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Uruk period (4300-3000)

History and society

  • first, population shift from N to S Mesopotamia, to vicinity of Uruk (itself 100 ha. in size)
    • 1 hectare (ha.) = 10,000 m2
  • then, urban revolution in Southern Mesopotamia, with increase in site size
  • esp. in Late Uruk (3500-3000), a transition from village to complex urban system, with several defining features
    • development of writing
      • originally (c. 5500) 3-dimensional clay cones
      • then pictographs, gradually streamlined into lines and wedges--cuneiform (from Latin cunei, 'wedges')
      • cuneiform is a script, used to write several different languages
    • central temple/ceremonial center
    • production, storage and redistribution of agricultural surplus
    • social stratification
    • craft specialization
    • first cylinder seals show property ownership
    • start of monumental architecture and figurative art 
    • trade in prestige goods
    • justice and other authority based on state, not family
  • Late Uruk phase contemporary with Naqada II-III Periods in Egypt (3500-3050 B.C.)


  • Uruk (Warka)
    • Eanna complex--series of phases of temples
      • at first, small square-sectioned bricks typical
      • thick coating of mud plaster, containing cones with red white and black heads to form designs--cone mosaics
    • Anu temple (to sky god Anu), 500 m. W of Eanna complex
      • also called white temple, because surface whitewashed
      • 27.5 x 22.3 m., on 40-foot high platform with sloping sides (like mountain)
      • 'ziggurat' ("temple tower"): mountains represent earth, link men with gods
      • has standard altar, offering podium
  • Figurative art
    • Uruk Vase: procession bringing gifts to great mother Inanna
      • ruler and goddess shown in top register (of 4, 92 cm. high)
    • Uruk head: marble face of woman
      • flat in back with holes for attachment to (wood?) statue
    • master of animals motif on Lion Hunt stele from Uruk
      • compare same motif on Gebel el-Arak knife and wall-painting from Hierakonpolis

Last update: 1 January 2004

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