Situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Mesopotamia is a name derived from the ancient Greek for “the land between two rivers.”
The area, also known as the cradle of civilization, has ushered in many new beginnings, not only for modern day Iraq, where it is located, but for the entire world.
Home to the Akkadians and Sumerians, and later to the Partheans and Abbasids, Mesopotamia is credited for being behind some of the world’s most important developments. In cities like Ur, Uruk, Babylon, Akkad, Ashur, Nimrud, Nineveh, and Baghdad all of which are located in present day Iraq, humanity was given a series of new beginnings from 3100BC onwards.
Here is a peek into seven of the most revolutionary:
Approximately 5,500 years ago, Sumerians gave the world the first written language. What began with a small sharp stick carving slight symbols onto wet clay, later developed into a more complex system, known as Cuneiform. Amongst a multitude of others, Cuneiform was used for recording trades, taxes and the oldest known law code surviving today, The Ur-Nammu.
#2 Mathematics and Time
The earliest archeological records of basic math (subtraction, addition, division and multiplication) are Babylonian; born to mediate the need to precisely count goods and taxation. The Babylonians were also behind the sexagesimal, or base 60 system. This forms the basis for the 60 second minute, the 60 minute hour and the 360 degree circle, all of which we use today to measure time. Further to this, by observing the sky, moon and stars, the Sumerians and Babyonians used their mathematical knowledge to devise the 12 month year.
In an attempt to better understand seasonal changes on the ground, ancient Mesopotamians looked to the heavens. By doing this, they were able to recognise and prepare when best to harvest crops and interpret celestial omens. They were amongst the first to do so, making Babylonian astrology the first organized system that assigned social constructs, like the names of Gods, to astronomical phenomena. The Greeks later then adapted the Babylonian system into the Zodiac signs we know today.
#4 The Wheel
The oldest free spinning wheel, fully-fitted with an axle mechanism is believed to have been developed in the city of Ur, near modern day Nasiriyah, South of Iraq. The oldest surviving example dates back to 3100 BC. Accompanied by clay tablet depictions of wheeled wagons by the Sumerians at Uruk near the Iraqi city of Samawah, it becomes clear that the Wheel’s birthplace is in Mesopotamia.
#5 The Plow
Widely regarded as the most important development in the history of agriculture, the plow enabled farmers to turn and break up soil and control harmful weeds. And it was the Sumerians who were credited with its first use, as far back as 1500 BC. In fact, not only were they first to invent it, but they also created how-to manuals that they handed out to farmers and also specified a prayer to recite while using the revolutionary tool.
#6 The Battery
Known as the “Baghdad Battery,” a set of three artifacts were found next to each other, 15 miles south of the Iraqi capital. Archeologists dug up a ceramic pot, a tube of copper and an iron rod near the iconic Taq Kasra, and dated it back to the Parthian Empire, which ruled Mesopotamia for approximately 500 years until 224 AD. It is believed by some researchers that these three items were used to create a galvanic cell, a critical component of any battery.
Yes, the world’s most popular beverage dates back 6,000 years to Sumeria. It is first depicted on a clay tablet that shows people drinking from a communal bowl using reed straws. Subsequent clay tablets include a poem to Ninkasi, the god of brewing and a recipe from a renowned brewer named Alula, making modern day Nasiryah the home of beer.
About the Writer
Zahra El-Khazragi is a 22-year-old Iraq living in Cardiff where she was born and raised by English-Arab parents. She is studying Early Childhood Studies at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Zahra loves painting, creating vibrant art pieces and writing. When submitting her piece, she wrote: “It upsets me how the beauty of Iraq has been shattered by war and conflict. I have no real picture of Iraq in my head other than the one my parents have painted for me, but everyday I am learning more and more about my parents’ home country. I hope with this piece, you are able to see the beauty that blossomed from ancient Iraq.”