Ancient Mesopotamia Geography

Mesopotamian civilization began during 4000 and 3000 BC. It derived its name and existence for lying between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates which is modern-day Iraq and Kuwait. 

The history goes back to 5800 BCE where people started living in the fertile crescent, which was formed due to these two famous rivers. 

The crescent spread from the Taurus Mountains to the Arabian desert and from Eastern Mediterranean to Zagros mountains.

Before the establishment of the Mesopotamia civilization, the people of the Neolithic era had their settlements there. They were the hunters and gatherers who also did some occasional farming.

Mesopotamia flourished on the bank of Tigris and Euphrates river. The total area was about 300 miles long and about 150 miles wide. #mesopotamia #mesopotamiageography Click To Tweet

Why the Bank of Tigris and Euphrates Rivers?

Mesopotamia

A shift from hunters and gatherers to agriculture gave birth to the first civilization. It was the first time in history where a human could stay in the same place for a more extended period. It was known as the Neolithic revolution. 

Agriculture flourished due fertile crescent and access of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 

Most of the earliest civilizations, including Indus Valley Civilization and Ancient Egypt, also flourished on the bank of the river. 

Geographical Division:

The Mesopotamian civilization is divided into two regions: the northern or upper region and the southern or lower region. Its total area was about 300 miles long and about 150 miles wide. 

The northern part was fertile with a favourable climate, had regular rainfall and was suitable for farming without the necessity of irrigation. It was so due to the continuous flow of water from the river and mountains.

The southern region was quite the opposite of the northern region. The land of this region was dry and dull with very less rainfall. So, the basic need for the smooth run of agricultural activities and inhabitants was irrigation.

Furthermore, the Mesopotamia civilization was surrounded by mountains, deserts, rivers, and a gulf from each side. On the north-east lies the Zagros mountain which extends from northwest Iran, northeast Iraq, up to southeast Turkey. It has a total length of 1600 km.

On the north-west lies the Taurus Mountain which extends from Lake Egirdir in the west up to the river Euphrates and Tigris in the east.

Besides mountains, it is also surrounded by two rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Tigris river lies on the northern part of Mesopotamia whereas the Euphrates rivers fall on the southern region.

Both the rivers come together, unite and empty themselves in the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf lies in the south-east region of the Mesopotamia civilization.

South-west of Mesopotamia lies the Arabian Desert. The desert had the subtropical climate, and nomadic tribes lived here during the ancient Mesopotamia.

The climate, the land, and the production:

The climate of Mesopotamia civilization was mostly semi-arid with hot summers. It also had occasional rain which was about 10 inches of annual rainfall. 

The average temperature in summers would reach up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. And the winters were comparatively cool and very short.

However, despite the hot and dry climate, the presence of two rivers made the land fertile and favourable for the beginning of the settlements. 

The continuous flow of water from the rivers into the lands made the soil nutrient-rich and ideal for the development of agriculture.

Along with the growth in the agricultural products and activities, growing the human settlements and later formed into cities, states, and then an empire.

The fertile soil made it possible to produce numerous grains and crops which would later be used in trades. The major crops and grains included barley, wheat, lettuce, sesame, fruits, date palms, and eggplants.

The fertility and the favourable soil led to the production of crops which was more than the necessity. The situation reached a crop surplus and the people involved in the agricultural activities spread out and involved themselves into other occupations like artisans and builders.

Apart from this, settlers farmed the land and used timber, metals and stone from the mountains nearby.

Direct Impact of geographical division:

  • The direct source of water for rivers from the Taurus Mountains made the soil fertile and ideal for agriculture. It led to crop surplus.
  • The mountains had timber which was traded in a massive amount. The precious metals were also found in the mountains around civilization.
  • Major inventions were made taking advantage of the geographic condition which included the wheel, plough, and sailboat. They were invented to make the agricultural work efficient and also for the trade purpose.
  • The availability of the river route made trade amongst different tribe possible. Numerous smaller civilizations had to pass through the Mesopotamia civilization to trade with others. This gave Mesopotamia civilization access to essential resources like precious metals and timber.
  • The movement from hunting and gathering towards agricultural activities began before 10000 years. People had more convenient access to gather domestic plants due to the favourable climatic condition.
  • The importance of irrigation was felt, which led to an advancement in engineering. This included the construction of dams, canals, drains, reservoirs, and aqueducts.
  • The science of irrigation and engineering was first developed in Babylonia where various famous canals were cut including Zabzallat canal, Kutha canal, and King’s canal.
  • The existence of rivers and mountains led to the start of large-scale agriculture in ancient Mesopotamia. The rivers were also famously used for travelling and trades.

On the contrary, the existence of rivers created disputes amongst foreign lands. The conflicts were mainly for the reason of claiming rights over the part of the river as the river played a vital role in daily and economic aspects.

The river during the ancient Mesopotamia played a vital role by creating a route for trade, favourable for fishing, and making the soil ideal for agriculture.

Apart from this, the flatlands and mountains created fear of an invasion of foreign lands. This fear led to the formation of a government, warfare, and concepts of an empire.

Conclusion:

The Mesopotamia civilization was blessed with favourable climate and landforms for the agricultural purpose. The rivers also played a significant role in the success of this civilization.

Like in every civilization and nations, the geographical division of this civilization had significance in the betterment of every region. 

The northern region was more fertile and was ideal for agriculture compared to the southern region. However, the southern region had returned with the invention of irrigation.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "Ancient Mesopotamia Geography," in HistoryTen, May 12, 2020, https://historyten.com/mesopotamia/ancient-mesopotamia-geography/.
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