7 junio, 2024

13 Mesopotamian contributions to the world

Some Mesopotamian contributions The most important are the wheel, the first code of laws and, perhaps best known, the invention of writing. Mesopotamia (a term of Greek origin that means «between two rivers») was a region located in the Mediterranean, specifically in the area of ​​Western Asia, between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

This region was bordered to the northeast by the Zagros mountains and to the southeast by the Arabian plain, and corresponds to the territories of the current countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Unlike the more unified civilizations (the Egyptian and the Greek), Mesopotamia was a collection of various cultures united by writing and by their attitude toward women and their gods.

This is why, when speaking of Mesopotamia, instead of saying that it is «the Mesopotamian civilization», one should speak of a multicultural region or a region with several civilizations.

In fact, Mesopotamia is known as the cradle of civilization, due to two great contributions that arose in the region of Sumer (Lower Mesopotamia) in 4000 BC: the birth of the city and the invention of writing.

List of contributions of Mesopotamia to humanity

1. The city

The development of cities began in the Copper Age (5900 BC-3200 BC). This growth was notable in the region of Sumer, where the cities of Eridu, Uruk, Ur, Kish, Nuzi, Nippur and Ngirsu were born.

The high level of development and systematization of agriculture (which included irrigation) allowed the growth of large centers and, once the cities were established, they were able to maintain their prosperity thanks to trade.

2. The writing

Cuneiform was the first written language and developed in Mesopotamia. This communication system was created by the Sumerians between 5000 BC and 4000 BC.

This writing was done in clay. The characters used were a mixture of holes and small wedges, hence the name cuneiform, which means «wedge-shaped».

It is believed that writing was invented due to trade, which generated the need to communicate at a distance and to keep a record of the commercial transactions that each city carried out.

Cuneiform writing was so influential that it spread through the civilizations of the time and even after the fall of Sumer, it continued to be used.

3. The wheel

The invention of the wheel is attributed to the Mesopotamians. In 1922, the archaeologist Sir Leonard Wooley discovered the remains of two four-wheeled wagons in what was once the city of Ur. These are the oldest vehicles yet found.

4. Agriculture and livestock

The conditions of the land between the two rivers allowed the peoples, who were once nomadic, to settle and live from agriculture (favored by the fertility of the land) and from livestock. This is why Mesopotamia was primarily an agrarian society.

As for livestock, in Mesopotamia the domestication of animals was practiced, which favored their sedentary lifestyle.

In any case, it should be noted that agriculture and the domestication of animals were processes that occurred gradually in various regions of the world, with varying ages. In any case, systematization began in Mesopotamia, linked to the cities.

5. Equal rights

Mesopotamian societies established that there was equal rights between women and men. Women could own land, get divorced, own their own business and trade.

6. Irrigation

The irrigation system was invented in Mesopotamia to be able to transfer water from the northern zone to the southern zone, since the latter was an extremely arid region and there was not enough rain to allow the development of agriculture.

In this sense, the first irrigation systems consisted of trenches or canals that allowed the flow of a water source (a river, for example) to the crops.

7. The hanging gardens

Mesopotamia was known for its hanging gardens. They were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II (? -562 BC) for his wife to enjoy. These gardens were about 1,300 meters long and 260 meters high, divided into platforms or “floors”.

Some historians have explained that they were full of roads, fountains and beautiful flowers, all built with the aim of making the queen not suffer from homesickness.

These gardens were built around 600 BC on the banks of the Euphrates River (south of modern Baghdad, in Iraq).

8. Hours of 60 minutes and minutes of 60 seconds

The legacy of Mesopotamia can be seen in the most basic aspects of modern life. For example, the fact that hours last 60 minutes and minutes last 60 seconds is a Mesopotamian heritage.

Helen Chapin Metz points out that the Sumerians believed that each god was represented by a number.

The number 60 was used to represent the god An and for this reason it was used as the basic unit to calculate time.

9. The ziggurats

The ziggurats were huge temples built in Mesopotamia, specifically in Sumer, in honor of their gods.

These presented various levels that could be accessed through a staircase. At the top of the construction, the Sumerian priests left offerings (food and precious objects) for their gods.

10. The Code of Hammurabi

Mesopotamian society was the first to create a complex legal system, around 1780 BC, where the main social norms were established, as well as the punishments for breaking them.

It is named after the Babylonian king, Hammurabi, and served as a model for the laws of later civilizations.

11. Literary authorship

The first author whose name is known comes from Acadia, one of the Mesopotamian cities. He corresponds to Enheduanna (2285-2250 BC), the first known female poet in history. She was high priestess of the temple of Nannar, the god of the moon, and was the daughter of King Sargon I, creator of the Akkadian Empire.

12. Mail

In the Mesopotamian cities, a complex correspondence system was used, which allowed different peoples to send different objects to each other.

13. The plow

Its use is documented from 4000 BC in Mesopotamia. Initially, it was a single piece of wood pulled by human force, and later by animals (oxen, generally). The plow meant a technological advance in agriculture, because with it more territory could be worked with less effort.


The legacy of Mesopotamia. Retrieved from qasocialstudies.wikispaces.com.
Ancient Mesopotamia. Retrieved from oi.uchicago.edu.
Ancient Mesopotamia. Retrieved from home.d47.org.

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