In the early Sumerian period (i.e. Uruk), the primitive pictograms suggest that
- "Pottery was very plentiful, and the forms of the vases, bowls and dishes were manifold; there were special jars for honey, butter, oil and wine, which was probably made from dates, and one form of vase had a spout protruding from its side. Some of the vases had pointed feet, and stood on stands with crossed legs ; others were flat-bottomed, and were set on square or rectangular frames of wood. The oil-jars - and probably others also - were sealed with clay, precisely as in early Egypt. Vases and dishes of stone were made in imitation of those of clay, and baskets were woven of reeds or formed of leather."
- "A feathered head-dress was worn on the head. Beds, stools and chairs were used, with carved legs resembling those of an ox. There were fire-places and fire-altars, and apparently chimneys also."
- "Knives, drills, wedges and an instrument which looks like a saw were all known, while spears, bows, arrows and daggers (but not swords) were employed in war."
- "Tablets were used for writing purposes, and copper, gold and silver were worked by the smith. Daggers with metal blades and wooden handles were worn, and copper was hammered into plates, while necklaces or collars were made of gold."
- "Time was reckoned in lunar months."
There is much evidence that the Sumerians loved music. It seemed to be an important part of religious and civic life in Sumer. Lyres were popular in Sumer; see Sumerian music.
Inscriptions describing the reforms of king Urukagina of Lagash (ca. 2300 BC) say that he abolished the former custom of polyandry in his country, by which a woman who took multiple husbands was stoned with rocks upon which her crime had been written.
Though women were protected by late Sumerian law and were able to achieve a higher status in Sumer than in other contemporary civilizations, the culture was male-dominated. The Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest such codification yet discovered, dating to the Ur-III "Sumerian Renaissance", reveals a glimpse at societal structure in late Sumerian law. Beneath the lu-gal ("great man" or king), all members of society belonged to one of two basic strata: The "lu" or free person, and the slave (male, arad; female geme). The son of a lu was called a dumu-nita until he married. A woman (munus) went from being a daughter (dumu-mi), to a wife (dam), then if she outlived her husband, a widow (numasu) who could remarry.