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Chapter 2: Writing and City Life
CITY life began in Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers that is now part of the Republic of Iraq.
Mesopotamian civilization is known for its prosperity, city life, its voluminous and rich literature and its mathematics and astronomy.
Mesopotamia’s writing system and literature spread to the eastern Mediterranean, northern Syria, and Turkey after 2000 BCE, so that the kingdoms of that entire region were writing to one another, and to the Pharaoh of Egypt, in the language and script of Mesopotamia.
Here we shall explore the connection between city life and writing, and then look at some outcomes of a sustained tradition of writing.
In the beginning of recorded history, the land, mainly the urbanized south (see discussion below), was called Sumer and Akkad.
After 2000 BCE, when Babylon became an important city, the term Babylonia was used for the southern region. From about 1100 BCE, when the Assyrians established their kingdom in the north, the region became known as Assyria.
The first known language of the land was Sumerian. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian around 2400 BCE when Akkadian speakers arrived.
This language flourished till about Alexander’s time (336-323 BCE), with some regional changes occurring. From 1400 BCE, Aramaic also trickled in.
This language, similar to Hebrew, became widely spoken after 1000 BCE. It is still spoken in parts of Iraq. Archaeology in Mesopotamia began in the 1840s.
At one or two sites (including Uruk and Mari, which we discuss below), excavations continued for decades. (No Indian site has ever seen such long-term projects.)
Not only can we study hundreds of Mesopotamian buildings, statues, ornaments, graves, tools, and seals as sources, but there are also thousands of written documents.
Mesopotamia was important to Europeans because of references to it in the Old Testament, the first part of the Bible. For instance, the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament refers to ‘Shimar’, meaning Sumer, as a land of brick-built cities.
Travelers and scholars of Europe looked on Mesopotamia as a kind of ancestral land, and when archaeological work began in the area, there was an attempt to prove the literal truth of the Old Testament.
From the mid-nineteenth century there was no stopping the enthusiasm for exploring the ancient past of Mesopotamia.
In 1873, a British newspaper funded an expedition of the British Museum to search for a tablet narrating the story of the Flood, mentioned in the Bible. By the 1960s, it was understood that the stories of the Old Testament were not literally true, but may have been ways of expressing memories about important changes in history.
Gradually, archaeological techniques became far more sophisticated and refined. What is more, attention was directed to different questions, including reconstructing the lives of ordinary people. Establishing the literal truth of Biblical narratives receded into the background. Much of what we discuss subsequently in the chapter is based on these later studies.
Iraq is a land of diverse environments. In the northeast lie green, undulating plains, gradually rising to tree-covered mountain ranges with clear streams and wildflowers, with enough rainfall to grow crops. Here, agriculture began between 7000 and 6000 BCE.
In the north, there is a stretch of upland called a steppe, where animal herding offers people a better livelihood than agriculture after the winter rains, sheep and goats feed on the grasses and low shrubs that grow here.
To the east, tributaries of the Tigris provide routes of communication into the mountains of Iran.
The south is a desert – and this is where the first cities and writing emerged (see below). This desert could support cities because the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which rise in the northern mountains, carry loads of silt (fine mud). When they flood or when their water is let out on to the fields, fertile silt is deposited.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 History Chapter 2 Writing and City Life
Why Mesopotamia is considered important by Europeans? Give reasons. (VBQ)
Europeans considered Mesopotamian important on account of the following reasons:
- In Old Testament, there are references about it, which refer to ‘Shimar’, meaning the Sumer (the land of brick-built cities). It clearly refers to Mesopotamia, because early planned cities existed there.
- European scholars and travelers referred to Mesopotamia as their ancestral land.
- Archaeological discoveries also depict that Europeans had a keen interest in this region.
“Rivers play crucial role in the emergence of civilization”. Justify this statement in context to Mesopotamia. (HOTS)
Mesopotamia is situated between the land of two rivers, i.e. Euphrates and Tigris. Both these rivers originated from Armenia mountain in present-day Turkey. They drained a vast mountain region.
Although the climate of this area is dry yet agriculture is possible because of irrigation facilities. The favorable agricultural condition encouraged the people to reside in this region.
The surplus food production of crops enabled the agriculturist communities to feed those people such as craftsmen, priests, rulers, soldiers, etc. who were not practicing agriculture.
The nomadic pastoralist communities provided other essential needs of daily use to these people. Thus the settlement of all these in this region paved the way for the rise of civilization.
Give some facts to show geographical diversities that existed in Iraq.
Geographical diversity existed in Iraq. Some of these arguments that support it are the following:
- Northeast region is lush green region. It is also covered with mountain ranges with clear streams.
- There is plentiful rainfall in the region which is sufficient for growing crops.
- In Northern region there is a vast track of upland, called the steppe. In this region, animal herders reside who provide a better livelihood than agriculture.
- In the east, River Tigris and its tributaries flow which provide routes of communication into the mountain region of Iran.
NCERT Class 11 History Textbook Chapter 2 Writing and City Life With Answer PDF Free Download