Archaeologists from the University of Chicago have discovered that around 3500 BC, at the dawn of Mesopotamian civilization, the city of Hamoukar in eastern Syria was destroyed after a great battle. Hamoukar was one of the first cities in the world, and so far as we know it was the first one to perish by fire and sword (or sling):
A huge battle destroyed one of the world’s earliest cities at around 3500 B.C. and left behind, preserved in their places, artifacts from daily life in an urban settlement in upper Mesopotamia, according to a joint announcement from the University of Chicago and the Department of Antiquities in Syria.Hamoukar, an ancient center of obsidian production, had close relations with Uruk in Sumer. There is even a settlement out side the walls of Hamoukar where the artifacts look exactly like those used in Uruk, giving rise to speculation that this was a Sumerian colony. This colony was destroyed at the same time as the main city. After the battle, life continued in the city for a while, and the new occupiers used exclusively Uruk pottery. The archaeologists think, therefore, that the city had been destroyed by attackers from Uruk.
“The whole area of our most recent excavation was a war zone,” said Clemens Reichel, Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Reichel lead a team that spent October and November at the site. . . .
The discovery provides the earliest evidence for large scale organized warfare in the Mesopotamian world, the team said.
The team found extensive destruction with collapsed walls, which had undergone heavy bombardment by sling bullets and eventually collapsed in an ensuing fire. Work during an earlier season showed the settlement was protected by a 10-foot high mud-brick wall.
The excavators retrieved more than 1,200 smaller, oval-shaped bullets (about an inch long and an inch and a half in diameter) and some 120 larger round clay balls (two and half to four inches in diameter). “This clearly was no minor skirmish. This was ‘Shock and Awe’ in the Fourth Millennium B.C.,” Reichel said.
One of the artifacts from the site is the clay "sealing" below; clay had been smeared over the top of an earthenware jar to seal it, and a stone seal had been applied to the clay, leaving this mark of a lion and a goat. Writing, we think, evolved from just this sort of bookkeeping mark.