11 julio, 2024

First cities: what were they and where did they arise?

The first cities They arose about 7,500 years before Christ, in the region of Mesopotamia and in Turkey, when the human being had stopped being gatherers and nomads and had become gatherers and sedentary. It was a slow process, in which the first settlements were a space where the transition took place.

A city would imply not only the settlement of inhabitants, but, at least, a certain density of infrastructure and inhabitants, the existence of walls or defenses, an administrative system and a defined geographical area.

When agriculture developed in the Neolithic period, nomadic and collector human beings had the need to establish themselves by forming villages. Although the inhabitants were few, historians call them Neolithic agricultural cities or towns.

About 7,500 years before Christ, humans organized themselves into small groups or tribes that tended to congregate more and more people.

Settlements were formed, which, by uniting with other tribes, began a process that would bring about a great change in the economic and social life of humanity, since the first cities would emerge from there.

How did the first cities arise?

The emergence of the first cities occurred when humans decided to leave the itinerant life to stay in a fixed place. These changes that transformed his life began in the Neolithic period. Of course it was not a «decision» in the literal sense of the term.

In this period agriculture was invented and developed, and as a consequence the human being became a producer. In order to be able to satisfy his needs efficiently, the human also domesticated some animals. They went from having resources thanks to predation, to an economy of production. The domestication of animals occurred before agriculture. In fact, many nomadic peoples were looking for the best pastures for their herds.

Thus, herds of goats, sheep, pigs and other important mammals were achieved from which human beings drew their food.

Then the Paleolithic hunters moved on to the Neolithic herdsmen, who dedicated themselves to sowing. They had to stop being nomads because agriculture needed constant care and vigilance in the field.

The humans who lived off the land gathered in groups, and the first settlements arose near rivers, which allowed them to supply themselves with water and irrigate crops.

Economic development caused changes, the population increased and small settlements grew into large cities. Food surpluses began to be stored in places specially designed for it.

Where did the first cities arise?

The first cities were born in the valleys watered by the great rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Indus in India, the Nile in Egypt and the Yellow in China.

The Neolithic revolution and its changes in the way of life of humanity was first seen in northern Mesopotamia, giving rise to several settlements.

In southern Mesopotamia, the plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was suitable for large human settlements to subsist.

Mesopotamia is a word of Greek origin that means «region between rivers». At present, these territories are occupied by the states of Syria, Iran and mainly Iraq.

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers had an irregular flow. The flow of this pair of rivers was variable and unpredictable, with droughts one year and destructive floods the next.

To have any control, channels, dikes, and a more complex structure were required. Facing these challenges evolved the most important achievements of the beginnings of civilization.

Characteristics of the first cities

They were settled in regions near rivers. They had urban planning, that is, they had laid out streets, spaces dedicated to commerce, housing, and worship. Trade was practiced with other cities and regions. They could have a large population. Stone and adobe were common materials for the construction of infrastructure. The art began to develop. Agriculture was practiced as a means of subsistence, and there were warehouses designed to store the surplus of grains and other foods.

first cities

Catalhöyuk (Türkiye)

In the 1950s, a city originating from what is now Turkey was discovered, and is believed to have been established in 7500 BC. It is the city of Çatalhöyük.

It was restored in the 1960s, and its first deep excavation was in 2013. It is in an amazing state of preservation. Their houses had access through the roofs and used stairs that went from one level to another.

Archaeologists have discovered that up to twelve products were grown in Çatalhöyük, including three varieties of wheat, fruits and nuts. People grew their own food and stored it in their homes.

Uruk (Mesopotamia)

It was located next to the Euphrates. Its existence is known from 5000 BC, but its best stage occurred between 4000 and 3200 BC, where it reached a population of 65,000 inhabitants, located in an extension of more than 600 hectares.

Its influence was so important that it gave its name to the so-called Uruk Period, because it is there where the most representative archaeological remains of this culture have been found.

Ur (Mesopotamia)

It is one of the most important and ancient cities of Mesopotamia, founded in 3800 BC, located near the mouth of the Euphrates River. At its heyday, the city possibly had more than 200,000 inhabitants.

In relation to architecture, the ziggurat of Ur stands out, the most distinctive construction of the city. Currently, its ruins are 24 km southwest of Nasiriyah, present-day Iraq.

Babylon (Mesopotamia)

It is perhaps the most famous city in Mesopotamia. Founded in 2300 BC, it achieved its independence after the Sumerian Renaissance period.

It became the capital of a great empire. Under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II the city was magnificently embellished, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon being an example and contributing to the city’s fame.

In addition to the rise of cities in Mesopotamia, there are also those that arose in Ancient Egypt and in the Indus Valley.

The so-called Indus Valley Civilization, existed from 3300 BC from what is now northeastern Afghanistan, into Pakistan and northwestern India. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were the most important cities of this civilization.

Mohenjo Daro (India)

Believed to have been built around 2600 BC, it became not only the largest city in the Indus Valley Civilization, but one of the oldest urban centers in the world.

Located west of the Indus River, Mohenjo daro was one of the most refined cities of the time, with excellent engineering and urban planning. Its ruins are found in territories of present-day Pakistan.

Argos (Greece)

Archaeologists think that this is the oldest city in Europe. It is located on the Peloponnese peninsula, near Turkey, and according to records, it could have been inhabited for 9,000 years, although the city was founded in 2000 BC.

Byblos (Lebanon)

Its antiquity is approximately 7,000 years, and it is the oldest city that is still populated. There are the origins of the Phoenician culture, and its remains are a World Heritage Site.


The Indus River Valley Civilizations. Retrieved from courses.lumenlearning.com.
Main cities of Ancient Mesopotamia. Recovered from es.marenostrum.info.

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