Tools in Mesopotamia

by Dianne Laguerta
During the Bronze Age, the Sumerians considerably improved local tools.

During the Bronze Age, the Sumerians considerably improved local tools.

Mesopotamia, or "the land between rivers," refers to the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, located within the borders of today's Syria, Kuwait, Iraq and parts of Iran and Turkey. Though many groups settled and conquered parts of Mesopotamia over time, one of the most technologically advanced were the Sumerians. The Sumerians had many tools made of wood, stone and various metals. They used their tools for building homes, farming, warfare and artwork.

Historical Timeline

The Sumerians ruled the area of southern Mesopotamia known as Sumer from about 5000 to 1750 B.C. Prior to the Sumerians, the people who lived in Mesopotamia were the Ubaids. Although they had already moved from a hunting and gathering society to an agrarian one, their tools, such as hoes, axes, knives and hunting gear, were made largely from stone, passed down from the Neolithic Age. They also were known for using clay in building homes and creating various types of pottery and figurines. However, the arrival of the Sumerians marked new technological advances, as well as increased social and cultural activities, such as writing and trading.

Bronze and Weaponry

The use of bronze was an important advance in upgrading the types of tools found in Mesopotamia. Bronze, which was introduced in Mesopotamia in 3000 B.C., was first produced using copper and antimony or lead. Later, smelters created bronze by mixing copper and tin, producing a hard alloy. Many weapons were made with bronze, including swords, daggers and axes. More advanced weaponry enabled the Sumerians to become a powerful, warring force. The Sumerians are also credited with the creation of the wheel, which led to the development of war chariots, improving their success in battle.

Farming Tools

Farming and irrigation expanded during the Sumerian period. These creative people invented the plough, which dug up the soil to prepare it for sowing plants. The wheel improved farming methods with the use of carts. The Sumerians are also credited with impressive hydraulic engineering techniques, creating dams, levees, drains, reservoirs and canals to irrigate farms, provide water to settlements and help control floods. The expansion of agriculture due to better tools and technology led to the rise of city-states, which scholars define as a civilization.

Writing Tools

Scribes made the characteristic wedge-shaped cuneiform symbols by pressing a stylus into soft clay.

One of the most momentous tools that the Sumerians used was their writing system. The Sumerians created clay tablets and a cut reed stylus to record the cuneiform script. Only a small group of literate, highly trained scribes could record information using the script, due to its difficulty. With a writing system, Sumerians were able to record history and religious rituals, calculate engineering feats, record administrative information and send letters.

About the Author

Dianne Laguerta is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in history and Middle Eastern studies. She studied and conducted research in Cairo, Egypt during the 2012 Egyptian elections, and has traveled throughout the Middle East.

Photo Credits

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