Sometime around 4000 B.C., ancient Sumerian culture emerged on a sun-scorched floodplain along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now southern Iraq. These clever Mesopotamians are best known for inventing cuneiform script—the world’s oldest extant writing system—but they also forged a vibrant religious and literary tradition and made massive leaps forward in government, mathematics, urban planning and agriculture.
- Here are 6 fascinating facts about Ancient Sumer you might like to share with your pupils.
- One of the larger Sumerian cities may have had as many as 80,000 residents.
- Cuneiform writing was used for over 3,000 years.
- The Sumerians were well-travelled trade merchants. Since their homeland was largely devoid of timber, stone and minerals, the Sumerians were forced to create one of history’s earliest trade networks over both land and sea. The Sumerians were particularly fond of lapis lazuli—a blue-coloured precious stone used in art and jewellery—and there is evidence that they may have roamed as far as Afghanistan to get it
- They made a major contribution to literature. The “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a 3,000-line poem that follows the adventures of a Sumerian king as he battles a forest monster and quests after the secret of eternal life
- Sumerian mathematics and measurements are still used today. The origins of the sixty-second minute and sixty-minute hour can be traced all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. In the same way that modern mathematics is a decimal system based on the number ten, the Sumerians mainly used a structure that was based around groupings of 60 which was easily divisible.
- Sumerian culture was lost to history until the 19th century