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Eridu (Iraq)


Map and Reconstruction of Main Ziggurat at Eridu

Map and Reconstruction of Main Ziggurat at Eridu


The Mesopotamian city of Eridu (now called Tell Abu Shahrain) is located about 22 kilometers south of Nasiriya in Iraq, and it was occupied between about 5000 and 2000 BC, during the Ubaid through Ur periods of southern Mesopotamia. Eridu is the oldest Sumerian city known, a capital of the Early Dynastic Period, and, according to Sumerian tradition was the city that belonged to the god Enki.

Eridu is best known for its temples, called ziggurats. The earliest temple, dated to the Ubaid period about 5570 BC, consisted of a small room with a possible cult niche and an offering table. After a break, there are ever-larger temples built and rebuilt on this site throughout its history. Each of these temples was built with classical early Mesopotamian format of tripartite plan, with a buttressed facade and a long central room with an altar. The Ziggurat of Enki was built for the Third Dynasty of Ur, 3,000 years after the city's founding.

In addition to the temples, Eridu had a village (12 hectares), and a cemetery with nearly 1,000 interments, little of which to date have evidence of social stratification.

Tell Abu Shahrain was excavated in the 1940s by Fuad Safar and his British colleague Seton Lloyd.


This glossary entry is part of the About.com Guide to Mesopotamia and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Armstrong, James F. 1996. Mesopotamia: The Rise of Urban Culture. in Brian Fagan (ed). 1996. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Hole, Frank. 1966. Investigating the Origins of Mesopotamian Civilization. Science 153(3736):605-611.

Nichols, Deborah L., R. A. Covey, and Kamyar Abdia. 2008 Rise of civilization and urbanism. Pp. 1003-1015 in Encyclopedia of Archaeology, Deborah M. Pearsall, editor. Elsevier: London.

Also Known As: Tell Abu Shahrain (also spelled Abu Shahrein)

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