Q. 1. Give main geographical features of Mesopotamia.
Ans. We need to know about the geographical features of present Iraq to understand the geography of Mesopotamia. Following are its main features:
(i) Green undulating plains are there in the north east of the country. These plains are gradually rising to tree covered mountain ranges. Clear streams and wild flowers are also there in this part.
(ii) Enough rainfall comes for growing good crops.
(iii) There is a stretch of upland in the north which is known as Steppe. Here animal herding is the main occupation of the people. Sheep and goats feed on the grasses and low shrubs which grow here after the winter rains.
(iv) Tributaries of the Tigris, to the east are good means of transport.
(v) One desert is there in the southern part of country. Rivers Euphrates and Tigris flow in the desert. These rivers rise in the northern mountains and carry loads of silt (fine mud) with them. When these rivers are flooded or when their water reaches the fields then fertile silt is deposited over there brought by these rivers.
(vi) After entering the desert, the river Euphrates is divided into many small channels. Sometimes these channels are also flooded with water. In the past, these channels functioned as irrigation canals. Their water was used to grow barley, wheat, peas or lentils.
That is why out of all the ancient systems, agriculture of southern Mesopotamia was the most productive.
(vii) Apart from agriculture, sheep and goats also grazed on the steppe, the north eastern plains and the mountain slopes. Huge quantity of meat, milk and wool was taken from them. Further date palms gave fruit in summer and fish was available in rivers.
Q. 2. How did the earliest cities of southern Mesopotamia emerge ? Throw light on the construction and increasing importance of the temples built in those cities.
Ans. Beginning of Urbanisation. Settlements began to develop from 5000 BCE in southern Mesopotamia. Some of the earliest cities emerged from these settlements. These cities were of different types and these were:
(i) Cities which gradually developed around temples.
(ii) Cities which developed as centres of trade.
(iii) Imperial cities.
Construction of Temples and their Increasing Importance. Early settlers, in southern part of Mesopotamia, began to build or rebuild the temples at the selected spots in their villages. The earliest known temple was a small shrine which was made up of unbaked bricks. Temples were the residences of different gods. Ur was the Moon God and Inanna was the Goddess of Love and War.
Features of Temples.
Temples were made with bricks. Their size gradually increased because several rooms were made around open courtyards. Some of the earliest temples were just like the ordinary houses. Temples always had their outer walls going in and out at regular intervals but walls of ordinary houses lacked such features.
God was the focus of the worship. People offered grain, curd and fish to the God. The God was also known as the theoretical owner of the fisheries, the agricultural fields and herds of the local communities.
Increasing Activities of Temples.
Activities of temples gradually increased in the following manner:
(i) In time, the processing of produce was also done in the temple.
(ii) It began to appoint the merchants.
(iii) It began to keep written records of distribution and allotments of plough animals, grain, bread, fish, beer, etc.
(iv) It became the main urban institution.
Q. 3. What do you know about the following in Mesopotamia?
(a) Position of upper class
(b) Nature of the family
(c) Marriage system.
Ans. (a) Position of Upper Class. A ruling elite class had emerged in Mesopotamia. It was a small section of the society and had a major share of the wealth. A number of valuable things were buried with these people when they died. These things included jewellery, gold vessels, wooden musical instruments inlaid with white shell and lapis lazuli, ceremonial daggers of gold, etc.
(b) Nature of the Family. The legal texts of disputes, inheritance, matters, etc., tell that in Mesopotamian society, nuclear family was the norm.
Yet a married son and his family generally resided with his parents. The father was the head of the family.
(c) Marriage System. A declaration was made about the procedures for marriage. After that the bride’s parents gave their consent to the marriage.
Then a gift was given to the bride’s family by the groom’s family. Gifts were exchanged by both parties after the wedding. Both the parties used to eat together and offered together in a temple. The bride was given her share of the inheritance by her father when bride’s, mother in law came to fetch (bring) her. Sons used to inherit the house, herds, fields, etc., of the father.
Q. 4. Describe the main characteristics of the city of Ur.
Ans. Ur was one of the earliest cities of Mesopotamia. It was systematically excavated in the 1930s. These excavations throw light on the following characteristics of the city:
(i) Narrow winding streets. Narrow winding streets had been found in Ur. These streets suggest that wheeled carts were unable to reach many of the houses. Donkey backs would have been used to carry sacks of grains and firewood. Irregular shapes of house plots and narrow winding streets clearly indicate toward lack of town planning.
(ii) Drainage System. The city lacked street drains. In the inner courtyards of houses, drains and clay pipes were found. House roofs were sloped inwards. Rainwater was channelled through the drain pipes into sumps in the inner courtyard. This was one of the method of preventing the streets from becoming excessively slushy after the rainfall.
(iii) Cleanliness of Houses. People swept off their household waste into the streets to be trodden underfoot This helped in raising the street levels. Sometimes the floor of the houses had also been raised to prevent the mud from coming inside the house after the rains.
(iv) Absence of Windows. There were no windows in rooms. Light used to come into the rooms through the doorways which were opening into the courtyards. This would have given privacy to the families.
(v) Superstitions about Houses. There were several superstitions about houses, recorded in omen tablets in Ur.
(a) A raised threshold will bring wealth.
(b) That house was lucky whose front door did not open towards another house.
(vi) Burial of the Dead. Yet there was a town cemetry at Ur and graves of royal people and common people have been found but few people were also found buried under the floors of ordinary houses.