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otamia Became the Cradle of Civilization

While human civilization developed in many places around the world, it first emerged thousands of years ago in the ancient Middle East. 

“We see the first cities, the first writing and first technologies originating in Mesopotamia,” says Kelly-Anne Diamond, a visiting assistant history professor at Villanova University, whose expertise includes ancient Near Eastern history and archaeology.

Mesopotamia’s name comes from the ancient Greek word for “the land between the rivers.” That’s a reference to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the twin sources of water for a region that lies mostly within the borders of modern-day Iraq, but also included parts of Syria, Turkey and Iran.

The presence of those rivers had a lot to do with why Mesopotamia developed complex societies and innovations such as writing, elaborate architecture and government bureaucracies. The regular flooding along the Tigris and the Euphrates made the land around them especially fertile and ideal for growing crops for food. That made it a prime spot for the Neolithic Revolution, also called the Agricultural Revolution, that began to take place almost 12,000 years ago.

That revolution “transformed human life across the planet, but it was in Mesopotamia where this process began,” Diamond explains.

With people cultivating plants and domesticating animals, they were able to stay in one place and form permanent villages. Eventually, those small settlements grew into early cities, where a lot of the characteristics of civilization—such as concentrations of population, monumental architecture, communication, division of labor, and different social and economic classes—developed.

But the emergence and evolution of civilization in Mesopotamia also was influenced by other factors—in particular, changes in climate and the natural environment, which compelled the region’s inhabitants to become more organized in order to cope.

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How Nature Nurtured Civilization

Mesopotamia

17th century map featuring Mesopotamia and the Tower of Babel.

Civilization didn’t develop in exactly the same way throughout the region, according to Hervé Reculeau, an associate professor of Assyriology at the University of Chicago and an expert in the history of ancient Mesopotamia. As he explains, urban societies developed independently in Lower Mesopotamia, an area in what is now southern Iraq where the early civilization of Sumer was located, and Upper Mesopotamia, which includes Northern Iraq and part of present-day western Syria.

One factor that helped civilization to develop in both places was the climate of Mesopotamia, which 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, was wetter than that part of the Middle East is today.

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“The earliest cities of southern Mesopotamia developed on the margins of a great marsh that provided an abundance of natural resources for construction (reed) and food (wild game and fish), with water easily accessible for small scale irrigation that could be organized at a local level and did not require the supervision of large-scale state structures,” Reculeau writes. Additionally, he notes, the marsh provided a connection to sea routes on the Persian Gulf, which made it possible for people who lived in the south to eventually develop long-distance trade with other places.

In Upper Mesopotamia, the rainfall was reliable enough that farmers didn’t have to do much irrigation, according to Reculeau. They also had access to mountains and forests, where they could hunt for game and cut down trees for wood. Their areas also had land routes to places to the north beyond the mountains, where they could obtain materials such as obsidian, a type of rock that can be used in jewelry or for making cutting tools.

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According to the British Museum, early Mesopotamian farmers’ main crops were barley and wheat. But they also created gardens shaded by date palms, where they cultivated a wide variety of crops including beans, peas, lentils, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce and garlic, as well as fruit such as grapes, apples, melons and figs. They also milked sheep, goats and cows to make butter, and slaughtered them for meat.

Eventually, the agricultural revolution in Mesopotamia led to what Diamond describes as the next big step in progress, the Urban Revolution.

Roughly 5,000 to 6,000 years ago in Sumer, villages evolved into cities. One of the earliest and most prominent was Uruk, a walled community with 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. Others included Eridu, Bad-tibira, Sippar, and Shuruppak, according to the Ancient History Encyclopedia.

The Sumerians developed what may have been the earliest system of writing as well as sophisticated art, architecture, and complex government bureaucracies to supervise agriculture, commerce and religious activity. Sumer also became a hotbed of innovation, as the Sumerians took inventions that other ancient peoples developed, from pottery to textile weaving, and figured out how to do them on an industrial scale.

Meanwhile, Upper Mesopotamia developed its own urban areas such as Tepe Gawra, where researchers have discovered brick temples with intricate recesses and pilasters, and found other evidence of a sophisticated culture.

READ MORE: 9 Ancient Sumerian Inventions That Changed the World

How Environmental Change Made Mesopotamian Civilization Evolve

According to Reculeau, climate shifts may have played a role in the development of Mesopotamian civilization. Roughly around 4,000 B.C., “the climates slowly became drier and the rivers more unpredictable,” he explains. “The marsh retreated from Lower Mesopotamia, leaving behind settlements now surrounded by lands that needed to be irrigated, requiring added work, and possibly greater coordination.”

Because they had to work harder and in a more organized fashion to survive, Mesopotamians gradually developed a more elaborate system of government. As Reculeau explains: “The bureaucratic apparatus that appeared first to manage the goods and people of the temples in the marshland cities increasingly became the tools of a royal power [that] found its justification in the support of the gods, but also in its ability to get things done.” 

That all led to the development of a social structure in which the elites either coerced workers or obtained their labor by providing meals and wages.

“In a sense, the famed Sumerian agrarian system, its city-states and the associated control of land, resources and people were in part the result of people adapting to more adverse conditions, because the riches of the marshes had started to become more scarce,” Reculeau says.

In Upper Mesopotamia, by contrast, people coped with a drier climate by going in the opposite direction socially. That area saw “the devolution to a less complex social organization, relying on villages and their small-scale solidarity,” Reculeau explains.

Mesopotamia eventually saw the rise of empires such as Akkad and Babylonia, whose capital city of Babylon became one of the largest and most advanced in the ancient world.

READ MORE: How Hammurabi Transformed Babylon Into a Powerful City-State

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How Mesopotamia Became the Cradle of Civilization – HISTORY

How Mesopotamia Became the Cradle of Civilization - HISTORY

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  • Sumary: Environmental factors helped agriculture, architecture and eventually a social order emerge for the first time in ancient Mesopotamia.

  • Matching Result: Environmental factors helped agriculture, architecture and eventually a social order emerge for the first time in ancient Mesopotamia.

  • Intro: How Mesopotamia Became the Cradle of CivilizationWhile human civilization developed in many places around the world, it first emerged thousands of years ago in the ancient Middle East. “We see the first cities, the first writing and first technologies originating in Mesopotamia,” says Kelly-Anne Diamond, a visiting assistant history professor at Villanova…
  • Source: https://www.history.com/news/how-mesopotamia-became-the-cradle-of-civilization

Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent & Mesopotamia

Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent & Mesopotamia

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  • Sumary: The ancient Near East, and the historical region of the Fertile Crescent in particular, is generally seen as the birthplace of agriculture. The first agricultural evidence comes from the Levant, from…

  • Matching Result: Mesopotamia was home to one of the most plentiful agricultural systems in the ancient world. The main types of grain that were used for agriculture were barley, …

  • Intro: Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent & Mesopotamia The ancient Near East, and the historical region of the Fertile Crescent in particular, is generally seen as the birthplace of agriculture. The first agricultural evidence comes from the Levant, from where it spread to Mesopotamia, enabling the rise of large-scale cities and…
  • Source: https://www.worldhistory.org/article/9/agriculture-in-the-fertile-crescent–mesopotamia/

Agriculture in Mesopotamia – Wikipedia

Agriculture in Mesopotamia - Wikipedia

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  • Sumary: Agriculture is the ratio main economic activity in ancient Mesopotamia. Operating under harsh constraints, notably the arid climate, the Mesopotamian farmers developed effective strategies that enabled them to support the development of the first states, the first cities, and…

  • Matching Result: Agriculture is the ratio main economic activity in ancient Mesopotamia. … They focused above all on the cultivation of cereals (particularly barley) and sheep …

  • Intro: Agriculture in Mesopotamia Agriculture is the ratio main economic activity in ancient Mesopotamia. Operating under harsh constraints, notably the arid climate, the Mesopotamian farmers developed effective strategies that enabled them to support the development of the first states, the first cities, and then the first known empires, under the supervision…
  • Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Mesopotamia

The Development of Agriculture | National Geographic Society

The Development of Agriculture | National Geographic Society

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  • Sumary: The development of agricultural about 12,000 years ago changed the way humans lived. They switched from nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles to permanent settlements and farming.

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  • Intro: The Development of Agriculture | National Geographic SocietyThe Farming RevolutionTaking root around 12,000 years ago, agriculture triggered such a change in society and the way in which people lived that its development has been dubbed the “Neolithic Revolution.” Traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles, followed by humans since their evolution, were swept aside…
  • Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/development-agriculture/

Human Development and the History of Writing – Fubini

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  • Intro: Human Development and the History of Writing “For millions of years of our prehistory, there was very little change in our culture. We had the same stone tools for hundreds of thousands of years. Then about 50,000 years ago, all of sudden culture changed very dramatically, and you started to…
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Early Agriculture And Civilization – Solar Radiation

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  • Sumary: Agriculture originated independently in several regions within the last 12,000 years. The two earliest developments, in the Fertile Crescent region of

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  • Intro: Early Agriculture And Civilization – Solar Radiation Agriculture originated independently in several regions within the last 12,000 years. The two earliest developments, in the Fertile Crescent region of Mesopotamia at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in the Yellow River Valley in northern China (fig. 7.1), were to have…
  • Source: https://www.climate-policy-watcher.org/solar-radiation/early-agriculture-and-civilization.html

Frequently Asked Questions About how did the development of agriculture influence mesopotamia

If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic how did the development of agriculture influence mesopotamia, then this section may help you solve it.

How did farming impact Mesopotamia?

Mesopotamia grew in size and power, assisted by the trade of its rich agricultural resources, over time as the locals were able to produce enough crops to feed themselves and trade the excess food they produced.

How does Mesopotamian agriculture relate to it?

It is believed that agricultural production served as the foundation for Mesopotamian cities, states, and empires’ sustenance and provisioning.

What changed as agriculture developed?

Humans’ way of life changed when agriculture emerged about 12,000 years ago, when they transitioned from a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to permanent settlements and farming.

Which type of agriculture did the Mesopotamians develop?

The earliest inhabitants of the region drained the swampy lands and constructed canals through the dry areas in order to irrigate the land. This had been done in other places before Mesopotamian times.

What were the Mesopotamians’ greatest agricultural accomplishments?

With stronger plows that could turn soil more easily, farmers were using bronze tools by 2500 B.C.E. This led to larger fields that produced larger crops, and farmers then discovered a way to plow and plant at the same time by attaching a funnel filled with seeds to the plow.

Why did agriculture play a significant role in the rise of civilization?

Humans developed agriculture, which allowed them to grow all the food they required in one location with a much smaller population, resulting in massive population growth, the development of cities, and the emergence of trade.

What conditions made Mesopotamian agriculture successful?

The first farm settlements appeared in Mesopotamia as early as 7000 BC. Farmers grew wheat, barley, and other types of grain. Each year, floods on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers brought silt, a mixture of rich soil and tiny rocks, to the land.

What four effects has the growth of agriculture had?

Climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, dead zones, genetic engineering, irrigation issues, pollutants, soil degradation, and waste are just a few of the larger environmental problems agriculture contributes to.

What were the advantages of the agricultural developments?

As the advantages are more widely recognized, urban farming is beginning to gain popularity. Benefits include lower greenhouse gas emissions, minimal transportation needs, and reduced energy use for food production.

What three things are crucial to agriculture?

Among the many ways that agriculture has an impact on society are the provision of food, habitat, and employment opportunities; the provision of raw materials for food and other goods; and the development of robust economies through trade.

What is the Mesopotamian civilization’s most significant development?

Writing and the wheel are regarded as two of Mesopotamia’s most significant inventions, along with the sail and wheel.

Which Mesopotamian development was the most significant?

Go here to learn more about Sumerian writing. With the invention of writing came the first set of laws to be preserved, known as the Hammurabi’s Code, as well as the first significant work of literature, known as the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is perhaps the most significant development made by the Mesopotamians.

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