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The Uruk Period (4100-2900 Bce)

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The Uruk period (4100-2900 BCE) happened in southern Mesopotamia following the Ubaid Period. By 3200 B.C, Uruk city became the largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia, with an estimated size of until 250 hectares and a population between 10,000 to 40,000 people. The city became the center of economic, politics and religion of all Mesopotamia.

The Uruk period was a new era of development for the region, according to Ross and Steadman (Ancient Complex Societies) which encompassed not only a bigger settlement are but also a more organized administrative structure, monumental religious and administrative buildings in residential areas. In addition, the diversification of the economy significantly increased, compared to the previous Ubaid period, due to the development of technology. Better tools and more convenient location of the Uruk city, which was centered between the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris, allowed the population to concentrate in agriculture and pottery rather than mainly pastoralism. Additionally, the proximity and competition with other towns that developed around the same time, might have fueled the political and social development of Uruk city.

Agriculture was a big part of Uruk culture, which changed drastically to an “agricultural bread basket” greatly due to the development of an irrigation system in the Ubaid period, that allowed them to produce agricultural surpluses and have access to resources from the rivers like fish and fowl (lecture). The surpluses produced were also used for the construction of religious buildings and artifacts and artistic evidence which were a huge part of their culture.

The Early Uruk period (ca. 2,900-2,350 BCE) was an essential part in shaping the history of Uruk’s religious beliefs and socio-political hierarchies. Temples and large scale statues were built to worship God’s staffed with “priests” and servants. The religious rulers were the the center of the social-political power. They managed people’s contributions and used the temples as “centers for distribution of surplus food” (Brown, C. 2014).

By the Late Uruk Period (3,300 BCE), the city grew in population and size, which lead to a more specific social stratification and leadership. The state engaged into warfare with other cities around to compete for land, water and other resources, which lead religious rulers to lose their power transitioning into a one ruler system. Surpluses allowed the state to develop different elites who controlled labor and tribute, which permitted large-scale projects like irrigation, and for security and protection.

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