Bell Ringer
• What is the most important characteristic of a
civilization? Why?
Bell Ringer
• Read the article, The Sacred Rac
• Can the Asu be considered a civilization?
• Why or why not?
An Ancient River Valley Civilization
Mesopotamia – Fertile Crescent
• Sumer – The earliest
of the River Valley
• Sumerian
civilization grew
along the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers
• Mesopotamia = “land between the rivers”
• Fertile Crescent – along Tigris and Euphrates
Rivers and Mediterranean Sea
• Flooding provided fertile silt for farming
• Modern-day Turkey, Iraq, and Syria
Fertile Crescent
History of People
• First people settled in 3500 BCE,
• 2500 BCE – Sumerians arrive
• Came because of good soil
Environmental Challenges
1) Unpredictable flooding
and drought
2) No natural barriers for
3) Limited natural
1) Irrigation
2) Built city walls with
mud bricks
3) Traded for tools
• City-States: Operated as independent area
• Originally ruled by priests, but shifted to
military leaders
• Military leaders – monarchs; created dynasties
• Spread ideas through trade = cultural diffusion
Belief in many gods - polytheism
God of the clouds/air was Enlil – the most powerful god.
Nearly 3,000 others – with human qualities. Sumerians viewed their
gods as hostile and unpredictable – similar to the natural environment
around them.
A Sumerian warrior-god, gold figurine, ca.Marduk,
Dragon god
PP Design of T. Loessin; Akins H.S.
• Polytheistic (over 3000 gods!)
• Gods controlled nature and
were immortal and all
• After death went to “land of
no return”
• Produced accounts of legends
• Ziggurats
Ishtar, Goddess of War
Ziggurat – Holy Mountain
Click on the pictures for more information on ziggurats.
Social Class
Social Structure
• Division among classes
• Women:
– Had same rights as men for the most part
– Typically, girls were not allowed to attend scribe
school, but there are a few notable female scribes
Sumerian Society
Three social classes
a. Priests and kings
b. Wealthy merchants
c. Ordinary workers
d. Slaves
2. Women
a. Had more rights than in many later civilizations
(could own property, join lower ranks of priesthood)
b. But not allowed to attend schools
(could not read or write)
Left: Statue of Sumerian woman with hands clasped at chest,
ca. 2600-2300 B.C.
Right: Gypsum statue of man and
woman at Inanna Temple at Nippur, circa 2600-2300 B.C.
Science and Technology
• Wheel, sail, and plow
• Used bronze
• First system of writing –
• Investigation of
astronomy, medicine,
and chemical
• Arithmetic/Geometry –
number system based
on 60
Sumerian Writing: cuneiform
Cuneiform is created by pressing a
pointed stylus into a clay tablet.
Cuneiform- first system of writing
Sumerians invented:
mud brick technology
base 60 – using the circle . . . 360 degrees
time – 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a
12 month lunar calendar (based on the moon!)
• Epic of Gilgamesh
– One of the earliest works of literature in the world
– Account of a Sumerian king and his quest for
– Demonstrates beliefs and myths of Sumerians
The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature, contains a
“flood story” that predates the Hebrew Old Testament story of Noah by at
least 2,000 years.
• Gilgamesh was king of Uruk (God-man)
•Wise and strong, but cruel
•Gods created Enkidu, a wild man, who was civilized by a woman
•They became friends and fight magical beasts
•Enkidu died – Gilgamesh was heartbroken
•Gilgamesh goes to find Utnapishtim, the Mesopotamian Noah
•Flood story follows
•Gilgamesh gets the secret to immortality from Utnapishtim, but loses it to a
•Lesson – one can’t live forever, but one can achieve much and one’s deeds
can live for a long time
PP Design of T. Loessin; Akins H.S.
Mesopotamia - Empires
First EMPIRE Builders
3,000 – 2,000 B.C.E. the City-States began to war with each other.
These internal struggles meant they were too weak to ward off an attack
by an outside enemy.
Sargon of Akkad (ca. 2,350 B.C.E.)
Took control of the region, creating world’s first empire –
type of
when several peoples, nations, or previously independent
states are placed under the control of one ruler.
PP Design of T. Loessin; Akins H.S.
• Sumer declined and by 2350 BCE
• Sargon eventually succeeded in establishing
an empire.
• The Akkadian Empire stretched from
Mediterranean Sea- to Persian Gulf.
World’s First Empire
2. The Akkadian Empire lasted about 200 years, 2350 – approx. 2150 B.C.E.
PP Design of T. Loessin; Akins H.S.
Akkadian was a Semitic language (modern Semitic languages include Arabic
and Hebrew. Akkadian became the lingua franca of the Mesopotamian
region because it was versatile and easy to learn
internal fighting,
and a severe famine
all contributed to the end of the Akkadian Empire.
sample Akkadian text
PP Design of T. Loessin; Akins H.S.
• Around 2000 BCE a group called the Amorites
took over the fertile crescent and established
a new kingdom called Babylon.
• Hammurabi’s Code
– Designed by ruler of
Babylon, Hammurabi
– Wanted a unified law
code for his kingdom
– Law code applied to
everyone, but
punishments varied
based on status and
Hammurabi’s Code: You Be the Judge
• We will break up into 6 groups – each table will be a
• Each group will receive a scenario
• Each group will have 3 minutes to read the scenario
and come up with a punishment – the whole group
must agree!!!
• We will then rotate the scenarios clockwise and repeat.
• Do not copy a previous group’s punishment.
• Write your group’s punishment on the card.
• After all groups have looked at each scenario we will
discuss as a class.
What Should be done to the carpenter who builds a
house that falls and kills the owner?
229. If a builder build a house for some one, and does
not construct it properly, and the house which he built
fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to
What Should be done about a wife who ignores her
duties and belittles her husband?
143. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband,
and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this
woman shall be cast into the water.
What happens to the wine seller who fails to arrest
bad characters gathered at her shop?
108. If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept
corn according to gross weight in payment of drink, but
takes money, and the price of the drink is less than
that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown
into the water.
How is the truth determined when one man brings an
accusation against another?
2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and
the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he
sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his
house. But if the river prove that the accused is not
guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought
the accusation shall be put to death, while he who
leaped into the river shall take possession of the house
that had belonged to his accuser.
What happens if a man is unable to pay his debts?
117. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell
himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or
give them away to forced labor: they shall work for
three years in the house of the man who bought
them, or the proprietor, and in the fourth year they
shall be set free.
What should happen to a boy who slaps his father?
195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn
Some More of Hammurabi’s Laws
If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to
death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to
If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a
god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirtyfold therefor; if they belonged to a
freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which
to pay he shall be put to death.
If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he
shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she
brought from her father's house, and let her go.
If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for
an eye ]
If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
End of Babylon
- 1550 BCE Babylonian Empire was taken over
by nomadic warriors
- Many Sumerian ideas were adopted by later
civilizations including Assyrians, Phoenicians,
and Hebrews