Ruins of Kish at time of excavation

Kish (Sumerian: Kiš; Akkadian: kiššatu, modern Tell al-Uhaymir) is an important archaeological site in Babil Governorate (Iraq). It was occupied from the Ubaid to Hellenistic periods.

History :

The ancient cities of Sumer

Kish was occupied from the Ubaid period (c.5300-4300 BC), gaining prominence as one of the pre-eminent powers in the region during the Early Dynastic Period.

First Dynasty of Kish :

The Sumerian king list states that Kish was the first city to have kings following the deluge, beginning with Jushur. Jushur's successor is called Kullassina-bel, but this is actually a sentence in Akkadian meaning "All of them were lord". Thus, some scholars have suggested that this may have been intended to signify the absence of a central authority in Kish for a time. The names of the next nine kings of Kish preceding Etana are Nanjiclicma, En-tarah-ana, Babum, Puannum, Kalibum, Kalumum, Zuqaqip, Aba, Macda, and Arwium. These names are all Akkadian words for animals, e.g. Zuqaqip "scorpion". The East Semitic nature of these and other early names associated with Kish reveals that its population had a strong Semitic (Akkadian speaking) component from the dawn of recorded history. Ignace Gelb identified Kish as the center of the earliest East Semitic culture which he calls the Kish civilization. After the twelve kings a massive flood devastated Mesopotamia. According to the Sumerians, after the flood Ishtar gave the kingship to Etana. Ancient Sumerian sources describe Etana as 'the shepherd who ascended to Heaven and made firm all the lands'. This implies that the historical Etana stabilized the kingdom by bringing peace and order to the area after the Flood. Etana is also sometimes credited with the founding of Kish.

The twenty-first king of Kish on the list, Enmebaragesi, who is said to have captured the weapons of Elam, is the first name confirmed by archaeological finds from his reign. He is also known through other literary references, in which he and his son Aga of Kish are portrayed as contemporary rivals of Dumuzid, the Fisherman, and Gilgamesh, early rulers of Uruk.

Some early kings of Kish are known through archaeology, but are not named on the King list. These include Utug or Uhub, said to have defeated Hamazi in the earliest days, and Mesilim, who built temples in Adab and Lagash, where he seems to have exercised some control.

Third Dynasty of Kish (c. 2500 - 2330 BC) :

Mesannepada, Lugal Kish-ki, "Mesannepada, King of Kish", on a seal impression found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The last column of characters, is thought to mean "his wife..." (dam-nu-gig)

The Third Dynasty of Kish is unique in that it begins with a woman, previously a tavern keeper, Kubau, as "king". She was later deified as the goddess Kheba.

Afterwards, although its military and economic power was diminished, Kish retained a strong political and symbolic significance. Just as with Nippur to the south, control of Kish was a prime element in legitimizing dominance over the north of Mesopotamia (Assyria, Subartu). Because of the city's symbolic value, strong rulers later claimed the traditional title "King of Kish", even if they were from Akkad, Ur, Assyria, Isin, Larsa or Babylon. One of the earliest to adopt this title upon subjecting Kish to his empire was King Mesannepada of Ur, as well as Mesilim. A few governors of Kish for other powers in later times are also known, including Ashduniarim and Iawium.

Sargon of Akkad, the founder of the Akkadian Empire, came from the area near Kish, called Azupiranu. He would later declare himself the king of Kish, as an attempt to signify his connection to the religiously important area. In Akkadian times the city's patron deity was Zababa (or Zamama).

Later history :

Macehead inscription of Manishtushu, ruler of the Akkadian Empire: Manishtushu Lugal Kish, "Manishtushu King of Kish"

After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, Kish became the capital of a small independent kingdom. One king, named Ashduniarim, ruled around the same time as Lipit-Ishtar of Isin. By the early part of the First Dynasty of Babylon, during the reigns of Subahu / Sumu-abum and Atithi / Sumu-la-El, Kish appears to have come under the rule of another city-state, possibly Kutha. Iawium, king of Kish around this time, ruled as a vassal of kings named Halium and Manana. Sumu-la-El conquered Kish and, later, subjugated Halium and Manana, bringing their territories into the expanding Babylonian Empire. The First Dynasty kings Hammurabi and Samsu-iluna undertook construction at Kish, with the former restoring the city's ziggurat and the latter building a wall around Kish. By this time, the eastern settlement at Hursagkalama had become viewed as a distinct city, and it was probably not included in the walled area.

After the Old Babylonian period, however, Kish appears to have declined in importance; it is only mentioned in a few documents from the later second millennium BCE. During the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, Kish is mentioned more frequently in texts. However, by this time, Kish proper (Tell al-Uhaymir) had been almost completely abandoned, and the settlement that texts from this period call "Kish" was probably Hursagkalama (Tell Ingharra).

After the Achaemenid period, Kish completely disappears from the historical record; however, archaeological evidence indicates that the town remained in existence for a long time thereafter. Although the site at Tell al-Uhaymir was mostly abandoned, Tell Ingharra was revived during the Parthian period, growing into a sizeable town with a large mud-brick fortress. During the Sasanian period, the site of the old city was completely abandoned in favor of a string of connected settlements spread out along both sides of the Shatt en-Nil canal. This last incarnation of Kish prospered under Sasanian and then Islamic rule, before finally abandoned during the later years of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258).

Archaeology :

Kish is located east of Babylon and 80 km (50 mi) south of Baghdad. The Kish archaeological site is an oval area roughly 8 by 3 km (5 by 2 mi), transected by the dry former bed of the Euphrates River, encompassing around 40 mounds, the largest being Uhaimir and Ingharra. The most notable mounds are :

Tell Uhaimir – believed to be the location of the city of Kish. It means "the red" after the red bricks of the ziggurat there.
Tell Ingharra – believed to be the location of Hursagkalamma, east of Kish home of a temple of Inanna.
Tell Khazneh
Tell el-Bender – held Parthian material
Mound W – where a number of Neo-Assyrian tablets were discovered

After irregularly excavated tablets began appearing at the beginning of the twentieth century, François Thureau-Dangin identified the site as being Kish. Those tablets ended up in a variety of museums.

Because of its close proximity to Babylon the site was visited by a number of explorers and travelers in the 19th century, some involving excavation, most notably by the foreman of Hormuzd Rassam who dug there with a crew of 20 men for a number of months. None of this early work was published. A French archaeological team under Henri de Genouillac excavated at Tell Uhaimir between 1912 and 1914, finding some 1,400 Old Babylonian tablets which were distributed to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the Louvre. Later, a joint Field Museum and University of Oxford team under Stephen Langdon excavated from 1923 to 1933, with the recovered materials split between Chicago and the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

The actual excavations at Tell Uhaimir were led initially by E. MacKay and later by L. C. Watelin. Work on the faunal and flora remains was conducted by Henry Field.

More recently, a Japanese team from the Kokushikan University led by Ken Matsumoto excavated at Tell Uhaimir in 1988, 2000, and 2001. The final season lasted only one week.

Gallery :

Ruins of a ziggurat at the Sumerian city of Kish. Babel Governorate, Iraq

An ancient mound at Kish, Babel Governorate, Iraq

An ancient mound at the city of Kish, Mesopotamia, Babel Governorate, Iraq

Pottery fragments, illegal exavations at the ancient city of Kish, Tell al-Uhaymir, Iraq

Ancient mound at the city of Kish, Mesopotamia, Babil Governorate, Iraq

Ruins near the ziggurat of Kish at Tell al-Uhaymir, Mesopotamia, Babel Governorate, Iraq

Ruins near the ziggurat of Kish, Tell al-Uhaymir, Babylon Governorate, Iraq

Ruins near the ziggurat of the city of Kish at Tell al-Uhaymir, Babel Governorate, Iraq

Ruins of the ziggurat of the ancient city of Kish, Tell al-Uhaymir, Mesopotamia, Iraq

Indus Valley Civilisation "Unicorn" seal excavated in Kish, early Sumerian period, circa 3000 BCE. An example of ancient Indus-Mesopotamia relations

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