Chapter 4-The Rise of Sumerian City States Studyguide

By Carolyn Yuan
Social Studies 7th Period

Where was Mesopotamia located? The plains in between the Tigris and Euphrates River and is part of the fertile crescent.

How many problems did they face in the hills  and what were those problems? There were 4 problems. They were food shortages in the hills, an uncontrolled water supply on the plains, difficulties in building and maintaining systems that provided water across the village boundaries, and attacks by neighboring communities.

What place had good conditions for growing food, wooded hills that provided timber for building shelters, and plenty of stones in the hills for tool making? The rolling foothills of the Zagros Mountains in Northern Mesopotamia.

What problems arose in the Zagros Mountains and when did those problems start? Around 5000 B.C.E., farmers did not have enough land to grow enough food for the increasing population which led to food shortages.

Why did the Sumerians leave the foothills and go to the plains known as Sumer? Driven by the need of more land to grow food, the people moved out of the foothills and into the plains of Sumer and its people, the Sumerians.

What were the conditions of Sumer? Most of the year the land was very hard and dry, and the plains lacked trees and stones for making shelters and tools. Yet, in the spring, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flooded, bringing water to the land.

The farmers that moved to Sumer faced challenges. What was the biggest challenge? There was an uncontrolled water supply. There was wither too much or not enough water.

What dramatic season changes were there? During the spring, rain and melted snow from the mountains flowed into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, causing them to flood across the plains.For much of the rest of the year, the sunbaked soil was dry and hard as stone. Hot, strong winds blew thick layers of dust across the ground.

What was needed in order to be able to grow crops? A dependable water supply

How did the Sumerians control the water supply? Sumerian farmers created complex irrigation systems for their fields. They built levees along the sides of the river to prevent flooding. When the land was dry, the farmers poked holes in the levees. The water flowed through the holes and into the thirsty fields.

What other ways did the Sumerians control the water supply? They dug canals to shape the paths the water took. They also constructed dams along the river to block the water and force it to collect in pools ( reservoirs ) they had built that stored the water for later use.

Irrigation systems provided enough water for Sumerian farmers to grow plenty of food. But there was a new problem. What was that problem? The system needed constant care and repair. Canals became clogged with silt, so farmers had to clean them regularly. One clogged canal could disrupt the entire system. But since the system crossed village boundaries, people could no longer live in small villages or groups, they had to work together for the common good.

What was the result of Sumerians working together? They began to create larger communities. Between 3500 and 3000 B.C.E., villages grew into towns. Some towns in Sumer became cities with populations as large as several thousand people.

What happened as Sumerian cities grew? they fought over the right to use more water. Sometimes, people in cities located upriver built new canals or blocked other cities’ canals. In this way, they kept water from reaching the cities that were downriver which caused disputes so intense that people died from fighting.

Did the Sumerians use natural barriers to protect themselves form neighboring communities? No. The plains provided no natural barriers. There were no mountain ranges or rushing rivers to keep out enemies.

If not natural barriers, then what did the Sumerians use to protects themselves? The Sumerians began to build strong walls around their cities. They constructed the walls out of mud bricks that were baked in the sun until hard. The Sumerians also dug moats outside city walls to help prevent enemies from entering their cities.

Where did people live? And were they safe where they lived? Most people lived in houses within the walled cities which was safe, but the farms lay outside. In case of attack, farmers fled the fields for safety inside the city walls.

What is a city state? The walled cities of Sumer were like independent countries. Historians call them city-states. By about 3000 B.C.E., most Sumerians lived in city-states

What started happened at the beginning of 3500 B.C.E.? The Sumerians progressed from living in small farming villages to building large, walled cities.

How did geographic challenges lead to the rise of city states in Mesopotamia? ( summary ) The rise of the city states in Mesopotamia lies not only in the problems the Sumerians faced, but also in their solutions. A basic challenge for any group of people is how to provide food for itself. Food shortages had forced settlers in Mesopotamia to move from the foothills down to the river valley.There, farmers faced the problem of having either too much water or too little. To control the water supply, Sumerians built a complex irrigation system. The system crossed village boundaries, so the Sumerians had to cooperate with one another. This led them to live in larger communities—the first cities. These city states were like independent countries. Often, they fought with one another. To defend themselves, the Sumerians built walls and dug moats around their cities. By 3000 B.C.E., the solutions to the challenges faced by the Sumerians had transformed Sumerian farming villages into walled city states.

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