The name Mesopotamia, aka ‘The land between the rivers’ rings the name of several great leaders like Hammurabi, Ur-Nammu and Sargon of Akkad in our minds. These great personalities with their remarkable leadership paved the way for the foundation of many great empires and also encouraged several advancements and inventions in various fields that include literature, medicine, art, language, science, technology and irrigation.
The Mesopotamians invented many a thing that we-the modern human beings use and are still awestruck by them. Mesopotamia is known as the cradle of civilization and the people of this great civilization were far ahead of their times. People in ancient Mesopotamia lived in urban settings and used many technologies that were unheard of during ancient times. These people started the concept of school and library, invented the wheel and basically taught the future civilization the technique and art of living. Today, let’s discuss about some of the greatest Mesopotamia achievements and inventions that will leave you awestruck!
1. Inventions in Mathematics
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Before the Sumerians, the concept of counting never existed. These people invented this concept that became a tool for carrying on trade and barter. Also, the Sumerians developed sexagesimal which is also called base 60. This paved for the development of concepts like the 12 month year and 360 degree circle. Some historians claim that the Babylonians invented the concept of zero, much before other civilizations. By the time, the Babylonian society grew, people had already started comprehending the concept of possessing nothing. It is then that they developed the zero concept. However, this claim is argued by many scholars who believe that it was invented in India.
2. Inventions in Agriculture and Irrigation
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Ancient Mesopotamia is considered the ‘cradle of all civilizations’ for nothing. It was on this land that many inventions and discoveries took place. As far as agriculture was concerned, the farmers of Mesopotamia found out the way of controlling water flow from the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, and also the technique of using that water to cultivate and irrigate crops like barley, cucumbers and wheat. These people, therefore, could be called ‘the fathers of agriculture’ as they taught us how to regulate water for growing crops.
3. Inventions in Astronomy and Astrology
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Another great addition in this list of amazing Mesopotamia inventions was the invention in astronomy and astrology. It were the Sumerians that first developed the concept of Astrology as these ancient people had belief in spiritual stuff. According to Sumerians, everything in the world happened for a reason, whether good or bad. They believed that planetary movements had an effect on deeds. The early Sumerian astrologers helped and advised people holding high positions.
It were the Sumerians and Babylonians that first observed and then developed the concept of astronomy. They found out about the existence of Capricorn, Sagittarius and Leo, thereby inventing the concept of constellation. People used the constellations for a number of activities like harvesting and sowing of crops, marking seasons and forecasting celestial events.
4. The invention of the Chariot
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Making a list of Mesopotamia achievements is a tough job as there is not one, not even three, but a hoard of great inventions that popped out from its kitty! One such great invention was the chariot that first made its appearance in Mesopotamia in 3200 BC. These ancient people used two wheeled chariots in battles that were made out of wood and skin. These ancient chariots had a heavy built and included two strong wheels. This is not a legend but a corroborated fact gathered from the monuments in Ur and Tutub.
5. The invention of Ur-Nammu law code
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Do you know that the concept of law wasn’t invented in modern times? Well, you would be surprised to find that it were the Sumerians that first invented the system of law codes called Ur-Nammu Law Code. This is the oldest known law code that was written some 300 years before Hammurabi’s law code. This code was basically used as a system to resolve conflicts and to meet out punishments through a legalized channel of authority. This legal authority was known as the law.
The Ur-Nammu law code consisted of 57 codes, each covering punishments for various crimes like robbery, murder, rape, sorcery, kidnapping, adultery, rudeness and lying. These codes were poor friendly and were established for protecting them from the rich classes. All kinds of disputes and conflicts were settled by the respective codes.
6. The invention of the system of schooling
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Ancient Mesopotamia was the birthplace of many inventions that paved the way for the development of other civilizations. The system of schooling was first introduced by the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia. These people started the world’s first school called edubbas with the emergence of the concept of writing that was invented in the middle of the 4th millennium BC. Initially, writing was pictorial that later developed into what was known as cuneiform. It were the temples that founded the first schools and were used to educate boys who would go on to become priests. They were taught poems, hymns and stories in these schools.
7. The invention of Concept of Time
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In this long and awesome list of Mesopotamia achievements and inventions is the invention of time. The Mesopotamians developed their own concept of time wherein time units were divided into 60 parts. This later on developed into the concept of 60 second minute and 60 minute hour.
8. The invention of the wheel
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The first wheel was invented in ancient Mesopotamia around 3500 or 4000 BC and it wasn’t used for transportation. Instead, it was used for serving as a potter’s wheels for pottery making. But, later on, it graduated to being used in irrigation as well as in milling. The rich used the wheels for transportation. The chariot was also invented by Mesopotamians after they discovered the wheel.
9. The invention of Monarchy
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This Mesopotamian inventions list will be incomplete if we do not write about its contribution towards discovering world’s first monarchy. Yes, the Sumerians developed the first system of monarchy in which the first states were ruled by a priest king. The king was the monarch who was the head of administration and the military. As the ruling head, he also settled disputes and took part in many of the religious ceremonies. The priest king headed a chain of bureaucrats who took care of all administrative chores. Therefore, this system of monarchy was first put to use by the Sumerians, and later on adopted by the other civilizations.
10. The invention of the Sailboat
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Among a host of Mesopotamia inventions was the sailboat, a means of water transportation. The Sumerians invented a primitively designed sailboat that they used for navigating in water as traveling on road was exhaustive. At first, the sailboat was used only for transportation, but later on it helped in furthering trade and business with outside world. The Sumerians also used sailboats for exploration of regions across the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as well as for fishing. The ancient sailboat was square shaped with a sail made of cloth.
Also Read: 11 Forgotten Kingdoms Vanished from History
11. The invention of Urban Civilization
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It was here that the first human settlement was made, when these people, for the very first time, started the concept of urbanization. They had a full fledged city administrated by monarchy, and where economy flourished through trade and agriculture. The citizens paid taxes and houses were made out of sun dried brick, also invented by the Mesopotamians around 3200 BC. The city walls were built by the Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh, the fifth in the series of Uruk kings.
12. The invention of Cuneiform
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Since trade and commerce started to flourish massively in ancient Mesopotamia, it became essential for maintaining the business records. It was this necessity that motivated Mesopotamians (Sumerians) to invent the first form of writing called Cuneiform. Using this pictorial form of writing, traders and merchants recorded every little trade detail on clay tablets. Learning Cuneiform took 12 years and was considered very difficult. As such, a handful of people actually could write and read it. Later on, the Sumerians started using it for maintaining records on religious rituals, and sending letters.
13. The invention of Plow
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The ARD or the plow was another important invention made in ancient Mesopotamia when these people first started to harness the ox, the first step towards domesticating animals. They created the first plow using wood and was pretty heavy. However, the plow didn’t work on dense grass which forced the hunters to gather their food from farming and not hunting.
14. The invention of Prisons and the concept of Imprisonment
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The concept of prison and imprisonment also forms a part of Mesopotamia achievements and inventions. Prisons were used by ancient people for confining anti social people who had committed wrong deeds and these originated in 1st millennium BC in regions of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Mesopotamians built underground prisons to detain criminals who were either given death sentence or were ordered to become slaves. There are a few evidences that tell us that prisons actually existed in ancient Mesopotamia. For example, there is mention of imprisonment in Ur-Nammu Law Code, the oldest law code of the world.
15. The invention of Checkers
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Checkers is a very popular board game but it originated in ancient Mesopotamia. In Europe, it is called Drafts and is one among the oldest forms of games to have survived till today. Historians came to know of its existence in ancient Mesopotamia, thanks to an archaeological excavation that was carried out in the city of Ur in which excavators discovered remnants of this game. Most likely, the game discovered dated back to 3000 BC.
The above 15 Mesopotamia achievements and inventions weren’t the only ones. Mesopotamians contributed immensely to medicine, invented the dome and the arch, the Pythagoras theorem, and also the seven week calendar. They were the architects of modern world and we must thank them!