Miguel Espinal Western Civilizations 101 2-10-2013 Chapter 1-Early Civilizations Assignment #1


The impact that the advent of food storage had on the development of ancient cities began during the Neolithic Period. The indigenous people known as the Natufians settled in the area designated as The Fertile Crescent. These people shifted from a Nomadic existence as hunter/gatherers into a system of localized settlements which began to store harvested food and also domesticated animals. Along with this new system, the people did not need to go out hunting and gathering as often. Through this eventful innovation of storage, the people in these small settlements had more time for leisure where they could concentrate more on crafting, (stone tools and hunting implements, carvings and adornments.) This new concept helped in the development of trade. With trade came cultural and social communication within the region gaining them new ideas, cross breeding with new groups of people, as well as many conflicts over lands and resources. Individuals with large food stores among the small settlements achieved more wealth and recognition. With this concept, began the advancement of a leadership status socially among the small communities. The result was a more stratified society, with more opportunity for a certain few to become more dominant within the settlements.

The advancement of trade and a social status within the Fertile Crescent, villages turned into towns resulting in larger populations becoming more structured. The introduction of

religion also helped achieve a new order of class within these towns. Temples began to emerge and the influence the priests had over the people such as economic, and administrative functions resulted in many changes to society as a whole. Classes ranging from Upper class, (priests, scribes and assigned community leaders.) all the way down to lower classes, (merchants, traders, farmers and slaves.) were working together towards becoming more culturally and socially productive.

In conclusion, with the concept of storing food and surplus in localized areas of the Fertile Crescent; signs of increased specializations and competition have been discovered; over time in Mesopotamia, cultural and social progress with trade routes, a hierarchy and religion; evolved into larger populated areas. The accelerating Neolithic idea of having a military and the building of walls around towns for protection against rivals; began the transition of settlements becoming more powerful, turning them into self-governing villages, towns and then eventually into city-states.


The Sumerian people are considered the most technologically innovative people in the ancient world, because they were the first people in ancient times to develop some of the most advanced practical and technological discoveries of their time. Sumerians cultivated a high degree of self-reliance and ingenuity. The development of writing for their technology and economic endeavors assisted in keeping records which was done by using a reed stylus; they would make wedge shaped impressions on wet clay tablets then bake them in the sun. These Pictogram writings evolved into symbols. Scribes from scribal schools or “House of

Tablets” as it was historically called were taught the practice of writing and recording information.

Sumerians became skilled metallurgists as well; using copper to make tools and weapons by melting the mineral and pouring them into molds, soon after they were also fashioning these implements with bronze; issuing in a new era, The Bronze Age. Besides writing and the discovery of bronze, the Sumerians invented the wheel and could make clay pots and vessels for storage by using the potter’s wheel as a fundamental tool. They were also making two- and four-wheeled chariots and carts for the use in war, transportation and trade. The plow and seed drill is also accredited to the Sumerians which helped the agricultural advancements of the era.

Sumerians can also be credited with the development of mathematics, used for elaborate irrigations systems, sophisticated measuring and surveying techniques and the unique art of map making. The lunar calendar which consisted of twelve months was invented by the Sumerians for the use of calculating the seasons for agricultural needs. The practice of dividing time into multiples of sixty is also a credit to Sumerian innovation and ingenuity due to the fact that it’s still used to this day. Not only part of our 30-day month that corresponds approximately with the phases of the moon but also the hour into 60 minutes, are which in turn divided into sixty seconds. Mathematics also helped the Sumerians architects build domes and arches thousands of years before the Romans adopted the knowledge.

These wide-spread inventions and technological advances depended not only on innovation and ingenuity but also the spread of information and raw materials the Sumerians gained through trade. Blazing trails across the deserts towards the west, they interacted with and influenced the Egyptians. Traveling by sea, they traded with the people throughout the Persian Gulf, and possibly but more than likely the area known today as Pakistan and India. Along these trade routes they carried ideas, stories, art, and the use of a written language. The Sumerians way of life was rich and culturally complex, the elements of the civilization they created spread through the region and naturally many other parts of the known world of their time.

3) How Sargon and Hammurabi transformed Mesopotamia can be explained by listing some of their achievements, such as:

a) Sargon is credited for changing Mesopotamia by centralizing a government which began through systematic conquests creating the first known empire. Sargon conquered all the cities of Sumer and moved to direct control over Mesopotamia. Over 30 wars would bring the Sumerian city-states into the Akkadian kingdom. The Semitic-speaking people united northern Mesopotamia’s city states and set up a new capital. Sargon’s

capital, Akkad became the most splendid city in the world; Sargon managed and exploited trade routes across the Near East. Sargon also merged the Akkadian and Sumerian gods; after doing so, Sargon appointed one high priest or priestess to lessen rivalries; it is known that he would often appoint a member of his own family for the position. Sargon’s reign lasted 56 years and his political influence stretched from Ethiopia to India.

b) Hammurabi an Amorite chieftain became the ruler of Babylon. A Semitic-speaking people, the Amorites came to control Mesopotamia during this period. The Amorites had been nomads and warriors prior to Hammurabi ascending the throne. Actual rulings of Hammurabi have been discovered on scrolls recorded during his reign. Hammurabi decrees codes of law for the people that he ruled. Being that he used writing as a weapon, these codes were probably never intended to be a code of laws in the modern sense; but Hammurabi implemented the codes as propaganda, used to publicize the king’s devotion to justice. The famous code of Hammurabi was found on a stele by 19th century archeologists. Hammurabi protested much that he sought to protect the weak and the poor as well as the rich and powerful. The Code of Hammurabi reveals a society of strict justice. The code outlines a social class structure. Punishments for crimes varied according to one’s social class. Hammurabi interweaved political power with religious practice, waged wars of aggression and strategically united his people politically. The Babylonian Empire continued under successors (2 more centuries) as well, the Babylonian Empire played a significant role in Near East affairs; helped establish a conception of kingship, and a code of laws with an influence on religion and justice.

Even after invaders from the north sacked the capital and took over the capital, Babylon remained the region’s most famous city.

4) To compare and contrast the women of Hammurabi’s Mesopotamia with the women of the Old Kingdom of Egypt is to look at the woman’s role during the two periods. Some important examples are: a) In ancient Mesopotamia the man of the house exercised authority over his wife and children until the day he died. The most important role for the woman was to bear children, particularly sons, who were preferred as heirs. If the woman could not bear children the man of the house could take a second wife. Few references exist outside of the household for women of this period. The position of women was generally higher in early Sumerian city-states due to the importance of goddesses in the Sumerian religion. A woman could take part in business but only with permission from the husband. b) Women had rights comparable to men in the Old Kingdom of Egypt. They could also own and control their own properties. Women managed the household, cared for children and made everything from clothes to baskets. Women and men worked together in the fields, bakeries and breweries. On larger estates, wives had their own servants and oversaw the farms and workshops. Some women found employment as millers, musicians and doctors.) In conclusion the differences are quite comparable; women of Mesopotamia’s had to submit to the strict female roles of their time and their husband’s authority. In the Old Kingdom of Egypt, women were much more independent and had more authority over themselves and also had a major role in everyday life.

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