Student Reader

The Tummal

The history of the Tummal chronicles the vicissitudes of Enlil's temple and within it the Tummal, dedicated to Enlil's consort Ninlil. From lines 1-26, the text follows five fathers and their sons, with the father developing Enlil's temple and the son developing the tummal. After each father-son segment, the tummal falls into ruins until being restored by the next duo. The History lists Enmebargesi as the first builder of Enlil's temple, a king who is attested in the Sumerian King List as ruling from Kish (lines 40-95) and whose name has been found on an alabaster vessel from the first building level of the Temple Oval at Khafaje; thus, he is dated to the late Early Dynastic II era. His son Aga, also attested in the List, brought together the temple household by incorporating Ninlil's tummal. The last father-son duo is Ur-Nammu and Shulgi, at which point Enlil's temple must have been well enough built up with Iri-nanam, Bur-cucua, Numunbura and Lofty Garden.

Then, for lines 27-30 the History changes its format to describe that under Shulgi's successor Amar-Sin, extispicy was used to choose a high priest to Inanna who remains through the reign of Ibbi-Sin, the successor of Amar-Sin and predecessor of Ishbi-Erra according to the Sumerian King List (lines 341-377). During this time, the tummal flourishes. This bulk of the History (lines 1-30) is dictated by the chief mother-goddess Inanna (referred to as Enlil's chief leatherworker), while a sort of anecdote (lines 32-33) is tacked on that says Ishbi-Erra built a storehouse for Enlil. In light of the text continuing no further, it was likely first written during the reign of Ishbi-Erra, an Early Bronze Age king who ruled from Isin at the cusp of the 3rd and 2nd millenia.

Correlations to archaeological and textual record

Enmebargesi and his son Aga are also mentioned in the Sumerian tale of Uruk king Gilgamesh (who allegedly also renovated the Tummal) winning over Kish king Aga (agan said to be son of Enmebargesi) after Aga lays siege to Uruk to enslave its population. Other characters in the History also appear in the Sumerian King List, such as Ur king Mec-ki-aj-Nanna (lines 134-147) and Ur III dynasty kings Ur-Nammu, Amar-Sin and Ibbi-Sin (lines 341-354). The kings listed had their seats of power in Kish, Uruk, Ur and Isin -- however, Enlil was the city-god of Nippur and it is here that his temple has been discovered. Nippur was the chief religious site in the north of Sumer, comparable to Ur in the south, and thus kings were especially concerned with gaining legitimacy via recognition by the priesthood at Nippur. In exchange for such recognition, the kings lavished great gifts upon Nippur.

The temple dedicated to Enlil (one of the chief gods of the Sumerian pantheon) and the tummal of his consort Ninlil benefited greatly from royal patronage, as the History attests. The reigns of the Ur III kings Amar-Sin and Ibbi-Sin seems to have been a great era for the tummal, if the History is to be believed. In fact, the Ur III era was when Nippur underwent its greatest growth. The archaeological record at Nippur clarifies that what is meant by high priest of Inanna of Uruk, since it is odd that the History would concern itself with events from Uruk. However, in light of the Inanna temple at Nippur (which endured into the ED III) it seems that of Uruk is simply a title, since Uruk was closely associated with the god Inanna, though there was an additional temple to her at Nippur.


Sollberger, Edmond. 1962. Journal of Cuneiform Studies. Vol. 16, No. 2. Pages 40-47. (link) (Sollberger has excellent insight to The history of the tummal.)

ETCSL translation: t.2.1.3; The history of the tummal. Link (accessed 9 March 2011)

ETCSL translation; The Sumerian king list. Link (accessed 9 March 2011)

Oriental Insitute. Nippur - Sacred City of Enlil. Link (accessed 11 March 2011) (This sheds light on the archaeology of Nippur, and its expansion under the Ur III kings.)

Katz, Dina. 1993. Gilgamesh and Akka. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers. Google Books (This was very useful in dating Enmebargesi and providing context for the kings attested in the History in the Sumerian King List)

Crawford, Harriet. 1991. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. (Page 146 sheds light on the Inanna temple at Nippur.)

Lloyd, Setton. 1978. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: From the Old Stone Age to the Persian Conquest. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. (Page 93 sheds light on the inscriptions left by Enmebaragesi and found in the Diyala region.)

The TummalComments