An Introduction to the Ancient Middle East

More of this Feature

• Part 2: Hammurabi and the Hittites
• 
Part 3: Phoenicians and Hebrews
• 
Part 4: Assyrians and Chaldeans
• 
Part 5: Persians

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Religion in the Ancient Middle East
Ancient Middle East Glossary
Ancient Middle East Links
Maps of the Ancient Middle East
Timeline of the Ancient Middle East

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Part 1: The Sumerians

The first civilization is thought to have arisen in Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. In an area known as Sumeria, people built huts, raised cattle, and farmed for their food. They built huge temples (called ziggurats) and monuments in their cities. They were the first to gather in large city-states. Among these were Kish, Lagash, Ur, and Uruk.

They also invented many things:

  • They developed the first written language, a system of writing called cuneiform. This alphabet had in it about 500 characters that were different kinds of wedges.
  • They were the first people to use the wheel, making carts for farming and trade.
  • They built reservoirs to store water and canals to transport water from these reservoirs and from rivers and lakes to the farmland that needed it. This was the first use of irrigation.
  • They invented the library. They wrote in books and kept these books in one central place.

Sadly, the Sumerians didn't spend enough time or money on weapons and defense. They were conquered by Sargon and his people, the Akkadians.

Next page > Hammurabi and the Hittites > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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