Arch100 Week 6.2 Mesopotamia 10/9/2013
State Level Societies in SW Asia
Rise of States in SW Asia
Ubaid Period: 5,300 – 3,600 BC
Uruk Period: 3,600 – 3,100 BC
The Sumerians and their Achievements: 3,200 – 2,300 BC
Birth of a State
ChiefdomsSOMETIMES evolvedinto states, but this
is NOT inevitable.
State has more layers of complexity than a chiefdom
Unlike chiefdoms, statesusually have full time
specialists in things like crafts, bureaucracy, religion.
States Have Bureaucracy
Elaborate systems oftaxationand
Marketeconomiesrather than personal
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Statesare about power:
Economic: control of resources and
Ideological: control of symbols, religion,
Political: control of people and
Back up power with force, police.
Why do States
A big question in Archaeology and the study of
Earlier theoriesfocused on “prime movers” – one or
two key factors.
theory of statedevelopment”
Irrigation systemcreation and control
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Problems with Wittfogel
In 1960s, larger archaeological surveys,
particularly in Mesopotamia and Egypt,
showed that early states began in riverine
areas that needed minimal irrigation.
Only after centuries of state expansion
and population growth did states in these
regions begin huge irrigation projects.
valleys in 1970s.oked at ancient states in Peruvianriver
Limitationson agriculturallands meant that as populations
grew, all land was taken up.
Warfarebetween villages intensified,led to
professionalizationof military,conquest of all villages in a
valley by one leader.
Thus a state was born.
Problems with Carneiro
Furtherresearch in Peru in 1980s:wide
varietyof levels of social complexityat
different time periods.
No singleor simpleprocess of
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Many paths to a state
‘Prime Mover’ theoriesare simplistic
Look at interactionbetweenmany factors.
resources/technology,control of trade
Many paths towards developmentinto
Many paths to a state
In different regions, states arose for
different initial reasons.
Most states eventually take on many
traits defining state societies.
Many characteristics of states are the
consequence of growing social
complexity, not the cause of it.
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Why is it important?
Oldest city in the world: Uruk
Oldest state societyin region
Mathematics – 60 seconds,360 degrees
‘Ubaid Period (5300-3600 BC)
Uruk Period (3600-3100 BC);
Sumerians (3000-2300 BC) (in text this
is called the Early Dynastic Period)
Not a lot of disparity in wealth, social rankinguntil the
end of ‘Ubaid.
Most people lived in farmingvillages.
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Mud-brick architecture withreed roofing,took good
advantage of materials available locally.
The site of Eridu, in what is nowIraq, was founded as an
agricultural village around 5400 BC.
The later Sumerianssaw Eridu as a sacred ancient place,
called it “the earliest city.”
At the core of Eridu was a temple complex, whole series
of temples rebuilt on top of each other over a thousand-
• A ziggurat is large stepped temple mound
• Centre of urban life in the region.
Reconstructionof a Ziggurat
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Early Temple at Eridu
The earliest temple, in the core,is only 14 square metres, single
roomwith altar dating to 4500 BC.
By 4000 BC this had been enlarged to include a small stepped
ziggurat, much more imposingshrine.
Well after the ‘Ubaid Period (post-3600BC), it developed into a
Uruk Period: 3600-3100 BC
First developmentof large urban centres.
City of Uruk
Largest settlement in region at this time.
Grew from two Ubaid towns on either side of a
channel of Euphrates