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Mesopotamia. The Worlds First Civilization. What is a civilization?. Civilizations are complex societies. They have cities, organized governments, art, religion, class divisions, and a writing system. Mesopotamia. The land between two rivers. Mesopotamia.

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  • The Worlds First Civilization

What is a civilization

What is a civilization?

  • Civilizations are complex societies. They have cities, organized governments, art, religion, class divisions, and a writing system.



  • The land between two rivers.



  • Mesopotamia was the worlds first civilization.

  • The two rivers that allowed Mesopotamia to succeed were the Tigris and Euphrates.

The fertile crescent

The fertile crescent

  • In the spring, the rivers often flooded, leaving behind rich soil for farming. The problem was that the flooding was very unpredictable. It might flood one year, but not the next. Every year, farmers worried about their crops.

Why were river valleys important

Why were river valleys important?

  • Farming - large amounts of people could be fed

  • Trade - goods and ideas to move from place to place.

  • Cities - grow up in these valleys and became the centers of civilizations.



  • Over time, the farmers learned to build dams and channels to control the seasonal floods. They also built walls, waterways, and ditches to bring water to their fields. This way of watering crops is called irrigation. Irrigation allowed the farmers to grow plenty of food and support a large population.



  • The first major civilization in Mesopotamia was in a region called Sumer.

Food in sumer

Food in Sumer

  • The Sumerians grew several kinds of crops. The most valuable one was barley, which was used to make flour and bread. Dates were also very valuable to the Sumerians. They were eaten once ripe or else they were dried for future consumption. Dates also made an excellent wine.

Barley and dates

Barley and dates

City states


  • Each Sumerian city and the land around it became a separate city-state.

  • Each city-state had its own government but shared the same culture



  • Often times Priest controlled governments. People believed that in order for the civilization to be successful it needed the blessings of the God’s.

  • In times of war, military leaders often took control of the government

  • Dynasties emerged.

Social classes in sumer

Social Classes in Sumer

  • Upper class - kings, priests, warriors, and government officials.

  • Middle class - artisans, merchants, farmers, and fishers. These people made up the largest group.

  • Lower class - enslaved people who worked on farms or in the temples.


  • Is one job more important than another?



  • Polytheistic – Belief in more than one god.

  • Ziggurats – temples to keep the gods happy.

  • No after life.



  • The most important invention of the Sumerians was writing.

  • The writing of the Sumerians was called cuneiform.

Cuneiform alphabet

Cuneiform alphabet

Sumerian inventions

Sumerian Inventions

  • wagon wheel

  • plow

  • sailboat

  • number system based on 60

  • geometry

  • 12 month calendar


wagon wheel





  • Hammurabi is best known for his law code, or collection of laws.


  • Single uniform set of laws

  • 282 laws dealing with things that affected the community, family relations, business conduct, and crime

  • Government had responsibility for what happened in society.


Law 196: If a man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.

Law 199: If a man puts out the eye of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

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