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Ancient Treasures of Iraq

The Purpose of This Page

Ever since I learned about ancient Irag in high school I've been fascinated by it's ancient treasures. Iraq has so many beautiful artifacts, and since we have to do a page dealing with images, I thought this topic would be perfect.

Topics to follow are: Climate and Farming  · Commerce and Written Language  · Religion  · To Learn More

About Ancient Mesopotamia

Modern day Iraq stands on an area once called Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was approximately 300 miles long and 150 miles wide. It was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

The word Mesopotamia means "The land between the rivers".

Climate and Farming

The climate of the region ranged from cool to hot seasons, with temperatures often over 110° F. Mesopotamia had moderate rainfall. The land of Mesopotamia was once dominated by floods, but today is mostly desert. Farmers learned to control the flooding and grow such crops as wheat, barley, sesame, flax, and various fruits and vegetables.

Commerce and Written Language

The Sumerians were very good farmers and tradesman. Because they needed to keep records of their livestock, food, and trade, officials began using writing. The earliest form of writing dates back to 3300 B.C. At first people drew "word-pictures" on clay tablets using a pointed instrument called a stylus. These "word-pictures" then developed into wedge-shaped signs.

The Ancient Mesopotamians invented a type of script called cuneiform.

Many Cuneiform tablets like the one below have been found throughout modern Iraq. People in Ancient Mesopotamia used writing for keeping records and laws. Important people had their names engraved on metal cylinders called seals. They would press these cylinders into the wet clay at the end of a document to form their signatures. They also wrote down stories and epics.

Cunieform Tablet

Religion

Ziggurats

In Mesopotamia, each town and city was believed to be protected by its own, unique deity or god. 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 bricks. The Mesopotamians believed that ziggurats connected heaven and earth.

Ziggurat
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Gods

Every city had its own patron god or goddess. The people were expected to sing hymns, say prayers, and make sacrifices to the ziggurat for the gods. The people trusted the priests and the priestesses in the temples to tell them what the gods or goddesses wanted. They believed that the gods could beome angry and punish you, or they could be pleased and reward you.

There were four all-powerful gods that created and controlled the universe. An was the god of heaven, Enlil was the air-god, Enki was the water-god, and Ninhursag was the mother earth-goddess.

Tombs

Ancient Mesopotamians beileved in an afterlife. Kings were buried in lavish tombs with all their earthly possessions, and occasionally their household staff. Ouch!

Many extremely interesting and beautiful objects were found in tombs. For example, look at the lyre below. The front is decorated with the head of a bull and inlaid with gold and stones.

>Bull Lyre
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To Learn More

In order to keep page size down, I couldn't show the greatest pictures. The sites below have wonderful images that do these beautiful works of art justice.

The British Museum.

The Metropolitan Museum.

Please feel free to email me.

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