MESOPOTAMIA AND ITS CITIES
If we were to sum up the personality of Bronze-Age Mesopotamia in a similar way, we would mention its precocious urban development and its cultural emphasis on the superiority of city life; in contrast to Egypt, there were numerous city-states often contesting power, trade routes, and land. Rather than high populations per se, this region saw an exceptional degree of nucleation of population in large urban centres. Also characteristic of Mesopotamia is the wealth of its cuneiform literature on clay tablets, and the propensity of the state system to keep written records of all public transactions. Exquisitely carved cylinder seals that were rolled on clay tablets after they were written but still wet, or on the clay sealings of jars or packages, represent an extension of literacy. There was also openness to the world from a very early date. Most important were Mesopotamia’s contributions to the development of mathematics and astronomy (Unfortunately we cannot deal with this topic here ).
Mesopotamia is the land of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and the Euphrates is the ‘lifeline’ of the ancient civilization (the Tigris is prone to unexpected floods and did not attract early settlement). Here too, as in Egypt, it was the flood plain of a major river that was cultivated by what appears to have been a prosperous peasantry.