Sumerian People

The people of Sumer could own slaves, although the majority of residents were free. Slaves had a number of rights, including the right to borrow money, transact business, and even buy their own freedom. The children of Sumer had few rights — the authority of their parents was supreme. Children were expected to obey their parents in all cases. For example, the spouse of a Sumerian child was chosen by his/her parent. Those children who chose to disobey the authority of their parents faced being disinherited or sold into slavery. Women also possessed several rights, including the right to engage in business and own property.

The everyday appearance of the Sumerian people was rather simple. The men of Sumer often sported long hair with a part in the middle. Many had long beards as well, although some men preferred to be clean-shaven. Their attire initially consisted of wrap-around skirts and felt cloaks, but it eventually evolved into long skirts accented by large shawls flung over the left shoulder of the wearer. The right shoulder and arm were left bare.

Sumerian women also wore their hair long. Most women would braid their locks into one long braid which they then wrapped around the top of their heads. For clothing, Sumerian women wore long shawls which covered their entire bodies, but their right arm and shoulder would also be left bare.

The early Sumerians lived in homes that were built out of reeds. Eventually, homes were constructed of sun-dried mud-bricks, but stone buildings were not erected due to a lack of that resource in the area. Modest homes were usually one story high with an open court in the center, around which there were several rooms. Wealthy individuals, however, often built homes two stories high with approximately twelve rooms, including servants’ quarters. The walls of these buildings were also white washed on both the inside and outside to give the building an appearance of affluence and cleanliness. Also, some of the more wealthier members of society may even have had private chapels and mausoleums on their estates.


Tom B. Jones, “Sumer,” Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia, 1993;Samuel Noah Kramer, Cradle of Civilization, New York: Time Incorporated, 1969; World History, Volume One, St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company, 1991;

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