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an ancient people inhabiting southern Mesopotamia. Judging from the existing scanty linguistic and toponymic data, the Sumerians were not indigenous to the region, although they had inhabited it as early as the fifth millennium B.C. Anthropologically they belonged to the Mediterranean and Balkan-Caucasian races of the major Europeoid race.
In the middle of the third millennium B.C., the Sumerians began to intermix with the Akkadians, an eastern Semitic people who had settled in the northern part of southern Mesopotamia. In the second half of the second millennium B.C., the Sumerians merged with the eastern Semites into a single Akkadian people. The Sumerian language remained the language of scholarship and religion in Mesopotamia until the second or first century B.C. The Sumerians were the inventors of the first writing system in Mesopotamia, the cuneiform writing system.