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Issue Number 32: First quarter for 2003

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An Introduction to the SUMERIANS: Modern developments: Civilization existed even before Sumerians?a by Frank E. Smitha

There is new evidence to dispute the standard view that civilization first arose in southern Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq.

By 4000 BCE in Syria, was a society with regional centers and a complex government. Here, as with the Ubaidians, were huge ovens for baking bread for numerous people, and people manufactured fine pottery. In the year 2000 of modern times, at Tell Hamoukar, archaeologists have discovered a protective city wall, and they describe the place of their digging as more than a town -- they describe it as a city. They have also found what they call primitive hieroglyphics: markings for record keeping of trade transactions.

After three seasons of excavation in north eastern Syria, archaeologists say they are more sure than ever that they have broadened the geography of early civilization.

The ruins at a site known as Tell Hamoukar, in the northern fringes of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys, have revealed that people were apparently undergoing profound changes in the way they lived, worked and organized themselves politically in the early fourth millennium BCE. That development seemed to occur about the same time and independently of the more prominent cultures of southern Mesopotamia, traditionally viewed as the sole birthplace of cities and civilization.

Archaeologists said the findingsb disputed the standard view that civilization first arose in southern Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq. The new evidence also suggested that changes in social and political structure associated with early civilization did not necessarily hinge on the development of cities and writing, as often thought.

"Hamoukar has the appearance of a critical step in the history of civilization," said Dr. McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist at the Oriental Institute in Chicago and the co-director of the Hamoukar Expedition, a venture of the university and the Syrian governmentc.

Other archaeologists agreed that the Hamoukar evidence offered important support for the emerging view that socially complex societies developed at many northern settlements before the southern cultures could have strongly influenced them.

Frank E Smitha was born in Los Angeles, December 1933. He has a B.A in History. You can find his contribution to this exclusive article for Bilgelik on his website also.


a. Wilford, John Noble Civilization's Cradle Grows Larger The New York Times, May 28, 2002, Social Science. Back to text

b. ibid. As of Jan 2003 they are still to be offcially announced. Back to text

c. ibid. Back to text


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