Origins of Civilization: Sumer & Mesopotamia

Links for Web assignment

(Duiker 7-15, Brians 7-16, 18-21; optional, p. 17) * Map Quiz over map 1.3 on p. 10

Questions about Duiker: *What are the basic characteristics of a civilization? *What were the main social classes in ancient civilizations? Briefly describe Sumerian architecture. Explain who Hammurabi was. What were the main characteristics of the Code of Hammurabi? Describe the picture on the top of the Stele of Hammurabi. *What are some of the main features of Mesopotamian religion? What is cuneiform, and why is it important?

Questions about "The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Flood Story:" *How does Ut-napishtim know that some land besides Mount Nimush has appeared above the flood waters even though he cannot see it? What test does Gilgamesh have to undergo in his attempt to become immortal? What is the point of the loaves of bread?

Questions about "Sumer-Akkadian Hymn to Ishtar: What characteristics does Ishtar have besides beauty?

Questions about "The Code of Hammurabi:" What do these laws tell us about attitudes toward slavery? *Clearly men had more rights than women in this society; but what laws can you identify that seem aimed at protecting certain rights of women? Which laws deviate from the egalitarian standard of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" and instead discriminate between social classes in assigning punishments?

Question about Sumerian proverbs: Which proverbs express sympathy for women?

Question about Babylonian proverbs: What social custom is referred to in the final proverb of this group?

Lecture topics:
The First Cities: Mesopotamia
Sumer: Ur
Architecture: The Ziggurat
Invention of writing
Literature & mythology
Emergence of kings
The Flood myth
Sargon of Akkad
Hammurabi's law code

Helpful Hints:

Supplementary materials:

  • The Enuma Elish
  • Gilgamesh Study Guide
  • Complete text of Hammurabi's Code
  • Assyro-Babylonian Mythology
  • Babylonian and Egyptian mathematics
  • Cuneiform writing
  • Evolution of Alphabets
  • The Palace of Ashurnasirpal II: A video fly-through
  • Frequently-asked questions about Sumer (and answers to them)
  • ABZU Guide to archeological reports
  • The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
  • The Ancient Near East
  • Sumerian Beer Return to syllabus