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Chapter 3: The Tigris and Euphrates
Lesson 1: Civilization in Sumer
Big Idea: City-states in Mesopotamia developed into one of the world’s first civilizations
by using resources in new ways.
First Paragraph
What is the name of the civilization formed in the southern part of Mesopotamia? Sumer
The people there spoke a common language now known as Sumerian.
What did the Sumerian city-states depend on for food? agriculture
Advances in Farming
1) innovation: new way of doing things
2) division of labor: the sharing of a large job, so that each worker does only part of it
3) surplus: the amount of a product that is left after needs have been met
Sumerian farmers grew grains such as barley and wheat along the banks of the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers. They also grew vegetables, including onions and cucumbers, and raised
The Sumerians developed innovations for large-scale farming to protect their crops.
•They built dikes, or dams made of earth, to control river flooding.
•They filled reservoirs, or human made lakes, with water for later use.
•They built canals to bring water to the fields in dry seasons.
What did the Sumerians do each spring after harvesting their grain crops?
1). They threshed, or separated the grain from the husk, or outer shell, of the plant.
2). They took the grains to large storehouses in the cities.
They were among the first to use wheeled carts to carry crops and other heavy loads.
Government in Sumer
1) monarchy: a governing system rules by a king or a queen
2) absolute authority: complete control over city-state
3) bureaucracy: a governing group made up of appointed officials
Each city-state had one ruler who they believed was chosen by the gods, known as the en. He
had absolute authority over his city-state.
What type of government did the Sumerians have? monarchy
Some of the duties of the monarchs included:
• leading the military
• arranging trade
• settling arguments
• directing public events
• religious ceremonies
Sumerians created a bureaucracy, mostly made up of priests, or religious leaders. What were
some of their duties?
• choosing and marking lands for farming
• distributing food to people in the cities
Name one of the Sumerian civilization’s greatest contributions to world history? writing
Writing and Other Innovations
1) pictographs: picture writing on wet clay, which dried into hard tablets
2) cuneiform: wedge-shaped writing
Sumerian became the world’s first written language.
The earliest writings were government lists and records made by using sharpened reeds as
writing tools (pictographs). Over time they began to use symbols instead of pictures to stand
for words (cuneiform).
What innovations did the Sumerians develop for measuring?
• standard units for area, the acre (iku)
• basic measurement for volume, the quart
• a calendar for months and years (12 months based on the 28-day cycle of the moon)
Other innovations included:
• sailboats
• mixed copper and tin to make bronze tools and weapons
• potter’s wheel (formed bowls, vases, and jars from clay)
Divisions in Society
1) social classes: group of people of the same level of importance in their society
2) merchant: a person who buys and sells or trades goods
Sumer’s Social Classes:
1) highest, ruling class: king, important government officials, priests, warriors (included
their families)
2) middle class: less-important government officials, craftworkers, farming supervisors,
merchants, doctors, carpenters, potters, bricklayers
3) lowest class, working class: slaves and farmworkers
Who were the slaves? prisoners of war, people who had been enslaved as punishment for crimes
or to pay off debts, or money they owned
Were slaves in Sumer enslaved for life? Not necessarily. Those who owed a debt could gain
their freedom when the debt was paid.
Roles in Sumer
Women’s Roles in Sumer_______