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INTERACTION WITH ENVIRONMENT The earliest civilizations formed on fertile river plains. These lands faced challenges, such as seasonal flooding and a limited growing area.
Geography What rivers helped sustain the four river valley civilizations?

POWER AND AUTHORITY Projects such as irrigation systems required leadership and laws—the beginnings of organized government. In some societies, priests controlled the first governments. In others, military leaders and kings ruled.

Geography Look at the time line and the map. In which empire and river valley area was the first code of laws developed?
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Early civilizations developed bronze tools, the wheel, the sail, the plow, writing, and mathematics. These innovations spread through trade, wars, and the movement of peoples.

Geography Which river valley civilization was the most isolated? What

factors contributed to that isolation?

• Interactive Maps
• Interactive Visuals
• Interactive Primary Sources


Go to classzone.com for:
• Research Links
• Maps
• Internet Activities
• Test Practice
• Primary Sources
• Current Events
• Chapter Quiz


Why do communities
need laws?
The harvest has failed and, like many others, you have little to eat. There are animals in the temple, but they are protected by law. Your cousin decides to steal one of the pigs to feed his family. You believe that laws should not be broken and try to persuade him not to steal the pig. But he steals the pig and is caught.

The law of the Babylonian Empire—Hammurabi’s Code—holds people responsible for their actions. Someone who steals from the temple must repay 30 times the cost of the stolen item. Because your cousin is unable to pay this fine, he is sentenced to death. You begin to wonder whether there are times when laws should be broken.

1 The Babylonian ruler
accompanied by his
judges, sentences
Mummar to death.

2 A scribe records the
proceedings against Mummar.

3 Mummar pleads for mercy.



• What should be the main purpose of laws: to promote good behavior or to punish bad behavior?
• Do all communities need a system of laws to guide them?

Hold a class debate on these questions. As you prepare for the debate, think about what you have leaned about the changes that take place as civilizations grow and become more complex. As you read about the growth of civilization in this chapter, consider why societies developed systems of laws.

28 Chapter 2


City-States in Mesopotamia
ENVIRONMENT The earliest
civilization in Asia arose in
Mesopotamia and organized
into city-states.

The development of this
civilization reflects a settlement
pattern that has occurred
repeatedly throughout history.

• Fertile
• Mesopotamia
• city-state
• dynasty

• cultural
• polytheism
• empire
• Hammurabi

SETTING THE STAGE Two rivers flow from the mountains of what is now

Turkey, down through Syria and Iraq, and finally to the Persian Gulf. Over six thousand years ago, the waters of these rivers provided the lifeblood that allowed the formation of farming settlements. These grew into villages and then cities.

Geography of the Fertile Crescent


A desert climate dominates the landscape between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea in Southwest Asia. Yet within this dry region lies an arc of land that provided some of the best farming in Southwest Asia. The region’s curved shape and the richness of its land led scholars to call it the Fertile Crescent. It includes the lands facing the Mediterranean Sea and a plain that became known as Mesopotamia (MEHS•uh•puh•TAY•mee•uh). The word in Greek means “land between the rivers.”

The rivers framing Mesopotamia are the Tigris (TY•grihs) and Euphrates (yoo•FRAY•teez). They flow southeastward to the Persian Gulf. (See the map on page 30.) The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flooded Mesopotamia at least once a year. As the floodwater receded, it left a thick bed of mud called silt. Farmers planted grain in this rich, new soil and irrigated the fields with river water. The results were large quantities of wheat and barley at harvest time. The surpluses from their harvests allowed villages to grow.

Identifying Problems
and Solutions Use a
chart to identify Sumer’s
environmental problems
and their solutions.


Environmental Challenges People first began to settle and farm the flat, swampy lands in southern Mesopotamia before 4500 B.C. Around 3300 B.C., the people called the Sumerians, whom you read about in Chapter 1, arrived on the scene. Good soil was the advantage that attracted these settlers. However, there were three disadvantages to their new environment.

• Unpredictable flooding combined with a period of little or no rain. The land sometimes became almost a desert.
• With no natural barriers for protection, a Sumerian village was nearly defenseless.
• The natural resources of Sumer were limited. Building materials and other necessary items were scarce.

Early River Valley Civilizations 29

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