Who were the Anunnaki and why do we care? The short answer is: The Anunnaki were the deity pantheon of the ancient Sumerians. And interest in the Sumerian culture has been active and persistent since it was discovered in the 19th century — for several reasons.
Who were the Sumerians?
The Sumerians appear on the archaeological record beginning around 4,500 BCE. Located in present-day Iraq, the region, a.k.a. Mesopotamia has long been referred to as “the cradle of civilization.” Sumer was a handful of city-states initially ruled by priests, each organized around a city and temple now called a “ziggurat.” The ziggurats, dedicated to Anunnaki worship, were layered pyramids with flat tops. These communities were considered to be “servant-slave” populations dedicated to serving the temple gods, the Anunnaki. Over time, priesthood rulership gave way to kings.
The Sumerians were skilled trade merchants and acquired lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, cedar from Lebanon, and gold from the Indus Valley.
Sumerian history is gleaned from archaeological and geologic evidence — written records are in the form of cuneiform tablets. Reportedly, some half-million tablets have been recovered, but only a small number have been translated. Much was also learned from translations of Babylonian records; Sumer was considered “ancient” in Babylonian times.
Sumerians worshiped the Anunnaki, said to be the children of earth and sky; An, the sky god, and Ki, the earth goddess. Chief among them was Enlil, the god of air. This pantheon was passed to the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of the historical king of Sumerian city-state Urek, is an ancient literary relic of Sumerian culture.
Above is the mainstream “narrative” regarding the Anunnaki — others have drawn different conclusions based on archaeological evidence, analysis of Sumerian mythology, and translations of cuneiform tablets.