Writing And City Life Class 11 Notes History Chapter 1 - CBSE
Chapter : 1
What Are Writing And City Life ?
- Around 1840s archaeology began in Mesopotamia and there were several crucial sites that were excavated.
- Some of the important sites like Uruk and Mari were excavated for almost a decade as lot of discoveries were made from these sites.
- There have been discoveries of hundreds of Mesopotamian buildings, ornaments, potteries, tools, statues, seals and thousands of written documents.
- Some of the geographical features of Mesopotamian Civilisation are: The major extent of Mesopotamian
Civilisation was in the lands of present day Iraq.The north-east region of the civilisation was covered with the
lush green undulating plains. As we proceed to the top there are mountain ranges that consist of clear streams
and several varieties of flowers.
- In the north, there was a stretch of land that is known as the steppe. Here, the primary activity of the people was animal herding.
- The east of the civilisation consists of the river Tigris. This river was a major link for communication with other
nations like Iran.
- The south is a desert, but fortunately the first major cities appeared in this region. This desert region consists of the major rivers like Euphrates and Tigris that provided the requisite conditions for the survival of the humans.
- The exchange of different products and services was a common phenomena for large number of cities.
- Proper storage centres were made so that the exchanged products could be stored properly and did not get rotten.
- Also the food grains got transported from the villages to the cities and there were adequate provisions for its
storage and a proper distribution channel.
- There was a need to maintain the written records for the import and export of products from the cities. It was
an important task for an economy.
- A proper medium of transportation was established which made the transition of goods from one place to another very smooth.
- The region of Mesopotamian Civilisation was very rich in agricultural resources and textiles. However, the region lacked in mineral resources due to which they traded these commodities for other products like wood, tin, copper, silver, gold and other various stones.
- The southern part of the civilisation did not had stones for tools, seals and jewels.
- The wood of date-palm and poplar was of little use as it was incapable for making carts and boats. On the
other hand, there was no availability of the metals for making of tools and ornaments.
- The primary regions from which the goods were exchanged were the Turkey, Iran and regions across the Gulf.
- Mesopotamian people had an elaborative writing system. The first discovered Mesopotamian tablets are said to be written around 3200 BCE and they contained picture like signs and numbers.
- The first tablets were lists of oxen, fish and bread that were transported or brought into from the temples of
- The beginning of the writing must have taken place due to the reason of maintaining the records of the transactions. The earliest writing by Mesopotamians was done on clay. This was done by a professional scribe.
- The earliest settlers in the southern Mesopotamia began to make temples at some specific places in their cities.
- The earliest temples were made of unbaked bricks and they served as the residences of various gods like the
Moon God (Nanna) of Ur, Innana the Goddess of Love.
- Gradually the size of the temples were enlarged and several rooms were constructed around open courtyards.
The people of the villages and cities used to offer grains, fishes, curd and other commodities to god. God was also considered to be the theoretical owner of the agricultural resources, fisheries and also the herds of the local community.
- Gradually the activities like oil pressing, weaving, spinning and grain grinding were done in the temples. This led to the rise of temples as the commercial centres. The activities such as maintaining of the records, distribution of the grains and other activities were also supervised from the temples.
- There was a constant warfare in the Mesopotamian regions generally for the accessibility of the resources and
lands. The chiefs who became successful in warfare used to oblige their followers by distributing some part of the looted products to them.
- The defeated groups were taken as prisoners and they were employed as guards and servants of the winning
- Gradually, the leaders started forming a community and started working towards the welfare of their subjects.
The victorious leaders also began the construction of the temples and used to offer jewels to the gods. The chiefs used to send men for getting precious stones for the purpose of decoration of the temples.
- The wealth of the temples was distributed in an efficient manner among the public. All these factors led to the rise in the status of the King and his authority over his subjects.
- The captives of the war and local people were generally employed in the service of the temple or in the service of the ruler.
- The people put to work used to receive payment in the form of rations. It was discovered by the hundreds of ration lists that were found during excavation.
- Ur was one of the earliest cities to be excavated in Mesopotamian Civilisation. Some of its features are: The towns of the city Ur was excavated in a systematic manner and it was found that the streets were narrow. This proves that the bullock carts would not have reached to many houses and the essential supplies like grains and firewood might have reached the houses on the back of donkeys.
- The irregular shapes of the houses shows that there was no proper town planning in the city. There was also
an absence of street drains of the kind that were discovered from the Harappan Civilisation. Drains and inner pipes were found in the courtyards of the Ur houses.
- The doorways were used as the entrance for light and not the windows. This was done to maintain the privacy of the families. There was a town cemetery in the Ur where the dead people were buried.
- The Great Palace of Mari served as the residence of the royal family. This palace was the hub of administrative activities and also a place of production for precious ornaments.
- Evidences suggest that different varieties of food were offered everyday to the King and his associates living
in the palace. Some of the commodities were bread, fish, meat, fruits and wine. The palace had one main entrance in the north. There were number of courtyards which were beautifully paved.
- The palace also used to contain a special room where the King used to receive the foreign dignitaries and his close acquantainces. The building consisted of some beautiful rooms. The palaces consisted of 264 rooms and was spread in an area of 2.4 hectares.
- Mesopotamian Civilisation made significant contribution in the area of mathematics and time calculation.
There tablets of multiplication, division, square and square root tables and tables of compound interest were discovered.
- The division of the year into 12 months in accordance with the revolution of the moon around the Earth was done in Mesopotamian Civilisation. Similarly, the division of the month into four weeks, the day into 24 hours and the hour into 60 minutes is also the contribution of Mesopotamian Civilisation.
- Mesopotamians maintained the records of the solar and lunar eclipses. They also maintained records about the positions of the stars and different constellations of stars.