Download Mesopotamia - Course Notes

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Greek: Land Between the Rivers
Modern Day Iraq
Settled Agriculture in an Unstable Landscape Irrigation Agriculture
Agriculture 5,000 BC
Farming: hot and dry
Depended on irrigation
Canals constructed to carry water to fields
Ox-drawn ploughs = turned over ground
Fields left unplanted to replenish nutrients
Sumerians and Semites
Sumerians/people living in Mesopotamia at the start of the historical periods
Created framework of civilization
Semitic - family of languages spoken in western Asia, Northern Africa and Ancient
Cities, Kings and Trade Villages and Cities
Mesopotamia: villages and cities
Farming families banded together to protect each other, work together, share tools
Village society: companionship and potential marriage partners
Cities -villages
From a successful village, came smaller villages which eventually all emerged to form
an urban center
City State -small independent state
Religious and Political Leaders
Mesopotamians open new land to agriculture by building and maintaining irrigation
Canals brought water to fields
Dams raised the levels of the river so water could flow into the canals
Drainage ditches carried water away from flooded fields
Dykes protected fields near the river banks from floods
Irrigation systems required leaders to help organize
Cities had centrally located temples that housed the cult or deities who watched over
the community
Temple owned land and stored donated worship gifts
Leading priests: political and economic roles
Lugal : emerged in Sumerian cities (King)
Priests/temples retained influence because of wealth and religious mystique
Early Regional Empires
Some city/states became powerful enough to dominate others
Far reaching conquests of some states were motivated because of the need of resources
The alternative was to trade for raw materials
Merchants employed by palace or temple
only two institutions with the financial stability and long distance connections to
organize the collection and transport of the goods
Mesopotamian Society Social Classes
Temple Leaders and Kings control large agricultural estates
Palace administration collected taxes from subjects
Elite class acquired large land holdings
Soldiers and religious officials received land in return for their services
Three social divisions
1. Free land-owning class
High ranking officials
Artisans and shop keepers
2. Dependant farmers and artisans
Legal attachment to royal temple or private estates made them the primary
rural work force
3. Slaves
Employed in domestic service
Slaves and Peasants
Came from mountain tribes
Captured or sold by slave traders
Unable to pay debts
Identified by distinctive hair style
freedom - shaved off tell-tale mark
In societies where agriculture dominated hunting and gathering, women lost their
standing and social freedom
Hunting gathering societies - provided food by doing most of the gathering
Because food was now more abundant, women's primary role was to bare more
Gods, Priests and Temples
People saw the gods as being human with bodies and senses
Mesopotamians feared their gods because they thought they were responsible for
natural disasters that had happened
State Religion
Communities showed devotion to gods who protected the community
Built temple compounds which housed priest offices, craft shops, chapels etc.
Most visible part of the temple compound was the Ziggurat
Private Religion
Not much known
Did place votives in sanctuaries
Archeologists found amulets and representation of a host of demons that suggested
belief in magic
Technology and Science
Earliest inscribed tablets found in the chief temple found in Uruk date from the time
when the temple was the most important institution within the community.
Writing originated from a system of tokens used to keep track of property
sheep, cattle or cartwheels
Usual method of writing involved pressing the point of a sharpened reed into a moist
clay tablet
Cuneiform -strokes and wedges
Transportation, Metallurgy and Engineering
Boats and barges dominated in the south where water channels cut up the landscape
In the North, donkeys were chief animals
Early military forces: non professional
More powerful states built up armies of well trained soldiers
Mathematics and Science
Base 60 number system in which numbers were expressed as fractions or multiples
of 60
The Land of Egypt River and Desert
Nile: world's longest river
River was main means of travel and communication with the world's most important
cities located upstream away from the Mediterranean
Agriculture entirely depended on river water
September: river overflowed its banks
Natural Resources
Egypt far more self sufficient than Mesopotamia
Hunters: wild animals and birds
Fisherman: fish
Clay for mud bricks and pottery: very abundant
Forced labor exploited copper and turquoise
Divine Kingship Unification
Increased population: complex political organization
Egyptians state centered on the King often known as the pharaoh
Egyptians considered king to be God sent to Earth to maintain order
Royal Tombs
Kings were very depended on so their deaths called for elaborate efforts to ensure
the well being of their spirits
Believed in afterlife.
Buried with meaningful things
Early rulers: buried in flat topped tombs made of mud brick
Pyramids: large triangular stone monument
Constructed by stone tools, no machinery other than simple pulleys, levers and