Mesopotamia as a Civilization

The 8 Characteristics of a Civilization


Uruk, located in the south region of Mesopotamia, was a large Sumerian city-state that might have been home to 50,000 people once. It was filled with one to two storie homes built out of mud bricks and were painted white so the people living inside would keep cool. A city wall was made around Uruk to protect from unfriendly nomads and enemy armies.

Complex Religions

In Sumer and Akkad citizens built temples as earthly homes for the gods and goddesses. They believed that each city was protected by a certain god. Also if the residents of a city were enjoying themselves and having a good time, they thought that the gods were pleased.

Social Classes

The social classes of Mesopotamia contained wealthy business-people, landowners, government workers, artisans, farm workers, and slaves.

Art & Architecture

The people of Mesopotamia crafted jewelry out of gold and lapis, made fancy chairs, and unglazed vases that kept water cool. They also developed a way to make mud bricks for houses and also built amazing pyramid like structures called ziggurats.

Organized Goverment

In the city of Sumer, society was divided into a few classes. (see Social Classes) Also, they believed that the gods would decide what would be best for them. For example, they would let the gods decided who would be king and if someone accused somebody for competing a crime, they would throw that person into a river and let the river god decide if he or she was guilty. Also, there was a set of laws named Hammurabi's Code created by King Hammurabi. (see Writing for more details)

Division of Labor

Since Mesopotamia now had a surplus of food, not everyone needed to be a farmer. Now some people became artisans and public workers. Artisans are people who craft items that need some skill to do their jobs. For example, some artisans are potters, weavers, blacksmiths, and jewelers. Public workers are people who work to help their community. A public worker could be a governor, priest, or a soldier. Also, instead of being payed in money, they were payed in food like barley and wheat.


In about 2400 B.C, Mesopotamian people created a form of writing called cuneiform. A scribe, or professional writer, would use a specially shaped reed to write on clay tablets which have now been decoded and seem to be records of trade. But recording records of trade wasn't all writing was for. They also wrote laws to keep everyone in line. The most famous set of laws was Hammurabi's code. It contained almost 300 laws like an eye for an eye. The laws were a bit cruel, but were fair, and definitely stressed treat people as you would like to be treated.

Public Works

In ancient Mesopotamia, some public works were ziggurats, irrigation systems, and markets. Ziggurats were pyramid like structures up to 290 feet tall and were believed to link the heavens and Earth. Irrigation systems brought water from the rivers to the farms to water the crops, and markets were where people could buy and sell goods.