Sumerian Civilization Essay, Research Paper
Civilizations have been created throughout the history of the world. There have been hundreds of established civilizations that have worked because of three important key traits. A civilization must have cities, specialized workers, and some form of writing system. (Krieger.et.al.31,32) These three things are what scholars believe make a culture “civilized”. (Krieger.et.al.31)
The Sumerians, who lived in the southern part of Mesopotamia, are known as the first group of people to become civilized. (Krieger.et.al.31) The first, and most important step they took was the creation of cities. Even the word civilization comes from the Latin word for city. (Krieger.et.al.31) The Sumerians had built at least a dozen cities by 3000 B.C. (Krieger.et.al.31) A city is not just people living closely together, it is a communing center for people to trade, sell and socialize. A trading center is vital to a civilization. This is where civilians get different goods and services that they may not have in their society. Each person specializes in a particular kind of work and exchanges goods with other specialists. (Krieger.et.al.32) These specialized workers are the second key trait in creating a civilization.
The Sumerians lived in Sumer, one of their dozen or so cities. (Krieger.et.al.31) In Sumer, scribes, day in and day out, would write letters for people, copy down laws, and keep business records for merchants. (Krieger.et.al.32) They were corner stones in this particular society. They were also specialists. They performed their job in exchange for food, clothing, and shelter. (Krieger.et.al.32) Seems like a pretty sweet deal if you knew how to read and write. There were many types of specialists for all types of jobs; schoolmasters, merchants, priests, potters, metalworkers, and weavers. (Krieger.et.al.32) The specialists who made things by hand were called artisans. They became a very important social group as cities developed. (Krieger.et.al.32) An important specialization was obtaining food. As people became more and more skilled in doing this, surpluses in food were created.
(Krieger.et.al.32) In Sumer, extra food was traded to other specialists for their goods and sometimes to pay for taxes. (Krieger.et.al.32) It was a very efficient way of getting everyone what they wanted. Now, because there were people who were really good at getting food, raising food was no longer a full time job. (Krieger.et.al.32) This made it possible for people to specialize. Get it.
The third and most useful trait of a civilization is a system of writing. This also made its debut in Sumer with the Sumerians. (Krieger.et.al.32) There form of writing was called “cuneiform”, which is a Latin word for wedge. (Krieger.et.al.32) Writing became a necessity in city life for priests, merchants, or anyone else that had to keep track of something. (Krieger.et.al.33) Eventually, other forms of writing came into play such as pictographs, ideograms, and cuneiform signs. (Krieger.et.al.33) Pictographs were symbols of commonly traded items such as oxen, a donkey, or a sack of grain. (Krieger.et.al.33) Ideograms were ideas that had a related symbol such as a house for safety. (Krieger.et.al.33) Cuneiform signs stood for syllables instead of a whole word. (Krieger.et.al.33) With these they could put together anything from business records to poems. (Krieger.et.al.33) Because they now had a way of tracking things through writing, their society could function on a more efficient and accurate basis.
These three coinciding traits of a civilization have been put together many times over thousands of years and have successfully created many civilizations. I think that scholars are definitely correct in assuming that these are the main traits one must have in putting together a working civilization. I find it amazing that people were communicating and trading and ultimately living thousands of years ago. It is really interesting to read about how civilizations were started and how they advanced through the ages.