About 30 years ago, this question seemed to have found an answer. Around 4,000 BC, the earliest stage of Sumerian culture arose as the oldest civilization in Mesopotamia, in what is now mainly Iraq. The Sumerians are named after the ancient city of Sumer, a few kilometers south of the modern city of Kut in eastern Iraq. Archaeologists call the earliest Sumerian period the Uruk period, about 80 km southwest of the ancient city of Uruk, where many of the oldest Sumerian artifacts have been found.
However, evidence uncovered over the day of the dead past few decades suggests that the Sumerians have several contenders, including Ancient Egypt, for the title of "oldest civilization".
The definition of what constitutes
a civilization is vague, but in general a culture must achieve some salient features, particularly urban - i.e. cities - irrigation and writing; and the Sumerians had all three of these elements.
After about 2000 BC, the Sumerian civilization led directly to the Babylonian civilization of Mesopotamia, which is credited with discovering mathematical truths such as trigonometry and prime numbers, squares and cubes. methods - concepts developed by the ancient Greeks more than 1,000 years later.
The Sumerians may have also invented religion by building towering temples known as ziggurat in their cities and establishing priestly castles devoted to ritual worship of specific gods, according to the American historian Samuel Noah Kramer.
Which god was most powerful in the vast Sumerian population depends on place and time: the sky god Anu, for example, was popular in the early Uruk period, while the storm god Enlil was worshiped in Sumer. Inanna - "Queen of Heaven" - may have originally been a fertility goddess in Uruk; Her worship spread to other Mesopotamian cities, where she was known as Ishtar, and may have influenced the goddesses of later civilizations, such as Astarte among the Hittites and Aphrodite of Greece.
The Story of Noah and the Epic of Gilgamesh
A story similar to the Hebrew Bible Noah, who built an ark filled with animals to protect his family during the great flood caused by the wrath of the gods, is related to the Epic. Gilgamesh. Archaeologists think it was originally a Sumerian story from around 2150 BC - centuries before the Hebrew version was written.
Some scholars suggest that other civilizations may be older or even older than the Sumerian civilization. "Egypt and Sumer were essentially contemporary in their respective eras," said Philip Jones, curator and custodian of the collections in the Babylon section of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.
Decades of war and instability
have prevented archaeologists from accessing many Mesopotamian sites, Jones added, but Egyptologists continue to dig. As a result, archaeologists in Egypt have now discovered texts dating back to Sumer's earliest writings, indicating that the oldest period of ancient Egyptian civilization appears to closely resemble the early Sumerian period. earliest period of Sumerian civilization: about 4000 BC.
Still another possibility is the Indus Valley viking jersey civilization, which arose in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India, and dated to at least 3300 BC, according to early artefacts most found there. But "we can find things very early in the Indus Valley," says Jones. "It wouldn't surprise me if we dig something up so soon."
Jones suspects that early trade along the fringes of the Indian Ocean helped these earliest civilizations—the Egyptians beside the Red Sea, the Sumerians at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, and Indus Valley civilization further east - evolved from pre-civilized people. who lived there before them, by bringing them resources and ideas from further afield.