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CBSE Notes | Class 11 | Social Science | History | Chapter 2 - Writing and City Life

The chapter introduces students to Mesopotamian culture, geography etc. It also enlists the development and the importance of writing. We also highlight the urbanisation process that began in southern Mesopotamia.

What is Mesopotamia?

Mesopotamia comes from the Greek words Mesos, which means middle, and potamos, which means river. The territory is located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers that is now part of Iraq's Republic

Mesopotamian Civilisation

Mesopotamian civilisation is known for its wealth, city life, extensive and rich literature, as well as mathematics and astronomy. After 2000 BCE, its writing system and literature spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean, northern Syria, and Turkey. 

The kingdoms of that region were writing to one another and to Egypt's Pharaoh in Mesopotamia's language and script.

Urbanised Centres

  • Sumer and Akkad were the names of the land given to the urbanised areas.

  • Babylon became a significant city after 2000 BCE, and the term Babylonia was applied to the southern region, later known as Assyria in 1100 BCE when the Assyrians established their kingdom in the north. 


  • Sumerian was the land's first known language.

  • When Akkadian speakers arrived around 2400 BCE, they gradually replaced it. This language flourished until around the time of Alexander the Great (336-323 BCE), with some regional variations. 

Aramaic began to appear around 1400 BCE. After 1000 BCE, the language, which was similar to Hebrew, became widely spoken. Still spoken in some parts of Iraq.

The Significance of Uruk & Mari

In Mesopotamia, archaeology began in the 1840s at Uruk and Mari, where there are not only statues, buildings, or ornaments, but also a large number of written documents to study Mesopotamia's history.

How did the geography of Mesopotamia influence various practices?


  • Between 7000 and 6000 BCE, agriculture began in Iraq, a land of diverse ecosystems. 

  • In the northeast, green, undulating plains give way to tree-covered mountain ranges with clear streams and wildflowers, all of which receive sufficient rainfall to grow crops.

Animal Hearding

In a stretch of upland known as steppe in the north, where sheep and goats feed on the grasses and low shrubs that grow here after the winter rains, animal herding provides a better livelihood than agriculture. 


  • The Tigris' tributaries provide access to Iran's eastern mountains. The south of the river is followed by a desert, and it is here that the first cities and written language were founded.

  • The Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which originate in the northern mountains and carry silt, could sustain cities (fine mud). When they flood or when their water is released onto the fields, fertile silt is deposited.

  • Once the Euphrates enters the desert, its water flows out in small channels. These channels flood their banks and served as irrigation canals in the past, allowing water to be released as needed into wheat, barley, pea, or lentil fields.

Way Forward

Despite a lack of adequate rainfall for crop cultivation, southern Mesopotamia's agriculture was the most productive.

Meat, milk, and wool were plentiful among Mesopotamian sheep and goats that roamed the steppe, northeastern plains, and mountain slopes.

Additionally, rivers contained fish, and date palms produced fruit during the summer.

What metals were used by the Mesopotamians?

The first cities in Mesopotamia date from around 3000 BCE, during the bronze age. Utilizing bronze necessitated the transportation of these metals over great distances.

Precision carpentry, drilling beads, carving stone seals, and cutting shells for inlaid furniture, all of these required metal tools. 

Mesopotamian weapons were also made of bronze.