The ancient Sumerian civilization

My obsession with the time has no bounds, I only wish it made me more punctual. Whilst exploring different time-keeping devices, I started to think about the origins of telling time - how it first began and in what ways it was measured.


The first records of time-keeping date back to 2000 BC from the Sumerians. Sumer was an ancient civilization in what would now be classed as being Southern Iraq. It is recorded as being one of the first civilizations in the world – they had their own language, culture and arts. They even had their own writing form called cuneiform which they carved onto clay tablets. The Sumerians produced literature, kept business accounts and celebrated knowledge. It’s really weird to think that all these things which we do now, date so far back.

Writing is the mother of eloquence and the father of artists.
— Ancient Sumerian proverb


The Sumerians used a sexigesimal structure in their mathematics which revolved around using the measurement of 60. This is where the 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour measurement seems to derive from. This was later picked up by the Babylonians and has developed to what we know it to be as today. Another part of the Sumerian sexigesimal system that is still in use today is the 360 degrees. Other notable accomplishments of this civilization are the creation of the wheel, which most of us are probably grateful for today. They also were well-versed in medicine and there are some records which indicate that they may have even conducted basic surgery.


 It’s a really interesting time period to look up for many reasons, my favourite being that in the list of its many leaders, there was a female leader. Showing us that women have always been capable of being incredibly badass thank you very much.


If you haven’t heard of them, well it’s because they aren’t so well known. All remnants of their existence were lost when the Amorites and Babylonians came into power. It wasn’t until the 19th century when traces of this civilization was uncovered by French and British archaeologists. I believe that in Islam they are referred to as the people of Ur in the time of the Prophet Abraham.


But these people existed, so long ago and invented systems that would last long after their civilisation had crumbled. It really made me think about what I’d be leaving behind. It won’t be anything on a similar scale, that’s for sure!


So next time you look at your watch and count down the minutes, spare a thought for the people who made it so you could, centuries ago. We at Saa’i are forever grateful, for without them, there would be no us.