Mesopotamian Achievements DBQ

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Name______________________________
Date:________
Achievements DBQ
Part 1: DBQ
Directions: Read and analyze each document, then answer the question in the space provided.
Be sure to:
 Underline keywords and phrases
 Respond in complete sentences
Document 1 Cuneiform
“Without question, the Sumerians made the greatest achievement out of all the ancient civilizations… over
5,000 years ago they invented the world’s first form of writing… cuneiform. The Sumerians used a stylus, a
sharp-pointed instrument, to write cuneiform on soft clay tablets. The clay tablets were then hardened
through baking in the sun. The Sumerians used cuneiform mainly for recording important information such as
events, births, deaths, and taxes. However, cuneiform was also used as a form of communication. Writing
was clearly a giant leap forward in the development of civilization. People kept records and new ideas were
now able to be passed easily from generation to generation...”
1. What is the author’s claim about Sumerians?
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2. What evidence does the author use to support the claim?
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Document 2 Architecture
Because southern Mesopotamia had few trees, people used the resource they had plenty of for building—
mud. The largest and tallest building in every city-state was the ziggurat. In describing the city of Ur,
archaeologist Leonard Woolley wrote, “The outstanding feature of the city [Ur] was the Ziggurat. . . an artificial
mountain”* Ziggurats grew as the wealth and power of cities grew. Builders constructed the mud-brick
ziggurat in layers. Some temples stood as high as seven-story buildings. At the top of each ziggurat stood a
shrine for the city’s special god. Palaces for kings and houses for priests often stood inside a wall that
surrounded the ziggurat. Over time, the Sumerians began building smaller buildings along the outside wall of
the ziggurat. Some were shops, others were workshops, and still others were homes. Many city-states also
placed parks near their ziggurat. Soon the ziggurat and the area around it became the busy center of the city.
Today, wind-eroded ruins are all that is left of these ancient buildings.
3. Why is the size and location of the ziggurat significant?
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4. How does architectural technology affect people’s lives in Sumer?
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Name______________________________
Date:________
Document 3 Transportation
Archaeologists found the world’s oldest wheels in Mesopotamia, dating to about 3500 b.c. The Sumerians
were the first to attach wheels to carts. They built two-wheeled and four-wheeled carts and chariots pulled by
oxen or donkeys. For long journeys over land, traders in Mesopotamia led caravans of donkeys. Following the
same paths over and over again, they established trade routes. For water travel, the Mesopotamians built
various kinds of boats. Their earliest boat was shaped like a basket and built from reeds and covered by
animal skins. A mast and sail were in the center of the boat, making it perhaps the world’s first sailboat.
People also built canoe-shaped boats that they guided with poles.
5. How does the use of wheeled vehicles demonstrate that the Sumerians were an advanced
civilization?
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Document 4 Mathematics
Sumerians also developed standard units of measurements for weight and volume, including the quart. They
used these units to measure crop harvests and to conduct trade. Farmers no longer had to guess how much
wheat or barley they were exchanging for a plow or other product. Measurements required a carefully planned
number system. The Sumerians based their number system on the number 60. Our division of time into
hours, minutes, and seconds came from this system. The Sumerians even found a way to measure time. By
about 2100 b.c., the Sumerians counted off days in a year, using a 360-day calendar.
6. How have Sumerian advances in mathematics impacted our lives today?
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Part 2 : Writing Task
Directions: On a separate sheet of loose leaf, write a well-organized paragraph in which you respond to
the following prompt:
In your opinion, which achievement of Mesopotamian civilization was the most important?
Criteria for Success

Topic Sentence, Supporting Sentences, and Closing Sentence

Cite evidence from at least 2 documents

Include relevant outside information, such as facts, examples, and details.
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