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Mesopotamia and ancient Near East

A sculpture made some time between 2750 and 2600 BC of a Sumerian worshipper. The figure is made of alabaster with shell eyes.Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now Iraq, was one of the first places in the world where people settled down to be farmers: around 10,000 BC. By 4500 BC, the Sumerians were building cities, such as Eridu, there. In 2330 BC, the Sumerians were conquered by the Akkadians. Different groups of invaders then founded new city-states, which struggled to rule the area for the next 500 years. Hammurabi came to the throne of one of the city-states, Babylon, in 1792 BC. He brought other city-states under his control. Babylon dominated Mesopotamia until the 6th century BC.


Mesopotamia lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The fertile soil in these river valleys encouraged the early development...Read More >>Mesopotamia lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The fertile soil in these river valleys encouraged the early development of farming in the region.

A letter from 2400 BC, written on a lump of clay. It was sent by the high-priest Lu'enna to the king of Lagash (an ancient...Read More >>A letter from 2400 BC, written on a lump of clay. It was sent by the high-priest Lu'enna to the king of Lagash (an ancient Sumerian city) informing him of his son's death in combat.

The Sumerians

The first cities in Mesopotamia were founded by the Sumerian people about 6500 years ago. One of the earliest forms of writing, cuneiform, was invented by the Sumerians. We know a lot about their way of life because they left many clay tablets with pictures, representing words, carved on them. The writing later developed from pictures into lines and symbols, which were easier to carve. Writing enabled accurate records to be kept, such as of the number of sheep a farmer had.

The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian law code from about 1772 BC. It consists of 282 laws and their punishments, including "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".

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