account_circle Log in
add Create
cancel Log out
settings Settings
Email address


وركاء Uruk

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

▶︎ View related▼︎ Tap to hide
Uruk (aka Erech; modern Warka) is humanity's first major city and was one Mesopotamia's most important and established religious and political centers.

At Uruk are two areas so far excavated with important Uruk period remains: most significant is the Eanna precinct, which was leveled and abandoned early in the third millennium and whose fourth-millennium remains were close to the surface. Why are people flocking to cities? Why to Uruk in particular? Perhaps it has to do with protecting oneself from raiders.

Uruk XVIII5000 BCFounding of Uruk. First settlement.
Late Ubaid Period
4800 - 4200 BC
Uruk XVI - X4000 - 3800 BCEarly Uruk period.
Middle Uruk Period
Uruk IX - VI
3800 - 3400 BC
Late Uruk Period
Uruk V - IV
3400 - 3100 BCThe earliest monumental temples of Eanna District are built. Though the Anu-ziggurat was simultaneous, the structures at the Eanna complex were the most elaborate and were rebuilt several times in the Uruk IV period. Within an area surrounded by a perimeter wall, several enormous buildings were in use simultaneously. These were not only large, in the order of 50 by 80 m, but also extensively decorated with a technique typical of the Late Uruk period: cone mosaics. The walls were covered in clay cones colored white, black and red, arranged in geometrical patterns on the surface. In one building these cones were of stone, which was more precious than clay.
Uruk IVaDespite the magnificence of the Uruk IVb Eanna precinct, one large platform was built that enclosed all the earlier temples and their remains were covered with sand; the exception was the Mosaic temple, which was excluded because it already had fallen out of use. On this new enormous terrace were erected at least two major temples: Temple D in a T-shaped plan; Temple C, which remarkably had the T-shaped plan with a tripartite unit running along the head; the Red Temple; and a number of buildings with unclear function. At the end of Uruk IVa this whole area was again leveled and left empty for a while before being remodelled again.
Uruk IVbThe Eanna precinct seems to have consisted of three separate terraces, each with its own temple buildings. Nearest to the Mosaic temple was a platform with a roughly north-south orientation on which stood the tripartite Temple B. To the south on another platform, was the fragmentary plan of Temple A. Between them, at approximately right angles, lay the third terrace on which were the most impressive remains of the period: a double row of eight free-standing columns with clay cone decoration of red, black and white. The pillars gave access to another temple whose plan was not recovered. They were accessed up a great staircase with its supporting wall covered in mosaic representing the façade of a shrine, up from a great courtyard decorated on the east side with engaged columns with mosaics on them.
Jedet Nasr Period
Uruk III
3100 - 2900 BCThe 9 km city wall is built. Either at the end of level IVa or start of level III, the marvelous White temple was constructed for Anu. This terrace, like the Eanna terrace, contained within it the remains of a number of earlier buildings. The White temple is remarkably preserved, approached by a fine flight of stairs and standing on a low platform. It is quintessentially tripartite and plastered throughout with fine gypsum plaster.
Uruk II
Uruk I
Persian Period5th + 4th Cent BCMany slipper-shaped coffins covered with an enamel glaze (Jastrow 1915, p 25). The city still existed but had lost its importance, yet its "time-honored sanctity made it a favorite place of burial." (Jastrow 1915, p 26)

Uruk vase

In addition to being the first carved narrative in history, the Uruk Vase (aka the وركاء‎ Warka Vase) is the earliest instance of enduring Mesopotamian motifs such as the rhetoric of abundance and the ruler as a liaison to the gods.

At 90 cm high, the vase has three registers of relief which, though the offers are finely detailed, lacks plastic rendering and thus the humans are merely stereotyped figurines. At the top, the goddess Inanna appears before her perpetual symbol, two reed bundles with loops and streamers. She is tailed by minor deities and a plethora of offerings including two vases shaped like the Uruk Vase itself. Appearing before Inanna is a nude priest offering a basket of produce, and behind him is likely the king.

Below this register are naked priests with further offerings, and in the third register down is a dual registers of livestock and grains. By means of a religious narrative, the Uruk Vase reveals the ideal relationship between the city rulers and the gods as one that brings abundance to the land. The bottom register of animals and plants, endlessly looping as though infinitely plentiful, is only possible because the city ruler and the priests have sated Inanna with comestibles and goods.

A well-known stone vase from Warka, 90 cm high has three registers of figures very finely carved in relief. Above, the goddess Inanna appears in front of two reed bundles terminated in loops and streamers, which are her perpetual symbol, and a ritually naked priest offers her a basket of fruit. Behind this the relief is damaged, but a small fragment remains of a figure which may well be that of a 'king' or leader, and an attendant supports the tasselled girdle which he is perhaps about to present. Inanna is supported by minor deities, mounted on model temples and appropriate beasts, with other symbols including a pair of vases like that on which they are carved. In the second register, naked priests bring further offerings and in the third, beasts and plants represent her two 'kingdoms. Another sacred symbol present here, is the stylized rosette with eight petals. Lloyd, p 57-58