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Kish - 2844-2650 BC

The Dynasty of Kish (once dated as early as c.4401-3815, now dated at 2844 BC), was the first city founded after the Deluge, according to most Sumerian King Lists. When the city of Kish was excavated, the earliest level was from the Jemdet Nasr period, ca. 2800-2400 BC. Situated on an ancient branch of the Euphrates River 80 kilometers south of Baghdad in Iraq, Kish was one of the city-states of the Sumer civilization. Occupation began in the Jemdet Nasr phase and the city was of major importance in the early 3rd millennium BC. It declined in importance later but remained in occupation until the Sassanian period.

A few King Lists count Kish as the second of the Babylonian dynasties of the Sumerian rulers, following the Opis dynasty, which appeared in the north of Arabia, and east of the Tigris, and counted six known rulers. By this account, the Kish dynasty arose in the east of Babylonia superseding the Opis rulers. In any event, the sovereigns appear to have been both temporal and spiritual rulers, that is, they were both high priests and kings - and it seems probable that, at this time in the history of Babylonia, belief was held that the sovereigns were of divine origin and hence the representatives of the gods, or at least the chief of the deity upon earth.

One of the most important monuments excavated is an Early Dynastic palace, one of the earliest indications any where in Sumer of the growing power of kings whlch was to challenge and eventually over take that of the Temple [religious] organizations during the course of the Early Dynastic period. Important remains still standing at Kish include two temples, one probably dedicated to Inanna the Sumerian goddess of love of the 6th century BC.

That the Kish sovereigns played an important role in Babylonia in their day is evident from their written records which have survived the ravages of time. These are comparatively plentiful. They show that the dynasty consisted of at least eight rulers designated as follows: Azag Bau, who is said to have been a woman and to have reigned 100 years; Basha Enzu, 25 years; Ur Zamama, 6 years; Zimudar, 30 years; Uziwidar, 6 years; Elmuti, 11 years; Igu Babbar, 11 years; Naniyachi, 3 years; a total of only 192 years, more than half of which time is occupied by the reign of one sovereign out of the eight.

Enmebaragesi fl. c. 2700 BC also spelled Enmebaragisi, also called ME-BARAGESI, king of Kish, in northern Babylonia, was the first historical personality of Mesopotamia. Enmebaragesi is known from inscriptions about him on fragments of vases of his own time, as well as from later traditions. He was the next-to-last ruler of the first dynasty of Kish. He "despoiled the weapons of the land of Elam," one inscription asserts. His son, Agga, was the last king of the dynasty, owing to his defeat by Gilgamesh, according to the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh and Agga of Kish.

Undoubtedly the first sovereign, Azag Bau, is either altogether traditional, or is the family or tribal name of a number of sovereigns. The figures given throughout the Sumerian King List text are consistent with the totals, except in the case of the second dynasty, that of Kish. Here, though the separate reigns of its eight rulers amount to 192 years, the duration of the dynasty is stated to have been 586 years; moreover, out of the 192 years of its existence, the founder of the dynasty, a female wine-seller named Ku-Bau, is stated to have occupied the throne for no less a period than 100 years. Scheil and Sayce, by theories of hiatus and the like, would explain and retain the figures; Peiser boldly emends them to what he considers the scribe meant to write. Kugler, noting that many of the figures in the list are multiples of 3 or 6, considers the whole of them artificial; and he suggests the chronology is here mixed up with mystical speculations with regard to numbers in the manner of Berossus. But he has overlooked the fact that certain numbers with their square roots, on which he bases his argument, really occur on a fragment of quite a different tablet, with which the Arab merchant in Bagdad, the former owner of the inscription, had ingeniously attempted to fill in a missing portion of the original text. To Thureau-Dangin, who discusses the missing names of one of the later dynasties, the difficulties in the first half of the text appear inexplicable, and he makes no attempt to disentangle or assimilate its data.

Even at this early period in their history the Sumerian people gave every evidence of having been highly advanced in civilization. They had their own peculiar system of writing which was quite different from that of the Semitic races, by whom they were surrounded then or at a later date. From the nature of the existing records of the Kish dynasty it seems probable that they recount the deeds of the more prominent of the rulers of the Sumerians at this comparatively early period in their national existence.

The records give lists of other rulers who flourished on or about the same time as the kings of the Kish dynasty; but there seems to be no reason for supposing that they belonged to the dynasty itself; but rather that they were rulers of adjacent territory over which they held independent sovereignty. Further discoveries of records and the decipherment thereof brought to light more definite and detailed information relative to the Kish rulers, those ancient Asiatic sovereigns who appear upon the sun-line of the horizon of semi-mythical history, behind which even the brightest tradition grows cloudy.

Kish is the collective name for at least 40 tells (mounds) arranged in an oval measuring 1.5 by 5 miles. The important mounds are called Uhaimir and Ingharra. Occupations span the period from circa 3000 BC to AD 650. The major excavation was the Oxford-Field Museum Expedition of 1923-1933. There is an important standing temple at Kish of the Neo-Babylonian Period perhaps built by Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC).

The site of ancient Kish consists of a series of mounds about eight miles east of Babylon in the flood plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. On several of the eastern mounds extensive remains of the Sumerian Early Dynastic period in the early 3rd millenium BC were excavated in the 1920s. Among these remains was a cemetery in which were found many examples of a distinctive kind of pottery, the so-called goddess-handled jars which have come to be associated with the last phase of the period and thus to serve as a criterion for dating sites where these occur.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:38 ZULU