Sumerians were a people who founded the first cities, invented writing, created monumental architecture and developed irrigation, poetry and the rule of law.

“People think that a culture dating from the third millennium b.c. must be primitive, which is emphatically not the case,” says Metropolitan curator Joan Aruz, who began planning the show five-and-a- half years ago. “It was a very elite society with sophisticated music, art and literature.”

The Sumerians likely bartered palm, fish and vegetable oil, wool and cloth, grain and other agricultural products for such items as gold from Egypt and central Turkey, wood from Iran, and copper and diorite from the Oman Peninsula. Raw blocks of lapis lazuli were transported by foot or donkey from northeastern Afghanistan to Mesopotamian palaces, where artisans fashioned them into sculptures, bowls and jewelry. Sailing across the Arabian Sea, merchants from the IndusValley converged on the bustling seaport of Dilmun, in present-day Bahrain, with their cargo of ivory combs and carnelian belts and beads to trade with buyers from Ur, 400 miles to the north.

Adapted from Mesopotamian Masterpieces (see full article)

Sumerian tablet