"After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu." - Excerpt from the opening paragraph of the Sumerian King List
Emerging from the desert flats of southern Iraq can be seen the remains of a large mound, approximately 1750 feet x 1750 feet in size, surrounded by several smaller mounds. Known today as Tell Abu Shahrain, or in the ancient world as Eridu, this site contains some of best examples of the Ubaid culture, and it was one of the first urban centers of civilization in southern Mesopotamia, if not the first itself.
Many famous stories came from the mythical landscapes of Iraq's deep south. In the literature of ancient Sumer, Eridu was regarded as the primordial city, the first urban center, believed to have existed long before the great mythical flood that wiped out human culture in the Book of Genesis and other earlier traditions. It was to places like this that Western explorers first came in the 19th century, searching for the origins of the lands which the Bible described as the cradle of the human race. In doing so, they discovered that Eridu was also a real place.
The astonishing site is located about eight miles southwest of the Sumerian city of Ur, and when it was first excavated in the mid-19th century, Western archaeologists were confused as to how a city as large as this could have existed in such a vast and waterless desert. But Eridu is positioned on the edge of the great alluvial plain of Sumer, a wild and beautiful marshland where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet. This was the Biblical "Garden of Eden", an ancient landscape that was renowned for its fertility in the past.
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