Paul Collins. 2021. The Sumerians. London: Reaktion Books. 214 pp.
A compact and authoritative treatment of the Sumerians (well, it turns out there probably was no such ethnic group, Sumerian was a language used by several peoples).
The final chapter contains a summary of current knowledge, and the final 3 pages are a precis of the book. The preceding chapters trace how this knowledge was arrived at, along the way providing a short history of thw involvement of foreign powers in Mesopotamia/Iraq-Iran over the past two centuries. Interpretations of the principal researchers were often influenced by political or racist agendas more than by the archaelogical evidence.
Proto-cuneiform (currently not decoded) appeared ~3800-3500 BCE and then spread across southern Mesopotamia (Sumeria).
Cuneiform tablets in Sumerian appear about 2800 BCE. As noted elsewhere, initially used for accounting and administrative purposes, story-telling came much later.
The first literature (including stories of Bilgames, = Gilgamesh, by the Akkadian [northern, Semetic] people) about 2110-2000 BCE by which time Sumerian was a dying language.
Concisely and objectively written, all the more powerful for allows the multiple human and archaelogical tragedies to speak for themselves. Including the most recent attempted trashing of Iraq’s archaeolgical heritage. Lots of photographs of the fabulous objects of which the most wonderful is the Stele of Naran-Sin which I sadly don’t remember seeing in the Lourvre.
|Stele of Naran-Sin. Musée du Louvre Antiquités orientales SB 4 discovered (Susa) / Wikimedia commons / CC0 1.0