Period of Uruk
One calls period of Uruk a developmental stage protohistoric of the Mésopotamie, which sees the appearance of the writing and the civilization sumérienne.
The chronology of the period of Uruk is based on the Stratigraphie ² of sites mésopotamiens, initially Uruk, the site éponyme.
old Uruk : 4100-3800 av. J. - C.;
- average Uruk : 3800-3300 av. J. - C.,
- recent Uruk / Djemdet Nasr : 3300-3000.
The period of Uruk is divided into three under-periods (the dating is approximate). The last is named Period of Djemdet Nasr, according to a site located into Low Mésopotamie. It presents in fact only very few differences compared to the previous periods, in the continuity of which it is placed.
The chronology of this period is very discussed, mainly because of the difficulty which test the specialists to establish of synchronisms between the various archeological sites.
The evolution of the period of Uruk even is another point of debate. One can nevertheless try to reconstitute it in a vague way. The first phase sees the development of the large urban centres of Low-Mésopotamie, with the beginning of the expansion towards the close areas. The second period is that of the consolidation of the system, the process of appearance of the cities, the state, the tools of administration and accountancy, whose writing, is achieved, and it is at the final period that it is completed. One however notes an increase in the regional differences during this last phase, which opens over the following period, during which the Middle East becomes more disparâte.
Uruk and Low Mésopotamie
Uruk is the site éponyme of this period. It is more the big city which was found for this period, and by far: its surface passes from 100 to 230 ha during, that is to say three to four times more than the other great contemporary sites. The back country of Uruk also was very populated. The city was probably strengthened, and had an imposing monumental architecture: the Calcareous Temple of the level V (beginning of recent Uruk), various “temples” of level IV of the Eanna, and the “ziggourat of Anu” surmounted by the White Temple with Kullab. Other nearby sites are important, like Eridu, Ur, Such Uqair and Djemdet Nasr.
Suse and Iranian Plateau
The area of Suse is in the direct vicinity of Low-Mésopotamie, even if the extension of the Persian Gulf, which went up much higher than today, undoubtedly prevented the direct communications between these two areas via the littoral. The levels of the period of Uruk correspond to those of Suse I (C. 4000-3700) and Suse II (C. 3700-3100). Level I sees the construction of a High Terrasse monumental. Other nearby sites delivered levels of these periods, like Djaffarabad or Choga Mish. More in north towards the Iranian Plate, the site of Godin Tepe is also representative of the period of Uruk.
Syria of North
Several important sites of the period of Uruk were excavated in the area of the Means Euphrate. Most known is Habuba Kabira, a strengthened port where one could excavate several old districts of dwelling. It presents similarities with two close sites, Djebel Aruda and Sheikh Hassan. More recently, the site of Hamoukar was put at the day.
Without being in the zone of extension of civilization urukéenne, the contemporary sites of Anatolia of south-east are in the orbit of this one. Most characteristic is Arslantepe, located in the suburbs of current the Malatya. More in the south, one knows Hassek Höyük and Samsat, located on the Euphrate, in contact with the sites urukéens of the Means-Euphrate.
Contributions of the period of Uruk
Appearance of the cities and the State
The period of Uruk sees certain human habitats taking a new importance, which makes them pass to the row of cities strictly speaking. The site of Uruk is far in front of the others, as well by its surface, as by the size of the monuments which are there and the importance of the administrative tools that one exhumed there, testifying to the presence of an important center to be able. The same phenomenon is located with Eridu, Suse, Choga Mish. The site of Habuba Kabira, one of best known for this period, testifies to a built urban fabric in a planned way. In periphery, the site of Arslantepe is an important place to be able, but there is not a great zone of habitat of the urban type.
The appearance of the cities testifies to the existence to hierarchical companies, very organized. The period of Uruk shows for the first time in the history of the Middle East the characteristics of the existence of States, even of simple microphone-states. Monumental architecture is more imposing, testifying to a capacity to mobilize many resources human and material, many specialized trades develop, the tombs show a difference in increasing richness, etc
The 4th millenium sees the appearance of new tools which will upset the companies which use them. Some of them, already known at the previous period, for the first time are in any case used with large scales. Among the most determining innovations, one with the Wheel, the veil, the turn of the potter, the Swing-plow, and the use of cooked brick and Bitumen in architecture.
Administration and accountancy
The appearance of the State is done with the development of the administrative tools, and thus of the tools of accountancy. The seals being used to seal the stored or exchanged goods, or to identify a merchant or an administrator are known since at least it With the development of the exchanges with long distance, their use of generalizes. During the period of Uruk, the cylinder seals appear and supplant the simple seals. They remain an element characteristic of close relation-Eastern civilization during several millenia.
The period of Uruk also sees developing the tools of accountancy, often perceived like forms of pre-writing. One makes clay bubbles containing of the tokens which one calls calculi . Their form varied: sometimes balls, then cones, sticks, discs, etc Each one of these models is undoubtedly used to identify a precise type of goods. If one made use already for some time of these objects to count, their new use enabled them to be used to store the information (on the business transactions especially), and to transfer them in other places. Thereafter, one deferred the calculi on the bubbles in the form of notches, which were used to show the contents of the bubble, and thus the goods sent. One would have been then satisfied then simply to defer these notches on a clay shelf. This model of evolution, rather theoretical, is sometimes disputed, but remains an attempt interesting to explain the evolution of the forms of accountancy at this period.
Appearance of the writing
See also: Beginnings of the writing in Mésopotamie
Derived or not from the systems of accountancy which develop in the previous centuries, the writing appears at the period of average Uruk, before developing in recent Uruk. The first written shelves are attested with Uruk IV and also with Suse. The texts of this period are especially of administrative type, and are especially found in a context which seems to be public (palate or temple) more than private. Their interpretation poses problem, because of their antiquated character. For the period of recent Uruk/Djemdet Nasr, one lays out of more than sources, coming of more than sites: Uruk (level III), Suse, but also Djemdet Nasr, Such Uqair, Umma, Khafadje, Such Asmar, Ninive, Such Brak, Habuba Kabira, etc the texts remain especially of countable nature, but one finds also lexical Listes.
The civilization of Uruk
From the technical point of view, architecture progresses considerably. One uses cooked bricks, extremely solid, for the coating of certain buildings. One starts to use of bitumen, for the sealing of the irrigation canals. Monumental architecture becomes new extensive, as attest it the High Terrace of Suse I, the “temples” of the Eanna or the monuments of Kullab to Uruk IV. Their walls are sometimes painted, or decorated with painted clay cones forming a mosaic. If the architectural style falls under the line line of the Period of Obeïd, one is now in the presence of monuments much more imposing, testifying to the existence of very organized communities. The habitat is arranged hierarchically besides than at the previous periods and the distinction is done from now on in urban space between central zone (public and/or crowned) and residential zone or artisanal.
Craft industry and Art
The period of Uruk sees the appearance of the turn of the potter, allowing the ceramics clothes industry in great quantity. The most widespread model of this time is that of the bevelled-rims bowls (“bowls on bevelled board”), which is found in all the zone of expansion of the civilization of Uruk. Is their function discussed (for food intakes? for the funerary worship?). Concurrently to this rudimentary model, one knows several other styles of pottery of better invoice for the period of Uruk, as well as true works of art, like the large alabaster mud of Uruk III, preserved at the Museum of Baghdad.
Many the Sceaux-cylindres found for the period of Uruk was the subject of many studies. It is about best testimony on the mental universe of people of this time, and were undoubtedly used for to diffuse messages symbolic systems at long distances. The style of this period is enough varied, but takes a rather realistic aspect, representing scenes of the daily life, or hunting, war. Other scenes represent animals, sometimes in human attitudes. Certain representations undoubtedly take again mythological scenes, unfortunately imperceptible for us.
The sculptures follow a style and topics present in the glyptique one. One carries out statues in round bump, of small size, representative of the divinities or a “king-priest”. The artists of the period of Uruk also carried out low-reliefs, as well as steles, as that of “hunting for the lion”, found with Uruk III.
The base of the economy of the period of Uruk is the agriculture. Into low Mésopotamie, the Irrigation improves. With the development of the use of the Swing-plow, agriculture becomes more powerful. The breeding also is very practiced, for the meat, the Lait or the Laine. The administrative texts often show purchases or sales of animals, and relate to also artisanal work. A lexical Liste at that time indexes the principal trades practiced into low Mésopotamie.
The trade on long distance makes considerable great strides at this period. The archaeological excavations showed that materials and objects exchange on all the the Middle East urukéen. Certain sites, like Habuba Kabira, Djebel Aruda or Godin Tepe appear to be commercial counters visited by merchants urukéens, or others. The tools of accountancy also are very much used for the trade, and they are attested on all the principal sites of this period.
The political organization of the period of Uruk remains discussed. Nothing makes it possible to say that this period sees the development of a kind of “proto-empire” centered on Uruk. But it is obvious that this period knows great changes with regard to the political organization of the companies, with the appearance of the official apparatus. With regard to the nature of the capacity, one for a long time noticed the presence in the iconography of the time of the figure of the “king-priest”, character sometimes represented like a warrior or a hunter, sometimes like achieving a ritual. This accounts for two of the functions which the kings of Sumer have thereafter. If the administrative shelves do not indicate to us with file of which organization they do belong (palate or temple?), they show the existence of organizations in any case playing a big role in the company and economics, and undoubtedly politics of the period.
The expansion urukéenne
The characteristics of the civilization of Uruk being found on a very vast territory (of the Syria of North to the Iranian Plate), with low Mésopotamie like centers indubitable this one, brought the archeologist which studied this period to be spoken about expansion urukéenne.
Guillermo Algaze took again the theories of “system-world” to apply them to the period of Uruk. According to its theories, which were a certain success, the “Urukéens” would have created a whole of colonies out basic Mésopotamie, initially into high Mésopotamie, then in Susiane and towards the Iranian Plateau. It was indeed often noted that the site of Habuba Kabira showed the characteristics of a colony which would have been created by basic people Mésopotamie: planned construction, evidence of bonds with many areas of the the Middle East, with a typical material culture of the civilization of Uruk. It would be only one simple example of many colonies created by the “Urukéens”. Lately, the site of Hamoukar was the subject of an assumption which would present the expansion urukéenne under one day more violent: the site present of the traces of violent battle followed by a fire, which according to its digger would be a proof of the catch of the city by Urukéens, of which the pottery characteristic invades the site right afterwards.
This theory was criticized, in particular owing to the fact that the civilization of Uruk even remains rather badly known into low Mésopotamie apart from Uruk, and that the chronology is far from being established in a reliable way for this period, making difficult the dating of this expansion. The vision of a colonization urukéenne in Susiane it was also criticized for reasons of chronology. In a general way it is the idea of colonization which was moderate, for in certain unquestionable places prefer to see a simple cultural emulation coming from Uruk. It should indeed be noticed that each area has its specificities.
Nevertheless this period sees low Mésopotamie clearly being the center of a culture which radiates on all Middle East. Uruk is the most important urban center of this period (on a worldwide scale). The civilization of Uruk influences the outlying areas of the Iranian Plateau (Godin Tepe, Tepe Sialk), of Anatolia (Arslantepe), and perhaps even of the predynastic Egypt contemporary (Bouto), where certain things point out features of civilization urukéenne (painted terra cotta cones, artistic topics). This last point remains nevertheless discussed, in the absence of more convincing evidence.
To summarize, one can take again what J wrote. - L. Huot: “the time of Uruk, between Prehistory and History, is a phase founder whose shocks were felt far. One sometimes spoke about " mésopotamo-centrisme". If one moment ago when one can do it, it is well that one. ”
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