The Sumerian King List is an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer from Sumerian and neighboring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of "official" kingship. Kingship was believed to have been handed down by the gods, and could be transferred from one city to another, reflecting perceived hegemony in the region. Throughout its Bronze Age existence, the document evolved into a political tool. Its final and single attested version, dating to the Middle Bronze Age, aimed to legitimize Isin's claims to hegemony when Isin was vying for dominance with Larsa and other neighboring city-states in southern Mesopotamia.
The list blends prehistorical, presumably mythicalpredynastic rulers with implausibly lengthy reigns with later, more plausibly historical dynasties. Although the primal kings are historically unattested, this does not preclude their possible correspondence with historical rulers who were later mythicized. Some Assyriologists view the predynastic kings as a later fictional addition. Only one ruler listed is known to be female: Kug-Bau "the (female) tavern-keeper", who alone accounts for the Third Dynasty of Kish.
The earliest listed ruler whose historicity has been archaeologically verified is En-me-barage-si of Kish, ca. 2600 BC. Reference to this individual in the Epic of Gilgamesh has led to speculation that Gilgamesh himself may be historical.
For lack of a more accurate source, the list is central to the chronology of the 3rd millennium BC. However, the fact that many of the dynasties listed reigned simultaneously from varying localities makes it difficult to reproduce a strict linear chronology.
Early dates are approximate, and are based on available archaeological data; for most pre-Akkadian rulers listed, this king list is itself the lone source of information. Beginning with Lugal-zage-si and the Third Dynasty of Uruk (which was defeated by Sargon of Akkad), a better understanding of how subsequent rulers fit into the chronology of the ancient Near East can be deduced. The short chronology is used here.
None of the following predynastic "antediluvian" rulers have been verified via archaeological excavations, epigraphical inscriptions, or otherwise. It is possible that they correspond to the Early Bronze AgeJemdet Nasr period culture which ended approximately 2900 BC, immediately preceding the dynasts. It is also possible that they were fictional creations to make the kingdom seem more legitimate and ancient to its subjects which would explain the exaggerated lifespans and recurring and composite characters that have overwhelming similarities with their predecessors.
The following reigns were measured in Sumerian numerical units known as sars (units of 3600), ners (units of 600), and sosses (units of 60).
Length of reign
"After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years."
Excavations in Iraq have revealed evidence of localized flooding at Shuruppak (modern Tell Fara, Iraq) and various other Sumerian cities. A layer of riverine sediments, radiocarbon dated to ca. 2900 BC, interrupts the continuity of settlement, extending as far north as the city of Kish. Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (3000-2900 BC) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum.
said to have conquered parts of Sumer; then Eannatum of Lagash claims to have taken over Sumer, Kish, and all Mesopotamia. Kug-Bau of Kish is said to have gained independence from Lagash, and his Uruk, after Entemena's death.
contemporary of Sumu-la-El of Babylon. During his reign, the king's gardener, to celebrate the New Year was named 'king for a day' then sacrificed, the "king" died during the celebration; Enlil-Bani remained on the throne.
Rowton, M. B. The Date of the Sumerian King List, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 156-162, 1960
P. Steinkeller, An Ur III Manuscript of the Sumerian King List. In Literatur, Politik und Recht in Mesopotamien: Festschrift fur Claus Wilcke, ed. W. Sallaberger et al., Harrassowitz Verlag, pp. 267-92, 2003
Young, Dwight W. The Incredible Regnal Spans of Kish I in the Sumerian King List, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 23-35, 1991
Hallo, William W. Beginning and End of the Sumerian King List in the Nippur Recension, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 52-57, 1963
Vincente, Claudine-Adrienne, "The Tall Leilan Recension of the Sumerian King List", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 50 (1995), 234–270