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The Ancient Middle East. Susan M. Pojer Horace Greeley HS Chappaqua, NY. 1. Mesopotamia: "Land Between the Two Rivers". Indo-European Migrations: 4m-2m BCE. The Middle East: “The Crossroads of Three Continents”. The Ancient Fertile Crescent Area.

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The Ancient

Middle East

Susan M. PojerHorace Greeley HS Chappaqua, NY

1. Mesopotamia:

"Land Between

the Two Rivers"

Indo-European Migrations: 4m-2m BCE

The Middle East: “The Crossroads of Three Continents”

The Ancient Fertile Crescent Area

The Middle East: “The Cradle of Civilization”


Mesopotamia was located in the Middle East.

Mesopotamia - The Land Between Two Rivers

Mesopotamia was a place where many cities began to grow. As its name suggests, Mesopotamia was located between two rivers. The two rivers were the Tigris River and the Euphrates River.

Mesopotamia was located in the Middle East, and surrounded by desert. People came to Mesopotamia because the soil between the two rivers was very fertile.

The Cradle of Civilization

Mesopotamia is located in the Middle East, which is located in Southwest Asia. As we’ve discussed before, the first civilizations and examples of writing were found in Southwest Asia. These things began in Mesopotamia.

When a newborn baby begins life, he or she is placed in a cradle. Mesopotamia is called the cradle of civilization because the first civilizations began there, about 5,500 years ago in 3500 B.C.

City-States Formed Along the Rivers

Many city-states formed along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia. They each had their own form of government, and the people worshipped different gods and goddesses. Eventually, they each had their own kings. The region where the two rivers meet was called Sumer. The people who lived in the Sumer region were called Sumerians.

map q s
Map Q’s
  • Between what two rivers does Mesopotamia lie?
  • How many different civilizations existed in Mesopotamia?
  • Which came first the Old Kingdom of Egypt or the civilization of Sumer?
  • By how many years?
  • What civilization controlled most of Mesopotamia?
  • Which group had the biggest influence in the region?
  • Explain the relationship between the different civilizations that co-existed in Mesopotamia.
Mesopotamian Trade

“The Cuneiform World”


Writing first began in Sumerian cities. The first schools were set up in Sumer over 4,000 years ago. Sumerian schools taught boys the new invention of writing. Those who graduated became professional writers called scribes. Scribes were the only people who could keep records for the kings and priests. Boys that wanted to be scribes had to attend school from the age of 8 to the age of 20.

Remember, Sumer is the region where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet.

Sumerian Writing

Scribes used a sharp point called a stylus to etch words into clay tablets. These tablets have been discovered by archaeologists and looked at by historians.

write a message in cuniform
Write a message in cuniform
  • Using the clay tablet in front of you & the stylus (toothpick) that I have provided write a paragraph comparing & contrasting the two cultures of ancient Sumer & ancient Egypt.
Sumerian Scribes

“Tablet House”

Why Did These Cities Develop?

Due to the fertile soil in Mesopotamia, farming was very successful. In fact, people were able to create surpluses of food. This meant that some people could stop farming and begin doing other things, like building a city.

As cities began to develop, people began to worry about others who might come and invade their city. They wanted to protect themselves from enemies, so people in Mesopotamia built walls around their cities.

Sumerian Cities

On hot nights, people slept outdoors on the top of their house’s flat roof.

Sumerians had a form of light at night. They burned oil lamps.

Sumerians even had plumbing! Clay pipes that were buried underground carried their waste away. Inventions like plumbing wouldn’t come around for another thousand years in other parts of the world!

Sumerian Religion

Sumerians worshipped many gods, not just one. This belief in many gods is called polytheism. “Poly” means many and “Theism” means gods.

The picture above shows a ziggurat. Ziggurats were the main temples used to worship the gods of a city. Ziggurats were built in the center of the city. They had steps and ramps, and it was believed that the gods descended to the Earth using the ziggurat as a ladder.

Sumerian Mythology

Sumerian myths, or stories, explained people’s beliefs. Sumerians believed that a person must keep the gods happy by going to the ziggurat and praying to them. They believed that the gods would reward them for good service. They also believed that the gods would punish the people who made them angry.



City-States Formed Along the Rivers

Many city-states formed along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia. They each had their own form of government, and the people worshipped different gods and goddesses. Eventually, they each had their own kings. The region where the two rivers meet was called Sumer. The people who lived in the Sumer region were called Sumerians.

Ziggurat at Ur
  • Temple
  • “Mountain of the Gods”
  • Originally the temples at the center of each city-state were built on a platform. As time passed, these platform temples evolved into temple-towers called ziggurats. The ziggurat was the first major building structure of the Sumerians. Constructed of sun-baked mud bricks, the ziggurats were usually colorfully decorated with glazed fired bricks.
  • The ziggurat housed each city-state's patron god or goddess. Only priests were permitted inside the ziggurat; as a result, they were very powerful members of Sumerian society.
build your own
Build your own

Empty rectangular boxes of a variety of sizes (we used a tomato sauce box, a cereal box, a hot cocoa box and an empty box of tea)

Glue (we also used a bit of tape)


Craft or Tempera paint, brown

Measuring Spoon & Cup


Permanent Marker

The Downfall of the Sumerians

Each of the Sumerian city-states had a ruler, and these city-states began fighting each other. They fought over land and the use of river water. Since the Sumerians were constantly at war with each other, they became weak. By 2000 BC, Sumer was a weakened area, and by 1759 BC, Sumer was conquered by another group of people - the Babylonians, who were from the north.

bridge map
Bridge Map

Compare the civilizations of the ancient Sumerians to the civilization of the ancient Egyptians.

Think about: writing, buildings, religion, stories, society, leadership, daily life.


Read in your Humanities circles & answer 8 prompts about the story.

Complete the Flow Map.

sargon of akkad
Sargon of Akkad
  • Sargon of Akkad reigned from 2334 to 2279 BC, creating an empire that united all of Mesopotamia since the Tower of Babel. He was an Akkadian Semite from the line of Noah's son Shem, like the later Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hebrews. When he conquered the dominant Sumerians, he created the first great Semitic empire. Although Sargon began his life as an orphan adopted by a gardener and not in a royal family, he rose up in power and conquered all the great kings around him. Rebellions surfaced during his life and the life of his sons but did not tear the empire apart until the reign of his grandson. Soon after, the Akkadian empire fell.
  • There are many legends surrounding the birth and upbringing of Sargon, though they probably have varying degrees of truth. When the events from the legends are combined, we see that Sargon’s rise to emperor was a huge accomplishment. While the identity of his father is not clearly known, the legend states that his mother was a temple priestess. Giving birth to him in secret and setting him in a basket to float, she abandoned him to the Euphrates river. Akki, a gardener, rescued him from the river and raised him. After working as a gardener for Akki, Sargon rose to the position of cup-bearer to Ur-Zababa, the king of Kish.
story continued
Story continued…….
  • One legend tells how Ur-Zababa rose to power, appointed Sargon as cup-bearer, and then attempted to murder him. An and Enlil, Sumerian gods, decided to oppose the reign of Ur-Zababa and to remove his wealth from him. Then, fearful because of a dream that the goddess Inanna would give Sargon his kingdom, Ur-Zababa attempted to murder him. When this attempt failed, Ur-Zababa sent Sargon with a note to Lugalzagesi, king of Uruk, containing instructions to kill Sargon. Here the legend stops-but history continues. Instead of being killed by Lugalzagesi, Sargon later made war against Lugalzagesi’s empire, and became emperor in his place.
  • Before Sargon became emperor, Sumer consisted of many city-state governments. Lugalzagesi, king of Uruk, marched through Sumer and conquered the city-states one by one, uniting all of Sumer under his authority. Sargon began his rise to power by attacking Lugalzagesi and his Sumerian empire. Sargon conquered him, stripping him of kingship and placing all of Sumer under his own command—establishing the first empire to cover all of Mesopotamia.
  • As the kingship of the united Sumer transferred to Sargon, the individual city-states took advantage of the ensuing confusion. They rebelled against Sargon, their new ruler, and forced him to support his claim as king through military might. After his defeat of Lugalzagesi he traveled throughout Sumer conquering one city-state after another. Not content with ruling the land of Sumer and Akkad, he expanded his empire as far as Lebanon and the Taurus mountains of Turkey.
  • He continued to encounter uprisings as city-nations rose up against his authority. Nearly three-thousand years later, the Babylonians will tell of the kings who rose against Sargon, and his rescue by Inanna, the moon goddess (known in the Bible as Ishtar). Later he boasts about his prowess: “In my old age of 55, all the lands revolted against me, and they besieged me in Agade ‘but the old lion still had teeth and claws’ I went forth to battle and defeated them: I knocked them over and destroyed their vast army. ‘Now, any king who wants to call himself my equal, Wherever I went, let him go’!”
the end
The End
  • According to the Sumerian king list and other records, Sargon reigned for fifty-six years, and then the kingship was passed to his son, Rimuc, who battled endless rebellions for nine years. The kingship then passed on to Sargon’s other son, and finally to his grandson, Naram-Suen. During his reign, the empire began to unravel as city-states broke away from the empire. Soon after, a barbaric tribe from the Zagros mountains to the east invaded and conquered the Akkadian empire.
create a math problem using babylonian numbers

Create a math problem using Babylonian numbers

Make sure that the math problem is a problem that you are currently working on in math class