Updated 21 April 2004
The Sumerian speaking people settled in the land they called Sumer, in a region of the Fertile Crescent that lay along the southern portions of the valley of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The area is located just before those great tributaries dump their waters into the Persian Gulf -- in an area which is now known as southeastern Iraq. The Greeks later called the area “Mesopotamia”, meaning “between the rivers”. To the northeast (modern day Iran) was the Zagros Mountains, while to the southwest was the Arabian Desert.
What occurred there some 6,000 years ago, has been called “the most crucial event in human history.”  Literally, seemingly out of nowhere, a highly advanced, thriving culture appeared sometime after 4000 B.C.E. (although some argue the Sumerians may have arrived as early as 8500 B.C.E., or even much, much earlier). What is clear is that the Sumerians developed a highly sophisticated system of irrigation and agriculture, which took full advantage of the waters of the two rivers. They quickly established magnificent cities, advanced governing laws, and a written language.
The Sumerian language itself has been an enigma to linguists and scholars ever since the first tablets of that ancient language were re-discovered in the nineteenth century. It bears no relation, for example to ancient Arabic, Assyrian, Canaanite, Egyptian, Indian, Jewish, Persian, or Phoenician, nor to any language from contemporaneous African, Asian or European dialects.
As might be expected, the Sumerian language did leave a significant heritage. For example, there are significant similarities among various agglutinative languages like Mongolian, Turkic, and Hungarian. In fact, in the process of decifering Sumerian, the Hungarian (which is not an indo-european language) was very useful. See for example, http://users.cwnet.com/millenia/magynam.htm, just one of many sites with information on this topic.
For example, "In his Sumerian Etymological Dictionary and Comparative Grammar, Kálmán Gosztony, professor of Sumerian philology at the Sorbonne, demonstrated that the grammatical structure of the Hungarian language is the closest to that of the Sumerian language: out of the 53 characteristics of Sumerian grammar, there are 51 matching characteristics in the Hungarian language, 29 in the Turkic languages, 24 in the Caucasian languages, 21 in the Uralic languages, 5 in the Semitic languages, and 4 in the Indo-European languages." 
The Sumerian language is the oldest sophisticated form of writing in existence, and dates from at least 3400 B.C.E.
The most intriguing aspect of the Sumerians is their arrival on the scene with all of the attributes of civilization already formulated in what they termed The Me. These attributes included everything from kingship and priesthood to the arts of love making, kindness, and song, to the crafts of scribes, builders, leather makers, wood and copper workers, to the perceptive ear, giving of judgments, and the making of beer.
The Sumerian culture also included Sumerian Ethics which were a quantum leap above anything known before, and in many ways, definitively superior to modern day morality. An ORME History adds yet more intriguing aspects to this fascinating culture.
Fundamental to anything regarding the Sumerians are their gods and goddesses, whom as a group they called the Anunnaki (literally, “those who from heaven to earth came”). As in any later pantheon, the Anunnaki consisted of a number of very different personalities, that clashed with each other often and in an enormous variety of ways. While their very distinct personalities can be used to establish Archetypes, all of the evidence suggests that the Anunnaki were historical figures and not mythological.
The Sumerian Family Tree, in fact, distinguishes between those Gods and Goddesses who were born on earth (the new generation) and those born in heaven. The Sumerian texts also describe the Epic of Creation (of which Genesis is a condensed version), as well as a continuing semi-sibling rivalry between Enki and Enlil, their offspring, and those humans who voluntarily or otherwise began the process of choosing up sides.
Sumerian wisdom was also prevalent at an early stage -- the so-called father of mankind, Enki, being noted as extremely wise. Some examples of their thoughts can be derived from:
In a city that has no watch dogs, the fox is the overseer
Flatter a young man, he’ll give you anything;
Throw a scrap to a dog, he’ll wag his tail.
A sweet word is everybody’s friend.
If you take the field of an enemy,
Conceiving is nice; pregnancy is irksome.
For a man’s pleasure, there is marriage;
On thinking it over, there is divorce.
Clearly, we’re talking about some supremely wise beings here!
 The Age of God-Kings, Time Life Books, New York, 1987
 Laurence Gardner, Genesis of the Grail Kings, Bantam Press, New York, 1999.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]