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Civilization began in Mesopotamia over 5000 years
ago. The world's first civilization began on the
southern plain of Mesopotamia, known as Sumer,
around 3500 B.C.
Mesopotamia was part of a larger area called the Fertile
Crescent. The word, Mesopotamia, means the land between
the two rivers.
Sumer had many city-states such as Kish, Nippur, Uruk, and
Ur. City-States are self-governing cities and their surrounding
Street map of Ur.
Sumerian markets and streets were
filled with life sustaining trade.
The Sumerian city-state of Ur contained an
enormous mountain temple, known as a
ziggurat, to honor the moon-god, Nanna.
Most Sumerian cities were surrounded by high walls to keep
out would-be invaders. The city-state of Ur is believed to
have also been surrounded by a great moat.
A harp, made in the image of a
This headdress belonged to a
This board game, found in the Royal Tombs of Ur,
is perhaps the oldest in the world.
The "Epic of Gilgamesh" is perhaps the oldest known story
in the world. It centered on a legendary king from the
Sumerian city-state of Uruk. Later Mesopotamian
civilizations adopted this myth as their own. It was finally
written down on clay tablets like the one above, in the
wedge-shaped written language of cuneiform.
A Scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Sumerian merchants used cylinder seals to mark the
completion of
a trade agreement.
Nearly all Sumerians,
including Kings and Queens
could not read or write.
Scribes were part of an elite
class of professional men and
occasionally women trained
for many years in temple
schools. Everyone from
kings to farmers depended on
scribes to keep records
honestly and to keep secret to
Within the precincts of the
ziggurat was the edubba, or
"tablet house," where boys of
the upper class were taught
cuneiform so that they might be
scribes. Fascinating things have
been found in the rubble of
edubbas — for example,
penmanship lessons with the
teacher's cross-out marks on
them and insulting notes passed
in class. An anxious pupil, with
his lunch bag between his feet,
shows the "school father" his
practice stylus writing.
The Sumerians believed
in many gods and
goddesses, which is
called Polytheism. The
key gods of the
Sumerians were Enki
(god of water), Ki (god
of earth), Enlil (god of
air), and An (god of
The Standard of Ur is comprised of the two mosaic panels
of an inlaid box. The Standard is important because it
portrays the 3 main social levels in the city of Ur.
The city-states of Mesopotamia were finally conquered and
unified by the ambitious ruler, Sargon. He created the world's
first empire, Akkad, An empire is a group of lands and people
ruled by one government.
Sargon’s Empire covered all of Mesopotamia