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Jemdet Nasr Period - 3300-2900 BC

The Jemdet Nasr Period, which is named, after a small hill where its remains were first discovered, lasted from 3300-3100 to 3000-2900 BC. The Jemdet Nasr period, may have lasted until 2800. The period represents the transition from prehistory to history and literate civilization [urban revolution]. Occupation of Jemdet Nasr commenced in the Ubaid Period (circa 4000 BC) and flourished from 3400 to 2800 BC during the Late Uruk -- Jemdet Nasr -- Early Dynastic I Periods. The Jemdet Nasr period of Sumer was the time of the settling of Nippur and apparently the introduction of Enlil. The title en, used to refer to the high priestess or priest, appeared by the end of the fourth millennium or beginning of the third in the Jemdet Nasr period.

This city-state gave its name to a distinctive wheel-turned painted pottery. After the Uruk period painted pottery asserted itself, at least in southern Mesopotamia, in a brilliant renaissance, known as the Jemdet-Nasr period. A typical form of the Jemdet Nasr period is a squat pot with sharply marked shoulders. The distinctive nature of these objects led to the naming of a Jemdet Nasr period, lasting for a few centuries around 3000 BC, although some scholars have doubted the validity of this period definition. The introduction of cutting discs into work with softer stones, supposed to have occurred in the Jemdet Nasr period, has been questioned and refuted.

No sudden break intervenes between the Uruk period and the succeeding age. The end of the Late Uruk period is controversial and depends on the definition of the Jemdet Nasr period which is even more controversial. The poor state of knowledge of the Jemdet Nasr period is particularly unfortunate, since it was a time of considerable change and reorganization. Within southern Mesopotamia, the use of urban space underwent significant modification. There is no evidence for use of the city seals prior to the Jemdet Nasr period. All the evidence for lists of city names dates to the Jemdet Nasr and later periods, that is immediately after the Uruk period.

This period was a time of retrenchment [anti-expansionism] and relative cultural isolation in southern Mesopotamia. However, in the Jemdet Nasr period (3100-2900 BCE) trade links developed with lands in the Gulf, including Oman. The Jemdet Nasr period polities of Lower Mesopotamia seem to have lost control over the Susiana, and the ceramics of Susa are once again most closely related to those found in the Iranian highlands.

In sum the material culture of Jemdet Nasr reflects the consolidation of administrative and social developments in the centuries following the invention of Proto-cuneiform writing in the Late Uruk Period in southern Mesopotamia. It had been thought that the change in direction of the script took place as early as the Jemdet Nasr period. It was also suggested that the change arose because scribes writing from right to left found they were smudging their copy. Signs are employed as syllables for the phonetic complement and for plural ending and the signs generally are strongly conventionalized. By the Jemdet Nasr period the script had developed to the extent that connected prose could be recorded. At first simple stylized pictures were scratched linearly in soft clay. These developments were to underpin the spectacular achievements of Sumerian civilization in the succeeding Early Dynastic Period.

In later Mesopotamian tradition the break between Jemdet Nasr and the next period, the Early Dynastic, was marked by the Great Flood, which destroyed almost all of humankind. Archaeology does not confirm that there was such a Deluge.

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