Mesopotamia was a region which did not have many natural resources. Therefore, the people who lived there needed to trade with neighbouring countries in order to acquire the resources they needed to live.
The first hammered metal artefacts were found in the highlands of the Zagros and Taurus mountains. However, as R. J. Forbes (the Birthplace of Old World Metallurgy), pointed out, ” in the ancient Near East, the supply of Native Copper was quickly exhausted, and the miner had to turn to ores.
The Art of Metallurgy soon encompassed the ability to alloy copper with other metals, resulting in a hard, but malleable metal, we call Bronze. The Bronze Age, our first Metallurgical Age, was also a Mesopotamian contribution to modern civilization.
Much of ancient commerce, was devoted to the metals trade, it also formed the basis for the development in Mesopotamia of banking, and the first money the silver shekel (“weighed ingot”).
The many varieties of metals and alloys for which Sumerian and Akkadian names have been found, and the extensive technological terminology… attest to the high level of metallurgy… in ancient Mesopotamia. For a while this puzzled scholars, because Sumer, as such, was devoid of metal ores, yet metallurgy… most definitely began there.
Smelting, refining, and alloying, as well as casting, could not be done without ample supplies of fuels to fire the kilns, crucibles and furnaces. Mesopotamia may have lacked ores, but it had fuels in abundance. So the ores were brought to the fuels, which explains many early inscriptions describing the bringing of metal ores, from afar.
The fuels that made Sumer technologically supreme, were bitumen and asphalt, petroleum products, that naturally seeped up to the surface, in many places in Mesopotamia.
R. J. Forbes (Bitumen and Petroleum in Antiquity), shows that the surface deposits of Mesopotamia, were the ancient world’s prime source of fuels, from the earliest times to the Roman era. His conclusion is that the technological use of these petroleum products, began in Sumer, circa 3500 BC, indeed, he shows that the use and knowledge of fuels, and their properties, were greater in Sumerian times than in later civilizations.
This article gives information on:
Ancient Mesopotamian Resources