History begins with the cities of ancient Sumer, in southern Iraq; it is here that writing was first invented. But this first writing was used almost exclusively to record financial transactions; and so the visual arts, developed into a disciplined system to promote the power of the rulers of early Mesopotamia, give us access to the beliefs and values would not be put down in writing for many years to come. These rulers needed to record their military victories and their devotion to their gods, of whom they were mortally afraid. Here we see the first narrative images, of battles and of religious ritual; and we find images of the priestly kings and their ruling elite, desperate to continuously assure the deity of their unflinching service; and of the megalomania of these rulers, filling their burials with remarkable wealth and human sacrifice. This lecture will explore the ways in which visual arts of the first civilization give us insights into religion and politics that are almost totally absent from the written record.