7.Sumerian civilization

      
                      Sumer was a civilization and a historical region located in southern Iraq (Mesopotamia), known as the Cradle of civilization. It lasted from the first settlement of Eridu in the Ubaid period (late 6th millennium BC) through the Uruk period (4th millennium BC) and the Dynastic periods (3rd millennium BC) until the rise of Babylon in the early 2nd millennium BC. The term "Sumerian" applies to all speakers of the Sumerian language. Although other cities of the Middle East pre-date Sumer (Jericho, Catal Huyuk and others), the cities of Sumer were the first to practice intensive, year-round agriculture (from ca. 5300 BC). The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population to settle in one place instead of migrating after crops and grazing land. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labour force and division of labour. This organization led to the necessity of record keeping and the development of writing (ca. 3500 BC). 

Origin of name 

                     The term "Sumerian" is the common name given to the ancient inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia by their successors, the Semitic Akkadians. The Sumerians called themselves sag-giga, literally meaning "the black-headed people". The Akkadian word Shumer may represent this name in dialect, but it is unknown why the Akkadians called the southern land Shumeru. Biblical Shinar, Egyptian Sngr and Hittite Sanhar (a) could be western variants of Sumer. 

                     By the late 4th millennium BC, Sumer was divided into about a dozen independent city-states, (just like later day Greek city states) whose limits were defined by canals and boundary stones. Each was centred on a temple dedicated to the particular patron god or goddess of the city and ruled over by a priestly governor (ensi) or by a king (lugal) who was intimately tied to the city's religious rites.

 History


                   The Sumerian city states rose to power during the prehistorical Ubaid and Uruk periods. Sumerian history reaches back to the 26th century BC and before, but the historical record remains obscure until the Dynastic Period, ca. the 23rd century BC, when a syllable writing system (now deciphered) was developed. This syllable writing system has been deciphered now and the deciphering has allowed archaeologists to read contemporary records and inscriptions. Classical Sumer ends with the rise of the Akkadian Empire in the 23rd century. Following the Gutian period, there is a brief "Sumerian renaissance" in the 21st century, cut short in the 20th century BC by Amorite invasions. The Amorite "dynasty of Isin" persisted until ca. 1700 BC, when Mesopotamia was united under Babylonian rule. 

Ubaid period 
 
                 The Ubaid period is marked by a distinctive style of fine quality painted pottery, which had spread throughout Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. During this time, the first settlement in southern Mesopotamia was established at Eridu, ca. 5300 BC, by farmers who brought with them the Samarran culture from northern Mesopotamia. It is not known whether or not these were the actual Sumerians who are identified with the later Uruk culture. Eridu remained an important religious centre when it was gradually surpassed in size by the nearby city of Uruk.

Name of the period

Duration of Period

Extent of the period in number of years

Description

Ubaid period

5300-4100BC

1200

Neolithic Age to Copper Age, First city Eridu

Uruk period

4100-2900BC

1200

Copper age to early Bronze Age

Dynastic period

2900-2300BC

600

Gilgamesh belongs to this period

 

2700 BC

 

Beginning of Historic records in decipherable syllabic writing

Akkadian Empire

2300-2200 BC

100

Sargon belongs to this period

Gutian empire

2200-2000BC

200

Bronze Age

Ur period    

2000-1940BC

100

Ur nammu and his big ziggurat 

 

1800 BC

 

Sumerian Language ceased to be a spoken language

Sumerian chronology.

 

Uruk period

                
                        The archaeological transition from the Ubaid period to the Uruk period is marked by a gradual shift from painted pottery domestically produced on a slow wheel, to a great variety of unpainted pottery mass-produced by specialists on fast wheels. By the time of the Uruk period , the volume of trade goods transported along the canals and rivers of southern Mesopotamia facilitated the rise of many large stratified, temple-centred cities (with populations of over 10,000 people) where centralized administrations employed specialized workers. It is fairly certain that it was during the Uruk period that Sumerian cities began to make use of slave labour captured from the hill country, and there is ample evidence for captured slaves as workers in the earliest texts. Artefacts, and even colonies of this Uruk civilization have been found over a wide area—from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, to the Mediterranean in the west, and as far east as Central Iran. 

                      The Uruk period civilization, exported by Sumerian traders and colonists had an effect on all surrounding peoples, who gradually evolved their own comparable, competing economies and cultures. The cities of Sumer could not maintain remote, long-distance colonies by military force. Sumerian cities during the Uruk period were probably theocratic and were most likely headed by a priest-king (ensi), assisted by a council of elders, including both men and women. It is quite possible that the later Sumerian pantheon was modelled upon this political structure. The ancient Sumerian king list includes the early dynasties of several prominent cities from this period. The first set of names on the list is of kings said to have reigned before a major flood occurred. These early names may be fictional, and include some legendary and mythological figures, such as Alulim and Dumizid. 

Early Dynastic Period 
 

                     The Dynastic period begins around 2900 BC and includes such legendary figures like Gilgamesh, who are supposed to have reigned shortly before the historic record opens ca. 2700 BC, when the now decipherable syllabic writing started to develop from the early pictograms. The centre of Sumerian culture remained in southern Mesopotamia, even though rulers soon began expanding into neighbouring areas, and neighbouring Semitic groups adopted much of Sumerian culture for their own. The earliest Dynastic king on the Sumerian king list whose name is known from any other legendary source is Etana, 13th king of the first Dynasty of Kish. The earliest king authenticated through archaeological evidence is Enmebaragesi of Kish (ca. 26th century BC), whose name is also mentioned in the Gilgamesh epic, leading to the suggestion that Gilgamesh himself might have been a historical king of Uruk. 

Dynasty of Lagash 

                       The dynasty of Lagash, though omitted from the king list, is well attested through several important monuments and many archaeological finds. Although short-lived, one of the first empires known to history was that of Eannatum of Lagash, who annexed practically all of Sumer, including Kish, Uruk, Ur, and Larsa, and reduced to tribute the city-state of Umma, arch-rival of Lagash. In addition, his realm extended to parts of Elam and along the Persian Gulf. He seems to have used terror as a matter of policy—his stele of the vultures has been found, showing violent treatment of enemies. His empire collapsed shortly after his death. Later, Lugal-Zage-Si, the priest-king of Umma, overthrew the primacy of the Lagash dynasty in the area, then conquered Uruk, making it his capital, and claimed an empire extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. He was the last ethnically Sumerian king before the arrival of the Semitic king, Sargon. 

Akkadian Empire 

                       The Semitic Akkadian language is first attested in proper names of the kings of Kish ca. 2800 BC preserved in later king lists. There are texts written entirely in Old Akkadian dating from ca. 2500 BC. Use of Old Akkadian was at its peak during the rule of Sargon the Great (ca. 2270 – 2215 BC), but even then most administrative tablets continued to be written in Sumerian, the language used by the scribes. Speakers of Akkadian and Sumerian coexisted for about one thousand years, until ca. 1800 BC, when Sumerian ceased to be spoken. 

Gutian period 

Following the downfall of the Akkadian Empire at the hands of Gutians, another native Sumerian ruler, Gudea of Lagash, rose to local prominence and continued the practices of the Sargonid kings' claims to divinity. Like the previous Lagash dynasty, Gudea and his descendents also promoted artistic development and left a large number of archaeological artefacts. 

Sumerian renaissance 

                         Later, the 3rd dynasty of Ur under Ur-Nammu and Shulgi, whose power extended as far as northern Mesopotamia, was the last great "Sumerian renaissance", but already the region was becoming more Semitic than Sumerian, with the influx of waves of Martu (Amorites) who were later to found the Babylonian Empire. The Sumerian language, however, remained a sacerdotal language taught in schools, in the same way that Latin was used in the medieval period, for as long as cuneiform was utilised. (wikipedia) 

Decline 

                     This period is generally taken to coincide with a major shift in population from southern Iraq towards the north. Ecologically, the agricultural productivity of the Sumerian lands was being compromised as a result of rising salinity. Soil salinity in this region had been long recognized as a major problem. Poorly drained irrigated soils, in an arid climate with high levels of evaporation, led to the build-up of dissolved salts in the soil, eventually reducing agricultural yields severely. During the Akkadian and Ur periods, there was a shift from the cultivation of wheat to the more salt-tolerant barley, but this was insufficient, and during the period from 2100 BC to 1700 BC, it is estimated that the population in this area declined by nearly 3/5ths. This greatly weakened the balance of power within the region, weakening the areas where Sumerian was spoken, and comparatively strengthening those where Akkadian was the major language. Henceforth Sumerian would remain only a literary and liturgical language, similar to the position occupied by Latin in medieval Europe. 

                      Following an Elamite invasion and sack of Ur during the rule of Ibbi-Sin (ca. 1940 BC), Sumer came under Amorite rule (taken to introduce the Middle Bronze Age). The independent Amorite states of the 20th to 18th centuries are summarized as the "Dynasty of Isin" in the Sumerian king list, ending with the rise of Babylonia under Hammurabi ca. 1700 BC. (wikipedia) 

Population 

                      First farmers from Samarra arrive in Sumer, and build shrine and settlement at Eridu. The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people and were at one time believed to have been invaders, as a number of linguists believed they could detect a substrate language beneath Sumerian. However, the archaeological evidences show clear uninterrupted cultural continuity from the time of the Early Ubaid period (5300 – 4700 BC) settlements in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerian people who settled here farmed the lands in this region that were made fertile by silt deposited by the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. 

                     Despite the lack of corroborating written records, it is generally agreed that Sumerian speakers were farmers who moved down from the north, after perfecting irrigated agriculture there. The Ubaid pottery of southern Mesopotamia has been connected to the pottery of the Samarra period culture (c. 5700 – 4900 BC) in the north, who were the first to practice a primitive form of irrigation agriculture along the middle Tigris River and its tributaries. The connection is most clearly seen at Tell Awayli (Oueilli) near Larsa, excavated by the French in the 1980s, where 8 levels yielded pre-Ubaid pottery resembling Samarran ware. Farming peoples spread down into southern Mesopotamia because they had developed a temple-centred social organization for mobilizing labour and technology for water control, enabling them to survive and prosper in a difficult environment. 

                      Alternatively, the Sumerians may have been an indigenous culture of hunter-fishers who lived in the reedy marshlands at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, as the Marsh Arabs do today. This culture contributed to a cultural fusion with northern agriculturists, creating Sumerian language and civilization. 

Culture 

                    Sumerian culture may be traced to two main centres, Eridu in the south and Nippur in the north may be regarded as contrasting poles of Sumerian religion. The deity Enlil, around whose sanctuary Nippur had grown up, was considered lord of the ghost-land, and his gifts to mankind were said to be the spells and incantations that the spirits of good or evil were compelled to obey. The world he governed was a mountain (E-kur from E=house and Kur=Mountain); the creatures that he had made lived underground. 

                         Eridu, on the other hand, was the home of the culture god Enki (absorbed into Babylonian mythology as the god Ea), the god of beneficence, ruler of the freshwater depths beneath the earth (the Abzu from Ab=water and Zu=far), a healer and friend to humanity who was thought to have given us the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization; the first law-book was considered his creation. Eridu had once been a seaport, and it was doubtless its foreign trade and intercourse with other lands that influenced the development of its culture. Its cosmology was the result of its geographical position: the earth, it was believed, had grown out of the waters of the deep, like the ever widening coast at the mouth of the Euphrates. Long before history is recorded, however, the cultures of Eridu and Nippur had coalesced. While Babylon seems to have been a colony of Eridu, Eridu's immediate neighbour, Ur, may have been a colony of Nippur, since its moon god was said to be the son of Enlil of Nippur. However, in the admixture of the two cultures, the influence of Eridu was predominant. 
 

                         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. According to inscriptions describing the reforms of king Urukagina of Lagash (ca. 2300 BC), he is said to have abolished the former custom of polyandry in his country, on pain of the woman taking multiple husbands being stoned with rocks upon which her crime is 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, the oldest such codification yet discovered, dating to the Ur period "Sumerian Renaissance", reveals a glimpse at societal structure in late Sumerian law. 

Language and writing 

                         The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of tablets written in Sumerian. Sumerian pre-cuneiform script has been discovered on tablets dating to around 3500 BC. The Sumerian language is generally regarded as a language isolate in linguistics because it belongs to no known language family; Akkadian belongs to the Afro-Asiatic languages. There have been many failed attempts to connect Sumerian to other language groups. It is an agglutinative language; in other words, morphemes ("units of meaning") are added together to create words. Sumerians invented picture-hieroglyphs that developed into later cuneiform, and their language vies with Ancient Egyptian for credit as the oldest known written human language. An extremely large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language has survived. the great majority of these on clay tablets Known Sumerian texts include personal and business letters and transactions, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns and prayers, magical incantations, and scientific texts including mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. Monumental inscriptions and texts on different objects like statues or bricks are also very common. Many texts survive in multiple copies because they were repeatedly transcribed by scribes-in-training. Sumerian continued to be the language of religion and law in Mesopotamia long after Semitic speakers had become the ruling race. Understanding Sumerian texts today can be problematic even for experts. Most difficult are the earliest texts, which in many cases don't give the full grammatical structure of the language. 

Religion 

                     Like other cities of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, Sumer was a polytheistic, or henotheistic, society. Their lives were spent serving the gods in the form of man-made statues. There was no organized set of gods; each city-state had its own patrons, temples, and priest-kings. The Sumerians were probably the first to write down their beliefs, which were the inspiration for much of later Mesopotamian mythology, religion, and astrology. The Sumerian gods had associations with different cities, and their religious importance often waxed and waned with those cities' political power. The gods were said to have created human beings from clay for the purpose of serving them. If the temples/gods ruled each city it was for their mutual survival and benefit—the temples organized the mass labour projects needed for irrigated agriculture. Citizens had a labour duty to the temple which they were allowed to avoid by a payment of silver only towards the end of the third millennium. The temple-centred farming communities of Sumer had a social stability that enabled them to survive for four millennia. 

                     Sumerians believed that the universe consisted of a flat disk enclosed by a tin dome. The Sumerian afterlife involved a descent into a gloomy netherworld to spend eternity in a wretched existence as a Gadim (ghost). Ziggurats (Sumerian temples) consisted of a forecourt, with a central pond for purification. The temple itself had a central nave with aisles along either side. Flanking the aisles would be rooms for the priests. At one end the podium would stand a mud brick table for animal and vegetable sacrifices. Granaries and storehouses were usually located near the temples. After a time the Sumerians began to place the temples on top of multi-layered square constructions built as a series of rising terraces, giving rise to the later Ziggurat style. 

Agriculture and hunting 

                    The Sumerians adopted the agricultural mode of life which had been introduced into Lower Mesopotamia and practiced the same irrigation techniques as those used in Egypt. Adams says that irrigation development was associated with urbanization, and that majority portion of the population lived in the cities. They grew barley, chickpeas, lentils, wheat, dates, onions, garlic, lettuce, leeks and mustard. They also raised cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. They used oxen as their primary beasts of burden and donkeys or equids as their primary transport animal. Sumerians caught many fish and hunted fowl and gazelle. Sumerian agriculture depended heavily on irrigation. The irrigation was accomplished by the use of shadufs, canals, channels, dykes, weirs, and reservoirs. The frequent violent floods of the Tigris, and less so, of the Euphrates, meant that canals required frequent repair and continual removal of silt, and survey markers and boundary stones continually replaced. The government required individuals to work on the canals in a corvee, although the rich were able to exempt themselves. 

                     After the flood season and after the Spring Equinox and the Akitu or New Year Festival, using the canals, farmers would flood their fields and then drain the water. Next they let oxen stomp the ground and kill weeds. They then dragged the fields with pickaxes. After drying, they ploughed, harrowed, and raked the ground three times, and pulverized it with a mattock, before planting seed. Unfortunately the high evaporation rate resulted in a gradual increase in the salinity of the fields. By the Ur period, farmers had switched from wheat to the more salt-tolerant barley as their principal crop. Sumerians harvested during the dry fall season in three-person teams consisting of a reaper, a binder, and a sheaf arranger. The farmers would use threshing wagons to separate the cereal heads from the stalks and then use threshing sleds to disengage the grain. They then winnowed the grain/chaff mixture. 

Architecture 

                      The Tigris-Euphrates plain lacked minerals and trees. Sumerian structures were made of plano-convex mud brick, not fixed with mortar or cement. Mud-brick buildings eventually deteriorate, so they were periodically destroyed, levelled, and rebuilt on the same spot. This constant rebuilding gradually raised the level of cities, which thus came to be elevated above the surrounding plain. The resultant hills, known as tells, are found throughout the ancient Near East. The most impressive and famous of Sumerian buildings are the ziggurats, large layered platforms which supported temples. Some scholars have theorized that these structures might have been the basis of the Tower of Babel described in Genesis. Sumerian cylinder seals also depict houses built from reeds not unlike those built by the Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq until as recently as 400 AD. The Sumerians also developed the arch, which enabled them to develop a strong type of roof called a dome. They built this by constructing several arches. Sumerian temples and palaces made use of more advanced materials and techniques, such as buttresses, recesses and half columns. 

Economy and trade 

                       Discoveries of obsidian from far-away locations in Anatolia and lapis lazuli from north-eastern Afghanistan, beads from Dilmun (modern Bahrain), and several seals inscribed with the Indus script suggest a remarkably wide-ranging network of ancient trade centred around the Persian Gulf. The Epic of Gilgamesh refers to trade with far off lands for goods such as wood that were scarce in Mesopotamia. In particular, cedar from Lebanon was prized. The Sumerians used slaves, although they were not a major part of the economy. Slave women worked as weavers, pressers, millers, and porters. Sumerian potters decorated pots with cedar oil paints. The potters used a bow drill to produce the fire needed for baking the pottery. Sumerian masons and jewellers knew and made use of alabaster (calcite), ivory, gold, silver, carnelian and lapis lazuli. 

Legacy 

                           Most authorities credit the Sumerians with the invention of the wheel, initially in the form of the potter's wheel. The new concept quickly led to wheeled vehicles and mill wheels. The Sumerians' cuneiform writing system is the oldest for which there is evidence. The Sumerians were among the first astronomers, mapping the stars into sets of constellations, many of which survived in the zodiac and were also recognized by the ancient Greeks. The five planets that are visible to the naked eye have Sumerian names. 

                       They invented and developed arithmetic by doing several different number systems including a mixed radix system with an alternating base 10 and base 6. This sexagesimal (based on total of60) system became the standard number system in Sumer and Babylonia. They may have invented military formations and introduced the basic divisions between infantry, cavalry and archers. They developed the first known codified legal and administrative systems, complete with courts, jails, and government records. The first true city states arose in Sumer, roughly contemporaneously with similar entities in what is now Syria and Israel. Several centuries after the invention of cuneiform, the use of writing expanded beyond debt/payment certificates and inventory lists to be applied for the first time, about 2600 BC, to messages and mail delivery, history, legend, mathematics, astronomical records and other pursuits. Conjointly with the spread of writing, the first formal schools were established, usually under the auspices of a city-state's primary temple. Finally, the Sumerians ushered in the age of intensive agriculture and irrigation. Emmer wheat, barley, sheep and cattle were foremost among the species cultivated and raised for the first time on a grand scale. 

Ziggurat at Ur

                        A ziggurat “to build on a raised area” is a temple tower of the ancient Mesopotamian valley and Iran, having the form of a terraced pyramid of successively receding stories. Ziggurats were a form of temple common to the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest examples of the ziggurat date from the end of the third millennium BC and the latest date from the 6th century BC. Built in receding tiers upon a rectangular, oval, or square platform, the ziggurat was a pyramidal structure. Sun-baked bricks made up the core of the ziggurat with facings of fired bricks on the outside. The facings were often glazed in different colours and might have had astrological significance. The number of tiers ranged from two to seven, with a shrine or temple at the summit. Access to the shrine was provided by a series of ramps on one side of the ziggurat or by a spiral ramp from base to summit.


                      Notable examples of this structure include the Great Ziggurat of Ur and Khorsabad in Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamian ziggurats were not places for public worship or ceremonies. They were believed to be dwelling places for the gods. Through the ziggurat the gods could be close to mankind and each city had its own patron god. Only priests were permitted inside the ziggurat and it was their responsibility to care for the gods and attend to their needs. As a result the priests were very powerful members of Sumerian society.  There are 32 known ziggurats near Mesopotamia. Four of them are in Iran, and the rest are mostly in Iraq. The most recent to be discovered was Sialk, in central Iran. The Sialk, in Kashan, Iran, is the oldest known ziggurat, dating to the early 3rd millennium BCE. One of the best preserved ziggurats is Choqa Zanbil in western Iran, which has survived despite the devastating eight year Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s in which many archaeological sites were destroyed. Ziggurat designs ranged from simple bases upon which a temple sat, to marvels of mathematics and construction which spanned several terraced stories and were topped with a temple.

                  An example of a simple ziggurat is the White Temple of Uruk, in ancient Sumer. The ziggurat itself is the base on which the White Temple is set. Its purpose is to get the temple closer to the heavens, and provide access from the ground to it via steps. An example of an extensive and massive ziggurat is the Marduk ziggurat, or Etemenanki, of ancient Babylon.  Unfortunately, not much of even the base is left of this massive structure, yet archaeological findings and historical accounts put this tower at seven multicoloured tiers, topped with a temple of exquisite proportions. The temple is thought to have been painted and maintained an indigo colour, matching the tops of the tiers. It is known that there were three staircases leading to the temple, two of which (side flanked) were thought to have only ascended half the ziggurat’s height.

                         Etemenanki, the name for the structure, is Sumerian and means “The Foundation of Heaven and Earth.” Most likely being built by Hammurabi, the ziggurat’s core was found to have contained the remains of earlier ziggurats and structures. The final stage consisted of a 15 meter hardened brick encasement constructed by King Nebuchadnezzar. It has been suggested that the ziggurat was a symbolic representation of the primeval mound upon which the universe was thought to have been created. The ziggurat may have been built as a bridge between heaven and earth. The temples of the Sumerians were believed to be a cosmic axis, a vertical bond between heaven and earth, and the earth and the underworld, and a horizontal bond between the lands. Built on seven levels the ziggurat represented seven heavens and planes of existence, the seven planets and the seven metals associated with them and their corresponding colours.

                     Joseph Campbell in his book “Masks of God” says that there is archaeological evidence supporting a direct link between Mesopotamian ziggurats and the pyramids of Egypt. Campbell also states that from Egypt, the Mesopotamian culture was passed on almost simultaneously on two separate fronts to Crete and India. From India it reached China and from there it crossed the ocean to the pre-Columbian societies of Central and South America, which could explain the similarities between ziggurats and Mayan pyramids. Campbell further explores the geometry of the ziggurat and its philosophical and spiritual repercussions. According to Campbell, ziggurats first appeared during a sudden scientific and philosophical golden age where such other discoveries were made such as the invention of the wheel, the discovery of the calendar and astronomy, as well as the invention of the written word. For Campbell these are all related.

                      The Earth needs 365 days to make a single revolution around the Sun, which is also an approximation of the number of degrees in a circle. Ziggurats, like all pyramidal structures, have a square base which could be encompassed within a circular area. The square base theoretically represents the additional five days. The fifth point is the tip of ziggurat, represents the bridge to heaven represented by the circle, a universally considered symbol for infinity and perfection, and the terrestrial world in turn represented by the square. The highest point of a pyramid is a projection of the square’s centre point. This can be interpreted as the earth’s highest point being heaven’s lowest.  Campbell says that there were many kinds of philosophies involved in the structure and construction of pyramids. The most plausible explanation is that ziggurats and pyramids were some kind of star observatories and were helpful in calculating the number of days per year and to arrive at a proper calendar.

 Marduk killing snake

                      This seal depicts the killing of snake (Tiamat) by Marduk (enumaelish., 2009) which is similar to killing of vritra by Indra, and killing of hydra by Zeus. Indra killing vritra is interpreted as killing of the demon snake and release of water from heavens. Vritra means any kind of barrier. Some historians interpret that it was Indra who was responsible for destruction of Indus civilisation, and he destroyed the earthen dams across the rivers there by starving out the Indus people. This is the problem with allegorical expression, in allegorical expressions two facts are described, one earthly event to explain another heavenly event which could not be seen. In Indus period it made sense to them because they were able to identify the earthly expression, but because passage of time, we are neither able to identify the heavenly event nor the earthly event. At least if we are able to identify one of the events there will be a breakthrough in interpretations of the Vedas and other mythological stories.


           Snake represents the old culture and religion, the same theme is repeated in Rig Veda killing of Vritra, and releasing of waters by Indra. Tiamat is the early snake god of Sumerians, and represented the zodiac path of moon, after killing of Tiamat, i.e. after destruction of old order the new matriarchal order was placed in place of them. This seal theme is similar to the Indian mythological idea of Indra killing the demon Vritra with the help of Vishnu. Another interpretation is that many of the Sumerian and Indus seals show the astronomical events in allegorical way. It is possible that the shifting heliacal rising from one star constellation to another results in change of mythological story. This story seems to be very important one, and is seen in all major cultures. It looks like that a major change occurred along with introduction of this mythological story. Marduk replaces Inanna in Sumerian mythology in the same way Indra replaced mother goddess as the god of Auriga constellation in Indian mythology.


              The figure of Marduk corresponds with Auriga constellation, the snake corresponds to the hydra constellation and the eye of the snake corresponds to the star Spica. (Star-Chitra of Indian nomenclature).In this seal even the eye of the snake is presented as star, (The eye cannot be seen in original picture in website, not in the above given line drawing) this depiction clearly illustrates that it is an astronomical event and not a historical event. Generally snakes do not have horns, (some exceptions are there) but this mythological snake has a horn, which tallies to the star constellation Virgo. There are some other signs within the seals which may be likely be depicting the nearby constellations of Hydra and Auriga. This aspect requires some more additional study, which will bring forth some more additional information. It is likely that the beginning of New Year shifted from star Aldebaran (Bull constellation) to Spica during this period resulting in substantial changes in mythological stories. It is also possible that the new shift occurred after the invasion of Sumeria by new set of invaders from Anatolia. Because all these stories of Hydra revolve around Anatolia. In the Indian context, it will be coinciding with invasion theory of Indo Europeans. The Sumerian seal illustrated here shows scene of a priest worshipping Marduk. (Cotterell Arthur, 1999) He is worshipping the spear called “Mar” and “H” shaped weapon, if the figure of Marduk killing snake is keenly observed, it can be seen that Marduk is killing the snake with “vajra” weapon in his right hand, while in the left hand; he is holding the other weapon “the four winds”. The four winds are depicted as “H” shaped weapon. The same “Mar” weapon and “H” weapon could be seen in Indus seal also.  Together these two symbols might have stood for the phonetic value of “Mar-Duk”. Another important feature about Marduk is that, he has all the characteristics of later day Tamil God “Murugan”. Even the old Sumerian document of Sumeria, “the 40 names of Marduk” contains names with similar phonetic sound to that of “Murugan”. It is likely that Murugan was replaced by Indra in later day Indo European literature and Murugan is the elder of the two gods. Further support for this conclusion can be derived from the fact that “Vel” (Spear) is the prime weapon of Murugan, and he is identified with spear all the time.

 

 

 

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