Groundbreaking Sumerian Discovery: A Civilization-Preserving Breakthrough

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4 min readNov 21, 2023

The latest excavations in Girsu, an ancient Sumerian city, revealed remains of an exceptionally innovative technology. It was meant to supply water to arid lands and enhance agriculture.

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The Sumerians are considered the creators of one of the first advanced civilizations. They inhabited the areas between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, present-day Iraq and Syria. Their homeland, Mesopotamia, also known as Sumer, emerged nearly 6,000 years ago.

Sumerian Technological Innovation

Much of the subsequent development in Eurasia owes itself to Sumerian inventions. Their technological innovations in agriculture, soil cultivation, and water management continue to astound scientists. Among their inventions was the plow.

During recent excavations in the ancient city of Girsu, located in southern Iraq, archaeologists unearthed evidence of another Sumerian achievement. Researchers from the British Museum, leading the investigation, labeled it a “civilization-saving” device. It was a structure positioned on an artificially created canal dating back 4,000 years, intended to supply water to fertilize the soil and enhance agriculture.

Bridge or Irrigation System?

The enigmatic structure was discovered in 1929. Initially described as an unusual temple, dam, or water regulator, it was only five years ago that it was proposed to be potentially the world’s oldest bridge.

“Research using photographs from the 1930s, along with recently declassified satellite images from the 1960s, combined with new on-site investigations, confirmed it was a bridge over an ancient waterway. Thus, it is the oldest known bridge in the world,” wrote scholars from the British Museum in 2018.

However, recent studies shed new light on the true function of this structure. Researchers suggested that it might have been a “machine” against drought.