The Marsh Arabs (Ma’dan) are found at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates in the south. In the north of Iraq the gates of Ninevah the Assyrian capital with their imaginative stone winged-bulls mark the place where the prophet Jonah is said to have preached penance to the wicked inhabitants, all of whom repented, much to Jonah’s chagrin.
Later neighboring Mosul became the crossroads of the great caravan routes. Kirkuk is the oil center of the north and boasts of the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Daniel. The city of Mosul has given us the cloth that bears its name “muslin” as well as building materials, alabaster and gypsum cement with its remarkable strength and rapid-drying properties.
Around 2400 B.C. the Sumerians developed an ingenious sexagesimal system to represent all integers from 1 to 59 using 59 different patterns of wedges (cunei cuneiform) which were usually imprinted in soft clay and later hardened. Integers from 60 to 3600 were then represented by a different symbol for 60 which was combined with the other 59 patterns.
Like our decimal system it was positional so that the successive symbols were assumed to be multiplied by decreasing powers of 60. For instance, the number 365 in the decimal system would, in the sexagesimal system, be written 6 5 (= 6 times 60 + 5 times 1), just as 65 in our decimal system of base ten means 6 times 10 plus 5 times 1.
In the seventh century came the Muslim Conquest and the Baghdad Caliphs had more to offer than Sindbad, Scheherazade with her 1,001 stories, Aladdin and his wonderful lamp, Ali Baba and the forty thieves. The city of Baghdad became a center of Muslim power, the capital of the Abbasid Empire for five centuries (750-1258 A.D.), and the center of a flourishing Arab culture. In 1232 A.D. the Caliph Al-Mustansir founded, in the middle of Baghdad, Al Mustanseria, one of the earliest universities. However, later in the 13th century Baghdad was plundered by the Mongols and stagnated for centuries.
Sumer (4000 – 2000 BC) southern region of ancient Mesopotamia, and later southern part of Babylon now south central Iraq. An agricultural civilization flourished here during the 3rd and 4th millennia BC. The Sumerians built canals, established an irrigation system, and were skilled In the use of metals (silver, gold, copper) to make pottery, jewelry and weapons.
King Sargon of Agade brought the region under the Semites (c. 2600 BC) who blended their culture with the Sumerians The final Sumerian civilization at Ur fell to Elam, and when Semitic Babyloma under Hammurabi (c 2000 BC) controlled the land the Sumerian nation vanished.
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Ancient Mesopotamian Major Events