Facts about Mesopotamia: The Cradle Of Civilization

Mesopotamia is the region where our kind has laid the foundation of the modern world. Since they had found this fertile land they were living as hunter-gatherers, migrating after food sources. Mesopotamia on the other hand might be the most suitable territory to settle down, found cities, improve farming technics, domesticated animals as food sources, store food, and trade them and else because the rivers Tigris and Euphrates were feeding those land with water and alluvium.

People might be settling down or discovering farming technics elsewhere around the world before Mesopotamia but today there is not enough info about them, Mesopotamia on this aspect is providing the greatest research resources.

To discover the Mesopotamian civilizations Turkey is one of the best destinations because almost more than half of its land is Mesopotamia and since the 30s the archeological digs go ahead, the ambitious museums serve and have advanced transportation and accommodation services.

HISTORIC cupola HOUSE Sanliurfa Harran, Turkey
Original cupola houses

Let’s take a quick glance at the Mesopotamia topic, find out who were they, what did they do, and keep on with bestseller books.

1. Where is Mesopotamia located and what was Mesopotamian civilization’s extent?

Mesopotamia is located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Western Asia. Today, it is southeastern Turkey, eastern Syria, and most of Iraq.

 Mesopotamian civilization map
 Mesopotamian civilization map

2. Was Mesopotamia a government?

No, it was not. It was not a single empire, kingdom, or a united kingdom. According to the resources first people, hunter-gatherers had been settled, and then 5 major kingdoms had risen in the region.

3. Who are the first civilizations in Mesopotamia?

Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hittites. Lately, the Kassites, the Seleucids, the Kingdom of Edessa, Romans, and else… were invaded, captured, or conquered the region.

4. What about before Mesopotamia?

Humankind was living as a hunter-gatherer nomadic before Mesopotamia. In the Old World’s different territories such as the Indus Valley in the Indian site and the Yellow River Valley in modern China, and in New World Peru, humans kind were living too. However, in those territories, there are not enough numbers of remains to learn more about that period. In contrast to this Mesopotamia has so much to discover.

Plus the climate of the region was almost the same as today, it was sunny (the ice age survivors should be very happy to find it) and the soil was fertile with the alluviums carried by the Euphrates and Tigris. The agricultural revolutions that had been done in Mesopotamia led to human settlement, thence the first steps of building the modern world. It seems that Mesopotamia used to have everything to settle and cultivate. The idea of “city” was born here and the first steps on the way of the modern world have been taken in this fertile land.

5. How did the discovery of Mesopotamian civilization occur?

Mesopotamia was never actually lost but the civilizations who were living there disappear in time. The first resources about Mesopotamia are the ancient authors.

Berosus, a Babylonian who wrote in Greek, the Hebrew Bible; in particular the Babylonian Exile and Herodotus of Halicarnassus mention Mesopotamia 100 years later after the Assyrian empire had been overthrown. Greek historian and philosopher the Athenian Xenophon can be added to the list, he took part in the Battle of Cunaxa and he describes the final struggle between Cyrus II and the Neo-Babylonian empire. Ancient Greek historian and geographer Herodotus probably traveled to Tyre and then to the Euphrates to Babylon, it can be said that he saw Babylon with his own eyes. Next Mesopotamia became a myth, a phenomenon among more contemporary writers until the mid-19th century.

English Assyriologist, and cuneiformist Sir Austen Henry Layard, and French scientist Paul-Émile Botta who was Consul in Mosul, have made the first rediscoverMesopotamia. Since then in different periods scientists from all around the world have been digging the territory.

6. What about Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations? Are they the same or not?

There are similarities and differences. Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley Civilization, and ancient Egypt are the oldest civilizations in the world. The fact that Mesopotamian, particularly Sumerian, influences can still be seen in the modern world attests to this.

When it comes to the similarities between Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures, it can be highlighted first the architectural features. Both civilizations used oven-baked bricks of clay to build houses, and the Mesopotamian ziggurats and the pyramids have common characteristics in a triangle shape.

Both cultures have polytheistic belief systems that the gods and the gods might have common or alike features. Both religious systems used to have 3 major gods; Ea, Anu, and Enlil were Mesopotamians, and Ra, Amun, and Isis were Egyptians. Their distinctive feature was the source of their kings’ power. While pharaohs were representative and an intermediary between the deities and the people, religious administrators, owned all of Egypt and enacted laws. Egypt was centralized but Mesopotamians were decentralized, which means that while Egypt was one single government Mesopotamians were city-states. And Hammurabi the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty of the Amorite tribe wrote the first laws ” The Code of Hammurabi“.

Mesopotamian Gods
Mesopotamian Gods

The Mesopotamians invented cuneiform, which is the writing system the Egyptians used to have hieroglyphics. The Mesopotamians’ major advancements were the invention of the wheel, mathematics, and astronomy, while the Egyptians invented the solar calendar, papyrus, sheets, cosmetic and surgical tools, and mummifications.

It would be better to underline the fact that those cultures and civilizations are not the same or not the descendants of each other. But it is impossible to deny that both Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures deeply inspired Greeks and Romans and many more around the world.

7. Which artifacts from Mesopotamian cultures can be seen in the Louvre?

Mesopotamia was hiding the “cradle of humanity” till 1842 when French diplomat Paul-Émile Botta brought it to light. Actually, he was assigned to Mosul as Consul. He discovered the ruins of the Assyrian capital of Dur-Sharrukin and brought his findings with him back to France. The current exhibition “History Begins in Mesopotamia” was curated by Botta and his successors.

Priest-king from Uruk, Mesopotamia
Priest-king from Uruk, Mesopotamia, dates back to 3000 BCE

The well-known artifacts of the hall are the Diorite royal portrait of Hammurabi, the Bronze figurine of the demon Pazuzu, the Statue of Ebih-Il, ruler of Mari, discovered in the Temple of Ishtar, Lagash, the Statue of Hammurabi, and the Statue of Ebih-Il.

8. Is Turkey related to Mesopotamia?

Yes. Almost half of Turkey, but mostly the eastern part of it, is Mesopotamia. The Euphrates spring is located in Erzincan, and the Tigris spring is located around Lake Hazar, which is close to Elazig city in Turkey. The rivers that comprise Mesopotamia were born in Turkey. While Iraq and Syria have the visiting sights left by Mesopotamian civilizations, Turkye has significant ruins which enlighten the era and the development of humankind throughout the centuries. Furthermore, new discoveries and archaeological digs reveal the new and sumptuous history of the human being.

Gobeklitepe archeological site
Gobeklitepe is the oldest temple around the world.

9. Can the traces of Mesopotamian cultures be seen in Turkey?

Yes. Even if the great amount of Mesopotamia is located within the borders of Iraq and Syria, Turkey has 49 mounds which are dated back to the neolithic period and the archeological digs are run for decades. The digs in Nevali Cori and Catalhoyuk are proceeding for decades and the enlightening the era, culture, and the way of living of our ancestors. The younger one Gobekli tepe hoax however has changed the history books. 

The political and social deadlocks of Iraq and Syria might make it hard to trace the Mesopotamia however visiting Turkey to discover the neolithic age, Mesopotamians via the mounds and museums might be a better idea. Remember that Turkey has more visiting sights different than mounds, advanced accommodation and transportation services, ancient ruins, natural wonders, sun, beach, a magnificent cuisine, natural sports, authentic souvenirs and more can enrich your travel as well. Here is a short list of mounds and a few highlights.

The list of mounds in Turkey;

  • Gobeklitepe which is located in Sanliurfa, in the city of prophets, will be a step forward. German archaeologist and pre-historian Klaus Schmidt discovered Gobekli Tepe in 1994 and the digs started in 1995. Klaus Schmidt Gobekli tepe is like proof of the idea that “Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilizations”. The archeological evidence has demonstrated that Gobekli tepe is the first temple in history and it is older about 4.600 years than the first settlement in Mesopotamia. Furthermore, it is 6.600 years older than Stonehenge, 7.100 years older than Egypt’s pyramids, and 6.100 years older than Malta’s temples. The archeological evidence at the same time was demonstrated that it used for religious purposes, which means that humankind was able to live work, and built together even before they settled via the invention of agriculture. Plus, it is proof of the fact that humankind had started to live as a community, pray, sacrifice, and build T-shaped monuments, which means that they were more developed than we thought. Instead of modern opinions, they didn’t first need agricultural activities to settle down. Gobekli tepe in Sanliurfa, mount Nemrut is Adiyaman and Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Istanbul’s thousands of years of history are all in one tour. Take a look at Gobekli Tepe tours.
Gobeklitepe in Turkey

People think that Gobekli Tepe was made by aliens, and the most interesting thing is that some people believe it is linked to aliens. It is worth remembering that these theories are only theories and cannot be based on any scientific reality. visit Gobekli Tepe and learn what’s happening here in the magical atmosphere.

  • Catalhoyuk is telling us about another period and the facts about human beings in Konya. People were living in Catalhoyuk in a different and more interesting way on Mesopotamia’s north side. They were burying their dead in houses, and when all the family members died, they filled the house with soil and started to live in their new houses on the roof. The doors were on the roofs of the houses, and they were entered into the houses by wooden stairs from the roofs. Catalhoyuk art and design are really worth seeing.
Catalhoyuk mound

The archeological evidence has pointed out that the first settlers were a hunter-gatherer community, and they were skilled in crafts such as weaving, trade, pottery, woodworking, basketry, and bone tool production. Corum is at the same time the home of Alacahoyuk, and with a 3 days city tour of Alacahoyuk, Bogazkoy-Hattusa mounds, and Corum Museum can be visited.

  • Nevali Cori, located in Sanliurfa city like Gobeklitepe, about an hour drive north. The site was started to examine in the 80s and it has been known that the mound dates back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. It reveals that its people mainly maintain a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but also engage in agriculture and animal husbandry. T-shaped monuments, like Gobeklitepe, have recently been discovered in the mound.

  •  Yumuktepe, is located in Mersin and dates back to the Neolithic age like the other mounds. The excavations have been held since the ‘30s. In the layer that coincided with the Neolithic period (Polished Stone Age) 4500 BC, the first castle structure in the history of the world was found. In fact, according to one view, the first copper melting facilities in the world started to be used in Yumuktepe.
Yumuktepe mound
  • Arslantepe takes place in Malatya. The mound dates from the 5th millennium BC to the 11th century AD. It is especially in the layers of the Late Hittite period. The excavations aimed to reach the capital of one of the kingdoms established in the region after the collapse of the Hittite Empire but the mound used to have different plans. The fresh findings were excites archaeologists which are more than 20 tombs and the remains of six houses, which are thought to belong to 3600–3700 BC, two-child skeletons, a temple, a palace from 3300–3000 BC, many seals, and expertly made metal objects. The uniqueness of this mound probably the oldest palace in the world was to be discovered. Please check for Aslantepe Mound and more.
Aslantepe mound
  • Cayonu is in the Diyarbakir city. It reflects the neolithic process without interruption. The most puzzling finding of the mound is the “Skull Building” which is full of more than 400 individuals’ bones and skulls. It is considered that the Skull Building has no equal or similar ritual place like around the world.
Cayonu mound
  • Kultepe takes place in Kayseri, in the heart of Anatolia. The earliest traces of the Indo-European language family have been discovered, with written finds dating to the 20th century BC, along with the earliest traces of the Hittite language. The oldest written documents in Anatolia were unearthed here in the 1800s. Thanks to the deciphering of the old Assyrian cuneiform texts and the archaeological excavations that started in 1948 and are still continuing, the political structure of Anatolia before the Hittites, the existence of Assyrian merchants who established colonies around Kültepe, and daily life were enlightened.
kultepe mound

What are the top 5 ancient Mesopotamia books?

Mesopotamia is like a fairy tale, it is possible to describe it as an oriental fantasy since the 19th century, after the first discoveries in the territory. No doubt that it is the topic of so many fantastic, historical novels. Reading as well as visiting it is an engaging way. No matter if it is scientific or fantastic a book about Mesopotamia can give you an oriental image. So here is the list of bestseller Mesopotamia books.

  • On the Edge of Empires: North Mesopotamia During the Roman Period (2nd – 4th c. CE) by Rocco Palermo
  • Sumerian Mythology: A Deep Guide into Sumerian History and Mesopotamian Empire and Myths by Joshua Brown
  • Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization by Paul Kriwaczek
  • Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others by Anonymous, Stephanie Dalley (Editor)
  • Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein, Samuel Noah Kramer

The mounds which were mentioned above are just a few of the 49 other mounds in Turkey. The archaeological excavations are ongoing and every year there are new and enlightening facts about humankind’s development. Turkey, while having numerous beaches, coves, ancient sites, and wonders of nature like waterfalls, has many other phenomenal destinations even when it comes to diving too deep into the ages.