Mesopotamia Labor Force

The most ancient civilizations known to man first developed there writing, schools, libraries, written law codes, agriculture, irrigation, farming and moved us from prehistory to history. It’s giving Mesopotamia the reputation of being the cradle of civilization.

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.

Due to the climate of the region the rivers receive little rainfall during most of the year. This means that farmers have to deal with drought conditions. The other part of the year the heavy rains produce huge floods that cause great damage to homes and crops, and loss of life.

In ancient times, as farms produced surplus food, cities grew along the banks of the rivers. Larger farms were needed to provide food for the cities. Better methods of transporting water to the fields had to be developed.

The soil of Mesopotamia yielded the civilization’s major building material – mud brick. Stone was rare, and certain types had to be imported for sculpture. Variety of metals, as well as shells and precious stones, were used for the finest sculpture and inlays.

Slavery was an accepted institution in all major civilizations emerging in Mesopotamia. War captives seems to have been the major source od slaves. Few details of the institution, however, are available. Historians believe that slvery as a major institution probably occurred with the development of agriculture about 10,000 BC.

This of course occurred in Mesopotamia. Agriculture required a labor force and thus a way of profitably utilzing war captives, both the captive warriors and civilians seized in war. Only imited numbers of slaves coulkd be used by nomads. The supervision and control of slaves was was a problem for nomads. Escape would have been reativeky easy.

Other sources of slaves were criminals as well as people who failed to pay their debts. Very little is known about slavery in the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia. Archeologists have found scattered refeences to slavery in Sumeria, Assyria, and Babalonia, mostly from remanents of legal codes which have survived.