Mesopotamia: Early Dynastic Period (2900-2300 BC)

God Enlil, seated, from Nippur, Iraq. 1800-1600 BCE. Iraq Museum.jpg

Enlil: King of All the Gods

Episode 7: Early Dynastic Workers and Worshippers

Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

Dr Amanda H Podany

Film Review

Podany devotes this lecture to daily life during Mesopotamia’s Early Dynastic Period (2900-2300 BC). Religion was very important – many gods had to be appeased to prevent droughts, floods and disease. In addition to city gods, there were universal gods that all Mesopotamians worshiped. According to the Mesopotamian creation myth, Enlil, the king of all the gods created human beings the other gods rebelled and refused to work for him. Then he tried to wipe humans out with a flood because they were too noisy. Enki, the Sumerian god of water, helped save a single family by telling Ziusudra to build a boat.

City gods lived in the inner sanctum of their temples, which were also industrial estates producing food, beer and textiles for the population at large. Because there was no money, temple workers were paid in rations of barley, oil (used for light and cooking) and wool. Each payment was recorded in cuneiform on a clay tablet.

Mesopotamian women were employed in brewing and weaving and as innkeepers or priestesses.

Farmers were conscripted (during the non-growing season) for frequent wars between city-states. The use of the tight phalanx military formation (later used by the Greeks) developed during this period.

It was typical for Mesopotamian kings and queens to be buried along with dozens of richly robed and adorned attendants, many with lyres and and harps. They latter either suicided or were killed to accompany the royal personage to the afterlife. Many died (with no evidence of struggle) of head injuries. China and Egypt also buried their kings and emperors with attendants during this period.

*The phalanx was a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with speaks, pikes or similar pole weapons.

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