1 Ancient Mesopotamia About 7,000 years ago, give or take a year or two, civilization, as we know it, began in Mesopotamia. Over thousands of years, a number of tribes contributed to the science and culture of the region, building on each other’s knowledge. They invented the wheel, written language, hours and minutes, geometry, and the pre- cursor to everyone’s favorite school subject: algebra. They built vast transporta- tion and trade networks, connecting faraway settlements both inside and outside Mesopotamia, allowing for exchange of not only goods but also culture. In fact, the Mesopotamian cultures viewed the world as one full of resources to acquire and build their empires with through trade relationships, military expedition, and political control. They demarcated territorial boundaries and established far- reaching laws to keep their growing empires in order—laws that would eventually spread through the same transportation and trade networks and be adopted by other cultures. Each of these advanced cultures also contributed to a growing knowledge of Earth. What did they know about the planet around them? Quite a lot, it turns out. While humans had certainly noticed the stars, planets, and other celestial happenings earlier, the first record of astronomical observation began in Meso- potamia. They also kept careful record of geographic features, such as plants, sources of water, and mountains, here on Earth. They learned how to manipu- late natural resources to suit their needs. They harnessed rivers and built irriga- tion systems to water crops, for example. And they learned how to protect their cities and farms from natural hazards, such as the annual flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. THE FERTILE CRESCENT The physical geography of Mesopotamia—found in the present-day Middle East—has changed somewhat since the earliest civilizations. One of the region’s historical nicknames is “the Fertile Crescent” because of its once-rich soil and crescent shape—Mesopotamia forms one side of the crescent, while the other side
Previous Page Next Page