Kish was occupied from the Jemdet Nasr period (c. 3100 BC), gaining prominence as one of the pre-eminent powers in the region during the early dynastic period.
First Dynasty of Kish
The Sumerian king list states that Kish was the first city to have kings following the deluge, beginning with Jushur. Jushur's successor is called Kullassina-bel, but this is actually a sentence in Akkadian meaning "All of them were lord". Thus, some scholars have suggested that this may have been intended to signify the absence of a central authority in Kish for a time. The names of the next nine kings of Kish preceding Etana are all Akkadian words for animals, e.g. Zuqaqip "scorpion". The East Semitic nature of these and other early names associated with Kish reveals that its population had a strong Semitic (Akkadian speaking) component from the dawn of recorded history.Ignace Gelb identified Kish as the center of the earliest East Semitic culture which he calls the Kish civilization.
The twelfth king of Kish appearing on the Sumerian king list, Etana, is noted as "the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries". Although his reign has yet to be archaeologically attested, his name is found in later legendary tablets, and Etana is sometimes regarded as the first king and founder of Kish. The twenty-first king of Kish on the list, Enmebaragesi, who is said to have captured the weapons of Elam, is the first name confirmed by archaeological finds from his reign. He is also known through other literary references, in which he and his son Aga of Kish are portrayed as contemporary rivals of Dumuzid, the Fisherman, and Gilgamesh, early rulers of Uruk.
Some early kings of Kish are known through archaeology, but are not named on the King list. These include Utug or Uhub, said to have defeated Hamazi in the earliest days, and Mesilim, who built temples in Adab and Lagash, where he seems to have exercised some control.
Third Dynasty of Kish (ca. 2500-2330 BC)
The Third Dynasty of Kish is unique in that it begins with a woman, previously a tavern keeper, Kubau, as "king". She was later deified as the goddess Kheba.
Afterwards, although its military and economic power was diminished, Kish retained a strong political and symbolic significance. Just as with Nippur to the south, control of Kish was a prime element in legitimizing dominance over the north of Mesopotamia (Assyria, Subartu). Because of the city's symbolic value, strong rulers later claimed the traditional title "King of Kish", even if they were from Akkad, Ur, Assyria, Isin, Larsa or Babylon. One of the earliest to adopt this title upon subjecting Kish to his empire was King Mesannepada of Ur. A few governors of Kish for other powers in later times are also known, including Ashduniarim and Iawium.
Sargon of Akkad, the founder of the Akkadian Empire, came from the area nearby Kish, called Azupiranu. He would later declare himself the king of Kish, as an attempt to signify his connection to the religiously important area. In Akkadian times the city's patron deity was Zababa (or Zamama), along with his wife, the goddess Inanna.
The Kish archaeological site is actually an oval area roughly 8 by 3 km (5 by 2 mi), transected by the dry former bed of the Euphrates River, encompassing around 40 mounds, the largest being Uhaimir and Ingharra. The most notable mounds are:
Mound W - where a number of Neo-Assyrian tablets were discovered
After irregularly excavated tablets began appearing at the beginning of the twentieth century, François Thureau-Dangin identified the site as being Kish. Those tablets ended up in a variety of museums.
^Hall, John Whitney, ed. (2005) . "The Ancient Near East". History of the World: Earliest Times to the Present Day. John Grayson Kirk. 455 Somerset Avenue, North Dighton, MA 02764, USA: World Publications Group. p. 30. ISBN978-1-57215-421-6.CS1 maint: location (link)
^Henri de Genouillac, Premières recherches archéologiques à Kich : mission d'Henri de Genouillac 1911-1912 : rapport sur les travaux et inventaires, fac-similés, dessins, photographies et plans. Tome premier, Paris : Libr. ancienne Edouard Champion, 5, quai Malaquais, 1924
^Stephen Langdon, Excavations at Kish I (1923-1924), 1924
^Stephen Langdon and L. C. Watelin, Excavations at Kish III (1925-1927), 1930
^Stephen Langdon and L. C. Watelin, Excavations at Kish IV (1925-1930), 1934
^Henry Field, The Field Museum-Oxford University expedition to Kish, Mesopotamia, 1923-1929, Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, 1929
^P. R. S. Moorey, Kish excavations, 1923-1933 : with a microfiche catalogue of the objects in Oxford excavated by the Oxford-Field Museum, Chicago, Expedition to Kish in Iraq, Clarendon Press, 1978, ISBN0-19-813191-7
^S. Langdon and D. B. Harden, Excavations at Kish and Barghuthiat 1933, Iraq, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 113-136, 1934
^S. D. Ross, 'The excavations at Kish. With special reference to the conclusions reached in 1928-29', in Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, vol. 17, iss. 3, pp. 291-300, 1930
^Henry Field, Ancient Wheat and Barley from Kish Mesopotamia, American Anthropologist, New Series, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 303-309, 1932
^L. H. Dudley Buxton and D. Talbot Rice, Report on the Human Remains Found at Kish, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 61, pp. 57-119, 1931
^K. Matsumoto, Preliminary Report on the Excavations at Kish/Hursagkalama 1988-1989, al-R?fid?n 12, pp. 261-307, 1991
^K. Matsumoto and H. Oguchi, Excavations at Kish, 2000, al-R?fid?n, vol. 23, pp. 1-16, 2002
^K. Matsumoto and H. Oguchi, News from Kish: The 2001 Japanese Work,
al-Rafidan, vol. 25, pp. 1-8, 2004
^MacKay, Ernest (1925). "Sumerian Connexions with Ancient India". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (4): 698-699. JSTOR25220818.