Sumer, also known as Shumer and Shinar, was an ancient civilization that existed until about 1940 BCE. It was located in the southern region of the fertile crescent (Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq), an area that was bordered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Sumerian written history goes back to about 2700 BCE but is vague until about 2300 BCE. They lived peacefully through the Ubaid period. During the Ubaid period, the first Mesopotamian settlement of Eridu was founded in 5300 BCE. It was founded by farmers. They were the first people to use irrigation trenches. The Ubaid period was marked by beautifully painted pottery. .
After the Ubaid Period came the Uruk Period, which started around 4000 BCE. The Uruk Period was marked by a transition to more simple, unpainted pottery. The Sumerians of the Uruk period dug canals, and used those canals and rivers for transport and trade. This resulted in a lot of temple based Sumerian cities throughout southern Mesopotamia. The canals made travel easy, and people could spread out easier. The populations of these cities could reach over ten thousand people. The city of Uruk had over fifty thousand people. These cities were led by priest kings, called, "Enki," and a council of elders who advised the king. There is little evidence of professional soldiers during this period and towns were unwalled. The Uruk Period ended with a dry period from 3200 BCE to 2900 BCE. .
The Early Dynastic Period went from 2500 BCE until 2270 BCE, and is associated with violence. Cities gained walls and small, undefended towns disappeared. This period contained the first dynasty of Lagash, a time when all the rulers of the city-state of Lagash came from the same line. A dynasty is when a line of rulers all came from the same family. The king Eannatum was from the first dynasty of Lagash. He ruled with terror. His Stele of the Vultures, a large stone tablet, depicted vultures carrying off human heads.