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Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of CivilizationThe Evolution of an Urban Landscape$
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Guillermo Algaze

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226013770

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226013787.001.0001

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Early Mesopotamian Urbanism: Why?

Early Mesopotamian Urbanism: Why?

(p.40) CHAPTER FOUR Early Mesopotamian Urbanism: Why?
Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the unique ecology and geography of the alluvial lowlands of the Tigris–Euphrates rivers during the fifth and fourth millennia bc. The former gave early polities in the area important advantages in agricultural productivity and subsistence resource resilience not possessed by potential rivals on their periphery, while the latter gave them enduring cost advantages in the accumulation and distribution of resources, both local and foreign, as a result of water transport. Derived entirely from what Cronon refers to as the “natural landscape,” these advantages created opportunities and incentives that made it both possible and probable that early Mesopotamian elites would see trade as a particularly viable way to legitimize and expand their unequal access to resources and power.

Keywords:   ecology, geography, alluvial lowlands, Tigris–Euphrates rivers, Mesopotamia, agricultural productivity

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