The Temple Courtyard Was The Scene of Many Pursuits
The first historic phase is a long one, extending down into the second half of the third millennium. In the south, which by now calls itself Sumer, there arise from anonymity several prominent cities, such as Ur and Uruk, Lagash and Umma, Kish and Eshnunna.
Methodical and painstaking excavations have given us a fairly clear picture of peacetime life in those days. The sum of the many scattered reports emphasizes that the economic and social life of the period centred about the temple.
The early Dynastic period reveals itself to us in more than one type of temple. The one chosen for illustration here has been recovered from the oblivion of nearly 5000 years by the excavations of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago conducted at Khafaje, some 10 miles to the east of Baghdad.
The general arrangement of the enclosure is that of a temple oval, and we have chosen to compress several features of the everyday life of the times on the upper platform of the oval, which was crowned by the temple itself.
The economy was essentially rural and agricultural, with sheep breeding and dairy farming playing important roles. The cows were milked from behind. The attendants are often portrayed wearing a curious feathered headdress not otherwise in common use, the normal type being a cloth turban.
The typical male garment was the flounced skirt, which varied in length according to the owner's prosperity and station in life. The upper part of the body was often left bare. Wom en's skirts appear to be less elaborate in cut but more varied in colour than those of the men.
Except for the days given over to stated major festivals, which were numerous and solemn, the temple courtyard could be the scene of considerable gaity and social pastimes. The visitors might be entertained by an occasional musican strumming on a lyre.
Wrestling and boxing were recogized forms of skill, but they were obviously associated also with the religious and mythical lore of the age.