumerian language at this point. Some tablets are written purely in Old Akkadian, while official and administrative tablets continue to be written in cuneiform by the scribes.

Ancient Artifacts - Sargon the Great Bronze Head

Sargon the Great Bronze Head

It appears that both Akkadian and Sumerian languages co-existed until about 1800 BC. At this point it appears though that Sumer was known to be the language of the scholars and the scribes while Akkadian was the common spoken language.

Sumer - Akkadian Empire Territories Map

Akkadian Empire Territories Map

You can learn more about the Akkadian Empire here.

Gutian Invasion

See Gutian Invasion

3rd Dynasty of Ur

See 3rd Dynasty of Ur

Sumer Legacy

See Sumer Legacy

Sumerian King List

Sumer - Sumerian King List

Sumerian King List

KingReign (Short Chronology)Reign (Long Chronology)Dynasty
AlulimAnte-Diluvian King
DumuzidAnte-Diluvian King
En-men-dur-anaAnte-Diluvian King
ZiusudraAnte-Diluvian King
Etana1st Dynasty of Kish
Enmebaragesi1st Dynasty of Kish
Enmerkar1st Dynasty of Uruk
Lugalbanda1st Dynasty of Uruk
Dumuzid1st Dynasty of Uruk
Gilgamesh1st Dynasty of Uruk
Meskalamdug1st Dynasty of Ur
Mesannepada1st Dynasty of Ur
Puabi1st Dynasty of Ur
Enshakushanna2nd Dynasty of Uruk
Ur-Nanshe1st Dynasty of Lagash
Eannatum1st Dynasty of Lagash
En-anna-tum I1st Dynasty of Lagash
Entemena1st Dynasty of Lagash
Urukagina1st Dynasty of Lagash
Lugal-Anne-MunduDynasty of Adab
Kubaba3rd Dynasty of Kish
Lugal-zage-si2294-2270 BC3rd Dynasty of Uruk
Sargon the GreatDynasty of Akkad
TashlultumDynasty of Akkad
EnheduannaDynasty of Akkad
RimushDynasty of Akkad
ManishtusuDynasty of Akkad
Naram-Sin2254–2218 BCDynasty of Akkad
Shar-Kali-SharriDynasty of Akkad
DuduDynasty of Akkad
Shu-turulDynasty of Akkad
Puzer-Mama2233-2218 BC2nd Dynasty of Lagash
Gudea2144-2124 BC2nd Dynasty of Lagash
Utu-hegal2116–2110 BC5th Dynasty of Uruk
Ur-Nammu2047-2030 BC3rd Dynasty of Ur
Shulgi2029-1982 BC3rd Dynasty of Ur
Amar-Sin1981–1973 BC3rd Dynasty of Ur
Shu-Sin1972-1964 BC3rd Dynasty of Ur
Ibbi-Sin1963-1940 BC3rd Dynasty of Ur
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