▷  Meet the Sumerians

The subject of the Ancient History Group‘s February Zoom session was the Sumerian civilization … Group Convener Greta Sykes focussed on particular areas, apart from a briefest of overviews on time and place of the area called Mesopotamia until the end of WW1, which led to its division into a number of Arab states which include Iraq and Syria. Richard Miles’ understanding of civilisation describes it through horticultural activity, irrigation, sowing and harvesting, which led to the surplus of grain, in turn leading to larger families, housebuilding and eventually cities. Trade and exchange followed. All of these activities needed good organisation, which was based in the temple of each city. The Sumerians spirituality was founded on many Gods and Goddesses in their understanding of nature. They saw themselves as close to the Gods and believing in them as if they were real people with extraordinary power. One Goddesses, called Inanna, stands out as having been one of the most important ones for about 4000 years. By 3000 BC the Sumerians had developed the art of writing on clay tablets. Thousands of them survive and can be seen in the British Museum today. At this time women had equal rights with men. They could own property, be politically active and play an important role as priestess or queen. In our discussion one question was if having equal rights was different from matriarchy. Another issue raised was the question of living in the city versus living on the land. It is sometimes proposed that if people had the choice they would want to live on the land with less dirt and illness. It begs the question of whether people had a choice thousands of years ago or in how far the building of cities was a natural, thus necessary next step in civilisation developing. It allowed for arts and crafts to be created, for instance.

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