The Ancient Fertile Crescent
The Middle East: “The Cradle of Civilization”
Ancient Mesopotamia 1
Ancient Mesopotamia 2
The Fertile Crescent
• A piece of land stretching from eastern
Mediterranean sea to the Persian Gulf
• Between Tigris & Euphrates Rivers
• Soil is rich, great for farming.
• Area is shaped like a crescent.
• Mesopotamia (Land between the rivers)
to the east
• Mediterranean section to the west
• Stretching from the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea in present day Israel to
the Persian Gulf, the Fertile Crescent was
the birthplace of many early civilizations.
• The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers provided
ideal conditions for human settlement, with
the first civilizations rising in
Mesopotamia, or the land between the
• They learned that by planting seeds and plowing
their land, they were able to grow crops. The
Sumerians learned to domesticate, or tame
animals to help them plow their lands. They
learned to use irrigation. Irrigation is a system of
watering crops to grow more food. The
Sumerians also made a very important invention-the wheel. The invention of the wheel made it
possible to pull heavy loads.
Sumerian Society
• Sumeria was composed of several
city-states, or nations the size of
cities. Walls around each city-state
protected the citizens from outside
invaders. Farmland was usually
outside the city walls, and people
would seek protection from the walls
of the city when under attack.
The Beginnings of Writing
Farmers needed to keep records.
•The Sumerians were very good farmers. They
raised animals such as goats and cows (called
livestock). Because they needed to keep records of
their livestock, food, and other things, officials
began writing in Cuneiform.
A system of writing develops.
The earliest form of writing dates back to 3300
B.C. People back then would draw "wordpictures" on clay tablets using a pointed
instrument called a stylus. These "wordpictures" then developed into wedge-shaped
signs. This type of script was called cuneiform
(from the Latin word cuneus which means
Who used cuneiform?
Not everyone learned to read and write. The ones
that were picked by the gods were called scribes.
Boys (and select girls) that were chosen to
become scribes (professional writers) began to
study at the age of 8 at a school. They finished
when they were 20 years old. The scribes wrote
on clay tablets and used a triangular shaped reed
called a stylus to make marks in the clay. The
marks represented the tens of thousands of words
in their language.
Wedge-Shaped Writing
Wedge-Shaped Writing
Deciphering Cuneiform
Click here to write in Cuneiform
Sumer, 3200-2350 B.C.
Sargon’s Empire, 23502320 B.C.
The Amorite invasions, 2100-1900 B.C.
The Dynasty of Ur,
2100-2000 B.C.
Reign of Hammurabi of Babylon,
1792-1750 B.C.
Uruk: a substantial ceremonial hub by 3500
Kish was one of the twelve city-states of ancient
Sumer civilization. In this city lived the famous and
magnificent Akkadian King Sargon, founder of the
first Empire in history.
Ruins of Kish
Grand Palace of Kish
Ziggurat of Kish
Sargon of Akkad unifies
Mesopotamia: world’s first
empire, ca. 2240 B.C.
Reign of Hammurabi of Babylon,
1792-1750 B.C.
Board Game from Ur
Metalworking Skills from Ur
A mythical hero.
Part man part God.
Strong as an ox and
built the walls of
Babylonian Math
Babylonian Numbers
Ziggurat at Ur
This was a large
building with a
temple at its peak.
Social and political organization:
The King: he had military powers.
The Governors: they governed the territories of
The aristocracy: they were priests and traders.
The peasants: the people who work the land.
the kingdom. They were generals and judges at
the same time.
The King
The Governors
The Aristocracy
The Peasantry
Hammurabi’s Code
Hammurabi’s Code
The Law Code of Hammurabi
Sumerian Society
• The Sumerians were polytheistic, which
means they believed in many gods. The
Sumerians worshiped their gods at huge
temples they called ziggurats. Each
ziggurat was dedicated to a specific god,
whom the Sumerians believed ruled over
their city. When one city was conquered,
the invaders would force the conquered
people to accept their gods. Most people
in the Western Hemisphere today
practice monotheism. This means they
believe in only one God.
Babylonian Empire
• Located in modern day Syria
• Conquered many parts of old Sumeria
(including Babylon)
• Hammurabi--created a law code with harsh
• Borrowed heavily from Sumerian culture
• After Hammurabi’s death Babylon declined
• Hammurabi was a Mesopotamian king who
recorded a system of laws called the Code of
Hammurabi. His 282 laws were engraved in
stone and placed in a public location for
everyone to see. Some of Hammurabi's laws
were based on the principle "An eye for an
eye, a tooth for a tooth." This means that
whoever commits an injury should be
punished in the same manner as that injury.
If someone puts out another person's eye,
their eye would be put out in return.
• Hammurabi's code included what we today
call both criminal and civil law. Criminal law
is composed of rules that define conduct. One
law said, "if a son strikes his father, his hands
shall be hewn off." Civil law settles disputes
among individuals. Hammurabi's Code
states, "if a man builds a house badly, and it
falls and kills the owner, the builder is to be
killed. If the owner's son was killed, then the
builder's son is to be killed."
• To the Israelites, history and religion
were closely joined and were recorded in
the Torah, the Bible.
• The Israelites' beliefs developed into the
religion we know today as Judaism.
Judaism, still one of the world's major
religions, had an important early
influence on two later religions,
Christianity and Islam.
Abraham of Ur, Mesopotamia
Abraham of Ur, Mesopotamia
• The Hebrews were different from others of their
time because they believed in only one God
(monotheism). The Hebrew religion began with
Abraham, a citizen of the city of Ur. Around
2000BC, God told Abraham to leave his native land.
Abraham and his followers wandered through the
desert to settle in Canaan. Canaan is on the eastern
shore of the Mediterranean Sea on land that is part
of the modern nation of Israel. Abraham's decedents
are known as Israelites or Jews, and their religious
beliefs are known as Judaism.
• Many years after Abraham died, his followers
traveled to Egypt to escape a famine. At first, the
Egyptians treated the Israelites well, but in time
the Egyptians enslaved them. According to
Hebrew tradition, Moses asked to free his people.
God sent ten deadly plagues to Egypt when the
Egyptians would not release the Israelites from
slavery. God revealed Ten Commandments to
Moses. The Ten Commandments are the model
for both Jewish and Christian laws. Upon their
return to their homeland, the Israelites
established a nation they called Israel.
• In 586BC, the Babylonians of Mesopotamia
destroyed Solomon's temple. The Jews were
exiled, or forced from their homes, and made to
move to Babylon. This is also called Diaspora
(the scattering of Jews). They Jews continued
to worship by praying and reading their holy
texts. Their holiest book, the Torah, became
part of the Old Testament of the Christian
Bible. It is the first five books.
Hammarubi’s Code of
The 10 Commandments
God Calls Abraham
Prince of Egypt – Let My People Go