URUK PERIOD
(C. 4000–3200 B.C.)
   A prehistoric period in Mesopotamia named after its most important archaeological site, Uruk. It is in turn divided into several phases (Early, Middle, and Late), as suggested by the 18 successive layers of the Uruk site Eanna. The fully fledged Uruk culture sets in at level X (c. 3800) when mass-produced, thick-walled clay bowls with beveled rims make their first appearance. Cylinder seals were introduced in the time of level VII (c. 3600), and monumental architecture dates from the Middle Uruk period l, levels VI–IV (c. 3500–3300). The buildings of level VI, such as the so-called Stone Cone Temple, were erected on large platforms and were of impressive size (28 by 19 meters). Those of level V (“Lime Stone Temple”) were even bigger (62.5 by 11.30 meters), and the walls had elaborately articulated facades.
   At this stage, writing appeared, in pictographic form, to facilitate the increasingly complex economic activities at Uruk itself and in those centers farther afield that belonged to the Uruk sphere of influence. The text on these “archaic” tablets can be understood but not read; they do not appear to express any particular language. The tablets are tallies, receipts for goods and services, allocations of fields and labor, calculations of yield, and so forth. The earliest lexical lists were also composed at this time.
   The Uruk phenomenon is still much debated, as to what extent Uruk exercised political control over the large area covered by the Uruk artifacts, whether this relied on the use of force, and which institutions were in charge. Too little of the site has been excavated to provide any firm answers to these questions. However, it is clear that at this time, the urbanization process was set in motion, concentrated at Uruk itself. Other cities in Mesopotamia were coming into existence, as the city seals on the archaic tablets demonstrate. There was an unprecedented amount of coordination and collaboration in respect to the organization of agriculturallabor and the distribution of goods and services over a large area.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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