Theories of Formation of Civilization

Anthropology 5 -- Ancient Civilizations
Review Sheet #4 – Mesopotamia
Neolithic Revolution The period when plants and animals were first domesticated. The initial process of human manipulation of other
species is apparent at least 10,000 B. P.. V. Gordon Childe coined the phrase in the 1920’s. He argued that the “Neolithic Revolution”
occurred in the Middle East as Pleistocene glaciers melted and the climate became warmer and more arid. Thus the acquisition of water
became more difficult and a problem for survival. Both humans and animals were forced into localized areas around the remaining water
sources. This forced association of humans and animals eventually led to a symbiotic relationship and mutual dependence. Humans in
this theory are assumed to have already domesticated some plants which also were concentrated in localized areas around water. The
animals were drawn to the agricultural fields and humans observed their behavior and feed them surplus grains to keep them in close
proximity so they could be culled and butchered when necessary.
Mesopotamia – Greek for “land between the rivers”
Mesopotamia was not settled before the Ubaid Period. Two major rivers: Tigris and Euphrates. In the north (hot and dry, but with cooler
temperatures and light rains during the autumn) and south (very arid, and not capable of sustaining agriculture without irrigation); in the
south irrigation agriculture was necessary, as was long distance trade due to lack of natural resources, this resulted in changes that did not
occur in the north, where villages remained small. By the Dynastic Period c. 2900 B. C. E. the south had twelve separate and independent
city-states (e.g., Ur, Eridu, Larsa, Lagash, Umma).
Pronunciation of city names: Uruk – oo-rook Ubaid – oo-baid Catal Hoyuk Sha-tall-who-uk
Neolithic hunter-gatherers in the Middle East are known as the Natufians. They date from between 13,000 and 8,000 B. P.. They show
clear examples of the transition to cultural complexity and c. 13,000 B. P. warming temperatures throughout Southwest Asia brought
significant environmental and vegetation changes, e.g., warm loving plants like wild emmer wheat and barley, oaks, almonds, and
pistachio trees began to spread to higher elevations and over much wider areas and in better soils and thus produced more abundant crops,
and were available to harvest over longer periods of time. Ground stone tools appear (e.g., mortars and pestles) and the beginning of
storage of food resources. Population and settlements grew larger and thus society became more complex, e.g., distinct evidence of social
ranking and changes in religious ideology. These people were living in much of the Near East, but not in the region known as
Mesopotamia, which at this time was not particularly habitable. Mesopotamia doesn’t become conducive for agriculture until c. 6000
Ubaid Period – 6000 – 4200 B. C. E.
- during this period weather and environmental conditions were unstable (i.e., fluctuations in temperatures and raising sea-levels) made
life precarious and we see declines in populations in some areas. By the mid-fourth century B. C. the climate and land were stabilized and
the on-set of more intense agricultural production resulting in surpluses began, supporting more non-farmers. The first farming villages
appear c. 5800 B. C. E., clustered along the Euphrates channels (some c. 3 miles long). Need to build and maintain these channels (and
reservoirs, dikes, etc.) required organization, supervision, and planning which necessitated leadership and authority. The redistribution of
food surpluses to even out the vicissitudes of the climatic fluctuations, again requiring a centralized authority. The development of
“temple institutions” may represent the first transition away from kinship based social relationships and authority. Prior authority was
based on kinship and clan ties. Clustered hamlets were tied together by religious ideology as evidence by communal temples, these
became important centers of community identification . Domestic architecture is of reeds and mud, fashioned in dome shape that can still
be seen in modern Iraq.
Eridu c. 4750 B. C. E. was one of the first incipient city, with a population of c. 5000. Based on pottery, this period is characterized by
the development of extensive trade, and thus, an interaction sphere and development of farming villages. The development of the
“pottery wheel” and of standardized pottery “types” shows extensive trade and may indicate the need to compensate for the variability in
food resources due to the environmental problems.
Uruk Period, c. 3600 – 3100 B. C. E. - City-States develop. They are independent and competitive over water resources. Each had its
own settlement patterns and histories, and thus, somewhat unique from each other. Each had their own local deity and ruling elite, and
were often at war with each other (this kept them all weak).
The city of Uruk, c. 3200 B. C. E., was 200 acres, about one third of which was covered with temples and other public buildings. Its
population was c. 10,000. Temples were important redistribution centers.
Two important areas of the city:
1) Anu Ziggurat - within the Anu area was found the White Temple, this complex can be traced back to the Ubaid Period. This is the
prototype of later Sumerian ziggurats (i.e., stepped temples), it had retained all the features of the earlier Ubaid temples.
2) Eanna Precinct - a complex of religious buildings, courtyards, and terraces. One building, the Pillar Hall, has the first cone-mosaic
façade ornament, which is characteristic of the Uruk period.
Ur - One of the original Sumerian city-states. At one time ocean-going vessels had access to it’s harbor, but this ended due to
environmental changes , in particular, the shifting of the Euphrates River and raising sea levels (i.e., expansion of the Persian Gulf and
delta region). It was at Ur that the Sumerian revival began in 2120 B. C. E., the governor, Ur-Nammu founded the Third Dynasty of Ur.
During this period there is a fusing of the earlier Sumerian culture and the Akkadian culture to form one Mesopotamian civilization.
Rulers during this period were prolific and ambitious builders, all of the cities they controlled show examples of their temples, places, and
ziggurats. Ur was enclosed in a massive wall, but within this was located a royal and religious compound which was surrounded by its
own walls. Within this precinct were situated the royal residence and royal tombs, internal courtyards, storerooms, and the temple
residences. On a raised terrace in the northwest corner of the precinct, the lofty three-staged ziggurat was located. The core is of mud
brick, probably laid around and over the ruins of an earlier tower and faced with a skin of baked bricks, set in bitumen about 2.4 meters
thick. The approach to summit was by three converging lights of stairs which meet at a portico which was covered with a domed roof.
There were two additional upper stages with a temple on the summit. Another important feature of this precinct are the burial chambers
of the kings with their corbelled brick vaults and long flights of steps leading down to the burial chamber. The royal tombs were
excavated by Leonard Wooley in the late 1920’s. The King’s tomb were constructed underground, in successive levels, with the actual
tomb made of fired-clay bricks. Significant evidence of human and animal sacrifice on a large scale (court folk, soldiers, and servants and
ox with carts, etc.).
Jemdet Nasr Period – c. 3100 – 2900 B. C. E.. During this period the temple is the center of life both architecturally and socially; with
the temple elite controlling the economic and political systems of the city. By the beginning of this period, cities can be called urban by
virtue of both size and function and existed in both south and north. The use of cylinder seals” increased drastically, these are better than
stamped seals, they have more surface area and provide more information and identify an individuals. Temple elites controlled
redistribution of goods, long distance trade, land ownership, craft specialists, and employment of workers.
Early Dynastic Period – c. 2900 – 2350 B. C. E.. This period is characterized by the first recorded dynasties, during this period we have
written records detailing the ruling families and many of their activities. Warfare becomes far more organized and social stratification is
very oblivious in royal burials. The development of secular authority, i.e., the separation of religion and state has taken place.
Sumerian People - who were the Sumerians is highly debated, linguistic evidence shows some similarity with Finish and Turkish and
some other Caucasian languages, but in vocabulary, grammar, and syntax it stands alone and seems to be related to no other known
language. They probably migrated into Mesopotamia c. 3300 B. C. E., probably from the northeast and began to intermarry with local
populations and eventually became known as the Sumerians.
Akkadian People – the people may date back as far as the Ubaid period. They spoke a Semitic language. They lived in the north area
and c. 2350 B. C. E. united the northern and southern lands. They replaced the city-state system with a nation-state system with an
administrative center at Akkad dominated by a King. They were overrun by a barbarian tribe (i.e., the Gutians) from the Zagros
Mountains, ca 2230 B. C. E.. Sargon was the first Akkadian ruler. He took control c. 2334 B. C. E. (note: his real name is unknown to
us). He established his capital at Akkad and built a vast empire, including Akkad and Sumer, and other surrounding societies. He had
hard time administering and controlling such a large empire.
Gilgamesh – he is remember as both the terrible and the splendid, part god and part man. This legend is the first great epic of world
history; it is known as the saga of Gilgamesh. It relates many of the stories that are later incorporated into the Old Testament of the Jews.