Ancient Mesopotamia was a region which did not have many natural resources. Therefore, the people who lived there needed to trade with neighboring countries in order to acquire the resources they needed to live.
Trade and commerce developed in Mesopotamia because the farmers learned how to irrigate their land. They could grow more food than they could eat. They used the surplus to trade for goods and services. Ur, a city-state in Sumer, was a major center for commerce and trade.
Temples were the chief employer and location for commercial activity. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers made transport of goods easy and economical. Riverboats were used to transport goods for trade. Strong currents moved the boats downstream, but because of the current they could travel in one direction only.
The system of trade developed from people’s need. People in the mountains needed wheat and barley. Mountain people could give timber, limestone, gold, silver, and copper. Flax was grown in the river valley and then woven into cloth. Linen garments were worn by priests and holy men.
Wool and wool cloth were also important for trade. Wood was used for ships and furniture. Grain, oils and textiles were taken from Babylonia to foreign cities and exchanged for timber, wine, precious metals and stones. In addition, merchants from other countries travelled to Babylonia to exchange their goods.
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.
In ancient Mesopotamia money wasn’t used to trade goods and services. The Mesopotamians used the barter system instead. They developed a writing system to keep track of buying and selling. Scribes kept accurate records of business transactions by writing on clay tablets.
Early Mesopotamian trade, according to a research by historians, might have played a role in the gradual shift from a barter economy to one that used commodities such as silver or grain in payment. After the Sargon period, Mesopotamia developed a uniform standard of weights and measurements, further attesting to a more sophisticated system of import and export norms.
During the time of Sargon and up to later Assyrian dominance, Mesopotamia traded grain, wool, and textiles for honey, raisins, resins, spices, and bitumen used for ship-building. Evidence of extensive trade has been documented through archaeological finds of thousands of stone tablets that recorded exports and imports by Mesopotamian scribes.
Historians have pointed out that as Assyrian cities, like Nineveh, grew, the local regions around these cities could no longer sustain urban populations through agriculture. This necessitated either trade for grain and other food stuffs or conquest involving tribute.
In terms of trade, Assyrians facilitated a broad export enterprise, often through client or subjugated states. Assyrian also developed an early silk industry. All these achievements resulted in successful trade in ancient Mesopotamia.