The Kish civilization or Kish tradition is a time period corresponding to the early East Semitic era in Mesopotamia and the Levant. Coined by Ignace Gelb, the epoch began in the early 4th millennium BC. The tradition encompasses the sites of Ebla and Mari in the Levant, Nagar in the north, 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. The East Semitic population migrated from what is now the Levant and spread into Mesopotamia, and the new population could have contributed to the collapse of the Uruk period c. 3100 BC. This early East Semitic culture is characterized by linguistic, literary and orthographic similarities extending from Ebla in the west to Abu Salabikh in the East. The personal names from the Sumerian city of Kish show an East Semitic nature and reveals that the city population had a strong Semitic component from the dawn of recorded history, Gelb consider Kish to be the center of this civilization, hence the naming.
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. However Gelb doesn'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), different from both pre-Sargonic Akkadian and the Ebla-Mari language. The Kish civilisation is considered to end with the rise of the Akkadian empire in the 24th century BC.
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