Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Deluge in Archaic Sumerian Cities

The walls of Uruk. Built by Gilgamesh.Among the chief of Semitic king Sargon´s exploits, was the destruction of the strong walls of Uruk. Image from
Zigurat of Uruk. Image from
The Sumerians were the first literate inhabitants of Mesopotamia, and theirs is the language of the oldest tablets from Nippur which relate to Gilgamesh, the epic hero king. They had already irrigated the country and filled it with their cities, before it was conquered by Semitic tribes in the course of the third millennium BC.
Excavation has shown that the Archaic Sumerian or Early Dynastic civilization of the early third millennium follows notable flood levels at several important cities: Shurrupak, Kish, and Uruk among them. These levels close the last prehistoric period, the Jemdet Nasr Period of the archaeologists, and may mark the catastrophe described in the Sumerian story of the flood, the hero of which lived at Shurrupak. This however was not the only disaster, and Sir Leonard Woolley, in his excavations at Ur, found evidence of a much earlier flood, which may have devastated part of the country at a time before even the most primitive picture-writing had been evolved. In the Sumerian texts  the name of five cities are given which were  established before the Deluge, and to them ¨Kingship was let down from Heaven¨. After the catastrophe, according to the texts, Kingship once more descended; and the city-states which then arose were often at war with each other. In the King-list, Gilgamesh is named as fifth ruler of the first post-diluvian dynasty of Uruk.
There has been much controversy on the question of the relationship between the Genesis flood and that of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian writers. The opinion, at one time widely held that the Genesis account was a late refinement on a story once current in all the cities of Babylonia, is not now so general; while the view that it derives directly from a very old and independent history has many supporters. The decipherment of fresh texts may throw more light on the whole question. The Genesis account is probably best seen against a background of many very anciente flood stories, possibly but not necessarily relating to the same disaster.
From The Epic of Gilgamesh. English version by N.K. Sandars. The Penguin Classics. Great Britain. 1962
Gilgamesh. Image from

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