Mesopotamia harbored part of the first civilizations of humanity. The presence in its region of the Tigre and Euphrates rivers was fundamental for the man, from the development of agriculture and breeding to the early humans settling down and forming cities in that place.
Several people inhabited this civilization during antiquity, and among them, the Sumerians, Amorites, Assyrians, and Chaldeans stand out.
What is the location of Mesopotamia?
It belonged to a region located in the Middle East (which is now known as Iraq) between two crucial rivers: Tigre and Euphrates. Their natural conditions, mainly because of the fertility of the soil, allowed small villages to be formed in its territory.
Soil fertility was guaranteed by the flood cycle of the two rivers that flooded the soil with organic materials and allowed the development of agriculture and animal husbandry.
What does Mesopotamia mean?
This word has its origin in the Greek language and means “land between rivers” in a direct mention of the importance of the rivers for that region. The territory that is known today as the Middle East, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, witnessed one of the most advanced civilizations of its time: the Mesopotamian civilization.
Thanks to this civilization, we can now enjoy a series of things that allow us to perform our tasks more easily. Let us check out the most important inventions of Mesopotamia!
1. Cuneiform writing
Towards the end of the fourth millennium AC, the Sumerians began to write by means of pictograms, which were symbols that represented words and objects. Towards 2600 AC, the symbols were already different from the original ideogram, and at the end of the millennium, they were different.
This writing was used on tablets of wet clay by means of a vegetable stem beveled in the shape of a wedge, which is where the name comes from. It was adopted by several languages such as Akkadian, Elamite or Hittite, and also inspired the alphabets of the ancient Persian and the Ugaritic.
At first, the cuneiform was not suitable for writing abstract concepts. Therefore, they began to use some symbols with phonetic syllabic value.
As time went on, however, a syllabic corpus was created, which was used to explain these abstract concepts that previously could not be explained. Undoubtedly, cuneiform writing was one of the great inventions of the Mesopotamian culture.
Thus, the written language was born.
Although we usually think that the coin is a more or less modern piece, in fact, the first ones that were printed are from the VII-VI century BC and the 1st century BC. That makes at least twenty centuries that humanity has been paying with currencies.
Where were they created? According to the American historian Will Durant, the king of Assyria Senquerib coined the term for the first time. Subsequently, the currencies expanded throughout all developed countries.
Another one of the important inventions of Mesopotamia is the wheel. It consists of a mechanical piece of a circular shape that rotates on an axis.
It is straightforward but tremendously useful. Proof of this are the cars that allow us to travel kilometers away, the shopping carts that we can fill completely without our back suffering from it, or the bicycles, thanks to which we can feel the fresh air on our faces while having a ride or exercising.
All this we can do, thanks to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, who invented it around 2500 AC.
4. Mathematics and the sexagesimal system
The Sumerian civilization distinguished itself quickly from the others by its development of mathematics, both in arithmetics and algebra. The mathematicians of the time created the tables of multiplication, division, square roots, and cubic roots, and began to solve algebraic equations.
They developed the sexagesimal system based on the number 60, so they could divide the sky into 360 degrees, the hours in 60 minutes, and the minutes in 60 seconds.
Although at present, it is considered a pseudoscience, for the Mesopotamian civilization, it was imperative. They needed to orient themselves in the sky, so they associated some closer stars in groups.
Thus, they invented the oldest constellations, such as Leo, Taurus, Scorpio, and Capricorn. A more systematic approach is described in Mul Apin tablets dating back to the Assyrian era around 1000 BC.
Stars and constellations are classified into three well-defined groups associated with three gods: Enlil, the god of the wind; Anu, the god of Heaven; and Ea, the god of sweet waters.
Astronomy and astrology can also be attributed to this time. Once they had the first notions of astrology, they could begin to orient themselves better in the sky so that as time passed, they began to study the stars and all the celestial objects visible from Earth.
In Mesopotamia, one of the first calendars was created around 4000 BC. The months had four weeks of seven days, the last two days of each month being out of the account.
Being between two rivers, it was inevitable that they wanted to be able to navigate them, transporting food or other objects to different points of the territory as quickly as possible. Thus, they created several types of wooden sailboats for sailing across the rivers.
To get a better harvest, it is vital to prepare the land beforehand. Therefore, we must remove the wild grass that is growing at those times and open furrows to be able to sow the seeds.
If you have animals such as horses or oxen, the task is much simpler, and you do not get tired as much. In Mesopotamia, the plow was created towards 3500 AC, thus allowing agriculture to develop rapidly, first in the Middle East, and then in the rest of the world.
The human being has been working with copper since the Neolithic age. It is a mineral that is in an almost pure state.
However, it was not towards the middle of the III millennium AC in Mesopotamia, where metallurgy flourished since the first techniques of forging and obtaining metal from metal ores appeared.
Around 1200-1000 AC, the use of iron was incorporated. It was challenging to find, and the price was very high, so its use was restricted to the military.
And these inventions are just the tip of the iceberg! There were many others, such as the chariot, time calculation, urbanization, irrigation, and much more.