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Uruk Period - 3800-3200 BC

Uruk is known today by the Arabic name of Warka and in the Old Testament as Erech. When the city was occupied in ancient times the waters of the Euphrates River flowed close by; today the river flows some 12 miles distant. The Early Bronze Age epoch designated the Uruk Period stretched from 3800 to 3200 BC. This time saw an enormous growth in urbanization with impressive structures and the earliest evidence of writing. Mesopotamia during the Uruk Period (3300-3000 BC) was when writing was first developing; and scholars have identified the Uruk period as the time when the first states were formed.

Uruk probably had a population of around 45,000 at the end of the period. Irrigation innovations as well as a supply of raw materials for craftsmen provided an impetus for this growth. In fact the city-state of Uruk also seems to have been at the heart of a trade network which stretched from southern Turkey to eastern Iran. It remained in occupation throughout the following two millennia until the Parthian Period at which time it was only a minor center.

Mesopotamia's earliest state was the Uruk state, which emerged around 3500 BC with its capital at the site of Uruk, an occupation of 200 ha with several large temples and administrative buildings. The appearance of a state administration at Uruk was linked to an aggressive strategy of territorial expansion. An early stage of this expansion involved the annexation of polities in the southwestern Iranian plains east of the Mesopotamian alluvium. One of these plains was Susiana, some 250 km east of the Uruk capital; archaeological research in Susiana has documented the appearance of state organization by the Middle Uruk period (3500-3300 BC), evidenced by a four-tier regional settlement hierarchy plus specialized administrative facilities at key sites, all associated with typical Uruk ceramics. Public buildings associated with administrative artifacts such as ceramic seals and bullae (counters) were excavated at Susa, the largest Uruk site on the Susiana plain.

Uruk outposts were also established even farther afield, well to the north in the Syro-Mesopotamian plains. Some of these outposts were true urban centers with carefully planned residential and administrative sectors, associated with a material culture so identical to that of the Uruk capital that at least some of the inhabitants of the outposts must have been colonists. Recent research has been refining the model of Uruk expansion (64, 67), but Algaze's original message remains largely intact: the expansion of political-economic territory to distant regions was an integral part of the process of primary state formation in the Uruk case.

Uruk / Erech / Unug / Urak (Eanna) - 2750-2112 BC

Mesopotamia's earliest state was the Uruk state, which emerged around 3500 BC with its capital at the site of Uruk, an occupation of 200 ha with several large temples and administrative buildings. An abrupt cooling event around 3200 BC was contemporaneous with the reorganization of societal structures -- hierarchical societies formed in the overpopulated Nile Valley & Mesopotamia. Neolithic settlements in the inner deserts of Arabia were abandoned.

The five prediluvian cities of Babylonia, which were founded and bestowed upon various deities evidently by the most powerful of the gods, namely, Enlil, the lord of all the lands. As the first of these cities, Eridu, is given to Enki, the lord of the ocean, who is the third of the gods in rank, it is evident that the founding of the sacred cities of the two highest gods, namely, Uruk, the city of An, god of Heaven, and Nippur, the city of Enlil himself.

Uruk, built on the floodplain between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers about 5000 years ago, was the first large settlement that might be called a city. Other cities soon emerged on the floodplain and this first system of cities emerged in a region that had already developed hierarchical settlement systems based on complex chiefdoms. For seven centuries after the emergence of Uruk, the Mesopotamian world-system was an interactive network of city-states competing with one another for glory and for control of the complicated transportation routes that linked the floodplain with the natural resources of adjacent regions.

Uruk (Erech, Orchoe), was a border city between northern and southern Babylonia, and long remained the center of a small independent kingdom. It was the place of worship of the goddess Nana of the Sumerians, with whom the Semitic inhabitants identified their goddess Ishtar. The temple dedicated to the goddess and called E-Anna (house of heaven) was built by Ur-Gur and Dungi and often restored. It now forms the ruin of El-Buwarije, while the general mass of ruins is called Warka,' which has unhappily not been dug up. The city had independence at an early period, and is coupled by Hebrew tradition' with the earliest centers of the land, and Babylonian records go far to prove that this is correct.

It was, however, much more than a mere center of power. It was a seat of learning and must have had a library at a very early period. Many books in the library of Asshurbanapal, and especially religious hymns, bear colophons which show that they were copied from originals at Uruk. Strabo adds to this fact the statement that at Orchoe there was a school of Chaldeans, that is in his use of the word " astrologists." This would indicate that culture was still resident in this city, though it had vanished from other more ancient centers. The political, literary, and religious history of the city all make it of so great interest and importance.

Back of Enlil and Ninib there lay another deity who in an ancient inscription is called the "Beloved father" of Enlil. This deity is Anu, whose cult was specially associated with the city of Uruk. While in the active cults of Babylonia and Assyria Anu is comparatively inconspicuous, the position assigned to him in the systematised pantheon is most significant. As early as the days of Lugallaggisi1 we find the endeavour made to group the great gods recognised in connection with the important political centres into a kind of theological system- an endeavour that reveals the intellectual activity of the priests at this early period. In this grouping Anu is given the first place, and Enlil the second. Anu and Enlil, together with Ea, form a triad summarising the three divisions of the universe-the heavens, the earth (together with the region immediately above it), and the waters flowing around and under the earth.

After about a century of hegemony, the 1st Dynasty of Ur fell to the superior power of Gilgamesh of Uruk. There followed a long period in Sumerian history, including a 2nd Dynasty of Ur, for which no names or events survive.

The appearance of a state administration at Uruk was linked to an aggressive strategy of territorial expansion. An early stage of this expansion involved the annexation of polities in the southwestern Iranian plains east of the Mesopotamian alluvium. One of these plains was Susiana, some 250 km east of the Uruk capital; archaeological research in Susiana has documented the appearance of state organization by the Middle Uruk period (3500-3300 BC), evidenced by a four-tier regional settlement hierarchy plus specialized administrative facilities at key sites, all associated with typical Uruk ceramics. Public buildings associated with administrative artifacts such as ceramic seals and bullae (counters) were excavated at Susa, the largest Uruk site on the Susiana plain.

Uruk outposts were also established even farther afield, well to the north in the Syro-Mesopotamian plains. Some of these outposts were true urban centers with carefully planned residential and administrative sectors, associated with a material culture so identical to that of the Uruk capital that at least some of the inhabitants of the outposts must have been colonists. Recent research has been refining the model of Uruk expansion, but the expansion of political-economic territory to distant regions was an integral part of the process of primary state formation in the Uruk case.

Tell Brak in modern Syria is the largest tell in North Mesopotamia and Syria, over 40 m in height, 800 600 m in area. In the Northern Middle Uruk period (c. 3500 BC) Brak occupied an area of over 110 ha, including a corona of smaller tells surrounding the main mound. The tell was occupied from at least as early as 6000 BC to the early Iron Age. A "Gateway City," Brak lies on one of the major roads leading from the Tigris Valley north to the metal sources in Anatolia and west to the Euphrates and the Mediterranean. Its ancient name, Nagar, appears in the 3rd millennium Ebla texts as the most important city in northeastern Syria. Well-stratified material has been recovered from private houses of the 4th to the 2nd millennium BC. Large casemate walls and a unique city gate dating to the early 4th millennium are among the most recent discoveries.



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