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Information about Mesopotamia and the Sumerians

Surplus of food

Most important element of civilization

Specialization of Labor

Provides a wide variety of goods and services, encourages developed skills, and promotes social classes.

Stratification of Society into Classes

Defines a person's place in society and reflects an un-egalitarian distribution of power and wealth.

Organized government

Makes and enforces law to keep order, standardizes and ensures authenticity of a currency, and collects taxes to support the most vulnerable members of society.

Cooperation beyond the family unit in building civic structures under centralized government management

Often enhance other elements of civilization

Organized religion

Formalizes religious beliefs and offers guidance in questions of life, death, creation, nature and spirit.

System of Writing

Provides a way to keep accurate and official records of taxes, building projects, religious rituals and beliefs, trade transactions, etc.


Allowed cultivation of land farther from the soft muck of the riverside. Copper plow dates to 3000s BCE. Bronze plow dates to 3000 BCE.

Central Institutions

Emerged because food had to be transported, stored and redistributed, and therefore this caused urbanization


A large Sumerian city state, the first city state in 2500 BCE, that is the supposed home of Gilgamesh


Sumerian system of writing made up of wedge-shaped markings, first clay tablets date to 3300 BCE from Uruk

Land of No Return

The afterlife of the Sumerian religion


Sumerian temples made of sun-dried brick


The most wealthy, powerful class who interpreted the wishes of the gods through omens, such as the shape of the liver of a sacrificial animal. Priests often took advantage of their power and used gifts for the gods for themselves.

King Urnammu

The king of Ur who produced the first recorded law code in 2100 BCE, which showed monetary compensation for harm done and protection of the weak and vulnerable.


King of the Babylonian empire; creator of the Code of Hammurabi, one of the world's oldest codes of law.

Hammurabi's Code

A harsh code with eye-for-eye justice, and cruelty towards women.


Goddess of fate


God of war


God or irrigation


God of wisdom and providence


Record keeper of the gods


Judges of the underworld


Goddess of the underworld


Supreme king of the gods and source of all order and government


Storm god who supported royal authority


Goddess of wine


A legendary Sumerian king who was the hero of an epic collection of mythic stories


Akkadian king who built history's first empire by conquering all the Sumerian cities

Environmental/Agricultural Collapse

Caused by over cultivation due to increasing population, salt level rose into the soil, which made crop yield decline (especially wheat). Water became polluted.


Independent Sumerian city states were susceptible to external conquest

Euphrates River

A river in southwestern Asia that flows into the Persian Gulf; was important in the development of several great civilizations in ancient Mesopotamia

Tigris River

A river in southwestern Asia that flows through the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent


A city of ancient Sumer in southern Mesopotamia on a site in present-day southeast Iraq. One of the oldest cities in Mesopotamia, it was an important center of Sumerian culture after c. 3000 B.C. and the birthplace of Abraham.


Deciphered the Behistun Inscription

Behistun Inscription

a cliff that has Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian inscribed it in Persia.


Legendary friend of Gilgamesh, in the Epic of Gilgamesh


The representation a god as having human form or traits


An attempt by a pre-scientific society to make sense of the universe.


A society in an advanced state of social development with complex legal and political and religious organizations (with all seven elements of civilization)

base 60

The number system of the sumerians


A city and its surrounding lands that act as a government

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