By using their new three-part brain to create ideas, and developing their new potential for speech, our first human ancestors began an experiment in cooperative living. It was to share their new ideas by learning to "talk" to each other, form and carry out cooperative group plans of defensive action, and thereby increase their chance for survival and happiness in a dangerous world.
This "Human Experiment" worked very well. Their shared, cooperative ideas became the first culture, a unique human invention that guided their group thinking and behavior in a cooperative direction, and put them on a highly successful course for a long time.
Then their descendants unknowingly altered their Cultural Process and put themselves on the self-destructive course on which we find ourselves today. How did that happen, and how can we now regain our successful course? The answers to these questions will be presented in this blog, and they offer us humans "A Reason for Hope."

PLEASE NOTE: Out of my experience in WWII has come the rest of this blog, so to understand it all it is necessary to begin with Part One by clicking below.

Feb 3, 2012

Chapter 5      The Third Paradise and the Second Step Toward the Loss of the Successful Course
    The move southward of the groups which left the farming villages in the northern foothills of the Fertile Crescent led to the building of new farming villages, and some of these became towns, and some of those became cities.
    Until recently it was thought that the birth of cities had always been a result of such a progression, from hunter/gatherers, to hunter/wild-grain gatherers and herders, to the agricultural village, to the development of the town, then the city, and then the development of inter-city trade routes. However, new evidence shows that several cities did not grow from agricultural villages but were established as cities from their very beginning, and that most cities were built long after ancient trade routes had been established, partly, and sometimes entirely, as a result of them.
    For instance, Jericho, located at the southwestern end of the Fertile Crescent, was a city from its beginning and is the oldest city yet discovered. Its original wall was constructed around 10,000 years ago, 5,000 years before Sumer’s temples and ziggurats and Egypt’s pyramids. This original  wall was a solid, free-standing structure built of boulders that had to be hauled from a river bed a half mile away and set in place without mortar, and is six feet six inches thick at its base. To find it archaeologists had to dig down 70 feet through the dirt and stone remains of cities and walls built through the centuries, each new one on top of the remains of an older one.
    The city covered an area of 10 acres and probably had between 2 and 3 thousand inhabitants. It lay on a natural route of the ancient world, and its people traded with travelers who desired Jericho’s manufactured goods, services, and natural resources; the latter included minerals from the nearby Dead Sea, principally salt, highly prized as a preservative, and water that still gushes up from a spring at a thousand gallons a minute. The city dwellers had their own and local sources of  food, and also traded for food with travelers. It is not certain whether or not they city people irrigated the surrounding area. The city was inhabited over a period of some 6,500 years by at least 10 different cultures, during which time it appears to have been destroyed one or more times by earthquakes and rebuilt each time. Human habitation of the city ended with the Biblical Battle of Jericho around 3,500 years ago, but any traces of the walls Joshua is reputed to have sent tumbling down have been erased by erosion. The modern city of Jericho is a cluster of lush parks, palm trees, and attractive homes, surrounded by the great expanse of the desert. It lies next to the 50 foot high mound which contains the remains of the ancient city.
    The remains of another ancient city, at least 8,500 years old, have been found in what is now south-central Turkey. As there is no record of it in any of the ancient writings it has been given the modern name “Catal Huyuk,” which means “the fork in the road.” The mound shows that the city covered 32 acres, enough to house at least 6,000 persons, the biggest site of its time yet excavated. Like Jericho, it presumably was a trading center, but evidence of many shrines indicates that it may equally have owed its existence to another function that became a feature of the developing cities: religious service.

    The departure of groups from the farming villages in the northern foothills of the Fertile Crescent actually was followed by the building of new farming villages, some of which did become cities. This occurred in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (the southeastern part of the Fertile Crescent, now in Iraq), and village-building occurred also in three other river valleys: along the Nile River in Egypt; in the vast region watered by the Indus River in Pakistan; and along the Hwang Ho (Yellow) River in China. In these four valleys farming villages sprang up, and it is through these that the main thread of our Human Story now goes.

    (However, there is so enormously much to tell about what occurred in places all over Earth, before and after the emergence of farming villages, that if even brief summaries of all places and events, or even of the more important ones, were included, this account would become far too long and complex  to serve its purpose. Therefore we will consider only the story of ancient Sumer, because of the profound influence it has had on our Human Story, right into the present.)
    To continue our Human Story, the region along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers came to be called  Mesopotamia, a Greek name which means “between the rivers.” Some of the groups which left the farming villages in the northern foothills of the Fertile Crescent moved southeast into Mesopotamia,  and built small farming villages along the two rivers. Each spring these overflowed and left coarse-textured silt, a highly productive soil, so farmers in the villages along the rivers no longer had the problem of the fertility of the soil becoming depleted (and moved to higher ground when the annual floods came). The annual rainfall was inadequate, but that was not a problem because after the flood the fields could be irrigated from the rivers; thus, agriculture on naturally-fertilized land was another quantum jump. The villagers continued to have their traditional strong sense of personal independence and democracy, the chief continued to be elected and to arbitrate but not rule, and was a chief among equals: thus was created the Third Human Paradise.

    As the farmers from the north settled along the rivers, they encountered human groups already living along the banks in the marshes and cane brakes. These people were hunting/gathering/fishing groups, and on the plain farther away from the rivers roamed nomadic herders. We can not know exactly what occurred when the farmers encountered these non-farming groups, as there is no known record.
    However, we can say that population pressures in the hills forced the colonization of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys and plains below, where rainfall was insufficient for the dry farming (farming without irrigation) which had been developed in the hills. To continue farming, the new villagers had to develop irrigation systems to water the land. The new technology demanded higher levels of social and economic complexity and in turn allowed much higher levels of population than were possible in the hills. By 5,500 years ago farming and herding had continued to move down the rivers and the plain, and a “civilization,” known as the first one, had evolved in lower Mesopotamia.

   (In his wonderful novel, “Ishmael,” Daniel Quinn put it that the farmers kept cultivating the land of the non-farming people already living there, and kept pushing them southward. He wrote that the biblical Abel, a shepherd, represented the hunter/gatherer/herders, whom he called  “keepers,” and that Cain represented the farmers, whom he called “takers.”
    Modern history records that the struggle continued when European immigrants landed on the east coast of North America and began to push the native people westward to acquire their territory, first for hunting for meat and skins, then for grazing, then for farmland. Then the farmers invaded the grazing lands of the ranchers, railroads pushed right across the continent transporting a flood of persons with them, and finally the lumber, mining, and oil and gas companies went westward and began to invade and destroy the last of the western unprotected forests and other natural areas until, very fortunately, several magnificent natural areas were made into National Parks, in the US and also around the world.
    Portuguese and Spanish explorers invaded the coasts of Central and South America and conquered the peoples living there, some of whom had already developed advanced societies.
   We can note that until recently researchers of world history tended to imagine that wherever farming centers began to spread out, the areas around them were unoccupied by other humans, but this was not the case. On the fringes of the farming world there have always been other societies practicing intermediate economies, such as the reindeer herders of Lapland and Siberia or the Bedouin camel herders of the Arabian and Saharan deserts.
    In Europe the spread of agriculture from the south-east to the north-west between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago has long been regarded as accompanying the movement of new people, i.e. the first farmers, into a sparsely inhabited environment. To the contrary, it has become increasingly clear that a vigorous hunter/gatherer population was living in most parts of Europe, and that the development of prehistoric agriculture there has to be understood as much in terms of the adaptation of existing people to new resources —   cereal grains, sheep, and goats which had been introduced to temperate Europe from the Mediterranean —   as in terms of the arrival of colonist farmers.
    Similarly, the beginnings of farming in other parts of the Eurasian and African continents had been regarded as the diffusion of ideas or people from agricultural areas in the Near East, but the variation we now see among early farming peoples across the world--- i.e. different crops and animals, different farming techniques, different time scales of development--- makes it clear that many prehistoric societies in different  parts of the world developed agricultural systems in the millennia following the end of the Ice age without any major stimulus from each other.)
    To return to our earlier Human Story, in the far south of Mesopotamia where the two rivers come together and flow into the Persian Gulf there is a broad delta area. Humans had been living there for some time, obtaining their food from the marshes and cane brakes, including the plants (fruits, berries, greens, etc.), fish, waterfowl, and other animals they found there. Excavations indicate that when the farmers from the north reached the delta, among the groups living there they may have encountered a group of persons who like themselves were non-Semitic-language-speaking persons, called Ubaidians, who obtained their food from the marshes and cane brakes. It seems that these people had been able to plan and cooperate sufficiently to dig ditches and drain some of the marshes and swamps to have solid ground and had built villages and temples. It seems that the farmers from the north may have assimilated with these people and that, as the delta was annually re-fertilized by the overflow of the rivers, together they built a great number of farming villages and became the Sumerians. (The origins of the name “Sumer” and of the “Sumerian” language are not known.) In any case, the farmers from the north did build farming villages there, the region came to be called Sumer, and its inhabitants spoke Sumerian, a non-Semitic-language.  
    Between floods the farmland had to be irrigated, and building and maintaining permanent irrigation systems both to reach existing farmland and to drain and create new farmland required organization, in order not only to dig the ditches but to keep them open of accumulating silt. The already-elected village chiefs who had worked only half-time in agriculture in order to have enough time to settle general disputes among persons, perhaps were asked to expand their duties to include full-time managing of the irrigation system, and to settling disputes about the allocation of land and water, etc, and received additional food in compensation.
    In conjunction with the farming operation, some persons continued to use some or all of their time specializing as craft persons, and bartered their wares for food, skins, and other items; money had not yet been invented. After the invention of the potter’s wheel its use also became a specialized craft, and eventually everyone was some kind of specialist, including the farmer, the herder, the fisherman, and the craftsman, and all were involved in bartering with everyone for everything. Some villages had raw materials and/or finished products that others lacked, so inter-village trade and barter were begun. At first they did not have stone or metal to work with as these were not to be found in the silt-covered areas, but eventually all necessary raw materials were brought in from other areas by traders and bartered for.
A major step which the villagers had taken was to expand their ideas for using animals for power and transportation. Although oxen were able to pull plows they were too slow to be used as pack animals, so eventually wild asses (donkeys) were captured, domesticated, and used to carry things and eventually to bear a rider. (Later, in Africa camels were domesticated and used in the same ways.)
     Probably an early step toward a village growing to become a town would have been the creation of a central market place. This probably would have occurred in an older village which had several intersecting paths connecting the farms and gardens around it. Perhaps the pattern was for growers to find a place there to set up stalls for food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, dates, beans, apples, onions, garlic, turnips, and sometimes dried fish, pork, and duck. Then a specialist, say a maker of stone tools, set up his shop next to the food stalls. Then perhaps a metal worker came, and perhaps a potter opened his shop near the two others. Then perhaps a weaver came, and an artist who sculpted or molded figurines symbolic of gods and other subjects. Probably there were street musicians, singers, dancers, acrobats, storytellers, magicians, and other performers. More and more persons in the town and from the surrounding villages were attracted to the market area for the convenience of being able to find several things in one location and to barter one kind of goods for another, and/or for the excitement of the crowd and the entertainment.
    Sometimes specialists would have a surplus of sheepskins, sacks of grain, pots, copper or gold jewelry, or other items that they had taken in trade, so a merchant would set up a store (today a “trading post” or “general store”) next to the other specialists and take whatever surplus they had in exchange for whatever supplies they needed, and people came to trade with him too. Then other specialists came, some from other villages, and set up their businesses there, so a central market place was created, and people came from other villages to shop, and sometimes to stay, and the central village became a town.
    The town grew not only in size but in the sophistication of its inhabitants. The merchants and other specialists did daily bartering, and this sharpened their wits and improved their ability to acquire surpluses of goods (capital). Then they could use these to pay workmen to build larger homes for them to live in, and pay weavers to make fine robes for them to wear, and pay other persons to perform other services, including big, well-armed guards to protect the merchants’ caravans from being raided by nomads, and to protect the merchants’ homes and businesses from thieves.
      This was a disastrous turning point in our Human Story, because what the persons who acquired a           surplus of goods learned was that they no longer had to treat others with respect in order to get their help.  Previously, getting help had required involving others in a democratic plan of cooperative action, but now merchants (capitalists) could hire persons to help them.
    On the surface of it there was nothing wrong with acquiring a surplus (capital) and using it to hire persons. This was neither illegal nor against the town’s morality of the time. It was no longer a custom to share food or goods, so one could acquire a surplus and do with it whatever one chose to. From the standpoint of the person acquiring and using a surplus, he or she was only pursuing the human goal of each human person to continually improve his or her ability to survive and enjoy being alive. Today, of course, we often hire other persons to help us do things, but we have contracts, laws, Bills of Rights, constitutions, and courts to protect persons and democracy. However, at that time these safeguards did not exist, and consequently accumulating a surplus and using it to hire others led to the breakdown of egalitarianism and democracy, and to the fall of the Third Human Paradise.

   Put very simply and clearly what occurred was that, the surplus had led to a division in the creation of wealth which led to a ruling class, which situation reversed the ideas and goals of the Human Experiment, the Human Learning System , the Cultural Process, and the human culture and social structure, and  ended the Third Paradise by destroying six of its essential elements: the ideas of personal equality, liberty and responsibility; the ideas of democracy, morality, and the opportunity for all persons to attain the human goal (which was the goal of each person to continually improve their ability to survive and enjoy being alive).
        It was also the second... and decisive... step toward the loss of their successful course, and put them on the self-destructive course on which we find ourselves today.
    This second step was actually a continuation, expansion, and solidification of the earlier step, which was noted in Chapter 3 as being that: “Previously their neocortex (third brain) was being guided by the natural forces and was doing a great job of using their self-correcting, and thereby evolving, HLS to study cause and effect in the workings of their surrounding, evolving natural environment, which produced new, logical ideas to add to their evolving culture. Now, however, humans had built an artificial environment of illusory ideas (which they thought was real and pro-human), and had made their thinking and actions more interested in its workings, and less interested in the workings of the natural environment. This altered the workings of the HLS and led to the fall of the Third Paradise.”

     My overall view is that their initial wrong step, and  all of their subsequent wrong steps, resulted basically from  their continuing success in gaining control over themselves, and subsequently over the workings of their natural environment, which success created an unconscious (perhaps instinctive) desire to keep increasing that control. Consequently they created imaginary gods and goddesses who lived in an invisible world outside theirs, and, though much more powerful than humans, thought like them, (anthropomorphism) and therefore could in some degree be controlled by humans praising them and asking for help.
    Also as previously noted, this idea was becoming popular because it seemed to give persons more control over their personal lives. However, all of this was imaginative thinking, and began to alter (unbalance) the Human Learning System by causing persons to focus more of their attention on imaginative thinking and less on logical thinking, causing the corruption of the HLS, the Cultural Process, and the Human Experiment, to which corruption we are still subject today.
    Having recalled the foregoing, we can move on to the destructive governmental effects of the rise of a ruling class. These effects began to occur around 5,500 years ago when towns emerged in the region called Sumer. The towns’ chiefs too had been acquiring goods and property, and expanding their organizing power, and were becoming more important not only in the towns, but outside them in their surrounding villages, where the village chiefs were becoming less important. Hence the farmers were losing their traditional independence of government, and democracy was failing not only in the towns but in the villages.  However, the villagers knew of nothing they could do to prevent this shift, and it did bring them two important benefits.
    One benefit was personal protection, brought in the following way. Beyond the farming villages lived nomad herders who drove their cattle, sheep, and goats from one patch of green to the next and brushed against or clashed with the farmers from time to time. If a bad year dried up water holes and scorched the pasture, some nomads were driven to attack the farming villages for food. The towns’ chiefs and town councils had created professional bodies of armed men to act as police (or soldiers) to guard their towns and keep the peace, paying them with the tribute (taxes) paid by  the townspeople. Because the villages had become increasingly important to the towns for food, a chief sent the soldiers to protect them (and subsequently to collect taxes from them).
    The second benefit came out of the necessity to enlarge and improve the irrigation system to serve the farmers. This required many men, and the centralized authority of the town was able to organize them and to manage the work. This expanded workforce made canals long and wide enough to carry considerable bodies of water, not only to irrigate farmland but to drain swamp areas and create more farmland.
    In regard to the villagers not knowing what to do to prevent losing their independence, we can note  that at that time humans were not consciously aware of “democracy” as a form of government, even though they had created and lived successfully in it for millenniums. In fact they were totally unaware of their actual Human Story, and could not know consciously that one’s only real way to pursue the human goal successfully was to participate in creating and carrying out group plans of cooperative action. One could not know that in acquiring and using a surplus one was initiating an anti-democratic trend which led to a, perhaps the, disastrous turning point in our Story for the following reasons.
    The third brain’s culture had become based on imaginative thinking and, at one level or another, was governing the thinking and behavior of everyone. Under this system the village-becoming-a-town grew not only in size and sophistication, but in its organization. It became an artificial, self-contained organism (which included its satellite food-furnishing villages) cut off from Nature and governed by a ruling class. The town’s chief had created a bureaucracy, which became a class of persons that today we call “The Establishment,” i.e. persons in authoritarian positions such as governmental, business, religious, educational, police or military, etc., who desired to retain their power and privileges. Consequently their goal became to keep things the way they were, so they did not want change, and suppressed any new ideas that even hinted at it. Thus they completely banished the Human Learning System, which action stopped the Cultural Process, which action stopped the development of the Culture, which action prevented the building of the new Culture needed for the development of their fourth brain with its greatly needed higher qualities of love, compassion, empathy, and understanding, and its advanced intellectual skills. This suppression trapped humans at the level of the existing third brain Culture and its outdated capabilities, which caused their minds to stagnate there, and their Culture to become completely corrupted, because of its being completely cut off from the influence of the workings of the Natural Environment. In other words, it stopped human evolution.
    Between 5,500 and 3,800 years ago several of such towns grew to become the great city-states which together comprised  Sumer (not Sumeria). Known as the world’s first "civilization," it was a social movement so inventive and powerful that it led 2,000 years of our Human Story and left a legacy that continues to keep us on our self-destructive course today.

    The word “civilization” comes from the Latin civis, meaning “citizen of a city.” Hence, civilization means a way of life advanced enough to include living in cities. “Advanced” means having specialists, i.e. farmers, herders, fishermen, and hunters who produce enough food to support persons who do not produce food. Some of the latter furnish manufactured goods, and others furnish services including government, religion, education, medicine, and police/military protection. Required also are math systems, writing, laws, and an accompanying form of culture.

    Our knowledge of the Sumerians comes from excavations made by cooperating teams of archaeologists and anthropologists from several nations. By digging carefully into ancient mounds they found not only the remains of streets, buildings, houses and domestic life, but thousands of clay tablets, the earliest written records of our Human Story. Thus the Sumerians had made a critical quantum jump by learning to write. From representational picture writing they had evolved into the creation of the form of written symbolism called cuneiform, which consisted of wedge-shaped symbols made by pushing a wedge-shaped stick into soft clay tablets. These were allowed to dry, or baked, to become permanent records, and today they report on all subjects of daily life in the cities, towns, and villages of Sumer.
    The writing system was extremely difficult to learn, requiring years of schooling for “scribes,” as by 5,500 years ago the written vocabulary of Uruk contained 2,000 different signs, an alphabet having not yet been invented. What we know about the lives of the Sumerians is revealed in these thousands of clay tablets which have been found in the ruins of their cities, and laboriously translated by scholars into modern languages.
    Also found were numerous small stone cylinders, invented before the development of writing and used by Sumerians to indicate personal ownership by carving a design into a stone or metal cylinder, rolling it across a wet clay tablet, and making an imprint of the design. Many of these signature designs on tablets used religious or mythological themes.

    In the Sumerian civilization the first, richest, and largest city, Uruk (called Erech in the Bible, and Warka in modern Arabic), had some 45,000 inhabitants at its height around 4,800 years ago. It had broad avenues lined with date palms, large palaces, towering temples and pyramid-like ziggurats, and grand, two-story, balconied houses of the wealthy. Other notable Sumerian city-states included Umma, Lagash, Nippur, Eridu, Kish, Sippar, Adab, Larsa, Eshnunna,  Jemdet,  Shaduppum, Isin, Nasr, Shuruppak, Mari, and the famous Ur. Sumerian buildings were made of sun-dried brick because there was no stone and little wood. Sumer’s city-states had division of labor, monumental building, organized religion, and satellite agricultural villages providing food including barley, dates, wheat, many kinds of vegetables and meats, and superb, slightly intoxicating, barley beer. Sumerians took part in the invention of writing and of the wheel (mention of which invention it seems should include the invention of the axle), helped to develop the oldest known mathematics, and developed the world’s first written law code.
    The story of Sumer is of vital importance to us today, because its rise and fall became a model for what has occurred since then. Understanding its story helps us to see why we have the opportunity to “break the mold” today. Therefore we will give it extensive consideration, keeping in mind that during it the ruling classes continued to suppress the new ideas necessary to restoring the Human Learning Process so that persons could use it to create a culture which would make it safe for the fourth brain to develop, so that persons could use its qualities to help them to evolve.
    Even with the increased protection of soldiers, some farmers and villagers desired the safety of a larger, better-organized place to live in, so they drifted toward the walled towns that were growing into walled  cities. Around 5,000 years ago there were 146 villages surrounding the village of Uruk. By 4,700 years ago so many of them had been incorporated into Uruk that their number had dwindled to 76 and Uruk had become a town. In the 300 years that followed their number shrank to 24 and Uruk had become a city-state. During the same period the number of citiy-states, at this time meaning settled areas of more than 100 acres, grew from 2 to 4 to 8.
    We can see that food production was essential not only to the creation of the second and third paradises, but to the emergence of the non-food-producing specialists in the towns and cities, including chiefs, priests, kings and other bureaucrats. Hunting/gathering societies had tended to be egalitarian, lack full-time bureaucrats and hereditary chiefs, and have small-scale political and religious organization at the level of the group or tribe, because almost all persons were engaged in acquiring food. Once food could be grown and stockpiled, a political elite could assert the right of taxation, escape the need to produce its own food, and engage full-time in religious and political activities through which they were gradually building a pyramid of power with themselves at the top (which may be the reasoning backing the statement that the invention of agriculture was out worst invention).
    With a growth in commerce, money was invented in the form of metal coins, and surplus goods could be exchanged for it. That made it easier to set values on goods and labor, and easier for the traders and merchants to obtain, store, and use personal wealth. From then on, to and including the present time, a, if not the, main made-made element guiding humans has been the acquisition and use of money, because it can give one all of the material comforts of life, plus power, which in this case means power over other persons, whether the power be economic, political, religious, military, parental, sexual, or other, and can also seem to be a way of getting “in” socially.
    As we have seen in our own time, power over other persons is something no one can handle appropriately. As the historian Lord Acton famously observed, “All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Once persons are put into positions of power, it is almost impossible for them to give them up. The need for power becomes a disease; the more power the afflicted persons acquire, the more power they feel they must have if they are not to perish. They feel they must be able to do whatever they desire to do whenever they desire to do it. They feel that they need more material things, a bigger house, more servants, more political influence, and so on.
    This situation pleases no one. The persons in power are not happy, because they are hated and afraid of being robbed, kidnaped, or assassinated by their rivals or by the people. They live in a constant state of fear and denial, blinding themselves to their cruelty by dehumanizing their victims and then despising them. In doing so they dehumanize themselves and become even more cruel. Their interest is only in what they think will be advantageous for themselves. The persons not in power are not happy, because they are angry at being forced to obey the dictates of their masters whether or not these are reasonable and/or just, and are ashamed of not being in control of their personal lives.

    Before looking further at the rise of cities we need to recall that while the farming villages were rising in the foothills, the earlier-imagined gods of the gathering/hunting groups became imagined gods who were thought to control not only humans, but the growth or failure of crops and animals. Consequently people believed it absolutely necessary to hold protective ceremonies to honor the deities and be in their favor, so each foothill village and valley village had a shaman, who in the town became a more worldly “priest,” to lead the ceremonies and honor the deities by making offerings and sacrifices to them.
    As the Sumerian form of government became less and less inclusive of all persons, the feeling of being “out” grew, and people turned increasingly to religion as a way of feeling “in.” Religion became so important in Sumerian life that by the time of the cities there were hierarchies of priests in them, and temples had become major elements. At first they were community property, built and maintained as offerings to the gods who represented the forces of Nature upon which life depended. The temples were seen as being the gods’ houses, and to them persons brought offerings of food, pottery, and sometimes figurines or ornaments.
    As food became more plentiful, the cities’ temples became repositories and redistribution centers for it, also serving as sanctuaries to the refugee, sources of relief to the needy, and major employers of workers. Soon after 5,000 years ago a temple in the city of  Lagash had a daily ration list for beer and bread for 1,200 men and women, of whom 300 were slaves. It ran a cloth workshop employing 205 women and their children as carders, spinners, and weavers. It had bakers, millers, brewers, and cooks. It also employed fishermen, herdsmen, sailors, guards, scribes, blacksmiths, and many other workers. The temple also mounted its own land and sea expeditions to bring back items such as precious stones, metals, limestone for the temple foundations, and timber for the temples and for the balconies around the second stories of the houses of the wealthy. It was in order to keep track of the temples’ activities that the Sumerians learned to do arithmetic and to write in cuneiform.
    Just as important as personal safety was the city’s promise of personal fulfillment, because a variety of roles awaited the man and woman there. In fact the city depended not only on numbers but on variety, and its concentration of numbers was possible only because its residents performed specialized duties that would be supported by the larger society. No longer was every man forced to be a hunter or a farmer, nor every woman a mother and housekeeper. From the time of the very first cities workers were needed to manufacture trade goods, conduct trades, tend shrines, do nursing and mid-wifing, build houses, create art, drive donkeys, undertake massive construction projects, and so on. The exciting variety of city life, offering the possibility of following a personal bent rather than a parent’s footsteps, must have been as powerful a lure 5,000 years ago as it is today.
    The family had always been the foundation of the Sumerian social structure; it was monogamous and patriarchal, and property was handed down from father to son. Women were respected and had the right to own property, possibly inherited from their husbands or relatives.
    As life in the cities developed there occurred a loosening of the family ties and tribal responsibilities that had been so important in the the early groups and villages, and replacing them were ties to craft and responsibilities to the city. Each craftsman belonged to a craft group, a sort of guild, and each craft was identified either by its occupation or by the name of some animal, such as the snake or ram. The craft group members’ responsibilities to the city went beyond their jobs as sculptors, painters, masons, gardeners, carpenters, potters, weavers, bakers, butchers, metal smiths and the like. If there was a crisis at an irrigation dam, for instance, they could be called up as a unit and dispatched to make emergency repairs. They could also be called to help with the harvest. If an enemy attacked a city, or if a city wanted to attack an enemy, the craftsmen were conscripted and each guild was put under the command of its foreman. Several platoons constituted a military company which was headed by an officer, and for these services the men were paid in food, clothing, or money. In this way the first standing armies were created.
    Women were primarily wives and mothers, and still respected as such, and records show that some women were engaged on their own in international trade. Some women and children were employed by the temples, and by wealthy persons as household servants, and probably were assistants in crafts and worked in market places. Probably women slaves could be used by their owners for sexual acts, and some free women may have been driven by poverty into prostitution.
    Most children’s education came from their parents, but also there were organized schools for boys to become scribes. As noted, the writing system was extremely difficult to learn, requiring years of schooling, as by 5,500 years ago the written vocabulary of Uruk contained 2,000 different signs. (An alphabet having not yet been invented.) However, success at it ensured a position among the upper classes and lifetime employment. In addition to their professional duties some of the scribes began to write narratives expressing their feelings, such as complaining about their masters, telling about arguments with fellow scribes (sometimes ridiculing each other), composing poems, and so on, using clay tablets to write on: the beginning of literature.
    The persons in the city were descended from families which had been village farmers and had left the farms and gone to the cities to enter the crafts and professions, and some of these persons still owned the family land either independently or together with several members of their families. By 5,000 years ago much of the land had been purchased in large segments by wealthy aristocrats for themselves, and by the priesthood for the temples’ holdings. By 4,800 years ago the temples still owned a good deal of land, but a large part was held by groups of wealthy citizens who bought and sold land as syndicates and corporations.
    The practices begun in Sumerian towns were continued in Sumerian city-states, on an ever- aggrandized scale. Governmental decisions were made by unelected, self-appointed city councils of wealthy, aristocratic elders and priests. When the need arose for military defense or offense the city council chose a member to function as a temporary king for the duration of the emergency, who afterward would return to his own affairs. As populations grew and city-states expanded, they fought each other increasingly for land and water rights, and this fighting between independent, politically-organized, city-states with armies was the beginning of the insanity we call “war.” The intervals of peace grew shorter and shorter, so the kings ruled for longer and longer periods of time, all the while growing more powerful, and by 2,800 years ago kings had superseded the elders and were in control of the city-states.

    However, the temple kept its firm grip on the people, so the king always sought the blessing and support of the priests in his conduct of worldly affairs. At the same time, the priests kept the right to help appoint the king or to approve the elders’ choice, and the king in turn became head priest. He enlarged and beautified the temples as a means of increasing his stature in the eyes of his subjects and the gods. The next step was for the kingship to become a hereditary monarchy. Thus were born, in Uruk and the other city-states of Sumer, three ideas that would influence human history for thousands of years: the military and political unit which was the city-state; war; and the divine right of kings.
    We can see that one reason why it was easy for the slide to occur from democracy to an elite, to kings, to king/gods, was that children had been taught about the gods and goddesses as being powerful, magical figures upon whom they depended and whom therefore they must fear, worship, and obey. As a result of this, when traders and priests in the cities acquired power, controlled the government, and hired soldiers, people had already been conditioned to fear, worship, and obey power, so they continued to be.
    Even today we tend to be impressed by persons with high rank, and by “the lifestyles of the rich and famous.” We can imagine how the common people felt when they were shoved back against buildings lining a street to let pass noble persons reclining on litters carried by slaves, the nobles dressed in richly colored robes and wearing jewels and golden crowns, and all being surrounded by large, fierce armed guards.
    Thus in Sumer the city-states had become the perfect settings for the aggrandizement of a corrupted, tyrannical, merciless, de-volving, third-brain culture, comprising hierarchies of powerful persons who claimed to be in touch with the gods, and eventually claimed even to be gods themselves, and that was why the third paradise collapsed so quickly. Adults had set themselves and their children up to become cogs in a nonhuman, anti-person machine, and had then let themselves be used to be slaughtered when one city-state’s machine was pitted against another's through the horror of war.
    Next after kings, priests, and nobles in Uruk’s hierarchy were the rich people, the big landowners, and the merchants who owned the fleets of ships that carried on extensive sea trade with places as far distant as Bahrein in the Persian Gulf, the Indus Valley cities of Moenjo-Daro and Harappa, and Egypt. Next were the lower bureaucrats and tradesmen; then sailors, farmers, fishermen, and water carriers, some employed by the temples, some by the secular aristocracy; and at the bottom were slaves.
    Slaves were a late development in Sumerian city-states, but their number grew after 5,000 years ago when there were several large city-states on the Mesopotamian plain and there was intense strife among them. Most slaves must have been prisoners captured in battle, for in Sumerian the word for “slave” derives from the word for “foreigner.” Other slaves had been impoverished nomads or marginal farmers who sold themselves and their families in bondage to the aristocrats or to the temple, in return for a roof, meals, and the security of the city’s walls.
    There may never have been great numbers of slaves in Uruk itself, but their work was important to city life. They were most often in weaving workshops, bakeries, the temple complexes, the kings’ palaces, and the households of the privileged classes. According to the records they were mostly women, but it is not certain what was done with male captives. They may have been organized into labor gangs for the military and listed in the records in a category other than slave, or they may have been considered too dangerous, and killed.
     Hence there had come into being a plutocracy (a class or group exercising governmental power based on wealth), combined with a theocracy (government by priests claiming a divine commission), and together these had replaced democracy (government by the people). Instead of being consciously considered a needed and important member of the group, the individual person had become expendable. As we know today, the human brain is an intricate and complex organ, and this radical cultural shift caused it great confusion. During the time of the villages, humans had retained the basic group bonds and customs that had given them social stability and had helped them to get along with each other and to cooperate. Now these were broken, and one could no longer be sure whom one could or could not trust.
    Consequently the new Sumerian culture did not represent or meet the basic human desires or needs of anyone. It was a “dark” culture, and makes us realize that by comparison what they had been enjoying during the three paradises was a “bright” culture. In it persons in groups were motivated to help and keep each other up, but in the dark culture they were motivated to help and keep themselves up by keeping the others down. Whereas the bright culture was an accepting and inclusive one, the dark culture became a rejecting and exclusive one. The dark culture continues to exist today and to reject everyone. This is the basic cause today sof persons being unhappy and angry, without knowing the cause. The result is that they blame each other for their problems, and this creates a horrendously miserable situation.
    Some of the unearthed clay tablets show that the Sumerians imagined a past in which people lived in a god-created paradise. This was expressed in a poetic tale that described the conflict between the king of Uruk and the distant town of Arrata, the earliest known description in writing of a paradise and the fall of humankind. The poem describes a period when there were no creatures that threatened people: no snakes, scorpions, hyenas, or lions, a period in which humans knew no terror. There was no confusion among various peoples speaking different languages, with everyone praising the god Enlil. Then something happened that enraged  Enki, the god of wisdom and water, who had organized the earth in accordance with a general plan laid down by Enlil. Enki had found some sort of inappropriate behavior among humans and decided to put an end to the Golden Age. In place of it came conflict, wars, and a confusion of languages (as in the story of the Tower of Babel).
    Also there is the story of Gilgamesh. One of the oldest epics in world literature, it is a collection of ancient folklore, tales, and myths that gradually developed into a single work. To summarize it very briefly, it centers around Gilgamesh, a powerful king of Uruk, half human and half god, about 4,700 years ago. He was a terror of a king, a man who chased girls, slaughtered wild beasts, pursued real or imagined enemies all over the country, and so upset his subjects that they appealed to the gods for help against him. In response the sky-god Anu creates the wild-man, Enkidu, to meet Gilgamesh in combat. After a mighty battle Enkidu and Gilgamesh become friends and share many adventures, until Enkidu is caused to die by the gods as punishment for his and Gilgamesh’s having killed the Bull of Heaven. As he is dying, Enkidu describes the Netherworld to Gilgamesh. He sets out to avoid Enkidu’s fate and makes a perilous journey to visit Utnapishtim and his wife in the hope of gaining immortality. They had been granted it by the gods and were the only humans to have survived the Great Flood. Along the way Gilgamesh encounters the alewife Siduri who attempts unsuccessfully to dissuade him from his quest. He completes his journey by punting across the Waters of Death with Urshanabi, the ferryman.
    Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim who tells him that the gods had decided that humans were evil and so created a great flood to drown them. He said the gods told him in advance of it to build a huge boat to preserve vegetation and “the seed of humanity.” It had rained for seven days and seven nights and his boat was “tossed about by the windstorms on the great  waters.” When the storm subsided the sun god Uta came forward and shed light on heaven and earth. The boat went aground on the top of a mountain and Utnapishtim opened a window and let in light from Uta and sent out messenger birds. Then he prostrated himself before Uta and sacrificed an ox and a sheep. Finally he and “the seed of all living things” had found a home in the land between the two rivers.
    He tells Gilgamesh that if he can stay awake for 6 days and 7 nights he will become immortal, but he falls asleep. When he wakes, Utnapishtim decides to tell him that if he can obtain a certain plant from the bottom of the sea he will become young again. He obtains the plant, but does not eat it immediately because he wants to share it with the other elders of Uruk. He places the plant on the shore of a lake and while he bathes it is stolen by a snake. Gilgamesh returns to Uruk where the sight of its massive walls motivates him to praise this enduring work of mortal men. He sees  that the way mortals can achieve immortality is through lasting works of civilization and culture.
    (According to the Greek scholar Ioannis Kordatos there is a large number of parallel verses as well as themes or episodes which indicate a substantial influence of the Epic of Gilgamesh on the Odyssey, the Greek epic poem ascribed to the poet Homer. Thus the story of Gilgamesh foreshadowed not only the Biblical story of Noah,  but also the wanderings of Odysseus and Hercules. The tale was written down first in Sumerian, then in Akkadian, Hittite and, in one variation or another, eventually in almost all the languages of the Near East.)

    The Sumerian kings built palaces that rivaled even the monumental pyramid-like ziggurats in area. One king’s palace erected in the city of Mari covered more than eight and a half acres and its central courtyard was paved with precious alabaster. Other courts had frescoes portraying deities and the kings’ military exploits. Some palaces had as many as 300 rooms for the family, court officials, guards, servants, and guests. When kings died their tombs were filled with exquisite bowls and other vessels of silver and gold, cult figures of lapis lazuli, and gold daggers of exquisite artistry. Before 5,000 years ago Sumerians had discovered how to combine tin and copper to make bronze, and weapons made of it were found. Also found were decorative figurines of animals, carts and chariots, and ceramic jewelry whose beauty went unequaled for centuries.
    In death the Sumerian kings were as self-centered as in life. From the royal tombs of Ur have come not only objects of art but also the remains of full-size ceremonial chariots complete with the remains of oxen, soldiers, guards, musicians, and dignitaries of the court. While still alive they were drugged and then entombed along with their dead rulers. Human sacrifice was a conspicuous feature of the last rites for a monarch; one tomb yielded 74 members of the royal retinue who went to the grave with the king, presumably to be handy for service in an afterlife. Perhaps a king believed that he was being generous to the ones who were entombed with him, as they were getting a free ride with him to an afterlife. Still, he could have asked.
    Just as it does today, the variety of populous life of that time produced differing opinions on all subjects social, economic, and political. Sumerians complained, and one wrote that he was a “thoroughbred steed” but pulling a cart carrying “reeds and stubble.” Another complained in writing of the stupidity in one city taking enemy lands and then the enemy coming and taking them back. Rather than merely complaining, people in the city of Lagash instigated history’s first recorded revolt. This came after Lagash’s rulers had increased local taxes and restricted personal freedoms. Also, Lagash’s bureaucrats had grown in wealth, and the people resented these affronts enough to overthrow their king and bring to power a god-fearing, law-respecting king named Urukagina, who eliminated excessive taxation and rid the city of usurers, thieves, and murderers: the first-known reforms.
    As the use of writing increased in Sumer, businessmen wrote down their transactions. Sometimes these were later used to settle disputes and eventually the accumulated actions, along with the laws which had been passed down by word of mouth, were made into a written code by Ur-Nammu, a Sumerian king who reigned about 4,100 years ago. His code predates by more than 300 years the code of Hammurabi, a king of Babylon who about 3,750 years ago set down a series of minutely detailed laws that was long believed to have been the first law code in the world, and it predates the Ten Commandments by almost 1,000 years. In Ur-Nammu’s code the penalties were enlightened, generally prescribing fines instead of physical punishment. The fines were paid in silver shekels and silver minas, which shows that money had come into use by then.
    Common Sumerians remained illiterate, and though they were once the electorate, they had lost their power completely and become subject to tyranny. The monarch was viewed as an agent of and responsible to the gods, and it was the religious duty of his subjects to accept his rule as a part of the plan of the gods. Common people were obliged to pay taxes to the government in the form of a percentage of their crops, which the city could either trade away or use to feed its soldiers and the others it supported.    
    Thus out of a division in the creation of wealth came personal power and a new human plan by which government passed from the villagers to a chief and priest in the town, to an elite in the city, to a dictator/king, who became a hereditary monarch.
    It could be said that the third human paradise was officially over when the persons in the Sumerian villages lost democratic government and the traditional independence they had enjoyed through it. From the human beginning up to this loss of democracy and personal freedom, except for some setbacks which were always overcome, people had been moving gradually toward attainment of the human goal of each person to continuously improve his or her ability to survive and enjoy being alive through participating in creating and carrying out group plans (ideas) forooperative action. However, as we shall see, the loss of democracy in the Sumerian agricultural villages grew to become such a serious setback that it was a very long time before persons could begin to recover and again move toward attainment of the goal.
    During the time of the Sumerian elites the insanity called war was invented and city-states fought each other. Instead of being inspired by their leaders to work together, people were forced to kill each other, and to kill prisoners or make them slaves. The victims were not only those who were killed or disabled or enslaved, but the ones who were forced to commit these wretched acts. Killing or disabling or enslaving others is wrenching to the human mind and spirit
    However, it is important to recognize that during the two thousand years of Sumerian activity  persons had opportunities to open their minds in ways which are necessary for democracy today. One way was that the city offered the opportunity for a person to think of new possibilities for personal fulfilment. Four other ways resulted from the invention of writing:
 - Laws were put into writing, and that led eventually to crucial elements such as courts of law, the English Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence by the American Colonies, the Constitution of the USA, the Charter of the United Nations Organization (UN), and other such documents..
 - Laws had been passed down vocally from generation to generation, and it was believed that they had been made by the gods and could not be changed. When Sumerians began to put the laws into writing their intended purpose was to standardize and clarify them, but as they did they generalized them, and added to them, and began to realize that new laws were being created by themselves, not by their gods.
 - Scribes began to write complaints, poems, hymns, proverbs, essays, and epics, the beginning of  literature, some of which led to modern democracy.
 - Clay tablets tell us the history of the changes in the social structure, what succeeded and what failed, and we can benefit from this experience.
    Thus the new way of life in towns and city-statesaffected all aspects of human thought and activity and became the pattern for all that followed, even to the present time.

    The Sumerians were a mixture of peoples and ethnicities and, as noted, the origin of their language is not known, but it was non-Semitic. While Sumer was growing, peoples moved into Mesopotamia, probably from the west, and adopted much of the Sumerian culture, but they spoke Akkadian, a Semitic language similar to Arabic and Hebrew. Because the Sumerian cities fought each other they were vulnerable to attack from outside. During this fighting, in an obscure city in northern Mesopotamia an Akkadian-speaking man named Sargon rose to power and gave the city the name of “Akkad.” Starting around 4,300 years ago as King Sargon the First, he conquered all of Sumer, then extended his empire both eastward and westward, and ruled for 35 years. It would seem that his people were still bonded by tribal customs and loyalties which could inspire them to be a formidable fighting force. Under Sargon the Akkadian language displaced the older Sumerian language, but he
 united the Sumerian city-states and preserved and advanced the Sumerian culture.
    His dynasty lasted 160 years and was destroyed by the Gutian tribe from the Zagros Mountains.

   NOTE: to go to Chapter 6, scroll up through Chapter 5 to top of page.

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