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Free Essay Sample «Economy of Mesopotamia»

«Economy of Mesopotamia»

Mesopotamia is famous for pioneering many inventions which served economic development of the whole world. The major part of Mesopotamia is currently occupied by Iraq; however, some parts of the country are found in Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The country consisted of fertile lands and is located in the basin of two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Presence of water encouraged people to settle in the region to domesticate animals and grow crops. Mesopotamia became the cradle land of a very rich and complex society. The growth of the population in the country stimulated the development of agriculture. In addition, agriculture in Mesopotamia has flourished dramatically because of fertile soil and availability of water from the two rivers for irrigation. Apart from agriculture, Mesopotamia participated in both internal and external trade. Trading activities resulted in the development of urban centers in the places where people met to exchange goods and services. Many developments in the agricultural sector led to high production, resulting in surplus for the market. Therefore, Mesopotamia is the cornerstone of the world economy.

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The main economic activity in the early Mesopotamia was agriculture. The major crop grown in the country was barley, which was used for making beer (Simons 81). Apart from brewing, barley was also used as a means of payment to laborers. Other crops which were cultivated in Mesopotamia include sesame, wheat, and date palms. Horticulture was also practiced in Mesopotamia as the population planted fruits and vegetables. Apart from crop cultivation, Mesopotamians also practiced cattle breeding. Particularly, they reared sheep and goats. Wool production from sheep contributed to development of a variety of cloth fabrics. Goats were kept to provide meat. Cloth fabrics were made in local industries and later used as trade items both locally and regionally. Agriculture led to the development of a class of wealthy merchants who produced a surplus for sale. Other nations neighboring Mesopotamia started raiding the region because of its ability to produce enough food for the people. The locals started protecting themselves by building a wall around their towns. Mesopotamia also had craftsmen who used to work on copper and bronze to produce farm tools. Use of advanced agricultural tools was vital in boosting output. The farmers had a good knowledge of the calendar, which they based on flooding of the river Tigris. The calendar helped them to establish plans for planting crops on time. Water for irrigation was delivered using canals and ditches. Hence, agricultural activities formed the backbone of the economy of Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamia had physicians, whose main job was to keep people in good health and threat them when they became sick. Physicians consisted of surgeons and veterinarians (Talbert 218). Doctors were present during child delivery to act as midwives, and they were paid for such chores. They treated people in temples; however, they used to go door to door regularly treating the sick. Such practices ensured that Mesopotamia had a healthy population who could participate in nation-building. Mesopotamia influenced many countries such as Greece and Egypt, developing their understanding of the need of medical practice and good health for their development. In the field of medicine, Mesopotamia established professions for diagnosis and pharmaceutical treatment of its people. Mesopotamian medical practices, which were later adopted by Greeks, are still practiced today. Apart from physicians, there existed veterinarian doctors who used to care for animals when they are sick and treat them.

Developments in the agricultural sector contributed to the division and specialization of labor. The division of labor, in its turn, resulted in the development of various occupational categories. In the early Mesopotamia, people specialized in different fields of production, which included farming and livestock rearing. Those individuals who lived in fertile areas with water practiced irrigation. Division of labor and specialization also resulted in increased production because individuals could concentrate on the line of products which they could produce best. Specialization of labor enabled people to exploit their full potential because they engaged in activities which best suited them. Other people specialized in trade, which was conducted both locally and regionally.

In Mesopotamia, trade emerged as individuals tried to acquire what they could not produce. They practiced barter trade because there was no standard medium of exchange. There were several challenges facing barter trade such lack of a unit of account and indivisibility of some products. Local trade was practiced when goods produced and distributed locally. These included agriculture and farming products, which were exchanged between local populations. Long-distance trade emerged due to demand for resources such as copper and luxury items which were not produced in Mesopotamia (Talbert 67). Trade contributed to the emergence of a class of rich people in Mesopotamian cities who formed caravans and participated in long-distance trade. Heavy goods were transported using oxen, while during long-distance trade donkeys were used to carry goods and people. Later the wheel was invented to solve the problem of transport (Ur 250). Mesopotamia also participated in regional trade, especially with Europe and Saudi Arabia. Besides, they traded with other countries and kingdoms that were bordering them. Mesopotamia exported grains, cooking oil, baskets, leather items and jewelry and imported gold from Egypt, ivory from India, silver from the Anatolian Peninsula, and tin from the Persian Gulf region. Trade between Mesopotamia and its neighbors promoted peace and understanding, which is important for economic development.

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Due to many challenges that faced barter trade, Mesopotamia introduced money as a means of exchange. During barter trade, it was very difficult for people to know whether they were getting a good deal during exchange. Mesopotamia introduced silver and barley to act as the standard of value. Silver was chosen because it was portable and its supply could be predicted year by year (Ur 252). It became a means of payment for labor and goods during exchange. Kings used a shekel of silver in order to levy fines as punishments. Apart from silver, other types of metal were used to make money, particularly tin, copper, and bronze. The invention of money revolutionized how people buy and sell goods, making trading activities easier. On the other hand, some challenges started to emerge after the invention of money, which included cheating on measurements. For instance, some traders could tamper with scales. Nevertheless, money had characteristics which made it a better means of payment than barter trade. Thus, it acted as a unit of account, store of value, which was divisible into smaller units and thus soon became widely recognized as the official means of payment. Money became widely known as the only means of payment in Mesopotamia, bringing the barter exchange system to an end.

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Labor market developed in Mesopotamia as agriculture and economy continued to grow. Advancements in agriculture resulted in the production of surplus in the market (Zarins and Hauser 33). As a result, labor market development resulted in the emergence of various professions, which were listed on the tables excavated on the territory of ancient Mesopotamia. The main professions during that time included tradesmen, butchers, weavers, bakers, blacksmiths, potters, brewers, cloth makers and tanners. Before money was introduced, workers were paid for their labor using barley. The Code of Hammurabi gave guidelines on maximum and minimum wages. Besides, there were many civil servants who were employed by the local administration. In the civil service, the highest rank of workers was the scribes, who were working closely with the king. Many people were employed in different sectors to earn money to buy goods and meet other needs that required money. In the workplace, both genders enjoyed the same rights. When trade became a very lucrative venture, it was taken over by men, although initially women dominated in trade activities.

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Mesopotamia had an organized production of handmade goods. There existed the production of manufactured goods by the Sumerians (Zarins and Hauser 14). The largest industry of making handcrafted goods was weaving wool, which employed a large number of people. The sense of ownership and development of private property were also ideas started by the Sumerians, which contributed to the development of modern businesses. Many business transactions in industries were recorded. People from Mesopotamia also made bricks, using soil, grass or hay, and water from the River Euphrates in their construction. The rapid development of industries made people move from rural areas to come and work in urban centers. Some of the industries were making their products from locally produced raw materials such as wool. Other commodities crafted locally included pots furniture and farm tools. There were also blacksmiths who specialized in iron smelting and made various tools and equipment. They also produced arrows, which were used as a weapon during wars.

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Mesopotamia was a leader in augmenting labor and capital with technology. People invented new technologies such as glass and lamp making, water storage and flood control (Robson 39). They also had a technology to produce different tools from minerals. For instance, their king lived in a palace which was richly decorated with gold. Introduction of various technologies boosted economic development, especially the agricultural sector. For instance, the shadouf method of irrigation made farmers’ work much easier. Using this method, more land could be irrigated. The Baghdad battery, which was the first battery in the world, was created in Mesopotamia. Development of technology made work easier and more efficient, thus making people produce more without devoting considerable effort and time. The technology used during that period in Mesopotamia has formed the basis of modern technology. The technology was vital for development and growth of the economy of Mesopotamia as it led to the production of enough food for the population and surplus for market. Mesopotamia is the home of many technologies which are used globally.

Many cities emerged in Mesopotamia because of trading activities. Merchants who participated in trade invested in building of markets, leading to the development of urban centers. The world’s first cities were established in Mesopotamia. Babylon became the headquarters of the Kingdom of Babylonia, accommodating the administrative functions of the kingdom (Robson 39). The development of cities in the world economy started in Mesopotamia because of trading activities. Cities promoted commerce due existence of market places where people could meet and exchange their commodities. Another factor that stimulated faster growth of cities is the development of skills in different architectural designs and the growth of the manpower, which could do the construction works. Urbanization has helped the world economies in promoting trade and developing industrial bases of different countries around the globe. Many cities acted as administrative centers and attracted investments, which promoted the growth of states.

The kingdom of Mesopotamia conducted irrigation works in order to boost the economy. The country was strategically placed between two rivers, which provided water for irrigation and domestic use. Some factors that facilitated irrigation included the invention of the canal method, dikes and watering cans, which were used to obtain water directly from a river (Varberg et al. 170). Canals were used to direct water from rivers to the fields. Another method of irrigation that was used in Mesopotamia is the shadouf method. By putting more land under irrigation, people increased crop production, where the surplus production was taken to market. Besides, irrigation was done throughout the year. Development of commercial activities, in turn, facilitated the development of urban centers.

The transport system was important in the development of Mesopotamia. With the development of the wheel and water transport, transportation of goods became easier. Bulky goods were transported in oxen carts and riverboats (Varberg et al. 168). Long-distance traders used donkeys to transport their goods. Using donkeys for transportation was very convenient because they could pass in places which could not be accessed by oxen carts. Development of better means of transport promoted trade as the transportation of goods and people become faster, easier, and more efficient. Improved transport system enabled timely delivery of goods and services to consumers. Additionally, development of sea routes enabled sailors to transport goods to longer distances (Talbert 231). Water transport made transportation of goods through the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates easier and faster. Sailors used strong water currents to sail across the rivers. Development of better transport system and trade routes in Mesopotamia was important for the development of the economy of the country and its trade activities. The invention of the wheel, which happened in Mesopotamia, further contributed to the development of even more efficient transport.

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The presence of developed trade routes further promoted commercial activities in the country. Mesopotamians used these routes to access resources such as metal and timber in other regions. Trade routes opened Mesopotamia to the outside world. People who came to Mesopotamia borrowed some aspects of their civilization, such as keeping business records, whereas Mesopotamians adopted some new technologies such as metal work thanks to their trade expeditions. Some trade routes which passed through rivers and seas gave rise to fishing. Sailors used to conduct fishing to supplement their diet, which finally became an important economic activity in Mesopotamia (Simons 67). Trade routes opened Mesopotamia for trading activities and interaction with the outside world. Rich caravans used these trade routes to acquire what was not available in their home countries and dispose of their surplus goods.

In conclusion, Mesopotamia is a country that existed in the Middle East and became a cornerstone of the world economy. The country that was located on the territory of Iraq gave rise to the modern civilization. Many inventions in the early Mesopotamia contributed to modern developments in agriculture, architecture, irrigation, and craftsmanship. Barley was the major crop produced in Mesopotamia, which was used for brewing. The labor market developed in Mesopotamia as agriculture and the economy continued to grow. Advancements in agriculture resulted in the production of surplus in the market. Growth and expansion of the agricultural sector resulted in the division of labor and job specialization. Division of labor gave rise to emergence of various occupational categories. In Mesopotamia, trade emerged as an attempt of local population to acquire what they did not produce. They practiced barter trade because there was no standard medium of exchange. Due to problems associated with barter trade, money was introduced in Mesopotamia. Money was portable and could be used as a measure of wealth. Craftsmanship was also a very vital aspect of the economy of Mesopotamia. Most craftsmen used copper and bronze. Finally, many cities emerged because of trading activities. Merchants who participated in trade invested in building cities around market centers.


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