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The Sumerian Civilization

Updated on September 12, 2017

Sumer: The First Civilization

Normally when you think of great and influential ancient civilizations, Egypt is at the top of your list. Yes, Egypt was an influential civilization, the Egyptians gave us the idea of using papyrus to make paper, which was an essential part of all societies up until recent life-changing technological discoveries. Egypt was a society of “classes” that gave lower class people the ability to move up in society, Joseph from the Bible is a great example of this, and this “advancement” in society is what shapes the United States of America as we know it, thus the American dream. Egypt even gave us hieroglyphics, which would inevitably lead to our society’s obsession with emojis and our lack of using words. That being said, the Sumerian civilization was, and still is, the most influential civilization on society.


Sumer is believed by historians to be one of the first civilizations, if not the first. As one of the first civilizations, all empires and/or civilizations that follow after will undoubtedly already be influenced in some way by the initial civilization. For example, cuneiform, the earliest known form of writing, was invented by the Sumerians, and was known to be adopted by the Amorites, the Hittites, the Assyrians, and the Persians. Those four civilizations accomplished much and are known for contributing greatly to astronomy, astrology, iron production, government, and storytelling, but how much would they have contributed to any age of society without writing? How would they have passed down their discoveries and ideas without them being twisted and changed through speech?



A cuneiform-written account of barley rations
A cuneiform-written account of barley rations | Source

The Sumerians were very skilled and technologically advanced for their day in age. The wheel is arguably the greatest Sumerian invention, for obvious reasons. When was the last time you went one day without seeing at least a couple hundred cars? Can you imagine how life would be if the wheel was never invented? No cars, buggies, chariots, or bikes would ever have existed, even planes, with the exception of water planes, require wheels for a comfortable and safe landing, as well as giving the ability to take off. We would be riding horses practically everywhere we went, that is if we could even afford them.


Let me raise the question again, when was the last time you went a day without seeing at least a couple hundred cars? Well how long is a day exactly? How many hours? Minutes? Seconds? The division of hours and minutes into sixty units was also developed by the Sumerian culture. It is hard to think about how different life would be if this division was never thought of and put into practice. Our society’s lowest unit of measurement of time would be an hour. This could potentially change things drastically within our culture. Practically every estimate we give in a particular instance would be either rounding up or rounding down, rather than giving the exact time allotment.

The Sumer culture also gave us the division of a circle into three-hundred and sixty degrees. Imagine how different math and science would be without this division. Math particularly would have hundreds, if not thousands of unanswerable questions. Geometry, as we know it, would cease to exist, if any students read this, they would immediately despise the Sumerians for this treachery. Sumerian building techniques were also adopted by the Romans, most famously the arch. And what would St. Louis be without its Gateway Arch? It would be home to nothing but the nation’s worst baseball team.


But if you ask any pastor, who is historically educated, what Sumer’s most impactful aspect to arise out of it is, he will tell you Abraham. Abraham was from Ur, a city-state in the Mesopotamian-Sumerian area. God called Abraham out of Ur and away from his normal way of life. Abraham was a nobody, until God called him to be more, and Abraham delivered, thus becoming known as the father of faith. He was also the father of the Covenant, which created a special bond between the Jews and God. And of course, Abraham had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.


In conclusion, after looking at all the facts, there can’t possibly be a civilization from this chapter, (check works cited), that has had a larger impact on society, then or now, than the Sumerians. You can’t argue with being responsible for the first known form of writing, the creation of the wheel, the division of sixty units, the division of a circle, Roman architecture, and Abraham. You just can't. Though the Egyptians can put up a nice fight with their emojis.


Works Cited

Abrams, Carl, et al. "Mesopotamia." World History, vol. 3rd, BJU Press, 2007, pp. 29-31.

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© 2017 Caleb Wilmoth

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