Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering

The Sumerians and the Akkadians: The Forerunners of the First Civilization (2900-2003BC)

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  • Abstract 

    Sumerians were the first People in history to invent the cuneiform script, which made the reporting of their achievements possible. Therefore, this had marked the beginning of written history. Moreover, their experience as pioneers in practicing large-scale irrigation is detailed in this paper, which also describes the intricate canal networks systems they had constructed together with the engineering works related to them. The land was flat and the two rivers had built themselves to higher levels than the surrounding lands by the continuous silting process, so gravity irrigation became possible and the people took the opportunity to construct these networks and establish their communities here. Description of the political and social developments, which led to the establishment of the city-states, is also given together with a list of the most prominent ones, and their locations are shown on a map indicating the heartland of Samaria in southern part of Iraq; close to the Persian Gulf. Wars between some city-states over water rights are detailed with their results in excavation of new canals, which are described here. A vivid description of the irrigation canals and the hydraulic structures that were needed and built are also presented which show that the Sumerians were versed in hydraulic principles, while in illustrating their methods of land preparation, seeding, irrigation and harvesting indicates they were skillful farmers. Moreover, the tools and implements invented for field operations such as those for water control, land preparation, seeding and harvesting, which are fully described, show that they were also inventors. The type of crops produced are given special attention and the abundance of yield they obtained was outlined indicating that surpluses had encouraged trading with other parts outside Samaria and so new commercial relations were developed. The economic aspects of this civilization such as wages and loans for farmers, work specialization and the appearance of new professions to meet cultivation requirements were described. The social hierarchy on which social relations and organization of work was based are presented especially those related to the agricultural and irrigation works which are given their share of explanation and discussion. Flood protection works needed for better safety from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers recurrent floods were routine practices of the Sumerians to protect themselves and their lands from the grave dangers of these floods. Therefore, they excelled in them, while canals maintenance by constant dredging of the silt brought down by the two rivers every year was a constant concern. The Sumerians over long period had accepted within them some other people namely, the Akkadians who intermingled with them, lived in their cities, and even mixed with them in marriages. This explains how a smooth transition of power had resulted in the rise of the Akkadians King Sargon, after he had started as a high-ranking official at the court of (Ur- Zababa) the last Sumerian king and replaced him to mark the start of the Semitic Akkadian domination, which lasted almost 200 years to 2150 BC. Sargon managed afterwards to unite all the city-states and establish the first empire in the world extending well beyond Sumeria, so it was said that his influence was felt from Egypt in the west to India in the east. Finally, this paper presents briefly the various theories behind the decline of the Sumerian- Akkadians power and the reasons for passing this to the new rising city of Babylon, which took over this civilization to establish its own.

    Keywords: Sumerians, Akkadians, Ur, Iraq