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Kish (Sumer)

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Hammurabi's Babylonia 1

Babylonia in the time of Hammurabi, showing his empire at the start and end of his reign

Coordinates: 32°33′N 44°39′E / 32.55°N 44.65°E / 32.55; 44.65

Kish (KIŠKI' cuneiform:?; Sumerian:kiš; Akkadian:?) is modern Tell al-Uhaymir, Babil Governorate, Iraq), and was an ancient city of Sumer. Kish is located some 12 km east of Babylon, and 80 km south of Baghdad.


Kish was occupied beginning in the Jemdet Nasr period, gaining prominence as one of the pre-eminent powers in the region during the early dynastic period.

Little specific is known about the history of Kish before Sargon of Akkad, who came from the area. The Sumerian king list states that it was the first city to have kings following the deluge. It also names 40 kings of Kish spread over four dynasties. Of those, none earlier than Enmebaragesi has been attested by archaeological finds. Another attested ruler of Kish from the early period, Mesilim, is not mentioned in the king list. Kish had a Semitic population from earliest times, discernible from some early dynastic king names from the list that are considered to be Semitic[1].

Afterwards, though its military and economic power was diminished, it retained a strong political and symbolic significance. Just as with Nippur in the south, control of Kish was a prime element in legitimizing dominance over the north. Because of the city's symbolic value, strong rulers later took the traditional title King of Kish, even if they were from Akkad, Ur, or Babylon. A few governors of Kish for other powers are known, however.

Kish continued to be occupied through the old Babylonian period, the Neo-Assyrian period, and into classical times, before being abandoned.

The city's patron deity was Zababa (or Zamama) in Akkadian times, along with his wife, the goddess Inanna.


The Kish archaeological site is actually an oval area roughly 5 miles by 2 miles encompassing around 40 mounds, the largest being Uhaimir and Ingharra. The most notable mounds are

  • Tell Uhaimir - believed to be the location of the city of Kish. It means "the red" after the red bricks of the ziggurat there.
  • Tell Ingharra - believed to be the location of Hursagkalamma, east of Kish, home of a temple of Inanna.[2]
  • Tell Khazneh
  • Tell el-Bender - held Parthian material.
  • Mound W - where a number of Neo-Assyrian tablets were discovered.

After illegally excavated tablets began appearing at the beginning of the last century, François Thureau-Dangin identified the site as being Kish. Those tablets ended up in a variety of museums.

A French archaeological team under Henri de Genouillac excavated at Kish between 1912 and 1914, finding 1400 Old Babylonian tablets which were distributed to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the Louvre. [3] Later a joint Field Museum and Oxford University team under Stephen Langdon excavated from 1923 to 1933, with the recovered materials split between Chicago and the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

More recently, a Japanese team from the Kokushikan University excavated at Kish in 1988, 2000, and 2001. The last season lasted only one week. [9]

Operation Iraqi Freedom

The site of the city of Kish, which in its present state resembles a dirt hill, serves as a U.S. military radio and watch point South East of the city of Al Hillah and directly north of the U.S. military fuel point along Iraq's main north/south freeway, CSC Scania. In 2005 the site was home to members of the Texas National guard who used many of the surviving clay pots and jars as targets for shooting, The shattered remains of the jars can be found scattered throughout the site. In 2006 The site was taken over by members of the Georgia army national guards 48th brigade, Specifically members of the HHC 108th Armor out of Douglasville Ga. Sadly the site has not been treated with much regard for Historical preservation while under U.S. military's control. Though the Facade from the main entrance into the area is still relativly intact the writing and carvings along its walls are fading faster each year or dissapearing all together due to "souvanier Hunters" withing to bring a piece of the site home.

See also


  1. Cambridge Ancient History, p. 100
  2. Inanna's Descent to the Underworld translation at ETCSL
  3. Henri de Genouillac, Fouilles françaises d'El-`Akhymer, Champion, 1924-25
  4. Stephen Langdon, Excavations at Kish I (1923-1924), 1924
  5. Stephen Langdon and L. C. Watelin, Excavations at Kish III (1925-1927), 1930
  6. Stephen Langdon and L. C. Watelin, Excavations at Kish IV (1925-1930), 1934
  7. Henry Field, The Field Museum-Oxford University expedition to Kish, Mesopotamia, 1923-1929, Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, 1929
  8. P. R. S. Moorey, Kish excavations, 1923-1933 : with a microfiche catalogue of the objects in Oxford excavated by the Oxford-Field Museum, Chicago, Expedition to Kish in Iraq, Clarendon Press, 1978, ISBN 0198131917
  9. K. Matsumoto , Preliminary Report on the Excavations at Kish/Hursagkalama 1988-1989, al-Ra¯fida¯n 12, pp.261-307, 1991


  • McGuire Gibson, The city and Area of Kish, Coconut Grove, 1972
  • [1] E. Mackay, Report on the Excavation of the "A" Cemetery at Kish, Mesopotamia, Pt. 1, A Sumerian Palace and the "A" Cemetery , Pt. 2 (Anthropology Memoirs I, 1-2),Chicago: Field Museum,1931
  • Nissen, Hans The early history of the ancient Near East, 9000-2000 B.C. (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1988. ISBN 0-226-58656-1, ISBN 0-226-58658-8) Elizabeth Lutzeir, trans.
  • [2]I. J. Gelb, Sargonic Texts in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Materials for the Assyrian Dictionary 5, The University of Chicago Press, 1970 ISBN 0-226-62309-2
  • T. Claydon, Kish in the Kassite Period (c. 1650-1150 B.C), Iraq, vol. 54, pp. 141-155, 1992
  • P. R. S. Moorey, A Re-Consideration of the Excavations on Tell Ingharra (East Kish) 1923-33, Iraq, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 18-51, 1966

External links

ar:كيش ca:Kish cv:Киш cs:Kišfa:کیش (سومر)gl:Kishka:ქიში hu:Kis (település)ja:キシュ no:Kish oc:Kishpt:Kish (Iraque) ru:Киш (Шумер) sr:Киш sh:Kiš (Sumer) fi:Kiš sv:Kish tr:Kiş (Sümer) zh:基什

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