The Sumerians were an ancient civilization that lived in Mesopotamia, specifically the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They are considered humanity's first civilization, forming the foundation of the modern societies we live in today.
It's impressive how Mesopotamia - or most of the Middle East now - is the birthplace of civilization. It is a dry place where temperatures can soar up to 52 degrees Celsius or 126 Fahrenheit, and it receives very little rainfall. It is also windswept and sandy, subject to unpredictable flooding, and lacks minerals. However, the rivers kept the land fertile enough that human settlements began to spread throughout the valley.
This early population, or the Ubaids, made great strides in farming, domesticating and raising cattle and other animals, which encouraged the growth of various communities up and down the valley. They went on to weave textiles and create pottery. But they became experts in digging irrigation canals which, in a way, made them expand their way of life even more.
From then on, the Sumerians would flourish. They learned how to make bricks, made plates and all manner of household items using clay and used reeds extensively since they had no significant source of wood. They also invented the pottery wheel, the wagon wheel, sailboats, and plows. Imagine not having any of these items - the world as we know it now would probably not have existed.
But beyond all this technology - which must have been considered cutting edge back then - the Sumerians were highly cultured, moving humanity lightyears into the future with their contributions to language, politics and government, architecture, music, and literature.
They invented cuneiform writing - their most crucial cultural gift to humanity - and due to the development of writing, the Sumerians were able to write down their music and literature, which influenced "The Epic of Gilgamesh." Construction, sculpture and architecture flourished as well; their buildings were the biggest the world had seen to date, with intricate details like domes and arches. The earliest samples of written mathematics date back to the Sumerians. Finally, they came up with a timekeeping structure we still use today, the concept that every hour has sixty minutes, and every minute has sixty seconds.
So what happened to the Sumerians, and what caused such a mighty empire to fall?
There were many culprits to Sumer's demise, including the economic decline brought about by an extended drought. Food got scarce, and more and more nomadic tribes began to creep into Sumerian territory to plunder. Their borders were constantly under threat, and in the end, they could no longer fight off their invaders and was, sadly, conquered.
For roughly 2,800 years, from 4500 BC until their final fall around 1750 BC, the Sumerians ruled the harsh - yet fertile area until other up and coming civilizations, namely the Babylonians, would eventually take over. And despite being gone and no longer existing for over 4,000 plus years, we still feel the Sumerian's profound impact in many ways in our daily lives today.