Aerial view of Umma


Dhi Qar Province, Iraq
31°40'02 N 45°53'15 E

Umma (Sumerian: umma; modern Umm al-Aqarib, Dhi Qar Province in Iraq, formerly also called Gishban) was an ancient city in Sumer. There is some scholarly debate about the Sumerian and Akkadian names for this site. Traditionally, Umma was identified with Tell Jokha. More recently it has been suggested that it was located at Umm al-Aqarib, less than 7 km (4.3 mi) to its northwest or was even the name of both cities.

History :

Best known for its long frontier conflict with Lagash, as reported circa 2400 BC by Entemena, the city reached its zenith c. 2275 BC, under the rule of Lugal-Zage-Si who also controlled Ur and Uruk. Under the Ur III dynasty, Umma became an important provincial center. Most of the over 30,000 tablets recovered from the site are administrative and economic texts from that time. They permit an excellent insight into affairs in Umma. The Umma calendar of Shulgi (c. 21st century BC) is the immediate predecessor of the later Babylonian calendar, and indirectly of the post-exilic Hebrew calendar. Umma appears to have been abandoned after the Middle Bronze Age.

Archaeology :

The site of Tell Jokha was visited by William Loftus in 1854 and John Punnett Peters of the University of Pennsylvania in 1885. In the early 1900s, many illegally excavated Umma tablets from the Third Dynasty of Ur began to appear on the antiquities market. Tell Jokha has been identified as Umma's dependency Gisha (or Kissa), while the site of Umma itself has been located about 6.5 km to the southeast, at Umm al-Aqarib. At Umm al-Aqarib, archaeologists uncovered levels dating as early as the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2900–2300 BCE), including several monumental buildings, one of them variously identified as a temple or palace.

In 2017, the Slovak Archaeological and Historical Institute began excavations at Tell Jokha.

Stele of Ushumgal, 2900 - 2700 BCE. Probably from Umma

Vase of King Gishakidu, king of Umma, and son of Ur-Lumma. This cuneiform text gives the city of Umma's account of its long-running border dispute with Lagash. Circa 2350 BCE. From Umma, Iraq. The British Museum, London

Votive plaque offered by Bara-irnun, queen of Umma, to God Šara in gratitude for sparing her life. Date circa 2370 BC

Looting :

Imprisoned man of Umma on the Stele of the Vultures

An inscription from Umma dated c. 2130 BCE. "Lugalannatum prince of Umma... built the E.GIDRU [Sceptre] Temple at Umma, buried his foundation deposit [and] regulated the orders. At that time, Si'um was king of Gutium." (Collection of the Louvre Museum)

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, after Coalition bombing began, looters descended upon the site which is now pockmarked with hundreds of ditches and pits. The prospects for future official excavation and research were seriously compromised in the process.

In 2011, Global Heritage Network, which monitors threats to cultural heritage sites in developing nations, released aerial images comparing Umma in 2003 and 2010, showing a landscape devastated by looters' trenches during that time—approximately 1.12 square km in total. Additional images relevant to the situation at Umm al-Aqarib are included in Tucker's article on the destruction of Iraq's archaeological heritage.

Rulers of Umma :

Aga of Kish (26th century BCE), king of Kish, probably took over Umma, and consequently Zabala, which was dependant of it in the Early Dynastic Period.

First Dynasty of Umma :

Proposed reign
26th century BCE
A governor of Umma, he was captured by Ur-Nanshe of Lagash.
c. 2500 BCE
Attacked Lagash and removed the boundary stone set up by Mesilim, and was defeated by Eannatum.
25002400 BCE
Made a boundary treaty with Eannatum.
25002400 BCE
Son of Enakalle. Challenged Enannatum I, but was defeated by his successor Enmetena.
25002400 BCE
Successor to Ur-Lumna. He rebelled against Enannatum II, and destroyed the dynasty of Ur-Nanshe.
25002400 BCE
Son of Il
25002400 BCE
Ruler of Umma
25002400 BCE
Ruler of Umma
25002400 BCE
Ruler of Umma
24002300 BCE
Father of Lugal-Zage-Si.
24002300 BCE
Conqueror of all Sumer, founder of the third dynasty of Uruk, vanquished by Sargon of Akkad.

Second Dynasty of Umma :

Proposed reign
c. 2113 BCE
Vassal to the Gutian Dynasty.

An official of Umma, circa 2400 BC :

Diorite statue of Lupad, an official of the city of Umma, with inscriptions recording the purchase of land in Lagash. Early Dynastic Period III, c. 2400 BC

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