|Location||Tell al-Uhaymir, Babil Governorate, Iraq|
|Founded||Approximately 3100 BC|
|Periods||Jemdet Nasr to Hellenistic|
Kish (Sumerian: Kiš; transliteration: Kiški; cuneiform: 𒆧𒆠; Akkadian: kiššatu) was an ancient tell (hill city) of Sumer in Mesopotamia, considered to have been located near the modern Tell al-Uhaymir in the Babil Governorate of Iraq, east of Babylon and 80 km south of Baghdad.
Kish was occupied from the Jemdet Nasr period (c. 3100 BC), gaining prominence as one of the pre-eminent powers in the region during the early dynastic period.
First Dynasty of Kish
The Sumerian king list states that Kish was the first city to have kings following the deluge, beginning with Jushur. Jushur's successor is called Kullassina-bel, but this is actually a sentence in Akkadian meaning "All of them were lord". Thus, some scholars have suggested that this may have been intended to signify the absence of a central authority in Kish for a time. The names of the next nine kings of Kish preceding Etana are all Akkadian words for animals, e.g. Zuqaqip "scorpion". The East Semitic nature of these and other early names associated with Kish reveals that its population had a strong Semitic (Akkadian speaking) component from the dawn of recorded history. Ignace Gelb identified Kish as the center of the earliest East Semitic culture which he calls the Kish civilization.
The twelfth king of Kish appearing on the Sumerian king list, Etana, is noted as "the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries". Although his reign has yet to be archaeologically attested, his name is found in later legendary tablets, and Etana is sometimes regarded as the first king and founder of Kish. The twenty-first king of Kish on the list, Enmebaragesi, who is said to have captured the weapons of Elam, is the first name confirmed by archaeological finds from his reign. He is also known through other literary references, in which he and his son Aga of Kish are portrayed as contemporary rivals of Dumuzid, the Fisherman, and Gilgamesh, early rulers of Uruk.
Some early kings of Kish are known through archaeology, but are not named on the King list. These include Utug or Uhub, said to have defeated Hamazi in the earliest days, and Mesilim, who built temples in Adab and Lagash, where he seems to have exercised some control.
Third Dynasty of Kish (ca. 2500–2330 BC)
Afterwards, although its military and economic power was diminished, Kish retained a strong political and symbolic significance. Just as with Nippur to the south, control of Kish was a prime element in legitimizing dominance over the north of Mesopotamia (Assyria, Subartu). Because of the city's symbolic value, strong rulers later claimed the traditional title "King of Kish", even if they were from Akkad, Ur, Assyria, Isin, Larsa or Babylon. One of the earliest to adopt this title upon subjecting Kish to his empire was King Mesannepada of Ur. A few governors of Kish for other powers in later times are also known, including Ashduniarim and Iawium.
Sargon of Akkad, the founder of the Akkadian Empire, came from the area nearby Kish, called Azupiranu. He would later declare himself the king of Kish, as an attempt to signify his connection to the religiously important area. In Akkadian times the city's patron deity was Zababa (or Zamama), along with his wife, the goddess Inanna.
The Kish archaeological site is actually an oval area roughly 8 by 3 km (5 by 2 mi), transected by the dry former bed of the Euphrates River, encompassing around 40 mounds, the largest being Uhaimir and Ingharra. The most notable mounds are:
- Tell Uhaimir – believed to be the location of the city of Kish. It means "the red" after the red bricks of the ziggurat there.
- Tell Ingharra – believed to be the location of Hursagkalamma, east of Kish home of a temple of Inanna.
- Tell Khazneh
- Tell el-Bender – held Parthian material
- Mound W – where a number of Neo-Assyrian tablets were discovered
After irregularly excavated tablets began appearing at the beginning of the twentieth century, François Thureau-Dangin identified the site as being Kish. Those tablets ended up in a variety of museums.
Because of its close proximity to Babylon the site was visited by a number of explorers and travelers in the 1800s, some involving excavation, most notably by the foreman of Hormuzd Rassam who dug there with a crew of 20 men for a number of months. None of this early work was published. A French archaeological team under Henri de Genouillac excavated at Tell Uhaimir between 1912 and 1914, finding some 1,400 Old Babylonian tablets which were distributed to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the Louvre.  Later, a joint Field Museum and University of Oxford team under Stephen Langdon excavated from 1923 to 1933, with the recovered materials split between Chicago and the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.
Rulers of Kish
The Sumerian King List gives a list of the rulers of the three dynasties of Kish.
First dynasty of Kish
|Ruler||Epithet||Length of reign||Approx. dates||Comments|
|Jushur||1,200 years||historicity uncertain||names before Etana do not appear in any other known source, and their existence is archaeologically unverified|
|Atab (or A-ba)||600 years|
|Mashda||"the son of Atab"||840 years|
|Arwium||"the son of Mashda"||720 years|
|Etana||"the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries"||1,500 years|
|Balih||"the son of Etana"||400 years|
|Melem-Kish||"the son of En-me-nuna"||900 years|
|Barsal-nuna||("the son of En-me-nuna")*||1,200 years|
|Zamug||"the son of Barsal-nuna"||140 years|
|Tizqar||"the son of Zamug"||305 years|
|En-me-barage-si||"who made the land of Elam submit"||900 years||c. 2600 BC||the earliest ruler on the List confirmed independently from epigraphical evidence|
|Aga of Kish||"the son of En-me-barage-si"||625 years||c. 2600 BC||contemporary with Gilgamesh of Uruk, according to the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh and Aga|
Second dynasty of Kish
|Ruler||Epithet||Length of reign||Approx. dates||Comments|
|Susuda||"the fuller"||201 years||c. 26th century BC|
|Mamagal||"the boatman"||360 years|
|Kalbum||"the son of Mamagal"||195 years|
|Men-nuna||"the son of Tuge"||180 years|
Third dynasty of Kish
|Ruler||Epithet||Length of reign||Approx. dates||Comments|
|Kug-Bau (Kubaba)||"the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish"||100 years||c. 25th century BC||the only known woman in the King List; said to have gained independence from En-anna-tum I of Lagash and En-shag-kush-ana of Uruk; contemporary with Puzur-Nirah of Akshak, according to the later Chronicle of the É-sagila|
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