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The Sumerian civilization and the contributions it made to the world

The Sumerian people lived in the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It included the Sumerian civilization. Sumer was the name for the area where the rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet. This culture grew 5,000 years before Christ was born.

Sumerians built cities like Nipur, Ur, Umma, Eridu, Kish, and Lagash, strengthening this civilization. Archaeological remains from that land have given us ideas about how the Sumerians ran their government and how they made art, architecture, literature, trade, and business.


The Sumerians put together Mesopotamia’s civilization. Around 3500 B.C., this culture reached its peak. Sumerians made a lot of cities. The Sumerians’ four biggest cities were Nipur, Lagash, Ur, and Kish.

In every city-state, the king was the most powerful person. Ziggurat was the most important political center of a city-state. The priests of Sumer were called Patteshi. They were the most crucial people in the Sumerian government. The king ran the country based on what they said.

The craft of writing

Clay Tablet with Cuneiform Writing- Nebuchadnezzar, King of Justice
Clay Tablet with Cuneiform Writing- Nebuchadnezzar, King of Justice © Wikimedia Commons

The writing was the most important thing the Sumerians ever did. They started using a way of writing known as Cuneiform. A British man named Henry Rowlison lived in Iran and was the first to figure out what this writing meant.

Each sign was handled as if it were a letter. It was called Cuneiform writing because the top of each letter was sharp and wedge-shaped. The word Cuneiform comes from the Latin cuneus, which means wedge. They made wedge-shaped marks on soft clay tablets using a sharp reed pen.

They made these tablets stronger by letting them dry out in the sun. Most of those tablets were small because the big ones often broke when baked. It was read from right to left. The Sumerian library found tens of thousands of these tablets with Cuneiform writing.

All of these tablets tell us a lot about the Sumerian civilization. After reading The Rock of Behistan, people learned much about the Sumerian civilization. So, the Sumerians’ most important contribution to human civilization was making the Cuneiform writing system.


The Library of Ashurbanipal in the British Museum
The Library of Ashurbanipal in the British Museum © Wikimedia Commons

The Sumerians had a lot of books. These libraries were places where people could learn a lot. There are about 30,000 clay tablets that have been found in the ruins of Tello. These tablets were put in order, one after the other. Many tablets have been found in many other places. All of this evidence shows that those were the ancient Sumerian libraries.

Religious belief

The Sumerians had a great sense of religion. They built temples in the middle of the city-state to honor gods and goddesses. The temple in Sumer was called Ziggurat. Hill of Heaven is what Ziggurat means. These temples were kind of like tower temples with many floors.

At the top of the temple, a square room was split in half. One room was for the temple or the god in charge, and the other was where the priest lived. The name of the priest was Patteshi. The Sumerians believed in many gods. The Sumerians built many Ziggurats, but the one at Nipur for their main god Enlil was the largest.

He was the god of the holy city of Nippur. He was also seen as the god of the earth and the god of the air. At Ur, the man god “Nannar ” had another Ziggurat built for him. The Sumerians’ most popular god was the goddess Ishtar. She was the child of the god of the sky, Anu.

The Sumerians had their way of worshiping. Most Sumerians worked in agriculture. Farmers brought a pot of water, a goat or sheep, and a green palm leaf to the god or goddess. They put all of these things in front of the god or goddess. People asked the gods for rain and food. The priest killed the animal and looked at its liver and intestines to see what would happen in the future.

The priests were an important part of the Sumerians’ religious life. They said they could see into the future through dreams and signs. The Sumerians, too, thought that there was life after death. They thought that the soul went to a dark place after death.

A lot of myths were also written by Sumerian priests. They wrote the Story of Creation, the Story of the Flood, the Story of the Fall of Man, the Story of the Tower of Babel, and numerous other stories. Later, the Hebrews spread these stories from Sumer.


By building many cities, palaces, and Ziggurats, the Sumerians left their mark on the sands of time that will never be erased. They built different things with bricks that had been burned. The Ziggurats were tall, narrow buildings with seven or eight stories. They paid enough attention to every building to give it a nice finish. They knew how to make the right size column, vault, arch, and dome.


The Sumerians made a lot of art that is still around today. Craftsmen like potters, goldsmiths, and stone cultures did high-quality work. Several decorated clay pots in Ur show how skilled they were as artists. The carvings and pictures on their seals show their skill as artists. They also made beautiful decorations like ornaments. In many Sumerian cities, the remains of large metal animals have been found. They also made several stone statues that show how talented they were as artists.

Science Astrology

The Sumerians were smart when it came to science. They knew a lot about both mathematics and astrology. The priests stayed in the room of the Ziggurat and watched how the planets and stars moved. They could tell when it would be good or bad. So, they knew quite a lot about astrology.


The Sumerians made a calendar to keep track of the year and months. They split the year into 12 months based on the moon. They used how the moon moved to figure out when a month started. There were 30 days in each month. After a while, the Sumerian kings made a year last 13 months instead of 12.

Their calendar was broken because it couldn’t add five days to a year. This made a year have 365 days instead of 360 (360 + 5). Because of this, they had to keep changing the calendar. After some changes, the Hebrews and Arabians used the Sumerian calendar.

Water Clock

The Sumerians kept track of time with water clocks. One hour was split into 60 minutes, and each minute was split into 60 seconds. Drop by drop, and water fell out of a hole in a pot. By looking at the marks on the pot, the Sumerians could tell what time it was. The Sumerians were the first to come up with this idea.

Counting procedure

The Sumerians came up with a new way to count. They used 60 as a numbering unit and could count that way. One “mina” or “pound” was equal to 60 “shekels.” 360″ were cut out of a circle (606 = 360° or 6 times 60). This was part of how the ancient Sumerians did the math. As was already said, an hour was broken up into 60 minutes, and a minute was split into 60 seconds.