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  Why ancient Iraq was so important
Updated 17 April 2003, 13.18

Iraq is one of the oldest countries on Earth.

When people say "old", they mean one of the first civilisations appeared there over 5,000 years ago.

First writing

The first writing, called cuneiform, appeared there before anywhere else on the planet in an area once known as Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamia was home to the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Fifth century BC historian, Herodotus, believed the Garden of Eden was there as well.

Other firsts

The Sumerians, who came from Sumeria next door to Mesopotamia, invented the first wheel and used them on chariots.

By 3,500 BC, the Sumerians had developed ways to control the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which flowed through the area, building canals to water their crops.

The ziggurat of Borsippa, just south of Babylon, Iraq
The ziggurat of Borsippa

Along with the Egyptians, the peoples of Mesopotamia built the first massive buildings. But unlike the stone Pyramids of Egypt, the Sumerians used mud-bricks to build what they called their Ziggurats.

Ziggurats were pyramid-like buildings, but archaeologists are still not absolutely sure what they were used for.

Other inventions to come out of that area are:

  • Water clock
  • Plough
  • Sailboat
  • 12-month calendar (based on lunar cycles).


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