The Land between Two Rivers
Rise of “city-states” in Mesopotamia
• Mesopotamia (Land of rolling hills and low plains)
• Today is Iraq
• Located between the Tigris & Euphrates River
• Cities first appeared on the southern part of the land
• Earliest cities in this area date back to 3500 BCE
Similar to small independent countries
-Had their own ruler
-Own farmland
Walled settlement surrounded by farmland
(supplied food)
Strong city walls made from sunbaked bricks
Moats or ditches built around
-Keep out enemies
-During an attack people who lived outside
the city walls would flee inside for protection
The Difficult Environments of Mesopotamia
Northern(Foothills of the Zagros
• Overpopulated with limited
• Hilly
• Received lots of rain
• Southern had low plains (flat land)
• Sun beat down fiercely
• Little rain (except during the flood
• Most of the year the soil was hard
and dry
• Materials were difficult to find
• Plenty of reeds (weed grows near the
• Few trees (wood)
• Stone was scarce
• Few natural barriers
4 Problems Surviving the Environment
1) Food shortages in the hills
2) Uncontrolled water in plains
3) Difficulties building and maintain systems that provided water
across village boundaries
4) Attacks by neighboring villages
Food Shortages in the Hills(Neolithic Age)
Zagros Mountains in the northern
Mesopotamia (Rolling hills)
• Mild weather and plenty of rain
Wooded hills provided timber
for building shelters
Plenty of stone for tool making
5000 BCE farmers did
not have enough land for
growing population
(food shortage)
• South (below the foothills) Euphrates and Tigris ran
through the flat plains
• It lacked resources (stone and trees)
• Spring rivers flooded and brought water and people
began to believe that the land had promise
• Due to the need for food people moved out of the
foothills and into the plains region
• Few people lived there (the land was hard and dry)
Controlling Water in the Plains
• During the spring rain and melted snow from the mountains flowed
into the Tigris and Euphrates causing floods
• Floods were unpredictable and resulted in loss of crops
• During the remaining of the year the soil was dry and hard
• These seasonal changes caused difficulties in raising crops because
there was either too little or too much water
• A way must be created to control the water supply so there could
be water year round.
The Irrigation System
• Levees were built along the side of the
river to prevent flooding.
• When the land was dry they poked holes
in the levee to release water
• Canals were built to shape the path of
• Dams were constructed along the river
to block the water and force it to
collect in pools(reservoirs)
• Reservoirs stored water for later use
Difficulties Building and Maintaining Systems
Problem/Solution to the Irrigation System
Irrigation Systems
• Allowed/provided
enough water for
Sumerian farmers
to grow food
irrigation across
village boundaries
Passed through several
villages (rivers to fields)
Needed constant care and
Canals clogged with silt
(Needed cleaning regularly)
Silt- fine particles of rock
Were not working together
towards common good
Villages were not connected
and living apart
Depend on one another to build
and maintain complex irrigation
People cleared silt from canals
Scooped water from reservoirs
to ensure balanced water levels
By working together people
created larger communities
3500-3000 villages grew to
Some towns grew to cities
population as large as several
by Neighboring Communities
The Right to Use More Water
• People in closer cities (upriver) blocked the water from flowing to cities
(down river) by building their own canals
• This resulted in bloodshed
• Lack of natural barriers began and cities started building walls around the city
to protect themselves from attacks (Moats)
• Walled cities of Sumer became like independent countries
• By 3000 BCE most lived in “City-States”

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