Ancient Mesopotamian People

Two cultural groups form the principle elements in the population of Mesopotamia before the beginning of history and in the millennium thereafter (the 3rd millennium BC). These are the Sumerians and the Akkadians. They lived peacefully together. Mesopotamian sources in all periods seem to be free of strong racial ideologies or ethnic stereotypes.

The people responsible for the first monumental temples and palaces, for the founding of the first city states and most likely for the invention of writing are the Sumerians. It is generally assumed that the Sumerians were also responsible for the pictographic signs.

Akkadians or Semi-nomads in the Near East. Even at the time that a large part of the population in Mesopotamia had a sedentary (non-migratory) life in settlements; large groups of people at the same time were migrating.

Semi-nomads graze their small live stock near the fields of the settlements, often trading for goods obtained elsewhere and having all kinds of other interactions. These Nomads left little archeological trace and were illiterate, so not much is known about them by direct means.

Mesopotamia had no natural boundaries and it was difficult to defend. The influence of neighboring countries was large. Throughout the history of Mesopotamia trade contacts, slow diffusion of foreign tribes and military confrontations were of great influence.

Mesopotamia’s neighbors in the 3rd millennium in the east were the Elamites, in the west was the city of Ebla, the other neighbors were Gutians, Amorites, Kassites, Hittites, Sea people, Arameans.

Furthermore, there were four main classes of people in ancient Sumer – the priests, the upper class, the lower class, and the slaves. The priests were powerful. They were in charge of making sure everyone behaved in a way that would make the gods happy. They were the doctors of the time. In the Upper Class Men and women wore jewelry, especially rings.

Men wore skirts and had long hair, curly moustaches, and long beards. Women wore dresses, off one shoulder. They had long hair, which they braided or wore up in fancy arrangements. It was easy to tell who were the priests. The priests shaved their heads. Everyone wore cloaks made from sheep wool to keep warm in winter.

In the Lower Class in ancient Sumer, people were paid for their work. If they ran a shop or worked in the fields, they were paid for their goods or labor. Stealing was a serious crime and punishment was severe. Everybody paid, even the king.

Although the lower class did not have the luxury lifestyle of the rich, they were comfortable. They worked very hard, but they had homes. They wore jewelry, although perhaps it was not made of gold.

They followed the clothing fashions of the time as much as possible. There was no law that said they could not move up the social scale, or more likely, have their children move up the social scale by becoming a scribe, or a priest or priestess.

The Slaves- When the Sumerians conquered another town, they brought prisoners back with them to act as slaves. Slaves worked for the king, the temple and the wealthy. Slaves were bought and sold. Records have been found recording the amount paid for a slave. Typically, a slave bought at auction cost less than a donkey but more than a cow.

This describes the diverse classes of people in ancient Mesopotamia.