The Sumerians

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The Sumerians were one of the earliest urban societies to emerge in the world, in Southern Mesopotamia more than 5000 years ago. They developed a writing system whose wedge-shaped strokes would influence the style of scripts in the same geographical area for the next 3000 years. Eventually, all of these diverse writing systems, which encompass both logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic, and syllabic systems, became known as cuneiform. It is actually possible to trace the long road of the invention of the Sumerian writing system. For 5000 years before the appearance of writing in Mesopotamia, there were small clay objects in abstract shapes, called clay tokens, that were apparently used for counting agricultural and manufactured goods. As time went by, the ancient Mesopotamians realized that they needed a way to keep all the clay tokens securely together (to prevent loss, theft, etc), so they started putting multiple clay tokens into a large, hollow clay container which they then sealed up. However, once sealed, the problem of remembering how many tokens were inside the container arose. To solve this problem, the Mesopotamians started impressing pictures of the clay tokens on the surface of the clay container with a stylus. Also, if there were five clay tokens inside, they would impress the picture of the token five times, and so problem of what and how many inside the container was solved.

There were four main classes of people in ancient Sumer - the priests, the upper class, the lower class, and the slaves. The priests: were powerful. They were in charge of making sure everyone behaved in a way that would make the gods happy. They were the doctors of the time. If you were sick, you called for a priest. There is a written record of two priests, by the bed of a sick boy, dressed to look like fish to better speak with the water god. (This author does not know why the priests wanted to talk to the water god. Perhaps the boy became sick in the water or from...
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