The most recommended books about Sumerian history

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to Sumerian history, and here are their favorite Sumerian history books.
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Book cover of The 12th Planet

Ken Goudsward Author Of Enuma Elish: The Original Text with Brief Commentary

From my list on ancient Sumerian mythology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in ancient civilizations and have studied extensively from Egypt to Hebrew. One of the great mysteries is why all of our ancestors seem to be so concerned with powerful gods from other realms. Do such other realms exist? Did the ancients experience physical or spiritual phenomena? It remains a great mystery. However, as I read the ancient stories it became clear that perhaps our normal ways of interpreting their own experiences may not be entirely accurate. Perhaps they deserve another reading with a fresh set of eyes.

Ken's book list on ancient Sumerian mythology

Ken Goudsward Why did Ken love this book?

Zecharia Sitchin makes a lot of crazy-sounding claims. He talks about faraway planets and NASA-style rocketry. He doesn't provide references, and he doesn't make convincing logical arguments. Nevertheless millions of people believe his claims. My own research shows that most of Sitchin's conclusions are pretty unfounded—but, there is a thread of evidence within the ancient literature that seems to indicate that at least some of Sitchin's core ideas might be at least partly correct.

By Zecharia Sitchin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The 12th Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the years, startling evidence has been unearthed, challenging established notions of the origins of Earth and life on it, and suggesting the existence of a superior race of beings who once inhabited our world. The product of thirty years of intensive research, The 12th Planetis the first book in Zecharia Sitchin's prophetic Earth Chroniclesseries--a revolutionary body of work that offers indisputable documentary proof of humanity's extraterrestrial forefathers. Travelers from the stars, they arrived eons ago, and planted the genetic seed that would ultimately blossom into a remarkable species...called Man. The 12th Planetbrings to life the Sumerian civilization, presenting millennia-old…


Book cover of Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna

Nataša Pantović Author Of Metaphysics of Sound: In Search of The Name of God

From my list on the ancient Mediterranean classics beyond the usual.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nataša Pantović holds an MSc in Economics and is a Maltese Serbian novelist, adoptive parent, and ancient worlds’ consciousness researcher. Using stories of ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophers and ancient artists she inspires researchers to reach beyond their self-imposed boundaries. In the last five years, she has published 3 historical fiction and 7 non-fiction books with the Ancient Worlds' focus. She speaks English, Serbian, all Balkan Slavic languages, Maltese and Italian. She has also helped build a school in a remote village of Ethiopia, and has since adopted two kids, as a single mum!

Nataša's book list on the ancient Mediterranean classics beyond the usual

Nataša Pantović Why did Nataša love this book?

Scholars have disagreed when written records become literature, yet the earliest literary authors known by name are Ptahhotep (who wrote in Egyptian) and Enheduanna (who wrote in Sumerian), dating to around 2400 BC. Enheduanna is the earliest known Female Poet. She was the High Priestess of the goddess Inanna and the moon god Nanna (Sin). She lived in the Sumerian city-state of Ur in Syria. So this would be my 3rd recommendation for all the researchers of Ancient History.

Enheduanna's contributions to Sumerian literature, include the collection of hymns known as the "Sumerian Temple Hymns", 37 tablets to be exact, from 2,700 BC. The temple hymns were the first collection of their kind, the copying of the hymns indicates that they were used long after and held in very high esteem.

Sīn or Suen (Akkadian: EN.ZU or lord-ess of wisdom) or Nanna was the goddess of the moon in the…

By Betty De Shong Meador,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The earliest known author of written literature was a woman named Enheduanna, who lived in ancient Mesopotamia around 2300 BCE. High Priestess to the moon god Nanna, Enheduanna came to venerate the goddess Inanna above all gods in the Sumerian pantheon. The hymns she wrote to Inanna constitute the earliest written portrayal of an ancient goddess. In their celebration of Enheduanna's relationship with Inanna, they also represent the first existing account of an individual's consciousness of her inner life.

This book provides the complete texts of Enheduanna's hymns to Inanna, skillfully and beautifully rendered by Betty De Shong Meador, who…


Book cover of The Nothing That is: A Natural History of Zero

Elaheh Kheirandish Author Of Baghdad and Isfahan: A Dialogue of Two Cities in an Age of Science CA. 750-1750

From my list on the history of science and knowledge transmission that capture our common heritage.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been passionate about knowledge and learning and started my higher education by studying and teaching in the sciences. But I soon fell in love with the humanities, an ocean that brought me a new way of looking at the world and reinforced my intuition that the sciences and humanities are not ‘two cultures’ as sometimes portrayed but complementary endeavors as clear by historical studies themselves. My latest training in the history of science and the multi-cultural aspects of early science, in particular, has added a new passion, one for human understanding, tapping into our common heritage, as highlighted in my list, for serving an increasingly divided world.

Elaheh's book list on the history of science and knowledge transmission that capture our common heritage

Elaheh Kheirandish Why did Elaheh love this book?

I find this book on the history of zero intriguing, and the contradiction embodied in its opening title captures a concept that is at once attractive and problematic.

This book, atypically opening with a chapter titled "Zero," and delightfully creative in other ways, presents historical concepts of zero not only as refreshingly non-linear, being termed anywhere from afterthoughts to casual alterations, rather than natural or logical progressions, but also as cross-cultural, involving Eastern Sumerians and Indian traditions and Western Greeks and European traditions, significantly in parallel, not as temporal or geographical extensions of each other.

By Robert Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nothing That is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A symbol for what is not there, an emptiness that increases any number it's added to, an inexhaustible and indispensable paradox. As we enter the year 2000, zero is once again making its presence felt. Nothing itself, it makes possible a myriad of calculations. Indeed, without zero mathematics as we know it would not exist. And without mathematics our understanding of the universe would be vastly impoverished. But where did this nothing, this hollow circle, come from? Who created it? And what, exactly, does it mean?
Robert Kaplan's The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero begins as a…


Book cover of Sumer and the Sumerians

Ken Goudsward Author Of Enuma Elish: The Original Text with Brief Commentary

From my list on ancient Sumerian mythology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in ancient civilizations and have studied extensively from Egypt to Hebrew. One of the great mysteries is why all of our ancestors seem to be so concerned with powerful gods from other realms. Do such other realms exist? Did the ancients experience physical or spiritual phenomena? It remains a great mystery. However, as I read the ancient stories it became clear that perhaps our normal ways of interpreting their own experiences may not be entirely accurate. Perhaps they deserve another reading with a fresh set of eyes.

Ken's book list on ancient Sumerian mythology

Ken Goudsward Why did Ken love this book?

Crawford expands deeply on some of the ideas presented in Kramer, and really delves into more of the cultural aspects of agriculture, architecture, and writing to name a few. She clearly thinks of these ancient people as equals with whom we could easily empathize. Indeed, the book has a timeless quality of the human spirit which rings true even in a postmodern age.

By Harriet Crawford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sumer and the Sumerians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mesopotamia produced one of the best-known ancient civilizations, with a literate, urban culture and highly-developed political institutions. In this fully revised and expanded edition of her classic text, Sumer and the Sumerians, Harriet Crawford reviews the extraordinary social and technological developments in the region from 3800 to 2000 BC. Drawing on the most up-to-date historical and archaeological sources, she provides a thematic exploration of this ancient civilization, examining its physical and historical background, changing settlement patterns, public and private architecture and cultural developments of the period. In this new edition, the chapter on Manufacturing Industries and Trade has been enlarged…


Book cover of I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria

Sarah C. Melville Author Of The Campaigns of Sargon II, King of Assyria, 721–705 B.C.

From my list on introducing the ancient Near East.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in the ancient Near East began when I was about 8 years old. One day, when couldn’t find anything to do, I started paging through a book on Assyrian art that I found in one of my parents’ bookcases. I was hooked. I wanted to know what made those mysterious ancients tick. How did they understand the world they inhabited? How did they live? What made them fight so hard and so often? I became an Assyriologist in order to answer those questions, and I’ve been working toward that goal ever since.

Sarah's book list on introducing the ancient Near East

Sarah C. Melville Why did Sarah love this book?

Beyond its initial purpose to support an exhibition at the British Museum, this book offers an excellent introduction to the Assyrian Empire at the height of its power and to Ashurbanipal, the empire’s last great king. Bereton’s cogent narrative and the volume’s beautiful photographs make for an extraordinarily appealing book. It is also full of accurate, detailed information about the Assyrians, their culture, and the various people they fought and conquered.  

By Gareth Brereton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I am Ashurbanipal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 669 BC Ashurbanipal inherited the world's largest empire, which stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the mountains of western Iran. He ruled from his massive capital at Nineveh, in present-day Iraq, where temples and palaces adorned with brilliantly carved sculptures dominated the citadel mound, and an elaborate system of aqueducts and canals brought water to the king's pleasure gardens. Ashurbanipal, proud of his scholarship, assembled the greatest library in existence during his reign. Guided by this knowledge, he defined the course of the Assyrian empire and asserted his claim to be `king of the world'.

Beautifully…


Book cover of The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History

Lewis Dartnell Author Of Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History

From my list on big history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a science researcher and writer living in London. My research field is astrobiology and the possibility of life on other planets – it brings together lots of different areas of science with engineering and space exploration and so is deeply ‘interdisciplinary’. And as a science writer, I try to bring this same broad perspective and unifying approach to other profound questions. My fascination with understanding our own origins was sparked by my childhood growing up in East Africa, the cradle of humanity. In Origins I explored different ways that planet Earth has influenced our human story across the millennia - it’s an example of ‘Big History’.

Lewis' book list on big history

Lewis Dartnell Why did Lewis love this book?

The historian William McNeill studied the effects on world history of diseases and contact between different civilizations; ideas which have been hugely influential on other books such as Guns, Germs and Steel (above). In this book, he teams up with his son John, to deliver one of the best overviews of the grand themes and trends within human history that I’ve read.

By J.R. McNeill, William H. McNeill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Human Web as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

World-historical questions such as these, the subjects of major works by Jared Diamond, David Landes, and others, are now of great moment as global frictions increase. In a spirited and original contribution to this quickening discussion, two renowned historians, father and son, explore the webs that have drawn humans together in patterns of interaction and exchange, cooperation and competition, since earliest times. Whether small or large, loose or dense, these webs have provided the medium for the movement of ideas, goods, power, and money within and across cultures, societies, and nations. From the thin, localized webs that characterized agricultural communities…


Book cover of History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History

Jeffrey Peter Clarke Author Of The Man Who Sought Eternity

From my list on the time of Gilgamesh.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Jeff Clarke, author and graphic designer. I have always been interested in origins and beginnings, whether it be the universe, life on Earth, military aviation and ancient societies. I possess a valuable private library of my own and generally prefer to use this rather than on-line sources as the authors’ qualifications are more easily ascertainable. I design the covers for all my novels.

Jeffrey's book list on the time of Gilgamesh

Jeffrey Peter Clarke Why did Jeffrey love this book?

History Begins at Sumer explains lucidly how the Sumerian people, particularly the city of Uruk on the banks of the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq, the city over which Gilgamesh is said to have ruled, was responsible for many world firsts.

These included the use of the wheel, literature, organised schooling, an administrative structure, and many of those features that enable the functioning of what we now would consider a true city. An example that others were soon to follow.

By Samuel Noah Kramer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked History Begins at Sumer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Which civilization had the first system of law? The first formal educational system? The first tax cut? The first love song? The answers were found in excavations of ancient Sumer, a society so developed, resourceful, and enterprising that it, in a sense, created history. The book presents a cross section of the Sumerian "firsts" in all the major fields of human endeavor, including government and politics, education and literature, philosophy and ethics, law and justice, agriculture and medicine, even love and family.
History Begins at Sumer is the classic account of the achievements of the Sumerians, who lived in what…


Book cover of The Literature of Ancient Sumer

Ken Goudsward Author Of Enuma Elish: The Original Text with Brief Commentary

From my list on ancient Sumerian mythology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in ancient civilizations and have studied extensively from Egypt to Hebrew. One of the great mysteries is why all of our ancestors seem to be so concerned with powerful gods from other realms. Do such other realms exist? Did the ancients experience physical or spiritual phenomena? It remains a great mystery. However, as I read the ancient stories it became clear that perhaps our normal ways of interpreting their own experiences may not be entirely accurate. Perhaps they deserve another reading with a fresh set of eyes.

Ken's book list on ancient Sumerian mythology

Ken Goudsward Why did Ken love this book?

Black et. al. have compiled what is generally considered the definitive collection of Sumerian myths. The editors are the creme de la creme of the academic community of Sumerian literary experts, and the collection consists of works translated by them under the auspices of the University of Oxford. This book is the gold standard of mainstream literary study and understanding of Sumerian literature.

By Jeremy Black (editor), Graham Cunningham (editor), Eleanor Robson (editor) , Gabor Zolyomi (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Literature of Ancient Sumer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This anthology of Sumerian literature constitutes the most comprehensive collection ever published, and includes examples of most of the different types of composition written in the language, from narrative myths and lyrical hymns to proverbs and love poetry. The translations have benefited both from the work of many scholars and from our ever-increasing understanding of Sumerian. In addition to reflecting the advances made by modern scholarship, the translations
are written in clear, accessible English. An extensive introduction discusses the literary qualities of the works, the people who created and copied them in ancient Iraq, and how the study of Sumerian…


Book cover of The Collector Collector

Marcus Milwright Author Of A Story of Islamic Art

From my list on fiction about art and artists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Visits to galleries, museums, and castles were an integral part of my childhood. These filled me with an enduring love for art, architecture, and archaeology. My initial studies covered all areas of art history, but I became drawn to the visual cultures of the Islamic world. I have been lucky enough to live and work in different parts of the Middle East. I am committed to sharing knowledge about the arts and archaeology of the Islamic world through books, exhibitions, and websites. I have always enjoyed fiction that involves art as part of a story, and the selections in this list are my current favorites. I hope you enjoy them!

Marcus' book list on fiction about art and artists

Marcus Milwright Why did Marcus love this book?

Packed with funny, unexpected, and disturbing imagery, I read this book in one sitting. Art historians have discussed the agency possessed by material things, arguing that art and other manufactured objects can shape the actions and attitudes of individuals and groups. This has led to the creation of biographies of ancient objects, tracking their movements and transformations over time.

Fischer takes this one step further in his picaresque novel, told from the perspective of an ancient Sumerian bowl. As the title suggests, the bowl surreptitiously observes and records the lives of the collectors who have owned it over the course of millennia. I haven’t looked at old pots in my house in the same way again! 

By Tibor Fischer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collector Collector as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To a small flat in South London comes a Sumerian bowl: but the bowl is the Collector Collector, clay with something to say, an object d'art who will offer Rosa, its owner, vast swathes of unrecorded history from the last 5, 000 years. Meanwhile, Rosa tries to centre her life and settle the disturbances caused by an uninvited guest, Nikki.

1001 Nights meets the inner city, The Collector Collector is a comic masterpiece and unquestionably the finest novel ever narrated by a bowl.


Book cover of The First Ghosts

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From my list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Paul Pettitt Why did Paul love this book?

As a specialist in the funerary practices of our earliest ancestors, I avidly awaited the publication of Finkel’s latest, this time deploying his considerable scholarship to the question of how Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians thought of ghosts, spirits, demons, and the underworld.

You don’t need to be a believer to enjoy this intimate picture of the minds of some of the earliest known urbanites and intellectuals at a time when history was just emerging. Out of the fired clay leap stories of underworld journeys such as that of Gilgamesh, of spirits that rise up from below, of exorcisms, omens, and the shadows that lurk in the corners of the house.

To me, this is the most profound statement on early humans at their most imaginative, and if you believe it a useful manual for the prospective ghost hunter.

By Irving Finkel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Ghosts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'It's enthralling stuff, mixing the scholarly with the accessible and placing storytelling right at the heart of the human experience.' - History Revealed

'A fascinating journey' - Yorkshire Post

'The book is a delight to read: each chapter is as academically astute as you would expect from this author, but delivered with a light touch and entertaining writing-style that sweeps the reader through the pages.' - Archaeology Worldwide

In The First Ghosts, he has found the perfect medium for bringing the ancient Mesopotamians back from the dead... Despite the morbid theme and remote cultural milieu, this is not a sombre…