Urbanism in Mesopotamian Civilization


Mesopotamia was a region that existed between two famous Rivers named Tigris and Euphrates dating back to 3500 BCE. Present day, this region is covered by the whole of Iran and some parts of Syria. The word Mesopotamia originated from the words Mesos (greek word) which means middle and second word potamos means river. Mesopotamia is located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in what is now part of Iraq. This civilization is vastly known for its wealthiest, urban life, vast literature, mathematics and astronomy.

There are three basic things that one can expect the urban transition to happen.

  • People are involved in activities other than farming and gathering food. (Division of Labor)

  • Lack of self-sufficiency in food and resources leads to the advancement of trade.

  • Presence of proper social organization to carry out certain works like storage of surplus grains, keeping written records of trade bills, etc.

Mesopotamia is the most highly developed and complex civilisation of the world. The region accompanied four riverine civilizations in association with the Nile river in Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization in the Indian subcontinent, and the Yellow River in China.

Urbanization in Mesopotamia

The earliest urbanization was witnessed in the South of Mesopotamia around 4500 BCE.

Though the whole of the area was covered with desert, Mesopotamians were still able to do agricultural work through the canal system.

Three major points stated the urban growth of Mesopotamia: -

  • The growth of agriculture and the lack of other materials apart from agriculture led to the flourishing of trade.

  • Use of seals, which has also been found in Indus valley civilization.

  • As there was a constant war between states and cities, military strength needed to be increased more and more.

  • While Mesopotamia was fertile, it lacked pretty much everything else like metals for tools or stone for sculptures, they had to trade.

  • Mesopotamians issued receipts and bills after business transactions; In fact, they were the first ones to come up with this idea.

  • Uruk was a walled city with an extensive canal system and several monuments and temples called ziggurats which was the earliest city to rise.

  • The farmers there used to plough the land with a plough and sow the seeds by funnels. To irrigate the fields, the flood waters of the rivers were carried to the canal and collected in big dams.

  • Mesopotamian's involvement in trade and invention led to the flourishing of cities. Uruk, Ur, Babylon, Assur, etc are some of the cities that witnessed urbanization under different kings (which were considered an intermediary between the gods and the people).

  • Baked bricks were being used in the construction of houses that were of a singlestory.

The Mesopotamian Achievements

The people of Mesopotamia had very strong creative instincts evident in their architectural style, their sophisticated calculation, their seals, their agricultural techniques, and much more.

  • They invented coins and measures. Mina and Shekel were the Mesopotamian means of measuring weight, their trade mainly relied on importing raw materials which they made goods out of and exported to various regions.

  • Sumerian seals have been discovered at Indus valley sites, similarly, Indus valley seals have been found in Sumer. This proves that overseas trade was happening.

  • The people of Mesopotamia understood the importance of writing and preserving knowledge, they had practice writing on wet clay tablets with the help of styluses made of reeds and bones and baked these to preserve. These baked tablets worked as pages of a book.

  • Mesopotamians developed their very own script called the Cuneiform. It is a system of writing which used wedge-shaped symbols written from left to right. It was so flexible that it would be adopted for over a dozen different major languages including Hammurabi's standardized justice system. The cuneiform script was first read by a British officer, Henry Rollinson

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Xerxes Cuneiform Van, CC BY-SA 3.0

  • They had a keen interest in maths and calculations. Developed precise measurement skills by having a similar counting system just like we have a decimal system.

  • A system of the time was developed by them only, Base 60 system, they split the hour into 60 minutes and 60 minutes to 60 seconds and 360-degree concept. They even excelled in astronomy- were able to calculate the length of day and night. They had Ziggurats which were built to study the sky, stars, and planets. They divided one earth year into 12 periods.

  • Mesopotamian artists invented the arch. The Hanging Garden is counted among the Seven Wonders of the World, which was built by Nebuchadrezzar for his queen.

This civilization has contributed so much to the world that some of its techniques still work.

The Urban Institution in Mesopotamia

Temples − In the Mesopotamian civilization, the king was considered the representative of the gods on earth. They were very religious, many temples were built such that there should be direct contact and conversation with God. It used to be the residence of -

  • Moon God of Ur and

  • Goddess of Love and War named Inanna.

Priests were the one who was involved in worshipping as well as ruling.

Trade that was responsible for the urbanization in Mesopotamia was because of the import of metal tools and ornaments for the construction of temples only: the main urban institution.

The new Kingdom of Babylon was ruled by Hammurabi from 1792- 1750 BCE. His main aim was to famous his law code which established everything from the wages of ox drivers to the fact that includes the punishment. It says for taking an eye should be having an eye taken.

The Mesopotamian civilization was a commercial civilization. There the temple of the deity was also a religious place commercially.

What's an Example of Urbanization?

The presence of seals beyond the boundaries of Mesopotamia is the best example of showing the urbanization development in Mesopotamia. How traders were serious about their work and kept on trading even with primitive boat construction techniques.


The Mesopotamian civilisation proved as a blessing for historical development. It has a lot of relevance in today’s world. The artefacts and findings are amazing contributions towards the development of the human race and civilisation.


Q1. What were the causes of early urbanization in Mesopotamia?

Ans. Lacking in different tools, metals, and materials besides being a fertile place for agriculture, increased demand for food with the growing population, presence of division of labour, and involvement in military strengthening.

Q2. Write briefly about cuneiform.

Ans. It is derived from two Latin words i.e. 'Cuneus' meaning Wedge and 'forma' meaning Shape. Together it is called the nail-shaped symbols that represent the syllable rather than a letter.

Q3. Who were the four main civilizations that happened under the Mesopotamian civilization?

Ans. Sumerian Civilisation

  • Assyrian Civilisation

  • Akkadian Civilisation

  • Babylonian Civilisation

Q4. What was the specialisation of Mesopotamians?

Ans. They were constant thinkers, indulging time and energy into figuring out the reasons behind what was happening, and had good taste in mathematics, literacy, astrology, and architecture.

Q5. What are the contributions of Mesopotamians to astrology?

Ans. They were the ones who curiously noted down the movement of rising and setting of the sun and moon. They had divided the whole year into 12 parts just like today's calendar and even 7 days a week, observing the position of stars and constellations in the night-time.

Updated on: 26-Dec-2022

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