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Extremely Rare Neo-Sumerian Palace Messenger Tablet from Iri-Sagrig, Dated 2027 BC

A clay pillow-shaped messenger tablet from an important palace archive of the Sumerian city Iri-Saĝrig, dated to 2027 BC, with cuneiform text on both sides: “1 roasted mutton, 5 sila soup Ur-šu-suen, chancellor’s assistant when he came for the ’secretary’ of Nana’s field; 3 sila soup, 2 fish Laqipum, cup bearer, royal messenger when he went for royal offerings; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Suškin, royal messenger when he came from Der to the king’s place; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Kuganum, royal messenger; /REVERSE/ 1 sila soup, 1 fish Ilianum, royal messenger when they went to Der; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Namhani, royal messenger; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Lu-šulgira, royal messenger when they came to the governor’s place; 2 sila soup, 2 fishŠugatum, royal messenger when he came to capture fugitive soldier-workers, servants of Ninhursag; 1 sila soup, 1 fish Pululu, eguary when he went for the sikum-mules; A disbursement for the month Nigenlila, 19th day.”

This text dates to the second year of King Ibbi-Sin, the last king of the Ur III. The text is particularly rare because almost all of the named messengers are followed by a description their mission: “Suškin, royal messenger when he came from Der to the king’s place.” The tablet records rations of food and drink distributed by the government to royal messengers. According to Prof. David Owen the Iri-Saĝrig archive is probably the archive of the governor whose office was in the local palace. The king and other members of the royal family occasionally traveled to Iri-Saĝrig, perhaps on their way to or from Nippur or other towns. No town in Sumer was visited more often by the king than Iri-Saĝrig. This may explain the presence of so many royal functionaries associated with the town.

URUK PERIOD OF IRAQ

This is an excerpt from my post: THE SUMERIANS, FOREFATHERS OF CIVILIZATION IN MESOPOTAMIA.

The Uruk Period is named after the ancient city of Uruk, a large settlement that could sustain a population as high as 40,000-50,000. Where in the earlier periods the sizes of war-bands were only in the hundreds, they could now support armies of as much as 5,000 men. Although they were also supported by about 146 smaller settlements that lay within their domains, these villages and cities began to decrease as the inhabitants flocked to the larger capital cities for the safety of their walls and promise of a better life.

^ Uruk.

Artifacts manufactured in Uruk can be found throughout Mesopotamia, one of the primary items found is also believed to be the world‘s first mass produced object, a “bevel rimmed bowl”. Most believe that these cheaply made ordinary looking bowls were actually part of the early Sumerian currency system. With the increase of urbanization less city folk farmed, instead finding work within the cities where they would be paid in grain. How much grain one had in a bowl would determine how much one was paid (for you to eat from, save or trade with). 

An urban revolution had occurred; populations and the focus of agriculture now shifted over to the more fertile river valleys and irrigation increased the productivity and amount of crops which led to a population boom. With more cities lying beside channels and rivers there was an increase in trade and income as now they could more easily travel and connect with those along these waters. With the overall increase of food and income also came an increase in specialist professions; merchants, craftsmen, artisans, warlords, high priests, nobles and kings. 

^ A clay tablet maker and cuneiform scribe recording a cattle sale in a Sumerian market place about 3000 B.C. by Neville Dear.

Temples were now being built on a larger scale and were more numerous, priestly roles became more important as well. The en (“priest, lord”) was the high-priest, a title denoting sovereignty and the power to make things prosper. The en-priestess (Akkadian ‘entum’, Sumerian ‘Nin’) would live in a temple complex called a giparu (“storehouse”) which were in earlier times used as storage areas for the harvest and even cattle. En-priestesses were buried in a cemetery by the giparu, offerings were given to deceased priestesses and reverence to them extended to the point of there being a cult devoted to them. A common custom in Mesopotamia was to bury the diseased in the floors of the household, the same can be found in the giparu as the priestesses were also buried here. Sadly the city of Ur, the giparu and its cemetery were all looted by the Elamites late in Sumerian history.

The first and most famous of these en-priestesses was the daughter of Sargon the Great, Enheduanna (“En, ornament [ie. the moon] of the heavens”), who was the high-priestess of Nanna/Sin (moon god) and was renowned for being the first author in history, at least 42 hymns are attributed to her. The en-priestesses were also seen as the wife of their patron god therefore representing the godly wife; an example being that the Enheduanna, en-priestess of Ur, represented Ningal (goddess of reeds) the wife of Nanna/Sin (moon god). During the warring city-states period that followed, the title en would also grow to into a more militarized and authoritative position. This priest-king (Ensi, “lord [of the] plowland”) was seen as an intermediary between the gods and man. 

The lugal (“big man”) signified the owner of something and inevitably became the term for kings. The title lugal would not become prominent until c.2700 BCE, the ensi were more important than them but in time they would become seen as their subordinates. Unlike the high-priests and high-priestesses, who would be elected, the lugal’s succession would pass onto their heirs. According to some the lugals may have initially been elected as ad hoc leaders much like the consuls of Rome and the judges (shoftim) of the bible, but generally needed for military purposes.

Like the classical Greeks, the Sumerians and Akkadians may have believed that whomever won these wars, the gods favored more so. Countless tablets show both pictorial representations and written texts which depicted gods warring when it was known that kings fought these conflicts. An example of this is when Umma and Lagash were warring the texts say that Ningirsu (patron war god of Lagash) battled against Umma and “By the command of Enlil, he cast (his) big battle-net upon it, and its many tumuli (burial mounds) he laid upon the ground in the plain.” 

There was even a king of Akkad named Naram-Sin who is depicted in artwork wearing a horned helmet only worn by the gods and was deified as the god of Agade (Akkad)”. Despite the apparent supremacy the ensis and lugals held, early Mesopotamian history shows that the council (ukkin, “council, assembly”) still held sway over most important decisions; one made up of elders (abba urru, “father/elders of the city”) and one of youths. In the poem Gilgamesh and Agga even Gilgamesh, the great legendary king of Uruk, needed their permission to go to war against Aga of Kish. The elders disapproved “Let us submit to the house of Kish, let us not smite it with weapons” but the people of the city sided with Gilgamesh.

Other city states arose, like the great cities of Kish and Ur, which surpassed Uruk in importance. This transition from the Uruk period to the First Dynasty of Ur is said by some to coincide with a wet and dry period known as the Piora Oscillation which led to massive flooding (possibly inspiring the great flood myth) and drought (leading to a scramble for resources).

If there are any errors please privately inbox me so I can update it. As always, if you’d like to read or learn about any specific historical subjects just let me know what they are and I will take note of them.

See Also:

The World’s First Female Author, Enhedu’anna

This ancient clay tablet from Babylonia is inscribed in Sumerian cuneiform and dates to the 20th-17th centuries BC. It mentions King Sargon’s daughter Enhedu'anna as the author of a hymn to the goddess Inanna. The tablet has lines written first by the teacher in the first column, with 2 students repeating the hymn in columns 2 and 3.

Enhedu’anna was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BC), founder of the first documented empire in Asia. Enhedu’anna emerges as a genuine creative talent, a poetess as well as a princess, a priestess and a prophetess. She is, in fact, the first named, non-legendary author in history. As such she has found her way into contemporary anthologies, especially of women’s literature.

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It’s a well known fact that Egyptians are credited with the domestication of cats, but did you know that the history of felines in society dates back far longer than that?


Like many things in modern culture, the presence of cats in towns can be traced back to the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. It is believed that around the same time that livestock such as cattle and goats began to be domesticated– around 10,000 years ago– cats, too, were becoming prevalent amongst humans. For the same reasons that the ancient Egyptians kept our feline companions around, so did the ancient Mesopotamians. Small and crafty hunters meant that farmers’ food stores would be safe from rodents as would their homes. Of course, Egyptians were the first to keep cats as pets, but that would not have been possible without the initial cat-human bond forged by Mesopotamians.

For reasons unknown, it is ultimately rare to find artwork depicting domesticated cats in collections dating back to Mesopotamia, but their relatives are much more commonplace. While the lion seemed to be the favored cat for sculptures and reliefs, the occasional panther made its way into immortalization at the hands of talented artists of the time.

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Akkadian Cylinder Seal, 18th-17th Century BC

A carved banded agate cylinder seal with frieze depicting a seated bearded figure (possibly a deity) in flounced robe holding a cup towards a standing figure  in a robe with herringbone pattern, a second figure in flounced robe, a third figure (worshipper) in tasseled robe, lamp with corrugated stand.

Head of a man, fragment of a relief sculpture from Room N in the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II (r. 721-700 BCE) at ancient Dur-Sharrukin = present-day Khorsabad, Iraq.  Now in the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.

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Sumerian Silver Lyre, from Ur, southern Iraq, c. 2600-2400 BC

This lyre was found in the ‘Great Death-Pit’, one of the graves in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The burial in the Great Death-Pit was accompanied by seventy-four bodies - six men and sixty-eight women -laid down in rows on the floor of the pit. Three lyres were piled one on top of another. They were all made from wood which had decayed by the time they were excavated, but two of them, of which this is one, were entirely covered in sheet silver attached by small silver nails. The plaques down the front of the sounding box are made of shell. The silver cow’s head decorating the front has inlaid eyes of shell and lapis lazuli. The edges of the sound box have a narrow border of shell and lapis lazuli inlay.

When found, the lyre lay in the soil. The metal was very brittle and the uprights were squashed flat. First it was photographed, and then covered in wax and waxed cloth to hold it together for lifting. The silver on the top and back edge of the sounding box had been destroyed. Some of the silver preserved the impression of matting on which it must have originally lain. Eleven silver tubes acted as the tuning pegs.

Such instruments were probably important parts of rituals at court and temple. There are representations of lyre players and their instruments on cylinder seals, and on the Standard of Ur being played alongside a possible singer.