In ancient times, Mesopotamia is in Southwest Asia and is located around the Iraq area. This area is known as the Cradle of Civilization because it is here where the first civilization was born. Around 8,000 BCE, the people of the area discovered that burying a seed in dirt from a plant created a new plant. This is the start of farming, and they grew many things like wheat, barley, lentils, onions, dates, and many other plants through the domestication, taking plants from the wild for farming, of plants. This led to the creation of city-states, single cities that make up an entire state, in the Mesopotamia area, and eventually the first true civilization.
The first written language was created around 3300 BCE, at a time where there was a large amount of extra food. People lived in many cities that had their own governments and religions, and with this the first civilization was developed in southern Mesopotamia. This was called the Sumerian Civilization, and it was a collection of city-states that had large walls around them because they were often at war with each other. The major cities were Eridu, Ur, Lagash and Uruk, which was a city that may have held 80,000 people at one time. This period started a great migration of people from the country into cities.
The Sumer invented many new technologies at the time, including the wheel, the wagon, the first number based system, and even the first calendars and maps. Their number system centered around 60, which explains why we use 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour. They were also the first to use a 7 day a week, 12-month calendar. The earliest known form of literature, or a book for entertainment purposes, was also made, known as the Epic of Gilgamesh, a tale of a fight between two gods. They built many structures, but most have been lost to time due to how easily mud bricks erode with time. Much of what we have learned comes from exploring their burial grounds.
The Sumer people heavily influenced other civilizations that developed later. They had some of the first class based social system, and they created a ziggurat, which is a religious temple, at the center of every town. Because the city-states were very different, they often had different religions. Most of them were polytheistic though, which means they believed in many gods.
The writing they developed was one of the earliest forms of writing called pictograms, a form of writing revolving around images of items, and contained hundreds of symbols. This eventually turned into cuneiform, which was using symbols that stood for sounds like an alphabet instead of using pictures. They wrote their history on wet clay tablets by scribes, and recorded many things over thousands of years including daily events, astronomy, literature, and even trade.
After the Sumerian civilization, which lasted from 3500 BCE to around 2350 BCE, the next truly powerful civilization was the Babylonian Empire. It was led by King Hammurabi, which created the empire out of the ruins of Sumer and Akkad (another civilization that came between Sumer and Babylon). It is referred to in Jewish and Christian writings, and was known for its impressive architecture as well as its laws of government. They made one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and were made by Nebuchadnezzar II. They also made one of the first constitutions, known as the Code of Hammurabi, which has 282 laws.
Like all great civilizations, the fall of the Babylonian Empire (1800 - 1100 BCE) came and went. They were conquered by the Assyrians who held control of the land for centuries until the Babylonians rose and took control of it again. Mesopotamia never again became as strong as they once were, but their lasting influence as the Cradle of Civilization.
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