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The Sumerians (Norton Library) Paperback – September 17, 1965


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The Sumerians (Norton Library) + The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character (Phoenix Books) + History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History
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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Library
  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1965)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393002926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393002928
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, as leader of the joint expedition of the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the British Museum, directed important excavations on the site of Ur of the Chaldees, a famous city long buried in the desert sand of Mesopotamia.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you were lucky enough to visit the Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur exhibit at the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. last year then you saw many of the results of Woolley's genius. The exhibit featured the objects which Woolley recovered in the first part of the last century from the tomb of Puabi, a Sumerian priestess whose court was sacrificed and buried with her.
This book is a look inside his mind, how he viewed the people whose past he was uncovering. Sure, he got some things wrong. He did not have the benefit of the research of countless others who came after him. In particular, he appears convinced that there was something he calls "Sumerian nationalism" which was in conflict with rise of Semitic speakers in Mesopotamia. There is no evidence that the ancient Mesopotamians had a concept of an ethnic group or that this concept was a source of conflict.
Woolley was also writing during an era when it was considered scientific to view history in terms of what he called "race," so he returns regularly to contrast his view of the racial stock of the Sumerians with that of the Semites in Mesopotamia.
Yes, this book is a period piece, but I learned a lot from it, and I am a beginner. Indeed, this is the first history of the Sumerians I have ever read from cover to cover. The listing of the Sumerian King's List early in the book is particularly valuable. I find myself returning to it from time to time. What city was Gilgamesh king of? Oh yes, Erech.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a good book, but not the best choice for someone relativly new to the subject. The book is fairly old, and the reader should relize it doesn't match up to well with modern scholarship in the field.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By The Professor on March 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Professor Woolley's relatively short book (194 pages) is divided into seven chapters:
I. The beginnings II. The early history of sumer III. The Period of civil wars IV. Sumerian Society V. The Third Dynasty of Ur VI. Isin and Larsa VII. The claim of Sumer
The first and second chapters are thrilling, introducing the reader to the history, peoples, and ideas of Sumeria. The last chapter summarizes the contributions Sumerian society has made to Egyptian, Greek, and Western Civilization, and I found this particularly fascinating as well. In between, however, I found the text dry, the writing style obtuse, many of the details too cumbersome for the lay reader (but perhaps of interest to the archeologist), and, as a reader below pointed out, the lack of citations disturbing.
One of Woolley's goals in writing this books was to debunk the myth that the Egyptians were the most advanced ancient civilization. In this respect, he has succeeded admirably. His discussion of the development of law was similarly fascinating. However, unless you are particularly interested in law or are an avid reader and collecter of books on Sumeria, I would recommend checking this book out from the library rather than buying it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By terry j edmonds on May 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this book is an excellent book for starting purposes in studying the sumerian people and making comparisons with the accomplishments that have been wrongfully credited to other later civilizations when in fact their later accomplishments were handed down to them by these wonderful people
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Dingess on December 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought it for my adult son. He loves it and uses it for reference all the time. Excellent service. I recommend.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Spoden on October 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although C. Leonard Wooley is known for being a great archaeloogist, this book is a brief but good history of the Sumerians. It is everything a casual reader wanted to know about the Sumerians. It does not go into any sort of detail or elaboration, but merely just gives one basic information that today is probably somewhat out-dated. This is a pretty good book for a short overview of this historic society (it will probably take the average reader about two days to finish it, depending how much time you spend reading) but isn't a good book for a serious person interested in the Sumerians or a historian like myself. It is a good book though none the less.
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Format: Paperback
Whats at the end of the Universe? What was the origin and fate of the first man? Is there a god or at least a higher intelligence somewhere out there? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? Are the Creation Story, the Diluge, the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve true events? How far back in time did the first man walk the Earth and what was it like then? Is the Old Testament of the Bible factual? Do we have a purpose and what is to become of us?

If these are the kinds of questions and ideas that occupy your mind rather than lifes' mundane--if you are curious and inquisitive re the immensely profound questions of mankind thus far gone unanswered then you, no doubt, have already at least a sketchy knowledge of the Sumerian civilization and those that both preceded and followed it.
The Sumerians provided us with our first written records of early man, and the creation and flood stories--3000 years before Christ and the Bible. They speak of Gods and Kings who ruled for hundreds, even thousands, of years and incredible events that bewilder and stagger the imagination.

Was it all true? did it actually happen? That was the subject of a lifetime of research and study by the preeminent archaeologist Charles Wooley who authored this book. There are shortcomings in this book to be sure--somewhat disjointed, lacking in footnotes and documentation, not enough tie-ins to the Biblical Old Testament, slightly outdated, and a shortage of tables, graphs and timelines (It covers some 32,000 years of time, dozens of Dynasties and hundreds of Kings.

It,therefore, needs to be supplemented with other texts but it is nevertheless jam-packed with pieces to the puzzle and consequently, is an indispensible part of your toolbox for deciphering the past.

DH Koester--"And There I Was" And There I Was Volume VIII: A Backpacking Adventure in Ethiopia
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