Sumer was a collection of city-states around the lower Tigris and Euphrates in what is now southern Iraq. In our day, the terrain that someone travelling to southern Iraq would most frequently encounter is nothing but vast desert. Most of the land, with the exception of cities, and regions that have since been afforested, is covered with sand. These deserts, once the homeland of the Sumerians, have been there for thousands of years. Their glorious country, which today we are likely to meet only in textbooks, was as real as any contemporary civilization. These people were as alive as we are today and they created architectural masterpieces. In a sense, the magnificent cities built by the Sumerians are part of the cultural heritage of our own time.
Among what survives of the cultural remains of the Sumerians, we have information about an elaborate funeral held for Puabi, one of their queens. Vivid accounts of this splendid ceremony are to be found in a number of sources and they tell us that the dead body of the queen was embellished in an extraordinary way. Her corpse was dressed in cloth fashioned from beads of silver, gold and precious stones, and with tassels of pearls. On its head was a wig decorated with a crown encrusted with golden leaves. A vast amount of gold was also placed in the tomb.
In brief, Queen Puabi, an important name in Sumerian history, was buried with a splendid treasure. According to accounts, these matchless riches were carried to her tomb by a procession of guards and servants. Queen Puabi may have been buried together with treasures beyond counting, but that did not save her body from being reduced to a skeleton.
Like all other people in her kingdom, for whom she may have felt contempt because they were poor, her body decayed under the ground becoming a putrefying mass of bacteria. This is surely an impressive example showing that the wealth and properties of this world by no means ensure salvation from a disastrous end.