published on 18 January 2012
All of the Sumerians’ innovations were remarkable contributions, responsible for revolutionizing travel, trade and commerce, written and oral communication, science, and even literature. Many of the things that we take for granted today can be traced back directly to the ingenuity of the Sumerian culture.
The Sumerian writing system is probably the most significant of their inventions, paving the way for written communication, record keeping, and literature. Around 3200 B.C., they had developed the first known form of writing, called cuneiform. Using an implement known as a stylus, scribes would draw wedge-shaped characters on clay tablets, and then bake them to preserve the information. Cuneiform was a widely used form of communication for several millennia, despite having over 500 characters, and taking years to learn and master.
The development of writing led the Sumerians to compose on of the oldest known literary works, The Epic of Gilgamesh. This collection of stories about a Sumerian hero laid the groundwork for the early epic poems such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, and led to the development to poetry and prose writing.
The Sumerians also developed a system of numbers. This system, based on a unit of 60, is still used today to some extent. They divided an hour into 60 minutes, and the circle 360 degrees, forming the basis for modern timekeeping and geometry.
Though the Sumerians cannot claim the invention of the wheel, they were responsible for revolutionizing transportation, with the first wheeled vehicles. This ability to make vehicles to which wagons could be attached streamlined trade and commerce, allowing traders and merchants to transport larger quantities of goods back and forth.
The Sumerians can even take some credit for the development of some modern sciences. Ancient Sumerian priests tracked and recorded the movements of the stars, in order to create calendars. Not only was this the foundation of astronomy, but this innovation also allowed Sumerian farmers plan better, and get the most out of their crops.