Skip to content

Corporate Strategy as an Art (VI): The Bronze Age – The Sumerians of Mesopotamia.

Have a beautiful Friday. Today we will continue with this adorable saga. As you know I publish two times per week, nevertheless, with the Bronze Age in full deployment or work in progress, I will have to publish during the weekend. I wish to finish with the Mesopotamian region during the Bronze Age. Next week I will continue with the South Asia Region (India) and the North Asian (China).

Let´s start with one single and simple question. What is Mesopotamia? The name Mesopotamia comes from the Greek words: Mesos – Middle, and Potamos – river. Mesopotamia literally means “A country between two rivers”. These rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates. This land Mesopotamia, during the Bronze Age, referred to some main ancient cultures in different subsequent periods: the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians.

Let´s see the following National Geographic video for a brief skim overview. Additionally, I encourage you to visit several videos about these cultures on Youtube. At the end of this post, I am also including some web links for you to explore if you wish.

As mentioned previously, there are certain relevant outcomes which were originated by these cultures. These significative upshots changed the world forever.  Let´s visit each of these Mesopotamian cultures through their history and artistic remnants images.   Today is the turn for the Sumerians. Some historians literally have coined the phrase: “History begins at Sumer”. Let´s see why.

Preceding the Bronze Age,  there is archaeological evidence about the first settlements of humans in the Mesopotamian region.  By the year 8,000 BCE, humans probably coming from Asia (historians are not so sure about it) settled in Mesopotamia. With time and as centuries passed, they became the first farmers in the history of our planet. Sumerians-EannatumArchaeologists suggest they chose this place (the Fertile Crescent), particularly the lower part of the valley because it had a particular mix of natural resources. The Neolithic ancestors to the Mesopotamian first civilizations discovered that some grains of grasses had nutritional features (barley, oats, wheat) and they decided to plant them. The place had very fertile soil, the largest amounts of water and sunshine almost every day of the year. These resources are vital for the rise of agriculture. It is in Mesopotamia where the great agricultural revolution of human development took place. The Mesopotamians learned to plant seeds for food, and by producing them in such a strategic land, they became an agrarian society.map_ancient_mesopotamia.jpg Once producing a food surplus, trade began. It is said that the creation of specialized functional societies with interdependent and specialized labors started with the Sumerian region. Sumerians learned to organize specific places to collect and keep food surplus or overabundance to trade in exchange for other resources they did not have. MesopotamiaThe Sumerian inventions were triggered by their leaders and scholars desire to organize themselves and learn how to organize their economy, subsistence and their natural sources available in the lower Mesopotamian valley. These resources were mainly fertile ground, water, alluvial deposits, clay and bitumen sipping outside of some stones. It is before the Sumerian Bronze Age, by 5,000 BC that the rise of solid edifications took place. They learned to create hand-made solid bricks from clay mud, and they built edifications (city walls, fortresses, houses, temples to deities, palaces, etc.). In Mesopotamia, the Copper age (5,900 – 3,200 BCE) also known as The Chalcolithic Period is clearly marked, which is the period of the transition from stone tools and weapons to the ones made of copper.

SUmerian Stele_of_Vultures_detail_01

Sumerian Stele of Vultures. Sculpture excavated from the ruins of Lagash.

As a legacy from the Sumerian ancestors, the Sumerian Empire bronze started approximately by 3,000 BCE. Sumerians flourished above the rest of Mesopotamian settlements with the beauty of their own “concept of the cities”.  According to historians, it was under the Sumerians reign that we have vestiges of the following outcomes:

  • The agriculture revolution triggered an agrarian society. “Men and women both worked, and the principal occupations were growing crops and raising livestock”. The farmers in Sumer created levees to hold back the floods from their fields and cut canals to channel river water to the fields. The use of levees and canals is called irrigation, another Sumerian invention.
  • inventions of sumerian economy

    Inventions of the Sumerian economy were registered properly.

    The first labor specialization happened here. Other occupations were the scribe, the healer, artisan, weaver, potter, shoemaker, sailship makers, fisherman, teacher, and priest or priestess (Bertman).

  • The rise of solid bricks clay structures (this phase started previous to the Bronze Age). The appearance of cities began in the Chalcolithic or Copper period and the most notable in the region of Sumer. The earliest city is often cited as Uruk, although Eridu and Ur have also been suggested. Van De Mieroop writes, “Mesopotamia was the most densely urbanized region in the ancient world”, and the cities which grew up along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as those founded further away”.

    Ur city

    Ur City, Sumer. Mesopotamia

  • As a result of the economy, the Sumerians established systems of trade which resulted in great prosperity in between the cities located in Mesopotamia and outsiders from Asia, Anatolia, Egypt, etc.
  • The earliest known writing system. They wrote on mud tablets. The cuneiform system or wedge writing started during the Bronze Age at the Sumerian Empire. The written language of Sumerians was symbolic and agglutinative, and based in ideograms. “The writing was invented due to trade, out of the necessity for long-distance communication, and for keeping more careful track of accounts”.

    Sumerian statue guidea

    Statue of Gudea. Source: The MET

  • With writing, the concept of keeping information or knowledge began in our human development. The mental frame of promoting and producing permanent records or archives to pass from one generation to another started here. With the invention of writing, the Sumerians revolutionized everything at the Bronze Age. Instead of painting the activities, they started to record thoughts, beliefs, hopes, accomplishments, and happenings.
  • With writing, the concept of literature emerged. Poems, prose and other story-telling records started with the Sumerians. They wrote and wrote and wrote everything in clay tablets!
  • The advancement of the first legal system to rule the trade of products, to procure justice and to maintain the security of the population through the law.


    LIMESTONE STELA. Girsu, Iraq. CULTURE: Sumerian. ca. 2450 B.C.  (Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY)

  • The concept of private property or setting up limits or boundaries or territories. This concept was the beginning of another notion: Protection of the land using military force.
  • The concept of the organization and regulation of their labor required intelligent leadership. The monarchy was adopted. Their leader became the king. The role of the king was established at some point after 3,600 BCE and, unlike the priest-rulers who came before, the king dealt directly with the people and made his will clear through laws of his own devising. The first code of law was invented by Sumerians. Prior to the concept of a king, the priestly rulers were dictating the law according to religious precepts.
  • They were a polytheist society. There were over 1,000 deities in the pantheon of the gods of the Mesopotamian cultures and many stories concerning the gods were registered. The Sumerians credited their divinities for all matters pertaining to them and exhibited humility in the face of cosmic forces, such as death and divine wrath.


    Sumerian MIlitary Cart

  • Sumerian military innovation included the chariot, helmet, armored cloaks, bronze axes, and the phalanx formation in battle. The Sumerians registered the first war in the world written between the kingdoms of Sumer and Elam (3,200 BCE) with Sumer as the winner. Their war objectives were around protecting and expanding their resources (land, water, and other raw material).
  • The earliest known number system started here.  Up to this day, the Sumerians influenced our time management devices. if you see your watch or your digital clock, just remember who started with it: The Sumerians.  The Sumerians divided the day from the night by time, by increments of sixty-second minutes and sixty-minute hours which made up twelve hours of the night and the twelve hours of the day.
  • The observance of the stars kicked off the astronomy as a science.

    lessons in sumerian math

    The celebrated Babylonian mathematical tablet Plimpton 322. Source: The NYTimes

  • With the specialization of functional labor, as they concentrated into studying it, the Sumerians established highly advanced schools where math, algebra, geometry, calculus were taught. “Intellectual pursuits were highly valued across Mesopotamia, and the schools (devoted primarily to the priestly class) were said to be as numerous as temples and taught reading, writing, religion, law, medicine, and astrology”.
  • This period saw the invention of the wheel (c. 3500 BCE).history begins at sumer
  • Increased prosperity in the region gave rise to ornate temples and statuary, sophisticated pottery and figurines, toys for children, and the use of personal seals (known as Cylinder Seals) to denote ownership of property and to stand for an individual’s signature.
  • Finally,  at “History Begins at Sumer”, Samuel Noah Kramer lists 39 “firsts” in human civilization and culture that originated at Sumer.

The Sumerians artistic expressions are nothing else than the witness material of their inventions, discoveries, and organizational societal, economic, religious and political systems. What is the Sumerian corporate strategy exhibited in their artistic vestiges?

On my next publication, we will continue with the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires which correspond to the Bronze Age of this region.

Thank you. Stay tuned.bee

Source References utilized to write this article:

Disclaimer: All the presentation slides shown on this blog are prepared by Eleonora Escalante MBA-MEng. Nevertheless, all the pictures or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s