Surprising and Fascinating Facts about Ancient Sumerian Civilization

Tablet with pictographic pre-cuneiform writing; late 4th millennium BC; limestone; height: 4.5 cm, width: 4.3 cm, depth: 2.4 cm; Louvre Museum

Sumer (/ˈsuːmər/) is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (south-central Iraq), emerging during the Chalcolithic and early Bronze Ages between the sixth and fifth millennium BC. It is also one of the first civilizations in the world, along with ancient Egypt, the Caral-Supe civilization, the Indus Valley civilization, the Minoan civilization, and ancient China. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers grew an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus from which enabled them to form urban settlements. Proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr, and date to between c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC. Ancient Sumer was located in the southernmost region of Mesopotamia, and the civilization lasted for approximately 1,500 years from 5500 to 4000 BC. Its people were commonly referred to as the “black-headed people.” Sumer was a collection of city-states, each one operating independently.
Although the Sumerians lived thousands of years ago, much is known about their civilization and distinct way of life. Archaeological evidence unearthed throughout the years reveals plenty about these people. For instance, they kept meticulous records, using a writing system called “cuneiform” that consisted of wedge-like symbols carved on stone tablets. This civilization is also known for its elaborate architecture, which encompasses breathtaking mosaics, towering brick columns, grandiose palaces, and pyramid-like stepped temples referred to as “ziggurats.” There are many interesting things about the Sumerian way of life, and our endless fascination with this ancient civilization has only been exacerbated by the mountains of archaeological evidence that they left behind for us to discover.

The Anunnakis
The Anunnaki (also transcribed as Anunaki, Annunaki, Anunna, Ananaki and other variations) are a group of deities of the ancient Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. In the earliest Sumerian writings about them, which come from the Post-Akkadian period, the Anunnaki are deities in the pantheon, descendants of An and Ki, the god of the heavens and the goddess of earth, and their primary function was to decree the fates of humanity.According to the ancient Sumerians, over 400 thousand years ago, the Anunnaki, which means “those who came from the heavens,” a race of extraterrestrial aliens landed on Earth in the Persian Gulf looking for Gold. They could not find enough so they moved to Africa where there was more Gold. According to the Sumerian tablets, Enki was the name of the head science officer. Enki suggested making the primitive Earth dwellers a little more like them so the primitive prehumans would be able to do the work, essentially creating a slave race of workers.
According to Sumerian records, The Anunnaki race is also believed to have gone one step further, genetically engineering the entire human race for the sole purpose of serving as their slave species. Known as the ancient astronaut hypothesis, this claims that extraterrestrial beings have been posing as gods or divine beings to influence humans, like how the Anunnaki passed themselves off as “sky gods,” when giving the ancient Sumerians the building blocks of their scientific knowledge. This idea is undoubtedly compelling, but it would also explain why there are certain weak and unexplainable gaps in the theory of evolution. Additionally, this also paved the way for the theory that human DNA actually contains traces of alien compounds. After all, when the Anunnaki created man, the only genetic material that they had access to were the ones they had themselves.

The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of clay tablets written in cuneiform script. Sumerian writing is considered to be a great milestone in the development of humanity’s ability to not only create historical records but also in creating pieces of literature, both in the form of poetic epics and stories as well as prayers and laws.
Triangular or wedge-shaped reeds were used to write on moist clay. A large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language have survived, including personal and business letters, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns, prayers, stories, and daily records. Full libraries of clay tablets have been found. 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 dominant.

Temple organisation
Ziggurats (Sumerian temples) each had an individual name and 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 would stand the podium and a mudbrick 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 Ziggurat style.
Sumerian Deities
An as the full-time god equivalent to heaven; indeed, the word an in Sumerian means sky and his consort Ki, means earth.
Enki in the south at the temple in Eridu. Enki was the god of beneficence and of wisdom, ruler of the freshwater depths beneath the earth, a healer and friend to humanity who in Sumerian myth was thought to have given humans the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization; the first law book was considered his creation.
Enlil was the god of storm, wind, and rain.  He was the chief god of the Sumerian pantheon  and the patron god of Nippur. His consort was Ninlil, the goddess of the south wind.
Inanna was the goddess of love, sexuality, and war.  The deification of Venus, the morning (eastern) and evening (western) star, at the temple (shared with An) at Uruk. Deified kings may have re-enacted the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzid with priestesses.
The sun-god Utu at Larsa in the south and Sippar in the north,
The moon god Sin at Ur.

Invention and innovation quickly gained pace in ancient Sumer. There were great advances in pottery, law, literature, writing, and the brewing of beer. The techniques for brewing are still a mystery, but it is known that barley was the main ingredient as it was widely available at the time. Beer provided a source of pleasure and relief from everyday life, and the people even had a goddess of beer called Ninkasi.

The Sumerians developed a complex system of metrology c. 4000 BC. This advanced metrology resulted in the creation of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. From c. 2600 BC onwards, the Sumerians wrote multiplication tables on clay tablets and dealt with geometrical exercises and division problems. The earliest traces of the Babylonian numerals also date back to this period. The period c. 2700–2300 BC saw the first appearance of the abacus, and a table of successive columns which delimited the successive orders of magnitude of their sexagesimal number system. The Sumerians were the first to use a place value numeral system. There is also anecdotal evidence the Sumerians may have used a type of slide rule in astronomical calculations. They were the first to find the area of a triangle and the volume of a cube.

Marriages were usually arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Engagements were usually completed through the approval of contracts recorded on clay tablets. These marriages became legal as soon as the groom delivered a bridal gift to his bride’s father. One Sumerian proverb describes the ideal, happy marriage through the mouth of a husband who boasts that his wife has borne him eight sons and is still eager to have sex.

Weirdest weapons ever invented. Part-1

A replica of Tsar Tank near Moscow. Image source: amusingplanet.com

During World War I, the Russians built a gigantic tank that had two huge wheels and looked like a tricycle. Known as the “Tsar tank,” this 60-ton monster required 15 men to control it and had a height of a three-story building. It was capable of bringing an entire fortress down, but it never managed to move from the place of production. Its unarmed model was tested near Moscow and weighed 50% more than what was expected. The project was abandoned because it didn’t move well along soft patches. Its center of gravity was too far aft, and its engine was not powerful enough.

Kugelpanzer, This odd-looking German tank, which carried only one man and no weapons, never actually saw action in World War II. It might not even have been real. Captured by the Soviets in Manchuria in the last days of the conflict, it was put in a museum, with no further study allowed – with many scholars believing the vehicle was some kind of Japanese-built hoax.

A replica of the original umbrella. Image source: spycraft101/reddit.com

An umbrella weapon having a chamber from which a poisonous pellet containing ricin could be fired is called the “Bulgarian Umbrella.” It was reportedly used in the assassination of a Bulgarian dissident writer, Georgi Markow, in September 1978. The victim thought he was stung by a bee and only died four days later. Indeed, the building of this strange weapon was fascinating to the public eye, and it still finds its place in a number of publications. The entire breakdown of the poisonous umbrella could be found displayed in the German Spy Museum.

Depiction of the Claw of Archimedes. Image source: learnodo-newtonic.com

The Claw of Archimedes was an ancient anti-ship weapon developed by Archimedes to defend the sea-facing city walls of the city of Syracuse. Sources say that it was a crane-equipped weapon with a grappling hook that enabled the user to lift the attacker’s ship by the prow and drop it. Its strike often caused the victim ship to capsize or at least face severe damage. It is said that this weird defending weapon was put into use during the Second Punic War in 214 BCE. It was when the Roman Republic attacked Syracuse with 60 ships under the command of Marcus Marcellus.

The Great Panjandrum at Westward Ho!, an abortive attempt at beach clearing. Image source: British Government/IWM via Wikimedia.org

Panjandrum was a massive rocket-propelled, explosive-laden cart that was designed by the British in World War II. The weapon’s structure was basically two wheels held together by a bomb that included rocket propulsion. During its final testing, the wheels disintegrated, the rockets broke free in all directions, and the generals were forced to dive into barbed wires. It was never used in the war. When activated, it spun erratically and the entire machine fell apart. One of the military dogs was chased by a rocket and was killed by it.

Vespa Military. Image source: C. Galliani via Wikimedia.org

The French invented a “bazooka Vespa.” It was a Vespa 150 TAP scooter armed with an M20 75-millimeter recoilless rifle, also known as a light anti-armor cannon. The vehicle carrying the weapon could only reach the speed of 40 miles per hour and was intended to be used by French paratroopers. Nearly 600 such scooters were created in the 1950s. The weapon was ready to use as soon as it was received on the battleground. The Frenchmen used to ride it until they got to a suitable point. Then they dismounted to set the gun up at a perfect angle using the M1917 Browning Machine Gun tripod which came along with the scooter.

Image source: Idot / Wikimedia Commons

What could be more efficient than launching an airplane from something that’s already in the air? Many different variations on flying aircraft carriers have been tried, from the US airships Akron and Macon in the ’30s to the Soviet Zveno, a gigantic airplane with smaller airplanes attached to it. The Zveno saw minor success in the early days of World War II, but was retired soon after because of its vulnerability. Virtually every other attempt to launch planes from a flying plane has failed.

Image source: Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald L. Heppner / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Designed as a way of deterring and stopping a Soviet invasion of Germany in the aftermath of World War II, Project Blue Peacock involved seeding the North German Plain with nuclear landmines. But the mines had to be kept warm to prevent spontaneous detonation, and British engineers devised a bizarre way to do it: Chickens!! Chicken coops would be set up over the mines, and the body heat from the chickens would provide the needed warmth to prevent the mines from going off and turning half of Germany into a dead zone. But the scheme had a number of problems, the least of which is that the chickens wouldn’t live long, and it was never implemented.