2 Exploring World History through Geography reaches to modern-day Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and parts of Turkey. The climate remains hot and dry in the summer and wet in the winter growing season. Historically, the land was appealing to the different tribes that lived there because of its abundance. Wild boar, cattle, deer, lions, leopards, and elephants once roamed the grasslands, marshes, and riverbanks. Fish filled the rivers. Dates, apri- cots, legumes, and barley grew wild. And the soil was incredibly fertile. Mesopotamia, which is Greek for “a land between rivers,” owes its historical abundance to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The two rivers originate in the mountains of Turkey and flow roughly parallel to each other through Syria and Iraq. In ancient times, they flowed into the Persian Gulf. (Today, the Gulf has receded, and the rivers join in southern Mesopotamia, as the Shatt al-Arab. The single river, polluted and made smaller by drought and upstream water diversions, then flows another 120 miles to the Persian Gulf.) Each year, prior to the water diversion projects on the rivers, the mountain snow melted, the runoff filled the rivers, and the Tigris and Euphrates flooded, depositing rich silt over Mesopotamia. This silt was ideal for growing food—and that’s what the early people decided to do. They “planted” themselves, so to say, on the land, stopped hunting and gath- ering, and grew their own food. They domesticated goats and sheep established trade with other towns recorded history, science, and religion and, basically, cre- ated a civilization, for the first time. Another nickname for Mesopotamia, in fact, is “The Cradle of Civilization.” Over the course of 4,500 years, tribes rose to power and fell into submission. They battled many times, bringing one to power for a time. Then another would rise. Each, though, brought its own knowledge and borrowed and built upon that of the other tribes. Among those tribes were the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylo- nians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans. The Sumerians (5400–2350 BCE) The first to settle in Mesopotamia were the Sumerians. They established their earliest city around 5400 BCE. Eventually, there were several Sumerian city- states including Eridu, Uruk, Ur, Kish, and Nippur. City-states operated like countries do today each of the Sumerian city-states had its own king and its own god, and sometimes the city-states fought each other, but they did share the same language and the same tribal lineage. The city-states were on the southern end of Mesopotamia, in a region known as Sumer. The Sumerians used and altered the environment around them to thrive. They domesticated sheep, goats, and cattle. They invented the plow to turn the dirt and plant their crops—pea, bean, lentil, cucumber, and lettuce crops were shaded by date palms. They harnessed the river by building levees to prevent flooding and canals to bring water to their fields. Not only were the rivers used for irrigation, they were also a key transportation route for the Sumerians. The rivers made transporting goods such as Sumerian cloth, grain, and fruit easy. When the Sumerians settled in Mesopotamia, they built temples—enormous, tiered, pyramid-like buildings, called “ziggurats”—for astronomical observation
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