Period 1 Time of hunters and farmers

The emergence of the first urban societies

Do you know what kind of profession you want to pursue later? If you had lived at the end of prehistoric times, you had no choice, you were a farmer or a craftsman.

Today, almost half of the world's population lives in a city. The first cities were created thousands of years ago. The first cities originated in southern Mesopothamia. The name Mesopothamia comes from Greek and means 'between the rivers'. Mesopothamin lies between the Euphrates rivers and the Tigris River. This was part of the Fertile Crescent. The people had settled here because the soil was very fertile. That's because the river flooded every year and left fertile silt behind. Thus, 5600 bc, the first villages were created.

This flooding was initially very convenient. But soon the farmers found it annoying that they were dependent on nature. They came up with a way to water their land themselves. When artificial water is added to a field, this is called irrigation agriculture. This allowed them to grow more food. So they could feed more people. So it was that around 5600 BC the first villages arose.

Around 4000 BC, the first Sumerians (a people from Central Asia) moved to these villages. More and more people came who practiced occupations other than farmers because there was now enough food. The food was stored and acted on. This gave some people more power than others. For the first time in history, there were people with political power over other people.

Thanks to trade, the first urban communities were created around 3500 BC. This is what we call city states. About 10,000 people lived in such a city-state. The oldest city states were called Uruk and Nippur. Uruk had as many as 50,000 inhabitants around 3000 BC. In addition to these two city-states, there were still about 28 urban communities in Sumeria (this is the south of Mesopothamin).

Usually such a city-state was ruled by a king. It was believed that the king had been given the power of their god. There were a lot of things in this day and age that people didn't understand. They didn't know why the rain fell from the sky or why the sun came up every morning. They were very religious. In every city there was a temple where the god or gods were revered. This temple we called a Ziggurat. This was a tall structure because it allowed them to get closer to the gods in heaven. In this Ziggurat, priests worked. These men often had almost as much power as the king because they had contact with the gods.

The cities were mainly home to farmers. They had to give up a large part of the harvest each year in exchange for protection and maintenance of the watering system. The grain was distributed among the inhabitants of the city. More and more craftsmen came to live in the city and slaves lived there. Some powerful people had slaves who worked for them. These slaves were often people from other cities or villages who were captured during wars.

At the end of this period of history some people also became artist or writer. Around 3300 BC, the Sumerians had developed the cuneiform script. They used this in the first place to record economic issues. With the invention of the script came an end to the epoch we call Prehistoric. A time that began with hunters, and ended with craftsmen, artists and writers.