While Iraq isn't known for
having a rich history of inventions, it is the birthplace of many of
the world's most important inventions and developments -- some of
which are taken for granted -- such as streets and canals, as well
as the first city-states, around 3500 B.C.
Iraq was once home to the Tower of Babel, was probably home to
Noah's ark and was possibly home to the Garden of Eden. The area
known today as Iraq was once known as Mesopotamia.
The name Mesopotamia means "land between the two rivers" -- the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers -- while the name Iraq is an Arab name
that means "the shore and grazing area of a river." Mesopotamia is
known as the "cradle of civilization," and its people were the first
to record history in writing.
The southern part of Mesopotamia was known as Sumer, and it was
this region that produced many of Mesopotamia's great innovations.
The earliest known wheel was developed here around 3000 B.C. and was
soon used for chariots; the flat tire wasn't invented for another
4,900 years. It is possible that the wheel was originally developed
somewhere else, as there were no written records up to that point in
Sumerians developed the world's first form of writing, called
cuneiform, around 3000 B.C., which was before the Egyptians
developed hieroglyphics. Cuneiform contained more than 2,000 symbols
and was written on clay tablets. The scribes who could read and
write were nearly always assured of a job because merchants, priests
and judges needed someone to write and read their records for them.
Southern Mesopotamia was also home to the biblical figure
Abraham, and it was here that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered
in 1947. The people of this region were excellent mathematicians.
They based their math on the number 60 and numbers that divide
evenly into 60. This is where the 60-second minute, the 12-hour
clock and the 360-degree circle all come from.
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Heading north, the ancient city of Babylon was located
approximately 100 miles south of present-day Baghdad. Here
Babylonians built the Tower of Babel in an attempt to reach heaven.
When God disapproved, he prevented the people from communicating
with each other by making them speak in different languages. This is
where the word "babble" derives its meaning (think about it) and
where foreign languages originated. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon,
one of the Seven Wonders of the World, were also created here.
Other worthy inventions that originated in Mesopotamia are the
first stringed harp, the sickle for harvesting grain, the first
windmills used to pump water and the first soap.
Some of the modern laws, used in nearly every form of government
today, that relate to marriage and divorce, theft, debt, and land
rights are derived from the legal codes of Babylon. One of the most
well-known codes was the Hammurabi Code, which contained laws such
as "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," as well as the practice
of cutting off a man's hand for certain crimes.
Speaking of crimes, one modern-day scribe suggested that Iraq
should be renamed as Mesopotamia once again. Since there's no chance
that Saddam will ever return to rule the country, losing the name of
Iraq might be a good way to give the country and its people a fresh
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006