Chapter 4 – Mesopotamia Lesson 1- the Sumerians



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Chapter 4 – Mesopotamia

Lesson 1- The Sumerians

  1. The First Civilizations in Mesopotamia

    1. The Two Rivers

      1. Mesopotamia: the earliest known civilization

      2. Means “the land between the rivers” in Greek

      3. Located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

      4. The Fertile Crescent: the curving strip of good farmland that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.

    2. Taming the Rivers

      1. Early Mesopotamian farmers used water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to water their fields.

      2. In the summers, little or no rain fell and rivers were often low and dry.

      3. In the Spring, rain and melting snow would cause the rivers to overflow & flood

      4. Flooded rivers left silt and silt was very good soil for farming

      5. They learned to build dams and canals to help control the river and water crops, known as irrigation.

      6. Small farming villages grew into cities and by 3000 B.C. several cities developed in Sumer – a region in southern Mesopotamia

  2. Sumer’s Civilization

    1. City-States Arise

      1. Sumer’s people were known as Sumerians

      2. Cities began to become independent and formed City-States

      3. City-States had their own government and the population ranged from about 5,000-20,000 people.

    2. Gods, Priests, and Kings

      1. The Sumerian people worshipped many gods, a type of belief known as polytheism

      2. They believed that gods had power over nature and work such as plowing and brick making.

      3. Sumerians honored all gods but each city-state claimed one as its own.

      4. To honor its god, a city-state would build a ziggurat.

      5. Priests first ruled city-states

      6. Later city-states became monarchies, usually with a war-hero claiming he had received his power to rule from their god.

    3. Social Groups

      1. People in Sumer were divided in social classes

      2. Upper Class: Kings, priests, warriors and government officials

      3. Middle Class: merchants, farmers, fishers, and artisans

      4. The middle class was Sumer’s largest social group

      5. Lower Class: Slaves, criminals and people who could not pay their debts

      6. The Lower class worked for the upper class

      7. The basic unit of society was the family

      8. Men were the head of the home and boys went to school

      9. Women ran the home, cared for the children and taught their daughters to do the same.

  3. Sumerian Contributions

    1. Writing

      1. “Cradle of Civilization”: Mesopotamia was the beginning of organized human society

      2. Writing was the most important contribution made by Sumerians to the world

      3. They developed the earliest known writing system in the world.

      4. Writing was a way for Sumerians to keep records and their history as well as share information.

      5. Cuneiform: a system of writing developed by Sumerians that used wedge-shaped marks made in soft clay.

      6. Scribes: wrote documents that recorded much of everyday life, including court records, marriage contracts, business dealings and important events.

      7. Epic of Gilgamesh: the world’s oldest known story from Sumer. Written more than 4,000 years ago.

    2. Technology and Mathematics

      1. Sumerians were the first people to use the wheel

      2. They built the first carts, pulled by donkeys

      3. Chariots: vehicles built for military use

      4. Developed the sailboat for river travel

      5. Developed a wooden plow for help in the fields

      6. Artisans made the potter’s wheel

      7. They used geometry

      8. They created a place value system of numbers based on 60

        1. 60 minute hour

        2. 60 second minute

        3. 360 degree circle

        4. These ideas we use today came from the Sumerians

      9. Developed a 12 month calendar based on the cycles of the moon




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