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The World’s First Civilization
What is a civilization?
Civilizations (SIH•vuh•luh•ZAY•
shuhns) are complex societies. They
have cities, organized governments,
legal codes, art, religion, social class
divisions, and a writing system.
Why were river valleys important?
Fertile soil for 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.
Known as “The land between two rivers”
Mesopotamia was
the world’s first
The two rivers that
Mesopotamia to
succeed were the
Tigris and
Mesopotamia was located in
an area known as the “Fertile
Crescent” in modern-day Iraq.
The Fertile Crescent
The Tigris and
Euphrates rivers often
flooded in the spring,
leaving behind rich soil
for farming.
However, the floods did
not always come and
farmers worried about
their crops.
Farmers eventually built dams and
channels to control the seasonal floods.
Walls, waterways, and ditches were
built to bring water to their fields. This
way of watering crops is called
Irrigation allowed the farmers to grow
plenty of food and support a large
The first major civilization in Mesopotamia
was in a region called 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
barley for bread
Dates (eaten or used for wine, dried for
later use)
Barley and dates
Each Sumerian city and the land
around it became a separate city-state.
Each city-state had its own
government and was not part of any
larger unit.
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.
The most
invention of the
Sumerians was
The writing of the
Sumerians was
called cuneiform.
Cuneiform alphabet
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The most famous piece of literature from
Sumer is the Epic of Gilgamesh.
An epic is a long poem that tells the story
of a hero. The hero Gilgamesh is a king
who travels around the world with a
friend and performs great deeds. When
his friend dies, Gilgamesh searches for a
way to live forever.
Sumerian Inventions
wagon wheel
number system based on 60
12 month calendar
wagon wheel
In about 2340 B.C., Sargon
conquered all of
Mesopotamia creating the
world’s first empire.
An empire is a group of
many different lands under
one ruler. Sargon’s empire
lasted for more than 200
years before falling to
Hammurabi is best known for his law code,
or collection of laws.
Law 5: If a judge makes an error through his
own fault when trying a case, he must pay a
fine, be removed from the judge’s bench,
and never judge another case.
Law 195: If a son strikes his father, the
son’s hands shall be cut off.