The House of Uruk, Greatest of Sumerian Heroes
The greatest of all Sumerian heroes were said to have belonged to the first House of Uruk. For the Sumerians, this House of Uruk was not just another royal house, for them it was one of the greatest Sumerian dynasties ever to have ruled over Sumer, if not the greatest.
A map of Mesopotamia in 2nd millennium BC, showing Uruk. ( CC BY-SA 2.5)
According to the Sumerian King List , the first House of Uruk, nowadays called the First Dynasty of Uruk, descended from the sun god, Utu. For the ancients, this superhuman descent was visible in the great and mighty deeds done by heroes, mighty men like Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, Dumuzi and Gilgamesh. Deeds reflected in the great monuments attributed to them, dated to the Uruk Period (c. 3800-2850 BC), to this very day confirming the fact that the House of Uruk yielded one of the most remarkable and outstanding epochs in ancient Mesopotamian history.
Stone tablet inscribed with the Sumerian King List. (Public Domain )
Meskiagkasher: Founder of the First House of Uruk
The names of the earliest Urukite rulers appear in the Sumerian King List . As most of the kings of this dynasty ruled before phonetic writing was discovered allowing for the documentation of royal reigns, there can be no doubt that the King List only comprises those kings remembered in the oral tradition.
According to the Sumerian King List , the king who founded this dynasty after the great deluge was Meskiagkasher. He was both high priest and king: “ In E-anna(k) Mes-kiag-kasher, son of Utu, became high priest (“en”) and king (“lugal”) and reigned 324 years. Mes-kiag-kasher went into the sea and came out (from it) to the mountains .”
Uruk Archaealogical site at Warka, Iraq ( Public Domain )
Although the first House of Uruk had a very special place in Sumerian history, as those belonging to an exceptionally great and heroic age, this dynasty does not appear at the top of the Sumerian King List but lower down. This, however, does not reveal much about the exact time they ruled over the land of Sumer since the King List was first compiled much later. The compiler of this list did not know how the reigns of the early dynasties were related to one another and merely wrote them down one beneath the other, leaving the wrong impression that Sumerian history happened in that order.
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Dr Willem McLoud is an independent South African scholar whose main interests are ancient Middle Eastern studies, Kantian philosophy and philosophy of science. Willem’s main areas of study regarding the ancient Middle East are the Sumerian, Akkadian and early Egyptian civilizations, with special focus on the Uruk and Akkadian Periods in Mesopotamian history as well as the Old Kingdom Period in Egyptian history.
Top Image : Mesopotamian king as Master of Animals on the Gebel el-Arak Knife, dated circa 3300-3200 BC, Abydos, Egypt. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )