Sumerian king list

The Sumerian King List still puzzles historians after more than a century of research

Out of the many incredible artefacts that have been recovered from sites in Iraq where flourishing Sumerian cities once stood, few have been more intriguing that the Sumerian King List, an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) from Sumerian and neighbouring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship. What makes this artefact so unique is the fact that the list blends apparently mythical pre-dynastic rulers with historical rulers who are known to have existed. 

The first fragment of this rare and unique text, a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet, was found in the early 1900s by German-American scholar Hermann Hilprecht at the site of ancient Nippur and published in 1906.  Since Hilprecht’s discovery, at least 18 other exemplars of the king’s list have been found, most of them dating from the second half of the Isin dynasty (c. 2017-1794 BCE.).  No two of these documents are identical. However, there is enough common material in all versions of the list to make it clear that they are derived from a single, "ideal" account of Sumerian history.

Sumerian king listAmong all the examples of the Sumerian King List, the Weld-Blundell prism in the Ashmolean Museum cuneiform collection in Oxford represents the most extensive version as well as the most complete copy of the King List. The 8-inch-high prism contains four sides with two columns on each side. It is believed that it originally had a wooden spindle going through its centre so that it could be rotated and read on all four sides. It lists rulers from the antediluvian (“before the flood”) dynasties to the fourteenth ruler of the Isin dynasty (ca. 1763–1753 BC).

The list is of immense value because it reflects very old traditions while at the same time providing an important chronological framework relating to the different periods of kingship in Sumeria, and even demonstrates remarkable parallels to accounts in Genesis.

The ancient civilisation of Sumer

Sumer (sometimes called Sumeria), is the site of the earliest known civilization, located in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, in the area that later became Babylonia and is now southern Iraq from around Baghdad to the Persian Gulf.

By the 3rd millennium BC, Sumer was the site of at least twelve separate city states: KishErechUr,SipparAkshak, Larak, NippurAdabUmmaLagashBad-tibira, and Larsa. Each of these states comprised a walled city and its surrounding villages and land, and each worshiped its own deity, whose temple was the central structure of the city. Political power originally belonged to the citizens, but, as rivalry between the various city-states increased, each adopted the institution of kingship

The Sumerian King List, records that eight kings reigned before a great flood. After the Flood, various city-states and their dynasties of kings temporarily gained power over the others. 

Sumer’s mythical past

The Sumerian King List begins with the very origin of kingship, which is seen as a divine institution: “the kingship had descended from heaven”.  The rulers in the earliest dynasties are represented as reigning fantastically long periods:

After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alaljar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years.

Some of the rulers mentioned in the early list, such as Etana, Lugal-banda and Gilgamesh, are mythical or legendary figures whose heroic feats are subjects of a series of Sumerian and Babylonian narrative compositions.

The early list names eight kings with a total of 241,200 years from the time when kingship “descended from heaven” to the time when "the Flood" swept over the land and once more "the kingship was lowered from heaven" after the Flood.

Interpretation of long reigns

The amazingly long tenure of the early kings has provoked many attempts at interpretation. At one extreme is the complete dismissal of the astronomically large figures as “completely artificial” and the view that they are unworthy of serious consideration.  At the other extreme, is the belief that the numbers have a basis in reality and that the early kings were indeed gods who were capable of living much longer than humans.

In between the two extremes is the hypothesis that the figures represent relative power, triumph or importance.  For example, in ancient Egypt, the phrase “he died aged 110” referred to someone who lived life to the full and who offered an important contribution to society.  In the same way, the extremely long periods of reign of the early kings may represent how incredibly important they were perceived as being in the eyes of the people. This doesn’t explain, however, why the periods of tenure later switched to realistic time periods.

Related to this perspective is the belief that although the early kings are historically unattested, this does not preclude their possible correspondence with historical rulers who were later mythicised.

Finally, some scholars have sought to explain the figures through a mathematical investigation and interpretation (e.g. Harrison, 1993).

Relation to Genesis

Some scholars (e.g. Wood, 2003) have drawn attention to the fact that there are remarkable similarities between the Sumerian King List and accounts in Genesis.  For example, Genesis tells the story of ‘the great flood’ and Noah’s efforts to save all the species of animals on Earth from destruction.  Likewise, in the Sumerian King List, there is discussion of a great deluge: “the flood swept over the earth.”

The Sumerian King List provides a list of eight kings (some versions have 10) who reigned for long periods of time before the flood, ranging from 18,600 to 43,200 years.  This is similar to Genesis 5, where the generations from Creation to the Flood are recorded. Interestingly, between Adam and Noah there are eight generations, just as there are eight kings between the beginning of kingship and the flood in the Sumerian King List.

After the flood, the King List records kings who ruled for much shorter periods of time. Thus, the Sumerian King List not only documents a great flood early in man’s history, but it also reflects the same pattern of decreasing longevity as found in the Bible - men had extremely long life spans before the flood and much shorter life spans following the flood (Wood, 2003).

The Sumerian King List truly is a perplexing mystery. Why would the Sumerians combine mythical rulers with actual historical rulers in one document? Why are there so many similarities with Genesis? Why were ancient kings described as ruling for thousands of years? These are just some of the questions that still remain unanswered after more than a century of research.

By April Holloway


The Sumerian King List – University of Oxford

Great Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology: The Sumerian King List – by Bryant G. Wood

The Sumerian king list: translation - The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature

The Sumerian King List - by L.C. Geerts

Reinvestigating the Antediluvian Sumerian King List – by R. K. Harrison

The Sumerian King List – by Thorkild Jacobsen (The Oriental Institute of the University of California)


angieblackmon's picture

is it possible that at least for the mythical rulers, that the people lived under the guidance of this person for a long amount of time, then under another and another...while the actual rulers changed more frequently. I'm trying to think of a good example to use...okay this might not be the best example but in America, we have the democratic and republican parties, we could have elections resulting in one party winning several elections in a row, but under different President Grant took office in March 4, 1869 and we had 4 consecutive republican presidents ending with President Arthur finishing his term March 4, in that 16 years, we had 4 different presidents but all from the same republican could these Kings have done something similiar??? or am I completely out in left field? Just a thought...

love, light and blessings


I don't think that that is left field. Possibly they were family dynasties???

The life-spans listed for long-lived patriarchs in the bible line up remarkably well with Egyptian dynasties. The Egyptian stories make clear they are family names and not long-lived individuals.

It seems to defy coincidence but, to be fair, you have to accept the adjustments of dates for Egyptian regencies (where, say, a ruler did not officially reign until of a certain age so a 'regent' would belong to that ruler's reign or not, depending on who recorded it.)

What seems the best answer to me: Late Israeli retelling of Egyptian tales, replacing names with Israelite names (probably already famous individuals or mythic characters.)

Recall that, I think, in one of Joseph Cambell's Masks of God books. I'd like to see a 3 part comparison. Egypt/Summer/Biblical patriarchs (dynasties.) in a chart. Earlier Egyptian dynasties seem made up and may be stolen from earlier Sumerian lists.

Did the Kings believe in reincarnation? If so maybe their children were considered the living incarnation of the residing king.In essence the child would continue the kingship without interruption in this way the king lives on until there is no heir.

Why do scholars insist on assuming that the earlier parts of the scrolls are mythical? The first thing the ancients say, is that the gods descended from heaven. Heaven would be the skies, and we know, the skies eventually become space. In an age where man has gone into space, why is it so hard to believe, that the gods were entities from outer space? That, even in times which are ancient history to us, entities from another world, could not have space travel with technology that is still far ahead of ours? We imagine all kinds of advanced technologies, warp drives, star gates, etc. and yet, we can not believe entities that have existed far longer than the human race, could not have developed what we can imagine, or something even better? What is there in natural law, that would prevent such entities from having longer lives, particularly if they come from a different world? What is there in science, particularly genetic science, that would prevent such entities from creating a hybrid race on Earth, combining their DNA with hominids native to Earth? These king lists, and even passages from the Bible, confirm that there were entities that lived much longer lives, in the days of our early civilizations. Around the times when human kings took over ruling from the gods, lives became increasingly shorter. Could this be because of the combination of the hybrids lives being shorter to begin with, and a lack of interbreeding with the alien entities, because they returned to the stars? We always have choices. In this case, we can choose between the disbelief of scholars, that the gods were myths, or we can choose to believe that our ancestors knew the gods had descended from heaven, because the gods told them what happened, created us, ruled us, then used us to labor for them in their gold mines, then left, when they had enough of the gold they came for.

Way to think outside the confined limited mentality.

Thank you.

Thank you for this insightful thought.

You're welcome.

Completely agree with this. This is exactly how I bid my argument!

As to Sirwilhelm's comment on February 8, 2014, I disagree. His whole theory is not supported by substantial evidence. Show me the scientific proof of alien DNA in the gene pool the same way a geneticist can show me the presence of the Neanderthal DNA. I disagree with the forced choice you posit at the end of your comment. Much can be discerned by the tools of modern science and the scientific method.

I feel a little sad when folks rush to "Aliens!" to explain anything they do not understand in human history. There are so many other explanations, whether its an incomplete understanding of the linguistics shift over 2,000+ years, variations in explaining the passage of distant time, all sorts of explorable methods to figure out this mystery and instead, we get "Aliens!" To me, that is as valid as yelling "Unicorns!" or "Angels!" - it is a way to say "I came up with an answer that cannot be tested in any way." You can use that to explain why your car won't start or what caused an earthquake. I'd rather say we haven't figured it out yet, but we will continue to use our tools, our minds, and our understanding of our *human* ancestors to unravel the mystery. But if Aliens and Unicorns works for you, have at it. Just try to grasp that its a lame answer.

I feel oh so sad and lonely and even a bit weepy, not, when GPermann rushes to the conclusion that those who believe that the history of this planet has been concocted by those who control "His-Story"; that story of the pontificating ruminating gaggle of sheeplike characters always ridiculing and ignoring the evidence that partially and often wholly contradicts their "eggspurt" contentions regarding the history of this orbiting "rock". Lame indeed, GP.

"Aliens" as an explanation for mysteries has been scoffed at for decades now. It's not an answer that defies testing, as you posit, but a viable explanation that tidies up a lot of unanswered inconsistencies, which are called "mysteries" because until the correct explanation is finally deemed worthy of study and examined openly by academia, those tantalizing mysteries will continue to tantalize. Equating aliens (whose DNA you may contain) with unicorns is Disney Speak, which is a new form of linguistics you employed rather childishly in your non-argument.

O negative Blood type

And the so-called scientists (PhDs, stupid by degrees) would know if the DNA were "alien" exactly how, David Alan Tibbetts?

Why should aliens even have DNA? And if there are those that do have DNA, why should the code match in the slightest way to anything terrestrial? When it is said that a DNA sequence is unknown, today this stands for that there isn´t a perfekt match to any known species. Still it will be classified to some extent, depending on the length of the DNA fragment and so on, because it will still fit to present existing DNA by at least 90 %. The earthly organisms follow a certain structure of the code, which could have been totally different. This is already proven by the rather big difference between the three different classes of organisms present on Earth. DNA strands that would have no resemblance to anything known, I believe would be considered as synthetical, as extraterrestrials would not come to any "scientists" mind, at least not openly.

Inventor, on this hot summer night down south here in Africa, and as Meat Loaf sang it best, "You took the words right out of my mouth ...". Exactly: and thank-you.

I know a woman with deep red hair that's got copper based blood. Ours is iron based. So, is the copper based blood alien enough for you or do you need more to tell you that there's a huge difference there that needs to be explained.

For the "educated" science has more to do with defending the ayjiest/evolutionist juvenile theories, while rejecting any real inquiry out of hand, Todays "scientists" are the dark ages personified.
Did you know Darwin married his own cousin and produced ten offspring by her to promulgate his satanic theory?, she gave birth to ten,(Yes Ten, insanity kicks in at No2) inbred mongoloids who all died very young, His wife/cousins life ruined, this is the real father of eugenics.
Darwin was not only certifiably insane, he was evil too.
Some people here need to learn how to differentiate between science and politics, especially leftwing loony atheist Bee Esser's.

Wingnut incredulously claims that Darwin produced 3 mongoloid children with his first cousin which is a gross lie. First of all, while I am agnostic, I do acknowledge that the Bible offers no objection to marriage between cousins so calling Darwin evil is unjustified on that basis. Darwin and his cousin produced 10 offspring, of which 3 died in early childhood - quite the norm back in those days. TB and scarlet fever have absolutely nothing to do with genes and to assume these children became ill because of inbreeding is preposterous. Wingnut failed to mention that three of his sons were highly successful and acclaimed scientists on their own right and were granted knighthood.

Dude. Dna? Are you serious? That is your best? Hahaha. What about junk Dna? The theories on what that is change every other week. Why then could they not be alien? There is a gap in human evolution of hundreds of thousands of years. I.e. How come the possibility that an alien life form has intervened within our genetic code is not an option? The funny thing about science is it changes all the time the more we know. Remember when the speed of light was the best ever, well they just broke it. again.. and it will be broke again. The law of physics are crumbling join the party man. Yale University Physics department at Brookehaven National Laboratory are doing with gold particles breaking the laws of Parity. Thanks for your time use your limited science knowledge to understand there is more left to learn that science will never explain.

I agree with your take on this. I consider Sitchin's work to be on the money for the most part!

As do I. We should not be so close minded to think that we are "it" when it comes to beings in this vast universe. We are a relatively new species in an ancient world. Our ancient history is but a blink of the eye in the existence of the universe.

Thomas David Hensley

As do I. We should not be so close minded to think that we are "it" when it comes to beings in this vast universe. We are a relatively new species in an ancient world. Our ancient history is but a blink of the eye in the existence of the universe.

Thomas David Hensley

I couldn't have said it better myself, It's obviously possible from what we can know today but it feels like everyone just want to dismiss this. If one would change the word (and meaning) "God" with, let's say "People from above, (meaning rather older than us)" it would still fit pretty good into Ancient History and in a way even to science, how old Universe is and the possibility that beings out there have lived for far longer then Humans.

This possibility should be taken seriously, as any other theories.

Who created these "gods"?
Who organized and envisioned such a wondrous creation?
Blessed be The Creator the One God for ever !

And the God made a pact with men, never to destroy the humanking with flood.

Gods simply withdrew from official live, they passed the rule to the people, humans. They are still present but do not interfere, oficially. What's behind the scenes, nobody can imagine.

Acording do Indian books, Summerian, Egyptian, all gods were power mongers, they waged wars between them, changed allegiations, betrayed... Same as modern days politics :)

Well if we are "alien hybrids" why don't we live even half as long as these so called Gods if the context of longevity in text was in reference to individual kings, and not in reference to reincarnation...It seems to me that we are not "alien hybrids" at all (even though we would like to think that we are not limited to our brain capacity, and our reptilian like instincts, but have a hidden genome that we can tap into)...But we are just a result of a genetic evolution due to constant cosmic ray bombardment, and consumption of chemicals from food, and water over a period of millions of years. We see evolution as meaning an improvement, but the sad fact is all evolution really means is a change in DNA just like cancer, and retardation...The way we consume food these days will have a huge effect on our 'evolution' but more than likely will result in more genetic defects, than any significant improvement ...Maybe the so called Gods, and Kings of Suma are aliens, but it does not mean that we are alien hybrids...But also it doesn't mean that a one true God doesn't exist either...There is some strange shit going on in reality, and things are definitely not as they seem...Just try to remain objective, that's my advice

(not a mispelling). Several reasons why the ancient astronauts visitations to Earth are of extremely low probability:
1. Even if they were "giants" they would not have been humanoid, thus incapable of procreation with humans, who are in the very Terran ape family!! Think 99% DNA similarity to chimps and bonobos and just slightly less to gorillas and orangs. Think the over 80% similarity to other Earth lifeforms. Think of the early stages of embryonic development that even look like fish!).
2. Even if their need for gravity and atmosphere and light and temperature approximated what Earth has (had), there remains the question of biological compatibility with Earth creatures, from plants and animals (as food), to microbes.
3. Earth land animals of today have a head+body+limbs+endoskeleton structure, but was it always that way? A: no it wasn't. It took a major dieoff to have the current Terran shape predominate. Can we expect extraterrestrial beings to have evolved the same body structure? Even we have turtles with exoskeletal components to the endoskeleton, yet remain loyal to the same fundamental plan. Who is to say this chance evolved form is universal, let alone Universal?
4. Extraterrestrials communicate(d) among themselves, that's a given, but who is to say that their means of doing so were(are) similar to ours? (Sonic in the frequency and loudness as ours; visual in similar wavelength/intensity ranges; how about electrical fields?; other sensory perceptions ?)

The probability just from the above alone, approximates zero!

johnblack's picture

Saefan, all 4 points you mention above are assumptions ... Get your facts straight first. I will only comment to the 99% DNA match with chimps which is not true.

If you do a better research we could have a more in depth discussion ...

i just don't think an advanced space faring race would resort to biological slaves when they would most probably be able to extract gold much easier using robot technology without the hassle of dna engineering and feeding these slaves not to mention the difficulty in controlling a human....
and lastly if this race is as advanced to cross interstellar distances they would most probably have access to quite enough energy to create their own gold without the hassle of mining.
so i'm sorry but this theory does not make sense on many levels

They weren't aliens. But they were from the heavens. I think you may find your answer in Genesis 6:4. These fallen angels who 'left their first estate' in order to engage themselves with the daughters if men were the primary cause of the Great Flood, because of the evil they were brining upon the earth. Far fetched? Maybe. We keep looking for answers when we have them really. We just don't want to accept them because to do so would admit the reality of a Creator who is God. For more information, read The Book of Enoch.

It is interesting that you missed the fact that Abraham's father, Terah, was from Ur (Genesis 11:27) which was one of the Sumerian kingdoms.

What difference does that make, when Abraham, himself, was from Ur?

For what it is worth,
In this live i have never been to Ur
But U R, dice of the Royal game is in my hand.

Found / given in the North of The Netherland
Strange? The Fith Home on the range?

He came from Ur of the Chaldeans (Ur Kasdim, in the Hebrew text), which is in the area between Syria and Iraq. Not the southern Ur of the Sumerians (Shemer in the Hebrew).

This article says the Biblical Ur was in Sumeria, and Abraham was from there. Take up your dispute with those scholars, if you like, I believe Abraham was from the Ur of Sumeria.

The ethnic "Chaldeans" did not take power in Babylon until Neboplazzer, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, in the 6th century B.C. Consequently, most scholars are in agreement that Ur "of the Chaldeans" is a later addition to the Hebrew text as all scholars are in agreement that Abraham came out of "Ur," what you claim "the southern Ur of the Sumerians (Shemer in the Hebrew)."

the old testament was plagiarized by semitic akkadians who emerged long after the sumerian people. the story of sargon isnt any different from moses with the whole reed basket . the bs the semitic akkadians launched on the world is obvious when youve done the research. even the book of enoch sounds like its written by more than one people if you scrutinize the writing styles.

It is interesting that you missed the fact that Abraham's father, Terah, was from Ur (Genesis 11:27) which was one of the Sumerian kingdoms.

Totally in line with my thoughts :-) .. beginning- spirit of God ...later more about self .. hence erratic -Quicker periods.

Is nobody ready Sitchin's Earth Cronical books? It explains a lot.

I've read some of the "Earth Chronicles" books by Zecariah Sitchin. Fascinating!

Sichin is proven to be a fraud already. fascinating but only as a fictional novel perhaps....

As I was reading all the comments , I were wondering if anybody ever read Zachria Sithen's books ; ''The Earth Chronicles" . The Annanuki's year was plus minus 3600 earth years, a human would see them as gods ,( Ants wil also say that humans are gods because how many generations of ants wil be there in a human's one year) . Since Enki experimented to make workers to mine gold ,at first he made ones that couldn't replicate [ same as donkey and horse = mule] moving to Absu {Southern Africa} he succeeded and they could multiply . Just for interest also that the ''Cradle of Humankind '' is situated in South Africa . All the socalled gods sculptures or images had blue eyes ,all over the world,

Sitchin is a fraud - I thought everyone knew that?..

Tsurugi's picture

The ideas Sitchin postulates in his collected works are so numerous and broad-reaching that there are sure to be mistakes, missteps, and errors. Sitchin himself said his ideas were based entirely on his translations of ancient texts, which were subject to error, misunderstanding, lack of context, poor extrapolation of missing bits from fragmented texts, etc...when reading his works it always seemed clear to me that what he was proposing was a possibility, not a certainty. He was saying "Look! It could be this way," not "It absolutely was this way."

So he certainly made mistakes, and there were errors in his translations(which parts were mistakes, and exactly where did he err, is, IMO, still up for debate).

Do those mistakes and errors mean all of his work can be considered completely worthless? Absolutely not; and anyone attempting to say so is making a rather large error of their own, i.e. the fallacy of composition.

Even more importantly, mistakes and errors do not even come close to justifying the charge of fraud. I challenge anyone who would level such a claim to try proving it, just like they would have to in a court of law. If they cannot, then they themselves are guilty of libel...a charge about equal to "fraud" in terms of what it says about character.

You want to consider all of Sitchin's ideas to be wrong, simply because he may have gotten some things wrong, well, you're entitled to your opinion, sir. I wonder if you hold yourself to the same standards, seeing as how you were obviously wrong in thinking "everyone knew" Sitchin was a fraud...?

The Bible also has people living for hundreds of years. Two documents with the same ideas? I believe it's true.

I believe that this is like America has been a Democracy since 1776 till whenever it changes to a Socialism or Communism. If it were that way. But truly it was real Kings under a real Kingdom under G.O.D. If we all got over our own greed we could do it again.


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