Location of the city of Umma in Sumer
Umma (Sumerian: 𒄑𒆵𒆠 ummaKI; in modern 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. One or both were the leading city of the Early Dynastic kingdom of Gišša, with the most recent excavators putting forth that Umm al-Aqarib was prominent in EDIII but Jokha rose to preeminence later.
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.
Best known for its long frontier conflict with Lagash, as reported circa 2400 BCE by Entemena, the city reached its zenith c. 2275 BCE, 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 BCE) 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.
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. From 1999 to 2002 Jokha was worked by an Iraqi team, recovering a number of tablets and bullae from the Old Babylonian period. In 2017, the Slovak Archaeological and Historical Institute began excavations at Tell Jokha.
The site of Umm al-Aqarib (located at 45.80°E longitude and 31.60°N latitude) covers about 5 square kilometers and is made up of 21 mounds the largest of which is 20 meters above the level of the plain. The location was first visited by John Punnett Peters in the 1800s. It was excavated for a total of 7 seasons in 1999–2002 and 2008–2010 by Iraqi archaeologists under difficult conditions. At Umm al-Aqarib, archaeologists uncovered levels from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2900–2300 BCE), including several monumental buildings, one of them variously identified as a temple or palace.
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 BCE.
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
Second Dynasty of Umma
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 BCE.
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