The Sumer civilisation is the oldest civilisation that we know of today. It developed during the fourth millennium BCE and by around 3000 BCE it had achieved its final form, which was as a collection of city-states grouped around southern Mesopotamia. These cities, of which Ur, Lagesh and Eridu are among the best known today, could unite to face an external threat or when a strong local leader ruled them all, but spent most of their time competing and warring with each other. Around 2300 BCE they were controlled and ultimately absorbed by the Akkad, later to be Babylonia.
Since we are talking of a civilisation that prospered 5,000 years ago, it comes as no surprise that information is very far from complete on their armies. We will begin by listing the identification HaT themselves give to each pose.
- Row 1 - Lagash Spearman, Lagash Spearman, Lagash Shieldbearer and Royal Guard.
- Row 2 - Ur Spearman, Ur Spearman, Gutian Warrior, Nim Skirmisher
- Row 3 - Slinger, Mari Archer, Command
In assessing accuracy all any manufacturer or reviewer can do is look at the scanty evidence and scholarly interpretations and make a best guess. For Sumer it is thought that there were heavy infantry, armed with a spear and a large rectangular shield, who fought in a phalanx, pushing forward with a shield wall to bulldoze their enemies. The poses identified as coming from Lagash and Ur clearly represent these men, but we were surprised that they do not have shields. The one shield that is present is massive – far too large to be carried with one hand or manipulated in battle - so that figure is holding it with both hands, and is therefore unarmed. The shield has nine large studs. This is shown in some modern reconstructions but some people think this is an error – a literal representation of an image (on the Stele of Vultures) that is intended to show multiple shields, each with one central boss. We would have liked to see all the heavy infantry armed with spear and shield (smaller than this one). These warriors are bare-chested but wear a kilt and sometimes a cloak. This matches well with the evidence, although no one knows exactly what material these clothes were made with.
Naturally there would also have been light troops, and several poses are provided for these too. An assortment of spearmen more lightly clothed fit the bill quite well, and there is also a slinger and a bowman. This latter is quite controversial as some authorities claim the Sumerians did not use the bow at all, but as ever, no one knows for sure. The labels given to each pose are largely irrelevant as there is no evidence that fighters from different cities were dressed differently, but it seems HaT designed the set based on DBA rules, which may explain this artificial exercise.
The last figure is, as HaT themselves say, a classic pose in that it features a man with an empty cupped hand, into which one of several supplied items can be placed. For our picture we used the standard, but the weapons shown beside this figure can also be used (all will need gluing). The spear speaks for itself (the first figure in row 1 needs one for his ring hands), but the other item is another favourite HaT device – two weapons in one. The top part is a sickle sword and the bottom looks to us like an axe, although HaT claim it is a throwing stick. Both the sword and axe are appropriate weapons for these men.
The sculpting is about average for the current output of this manufacturer, with a style that in our opinion is not attractive. Proportions are a problem – for example the ‘Nim Skirmisher’ has no forehead and very little brain cavity. Flash however is at quite a low level, and the weapons fit the ring and cupped hands quite well, so the set has been well engineered.
If you lay out hundreds of figures on a large table then individual problems with the figures tend to disappear, and this set does supply everything you should need for all types of Sumerian infantry. The lack of infantry with shields is the biggest problem in our view, but of course all the evidence is wide open to interpretation and no one today knows what is or is not accurate, so this somewhat literal representation of ancient sources may be closer to the mark than we think. Having both light and heavy infantry in one box does mean the poses are limited, although all the important ones are here. This is a unique addition to the vast array of ancients now available, and is by far the oldest subject ever represented in this hobby - a record that is unlikely to be beaten.