The Downfall of the Sumerians

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All this administration of agriculture required much more careful planning, since each farmer had to produce a far greater excess of produce than he would actually consume. And all the bureaucratic record keeping demanded some kind of efficient system of measuring long periods of time. So the Sumerians invented calendars, which they divided into twelve months based on the cycle of the moon. Since a year consisting of twelve lunar months is considerably shorter than a solar year, the Sumerians added a "leap month" every three years in order to catch up with the sun. This interest in measuring long periods of time led the Sumerians to develop a complicated knowledge of astronomy and the first human invention of the zodiac in order to measure yearly time.

Record-keeping pushes the human mind in other directions as well. In particular, record-keeping demands that humans start doing something all humans love to do: calculating. Numbers have to be added up, subtracted, multiplied, divided, and sundry other fun things. So the Sumerians developed a sophistication with mathematics that had never been seen before on the human landscape. And all that number crunching led the Sumerians to begin crude speculations about the nature of numbers and processes involving numbers—abstract mathematics.

We know very little about the early Semitic religions, but the Semites that invaded Mesopotamia seem to have completely abandoned their religion in favor of Sumerian religion. Sumerian religion was polytheistic, that is, the Sumerians believed in and worshipped many gods. These gods were incredibly powerful and anthropomorphic, that is, they resembled humans. Many of these gods controlled natural forces and were associated with astronomical bodies, such as the sun. The gods were creator gods; as a group, they had created the world and the people in it. Like humans, they suffered all the ravages of human emotional and spiritual frailties: love, lust, hatred, anger, regret....
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