Mesopotamia was quite low on natural resources and they needed to trade for many of their day-to-day items. Some of the things they traded were Grain, Oils, and textiles, and in return, they got timber, wine, and precious metals and stones. Some merchants worked locally and just strapped their goods on their back or carried them in a sack; they would often trade small amounts of grain, meat, fish, and precious stones.
Others traveled from some parts of Mesopotamia to completely different regions such as Babylonia, Assyria, and Sumeria. They also had different means of transport for different types of goods.
The earliest known use of the wheel was a potter’s wheel that was used at Ur in Mesopotamia (part of modern day Iraq} as early as 3500 BC. The first use of the wheel for transportation was probably on Mesopotamian chariots in 3200 BC. It is interesting to note that wheels may have had industrial or manufacturing applications before they were used on vehicles.
During the Old Babylonian period (about 2000-1600 B.C.) merchants from southern Mesopotamia travelled to cities and distant lands to trade their goods. Many different types of transport were used for carrying goods from place to place. Merchants used several different methods for transporting their goods depending on what they were transporting. For example, grain was quite bulky and was best transported on a boat, whereas precious stones were likely to be small, so they could be transported on foot or by donkey.
They made the world’s first boats, using the canal system, for easy water borne transportation of people, goods, and cattle. They also engaged in deep-water seafaring, using a variety of ships to reach faraway lands; in search of metals, rare woods, and other materials. They produced many specialized sea vessels. Over land they used carts and chariots, as well as their air ships.
The Mesopotamians were clever people and used interesting types of boats. The Mesopotamians used three types of boats: wooden boats with a triangular sail, the turnip or Guffa boat which was shaped like a tub, made of reeds and covered with skin, and the kalakku which was a raft of timbers supported by inflated animal skins. The invention of the wheel by the Sumerians revolutionalized the transportation. Wagons could be used to carry heavy loads.
The rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, helped in water transportation of the goods. It was more economical. Wood went into the manufacture of boats, furniture and ships. As the boats had to face strong river currents, they were frequently damaged.
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Ancient Mesopotamian Transportation