The Sumerians

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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.)