URUK - THE FIRST CITY


Uruk was one of the most important cities (and at one time, the most important) in ancient Mesopotamia. According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE. Located in the southern region of Sumer (modern day Iraq), Uruk was known in the Aramaic language as Erech. The city of Uruk is most famous for its great king Gilgamesh and the epic tale of his quest for immortality.

It is considered the first true city in the world. Besides, Uruk was first in the following areas as well - the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents.

The cylinder seal had a great importance for the people of the time, because it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation. That's why Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community. The city was continuously inhabited from its founding until c. 300 CE when, people began to desert the area. It lay abandoned and buried until excavated in 1853 CE by William Loftus for the British Museum.


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The map of ancient Middle East with the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia

It seems that Uruk started as two separate settlements, Kullaba and Eanna, which merged during the Uruk Period (4100-2900 BCE). The new city of Uruk was covering 80 hectares, its walls were 9.5 km long and it may have housed some 50,000 people. In the heart of the city were two large temple complexes, the Anu sanctuary and sanctuary dedicated to Ianna, the goddess of love.

The city was most influential between 4100-c.3000 BCE when Uruk was the largest urban center and the hub of trade and administration. Today we recognize the importance of this ancient city, primarily because it was indeed the FIRST CITY IN THE WORLD!

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An artistic image of the city of Uruk