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002. Abu Salabikh (ancient: Kesh (?))

Northern Al Qadishiya Governorate. Halfway between Kish and Nippur, 75 miles southwest of Baghdad, on the boundary of the ancient kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad.

Dates: Third millennium BC; flourished circa 2700-2500 BC

Kesh was an ancient city of Sumer; the Sumerian king list states it was the first city to have kings after the Deluge. But some doubt and controversy still exists about the precise location of Kesh. Most experts now agree that the coordinates listed at right and the site shown above can be identified with Kesh. The city's patron goddess was Nisaba, goddess of reeds and thus patron deity of scribes, who wrote with reed styluses on clay. This makes sense, considering the important texts found here, impressive for such a small site—only 20 hectares, enclosed by a wall about 1.3 kilometers long. While the texts were in Sumerian, Akkadian influence is strong, and most of the scribes have Akkadian names.

In addition to administrative documents and lexical lists, texts from Kesh include very early literary works—temple hymns, myths, incantations and wisdom literature, in particular the “Instructions of Shrurppak” (which contains the Sumerian forerunner of the 10 Commandments and some of the Proverbs of the Bible).

Abu Salabikh was excavated by an American Expedition in 1963 and 1965, and has been a British concern since 1975.






  32° 15' 11"
  32.25307498513993° N
  45° 3' 15"
  45.05429917464799° E

GoogleEarth satellite view
of Abu Salabikh (ancient Kesh) (external resource)

See Abu Salabikh site photos
at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago website