Introduction to Civilization in Sumer

As farming and irrigation techniques in Mesopotamia improved, more food became available. This meant that people lived longer and could have more children, and thus, they needed even more food. So, the irrigation projects of the Mesopotamians, particularly in Sumer (southeastern Mesopotamia), became more complex as the population continued to boom. The stage was set for some of the world's first known cities and the world's first civilization to appear in about 3300 BC.

Massive irrigation projects, and the labor needed to complete and maintain them, required organization. People from different families, sometimes living miles apart, began to cooperate on their projects. As the groups became larger and larger, villages began to turn into towns and ultimately cities. Of course someone had to lead these new groups and direct the labor and keep order.

Think of it like a company. If a person starts their own business, they likely only have a few people working for them. If the business is successful, it grows and needs more employees. Soon, the owner hires managers to oversee the workers, and he or she looks after the managers. As the business continues to grow, maybe the owner names a veteran manager to be a vice president of the company. Later, the owner might have several vice presidents in charge of different parts of the now huge company. But who would be ultimately in charge in Sumer?

As with most ancient civilizations, religion was a huge part of life for the people of Sumer. It makes sense then that priests, the most powerful and respected members of the community, would become the leaders of the new civilization. These "priest-kings" would reign over different kingdoms of Sumer with absolute power.

As cities began to develop throughout Sumer, they spread to the rest of Mesopotamia and then throughout the Fertile Crescent. They grew larger and more plentiful. Soon they began to bump into each other and have relations - cooperative ones and not so cooperative ones. Soon thereafter, several cities united to form the world's first empire.

Many inventions important to us today came out of Sumer, some of which include writing, laws, literature, architecture, the wheel, organized trade, government, and business, astronomy, and math. These and other inventions were later passed down and improved upon by later civilizations. Many agree that the human species traces back to one group of humans in Africa, but civilization as we know it today had its roots in Sumer.