FIRST DYNASTY OF ISIN
(C. 2017 – C. 1794 B.C.)
   After the fall of the Third Dynasty of Ur, the center of power shifted farther north to the city of Isin,where the erstwhile Urgovernor Ishbi-Errafounded a new dynasty to carry on the traditions of Mesopotamian kingship. Although the territory controlled by Isin was much smaller than that of the Ur kingdom, it preserved the institutional structure and the ideological basis of the former state. One of its rulers, Enlil-bani (reigned 1860–1837 B.C.), was originally a gardener who was appointed as “substitute king” during an inauspicious time for the incumbent king who happened to die during this period. It was at this time that the Sumerian King List received its final form. Throughout the history of the Isin dynasty, it vied for supremacy with the city of Larsa. Eventually, Isin’s importance declined until it was swallowed up in the new state founded by Hammurabi of Babylon. FOOD. The people who lived in Mesopotamia during the prehistoric periods (see CHALCOLITHIC; NEOLITHIC PERIOD) enjoyed a varied diet procured from hunting the plentiful wild sheep and other mammals, fishing, fowling, and the gathering of legumes, nuts, and wild as well as domesticated cereals.
   Once a predominantly settled and, later, urban lifestyle was adopted, this diversity declined, and people relied predominantly on cereal staples (mainly barley), in the form of porridge or bread. The vitamin and mineral content of this monotonous diet could be enhanced by vegetables such as lettuces, gourds, onions, garlic, and pulses that were grown in smaller plots near the city. Of particular importance as a source of energy and vitamins was the date palm, which flourishes in the south Mesopotamian climate. Regular meat consumption (beef, mutton, pork, and game) was the preserve of the wealthy; the poorer members of society consumed fish for protein, widely available in dried form. Afermented fish sauce was the most popular condiment in Mesopotamian kitchens.
   Dairy products such as clarified butter, cheeses, and fresh and fermented milk were also available, either produced on the great estates of temples or brought to the market by pastoralists. Sesame and linseed were used for oil, both for cosmetic and culinary purposes. The most popular and nutritious drink was beer, which was available in different strengths. The wealthy imported wine from Syria and the Levant. Sweet dishes were prepared with concentrated date syrup, usually translated as “honey.” Mesopotamians were also fond of fruit, such as medlars, apples, apricots, and grapes, as well as nuts. Acooking manual by a Babylonianmaster chef has survived from the 17th century B.C. and makes it clear that the preparation of meals in elite households (and temples) was a complex task. Meat was sauteed, broiled, and stewed, sometimes undergoing all these stages for one dish. Sauces were as important as in classic French cooking, being composed of several different kinds of meat, bones, vegetables, and condiments that were boiled, strained, and reduced. The final presentation involved dumplings and dough crusts, fresh herbs and onions, with the meat being served separate from the sauce and vegetables.
   See also AGRICULTURE.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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