The First Civilizations: Mesopotamia


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Created by María Jesús Campos Fernández, teacher of Geography and History in a bilingual section in Madrid.

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The First Civilizations: Mesopotamia

  2. 2. THE FIRST URBAN CIVILIZATIONS: THE RIVER CIVILIZATIONS  Some 6 000 years ago, some Neolithic villages became cities as a result of agricultural and commercial prosperity.  These civilisations invented writing.
  3. 3.  The first great civilizations developed along large rivers surrounded by fertile land:  Mesopotamia: Tigris and Euphrates Rivers  Egypt: the River Nile  India: Indus River  China: Huang He (Yellow) and Yangtze (Blue) Rivers
  4. 4. MESOPOTAMIA, THE LAND BETWEEN TWO RIVERS  The first civilizations appeared in the Fertile Crescent, in the fertile plains between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  These area was called Sumer.
  5. 5. POLITICAL ORGANIZATION  Thanks to agricultural and commercial prosperity, Neolithic villages became independent city-states.  The most important city- states in Sumer were Ur, Uruk and Lagash.  They had in common racial features but they were independent in politics.
  6. 6.  Need for defense led to an increase in the importance of military commanders and, finally, to the creation of monarchies.  The monarch controlled the city-state and was in charge of:  Executive power: government  Legislative power: law  Military power: army  Religious power: connections to de god  Judicial power: justice
  7. 7.  He was advised by civil servants and scribes (bureaucracy) that collected taxes, applied the orders and the laws…  He controlled the population through the army and the priests.
  8. 8. SOCIETY  Population increased thanks to the production of food and the prosperity achieved through commerce.  They were urban civilizations. Most of the people lived in the city- state.  The social division increased. It was connected to their function
  9. 9. Monarch Priests Army and Scribes (civil servants) Peasants, Farmers, Merchants, Traders… Slaves
  10. 10.  Mesopotamian hierarchy: privileged groups and non-privileged groups.  Privileged-groups: controlled the power and the wealth.  The Monarch  The priests  The army and the civil servants  Non-privileged groups: produced the products needed by society  Farmers, peasants, stockbreeders…  Merchants, traders, craftsman...  Slaves: group without rights. They were their master’s property. They became slaves through conquest (war prisoners) or debts.
  11. 11. MESOPOTAMIAN RELIGION  Polytheistic: their gods were similar to human beings but they were immortal.  Temples were the god’s residences on Earth. They were built on stepped pyramids called ziggurats.  Each city-state was under the protection of a god.  They believed in life after death and buried their dead with everything they would possibly
  12. 12. MESOPOTAMIAN CULTURE  The Sumerian people are believed to be the first ones to develop a written language.  Cuneiform writing consisted of signs drawn on clay tablets with a reed.  Writing made it possible to organize the state by recording government issues and business transactions.
  13. 13.  The first schools were created here to train scribes. Only male children from rich families went to school.  The Code of Hammurabi is one of the earliest legal codes in history.  Engraved on a rock around 1800 BC.  Based on the law of retaliation (“an eye for an eye”).
  14. 14. MESOPOTAMIAN ART: ARCHITECTURE  Materials: brick and adobe (bricks of clay and straw)  To sustain the ceiling they invented the arch and the vault.  Walls were decorated with brightly coloured glazed ceramics with floral motives, geometric designs, scenes of war…  Type of buildings:  Palaces  Ziggurats (temples)
  15. 15.  Ziggurats: temples built at the center of the city. They were the house of god on Earth.
  16. 16. MESOPOTAMIAN ART: SCULPTURE  Materials: gold, lapis, clay, wood…  Types:  Statues (not attached)  Reliefs (different carving techniques)  Themes:  Men and women worshipping  Kings  Military or hunting scenes…
  17. 17.  Examples:  King Gudea of Lagash  Standard of Ur (2700 B.C.)  Doorway of the Khorsabad palace: Lamassu (bull with human head and wings to protect the king from visible and invisible enemies)
  18. 18. MESOPOTAMIAN POLITICAL EVOLUTION  Mesopotamia was divided into 2 regions inhabited by two different people:  The Assyrians in the north  The Akkadians and Sumerians who lived in the South.  The political evolution of Mesopotamia is marked by an alternation of power between these peoples.
  19. 19. Mesopotamian empires:  The Sumerians.  The Akkadian Empire  The Babylonian Empire  The Assyrian Empire  The Persian Empire
  20. 20.  The Sumerians: city of Sumer. Controlled the territory organized in different city-states during the 3rd millenium.  Akkadian Empire: the city of Akkad controlled the cities of Lower Mesopotamia between the year 2330 BC and the year 2200 B.C. when the empire disappeared and a long period of division started.  Babylonian Empire: around 1800 the city of Babylon founded an empire that was going to last until the 900 BC. (Code of Hammurabi)  Assyrian Empire: expanded from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean sea. Main cities Asur and Ninive. From the 9th century BC to the 6th century whe it was conquered by the Persians.
  22. 22. Developed by María Jesús Campos Chusteacher wikiteacher