Cuneiform tablets containing the list of Sumerian kings leave historians perplexed

Cuneiform tablets containing the list of Sumerian kings leave historians perplexed

Sumerian history includes, like Egyptian history, a whole part that researchers do not want to look at other than as inventions, myths, it is the description of the first kings, the gods who could live hundreds of years.

Historians have in their possession several cuneiform tablets on which are inscribed the lists of Sumerian kings, the Sumerian and neighbouring dynasties, the length of their supposed reign, and the location of their “official” royalty.

What surprises them is that we always find the names of the first kings, the gods.

The long reign of the Gods

The first fragment of this list of Sumerian kings is a 4000 year old cuneiform tablet that was discovered in the early 1900s by the German-American archaeologist Hermann Hilprecht on the site of the former Nippur and published in 1906.

Since Hilprecht’s discovery, at least 18 other copies of the royal list have been discovered, most of them dating from the second half of the Isin dynasty (2017 – 1794 BC).

None of his documents are identical.

However, there is enough common material in all versions to make it clear that it is derived from a single “ideal” testimony of Sumerian history.

Of all the copies of the list of Sumerian kings, the Weld-Blundell prism of the cuneiform collection of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford represents the most extensive version and the most complete copy (1st photo).

The 20 cm prism contains four sides with two columns on each side.

It is believed that there was originally intended to be a wooden pin passing through its centre so that it could be turned and read on all four sides.

She cites leaders ranging from antediluvian dynasties (“before the flood”) to the fourteenth ruler of the Isin dynasty (1763 – 1753 B.C.).

This list of Sumerian kings is of immense value because it reflects very ancient traditions while at the same time providing an important chronological framework linking the different periods of royalty to Sumer, and even demonstrating remarkable parallels with evidence in Genesis.

List of Sumerian kings : The ancient civilization of Sumer


Sumer is the site of the oldest known civilization, located in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in the region that later became Babylon and is now located in southern Iraq around Baghdad to the Persian Gulf.

In the 3rd millennium BC Sumer was the place of at least twelve different city-states:

Kish, Erech, Ur (city of Abraham), Sippar, Akshak, Larak, Nippur, Adab, Umma, Lagash, Bad-tibira, and Larsa.

Each of these states included a fortified city and its surrounding villages and lands, each worshipping its own divinity and whose temples were the central structure of the city.

Political power originally belonged to the citizens, but as rivalry between the different city-states increased, each of them adopted the institution of royalty.

The list of Sumerian kings reports that eight kings ruled before a great flood.

After the Flood, the various city-states and their dynasties of kings temporarily gained power over the others.

List of Sumerian kings: the mythical past of Sumer


The Sumerian royal list begins with the origin of royalty, which is seen as a divine institution: “Royalty has descended from heaven”.

The rulers of the first dynasties are represented as having ruled for fantastically long periods:

“After the kingdom came down from heaven, the kingdom was Eridug’s.

In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,000 years.

Alaljar ruled for 36,000 years.

Two kings and they ruled for 64,800 years. »

Some of the rulers mentioned at the beginning of the list, such as Etana, Lugal-banda and Gilgamesh, are mythical or legendary characters whose heroic exploits are the subjects of a series of Sumerian and Babylonian narrative compositions.

The beginning of the list names eight kings with a total of 241,200 years from the time royalty “descended from heaven” until the time when “the Flood” fell to earth and once again “royalty descended from heaven” after the Flood.

List of Sumerian kings: the interpretation of the long reigns

The incredibly long duration of the first kings led to many attempts at interpretation.

At one extreme is the complete revocation of great astronomical characters as “completely artificial” and the idea that they cannot be seriously considered.

At the other extreme is the belief that numbers have a basis in reality and that the first kings were indeed gods capable of living much longer than men.

Between the two extremes is the hypothesis that the characters represent the power, triumph or importance of their status.

For example, in ancient Egypt the phrase “he died at 110 years of age” refers to someone who has lived his life to the full and contributed greatly to society.

Similarly, the extremely long periods of reign of the first kings could represent how important they seemed to the people.

This does not, however, explain why periods of reign later shifted to realistic periods of time.

In relation to this perspective is the belief that although the first kings are not historically attested, this does not prevent their possible correspondence with historical rulers who were later mythified.

Finally, some researchers have sought to explain these characters through investigation and mathematical interpretations (e. g. Harrison, 1993).

List of Sumerian kings: the contribution to Genesis

Some researchers (e. g. Wood, 2003) have drawn attention to the fact that there were remarkable similarities between the Sumerian royal list and testimonies in Genesis.

For example, Genesis tells the story of the “Great Flood” and Noah’s efforts to save all species of animals on Earth from destruction.

In the same way in the Sumerian royal list is addressed a great flood:

The list of Sumerian kings provides a list of eight kings (some versions have ten) who ruled for long periods before the flood, ranging from 18,600 to 43,200 years.

We see a parallel with Genesis where the generations from Creation to the Flood are mentioned.

It is interesting that between Adam and Noah there are eight generations, just as there are eight kings between the beginning of royalty and the flood in the Sumerian royal list.

After the flood, the royal list cites kings who ruled for much shorter periods of time.

The Sumerian royal list thus not only documents a great flood early in human history, but also reflects the same decrease in longevity found in the Bible – men had extremely long life expectancies before the flood and much shorter life expectancies after the flood (Wood, 2003).

What I also noted here: Atrahasis (Ziusudra), Sumerian Noah

The Sumerian royal list is a perplexing mystery.

Why would the Sumerians have combined mythical rulers with true historical rulers in a single document?

Why are there so many similarities with Genesis?

Why are the former kings described as reigning for thousands of years?

These are some of the questions that remain unanswered after more than a century of research.

See also:

Sumerian and Egyptian origin of the Bible, evidence

Anunnaki, the Sumerian version of the creation of humanity

The genesis revisited by the Sumerian texts: documentary

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