12: Ubaid daily life & the ”Sumerian question”, 6500-4200 BCE (Enki & the world order)

The Drumbeat Forever After

29-11-2021 • 52 mins

(Re-recorded as of June 30, 2022)

Guests: Kelsey, Michaela, Annika

First, Enki, patron god of Eridu, creates the world, invents agriculture, blesses foreign lands, and produces the Tigris and the Euphrates as part of an extremely convoluted and mildly unsettling metaphor.

Then, we visit Eridu, the first city in Sumerian legendary history, and possibly the oldest continuously occupied settlement when the first historical texts were written. What can it tell us about life during the Ubaid?

Then, we follow the extended household (which first developed during the Pottery Neolithic in the north) as its Ubaid incarnation spreads across the Near East. Also, we look at the relationship between women and these new social institutions.

Then, we visit one of the most famous cities in Mesopotamia in its infancy. Ur, home to Enheduanna and Shulgi and the biblical Abraham, has a long history ahead of it, and its earliest levels date to the Ubaid. We also visit the nearby site of the eponymous al-'Ubaid.

Then, a look at domestic life during the Ubaid. Also, just for fun, head-shaping!

Then, we tackle the "Sumerian question": what can we know about the language(s) spoken in the alluvium over a millennium before the development of written language? (In other words, "were they Sumerians?") Along the way, we raise a few other questions: how would we know if it replaced other, earlier languages? How much of a language's history appears in its vocabulary? Can there even be such thing as a proto-Sumerian language unaffected by contact with any other language?

Finally, Inanna confronts Enki about ignoring her in his cosmic plan, so he grants her the heaping up of human heads like piles of dust, among other blessings. How does she feel about that? We actually won't find out!

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Works cited