Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having “inspired some of the most important developments in human history”. Including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops, and the development of cursive script. Early mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture may have also been developed here. It is recognized as the cradle of some of the world’s earliest civilizations.
In a broader sense, the name is for the area bound by the Zagros Mountains on the north east, and, on the southwest by the edge of the Arabian Plateau. Then stretching from the Persian Gulf in the southeast. All the way to the spurs of the Taurus Mountains in the northwest. Roughly equivalent to modern-day Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, and western Iran.
One of the key features of Mesopotamia was its fertile soil, which was ideal for agriculture. The regular flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers created a rich silt that allowed for productive farming. The development of irrigation systems enabled the cultivation of crops such as barley, wheat, dates, and various fruits and vegetables. The surplus food production in Mesopotamia led to the rise of settled farming communities and the development of urban centers.
Mesopotamia is renowned for its significant contributions to human history and culture. It was home to several ancient civilizations, including the Sumerians, and Akkadians. While into the bronze age, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Who all played a crucial role in shape shaping the course of human civilization.
The civilization of Sumer, located in southern Mesopotamia, is credited with many notable achievements. It is considered the world’s earliest urban civilization, dating back to the 4th millennium BCE. The Sumerians developed the first known system of writing called cuneiform. Which was impressed on clay tablets. They also made advancements in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and law. Unbeknownst elsewhere.
The Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) originating from different areas in present-day Iraq. All dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history. Around 3100 BC. Where alot of the art, pottery and artifacts had been found.
The regional toponyms Mesopotamia are: (/ˌmɛsəpəˈteɪmiə/, Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία ‘[land] between rivers’; Arabic: ن ْي َد ِف ا َّر ل ٱ د َال ِب; Bilādar-Rāfidayn or ن ْي َر ْه َّن ل ٱ ْني َب Bayn an-Nahrayn; Persian: ن ا د و ر ن ا ی م miyân rudân; Syriac: ܢ ܝ ܪ ܗ ܢ ܬ ܝ ܒ; and, Beth Nahrain: “land between the two rivers”.
Mesopotamia is chronological and an environmental connotation. Names like Syria, Jazira, and Iraq are believe to describe the region after muslim conquests. And, midst various modern century encroachments. Further distinctions are also usually made between Northern or Upper Mesopotamia or Lower Mesopotamia. And, amongst changed climatic conditions.
In the neighboring Armenian highlands both the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have their headlands. The entire river system drains a vast mountainous region. From the desert expanse is in the north, gives way to a 15000 square km or 5800 square mile region of lagoons, marshes, reedbanks and mudflats in the south. Before emptying into the Persian gulf. High peaks of the northern Zargos mountains, and the Armenian highlands aid in irrigation from precipitation. And, the division of labour for constructing and maintaining the canals and farming usually determined its usefulness.
Throughout the dry summer months. Nomads hearded sheep and goats (later camels), from the river out into the desert fringes. In the wet summer months. Because these areas are relatively bare of building stone, precious metals, timber and trade items. It allowed greater nomadic trade and development.
In the south, and around Sumner, a giant fishing culture has existed, adding to the flavor and cultural mix.
Writing and rivers
The Nile valley in Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley civilization in the Indian subcontinent, the Yellow River in China, and Mesopotamia all have something in common. That was clay. Because of the time, and sheer amount of it, there were the first civilizations found to use clay writing.
Periodization, pre & protohistory until about the middle bronze age
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (10,000–8700 BC)
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (8700–6800 BC)
Jarmo (7500–5000 BC)
Hassuna (~6000 BC)
Samarra (~5700–4900 BC)
Halaf cultures (~6000–5300 BC)
Ubaid period (~6500–4000 BC)
Uruk period (~4000–3100 BC)
Jemdet Nasr period (~3100–2900 BC) 
Early Bronze Age
Early Dynastic period (~2900–2350 BC)
Akkadian Empire (~2350–2100 BC)
Third Dynasty of Ur (2112–2004 BC))
(cuneiform script pic 3231)
The earliest written language was Sumerian. During the Akkadian empire, Akkadian came to be the dominant language. Though Sumerian was retained for administrative, religious, literary and scientific purposes. There was also Subartuan and probably some others. Initally, the logographical system of Sumerian cuneiform scripts took years to master.
Cuneiforms (or wedge shaped clay tablets) have been found, and dated to mid-4th millennium BC. Cuneiform literally means “wedge-shaped”, due to the triangular tip of the stylus used for impressing signs on wet clay. Each cuneiform appears to be standardized using the development of pictograms.
7 archaic tablets are the earliest cuneiform from Mesopotamia. They came from É. A temple dedicated to the goddess Inanna at Uruk. Archaeologists labelled the building as Temple C. They had the Sumerian language.
“Women as well as men learned to read and write”. Vocabularies, grammars, and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of students and learning. Commentaries on older texts and explanations of words, phrases and obscurities had begun, and continued on.
Popular literature was passed down. The ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’, was written, and translated through generations and time. Each of the 12 divisions. Contained a story of single Gilgameshs adventure(s).
Science and technology Mathematics
“Land between rivers” math and science was based on a sexagesimal (base 60) numeral system. This is the source of the 60-minute hour, the 24-hour day, and the 360-degree circle.
The Sumerian calendar was based on the moon and sun (lunisolar). It had three seven-day weeks of a lunar month. And was important in early map-making and measurement of area.
Temple priesthoods attempted to associate current events with certain positions of the planets and stars.
Some were very adept at mathematics and could predict eclipses and solstices. Using astronomy, scholars thought that everything had purpose. Most related to omens and religion. Based on cycles of the moon, astronomers worked out a 12-month calendar. Based on the cycles of the moon. They divided the year into two seasons: summer and winter. The origins of astronomy as well as astrology believe to have dated around this time.
This new approach to astronomy was adopted and further developed in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy. In Seleucid and Parthian times, the astronomical reports were thoroughly scientific. How much earlier their advanced knowledge and methods were developed is uncertain. The Babylonian development of methods for predicting the motions of the planets is considered to be a major episode in the history of astronomy. But was later on.
After the neolithic age. The oldest texts on medicine are found. They date to the Old Babylonian period. A diagnostic handbook was written by the Ummânū, or chief scholar. Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa, around 1000 or 1100 bc.
Along with Egyptian medicine, a concept of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, prescriptions and enemas was introduced in Mesopotamia. Esagil-kin-apli’s text contains a list of medical symptoms and often detailed empirical observations. Along with it. Were logical rules, used in combining, observed symptoms on the body. With its diagnosis and prognosis of a patient. A starting point to what we have today.
Many technologies were invented in Mesopotamia. Including metal and copper-working, glass and lamp making, textile weaving, flood control, water storage, irrigation and more. In the bronze age, they were one of the first. Palaces were decorated extravagantly. Also, copper, bronze, and iron were begin for use on armor as well as for different weapons.
The Sumerian word for universe is An-ki, which refers to the powerful god An and goddess Ki. Their son was Enlil, the air god. They believed that Enlil was the most powerful god. He was the chief god of the pantheon. Religon was first recorded. Mesopotamians believed the universe was born from an enormous sea. And, that the world was a flat disc, surrounded by a huge, holed space. Above that, was heaven. Though there were variations.
According to some. Mesopotamian wisdom, which embodied ethics in the forms of dialectic, dialogues, epic poetry, folklore, hymns, lyrics, prose works, and proverbs. Can be traced back to the origins of philosophy. There reason and rationality developed beyond empirical observations. And, expanded outwards.
Hunting was popular. Fighting and wrestling was frequently featured on art. And, other games like polo may have been played. With men sitting on the shoulders of other men rather than on horses.
Known as the “royal game of Ur”, they also played a board game similar to backgammon.
Most boys were taught their father’s trade or were apprenticed out. Girls usually stayed home with their mothers. To learn housekeeping and cooking craft. And, to look after any younger children. Some children would help with crushing grain, cleaning birds; the crops or animals. Women had rights. They could own property and, get a divorce.
The word Ensi was used to describe the official who organized the work of all facets of temple agriculture. Irrigated agriculture spread southwards from the Zagros foothills from about 5,000 BC. In the south, agriculture is only possible with irrigation and good drainage. Major cities such as Ur and Urik were near the Euphrates. Others, like Lagash, was build on branches of the Tigris. For feed and fertilizer, it provided further benefits since there were fish. They used wooden plows to soften soil before planting crops such as barley, onions, grapes, turnips and apples. If it was a bad year. Cows, goats and lambs were also kept.
For much the neolithic period and history, Mesopotamia served as a trade nexus. Part of a trade route before our more modern times. Around 2000 BC, trade with the Indus Valley civilization flourished. Starting in the 4th millennium BC (3000 BC), Mesopotamian civilizations also traded with ancient Egypt.
Some of the neolithic ages first cities
Among the vast river(s), Sumerians built some of the first cities. Because of the irrigation canals. They were very successful. Along with cities and irrigation canals were vast stretches of open desert or swamp. Communication was difficult and, at times, became dangerous.
To grow required land, and canals for food and resources. With the end of the Uruk phase (4000-3100bc), warfare, and thus walled cities grew. Arguments were recorded on several tablets before recording any major war. Occurring in 3200 BC. Though it was not common until about 2500 BC.
Marshes of southern Babylonia
At the end of the Early Dynastic III period (2600–2350 BC), is when the Stele of the Vultures was created. It is the oldest known celebration of a massacre. In the world. Commemorating the victory of Eannatum of Lagash over the neighbouring rival. The city of Umma. From this point on, chasing enemies trying to run away, was encorporated into the political system. It became known. A neutral city may act for some, that are hiding in the reeds. And, act as an arbitrator, for two rival cities. This helped to form unions between cities, and eventually lead to regions and states. Many fights were successful, with the enemy either desperately escaping or hiding amongst reeds.
Neolithic and early bronze age Mesopotamian art
Art rivaled that of ancient neighbours in Egypt. It was some of the most sophisticated, grand, and elaborate in western Eurasia. Things changed later though. Because in the bronze and metal ages. There was metallurgy and war.
Since little paintings survived. During the neolithic age. The main emphasis has been on what was found. Many durable forms of sculpture in stone and clay, have been found. Most of the sculptures were also painted.
The Guennol Lioness is an outstanding small limestone figure from Elam of about 3000–2800 BC, part man and part lion.
Sculptures from the Sumerian and Akkadian period generally had large, staring eyes, and long beards of men.
Many masterpieces have also been found at the Royal Cemetery at Ur (2650BC), including the two figures of a Ram in a Thicket, the Copper Bull and a bull’s head on one of the Lyres of Ur. And, womens headpieces and jewlery
Pictorial representation of buildings; texts on building practices and whats left of archaeological evidence represents some of Mesopotamias great architecture. Scholarly literature usually concentrates on temples, palaces, city walls and gates. But other monumental buildings, existed like residences and schools.
Brick were the dominant material. As the material was freely available. Whereas building stone had to be brought a considerable distance. Like at Ziggurat. Cities often had large gateways. Ishtar gate for example. And, these sort of buildings became quite large, into, and past the bronze age.
Temple complexes at Uruk around 3000 BC; (pic)
Temples and palaces from the early Dynastic period (2900-23500bc): Khafajah and Tell Asmar in the Diyala River valley;
Sanctuary of Enlil at Nippur;
Sanctuary of Nanna at Ur; and,
Probably some others.
The historical significance of Mesopotamia lies in its influence on subsequent cultures and civilizations. Many of its cultural and technological achievements, such as writing, math, astrology, architecture, art and early water management, farming and trade. Influenced the development of later societies in the near east and beyond. Mesopotamia’s impact on human history cannot be overstated, and its legacy continues to be studied and appreciated today.
Bibliography: Milton-Edwards, Beverley (May 2003). “Iraq, past, present and future: a thoroughly-modern mandate?” (https://web.archive.org/web/20101208112958/http://www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/policy-paper-13.html). History & Policy. United Kingdom: History & Policy. Archived from the original (http://www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/policy-paper-13.html)
Atlas de la Mésopotamie et du Proche-Orient ancien, Brepols, 1996 ISBN 2-503-50046-3
Foster, Benjamin R.; Polinger Foster, Karen (2009), Civilizations of ancient Iraq, Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-13722-3
Finkelstein, J.J. (1955), “Subartu and Subarian in Old Babylonian Sources”, (Journal of Cuneiform Studies Vol 9, No. 1)
Hogg, Hope Waddell (1911). “Mesopotamia” (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Mesopotamia). In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 179–187.
Bahrani, Z. (1998), “Conjuring Mesopotamia: imaginative geography a world past”, in Meskell, L. (ed.), Archaeology under fire:Nationalism, politics and heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, London: Routledge, pp. 159–174, ISBN 978-0-415-19655-0
Tetlow, Elisabeth Meier (28 December 2004). Women, Crime and Punishment in Ancient Law and Society: Volume 1: The
Ancient Near East (https://books.google.com/books?id=ONkJ_Rj1SS8C&pg=PA75). p. 75. ISBN 9780826416285. (https://web.archive.org/web/20200522152934/https://books.google.com/books?id=ONkJ_Rj1SS8C&pg=PA75)
Struik, Dirk J. (1987). A Concise History of Mathematics (https://archive.org/detailsconcisehistoryof0000stru_m6j1). New York:Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-60255-4.
Lambert, W.G. (2016). Ancient Mesopotamian Religion and Mythology: Selected Essays (https://books.google.com/books?id=dTLWQddp8zwC&pg=PA111). The Cosmology of Sumer & Babylon. Mohr Siebeck. p. 111. ISBN 978-3161536748. Archived (https://web.archive.org/web/20220501165046/https://books.google.com/books?id=dTLWQddp8zwC)
Giorgio Buccellati (1981), “Wisdom and Not: The Case of Mesopotamia”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1), pp.35–47.
Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat (1998), Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia
Rivkah Harris (2000), Gender and Aging in Mesopotamia
Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character (https://archive.org/details/sumerianstheirhi00samu). The Univ. of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-45238-8.
Wheeler, Mortimer (1953). The Indus Civilization (https://books.google.com/books?id=9cs7AAAAIAAJ). Cambridge history of India: Supplementary volume (3 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (published 1968). p. 111. ISBN 9780521069588. Archived (https://web.archive.org/web/20210410083125/https://books.google.com/books?id=9cs7AAAAIAAJ) from the original on 10 April 2021. Retrieved 10 April 2021. “In calculating the significance of Indus contacts with Mesopotamia, it is obvious that the economic vitality of Mesopotamia is the controlling factor. Documentary evidence there vouches for vigorous commercial activity in the Sarginid and Larsa phases […]”
Frankfort, Henri (1970). The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient. Pelican History of Art (4th ed.). Penguin (now Yale History of Art). ISBN 0-14-056107-2.
Dunham, Sally (2005), “Ancient Near Eastern architecture”, in Daniel Snell (ed.), A Companion to the Ancient Near East, Oxford:Blackwell, pp. 266–280, ISBN 978-0-631-23293-3
“Mesopotamia” (http://www.worldhistory.org/Mesopotamia/). World History Encyclopedia. Archived (https://web.archive.org/web/20210410223519/https://www.worldhistory.org/Mesopotamia/)