Chapter 4 – Mesopotamia Lesson 1- the Sumerians
Chapter 4 –
Lesson 1- The Sumerians
The First Civilizations in Mesopotamia
The Two Rivers
Mesopotamia: the earliest known civilization
Means “the land between the rivers” in Greek
Located between the
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
The Fertile Crescent: the curving strip of good farmland that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.
Taming the Rivers
Early Mesopotamian farmers used water from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to water their fields.
In the summers, little or no rain fell and rivers were often low and dry.
In the Spring, rain and melting snow would cause the rivers to overflow & flood
Flooded rivers left silt and silt was very good soil for farming
They learned to build dams and canals to help control the river and water crops, known as irrigation.
Small farming villages grew into cities and by 3000 B.C. several cities developed in Sumer – a region
in southern Mesopotamia
Sumer’s people were known as Sumerians
Cities began to become independent and formed City-States
City-States had their own government and the population ranged from about 5,000-20,000 people.
Gods, Priests, and Kings
The Sumerian people worshipped many gods, a type of
belief known as polytheism
They believed that gods had power over nature and work such as plowing and brick making.
Sumerians honored all gods but each city-state claimed one as its own.
To honor its god, a city-state would build a ziggurat.
Priests first ruled city-states
Later city-states became monarchies, usually with a war-hero claiming he had received his power to rule from their god.
People in Sumer were divided in social classes
Upper Class: Kings, priests, warriors
and government officials
Middle Class: merchants, farmers, fishers, and artisans
The middle class was Sumer’s largest social group
Lower Class: Slaves, criminals and people who could not pay their debts
The Lower class worked for the upper class
The basic unit
of society was the family
Men were the head of the home and boys went to school
Women ran the home, cared for the children and taught their daughters to do the same.
“Cradle of Civilization”: Mesopotamia was the beginning of organized human society
Writing was the most important contribution made by Sumerians to the world
They developed the earliest known writing system in the world.
Writing was a way for Sumerians to keep records and their history as well as share information.
Cuneiform: a system of writing developed by Sumerians that used wedge-shaped marks made in soft clay.
Scribes: wrote documents that
recorded much of everyday life
, including court records, marriage contracts, business dealings and important events.
Epic of Gilgamesh: the world’s oldest known story from Sumer. Written more than 4,000 years ago.
Technology and Mathematics
Sumerians were the first people to use the wheel
They built the first carts,
pulled by donkeys
Chariots: vehicles built for military use
Developed the sailboat for river travel
Developed a wooden plow for help in the fields
Artisans made the potter’s wheel
They used geometry
They created a place value system of numbers based on 60
60 minute hour
360 degree circle
These ideas we use today came from the Sumerians
Developed a 12 month calendar based on the cycles of the moon
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