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Geography of the Fertile Crescent
The Land Between The Rivers
The Fertile Crescent is a region of Western Asia.
It is a lush, green area with fertile land because
of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which flow
through the area.
The ancient Greeks called the region between
the Tigris and the Euphrates Mesopotamia.
In Greek, Mesopotamia means “Land Between the Rivers”
 The rivers deposit silt, loose soil carried by water, as they
flow south making the soil rich and good for farming.
 This area gets only a few sprinkles of rain each year.
Droughts, or long periods without rain, were a constant threat
The rivers often flooded the crops
as they were about to be harvested.
Mesopotamian farmers found ways to control flooding
 Levees – a wall that keeps a river within its banks.
 Irrigation – a system of canals to
bring water to crops and fields.
Mesopotamians were successful farmers because
the soil was so rich and fertile.
Mesopotamian farmers grew many crops successfully.
Some Examples:
wheat, barley, beans, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs,
date palm, apple, and pomegranate trees.
 Modern Mesopotamia (Iraq) is a desert due to erosion,
or the wearing away of soil by wind or water.
 People cut many trees for buildings or firewood.
The tree roots were holding the soil in place,
so the soil dried up and blew away causing desert.
The Cities of Sumer
• Sumer is located in southern Mesopotamia.
• Sumeria had many city-states who worshipped
the same gods and had similar customs, but prized
their independence.
• The largest of these city-states were Ur, Uruk,
and Eridu
• City States were often at war to gain control of
the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
• They protected themselves from attack by
building thick walls around the city
• A king ruled his city state from a palace which
could be seen from any point in the city.
• Sumerians were great inventors, they invented irrigation
systems, wheeled vehicles, the potter’s wheel, and sailboats.
• The invention of the wheel greatly helped trade as they could
now use horse powered carts to move goods, and helped in
battle with the use of war chariots. The wheel also helped
them travel greater distances than they could only on foot.
The most important Sumerian invention was cuneiform writing.
• Cuneiform was written by scratching a wet clay tablet with a
sharp pen made from a reed.
• At first the symbols looked like what they represented, but over
time they were simplified to be written quickly.
• Only a few boys and almost no girls went to school.
• An official cuneiform writer was called a scribe. A scribe learned
all 500 cuneiform symbols and recorded laws, songs, and legends.
• Sumerians practiced polytheism, which is a belief in
many gods.
• They had thousands of gods and religion was very
important to them.
• They worshipped at tall flattened pyramids called Ziggurats.
• They tried to please their gods through worship
• and giving gifts to the temples.
• King Sargon created the first empire and
united all the city states under his rule.
• He spread his laws across the empire through
Cuneiform writing.
• His daughter, Euheduana became a preistess
and scribe.
Daily Life in Sumer
 Wealthy families lived in large mud brick homes with
servants/slaves, usually from conquered lands.
 In poor families everyone worked.
 Parents taught crafts to children
 Homes were small mud walled huts with reed mats for sleeping
 Clay pots were used to store foods and their few possessions.
 The father was the head of the family
 A woman did not even have the right to a divorce, but a man just
had to pay a fine to get a divorce.
 People had games, music, and festivals.
 Gilgamesh was the hero of a famous tale about a quest for eternal
life.

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