Tigris and Euphrates Civilization (Mesopotamia)
Grade Level: 6th Grade
Theme: Regions and People of the Eastern Hemisphere
Topic: Early Civilizations
Content Statement: Early civilizations (India, Egypt, China and Mesopotamia) with unique governments, economic systems, social structures, religions, technologies and agricultural practices and products flourished as a result of favorable geographic characteristics. The cultural practices and products of these early civilizations can be used to help understand the Eastern Hemisphere today.
Two River Geography:
Artifact: Map of the land including the Tigris River, Euphrates River, Fertile Crescent, and other land in the area.
One of the best ways to represent the Mesopotamia Civilization is with a map of the area. Mesopotamia is the Greek translation of land which is “between the rivers.” It was given this name for exactly that reason. The area of Mesopotamia is found directly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which is why it is often called the Mesopotamia Civilization or the Tigris and Euphrates River Civilization. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were often referred to as the wealth of the region because the water from the rivers, when under control, helped keep the soil fertile. The land of Mesopotamia is also found within the region known as the “fertile crescent” where the soil is rich and crops are abundant. However, it wasn’t necessarily always this way. This land was at first a struggling civilization struggling to get by as crops and life was constantly interrupted by flooding rivers. Eventually, this issue was controlled by irrigation dikes and other water control devices which helped create a role for Mesopotamia in the “fertile crescent.” Today this area includes cities such as Assyria, Akkad, and Sumer.
Artifact: Picture of four pots, gourds, and jugs which were spun on a potter’s wheel in Mesopotamia and used for everyday life tasks and chores.
The people of the Mesopotamia Civilization were known for several traits and skills. Some of these include their work with metal, woolen textiles, pottery, and their ability to create new innovative inventions. As discussed above, the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers created many problems for the agricultural systems in the area. Until water control devices were invented and used, the people of Mesopotamia had to be creative and inventive with their resources. One outcome of this creativity was the invention of the potter’s wheel. With the potter’s wheel the people of Mesopotamia were able to create tools out of clay that could be helpful in everyday life. This is one reason why the people of Mesopotamia were known for their great work with pottery.
Artifact: Picture of an example of a Ziggurat Temple. The picture shows how the temple has many stairs to connect the different steps of the pyramid.
The city of Sumer was one of the first cities to develop in Mesopotamia forming one of the first major civilizations of the Tigris and Euphrates River Civilization. The Sumerian civilization was one of the first to build a Ziggurat which is a pyramid or temple made steps on a tall platform. Ziggurats were important to Sumerian religion but they were also a point of pride for the civilization. Ziggurats temples and pyramids were said to connect heaven and Earth with their high stepped towers.
Artifact: Visual Aid which could be used to assist students in the understanding of the concept behind a city-state as well as a diagram of the hierarchal structure of the general Mesopotamian society.
The major political unit in the Mesopotamia River Civilization was called the city-state. A city-state refers to several small areas surrounding one larger city. Each city-state had its own government and power but there were still interactions amongst the different areas. While each city-state was a little bit different, most city-states had similar social structures. Generally, in Mesopotamia, social structure was a hierarchal system. There were privileged people who were the minority of the population and consisted of royalty, nobility, people of the church, and scribes. Beneath this group the majority of the population was split between free people who had rights but were still laborers and slaves who had no rights and were forced to do labor.
Artifact: A list of some different words and symbols used in this writing style and the advancement of these symbols over time.
Mesopotamians were known for their many great inventions, one of which is the potter’s wheel which was discussed above. Another great invention was which came from the Mesopotamian river civilization was a writing style. Mesopotamians created a writing style which was often referred to as pictographic because each picture represented an object. A stylus was used to press triangular shapes into clay slates to form this type of literature. This language was created once cities began to grow and they felt the need to keep documentation and data. The writing quickly expanded to holy books, science books, literature for the privileged, etc.
Artifact: Drawing of nine different Mesopotamian gods taking part in a task that relates to their specialty.
The Mesopotamians held a polysthetic religion which means that they believed in multiple gods and goddesses. They believed that anything bad that happened on Earth meant that a god or goddess had been made unhappy and they therefore strove to keep the gods and goddesses as happy as possible. The different gods and goddesses each had important jobs, specializations, and purposes that the people of Mesopotamia could monitor and say which god or goddess was upset when something bad would occur.