City of Uruk
URUK. (Iraq) Situated 250 km south of Baghdad, on an ancient branch
of the Euphrates River in Iraq, known in the Bible as Erech (now Warka, Iraq). Uruk, founded about 3500BC, became the first major city in Sumer. Gilgamesh built the walls of the city Uruk, and the Eanna (house of An) temple complex there, dedicated to Ishtar (goddess of love, procreation, and war). Excavations by German archaeologists from 1912 onwards have revealed a series of very important structures and deposits of the 4th millennium BC and the site has given its name to the period that suceeeded the UBAID and prceeded the JEMDET NASR period.
The Uruk period saw the emergence of urban life in MESOPOTAMIA and led to the full civilization of the EARLY
DYNASTIC period. It is not always fully realized how unique the site of Uruk was at this time: it was by far the largest settlement, with the most impressive buildings and with the earliest evidence of writing. It would be true to say that Uruk was Meso- potamia's - and the world's - first city. It seems to have started as two separate settlements, Kullaba and
Eanna, which coalesced in the Uruk period to form a town covering 80 hectares; at the height of its development in the Early Dynastic period, the city walls were 9.5 km long, enclosing a massive 450 hectares, and may have housed some 50,000 people. In the heart of the city are two large temple complexes: the Anu sanctuary, belonging originally to Kullaba, and the Eanna sanctuary, dedicated to Inanna. the goddess of love. Both these complexes have revealed several successive temple-structures of the Uruk period, including the White Temple in the Anu sanctuary and the Limestone and Pillar Temples in the Eanna sanctuary. A characteristic form of decoration involves the use of clay cones with painted tops pressed into the mud plaster facing the buildings - a tcchnique known as clay cone mosaic.
On the northwest side of the Eanna sanctuary is a ZIGGURAT (an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top, where the priests ruled from) laid out by Ur-Nammu of UR in the Ur III period (late 3rd millennium BC). Evidence from the deep trench excavated in the Eanna sanctuary has cast much light on the developments of the Uruk period. The most important of these was undoubtedly the development of writing. The earliest CLAY TABLETS appear in late Uruk levels; they are simple labels and lists with pictographic symbols. Tablets from slightly later levels of the Jemdet Nasr phase, show further evelorpments towards the CUNEIFORM script of the Early Dynastic period.
The city remained important throughout the 3rd millennium BC, but declined in importance during the later part of that period . It remained in occupation throughout the following two millennia, down to the PARTHIAN period, but only as a minor centre. Uruk was the home of the epic hero GILGAMESH, now thought to be a real king of the city's first dynasty, and Uruk played an important role in the mythology of the Mesopotamian civilizations to the end.
to Iraq History Page