Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization
The Evolution of an Urban Landscape
In Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization, Guillermo Algaze draws on the work of modern economic geographers to explore how the unique river-based ecology and geography of the Tigris-Euphrates alluvium impacted the development of urban civilization in southern Mesopotamia. He argues that these natural conditions granted southern polities significant competitive advantages over their landlocked rivals elsewhere in Southwest Asia, most importantly the ability to easily transport commodities. In due course, this resulted in increased trade and economic activity and higher population densities in the south than were possible elsewhere. As southern polities grew in scale and complexity throughout the fourth millennium, revolutionary new forms of labor organization and record keeping were created, and it is these socially created innovations, Algaze argues, that ultimately account for why fully developed city-states emerged earlier in southern Mesopotamia than elsewhere in Southwest Asia or the world.
“Algaze displays an impressive command of recent research in economic geography and an insightful knowledge of strengths and weaknesses of the textual and archaeological dataset. The result is a tight and theoretically explicit model for the precocious rise of southern Mesopotamian urban society which argues strongly for the primacy of trade, transportation technology, and uniquely diverse geographic circumstances. Algaze’s The Uruk World System drove the research agenda for the Uruk expansion; Ancient Mesopotamia at the Dawn of Civilization will structure the direction of future field research on the emergence of the world’s earliest urban states.”
“This is an important and valuable distillation of Algaze’s most recent thinking on the development of southern Mesopotamian society. While it is indeed a worthy complement to his earlier work, this wholly original book takes his argument much further, making a number of important theoretical points.”