Ancient Mesopotamia

Because of the recent looting of Iraq's museums, I thought I would do this page on its ancient history.

Iraq was the site of the world's first civilization. It is called "Mesopotamia" which means "the land between the rivers." These two rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The ancient farmers of the area learned to control the flooding rivers and used the resulting fertility to produce crops such as barley, wheat, flax, and sesame. The fertile ground also supported many different kinds of fruit and vegetable crops. As a result, a stable food supply existed, and the Mesopotamian villages evolved into self-governing city-states.


The people who established the world's first civilization around 3500 B.C. were known as the Sumerians.

a ziggurat

At the center of each city-state was a temple called a ziggurat, surrounded by courts and public buildings. 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.

Radiating from the temple were the two-story houses of the priests and merchants; then the one-story homes of government officials, shopkeepers, and craftspeople; and the lower class homes of farmers, unskilled workers, and fishermen. The city-state also included the fertile farming land outside the city wall.

Since Sumer had no stone and very little wood, the people constructed their homes, public buildings, and city walls out of sun-dried mud brick.


cunieform tablet

Sumerian cuneiform was the world's first writing system. The term cuneiform means "wedge-shaped." It was made up of hundreds of word signs that were "wedge-shaped" due to the shape of the reed pen, or stylus, that was used. The Sumerians wrote on clay tablets that would either be dried in the sun or fired in kilns to make the writing permanent.

Cuneiform was learned in Sumerian schools called edubbas. Only a select group of boys were able to attend Sumerian schools. They studied writing from early morning until evening.

cylinder seal

The Sumerians also used cylinder seals. Cylinder seals were carved out of stone, and they were used as identification. For example, in order to identify himself, a Sumerian would roll his cylinder seal across a wet clay tablet. This would make an imprint on the tablet that would become permanent by sun-baking or kiln-firing. Cylinder seals were used as signatures are used today.

Civilizations of Mesopotamia

Brick from Ishtar Gate
  1. Sumeria (c. 3100-c. 2000 BCE)
  2. Akkadia (c.2350-2200 BCE)
  3. Babylonia (c.2000-1600 BCE)
  4. Kassites and Hittites (c.1600-717 BCE)
  5. Assyria (c.1350- 612 BCE)
  6. Chaldea/Neo-Babylonia (612-539 BCE)

Interesting Artifacts from Mesopotamia

Assyrian Statue Sumerian Statue Sumerian Inlay Panel
Assyrian Statue Sumerian Statue Sumerian Inlay Panel


The ancient Sumerians created the world's first civilization where people settled together in one area known as the city-state. For this accomplishment, ancient Mesopotamia is often referred to as the "cradle of civilization."
Another contribution vastly affecting the modern era was the Sumerians' creation of a writing system. Although we do not use the same writing system today, it spawned the many different writing models that led to today's writing.
Other inventions include the water clock, the twelve-month calendar based on lunar cycles, the wheel, the plow, and the sailboat.


The narrative of this page was taken from: Ancient Mesopotamia
Some great places to look at Mesopotamian Artifacts:
The British Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (graphics on this page were taken from here)


Valid HTML 4.01!

Valid CSS!