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Mesopotamia / Cities /


Basalt statue of a crouching lion, Eridu (ca. 3000 BCE)
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Basalt statue of a crouching lion (ca. 3000 BCE)

Ruins of Eridu
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Typical example of ruins at Eridu

Ruins of Eridu

Excavations into the most ancient structures of Eridu

Ancient city of Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, south of Ur. Its location corresponds to modern Tell Abu Shahrain, southern Iraq.
Eridu was one of the most important prehistoric centres in Mesopotamia. According to the king lists, it was the oldest city of Sumer, dating back to the 5th or 6th millennium BCE.
Eridu emerged as a town from its location along the Euphrates river, at a place where three types of cultures and economies met: irrigation agriculture; fishing; and pastoralism of sheep and goats.
Eridu was also an important religious centre, revering the god Enki (later Ea), the lord of the sweet water. The main religious structure of Eridu, the Abzu temple, was dedicated to Enki.
By reading the evidence from Eridu's excavated ruins, one also sees the history of Mesopotamia. Temples date back to preliterate Ubayd times, and new constructions have been superimposed on the older ones. How skills and artistry improves over time, is clearly shown. Still, the ruins of Eridu are highly unimpressive to the layman, little of the once grand structures have survived the thousands of years.

In mythology
Sumerian myths tell that it was founded by the god, Enki. It was one of 5 cities founded before the great flood.

5th millennium BCE: Eridu is founded.
21st century: Eridus seems to fall into a decline. Evidence for this is a ziggurat begun in this era by the rulers of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, but never finished, which suggests the collapse of local authorities.
6th century: Eridu is abandoned.

Modern times
1946 CE: Excavations start under the leadership of Iraqi archaeologists.

Confused? Try to find a good place to start learning about Mesopotamia in
Where to begin?Detailed article

By Tore Kjeilen