Ancient Mesopotamia for Kids
The Early Pioneers
Why would anyone wish to build a civilization in the middle of the desert in what is now lower Iraq? The answer: Because it was a wonderful place to live!
Many thousands of years ago, early settlers began to build cities along the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Natural wildlife and vegetation kept these early people fed, while they began to build their new world. It was the end of the Stone Age, and the beginning of the Bronze Age or the Age of Metallurgy and Writing!
It did not rain much, but the early settlers learned that if you irrigated the land, crops would grow quickly. They built canals to bring water to the land from the rivers. The planted wheat, barley, dates and vegetables including cucumbers, onions, apples, and spices, from seeds and plants they found growing wild in the area. They raised sheep, goats, and cows. They hunted wild game birds and other animals. They enjoyed fish, cheese, eggs, roasted duck, port, and deer. They wove sturdy baskets from the weeds that grew along the riverbank. They made such beautiful pottery from the wet soil that their pottery became a form of wealth. People in villages began to trade with other villages in the area. Pottery was traded for food, clothing, and jewelry.
There may have been a small population of nomadic people in the area when these early settlers arrived. If so, the settlers quickly took over. They were real pioneers. They built permanent homes of sun-dried bricks made of mud and straw, and started a new life in the southern region of ancient Mesopotamia.
The earliest people of Mesopotamia to develop a civilization are known as the Sumerians. After a long while, the Babylonians took over in the south, and the Assyrians took over in the north. Although the Sumerian people had died out by then, their culture lived on. The ancient Sumerians were very smart and very inventive. We owe the ancient Sumerians a great deal. They invented some very important things like the wheel, the sailboat, the first written language, the plow, frying pans, razors, cosmetic sets, harps, kilns to cook bricks and pottery, hammers and axes. They even invented the first super hero - Gilgamesh!