THE great and inventive people who settled 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (now part of Iraq), founded one of the world's first major civilizations. But only in this century have scholars come to know the Sumerians with any thoroughness, chipping away at the sites of such ancient city-states as Ur, Lagash and Mari. Last week a U.S. expedition, sponsored by the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, was at work at the site of the holy city of...

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