Mesopotamia is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Farmers used the river water to irrigate fields and grow plentiful crops. Around 3500 BC, the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia built the world’s first cities, including Ur, Uruk, and Eridu.
Mighty kings, who commanded large armies, had strong cities, great palaces, and magnificent royal tombs made. The kings were assisted by priests and well-trained scribes, who collected taxes, controlled irrigation projects, and took charge of laws governing city crafts and trade. Priests also served the gods in ziggurats (temples).
Mesopotamian builders built ziggurats and houses from bricks made of mud mixed with chopped straw (left to dry and harden in the sun). Teams of workmen moved huge loads of bricks using sleds on wooden rollers, or carried smaller quantities in baskets on their backs. Mud was used as a mortar to bind the bricks.
Ziggurats were holy “mountains,” where people could get closer to the gods. The ziggurat at Ur (in modern Iraq) was built in around 2100 BC. Originally, it had three tall terraces (raised levels), one on top of the other, which were planted with trees and flowers. A shrine to Nanna, the Moon god, stood at the top. Today, only the temple’s lower section survives.