"Land Between Two Rivers"
Ancient Mesopotamia was a section of land formed like a crescent located in the Middle East, in what is now Iraq, was very fertile, or good for farming. With the Mediterranean Sea to the West and Persian Gulf to the South, two rivers flowed through the area, the Tigris and the Euphrates. They made it possible for many civilizations to thrive in this desert land.
"Mesopotamia" was only what the Greeks called the crescent of land. Mesopotamia means "land between two rivers," which fit the description. It was also called the Fertile Crescent because of its shape and its quality.
Mesopotamians had to learn how to control the water supply. They waited for the spring floods to come and nurture their soils and water the seeds, but sometimes would wash away the crops and leave the people starving when summer came. The people then discovered irrigation, controlling the water to go where and when the people wanted. Walls, called levees, were built to stop the flood, and then deep ditches were dug and plugged where they reached the wall. The ditches had smaller ditches branching off from them to the fields, and all had plugs to stop and start the water flow.
This is a video about irrigation and how it helped the Sumerians.
Gods, Goddesses, and Monsters
The people of Mesopotamia believed in many gods. Sumerian people believed in seven great gods- the gods of the earth, sky, fresh water, salt water, sun, moon, and wind. Other gods and goddesses were Ea, Ishtar, Ellil, Nanna, and Adad.
The people of Mesopotamia also believed in monsters. The Bull-Man, Pazuzu, and Ugallu were all demons and monsters.
The Sumerians were the first ones to create writing. At first it was pictographs, or writhing with pictures. Each picture was of an object, but that didn't help if they had to add a word like liberty or justice, so the Sumerians created a new way of writing called "phonetic" where each symbol was a sound instead of an object. They called it "cuneiform" meaning "wedged shaped." They called it this because it was, well, wedged shaped. Sumerians wrote with a reed stylus. Reeds were plentiful on the river banks.
The Sumerians used their writing system to record trade, crops, god offerings, and such forth. It allowed them to develop and become a more advanced civilization.
In the Ancient Mesopotamian time, people used mud bricks to build everything! They used them to make houses, walls, and ziggurats. To make the bricks, they cut reeds from the river banks and took mud and mixed them together. They then patted them into molds and pushed them out. Finally they left them out to dry in the sun.
In the Ancient times, the people of Mesopotamia believed in many gods. They built temples in each city-state for the patron god that they worshiped. The temples were called ziggurats. Each ziggurat had levels, which got increasingly smaller. They also had stairs going to each level. The top level was the actual temple. Only priests, kings, and scribes for the priests were allowed to go up there. Weird, I know.
The Mesopotamians invented lots of things. They had a math based on the number 60. They created the 360 degree circle, the 60 minute hour, and the 60 second minute. They also invented the pottery wheel which evolved into the wheel. For their fields they invented the plow and irrigation for their crops. They made a sail and sailboat for trade. For war they made chariots to move faster and make themselves more scary to their enemies. They looked at the moon and stars and created astronomy, the study of the zodiac, the calendar, and horoscopes. They also invented cuneiform, their writing, to keep records and communicate.
The Mesopotamians were very creative and smart. They invented many things and created beautiful art. We only have small pieces left today to give us hints of what their culture and daily lives were like, but we learn more every day about this fascinating civilization.