What Were Sumerian Houses Like?

Sumerian houses were made of mudbrick, a kind of mud plaster mixture, and had wooden doors, one central room and a courtyard. The front of a house, the part that was seen from the public street, was almost featureless. A single door marked the entrance.

Sumerian houses were made out of a mixture of loam, mud, sand, water and a binding material such as rice husks or straw. These materials suggest that houses were handmade and could therefore be expanded or torn down and remade easily. That flexibility in building also suggests that the size of the house did not determine Sumerian social or economic status.

Typically, Sumerian houses were built with a square room in the center and a courtyard, with other rooms branching off those two. The courtyard, called the tarbasu, was a main feature and served to provide a cooling effect by creating air currents. This type of housing design shows influences from the Ubaid culture, which existed in prehistoric Mesopotamia.

The Sumerians had a strict division of public and private spaces, which is reflected in the plain look of the public front of the house. Houses were crowded together and separated by narrow alleyways.

Sumerian cities were built around the temple, which was considered the center of life.