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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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The Synergies of Civilization

The Synergies of Civilization

(p.123) CHAPTER EIGHT The Synergies of Civilization
Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization
University of Chicago Press

This chapter argues that the environmental and geographical advantages accruing to southern Mesopotamian societies and the increases in the density and agglomeration of populations in the alluvium throughout the Uruk period that were selected for by those natural advantages represent necessary but insufficient conditions for the Sumerian takeoff. The sufficient conditions were organizational innovations within the nascent city-states of southern Mesopotamian that fall entirely within the realm of Cronon's “created landscape.” Most important among these were new forms of organizing labor that delivered economies of scale in the production of subsistence and industrial commodities to southern societies; and new forms of record keeping that were much more capable of conveying information across time and space than the simpler reckoning systems used by contemporary polities elsewhere. These innovations furnished early Sumerian leaders and polities of the fourth millennium with what turned out to be their most important competitive advantages over neighboring societies.

Keywords:   environment, geography, southern Mesopotamia, Uruk period, alluvium, created landscape, labor organizing, subsistence, record keeping

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