<-- 4000-3200 BC
--> 3000-2750 BC
Jemdet Nasr is the name given to a city located roughly 50 km southeast of Babylon, along one of the three major branches of the Euphrates in southern Mesopotamia, and the name of the period during which the city filled the northern vacuum of the declining Uruk trading networks, ca 3200-3000 BC.
The end of the administrative and cultural prominence of the city of Uruk and the period of the same name seems to have been relatively quiet, with no abrupt cultural shifts or political upheavals marked in the archaeological or written record. But by 3200, the far-flung trading colonies and settlements formed by Uruk seem to either become abandoned or cut all ties with the south, continuing to develop independently; there is a brief rise in nomadic lifestyles for the next 200 years. In the east, the cities of Susa and Anshan (Tell Malwan), near the later Persian Persepolis, begin to form stronger ties with the people of the Iranian plains, and together form the Proto-Elamite axis along which the empire of Elam would later be formed. Indeed, Anshan underwent a dynamic expansion at this time, increasing almost two-fold to a size of 45 hectares. But in southern Mesopotamia itself, no cities seem to have experienced a strong cultural change. In Eridu, Ur, and Uruk, excavations have revealed a continuous temple development, unbroken by wars or other upheavals. The southern plains of Mesopotamia, for whatever reason, turned their attention inward, leaving whatever trade settlements they had created orphaned.
But Jemdet Nasr prospered. Excavations have revealed a great series of building, whose function, unfortunately, is still undetermined, including a section of city wall roughly 90 m in length, lined with defensive towers. One of the buildings contained an archive of 240 tablets of the Uruk type. Among these are the earliest examples of "city seals", common in the following Early Dynastic I period. These are clay tablets with the impressions of the seals of numerous cities. Each seal consists of an abstract depiction of an altar beneath an animal or symbol sacred to that city's chief deity. Many of these are recognizable as the ancestors of later cuneiform ideograms. For example, the city of Larsa is represented by an altar beneath a sun, and the city of Zabala by an altar and a doorpost. A similar type of seal was in use in Egypt at roughly the same period, depicting a sacred animal either on top of or enclosed in the niched wall representative of an Egyptian temple precinct. These seals in Jemdet Nasr seem to have been parts of either economic or political alliances among cities, though this use is far from certain.
Further evidence of the maintenance of trade contact is given by the Jemdet Nasr pottery type. Generally localized to the northern part of Sumer, the pottery has also been found in certain burials in what is now the country of Oman, in ancient times a rich source of copper, indicating a continuous trade between the two regions.
The Jemdet Nasr period represents an almost seamless transition stage between the Uruk and the Early Dynastic I periods, with very little evidence of sudden cultural changes. Indeed, despite evidence that Jemdet Nasr filled a localized trade role, the finds in that city may represent nothing more than a local artistic and economic phase. Still, even the ancients recognized this as a transitional period; in later Mesopotamian mythology, this was the time of the great flood, in which all of humanity was destroyed. Historically, by the beginning of the 3rd millenium and the end of the Jemdet Nasr period, Mesopotamia was ready for the Early Dynastic I, and the beginning of the cultural hegemony of Ur.