Mesopotamia changed the nomadic way of life around 3500 BC, when agriculture was introduced from India. Before this period, the usual lifestyle and fundamental technique of survival for Mesopotamians were hunting and gathering, even though this method necessitates members of the group move from one location to another in search of available resources.
There was no need to claim ownership of lands or rivers by the people of Mesopotamia until the need to produce their own food came up.
In this article, we will share a few secrets on how Mesopotamia changed the nomadic way of life.
The Nomadic Lifestyle in Ancient Mesopotamia
The nomadic lifestyle of ancient Mesopotamians lasted for millennia, between 10,000 and 3500 BC. The details of their history before the Sumerians settled there are unclear, but we know that the ancient Mesopotamians led migratory lives.
They frequently moved from one location to the other, taking their shelters with them or creating new ones with the available resources as they moved.
Being nomadic pastoralists, they travelled in small groups, eating whatever food was available and hunting available animals in the area. When food became less plentiful or scarce, they moved to new sites searching for food and water.
However, Mesopotamia nomads lived in open-air campsites they constructed or in small natural caves during most of that time. The nomadic lifestyle suited their needs at the time as agriculture was yet to be invented or discovered.
How Did Mesopotamia Change the Way of Life?
Life in Mesopotamia changed from the nomadic way of life through the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry. This change in the way of life in Mesopotamia turned the early settlers, Sumerians, into a population that occupied a geographical location for a long time, developing the Mesopotamia village. However, some other factors contributed to the shift to a stable and organized community.
The primary factor contributing to the change from nomads to settlers was the two rivers that flew through the region. These two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, are closely connected to the local people’s way of life, which can be seen in the name “Mesopotamia,” which refers to these rivers. “Meso” means “between or in the middle of,” while “potamos” means “river.”
These rivers occasionally flooded the area, thus bringing fertile soil to the site. These occasional floodings made the area a hotspot for agriculture as there was an assurance of a bountiful harvest. In addition to this, the rivers also ensured an abundant supply of water for livestock and other needs.
However, the rivers would be put to best use when the people of Mesopotamia discovered irrigation, which ensured that there was a stable supply of food all year round. Moreover, with irrigation systems, the settlers could tame the flood that destroyed houses and vegetation and convert it to an invaluable asset.
How the Mesopotamians Adapted to Their Environment
The Mesopotamians adapted to their environment through creative inventions. Without water, the climatic condition of Mesopotamia was harsh. With scorching summers and scarce rain, most soil is usually hot, dry, and unsuitable for agriculture. To cope with all these adverse conditions, the Mesopotamians became creative.
One of the inventions that changed the way agriculture was practiced was the wheel. With the invention of this tool, the Mesopotamians could use carts to transport their goods to long distances.
This invention was crucial for trade because they needed other resources and materials lacking in their new settlement. It also made farming more efficient as farm products could easily be transported on time and stored.
The Shaduf is another tool that helped the Mesopotamians adapt. The tool was made of a bar suspended on a v-shaped pole. It had a bucket at one end of the tool to fetch water, with the other end loaded with heavy materials. With this tool, irrigation was made easier as they could move water from basins to the vegetation.
The Mesopotamians also created levees that were used to embank the rivers. Holes were made on the sides of these barriers to irrigate the crops.
What the Mesopotamian Settlements Looked Like
Mesopotamian settlements were initially made of simple circular mud-brick huts, but with time they became more complex. The shift from a nomadic lifestyle to settled clans and villages was a significant change in the Mesopotamia lifestyle.
To tender crops and rear herds of animals, humans needed to settle in one place. This change from nomadism to planting and herding occurred independently in many parts of the world.
In northern Mesopotamia, the process occurred roughly 5-6000 years ago. The lack of rainfall was one of the inspirations for Mesopotamians to organize themselves in a joint effort to build canals and tunnels to irrigate farmland. Another reason was the need for protection on the open plain, which could have led people to gather together to create walled constituencies.
Whatever the reasons, it marked the first time in the history of humanity that people devoted their time, efforts, and resources towards collectively solving community problems. Whether in the city or countryside, most Mesopotamians began to take possession of small land areas, either by themselves, as members of a family, or as part of a clan.
Clans and extended families owned land, and all family members farmed that land, at least in the countryside. Even city dwellers owned a tiny bit of land for gardening purposes.
What Challenges Did the Mesopotamians Face?
Mesopotamians faced many challenges while settling in the Mesopotamia region. First, the irrigation system was not perfect, so there was a need to maintain the systems constantly. For example, the canals and ditches had to be filled with slits, which reduced the volume of water they could retain.
Another challenge was how to cater to the increasing population adequately. At the time agriculture was introduced, there was a population explosion as cities started forming. This population explosion would have caused a strain on the available resources.
The Mesopotamians also had to deal with attacks from neighbouring communities. Notable among these were the Akkadians, which conquered the region and united it under one empire later on.
How Did the Mesopotamians Solve Their Problems?
The Mesopotamians solved their problems by coming up with intelligent ways to make their population flourish. For example, to tackle the inefficiencies in their irrigation, every farmer was made to watch over every aspect of the system.
When the basins or canals got clogged with slits, everyone was mandated to stop working so that they could be dug again. While it is unclear if they had tools like the Nilometer the Egyptians used to measure the level of Nile, the farmers did monitor the rivers for changes.
To address the increase in population and the strain on resources, the Mesopotamians extended their irrigation system. They dug more canals to channel water to dry areas. With this, there was abundant food to cater to the blossoming population.
The early settlers built walls made of mud-brick to protect themselves from attacks. These walls prevented enemies from getting easy access to the settlements. They also modified their military to have a standing army to defend the cities, and invested in weaponry.
Mesopotamians discovered copper and brass, which could be used as armour, helmets, and other weaponry. Weapons were also the object of trade with neighbouring settlements.
The Achievements of Ancient Mesopotamians
The achievements of ancient Mesopotamians revolutionized agriculture, transportation, and culture. Their creativity led to many inventions that are still relevant in the present day.
For example, it probably wouldn’t have been possible for you to cruise on your bicycle if the Mesopotamians hadn’t invented the wheel. Its application in the past involved the potter’s wheel, used in the mass production of pottery. They also used essential components of the carts for transportation and in wars.
The invention of the plow was also iconic among the objects the Mesopotamians introduced to civilization. This tool played a vital role in the mass cultivation of farmlands. While we have motors in engines that drive such equipment today, they were moved by domesticated farm animals during these ancient times.
Another of their inventions is the cuneiform alphabet, which helped preserve their history as there was detailed documentation of daily activities. It served as a guide for the succeeding generation. It has been a helpful tool for archeologists trying to understand this ancient civilization’s way of life fully.
The lifestyle of the Mesopotamians is proof that change is the only constant element in the universe. With creativity, the early settlers in Mesopotamia were able to plant themselves in the region and develop. In this article, we’ve covered some grounds on the people of ancient Mesopotamia and how they changed their nomadic way of life.
Here’s a recap:
- Mesopotamia changed its way of life about 12,000 years ago from nomadism to establishing permanent settlements, claiming land ownership.
- The primary factor that contributed to this change in lifestyle was the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
- Mesopotamians adapted to their new lifestyle and environment through inventions to cope with adverse climatic conditions.
- Some of their inventions include the wheel, the plow, cuneiform writing, the Shaduf, and improved the use of irrigation.
- The people of Mesopotamia encountered challenges such as a lousy irrigation system, increasing population, and attacks from neighbouring communities.
- Ancient Mesopotamia civilization achieved success in agriculture, transportation, documentation, and even warfare.
We hope you enjoyed this journey through the mysteries of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. You will certainly find it interesting to reflect on how they influence us even today!