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Aerial view of Umma, following pillage after the US invasion 1.jpg
Aerial view of Umma
Umma is located in Near East
Shown within Near East
Umma is located in Iraq
Umma (Iraq)
LocationDhi Qar Province, Iraq
Coordinates31°40′02″N 45°53′15″E / 31.66722°N 45.88750°E / 31.66722; 45.88750Coordinates: 31°40′02″N 45°53′15″E / 31.66722°N 45.88750°E / 31.66722; 45.88750
Location of the city of Umma in Sumer

Umma (Sumerian: 𒄑𒆵𒆠 ummaKI;[1] 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.[2] 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.[3][4]


In the early Sumerian text Inanna's descent to the netherworld, Inanna dissuades demons from the netherworld from taking Shara, patron of Umma, who was living in squalor. They eventually take Dumuzid king of Uruk instead, who lived in palatial opulence.[5]

Best known for its long frontier conflict with Lagash, as reported circa 2400 BC by Entemena,[6] 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.[7] 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.[4]


The site of Tell Jokha was visited by William Loftus in 1854 and John Punnett Peters of the University of Pennsylvania in 1885.[8][9] In the early 1900s, many illegally excavated Umma tablets from the Third Dynasty of Ur began to appear on the antiquities market.[10] 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.[4][11]

In 2017, the Slovak Archaeological and Historical Institute began excavations at Tell Jokha.[12]


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.[15]

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.[16] Additional images relevant to the situation at Umm al-Aqarib are included in Tucker's article on the destruction of Iraq's archaeological heritage.[17]

Rulers of Umma[edit]

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.[18]

First Dynasty of Umma[edit]

Second Dynasty of Umma[edit]

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.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ORACC – Umma".
  2. ^ W. G. Lambert, "The Names of Umma", Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 49 (1990), pp. 75–80.
  3. ^ [1] Vitali Bartash, "On the Sumerian City UB-meki, the Alleged “Umma”, Cuneiform Digital Library Bulletin 2015:2, Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, November 2015, ISSN 1540-8760
  4. ^ a b c Trevor Bryce, The Routledge Handbook of The Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the fall of the Persian Empire, Routledge, 2009, pp. 738–739.
  5. ^ Inanna's descent to the netherworld - ETCSL
  6. ^ Jerrold S. Cooper, History from Ancient Inscriptions: The Lagash-Umma Border Conflict, Undena, 1983, ISBN 0-89003-059-6
  7. ^ P. A. Parr, "A Letter of Ur-Lisi: Governor of Umma", Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 24 (1972), pp. 135–136
  8. ^ Loftus, William K. (1857). Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and Susiana, Travels and Researches in Chaldaea and Susiana: With an Account of Excavations at Warka, the "Erech" of Nimrod, and Shush, "Shushan the Palace" of Esther, in 1849–52. Robert Carter & Brothers.
  9. ^ Peters, John P. (1897). Nippur; Or, Explorations and Adventures on the Euphrates: The Narrative of the University of Pennsylvania Expedition to Babylonia in the Years 1888–1890 (PDF). University of Pennsylvania Babylonian Expedition. Putnam.
  10. ^ Georges Contenau, Contribution a l'Histoire Economique d'Umma, Librairie Champion, 1915
  11. ^ Haider Oraibi Almamori, "The Early Dynastic Monumental Buildings At Umm Al-Aqarib", Iraq, 76 (December 2014), pp. 149-187
  12. ^ Drahoslav Hulínek and Tibor Lieskovský, Report Archaeological project SAHI - Tell Jokha, 2016, Slovak Archaeological and Historical Institute, 2016
  13. ^ "Stele of Ushumgal".
  14. ^ "Site officiel du musée du Louvre".
  15. ^ [2] Guardian article on Umma looting
  16. ^ [3] Satellite Imagery Briefing: Monitoring Endangered Cultural Heritage
  17. ^ Diane Tucker (21 September 2009). "Brutal Destruction of Iraq's Archaeological Sites Continues".
  18. ^ Frayne, Douglas (2009). The Struggle for Hegemony in "Early Dynastic II" Sumer. The Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies 2010. pp. 65–66.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sallaberger, Walther; Schrakamp, Ingo (2015). History & Philology (PDF). Walther Sallaberger & Ingo Schrakamp (eds), Brepols. pp. 74–80. ISBN 978-2-503-53494-7.
  20. ^ a b c Van De Mieroop, Marc (2004). A History of the Ancient Near East: Ca. 3000-323 BC. Wiley. pp. 50–51. ISBN 9780631225522.
  21. ^ King, L. W. (Leonard William) (1910). A history of Sumer and Akkad : an account of the early races of Babylonia from prehistoric times to the foundation of the Babylonian monarchy. London : Chatto & Windus. p. 96.


  • B. Alster, Geštinanna as Singer and the Chorus of Uruk and Zabalam: UET 6/1 22, JCS, vol. 37, pp. 219–28, 1985
  • Tonia M. Sharlach, Provincial taxation and the Ur III State, Brill, 2003, ISBN 90-04-13581-2
  • Trevor Bryce, The Routledge Handbook of The Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the fall of the Persian Empire, Routledge, 2009
  • B. R. Foster, Umma in the Sargonic Period, Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, vol. 20, Hamden, 1982
  • Georges Contenau, Umma sous la Dynastie d'Ur, Librarie Paul Geuthner, 1916
  • Jacob L. Dahl, The Ruling Family of Ur III Umma: A Prosopographical Analysis of an Elite Family in Southern Iraq 4000 Years ago, Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten/Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), 2007, ISBN 90-6258-319-9
  • Shin T. Kang, Sumerian economic texts from the Umma archive, University of Illinois Press, 1973, ISBN 0-252-00425-6
  • Diana Tucker, "Brutal Destruction of Iraq's Archaeological Sites Continues", online article from September 21, 2009 posted on,

External links[edit]