Last Updated 28 Mar 2021

Economics and Social Structure of Sumerians

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This was Mesopotamia (Greek for "between two rivers"). It was around 4000 BCE that a people called Sumerians moved into Mesopotamia.

By 3800 BCE the Sumerians had supplanted the Ubaidians and Semites in southern Mesopotamia. They built better canals for irrigating crops and for transporting crops by boat to village centers. They improved their roads, over which their donkeys trod, some of their donkeys pulling wheeled carts. And the Sumerians grew in number, the increase in population the key element in creating what we call civilization. Civilization is a word derived from an ancient word for city. Livings around each city were fields of grain, orchards of date palms, and land for herding.

Besides planting and harvesting crops, some Sumerians hunted, fished, or raised livestock. In addition to an increase in population, civilization was also about variety, and enough food was produced to support people who worked at other occupations  such as the priesthood, pottery making, weaving, carpentry and smithing. There were also traders, and the Sumerians developed an extensive commerce by land and sea. They built seaworthy ships, and they imported from afar items made from the wood, stone, tin and copper not found nearby The Sumerians used slaves, although they were not a major part of the economy.

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Slave women worked as weavers, pressers, millers, and porters. The social structure of the Sumerians was decidedly different from other societies of that and later times. The Sumerian communities were city states organized around a temple and ruled by a priesthood. There was a class of craftsmen in addition to the priests and peasants. The craftmen devoted most of their time to producing things for either the temples or the warrior-soldiers which protected the temple community. The people were to devote their lives to propitiating the gods to prevent calamities from befalling the community.

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