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“The Cradle of Civilization”
The word 'Mesopotamia' is in origin a Greek
name (mesos `middle' and 'potamos' - 'river'
so `land between the rivers'). Home to the first
civilizations to develop the basics of technology and
First Cities developed around 3500 B.C.
Major Civilizations included
Between tigris and euphrates river.
Northern Mesopotamia made up of hills and plains
Land is fertile most of the year because of the
rains,rivers and streams.
Southern Mesopotamia made up of marshy flat
300 miles long and 150 miles wide
The Mesopotamians believed their kings and
queens were descended from the city gods but,
they never believed their kings were actually gods
Kings often named them selves “king of the
universequot; or “great king”
Kings had to look after their people.
King Hammurabi created a set of rules containing
the crimes and their punishments. And citizen
Poor people mostly had to depend on crops
because they had little money.
Rich people had slaves and easier ways of
Farming one main way to get food and other
Barter systems were used
Converted open villages into walled cities
Cities became city-states ruled by strong
Developed a system of writing, metal
working and were early users of wheel
Greatest leader- Sargon the Great
Invention of wheel
The wheel is probably the most important mechanical invention of all time.
Nearly every machine built since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution
involves a single, basic principle embodied in one of mankind’s truly
significant inventions. It’s hard to imagine any mechanized system that
would be possible without the wheel or the idea of a symmetrical
component moving in a circular motion on an axis. From tiny watch gears
to automobiles, jet engines and computer disk drives, the principle is the
Based on diagrams on ancient clay tablets, the earliest
known use of this essential invention was a potter’s
wheel that was used at Ur in Mesopotamia (part of
modern day Iraq} as early as 3500 BC. The first use of
the wheel for transportation was probably on
Mesopotamian chariots in 3200 BC. It is interesting to
note that wheels may have had industrial or
manufacturing applications before they were used on
The Sumerians improved
upon the wheel by using it as
transportation on their
chariots. Later, ancient
Egyptians also used wheeled
chariots. The spoked wheel
was a huge advancement in
the development of the wheel.
It is still used today.
The wheel is at least part of
the concept in most modern
inventions. There are many
modern inventions that came
into fruition with help from the
ingenious wheel. Without the
wheel, there would be no
automobiles, no airplanes, no
space launches, and no
Babylonia 1792-539 B.C.
Inherited culture of Sumer
Became seat of strong central government
Great cultural and religious center
Babylon became greatest city in the world
Created the 60-minute hour
Created a calendar with 12 lunar months
Created advanced multiplication tables
Greatest leader- Hammurabi
Assyria 1115-612 B.C.
Conquered Babylon with chariots, battering rams
and armored horses
Forced the conquered into slave labor
Built cities with ornate palaces and temples
Developed a sewage system
Opened trade links with other kingdoms
Greatest leaders- Tiglath-pileser III, Senacherib
and Ashurbanipal II
Mesopotamia did not have protection from natural
This led to constant migrations of Indo-European
people from the area between the Black and
This lead to a constant migration and 'Cultural
Diffusion', or the process where an existing culture
adopts the traits of another and the two eventually
merge into a new culture.
As a result, a strong central government failed to
develop in Mesopotamia.
The dominant political unit was the 'City-State', a
small area surrounding a large, complex city.
Believed the world was a flat disc surrounded
by space. Above it was the heavens.
Ziggurats were built to connect heaven to earth
Built of mud bricks
Religious events held at temple (learning).
Every city had their own god or goddess who
owned everything and everyone.
4 gods created and controlled universe. God
of heaven god of air god of water and goddess
For thousands of years, Nippur was the religious center of Mesopotamia.
According to Sumerian religion, it was at Nippur where Enlil, the supreme god of
the Sumerian pantheon, created mankind. Although never a capital city, Nippur
had great political importance because royal rule over Mesopotamia was not
considered legitimate without recognition in its temples. Thus, Nippur was the
focus of pilgrimage and building programs by dozens of kings including
Hammurabi of Babylon and Ashurbanipal of Assyria.
Mesopotamians had one of the first recorded languages .It
was invented to keep track of farming and trade .The form
of writing, called Pictograms that was used by the
Mesopotamians was very simple. One mark indicated a
number, the other indicated what was being counted. The
writing was done by marking wet clay with a reed. Efficient
and easy as this was it became much more difficult with
Gradually this system became out-dated and indograms
came into use. Indograms solved the problem but were very
difficult and hard to learn because a differant symbol was
used for each word. The next step became phonetic writing.
Phonetic writing is the type of writing that we, and most
other countries use. With all three forms of writing one
problem remained; it took many years of study to learn how
to read and write .Those who did earned the title of
The Mesopotanian economy was based on farming.
Irrigated fields provided the Mesopotamians with
everything they needed to live. In Sumer you couldn't own
your own land. The land was rented from the temple which
controlled the land on behalf of the gods .All profits were
consdtered to belong to the gods.
Sargon (2350-2330 BC)
–First in his dynasty
–Moved capital to Akkad
–Succeeded by his two sons
– Obtains monopoly over Mesopotamia by clever politics
and military success
– important cultural revival because of the large number of
Fragment from the Stele of the Vultures, erected by
Eannatum of Lagash. It depicts the battle of Umma
with Eannatum of Lagash defeating the king of
Umma, included is a professional phalanx. Circa
Sargon of Akkad unifies
Mesopotamia: world’s first
empire, ca. 2240 B.C.
Reign of Hammurapi of Babylon,
The Law Code of Hammurapi
Temples were originally built on platforms. Usually temples were base
on platform. Eventually it was decided to build even higher temples on
platforms which were stepped.
These stepped towers we call ziggurats. By 2000 B.C. mud-brick
ziggurats were being constructed in many Sumerian cities. Later,
ziggurats were constructed in Babylonian and Assyrian cities.
The temple, as the center of worship, was also the center of every city.
Around the year 2000 B.C., temple towers began to be built to link
heaven and earth. The towers, called ziggurats, were very large,
pyramid-shaped structures on top of which the temple was built. The
ziggurats were built of mud
The Mesopotamians believed that these pyramid temples connected
heaven and earth. In fact, the ziggurat at Babylon was known as
Etemenankia or quot;House of the Platform between Heaven & Earthquot;. The
ziggurats were often decorated with pillars and other ornamentation.
At first, religious events were held at the temple. Later, as a priesthood
developed, the temple became the center of both religion and learning for
the entire community.
No one knows for certain why ziggurats were built or how they were
used. They are part of temple complexes, so they were probably
connected with religion.
Here some photo’s of ziggurat
Gods and Goddesses
The principal Mesopotamian Gods were identified with the forces of
nature, such as Anu (sky god), Sin (moon god), Enki (water god), and
Enlil (wind god). See Sumerian Gods and Goddesses
The goddess Ishtar, goddess of love and war, was portrayed as the lover
of the shepherd Dumuzi. Once, Ishtar descended to the underworld to
challenge her sister Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. Ishtar was
abused there but released in exchange for another god. While in the
underworld, the world's fertility was disrupted. Upon her return, she
found that her lover Dumuzi had not been mourning and so she
sentenced him to the underworld.
His sister procured his release during the year in exchange for her
presence in the underworld. While the connections with the cycle of the
seasons is obvious, it is also clear that the story of Ishtar and Dumuzi
was enacted by monarchs to ensure the fertility of the land.
The universe basically is seen as a stratification of two or three layers.
Usually it consists of `heaven' (Sumerian an, Akkadian am*) and `earth'
(Sumerian ki, Akkadian erSetum) or in other traditions as a tri-partition,
either: 'heaven', 'earth' and 'Netherworld' or 'heaven', 'sky/atmosphere'
The symbol for `heaven' AN has evolved from a pictographic
representation of a star. Heaven is thus the upper level of the universe,
all that is `high' or `elevated', and apparently associated with the celestial
Apsu: the fresh waters (male principle)
Tiamat: the salt waters (female principle)
Ea, the god of intelligence and
wisdom, puts Apsu in a trance
and then kills him.
The statue of the god
Marduk with his dragon,
from a Babylonian
cylinder seal. Marduk
These carved stone figures,
their eyes wide with awe and
their hands clasped in
reverence, were placed in
Mesopotamian temples by
worshippers to stand in
perpetual prayer on their behalf
before the god or goddess to
whom the sanctuary was
There were many gods.
For example, Anu was the father
of the gods and the god of the
sky; Enlil was the god of the air;
Utu was the sun god and the
lord of truth and justice; Nanna
While they served and revered the
was the moon god; Inanna was
great gods, most people felt little
the goddess of love and war;
connection with these distant beings.
Ninhursag was the goddess of
Ordinary people depended on a
earth; and Enki was the god of
relationship with their own personal
fresh water as well as the lord
god - a kind of guardian angel - who
of wisdom and magic.
protected individuals and interceded
for them with the great deities.
• 8000-7000 BC
• Many civilization began
• Three of the main were:
Nile River in Africa
Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia
The irrigation system is attested already in very ancient
times, the earliest around 6000 BCE. Through a system of
dikes, dams and canals the precipitation in the
mountainous region in the north is used in the south.
This required a high level of organization of the society
and collective efforts for the construction, maintenance,
supervision and adjustments of the irrigation network.
Over-irrigation and limited drainage gradually brackished
the fields, often causing ecological crisis.
Together with the change of river flow, it stimulates
throughout the Mesopotamian history the foundation of
new settlements and cities.Our knowledge about the
history of irrigation networks is limited by the difficulty of
dating most of the water works.
The climate is exceedingly hot, but also very humid - the
floods often unpredictable.
Mesopotamians were at the mercy of their hostile
environment, and believed themselves to be at the mercy
of angry and irrational gods.
The civilization which produced one of the
seven wonders of the ancient world, the hanging gardens
of Babylon, also compiled the Epic of Gilgamesh, a
pessimistic portrayal of the futile search for immortality and
City states rose and fell, empires rose and fell, yet the
human spirit of the Mesopotamians endured.
substantial ceremonial hub Ziggurat of Ur Nammu
Very little furniture survives from ancient Mesopotamia,
principally because climatic conditions are not conducive to
the preservation of wood.
Furniture mounts of bronze and ivory has been
excavated in the royal tombs at the city of UR, in
in mud brick houses of the sumerians, duration
probably was confined to a wide black or dark
skirting painted in diluted with a band of some
together color above.
In the most elaborate assyrian palace the main
decorative features were panels of alabaster and
limestone carved in relief.
Carved stone slaves were used as flooring, with
typical mesopotamian rosetle and palmettle (stylized
palm and leaf) border.
The State and Urban Revolution:
In the city-state (or state), kin and tribal
loyalties are, by definition, subordinated and
replaced by political ties…. What makes a
city-state different from an agricultural town
is the synergy created by its people
interacting with each other on the basis of
political relationships rather than traditional
The Beginnings of Writing
Farmers needed to keep records.
The Sumerians were very good farmers. They raised animals such as goats and cows (called
livestock). Because they needed to keep records of their livestock, food, and other things,
officials began using tokens.
Tokens were used for trade.
Clay tokens came in different shapes and sizes. These represented different objects. For
example, a cone shape could have represented a bag of wheat. These tokens were placed inside
clay balls that were sealed. If you were sending five goats to someone, then you would put five
tokens in the clay ball. When the goat arrived, the person would open the clay ball and count the
tokens to make sure the correct number of goats had arrived. The number of tokens began to be
pressed on the outside of the clay balls. Many experts believe that this is how writing on clay
A system of writing develops.
The earliest form of writing dates back to 3300 B.C. People back then would draw quot;word-
picturesquot; on clay tablets using a pointed instrument called a stylus. These quot;word-picturesquot; then
developed into wedge-shaped signs. This type of script was called cuneiform (from the Latin
word cuneus which means wedge).
Who used cuneiform?
Not everyone learned to read and write. The ones that were picked by the gods were called
scribes. Boys that were chosen to become scribes (professional writers) began to study at the age
of 8. They finished when they were 20 years old. The scribes wrote on clay tablets and used a
triangular shaped reed called a stylus to make marks in the clay. The marks represented the tens
of thousands of words in their language.
THE ORIGINS OF WRITING: Tokens are small geometric clay objects
(cylinders, cones, spheres, etc.) found all over the Near East from
about 8000 B.C. until the development of writing. The earliest tokens
were simple shapes and were comparatively unadorned; they stood for
basic agricultural commodities such as grain and sheep. A specific
shape of token always represented a specific quantity of a particular
item. For example, quot;the cone ... stood for a small measure of grain, the
sphere represented a large measure of grain, the ovoid stood for a jar
of oil.quot; (Before Writing 161). Two jars of oil would be represented by
two ovoids, three jars by three ovoids, and so on. Thus, the tokens
presented an abstraction of the things being counted, but also a
system of great specificity and precision.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF
The Sumerian writing system
during the early periods was
constantly in flux. The original
direction of writing was from
top to bottom, but for reasons
unknown, it changed to left-to-
right very early on (perhaps
around 3000 BCE). This also
affected the orientation of the
signs by rotating all of them
90° counterclockwise. Another
change in this early system
involved the quot;stylequot; of the
signs. The early signs were
more quot;linearquot; in that the
strokes making up the signs
were lines and curves. But
starting after 3000 BC, these
strokes started to evolve into
wedges, thus changing the
visual style of the signs from
linear to quot;cuneiformquot;.