The Sumerians

Photo by Digital Buggu on

I was taught in school that the Sumerians were the world’s first civilization.  What this actually meant was that they were the earliest civilization with writing that we knew of.  I’m not sure this is true any more.  It seems we keep finding earlier and earlier evidence of civilizations, and even of writing, from all over the world.  Look here for example.

The Sumerians flourished in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC.  (Obviously, they must have started earlier than this, since this is the approximate date of the earliest records that we have found.  They could have started much earlier.)   Their language is not clearly related to any known language families that are around today.   Indeed, we only know how to translate their language because the Akkadians later adapted the Sumerian writing system and continued to use Sumerian as a classical language long after it had died out as a living language. 

It is a pretty language (my completely objective opinion).  In The Long Guest, the names Nimri, Ninna, Ninshi, Shulgi, and Enmer are composed of syllables taken from the – usually much longer – Sumerian names.  Some examples of Sumerian names: Shu-Sin, Shulgi, Inanna, Enlil, Ningal, Ninurta.  

I drew on Sumerian because it is a very early language in approximately the same part of the world as the tower of Babel, with the same highly centralized urban/religious social structure that we see clearly in the story of Babel. 

One last note about the Sumerians.  There is a strong possibility that they were black.  It is hard to tell what ancient peoples looked like, because they did not leave us color pictures, but apparently the Sumerians refer to themselves in their documents as “the black-headed ones.” For more information, see this article by Arthur C. Custance.


“Cucuteni-Trypillia culture,” from Wikipedia, . This is where I learned about the Vinca-Turdas script.

Ostler, Nicholas.  Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022, 2005.  615 pages.  (Sumerian, p. 49 – 58.)

7 thoughts on “The Sumerians

  1. journeyofrest

    Hi, this is Amy, thanks for getting in touch and for the invitation. Tell me more about what you are up to! Is this your first novel?


    1. Sorry, Amy, my last reply was perhaps not 100% clear.
      The Long Guest is the first novel I have written. I have no novels published yet. I have been trying for more than a year to find a literary agent. Apparently, the market is tight right now: about a gazillion other people are doing the same thing.
      If I don’t succeed with literary agents and traditional publishers, I will probably indie publish. Then you will be able to buy books via links from this web site. In the meantime, this blog is just about interesting topics related to writing and to the ancient world. Such topics could fuel a blog indefinitely.
      I appreciate your question. I’ll add it to the FAQs page.


  2. Jenifer. Interesting. Glad I signed up. Almost didn’t. FWIW I checked out agents and publishers and switched to indie. Two out so far. I don’t sell many books, but a real editor picked up the first one from a writing group I’m in and is reworking it to royalty publish. How about that? Have you checked out groups in your area? I’ve forgotten, is your book Christian? If so, are you in the ACFW? Tom


    1. Hi, Tom! Congrats on your book getting picked up. And thanks for joining the blog. That warms my little heart.

      I’m not in a critique group. I do have a posse of beloved fellow writers and beta readers (or alpha readers, or first readers, or whatever you call them), whom you may end up meeting through this blog.

      My book is Christian in that it’s alternative/speculative history about the ancient world as hinted at in the Bible. It’s not beat-you-on-the-head Christian, though. I think it could sell as fantasy novel in either the Christian or the secular market, but no publishing professionals agree with me so far. 🙂

      I’m not in the ACFW. Sounds like it costs money? There are so many good things you can do for your career as a writer, but they all cost money, which means I can’t do them all at once. Baby steps … Anyway, are you in it?

      Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Pingback: Two Views on the Sons of Noah – Out of Babel

  4. Pingback: Egyptian Red Hair – Out of Babel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s