What were the Sumerians ethnically and linguistically?

I think genetically their descendants are probably mostly Arabs and Kurds now, but we know for a fact that their language was not Semitic or Afro-Asiatic though they did gradually switch over to speaking Akkadian.

Do you think Sumerian might have been related to Etruscan? Or perhaps to some of the Siberian language families? I’ve heard a theory that it is related to the Caucasian languages and the Dene First Nation languages in Canada, though it sounds a bit far fetched.

I also have to say that their art and physical appearance in their portraits remind me of Armenians. Kim Kardashian could be Ishtar or something lol.

Well, they were Barbarians . . . no, wait, that’s the Cimmerians . . .

I’ve heard dozens of pet theories, but nothing has convinced me yet that it isn’t a language isolate.

Off the top of my head; Etruscan is an Indo-european language. With cognates in Luwian.

I believe that the old Roman claim, to be descendants from Troy, might actually be a hijack of an Etruscan founding ‘myth’.
The names Troas and Etrusk aren’t even that dissimilar.

My inclination is to think they’re ethnically local (Ubaid-derived) and an isolate, language-wise (My feeling being that linguists have a pretty good handle nowadays on at least picking up relationships. If their consensus is it’s an isolate, I’m cool with that.)

Language and genetics don’t always match up neatly. They often do, but not always. For example, Basque is been classified as a language isolate, but Basque speakers tend to be genetically very similar to western-European speakers of Romance and Celtic languages. For example, Basque speakers display a high percentage of the “R1b” y-chromosome lineage, which also commands a striking majority in Ireland and France. So was everyone in the Basque region and environs originally Basque speaking and most of the people ended up adopting Celtic and/or Romance languages with only a remnant retaining the Basque language? Were Basque speakers descended from Celtic and/or Romance language speakers who adopted Basque at some point? The debate is still on, though last I heard the research is tending more toward the second option.

I would say whatever came before Arabs. They can’t be Arabs because women had rights in their society. Arabs are a whole another ball game.

No, it’s a language isolate.

There is a hypothesis linking it with Luwian. And Minoan. And NE Caucasian. I don’t know any of these have a lot of support.

With some further looking into it, all links mention this connection, certainly the connection with Rhaetic and Lemnian.
Lemnos lies just off the coast of Troas.

Though there is some postulating of a proto-indo-european relation, most agree that the (purported) language group of Tyrsinian languages, is pre-indo-european.
This would indicate it to be a Pelasgian language group. The cognates with Luwian could therefore just exist because of proximity.

Bomhard & Kerns (1994) included Sumerian in Nostratic (which would make it a distant relative of both Indo-European and Semitic, among others), but none of the other Nostraticists have included it. Shevoroshkin, Illych-Svitych, and Dybo thought it might fit into a very old, very widespread hypothetical macrofamily called Dene-Caucasian, which would also take in Basque, North Caucasian, Yeniseian, and Na-Dene, and maybe Etruscan. Even though I follow the work of these scholars, I honestly cannot see Sumerian fitting into either of those proposals even with a shoehorn. Joe Greenberg, for all his work on macrofamilies, still considered Sumerian to be an isolate.

Gratuitous ethnic slurs against Arabs are ignorant of the fact that ancient Arabs were known for matriarchal polities, of which the Queen of Sheba is a familiar example. The earliest mention of Arabs in writing, in Babylonian records c. 500 BC, recorded them as matriarchal. Arabs a few generations prior to Islam had a society where women had much greater sexual freedom and legal rights. Islam at first was a force to redress the imbalance of patriarchal power that had recently caused much social inequality, and allowed women to own and inherit property in their own right, which did not begin to occur in Europe until the 19th century (and American women could not get credit cards in their own name as late as the 1960s for comparison). This is not the thread to go into such a complex matter, but just to note that this facile presentism about Arabs is unhelpful. Somewhere in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy is an analysis of ancient history that contrasts the gender equality of Minoan civilization, which died out, with the male supremacy of the warlike Sumerians that persisted in subsequent civilizations, just for a contrasting interpretation of history. Anyway, social norms have nothing to do with language families!

Turkish nationalists of the early 20th century convinced themselves that the Sumerian language was related to Turkish, so they claimed the Sumerian civilization for the Turks. I sure don’t think anyone today still takes that seriously, but there are traces left with various Turkish institutions named after Sumer. Likewise, I’ve noticed Hungarians who claim Sumer for the Magyars with no more basis in reality than the Turks. Who wouldn’t like to claim the world’s earliest civilization? Specious claims abound.

All that said, I have to concur with what everybody said above that Sumerian is an isolate for all that we can tell. Certainly modern southern Iraqis must have a degree of Sumerian genetic ancestry, but in the intervening millennia all kinds of other ethnic groups like Iranians, Kassites, and many kinds of Semites got in there too. The area that is now Kurdistan corresponds pretty closely with ancient Urartu and Mitanni, who spoke Hurrian—another isolate.

That dichotomy doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s expressed as if the Basque Lands were somehow isolated, but they’re not: assuming that Basque existed in the area before “all dem outsiders” started coming (say, before the Greek traders), there’s been an influx of “dem outsiders” into the area ever since, it would be very difficult to find in the whole of Euskal Herria a single person who is “100% Basque since before the Romans” (we do use that expression for some people but as a joke, with the knowledge that even those who can recite a list of Basque lastnames longer than the book of Numbers still have some “outsider” blood). In the first question, are you using “the Basque region” to refer to the very large area where R1b is found, and then the “remnant” would be the current Basque area? Because if you are, I know some political parties who’ll need to decide if they love you or hate your guts…

Sumerian women had rights? I did not know that. I thought they were like Academy-era Athenians or modern Pashtun.

But, the Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia, not Anatolia.

The OP wondered if the Sumerians might be related to the Etruscans, them also being a mysterious people.

If the Etruscans came from anywhere, it is North-west Anatolia and their language isn’t related. So, no the Sumerians are not related to the Etruscans, in any discernable way.


i recall an old article about a people living in the Gascogne area during the (late) middle ages. They were supposed to have a distinctly pale skin and were called Bigots, IIRC.

Can’t find anything about them now.
Does that ring a bell with you? Anything to do with the Basques?

The Bigots, no, I’d never before encountered that word except in the “prejudiced idiot” sense. Gascoigne and the current Basque French Country have some overlap (bigger or smaller depending on which maps you look at, but generally small; the little corner SW of Gascoigne which is not Gascoigne basically corresponds to the current BFC).

Pronounced with the stress in the second syllable as it would be in French, Bigot might be the root of the Spanish bigote, moustache. But that’s all I can come up with. RAE gives the origin of bigote as an extremely tentative “perhaps from the German bei Got”. Maybe the Bigots were recent Germanic immigrants? It could be the French equivalent of the Spanish francos: among other meanings, this word has that of “an immigrant from parts further North”.

Le dictionaire gives bigot as “very devout, suffering from bigoterie” or “person so devout they’re verging on superstition”. Bigoterie, in turn, “exaggerated devotion”. Goes well with the origin being bei Got.

Le dictionaire gives bigot as “very devout, suffering from bigoterie” or “person so devout they’re verging on superstition”. Bigoterie, in turn, “exaggerated devotion”. Goes well with the origin being bei Got, but it could also be a deformation of beatus/a. No relationship with middle ages immigration, no mention of specific ethnicities.

Yes, I found references to the Bi Got exclamation being a name for the Normans, like les goddammes being a name for the English. The surname Bigot, does indeed have a high occurence in Normandy.

Another etymology was that the word bigot derived from Visigoth.