World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)

Article Id: WHEBN0008199549
Reproduction Date:

Title: Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jemdet Nasr period, Akkadian Empire, Archaeology of Iraq, Sumer, Lists of coordinates
Collection: Ancient Near East, Archaeology of Iraq, Civilizations, Fertile Crescent, Lists of Coordinates, Mesopotamia, Sumer
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Early Dynastic Period (Mesopotamia)

Early Dynastic period
Geographical range Mesopotamia
Period Early Bronze Age
Dates circa 2900—2350 BC
Type site Khafajah, Tell Agrab, Tell Asmar
Preceded by Jemdet Nasr period
Followed by Akkadian period
Map of Iraq showing important sites that were occupied during the Early Dynastic Period (clickable map)
Part of a series on the
Detail from the Ishtar Gate
Ancient Mesopotamia
Classical antiquity
Middle Ages
Early modern period
Modern Iraq
Iraq portal

The Early Dynastic period (abbreviated ED period or ED) is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) that is generally dated to 2900–2350 BC. It was preceded by the Jemdet Nasr period and followed by the Akkadian period. The ED period is divided into three sub-phases termed Early Dynastic (ED) I–III, with the ED III period being further subdivided into ED IIIa and ED IIIb. The period was coined in the 1930s by archaeologist Henri Frankfort during excavations in the Diyala region in Iraq. Subsequent research has led to various proposals to modify the dates, sub-divisions, and characteristics of the Early Dynastic.

No inscriptions have yet been found verifying any names of kings that can be associated with the Early Dynastic I period. The ED I period is distinguished from the ED II period by the narrow cylinder seals of the ED I period and the broader wider ED II seals engraved with banquet scenes or animal-contest scenes.[1] The Early Dynastic II period is when Gilgamesh, the famous king of Uruk, is believed to have reigned.[2] Texts from the ED II period are not yet understood. Later inscriptions have been found bearing some Early Dynastic II names from the King List. The Early Dynastic IIIa period, also known as the Fara period, is when syllabic writing began. Accounting records and an undeciphered logographic script existed before the Fara Period, but the full flow of human speech was first recorded around 2600 BC at the beginning of the Fara Period.[3] The Early Dynastic IIIb period is also known as the Pre-Sargonic period.

Hegemony, which came to be conferred by the Nippur priesthood, alternated among a number of competing dynasties, hailing from Sumerian city-states traditionally including Kish, Uruk, Ur, Adab and Akshak, as well as some from outside of southern Mesopotamia, such as Awan, Hamazi, and Mari, until the Akkadians, under Sargon of Akkad, overtook the area.


  • History of research 1
  • Periodization 2
  • Dynasties 3
    • First Dynasty of Kish 3.1
    • First Dynasty of Uruk 3.2
    • First Dynasty of Ur 3.3
    • Dynasty of Awan 3.4
    • Second Dynasty of Uruk 3.5
    • Empire of Lugal-Ane-mundu of Adab 3.6
    • Kug-Bau and the Third Dynasty of Kish 3.7
    • Dynasty of Akshak 3.8
    • First Dynasty of Lagash 3.9
    • Empire of Lugal-zage-si of Uruk 3.10
  • See also 4
  • References 5

History of research

The term Early Dynastic (ED) was coined by archaeologist Henri Frankfort, analogous to the similarly named period in ancient Egypt.[4] The periodization was developed in the 1930s during excavations that were conducted by Frankfort on behalf of the Oriental Institute on the sites of Khafajah, Tell Agrab, and Tell Asmar in the Diyala region in Iraq.[5] The subdivision into Early Dynastic I, II, and III was primarily based on complete changes through time in the plan of the Abu Temple of Tell Asmar, which had been rebuilt multiple times on exactly the same spot.[5] Since then, the ED I–III has been widely applied to excavations elsewhere in Iraq.

Sumerian Worshiper

During the 20th century, many archaeologists also tried to impose the scheme of Early Dynastic I–III upon archaeological remains of the third millennium excavated elsewhere in Iraq and in northeastern Syria. However, accumulating evidence from sites elsewhere in Iraq has shown that the ED I–III periodization as reconstructed for the Diyala region cannot be directly applied to other regions.

An Inscribed stand's head, early dynastic period.

Research in Syria has likewise shown that developments there were quite different from those in the Diyala or southern Iraq, rendering the traditional southern Mesopotamian chronology useless. During the 1990s and 2000s, attempts were made by various scholars to arrive at a local northern Mesopotamian chronology, resulting in the Early Jezirah (EJ) 0–V chronology that encompasses the entire third millennium BC.[4] The use of the ED I–III chronology is now generally limited to southern Mesopotamia, with the ED II period sometimes being further restricted to the Diyala region, or discredited altogether.[4][5]


The Early Dynastic period is preceded by the Jemdet Nasr period and succeeded by the Akkadian period, when for the first time in history large parts of Mesopotamia were united under a single ruler. The entire Early Dynastic period is now generally dated to 2900–2350 BC according to the Middle Chronology, or 2800–2230 BC according to the Short Chronology.[4][6] The ED period is further divided into sub-periods ED I, ED II, ED IIIa, and ED IIIb. ED I–III are more or less contemporary with the Early Jezirah (EJ) I–III periods in northern Mesopotamia.[4] The exact dating of the ED sub-periods varies between scholars, with some abandoning the Early Dynastic II altogether and using Early/Late ED instead, or by extending ED I and letting ED III begin earlier so that they follow immediately upon each other.[4][5][7][8]

Period Middle Chronology
All dates BC
Short Chronology
All dates BC
Early Dynastic I 2900–2750/2700 2800–2600
Early Dynastic II 2750/2700–2600 2600–2500
Early Dynastic IIIa 2600–2500/2450 2500–2375
Early Dynastic IIIb 2500/2450–2350 2375–2230


First Dynasty of Kish

After a flood occurred in Sumer, kingship is said to have resumed at Kish. The earliest Dynastic name on the list known from other legendary sources is Etana, whom it calls "the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries". He was estimated by Roux[9] to have lived approximately 3000 BC. Among the 11 kings who followed, a number of Semitic Akkadian names are recorded, suggesting that these people made up a sizable proportion of the population of this northern city. The earliest monarch on the list whose historical existence has been independently attested through archaeological inscription is En-me-barage-si of Kish (ca. 2600 BC), said to have defeated Elam and built the temple of Enlil in Nippur. Enmebaragesi's successor, Aga, is said to have fought with Gilgamesh of Uruk, the fifth king of that city. From this time, for a period Uruk seems to have had some kind of hegemony in Sumer. This illustrates a weakness of the Sumerian kinglist, as contemporaries are often placed in successive dynasties, making reconstruction difficult.

First Dynasty of Uruk

Mesh-ki-ang-gasher is listed as the first King of Uruk. He was followed by Enmerkar.[10] The epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta[11] tells of his voyage by river to Aratta, a mountainous, mineral-rich country up-river from Sumer. He was followed by Lugalbanda, also known from fragmentary legends, and then by Dumuzid, the Fisherman. The most famous monarch of this dynasty was Dumuzid's successor Gilgamesh, hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, where he is called Lugalbanda's son. Ancient, fragmentary copies of this text have been discovered in locations as far apart as Hattusas in Anatolia, Megiddo in Israel, and Tell el Amarna in Egypt.

First Dynasty of Ur

This dynasty is dated to the 26th century BC. Meskalamdug is the first archaeologically recorded king (Lugal from lu=man, gal=big) of the city of Ur. He was succeeded by his son Akalamdug, and Akalamdug by his son Mesh-Ane-pada. Mesh-Ane-pada is the first king of Ur listed on the king list, and it says he defeated Lugalkildu of Uruk. He also seems to have subjected Kish, thereafter assuming the title "King of Kish" for himself. This title would be used by many kings of the preeminent dynasties for some time afterward. King Mesilim of Kish is known from inscriptions from Lagash and Adab stating that he built temples in those cities, where he seems to have held some influence. He is also mentioned in some of the earliest monuments from Lagash as arbitrating a border dispute between Lugal-sha-engur, ensi (high priest or governor) of Lagash, and the ensi of their main rival, the neighbouring town of Umma. Mesilim's placement before, during, or after the reign of Mesannepada in Ur is uncertain, owing to the lack of other synchronous names in the inscriptions, and his absence from the king list.

Dynasty of Awan

This dynasty is dated to the 26th century BC. According to the Sumerian king list, Elam, Sumer's neighbor to the east, held the kingship in Sumer for a brief period, based in the city of Awan.

Second Dynasty of Uruk

Enshakushanna was a king of Uruk in the later 3rd millennium BC who is named on the Sumerian king list, which states his reign to have been 60 years. He was succeeded in Uruk by Lugal-kinishe-dudu, but the hegemony seems to have passed briefly to Eannatum of Lagash.

Empire of Lugal-Ane-mundu of Adab

Following this period, the region of Mesopotamia seems to have come under the sway of a Sumerian conqueror from Adab, Lugal-Ane-mundu, ruling over Uruk, Ur, and Lagash. According to inscriptions, he ruled from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, and up to the Zagros Mountains, including Elam.[12] However, his empire fell apart with his death; the king-list indicates that Mari in Upper Mesopotamia was the next city to hold the hegemony.

Kug-Bau and the Third Dynasty of Kish

The Third Dynasty of Kish, represented solely by Kug-Bau or Kubaba, is unique in the fact that she was the only woman named on the king-list to reign as "king". It adds that she had been a tavern keeper before overthrowing the hegemony of Mari and becoming monarch. In later centuries she was worshipped as a minor goddess, particularly at Carchemish, achieving some status in the Hurrian and Hittites periods. In the post-Hittite Phrygian period she was called Kubele (Latin Cybele), Great Mother of the Gods.

Dynasty of Akshak

Akshak too achieved independence with a line of rulers extending from Puzur-Nirah, Ishu-Il, and Shu-Suen, son of Ishu-Il, before being defeated by the rulers in the Fourth Dynasty of Kish.

First Dynasty of Lagash

Ur-Nanshe: top, creating the foundation for a shrine; bottom, presiding over its dedication (Louvre)

This dynasty is dated to the 25th century BC. En-hegal is recorded as the first known ruler of Lagash, being tributary to Uruk. His successor Lugal-sha-engur was similarly tributary to Mesilim. Following the hegemony of Mesannepada of Ur, Ur-Nanshe succeeded Lugal-sha-engur as the new high priest of Lagash and achieved independence, making himself king. He defeated Ur and captured the king of Umma, Pabilgaltuk. In the ruins of a building attached by him to the temple of Ningirsu, terracotta bas reliefs of the king and his sons have been found, as well as onyx plates and lions' heads in onyx reminiscent of Egyptian work. One inscription states that ships of Dilmun (Bahrain) brought him wood as tribute from foreign lands. He was succeeded by his son Akurgal.

Eannatum, grandson of Ur-Nanshe, made himself master of the whole of the district of Sumer, together with the cities of Uruk (ruled by Enshakushana), Ur, Nippur, Akshak, and Larsa. He also annexed the kingdom of Kish; however, it recovered its independence after his death. Umma was made tributary—a certain amount of grain being levied upon each person in it, that had to be paid into the treasury of the goddess Nina and the god Ningirsu. Eannatum's campaigns extended beyond the confines of Sumer, and he overran a part of Elam, took the city of Az on the Persian Gulf, and exacted tribute as far as Mari; however many of the realms he conquered were often in revolt. During his reign, temples and palaces were repaired or erected at Lagash and elsewhere; the town of Nina—that probably gave its name to the later Niniveh—was rebuilt, and canals and reservoirs were excavated. Eannatum was succeeded by his brother, En-anna-tum I. During his rule, Umma once more asserted independence under Ur-Lumma, who attacked Lagash unsuccessfully. Ur-Lumma was replaced by a priest-king, Illi, who also attacked Lagash.

His son and successor Entemena restored the prestige of Lagash. Illi of Umma was subdued, with the help of his ally Lugal-kinishe-dudu or Lugal-ure of Uruk, successor to Enshakushana and also on the king-list. Lugal-kinishe-dudu seems to have been the prominent figure at the time, since he also claimed to rule Kish and Ur. A silver vase dedicated by Entemena to his god is now in the Louvre. A frieze of lions devouring ibexes and deer, incised with great artistic skill, runs round the neck, while the eagle crest of Lagash adorns the globular part. The vase is a proof of the high degree of excellence to which the goldsmith's art had already attained. A vase of calcite, also dedicated by Entemena, has been found at Nippur. After Entemena, a series of weak, corrupt priest-kings is attested for Lagash. The last of these, Urukagina, was known for his judicial, social, and economic reforms, and his may well be the first legal code known to have existed.

Empire of Lugal-zage-si of Uruk

Expansion of the state created by Lugal-zage-si

Urukagina ( ca. 2359–2335 BC short chronology) was overthrown and his city Lagash captured by Lugal-zage-si, the high priest of Umma. Lugal-zage-si also took Uruk and Ur, and made Uruk his capital. In a long inscription that he made engraved on hundreds of stone vases dedicated to Enlil of Nippur, he boasts that his kingdom extended "from the Lower Sea (Persian Gulf), along the Tigris and Euphrates, to the Upper Sea" or Mediterranean. His empire was overthrown by Sargon of Akkad.

See also


  1. ^ Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, page 129
  2. ^ Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, page 502
  3. ^ Early Ancient Near Eastern Law. By Claus Wilcke. Eisenbrauns, 2003. Pg 26.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Pruß, Alexander (2004), "Remarks on the Chronological Periods", in Lebeau, Marc; Sauvage, Martin, Atlas of Preclassical Upper Mesopotamia, Subartu 13, pp. 7–21,  
  5. ^ a b c d Evans, Jean M. (2007), "The Square Temple at Tell Asmar and the Construction of Early Dynastic Mesopotamia, ca. 2900-2350 B.C.E.", American Journal of Archaeology 111 (4): 599–632,  
  6. ^ Pollock, Susan (1999), Ancient Mesopotamia. The Eden that never was, Case Studies in Early Societies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  
  7. ^ Postgate, J.N. (1992), Early Mesopotamia. Society and Economy at the Dawn of History, London: Routledge,  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Roux, Georges (1971) "Ancient Iraq" (Penguin, Harmondsworth)
  10. ^ Identified by David Rohl with Nimrod the Hunter, mentioned in the Bible as founding Erech
  11. ^
  12. ^ Samuel Kramer, The Sumerians, 51-52.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.