Sumerian civilization originated in what is now southern Iraq, just upriver from the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. "Civilization" in this context means a settled town or city-dwelling people who possess a stable agricultural technology (including domesticated animals) and have developed a hierarchical system of social classes (peasants, laborers, slaves, craftsmen [smiths, masons, carpenters, potters, etc.], farmers, fishermen, merchants, doctors, architects, priests and temple attendants, bureaucrats, scribes, advisers, priest-kings). Since the climate of southern Iraq is hot and dry, agriculture requires an extensive irrigation system of canals and dikes. Often, the Sumerians wrote as if their civilization (agricultural techniques, cities, classes of people) came first, and people later. (Why do you think they thought this way?) In such a hot climate, we find some recurring images and motifs: the tree of life, shade, the desert or steppe beyond the irrigated areas, the storehouse for grain and other agricultural products, bricks for building cities and temples, and the measuring rod of the priest-king.
Only one account of the Sumerian creation has survived, but it is a suggestive one. This account functions as an introduction to the story of "The Huluppu-Tree" (Wolkstein 4).
In the first days when everything needed was brought into being,
In the first days when everything needed was properly nourished,
When bread was baked in the shrines of the land,
And bread was tasted in the homes of the land,
When heaven had moved away from the earth,
And earth had separated from heaven,
And the name of man was fixed;
When the Sky God, An, had carried off the heavens,
And the Air God, Enlil, had carried off the earth . .Sumerian Myths