Kish civilization

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

The Kish civilization or Kish tradition was a concept created by Ignace Gelb and discarded by more recent scholarship,[1] which Gelb placed in what he called the early East Semitic era in Mesopotamia and the Levant, starting in the early 4th millennium BC. He attributed to it the sites of Ebla and Mari in the Levant, Nagar in the north,[2] and the proto-Akkadian sites of Abu Salabikh and Kish in central Mesopotamia, which constituted the Uri region as it was known to the Sumerians.[3][4][better source needed] The East Semitic population migrated from what is now the Levant and spread into Mesopotamia,[5] and the new population could have contributed to the collapse of the Uruk period c. 3100 BC.[4] This early East Semitic culture was characterized by linguistic, literary and orthographic similarities extending from Ebla in the west to Abu Salabikh in the East.[6] The personal names from the Sumerian city of Kish showed an East Semitic nature and revealed that the city population had a strong Semitic component from the dawn of recorded history,[7]and since Gelb considered Kish to be the center of this civilization, hence the naming.[6]

The similarities included the using of a writing system that contained non-Sumerian logograms, the use of the same system in naming the months of the year, dating by regnal years and a similar measuring system among many other similarities.[6] However Gelb didn't assume the existence of a single authority ruling those lands as each city had its own monarchical system, in addition to some linguistic differences, for while the languages of Mari and Ebla were closely related, Kish represented an independent East Semitic linguistic entity that spoke a dialect (Kishite),[8] different from both pre-Sargonic Akkadian and the Ebla-Mari language.[6] The Kish civilisation was considered to end with the rise of the Akkadian empire in the 24th century BC.[9]


  1. ^ Sommerfeld, Walter (2021). Vita, Juan-Pablo (ed.). The "Kish Civilization". History of the Akkadian Language. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East. Vol. 1. BRILL. pp. 545–547. ISBN 9789004445215. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  2. ^ Ristvet, Lauren (2014). Ritual, Performance, and Politics in the Ancient Near East. p. 217. ISBN 9781107065215.
  3. ^ Van De Mieroop, Marc (2002). Erica Ehrenberg (ed.). In Search of Prestige: Foreign Contacts and the Rise of an Elite in Early Dynastic Babylonia. Leaving No Stones Unturned: Essays on the Ancient Near East and Egypt in Honor of Donald P. Hansen. p. 125-137 [133]. ISBN 9781575060552. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  4. ^ a b Wyatt, Lucy (2010). Approaching Chaos: Could an Ancient Archetype Save 21st Century Civilization?. O Books. p. 120. ISBN 9781846942556. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  5. ^ Kitchen, A.; Ehret, C.; Assefa, S.; Mulligan, C.J. (2009). "Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Semitic languages identifies an Early Bronze Age origin of Semitic in the Near East". Proc Biol Sci. 276 (1668): 2703–10. doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.0408. PMC 2839953. PMID 19403539.
  6. ^ a b c d Hasselbach, Rebecca (2005). Sargonic Akkadian: A Historical and Comparative Study of the Syllabic Texts. p. 3. ISBN 9783447051729.
  7. ^ Edwards, I. E. S.; Gadd, C. J.; Hammond, N. G. L. (1971). The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. p. 100. ISBN 9780521077910.
  8. ^ Foster, Benjamin Read; Polinger Foster, Karen (2009). Civilizations of Ancient Iraq. p. 40. ISBN 978-0691137223.
  9. ^ Hasselbach (2005). p. 4.