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Mesopotamia: “The Cradle of Civilization”

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  1. Mesopotamia: “The Cradle of Civilization”

  2. Earliest Civilization: the Fertile Crescent • Categorized as the earliest of all civilizations as people formed permanent settlements • Mesopotamia is a Greek word that means “between the rivers” • Specifically, the area between the Tigris River and Euphrates River (present day Iraq) • Mesopotamia is not within the "Fertile crescent“, it is in the more desert area that the "Fertile crescent" arcs around

  3. Tigris River Northern Mesopotamia

  4. Geographic Conditions • Little rainfall for crops • Hot and dry climate in the summers • Winters brought fierce windstorms leaving muddy river valleys • Springs brought catastrophic flooding of the rivers • Arid soil containing little minerals • No stone or timber resources

  5. Northern Mesopotamia is made up of hills and plains. The land is quite fertile due to seasonal rains, and the rivers and streams flowing from the mountains. Early settlers farmed the land and used timber, metals and stone from the mountains nearby. Southern Mesopotamia is made up of marshy areas and wide, flat, barren plains. Cities developed along the rivers which flow through the region. Early settlers had to irrigate the land along the banks of the rivers in order for their crops to grow. Since they did not have many natural resources, contact with neighbouring lands was important.

  6. Then why live in Mesopotamia? NATURAL LEVEES: embankments produced by build-up of sediment over thousands of years of flooding

  7. Natural Levee • create a high and safe flood plain • make irrigation and canal construction easy • provide protection • the surrounding swamps were full of fish & waterfowl • reeds provided food for sheep / goats • reeds also were used as building resources

  8. During the growing season, each farmer was allowed only a certain amount of water. When it was a farmer's turn to water his fields the regulator was adjusted so that water ran from the canal into an irrigation ditch which ran alongside the farmer's fields. The farmer could then water his fields.

  9. What evidence do archaeologists have for making the statements in the previous slide? The next slide contains some useful vocabulary.

  10. Flood- Before you can work the soil, you must flood your field with water from the irrigation ditch. • Plough- After the field has been flooded, you must run the plough through the field to break up the soil. • Harrow- After the large chunks of dirt have been broken up by the plough, you must run the harrow through the field to make the field smooth and level. • Sow- After the ground has been ploughed and harrowed, you must drop seeds into the ground using the seeder-plough. • Water- You must water your field three times after it has been sown. • Harvest- When the crops are ripe, you must cut the barley, gather it together and take it to the threshing house.

  11. History of Mesopotamia • Over the centuries, many different people lived in this area creating a collection of independent states • Sumer- southern part (3500-2000 BCE) • Akkad- northern part (2340 – 2180 BCE) • Babylonia- these two regions were unified (1830-1500 BCE and 650-500 BCE) • Assyria- Assyrian Empire (1100 -612 BCE)

  12. Religion • Position of King was enhanced and supported by religion • Kingship believed to be created by gods and the king’s power was divinely ordained • Polytheistic religion consisting of over 3600 gods and demigods • Shows diversity of religion from different regions • Yet all of Mesopotamia shared the same religion and the same prominent gods gods were worshipped at huge temples called ziggurats Prominent Mesopotamian gods • Enlil (supreme god & god of air) • Ishtar (goddess of fertility & life) • An (god of heaven) • Enki (god of water & underworld) • Shamash (god of sun and giver of law)

  13. Ziggurats • Important for gods to be honoured by religious ceremonies • Ceremonies performed by priests in sacred temples • Temples created from mud brick and placed on platforms due to constant flooding • Temples evolved to ziggurats-a stack of 1-7 platforms decreasing in size from bottom to top • Famous ziggurat was Tower of Babel (over 100m above ground and 91m base) Ziggurat of Ur -2000BCE

  14. Political structure an early form of democracy Frequent wars led to the emergence of warriors as leaders Eventually rise of monarchial Government

  15. Social Structure

  16. Sumerians • Established the social, economic and intellectual basisof Mesopotamia • First to develop writing in the form of cuneiform • Sumerians are credited to have invented the wheel • Became the first city of the world • However, the Sumerians were not successful in uniting lower Mesopotamia

  17. Akkadians • Leader: Sargon the Great • Sargon’s greatest achievement was the unification of lower Mesopotamia (after conquering Sumerians in 2331 BCE) • Established capital at Akkad • Spread Mesopotamian culture throughout Fertile Crescent • Yet dynasty established by Sargon was short-lived… Akkadians were conquered by the invading barbarians by 2200 BCE

  18. Babylonians • Babylonians reunited Mesopotamia in 1830 BCE • Used their central location to dominate trade and establish control over all of Mesopotamia • KING HAMMURABI – conquered Akkad and Assyria and gained control of north and south • Hammurabi’s Legacy: law code • YET AGAIN, Mesopotamia was not unified for long…

  19. Assyrians • 10th century BCE, Assyria emerged as dominant force • Assyrian reunited Mesopotamia and established the first true empire • Assyrian army was most feared due to their brutal, bloodthirsty & terrorizing tactics and use of iron weapons, battering rams, chariots • Assyrian Empire stretched from Persian Gulf north and West to Syria, Palestine and Egypt • However, states began to revolt and ONCE AGAIN, Assyrian Empire collapsed by late 7th century BCE • By 539 BCE, Mesopotamia part of the vast Persian Empire (led by Cyrus the Great) • Persian Empire dominated for 800 years until Alexander the Great

  20. Code of Hammurabi • Code of 282 laws inscribed on a stone pillar placed in the public hall for all to see • Hammurabi Stone depicts Hammurabi as receiving his authority from god Shamash • Set of divinely inspired laws; as well as societal laws • Punishments were designed to fit the crimes as people must be responsible for own actions • Hammurabi Code was an origin to the concept of “eye for an eye…” ie. If a son struck his father, the son’s hand would be cut off • Consequences for crimes depended on rank in society (ie. only fines for nobility)

  21. Development Of WRITING

  22. Writing • Greatest contribution of Mesopotamia to western civilization was the invention of writing • allowed the transmission of knowledge, the codification of laws, records to facilitate trade • First written communication was PICTOGRAMS • As society evolved, the first form of writing was developed called CUNEIFORM (meaning “wedge shaped”), dating to 3500 BCE • Cuneiform spread to Persia and Egypt and became the vehicle for the growth and spread of civilization and the exchange of ideas among cultures

  23. Development of Writing • Click on the following link to see the development of writing from pictograms to cuneiform

  24. Gilgamesh • Gilgamesh is an ancient story or epic written in Mesopotamia more than 4000 thousand years ago • Gilgamesh is the first known work of great literature and epic poem • Epic mentions a great flood • Gilgamesh parallels the Nippur Tablet, a six-columned tablet telling the story of the creation of humans and animals, the cities and their rulers, and the great floodANALYSIS • Gilgamesh and the Nippur tablet both parallel the story of Noah and the Ark (great flood) in the Old Testament of the Jewish and Christian holy books • Modern science argues an increase in the sea levels about 6,000 years ago (end of ice age) • the melting ice drained to the oceans causing the sea level to rise more than ten feet in one century

  25. Royal Tombs of Ur • From 1922 to 1934, an archaeologist named C. Leonard Woolley excavated the site of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur • City famed in Bible as the home of patriarch Abraham • many great discoveries such as extravagant jewelry of gold, cups of gold and silver, bowls of alabaster, and extraordinary objects of art and culture • opened the world's eyes to the full glory of ancient Sumerian culture Great Death Pit • Found at Ur was a mass grave containing the bodies of 6 guards and 68 court ladies (servants of kings and queens) • servants walked down into the grave in a great funeral procession • they drank a  poisoned  drink and fell asleep never to wake again, choosing to accompany the kings and queens in the afterlife

  26. Legacies of Mesopotamia Revolutionary innovations emerged in Mesopotamia such as: • codified laws • the concept of kinship and the city-state • the building of places of worship (ziggurats) • the birthplace of writing (cuneiform) • Invention of the wheel • Oldest written records of a story of creation date back to Mesopotamia • First civilization to make a prosperous living based on large scale agriculture

  27. Mesopotamian Women • Because the majority of surviving documents from the ancient Mesopotamia were created in male spheres of influence (palaces and temples) by male scribes, women are not very visible. It is possible to compile a list of important women from inscriptions of the Early Dynastic period; but almost all are wives and daughters of rulers and high officials. Legal documents show that women could act independently, buying and selling houses, acting as a guarantor for another person. They could also become involved in court cases.

  28. Further down the social scale weaving was a principal occupation of women. Documents mention hundreds of women working together in weaving 'factories'. In the Old Assyrian period merchant's wives represented their husbands in various commercial and legal transactions. By the Middle Assyrian period there is evidence from Assyria for the first harems. A series of very harsh laws has survived from the same period, which regulate the activities of women. Some Assyrian queens were very powerful but these women are exceptions. Only occasionally are women portrayed in Assyrian art and then most are shown as prisoners of war or as deportees.

  29. What does this relief tell you about women in Ashurbanipal’s court?

  30. How do archaeologists know if a skeleton belonged to a male or a female? • What can the way someone is buried tell us about her/his status in life? • What do grave goods tell us about the person buried there? • Why are there so few infant and child burials?

  31. This is thought to be a figurine of a female. What do you think she is doing?

  32. Archaeologists believe that this artifact is of Phoenician origin. • They also believe that it might be a female tambourine player. • What does the artifact tell us about Phoenician females?

  33. Bibliography (Farming Section) • C.B.F. Walker, Cuneiform (Reading the Past) (London, The British Museum Press, 1987) • H.J. Nissen, P. Damerow and R.K. Englund, Archaic bookkeeping (Chicago University Press, 1993)

  34. Bibliography: Women M. Durand, La femme dans le Proche-Orient antique. Paris, Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1987 A. Cameron and A. Kuhrt (eds.), Images of women in antiquity. London, Croom Helm, 1983 C. Saporetti, The status of women in the Middle Assyrian period, Monographs on the ancient Near East, vol. 2, fasc. 1. Malibu, CA, 1979 M. Stol, 'Women in Mesopotamia', Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 38, pp. 123-44