Shuruppak is located in Iraq
Shown within Iraq
Shuruppak is located in Near East
Shuruppak (Near East)
Alternative nameTell Fara
LocationAl-Qādisiyyah Governorate, Iraq
Coordinates31°46′39″N 45°30′35″E / 31.77750°N 45.50972°E / 31.77750; 45.50972
Typearchaeological site, human settlement
Area120 hectare
Height9 metre
PeriodsJemdet Nasr period, Early Dynastic period, Akkad period, Ur III period
Site notes
Excavation dates1900, 1902-1903, 1931, 1973, 2016-2018
ArchaeologistsRobert Koldewey, Friedrich Delitzsch, Erich Schmidt, Harriet P. Martin

Shuruppak (Sumerian: 𒋢𒆳𒊒𒆠 ŠuruppagKI, SU.KUR.RUki, "the healing place"), modern Tell Fara, was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 55 kilometres (35 mi) south of Nippur and 30 kilometers north of ancient Uruk on the banks of the Euphrates in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate. Shuruppak was dedicated to Ninlil, also called Sud, the goddess of grain and the air.[1]

"Shuruppak" is sometimes also the name of a king of the city, legendary survivor of the Flood, and supposed author of the Instructions of Shuruppak".


Summary account of silver for the governor written in Sumerian Cuneiform on a clay tablet. From Shuruppak, Iraq, circa 2500 BC. British Museum, London.

Jemdet Nasr period

The earliest excavated levels at Shuruppak date to the Jemdet Nasr period about 3000 BC. Several objects made of arsenical copper were found in Shuruppak/Fara dating to the Jemdet Nasr period (c. 2900 BC). Similar objects were also found at Tepe Gawra (levels XII-VIII).[2]

Early Dynastic II

The city rose in importance and size, exceeding 40 hectares(0.4km2), during the Early Dynastic period.

In the Sumerian King List is a ruler, Ubara-Tutu, the last ruler "before the flood". In some versions he is followed by a son, Ziusudra.[3] In later versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a man named Utnapishtim, son of Ubara-Tutu, is noted to be king of Shuruppak. This portion of Gilgamesh is thought to have been taken from another literary composition, the Myth of Atrahasis.[4]

Early Dynastic III

The city expanded to its greatest extent at the end of the Early Dynastic III period (2600 BC to 2350 BC) when it covered about 100 hectares.[5]

Cuneiform tablets from the Early Dynastic III period show a thriving, military oriented economy with links to cities throughout the region.[6] It has been proposed that Fara was part of a "hexapolis" with Lagash, Nippur, Uruk, Adab, and Umma, possibly under the leadership of Kish.[7][8]

Akkadian period

In the Akkadian Period (c. 2334-2154 BC), Shuruppak was ruled by a governor holding the title patesi. Like most cities on the Euphrates, it declined during the Akkadian Empire.[9] A clay cone from the Akkadian Empire period found at Shurappak read "Dada, governor of Suruppak: Hala-adda, gover[nor] of Suruppak, his son, laid the ... of the city gate of the goddess Sud".[10]

Governors: Dada; Hala-adda;

Ur III period

During Ur III period (c. 2112-2004 BC), the city was ruled by a governors (ensi2) appointed by Ur. One is known to be Ur-nigar, son of Shulgi, first rulers of Ur III. One of the tablets found at the site is dated by a year name to the beginning of the reign of Shu-Sin, next to last ruler of Ur III.[11] A few governors of Shurappak under the Ur III Empire are known from contemporary epigraphic remains, Ku-Nanna, Lugal-hedu, Ur-nigin-gar, and Ur-Ninkura.[12] In much later literary compositions several purported rulers are mentioned.

Middle Bronze I

In the 2020s BC, the Ur III Empire was hit by a major drought. It is thought to have been abandoned shortly around 2000 BC.

A Isin-Larsa cylinder seal and several pottery plaques which may date to early in the second millennium BC were found at the site.[13] Surface finds are predominantly Early Dynastic.[14] In the 2nd year of Enlil-bani (c. 1860 – 1837 BC), ruler of Isin, a sage of Nippur is recorded as leaving an herbal medicine at Shurappak.[15]

Flood Myth

The report of the 1930s excavation mentions a layer of flood deposits at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period at Shuruppak. Shuruppak in Mesopotamian legend is one of the "antediluvian" cities and the home of King Utnapishtim, who survives the flood by making a boat beforehand. Schmidt wrote that the flood story of the Bible, [16]

seems to be based on a very real event or a series of such, as suggested by the existence at Ur, at Kish, and now at Fara, of inundation deposits, which accumulated on top of human inhabitation. There is finally “the Noah story,” which may possibly symbolize the survival of the Sumerian culture and the end of the Elamite Jemdet Nasr culture.

The deposit is like that deposited by river avulsions, a process that was common in the Tigris–Euphrates river system.[17][18]


List of titles of different occupations, clay tablet from Shuruppak, Iraq. 2nd half of the 3rd millennium BCE. Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin

Tell Fara extends about a kilometer from north to south. The total area is about 120 hectares, with about 35 hectares of the mound being more than 3 meters above the surrounding plain, with a maximum of 9 meters. The site consists of two mounds, one larger than the other, separated by an old canal bed as well as a lower town. It was visited by William Loftus in 1850.[19] Hermann Volrath Hilprecht conducted a brief survey in 1900.[20] He found "copper goatheads; a copper, pre-Sargonid sword; a lamp in the shape of a bird; a very archaic seal cylinder; a number of pre-Sargonid tablets, and 60 incised plates of mother of pearl".[16] It was first excavated between 1902 and 1903 by Walter Andrae, Robert Koldewey and Friedrich Delitzsch of the German Oriental Society for eight months. They used a new "modern" system which involved excavating trenches 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep every few yards running across the entire width of the larger mound. If a building wall was found in a trench it was further explored. Preliminary identification of the site as Suruppak came from a Ur III period clay nail which mentioned "Haladda, son of Dada, the patesi of Shuruppak (written SU.KUR.RUki) repaired the ADUS of the Great Gate of the god Shuruppak (written dSU.KUR.RU-da)". Among other finds, roughly 1000 cuneiform tablets of Early Dynastic III period were collected, which ended up in the Berlin Museum and the Istanbul Museum. [21] About a thousand Early Dynastic clay sealings and fragments (used to secure doors and containers) were also found. Most from cylinder seals but 19 were from stamp seals.[22] In 1903 the site was visited by Edgar James Banks who was excavating at the site of Adab, a four hour walk to the north. Banks took photographs of the German trenches and noted a 20 foot in diameter well, constructed with plano-convex bricks, in the center of the larger mound as well as an arched sewer, similarly constructed. The latter was where tablets were found. Banks also noted that the smaller mound held a cemetery.[23]

Bill of sale Louvre AO3765

In 1926 it was visited by Raymond P, Dougherty during his archaeological survey of the region.[24] In March and April 1931, a joint team of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the University of Pennsylvania excavated Shuruppak for a further six week season, with Erich Schmidt as director and with epigraphist Samuel Noah Kramer being prompted by reports of illicit excavations in the area. They were able to stratify the major occupation levels as Jemdat Nasr (Fara I), Early Dynastic (Fara II), and Ur III empire (Fara III). There was an "innundation event" between Fara I and Fara II.[16][25] The excavation recovered 87 tablets and fragments—mostly from pre-Sargonic times—biconvex, and unbaked. The tablets included reference to Shuruppak enabling confirmation of the sites original name.[26]

Pig-shaped rattle from Shuruppak, Iraq. Baked clay. Early Dynastic period, 2500-2350 BCE. Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin

In 1973, a three-day surface survey of the site was conducted by Harriet P. Martin. Consisting mainly of pottery shard collection, the survey confirmed that Shuruppak dates at least as early as the Jemdet Nasr period, expanded greatly in the Early Dynastic period, and was also an element of the Akkadian Empire and the Third Dynasty of Ur.[27]

A surface survey and a full magnetometer survey of the site was completed was conducted between 2016 and 2018 by a team from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich led by Adelheid Otto and Berthold Einwag. The initial work was under the regional QADIS survey.[28] A drone was used to create a digital elevation model of the site.[29] The researchers found thousands of robber holes left by looters which had disturbed surface in many places, with the top several meters of the main mound destroyed.[30] They were able to use remains of the 900 meter long trench left by excavators in 1902 and 1903 to orient old excavation documents and aerial mapping with their geomagnetic results. Part of the site was inaccessible because of the spoil heaps from the excavations. A city wall was found (in Area A), which had been missed in the past.[31][32] A harbor and quay were also found.[33]

See also


  1. ^ Jacobsen, Thorkild (1 January 1987). The Harps that Once--: Sumerian Poetry in Translation. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-07278-5.
  2. ^ Daniel T. Potts, Mesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. Cornell University Press, 1997 ISBN 0801433398 p167
  3. ^ [1]Thorkild Jacobsen, "The Sumerian King List", The University Of Chicago Press Chicago Illinois, 1939
  4. ^ Maureen Gallery Kovacs, "TABLET XI", The Epic of Gilgamesh, edited by , Redwood City: Stanford University Press, pp. 95-108, 1989
  5. ^ Leick, Gwendolyn (2002). Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-026574-0.
  6. ^ Jacobsen, Thorkild and Moran, William L., "Early Political Development in Mesopotamia", Toward the Image of Tammuz and Other Essays on Mesopotamian History and Culture, Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, pp. 132-156, 1970
  7. ^ [2]Cripps, Eric L., "Messengers from Šuruppak", Cuneiform Digital Library Journal 2013 (3), 2013
  8. ^ Pomponio, Francesco & Visicato Giuseppe, "Early Dynastic Administrative Tablets of Šuruppak", Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientalo di Napoli, 1994
  9. ^ Marchetti, Nicolò, Al-Hussainy, Abbas, Benati, Giacomo, Luglio, Giampaolo, Scazzosi, Giulia, Valeri, Marco and Zaina, Federico, "The Rise of Urbanized Landscapes in Mesopotamia: The QADIS Integrated Survey Results and the Interpretation of Multi-Layered Historical Landscapes", Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archäologie, vol. 109, no. 2, pp. 214-237, 2019
  10. ^ [3]Douglas R. Frayne, "Akkad", The Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334–2113), University of Toronto Press, pp. 5-218, 1993 ISBN 0-8020-0593-4
  11. ^ Sharlach, Tonia, "Princely Employments in the Reign of Shulgi", Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-68, 2022
  12. ^ Frayne, Douglas, "Table III: List of Ur III Period Governors", Ur III Period (2112-2004 BC), Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. xli-xliv, 1997
  13. ^ Martin, Harriet P. (1988). FARA: A reconstruction of the Ancient Mesopotamian City of Shuruppak. Birmingham, UK: Chris Martin & Assoc. p. 44, p. 117 and seal no. 579. ISBN 0-907695-02-7.
  14. ^ [4]Adams, Robert McC. (1981). Heartland of Cities: Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land Use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Fig. 33 compared with Fig. 21. ISBN 0-226-00544-5.
  15. ^ Rochberg, Francesca, "The Babylonians and the Rational: Reasoning in Cuneiform Scribal Scholarship", In the Wake of the Compendia: Infrastructural Contexts and the Licensing of Empiricism in Ancient and Medieval Mesopotamia, edited by J. Cale Johnson, Berlin, München, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 209-246, 2015
  16. ^ a b c Schmidt, Erich (1931). "Excavations at Fara, 1931". University of Pennsylvania's Museum Journal. 2: 193–217.
  17. ^ Morozova, Galina S. (2005). "A review of Holocene avulsions of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and possible effects on the evolution of civilizations in lower Mesopotamia". Geoarchaeology. 20 (4): 401–423. doi:10.1002/gea.20057. ISSN 0883-6353. S2CID 129452555.
  18. ^ William W. Hallo and William Kelly Simpson (1971). The Ancient Near East: A History.
  19. ^ [5]William Loftus, "Travels and researches in Chaldæa and Susiana; with an account of excavations at Warka, the Erech of Nimrod, and Shúsh, Shushan the Palace of Esther, in 1849-52", J. Nisbet and Co., 1857
  20. ^ [6]Hilprecht, Hermann Vollrat, "The Excavations in Assyria and Babylonia", Philadelphia: A.J. Holman and Company, 1904
  21. ^ Heinrich, Ernst; Andrae, Walter, eds. (1931). Fara, Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft in Fara und Abu Hatab. Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
  22. ^ R.J.Matthews, "Fragments of Officialdom from Fara", Iraq, vol. 53, pp. 1–15, 1991
  23. ^ [7]Edgar James Banks, "Bismya; or The lost city of Adab : a story of adventure, of exploration, and of excavation among the ruins of the oldest of the buried cities of Babylonia", G. P Putnam's Sons, New York, 1912
  24. ^ Dougherty, Raymond P, "An Archæological Survey in Southern Babylonia I", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 23, pp. 15–28, 1926
  25. ^ Kramer, Samuel N. (1932). "New Tablets from Fara". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 52 (2): 110–132. doi:10.2307/593166. JSTOR 593166.
  26. ^ Martin, Harriet P., "The Tablets of Shuruppak", in Le temple et le culte, Compte rendu de la vingtième Recontre Assyriologique Internationale, Leiden, pp. 173-182, 1975
  27. ^ Martin, Harriet P. (1983). "Settlement Patterns at Shuruppak". Iraq. 45 (1): 24–31. doi:10.2307/4200173. JSTOR 4200173. S2CID 130046037.
  28. ^ Marchetti, N., Einwag, B., Al-Hussainy, A., Luglio, G., Marchesi, G., Otto, A., Scazzosi, G., Leoni, E., Valeri, M. and Zaina, F., "QADIS. The Iraqi-Italian 2016 Survey Season in the South-Eastern Region of Qadisiyah", Sumer 63, pp. 63−92, 2017
  29. ^ Otto, A., & Einwag, B., "The survey at Fara - Šuruppak 2016-2018", In Otto, A., Herles, M., Kaniuth, K., Korn, L., & Heidenreich, A. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Vol. 2. Wiesbaden, pp. 293–306. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2020
  30. ^ Otto, A., Einwag, B., Al-Hussainy, A., Jawdat, J.A.H., Fink, C. and Maaß, H., "Destruction and Looting of Archaeological Sites between Fāra / Šuruppak and Išān Bahrīyāt / Isin: Damage Assessment during the Fara Regional Survey Project FARSUP", Sumer 64, pp. 35−48, 2018
  31. ^ Otto, A., Einwag, B., Al-Hussainy, A., Jawdat, J. A. H., Fink, C., & Maaß, H., "Destruction and looting of archaeological sites betweenFara/ˇSuruppak and Iˇsan Bahrīyat/Isin damage assessment during the Fara Regional Survey Project FARSUP", Sumer,64, pp. 35–48, 2018
  32. ^ Hahn, Sandra E.; Fassbinder, Jörg W. E.; Otto, Adelheid; Einwag, Berthold; Al‐Hussainy, Abbas Ali (2022). "Revisiting Fara: Comparison of merged prospection results of diverse magnetometers with the earliest excavations in ancient Šuruppak from 120 years ago". Archaeological Prospection. 29 (4): 623–635. doi:10.1002/arp.1878. S2CID 252827382.
  33. ^ [8]Fassbinder, Jörg, Sandra Hahn, and Marco Wolf, "Prospecting in the marshland: the Sumerian city Fara-Šuruppak (Iraq)", Advances in On-and Offshore Archaeological Prospection: Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Archaeological Prospection, 2023

Further reading