Settlements > Eridu
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The ruins of Eridu in 2011.
Eridu is located in Iraq Eridu
Shown within Iraq
Location Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq
Coordinates 30°48′57″N 45°59′46″ECoordinates: 30°48′57″N 45°59′46″E
Area At most 10 ha (25 acres)
Founded Approximately 54th century BCE
Abandoned Approximately 6th century BCE
Eridu (Cuneiform: NUN.KI 𒉣𒆠; Sumerian: eriduki; Akkadian: irîtu modern Arabic: Tell Abu Shahrain) is an archaeological site in southern Mesopotamia (modern Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq). Eridu was long considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia and is still today argued to be the oldest city in the world. Located 12 km southwest of Ur, Eridu was the southernmost of a conglomeration of Sumerian cities that grew around temples, almost in sight of one another. These buildings were made of mud brick and built on top of one another. With the temples growing upward and the village growing outward, a larger city was built. In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was originally the home of Enki, later known by the Akkadians as Ea, who was considered to have founded the city. His temple was called E-Abzu, as Enki was believed to live in Abzu, an aquifer from which all life was believed to stem.
1 History of research
3.1 Possible location of Tower of Babel
4.1 House of the Aquifer (E-Abzu)
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
History of research
E-abzu temple of Eridu
The site at Tel Abu Shahrain, near Basra, has been excavated 4 times. It was initially excavated by John George Taylor in 1855, R. Campbell Thompson in 1918, and H.R. Hall in 1919. Excavation there resumed from 1946 to 1949 under Fuad Safar and Seton Lloyd of the Iraqi Directorate General of Antiquities and Heritage. These archaeological investigations showed that, according to Oppenheim, "eventually the entire south lapsed into stagnation, abandoning the political initiative to the rulers of the northern cities," probably as a result of increasing salinity produced by continuous irrigation and the city was abandoned in 600 BC.
Eridu, also transliterated as Eridug, could mean "mighty place" or "guidance place". In the Sumerian King List, Eridu is named as the city of the first kings. The king list continues:
In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalngar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.
The king list gave particularly long reigns to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred, and shows how the centre of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country. Adapa, a man of Eridu, is depicted as an early culture hero. Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea (Abgallu, from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man), he was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim.
In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was the home of the Abzu temple of the god Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian god Ea, god of deep waters, wisdom and magic. Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god, who came to share, according to the later cosmology, with Anu and Enlil, the rule of the cosmos. His kingdom was the sweet waters that lay below earth (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).
The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization. At first Enki, the god of Eridu attempted to retrieve these sources of his power, but later willingly accepted that Uruk now was the centre of the land. This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward.
Babylonian texts talk of the foundation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, "the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight".
In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient's body, and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.
Re-creation of the port at Eridu.
According to the Sumerian kinglist Eridu was the first city in the World. The opening line reads,
"[nam]-lugal an-ta èd-dè-a-ba
"When kingship from heaven was lowered,
the kingship was in Eridu."
In Sumerian mythology, it was said to be one of the five cities built before the Deluge occurred.
Eridu appears to be the earliest settlement in the region, founded ca. 5400 BC, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River. Because of accumulation of silt at the shoreline over the millennia, the remains of Eridu are now some distance from the gulf at Abu Shahrain in Iraq. Excavation has shown that the city was originally founded on a virgin sand-dune site with no previous occupation. P. Steinkeller has hypothesised that the earliest divinity at Eridu was a Goddess, who later emerged as the Earth Goddess Ninhursag (Nin = lade, Hur = Mountain, Sag = Sacred), with the later growth in Enki as a male divinity the result of a hieros gamos, with a male divinity or functionary of the temple.
According to Gwendolyn Leick, Eridu was formed at the confluence of three separate ecosystems, supporting three distinct lifestyles, that led by the Abgallu (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = man) came to an agreement about access to fresh water in a desert environment. The oldest agrarian settlement seems to have been based upon intensive subsistence irrigation agriculture derived from the Samarra culture to the north, characterised by the building of canals, and mud-brick buildings. The fisher-hunter cultures of the Arabian littoral were responsible for the extensive middens along the Arabian shoreline, and may have been the original Sumerians. They seem to have dwelt in reed huts. The third culture that contributed to the building of Eridu were the Semitic-speaking nomadic herders of herds of sheep and goats living in tents in semi-desert areas. All three cultures seem implicated in the earliest levels of the city. The urban settlement was centered on an impressive temple complex built of mudbrick, within a small depression that allowed water to accumulate.
Kate Fielden reports "The earliest village settlement (c.5000 BC) had grown into a substantial city of mudbrick and reed houses by c.2900 BC, covering 8-10 ha (20-25 acres). Mallowan writes that by the Ubaid period, it was as an "unusually large city" of an area of approx. 20¬25 acres, with a population of "not less than 4000 souls". Jacobsen describes that "Eridu was for all practical purposes abandoned after the Ubaid period", although it had recovered by Early Dynastic II as there was a Massive Early Dynastic II palace (100 m in each direction) partially excavated there. Ruth Whitehouse called it "a Major Early Dynastic City". By c.2050 BC the city had declined; there is little evidence of occupation after that date. Eighteen superimposed mudbrick temples at the site underlie the unfinished Ziggurat of Amar-Sin (c. 2047 – 2039 BC). The finding of extensive deposits of fishbones associated with the earliest levels also shows a continuity of the Abzu cult associated later with Enki and Ea. This apparent continuity of occupation and religious observance at Eridu provide convincing evidence for the indigenous origin of Sumerian civilization.
Eridu was abandoned for long periods, before it was finally deserted and allowed to fall into ruin in the 6th century BC. The encroachment of neighbouring sand dunes, and the rise of a saline water table, set early limits to its agricultural base so in its later Neo-Babylonian development, Eridu was rebuilt as a purely temple site, in honour of its earliest history.
Possible location of Tower of Babel
The Egyptologist David Rohl has conjectured that Eridu, to the south of Ur, was the original Babel and site of the Tower of Babel, rather than the later city of Babylon. although this belief is not widely held.
Other scholars have discussed at length a number of additional correspondences between the names of "Babylon" and "Eridu". Historical tablets state that Sargon of Akkad (ca. 2300 BC) dug up the original "Babylon" and rebuilt it near Akkad, though some scholars suspect this may in fact refer to the much later Assyrian king Sargon II.
The urban nucleus of Eridu was Enki's temple, called House of the Aquifer (Cuneiform: 𒂍𒍪 𒀊, E2.ZU.AB; Sumerian: e2-abzu; Akkadian: bītu apsû), which in later history was called House of the Waters (Cuneiform: 𒂍𒇉, E2.LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: e2-engur; Akkadian: bītu engurru). The name refers to Enki's realm. His consort Ninhursanga had a nearby temple at Ubaid.
During the Ur III period a ziggurat was built over the remains of previous temples by Ur-Nammu.
Aside from Enmerkar of Uruk (as mentioned in the Aratta epics), several later historical Sumerian kings are said in inscriptions found here to have worked on or renewed the e-abzu temple, including Elili of Ur; Ur-Nammu, Shulgi and Amar-Sin of Ur-III, and Nur-Adad of Larsa.
House of the Aquifer (E-Abzu)
Level Date (B.C.) Period Size (m) Note
XVIII 5300 - 3×0.3 Sleeper walls
XVII 5300–5000 - 2.8×2.8 First cella
XVI 5300–4500 Early Ubaid 3.5×3.5
XV 5000–4500 Early Ubaid 7.3×8.4
XIV 5000–4500 Early Ubaid - No structure found
XIII 5000–4500 Early Ubaid - No structure found
XII 5000–4500 Early Ubaid - No structure found
XI 4500–4000 Ubaid 4.5×12.6 First platform
X 4500–4000 Ubaid 5×13
IX 4500–4000 Ubaid 4×10
VIII 4500–4000 Ubaid 18×11
VII 4000–3800 Ubaid 17×12
VI 4000–3800 Ubaid 22×9
V 3800–3500 Early Uruk - Only platform remains
IV 3800–3500 Early Uruk - Only platform remains
III 3800–3500 Early Uruk - Only platform remains
II 3500–3200 Early Uruk - Only platform remains
I 3200 Early Uruk - Only platform remains
See also Ancient Near East portal
Cities of the Ancient Near East
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Jump up ^ Safar, Fuad; Mustafa, MA; Lloyd, Seton (1981), Eridu, Iraq: Ministry of Culture and Information, State Organization of Antiquites and Heritage
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Jump up ^ Leick, Gwendolyn (2001), "Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City" (Allen Lane)
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Jump up ^ Modelski, https://faculty.washington.edu/modelski/WCITI2.html accessed 17/12/2013
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Jump up ^ Whitehouse, Ruth (1977), "The First Cities", (Oxford: Phaidon)
Jump up ^ Rohl, David (2000), Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation, Arrow, ISBN 0-09-979991-X
Jump up ^ Rohl, David (2002), The Lost Testament — From Eden to Exile: The Five-Thousand-Year History of the People of the Bible, Century, ISBN 0-7126-6993-0
Jump up ^ McFall, Leslie "Critique of David Rohl" (https://lmf12.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/critique_of_david_rohl.pdf) accessed 24/8/2016
Jump up ^ Dalley, Stephanie (2005), "Babylon as a Name for Other Cities Including Nineveh", Proceedings of the 51st Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (PDF) (62), Oriental Institute SAOC, pp. 25–33 discusses the well-known interchangeability of "Babylon" and "Eridu" in ancient texts, and proposes a hypothesis that the name "Babylon" was also applied to many other cities in Mesopotamia at times, including Nineveh.
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Green, Margaret Whitney (1975). Eridu in Sumerian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago.
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Oppenheim, A. Leo (1998). Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a dead civilization (Rev., 11th impr. ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-63187-7.
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Reconstruction of Temple at Eridu, Massart
Recent photos of Eridu, The British Museum
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Sumerian Eridu City-State and Ubaid Phase 1 (Tell Abu Shahrain) in Iraq The History of the Ancient Near East