How did Mesopotamian civilization emerge and what technologies promoted its advance?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Mesopotamian civilization was one of the earliest in the world to develop cities and writing, leaving behind a heritage of monumental architecture, great epic poetry such as Gilgamesh, and one of the earliest law codes, that of Hammurabi.

The first major Mesopotamian civilization was that of Sumer. Although agriculture was developed as early as 5,000 BC in the region, the great shift towards technology and urbanization occurred closer to 3500 BC in cities such as Uruk. The first enabling technology for the development of Sumerian civilization was irrigation and other advanced agricultural techniques, which allowed people to have adequate food while congregating in cities and developing a division of labor. 

The next two important technologies were sailboats and the wheel, allowing for trade and transportation over far longer distances that would be possible without those technologies. 

Writing not only facilitated communication over a distance, but it allowed for efficient administration of a complex society. 

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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As far back as 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, people were already involved in agriculture in Mesopotamia. Floods and the estuaries of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers provided irrigation for growing crops, and the surplus food provided by agriculture allowed for specialization of jobs. Now, not everyone had to be involved in growing food, and a complex civilization, one of the world's first, developed in Mesopotamia following the Neolithic Revolution around 12,000 BCE. Surplus food also resulted in the development of denser populations.

As Mesopotamian society developed, new technologies fostered its advancement, including one of the first forms of writing (called cuneiform). Other technologies that promoted its advancement include the wheel, the growth of the first crop of cereals, and forms of mathematics and astronomy. The ancient Mesopotamians also used canals and levees to create sophisticated irrigation systems.