The first major civilization in Mesopotamia, including the city-states of Eridu, Ur, Nippur and Uruk. Sumer is also a somewhat fluid place-name referring to the southern region of south Mesopotamia during the third millennium B.C.E.


One of the principal Sumerian city-states, ruled by Gilgamesh around 2700 B.C.E. (according to a king list). Archaeological excavations at Uruk have uncovered numerous so-called protocuneiform texts, dating to about 3,300 B.C.E., suggesting that the art of writing may have been invented at Uruk.


From the Latin meaning “wedge-shaped,” a system of writing used throughout the Near East during the first three millennia B.C.E. Originally developed by the Sumerians as pictograms (signs shaped like the objects to which they refer), cuneiform symbols developed into abstract signs representing words (logograms), syllables (syllabograms) and other elements.


An ethnic group that inhabited north Mesopotamia from the third to first millennia B.C.E. Numerous cuneiform tablets from the second millennium containing Hurrian names and inscriptions have been found from Nuzi in the east to Ugarit in the west, and from Bogûazko¬y in the north to Tell el-Amarna, Egypt, in the south. In the 15th century B.C.E. the Hurrian Mitanni Kingdom became one of the great powers in Mesopotamia.