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Phase I Variables (polity-based)

General variables

♠ RA ♣ Marta Bartkowiak ♥

♠ Original name ♣ Uruk ♥

♠ Alternative names ♣ ♥

♠ Peak Date ♣ 3200-3050 BCE ♥ Late Uruk period is a time of cultural, social and territorial expansion, however the beginning of the Uruk expansion is dated to Early Middle Uruk - 3700 BCE.[1], [2]

Temporal bounds

♠ Duration ♣ 4000-3000 BCE ♥ 4000-3000 BCE[3]. Note that the period 3100-2900 BCE is contested, and unclear if Uruk were still in control of S Mesopotamian territory at this time. "There is the issue of the Jemdet Nasr period, which may not be completely real or present in all regions of southern Mesopotamia, but that period seems to fit between 3100-2900, with the Early Dynastic from 2900-2350." We do not code the Jemdet Nasr directly here[4]. Algaze proposed a little bit different periodization: Early Uruk: 3900-3600 BCE, Middle Uruk: 3600-3300 BCE, Late Uruk: 3300-3100 BCE.[5]; [6]; Early Uruk Period: 4100/4000-3800 BCE; Early Middle Uruk (Late Chalcolithic 3): 3800-3600 BCE; Late Middle Uruk (Late Chalcolithic 4): 3600-3300 BCE; Late Uruk: 3300-3000BCE.[7] The most problematic is Jemdet Nasr Period (3100-2900 BCE), which some researchers treated as separated polity, others as a continuation and later stage of the Uruk polity[8]

♠ Degree of centralization ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Supra-polity relations ♣ suspected unknown ♥

Supra-cultural relations

♠ preceding (quasi)polity ♣ Ubaid ♥
♠ relationship to preceding (quasi)polity ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ succeeding (quasi)polity ♣ Early Dynastic Sumer ♥
♠ Supracultural entity ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ scale of supra-cultural interaction ♣ ♥ km squared.

♠ Capital ♣ ♥ Probably there was no single capital seen as main and dominant city gathering whole power, but instead of it, there were many centres - big cities and associated with them smaller towns, villages etc. Therefore there is impossible to pinpoint which city was the most important. However, according to Steinkeller, the city of Uruk might have played a role of religious capital since Uruk and Jemdet Nasr Period. He based his assumption of the tables from Jemdet Nasr Period saying that individual cities and towns were sending some resources and foodstuff to Temple of Inanna in Uruk as some kind of ritual offering.[9], [10]

♠ Language ♣ suspected unknown ♥ However, some researchers believed that Sumerian language was in use in this period. [11]

General Description

The name of this polity derives from the site of Uruk (modern Warka) located c. 35 km east from the Euphrates River, in south Iraq. This period is perceived as a time of deep transformations and significant inventions (such as wheel, fast wheel, plough, using alloys - bronze, writing system, etc.). There is very little known about the people living in Mesopotamia during that time (so-called Sumerian problem). There are some voices suggesting that Uruk population might have been identified as Sumerians, however there is no direct evidence to support this hypothesis. On the contrary, there is a lack of traces of invasion or appearance of completely new group of people. There is rather highlighted undisturbed continuation between previous polities, such as Ubaid and Uruk, and endurance of some cultural patterns, which are especially visible in architecture (construction of temples at Eridu or Uruk). [12], [13], [14] The nature of relations between Mesopotamia and Susiana land in this period deserves the special attention. There are few main ideas regarding the relationships between these two geographical areas. According to Algaze, the Susiana was colonized by group of people from southern Mesopotamia in the Uruk period and he indicates cultural homogeneity these two lands in Uruk period. [15] The opposite opinion is presented by Amiet, who suggested that Susiana was inhabited by two different 'ethnic' group (so called - 'Elamite' and 'Mesopotamian' type). The culture of this land, hence, was seen as some kind of hybrid and the alternately appearance of 'Elamite' or 'Mesopotamian' cultural elements is related to some sort of 'fashion' or 'trends'.[16] , [17] The Uruk polity is perceived by Algaze as some kind of proto-state organism and he describes it as “an early instance of an "informal empire" or "world system" based on asymmetrical exchange and a hierarchically organized international division of labour that differs from modern examples only in degree.”[18] He emphasizes very rapid and intense cultural growth of Uruk polity and he considers few types of Uruk expansions: “(1)new form of spatial distribution: the growth of cities and their dependencies; (2)new form of socio-political organization: the explosive growth of social differentiation, the emergence of encumbered labour, and the crystallization of the state; (3) new forms of economic arrangements and of record keeping: state control of a substantial portion of the means of production and of its surplus, craft and occupational specialization on an industrial scale; and, finally, (4)the new forms of symbolic representation needed to validate the changes taking place in the realm of social and political relationship-leading to the creation of an artistic tradition and iconographical repertoire that were to set the framework for pictorial representation in Mesopotamia for millennium to come.”[19] There are many hypotheses regarding the political system of Uruk polity. Most of the researchers (e. g. Frangipane, Rothman, Pollock, Wright) perceived the Uruk polity as some kind of united (in cultural sense) community which shares number of features (particularly in material culture) and they represent some early stage of city-state organization with dominant position of some cities and the group of elite.[20],[21] However, other archaeologists believed (e. g. Algaze) that some cities have been already ruled by one person - ruler which collected all political, religious and military power. There are many images of this person on seals, sealing, vase, furniture inlays where he is showed as a warrior, bearded man in cap, hunter and master of animals. Algaze even writes: “comparison with inscribed statues of later Sumerian rulers in strikingly similar poses leaves no doubt that the analogous Uruk-period images are stylized and standardized representations of kings.”[22]

Social Complexity variables

♠ RA ♣ Marta Bartkowiak ♥

Social Scale

♠ Polity territory ♣ [2,000-2,100]: 4200-3501 BCE; [1,600-2,200]: 3500-3000 BCE ♥ in squared kilometres. Adams discerned two settlement areas: northern and southern. In the Early Uruk period, the southern area had 2010 km2, and the northern area had 2087 km2. In the Late Uruk Period: southern enclave: 2231 km2 and the northern area: 1619 km2.[23]

♠ Polity Population ♣ [20,000-38,540]: 4200-3501 BCE; [21,300-41,000]: 3500-3000 BCE ♥ People. Adams proposed estimations for northern and southern enclaves. The southern enclaves had 20,110 inhabitants and the northern enclave had 38,540 people in Early-Middle Uruk Period. The northern enclave had 21,300 people and southern enclave had 41,020 people in the Late Uruk period[24] The available data concerns also the Susiana Plain. The population of whole Uruk polities is unknown. Early Uruk Period: 6,290-12,580 people; Middle Uruk: 8,860-17,520; Late Uruk Period: 4,560-9,120 people.[25]

♠ Population of the largest settlement ♣ [7,000-20,000]: 4200-3501 BCE; [40,000-50,000]: 3500-3000 BCE ♥ "By the Early Uruk period {4000-3500}, Uruk (Warka, Erech, Unu)2 encompassed 70 hectares, two other cities were 50 hectares, and a final two 30 hectares each (M. = CAM 58-9). The population in these cities might have ranged fi.-om 7000 to 20,000."[26]

Hierarchical Complexity

♠ Settlement hierarchy ♣ 4 ♥ levels. cities (1), towns (2), villages (3), hamlets (4)[27], [28]; The biggest cities had between 40 to even 100 ha in extent in the Early Uruk Period, towns reached size of 10 ha. The huge agglomarations had even more than 100 ha (Uruk - 250 ha), big towns had - 50 ha, smaller towns - 25 ha, but there are known also smaller towns, ar. 15 ha.[29]

♠ Administrative levels ♣ ♥ levels. The exact number of administrative levels is difficult to established for the Uruk period, however the researchers deeply believed that administration must have been development and was rather elaborated than simple. These assumptions are based mainly on written records. The vast majority of known tablets are related to administration and use for administration purpose (e.g. as a list of counted goods).[30] Moreover, the scrutinized analysis of seals and sealings from sites such as Tepe Gawra, Niniveh proved that the administrative system became more centralized starting from the Middle Uruk Period and focused on 'control of local movements and storage of goods'. [31] Moreover, some researchers emphasize that elaborated settlement hierarchy must equal elaborated administrative level: ,influential idea was that at least three tiers of settlement within one settlement system represented an underlying administrative structure with at least three levels of hierarchy.[32]

♠ Religious levels ♣ ♥ levels.

♠ Military levels ♣ ♥ levels.


♠ Professional military officers ♣ suspected unknown ♥ Full-time specialists

♠ Professional soldiers ♣ suspected unknown ♥ Full-time specialists

♠ Professional priesthood ♣ suspected unknown ♥ Full-time specialists

Bureaucracy characteristics

♠ Full-time bureaucrats ♣ absent ♥ [33]

♠ Examination system ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Merit promotion ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Specialized government buildings ♣ inferred absent ♥ Though administrative artifacts have been found dating to the entire Uruk sequence (see e.g. Pollock 1992, 314-320 for a summary), sources do not indicate that these artifacts have been found in buildings that appeared to specialise in administrative activities; instead, whenever sources associate these kinds of artifacts to a specific kind of building, it is a building that likely also fulfilled ritual functions, e.g.:"Seeking to reconcile the tripartite floor plan of many of the Eanna buildings with the widespread evidence for contemporary administrative activities found in their general vicinity (below), many archaeologists refer to the Eanna structures simply as 'religious/administrative' in nature."[34]


♠ Formal legal code ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Judges ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Courts ♣ suspected unknown ♥

♠ Professional Lawyers ♣ suspected unknown ♥

Specialized Buildings: polity owned

♠ irrigation systems ♣ present ♥ [35]
♠ drinking water supply systems ♣ suspected unknown ♥ Is there a piped network that connects the drinking water to individual settlements?
♠ markets ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ food storage sites ♣ present♥ The big granaries were uncovered at many sites dated to Uruk Period.

Transport infrastructure

♠ Roads ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Bridges ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Canals ♣ present ♥ irrigation canals[36]
♠ Ports ♣ suspected unknown ♥

Special purpose sites

♠ Mines or quarries ♣ present ♥ e.g. copper mines at Ergani in Late Uruk Period[37]


Writing System

♠ Mnemonic devices ♣ ♥
♠ Nonwritten records ♣ present ♥ e. g. pottery decoration, seals, sealings as the expression of symbolic language and ideology[38]
♠ Written records ♣ present ♥ 'archaic text' from Eanna levels at Uruk and c. 5000 tablets are available from this period, however most of them are dated to Late Uruk Period. [39], [40]
♠ Script ♣ present ♥ archaic pictographic script & early cuneiform script [41]; c. 3400-3200 BCE (Early and Middle Uruk Period)- 'beginning of Proto-Cuneiform'- mainly numerical tablets and clay bullae; c. 3200/3100- 3000/2900 BCE - (Late Uruk Period and Jemdet Nasr Period) - 'beginning of Proto-Elamite' - texts discovered at Uruk (Uruk III and Uruk IV). [42]
♠ Phonetic alphabetic writing ♣ absent ♥

Kinds of Written Documents

♠ Lists, tables, and classifications ♣ present♥ [43] One of the first written 'documents' were numerical tablets, discovered e. g. at Uruk, Susa, Godin and Jebel Aruda.[44] Most of the archaic texts had administrative character and were used as 'as an instrument in the management of economic transaction' [45] However, there are few exceptions, there were found also the texts which were dedicated to educate scribes and were used as 'copy book'.[46]
♠ Calendar ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Sacred Texts ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Religious literature ♣ inferred absent ♥ [47]
♠ Practical literature ♣ inferred absent ♥ [48]
♠ History ♣ inferred absent ♥ [49]
♠ Philosophy ♣ inferred absent ♥ [50]
♠ Scientific literature ♣ inferred absent ♥ [51]
♠ Fiction ♣ inferred absent ♥ [52]


♠ Articles ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Tokens ♣ present ♥ e. g. at site of Uruk [53], Jemdet Nasr, Tello, Fara, Ubaid, Susa, Choga Mish, Habuba Habira, Jebel Aruda[54]
♠ Precious metals ♣ present♥ e.g. copper, gold [55], but also other materials, e.g. obsidian, lapis lazuli[56]
♠ Foreign coins ♣ absent ♥ Monetary system did not exist in the Uruk polity.
♠ Indigenous coins ♣ absent ♥ Monetary system did not exist in the Uruk polity.
♠ Paper currency ♣ absent ♥ Monetary system did not exist in the Uruk polity.

Postal System

♠ Couriers ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Postal stations ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ General postal service ♣ suspected unknown ♥

Warfare variables

♠ RA ♣ Marta Bartkowiak ♥

Military Technologies

Military use of Metals

♠ Copper ♣ present ♥
♠ Bronze ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Iron ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Steel ♣ suspected unknown ♥


♠ Javelins ♣ inferred present: 4200-3501 BCE; present: 3500-3000 BCE♥ A Late Uruk cylinder seal "shows an early arms factory making bows and bronze daggers, and perhaps javelins as well".[57]
♠ Atlatl ♣ inferred absent ♥ Weapon of the Americas
♠ Slings ♣ present ♥ The slingshots are known from e. g. Tepe Gawra [58]
♠ Self bow ♣ inferred present: 4200-3501 BCE; present: 3500-3000 BCE♥ A Late Uruk cylinder seal "shows an early arms factory making bows and bronze daggers, and perhaps javelins as well".[59]
♠ Composite bow ♣ absent ♥ "The later third-millennium development of the composite bow revolutionized warfare."[60]
♠ Crossbow ♣ inferred absent ♥ It is well documented that crossbows have not been in use before 5th century BCE. [61]
♠ Tension siege engines ♣ inferred absent ♥ There are no archaeological records regarding the invention of this machine before 4th century BC[62]
♠ Sling siege engines ♣ inferred absent ♥ This type of engine is known from ancient time, and the first evidence came from 4th century BC. [63]
♠ Gunpowder siege artillery ♣ inferred absent ♥ The gunpowder was invented around 9th century AD, but the gunpowder artillery was in use since Middle Age. [64]
♠ Handheld firearms ♣ inferred absent ♥ The first very simple firearms came from China and are dated to 13th century AD [65]

Handheld weapons

♠ War clubs ♣ present ♥ "The Priest-king, armed variously with spear, mace, and bow, is thus shown in a whole sequence of martial activities".[66]
♠ Battle axes ♣ present ♥ The maceheads and axes are common finds in Uruk period (e. g. Tepe Gawra, Uruk). [67]
♠ Daggers ♣ inferred present: 4200-3501 BCE; present: 3500-3000 BCE♥ A Late Uruk cylinder seal "shows an early arms factory making bows and bronze daggers, and perhaps javelins as well".[68]
♠ Swords ♣ present ♥ The swords were discovered at Arslantepe and are dated to 3000 BCE[69]
♠ Spears ♣ present ♥ The spears were discovered among many other weapons in Uruk.[70], [71]
♠ Polearms ♣ suspected unknown ♥

Animals used in warfare

♠ Dogs ♣ suspected unknown ♥ There are known seals or sealings depicting the dogs, so they were kept at the sites as a pets or hunting dogs. However there is no clear evidence for used them in warfare. [72]
♠ Donkeys ♣ suspected unknown ♥ "In Iraq and Syria domesticated donkey appeared during the Late Uruk period (ca. 3600-3100 BCE) at Uruk (Boessneck et al., p. 166), Tell Rubeidheh (Payne, pp. 99-100), and Habuba Kabira (Strommenger and Bollweg, pp. 354-55)".[73]
♠ Horses ♣ absent ♥ Donkey was domesticated first. "In Iraq and Syria domesticated donkey appeared during the Late Uruk period (ca. 3600-3100 BCE) at Uruk (Boessneck et al., p. 166), Tell Rubeidheh (Payne, pp. 99-100), and Habuba Kabira (Strommenger and Bollweg, pp. 354-55)".[74]
♠ Camels ♣ absent ♥ Donkey was domesticated first. "In Iraq and Syria domesticated donkey appeared during the Late Uruk period (ca. 3600-3100 BCE) at Uruk (Boessneck et al., p. 166), Tell Rubeidheh (Payne, pp. 99-100), and Habuba Kabira (Strommenger and Bollweg, pp. 354-55)".[75]
♠ Elephants ♣ absent ♥ Donkey was domesticated first. "In Iraq and Syria domesticated donkey appeared during the Late Uruk period (ca. 3600-3100 BCE) at Uruk (Boessneck et al., p. 166), Tell Rubeidheh (Payne, pp. 99-100), and Habuba Kabira (Strommenger and Bollweg, pp. 354-55)".[76]


♠ Wood, bark, etc ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Leather, cloth ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Shields ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Helmets ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Breastplates ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Limb protection ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Chainmail ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Scaled armor ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Laminar armor ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Plate armor ♣ suspected unknown ♥

Naval technology

♠ Small vessels (canoes, etc) ♣ suspected unknown ♥ There are known some depictions of boats from the glyptic, but is seems that boats were rather used in ceremonial activities or transport than in warfare.[77]
♠ Merchant ships pressed into service ♣ suspected unknown ♥ There are some proves for using the boats in river trade between southern and northern Mesopotamia, therefore the used the merchant ships cannot be completely excluded. [78]
♠ Specialized military vessels ♣ suspected unknown ♥


♠ Settlements in a defensive position ♣ present ♥ e.g. Hasek Höyük and Godintepe V were located at the top of rocky hills [79]
♠ Wooden palisades ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Earth ramparts ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Ditch ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Moat ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Stone walls (non-mortared) ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Stone walls (mortared) ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Fortified camps ♣ suspected unknown ♥
♠ Complex fortifications ♣ present ♥ e. g. at Hasek Höyük [80], Choga Mish, Abu Salabikh, Tell Bleibis, Tell Sheikh Hassan, Grai Resh [81], also Habuba Kabira[82]
♠ Long walls ♣ ♥ km.
♠ Modern fortifications ♣ absent ♥

Institutional Variables

♠ RA ♣ ♥

Limits on Power of the Chief Executive

Power distributed

♠ Constraint on executive by government ♣ ♥
♠ Constraint on executive by non-government ♣ ♥
♠ Impeachment ♣ ♥

Social Mobility


Elite status

♠ elite status is hereditary ♣ ♥

Religion and Normative Ideology

Deification of Rulers

♠ Rulers are legitimated by gods ♣ ♥

Normative Ideological Aspects of Equity and Prosociality

Moralizing Supernatural Powers

♠ Moral concern is primary ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing enforcement is certain ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing norms are broad ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing enforcement is targeted ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing enforcement of rulers ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing religion adopted by elites ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing religion adopted by commoners ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing enforcement in afterlife ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing enforcement in this life ♣ inferred absent ♥
♠ Moralizing enforcement is agentic ♣ unknown ♥

These data were reviewed by expert advisors and consultants. For a detailed description of these data, refer to the relevant Analytic Narratives, reference tables, and acknowledgements page. [83] [84] [85]


  1. Rothman 2014, 93
  2. Sundsdal 2011, 164
  3. Pers. comm Mark Altaweel, Dec. 2021
  4. Pers. comm Mark Altaweel, Dec. 2021
  5. Algaze 2005, 5-6
  6. Pollock 1992, 299
  7. Ur 2010, tab. 1, 392
  8. Matthews 1992, 196-203
  9. Algaze 2001, 32
  10. Steinkeller 1999, 1-22
  11. Roux 1998, 70
  12. Roux 1998, 75-78
  13. Crawford 2004, 16-18
  14. Kuhr 1997, 22-23
  15. Algaze 1993, 15-17
  16. Amiet 1979
  17. Amiet 1992: 80
  18. Algaze 1989, 571
  19. Algaze 1989, 590-91
  20. Nissen 2001, 161
  21. Pollock 2001, 181-233
  22. Algaze 2001, 34
  23. Adams 1981, 90
  24. Adams 1981, 90
  25. Wright 2001, 129-131
  26. (Hamblin 2006: 36) Seshat URL:
  27. Crawford 2004, 16
  28. Algaze 2012, 73
  29. Algaze 2012, 73-74
  30. Nissen et al. 1993, 21
  31. Rothman and Blackman 1990, 40
  32. Rothman 2004, 82
  33. Wright 2001, 138
  34. (Algaze 2008: 77) Seshat URL:
  35. Niessen et al. 1993, 10
  36. Kennet & Kennet 2006, 89
  37. Rothman 2014, 96
  38. Sundsdal 2011, 167
  39. Algaze 2012, 72
  40. Nissen et al. 1993, ix, 5
  41. Roux 1998, 70-71
  42. Nissen et al. 1993, 5-6
  43. Nissen et al. 1993, 11
  44. Cooper 2004, 75-76
  45. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  46. Nissan et al. 1993, 30
  47. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  48. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  49. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  50. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  51. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  52. Nissen et al. 1993, 30
  53. Charvat 2008, 120
  54. Schmandt-Besserat 1979, 20
  55. Crawford 2004, 17
  56. Sundsdal 2011, 170
  57. (Hamblin 2006:40) Seshat URL:
  58. Charvat 2008, 136
  59. (Hamblin 2006:40) Seshat URL:
  60. (McIntosh 2005: 188) Seshat URL:
  61. Needham 2003, 135
  62. Marsden 1969, 5, 16, 66.
  63. Campbel 2003,3, 8.
  64. Needham 1987, 266.
  65. Ho Peng Yoke 1997, 389.
  66. (Hamblin 2006: 39) Seshat URL:
  67. Chavrat 2008, 123, 136
  68. (Hamblin 2006:40) Seshat URL:
  69. Di Nocera 2010, 257-261
  70. Chavrat 2008, 123
  71. Di Nocera 2010, 257
  72. Rothman 1994, 115
  73. (Potts 2012) Seshat URL:
  74. (Potts 2012) Seshat URL:
  75. (Potts 2012) Seshat URL:
  76. (Potts 2012) Seshat URL:
  77. Carter 2012, 352
  78. Carter 2012, 356-7
  79. Chavrat 2008, 158
  80. Chavrat 2008, 140
  81. Chavrat 2008, 158
  82. Wright 2001, 143

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