The land of Mesopotamia is credited with many discoveries and inventions that would help shape the world and future cultures in ways that can not be overstated.
Mesopotamia is translated into “The Land Between the Rivers” which was the land in the middle east that was nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Encompassing much of present-day Iraq and Syria, the people of Mesopotamia indeed left an indelible mark on the world with countless inventions and discoveries.
It was in Mesopotamia that the earliest people settled in organized towns for the first time, and these early settlers developed many inventions and innovations through trial and error.
This list is compiled of ten of the most important Mesopotamian inventions and discoveries of the various peoples that called Mesopotamia home.
1. The Wheel
Arguably the most significant and lasting contribution of the people of Mesopotamia, it is believed that around the 4th millennium B.C., the people developed the wheel.
It was the Sumerian people that developed and refined the design and the uses for the wheel.
The development of the wheel was a huge help to not only the Sumerians, but all other cultures to come after. The Sumerians used the wheel to develop better methods of transport and farm implements.
The people of Mesopotamia are also thought to have developed the first chariots, taking their invention of the wheel even further.
For their invention of the wheel, and the future innovations surrounding the wheel such as the chariot, the Mesopotamians truly changed the world with this invention.
The people of Mesopotamia were the first known people to develop systematic agriculture.
The land of Mesopotamia was perfect for crop planting. The two rivers would flood, and when the waters would recede, the soil left behind was enriched with minerals from the water.
The Mesopotamians learned how to track these floods and learned when to plant their crops properly.
They showed their ingenuity by developing the idea of irrigation, they followed the floods of the rivers and learned how to divert water to regions that needed it.
They were also believed to be the first people to develop cereal grains such as oats, wheat, and barley.
The people of Mesopotamia were the first people to feed significant amounts of their population off of the land. The development of systematic agriculture also led to another innovation, the domestication of animals.
The lasting impact, and changes tied to agriculture, indeed make this Mesopotamian invention noteworthy.
The Sumerians are believed to be the first people to develop a system of writing that was widespread.
Now known as cuneiform, the system of writing developed by the Sumerians was based on wedge-shaped symbols and was carved into the clay using a stylus.
The word cuneiform is quite literally translated into “clay shaped.”
The invention of writing gives all historians and history students a tremendous gift; we know so much that went on in that culture because of the written records provided.
At first, Cuneiform was a pictogram-based language, but it soon developed into a script which can is still decipherable today.
Many tablets have survived trough the years and have given the world a keen insight into the lives of the Sumerians.
For the enormous contribution to history and society, the development of a written language surely belongs on any list of Mesopotamian inventions.
Numbers are a part of our everyday lives, we use numbers countless times throughout our days. The Sumerians were some of the earliest people to develop a numeric system.
The development came about because of the need to track transactions in the burgeoning cities of Mesopotamia.
The Sumerians also developed a numeric system to help expand their knowledge of astronomy.
It was the following people of Mesopotamia, the Babylonians, that were the first culture to produce a number zero.
The Sumerians and Babylonian advances in mathematics were truly impressive and revolutionary.
The Sumerians developed the discipline of astronomy.
While the Sumerians did make a lot of guesses and developed many myths surrounding the cosmos, they also made many strides in the study of the skies.
The Sumerians are responsible for naming many of the constellations we still use today. They are also credited with being the first culture to identify Venus as a planet.
What makes the Sumerian advances in astronomy even more interesting, is the fact that they recorded their findings on tablets that have survived to this day.
The famous “Venus Tablet” discusses the Sumerian theory on Venus in detail and gives modern people a view into the culture that we wouldn’t have without the cuneiform tablets.
The Sumerians set the stage for all future cultures, and their study of the skies, without their work future astronomers in Greece and Italy, would have been at a disadvantage.
One of the greatest Mesopotamian inventions is the first record of time.
Many sundials have been found at ancient sites, and there was much written about their concept of time.
The Mesopotamians were also the first people to break an hour into sixty minutes. It is believed that the number sixty was based on the planets in some way.
The Mesopotamians were truly masters of time and would take the concept of time to the next level, as evidenced by the following entry on the list.
The calendar is yet another greatest invention in ancient Mesopotamia. The calendar is comprised of twelve months with 30 days in each month.
This made the calendar 360 days per year which meant the calendar would fall out of sync with the stages of the moon and the seasons.
The Sumerians tracked the moon’s phases to help keep the calendar on track and track the changes in the seasons.
While we generally do not consider cities as an invention, we probably would like to call it an advancement in ancient Mesopotamia.
The people of Mesopotamia were the first people on earth to live in major cities. The cities of Mesopotamia grew to populations nearing 100,000 people at their height.
Cities such as Ur, and Babylon were beacons of civilizations in the arid landscape.
Babylon is still known today as home to one of the largest pieces of architecture, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The population numbers alone are staggering, ancient people were not city dwellers for the most part, but through the strategies and advancements mentioned earlier in this list, the Mesopotamians were able to support those big cities.
Thanks to irrigation and the development of the wheel, the cities were thriving centers of farming and commerce in the ancient world.
Entertainment and the arts is something that a modern person takes for granted.
Living in the 21st century, we have entertainment at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day, but life for a Sumerian or Babylonian living in one of the cities mentioned above had little chance for recreation.
Life was seen as an endless struggle to provide and survive, so when any chances for entertainment or relaxing came around, they jumped at the opportunity.
The first real art form developed for public enjoyment as consumption was literature, and the Babylonians created literature with their epic poem, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.”
The Epic of Gilgamesh follows the trials and tribulations of a Mesopotamian King, Gilgamesh, as he journeys through the forest alongside his friend in search of an evil monster, Humbaba.
The Epic would be told and re-told countless times and was a great form of entertainment for the people.
Future cultures from the Greeks and Romans to our cultures today, owe a debt of gratitude to the Babylonians for creating the art of literature.
Both the Sumerians and the Babylonians were gifted cartographers, using their clay tablets and styluses to create very intricate and detailed maps of the area.
The Tigris and Euphrates dominated their lives, and it is no surprise that many of the maps that have been found in ancient sites detail the locations of the rivers.
What is so impressive about the level of cartography is how detailed the map makers were in detailing and drawing the physical features of the land with little to no advanced equipment.
The people of Mesopotamia were the forbearers of so many important discoveries and innovations in this world.
Without the Sumerians and Babylonians, there would have been a huge gap in the knowledge of cultures between the bronze age and the classical periods of Greece and Rome.
Mesopotamia can be seen as the sunrise of civilization, truly the “cradle of civilization” as many historians call it.
Their contributions are almost too many to list, but this list should give the reader a solid idea of just how important the people of the “land between the rivers” truly were to future cultures.
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