Mesopotamia was a land that did not have many natural resources. So they had to trade and transport. That was a big part of their economy. Many innovations were created to help export and transport goods were:

Gulf Boat


Gulf Boat.jpg
Boats were used to transport goods from southern Mesopotamia to the Gulf. These boats were probably larger and stronger than river boats. Some were made of bundles of reeds and others of wood covered with bitumen. Babylonian merchants travelled with their goods to places like Dilmun
Carried By Gulf Boat
  • Barley was one of the main crops grown in Babylonia. (Exported)
  • Large pieces of unusual stone. (Imported). And occasionally, Mesopotamian kings would send expeditions to find this type of stone.
  • Certain types of special wood were exchanged at southern trading posts like Dilmun (was an important trading centre which at the height of its power controlled the Persian Gulf trading routes). Some of it came from as far away as India.
  • Pearls were used by Babylonians to make jewellery. (Imported)
  • Carnelian was used by Babylonians to make jewellery and to decorate objects. (Imported)
  • Copper was one of the most important goods traded. It was mixed with tin to make bronze. Imported from Anatolia, Iran and the Gulf.
  • Ivory was carved to make small objects and used to decorate expensive furniture. (Imported from either India or East Africa)
  • Textiles were one of the most important trade goods in Mesopotamia. Babylonian textiles were thought to be the best.
  • Reeds were cut along the river banks and woven into mats, or as bundles, tied together to build boats and houses. (Transported; either imported or exported)

By Raft


Raft.gif
Rafts were used to transport goods downstream. The rafts were made of a log platform on top of inflated animal skins.

When the raft arrived at the port, the goods on board were unloaded and sold. The raft was taken apart and the logs used to make it was sold. The animal skins were deflated and loaded onto donkeys to be carried back to the merchant's home city.

Carried By Raft

  • Logs of wood were lashed together and floated down the Euphrates. The most precious wood was from pine and cedar trees. (Imported)
  • Large amounts of grain. (Exported)
  • Wool was used to make clothes, carpets and tents. The wool was combed from sheep and then wrapped in bundles. (Export)
  • Large pieces of stone could be transported along the rivers on rafts. (Exported)
  • Reeds were cut along the river banks and woven into mats. (Exported)


By Coracle
coracle.gif

Coracles made of animal skins and covered with bitumen (A natural, tar-like substance, which comes from petroleum) to make them watertight transported goods upstream and downstream. They were paddled or floated with the current.

Carried by Coracle
  • Fish were dried, salted or pickled (Exported)
  • Barley and wheat were the main crops of Mesopotamia. They were important for making beer and bread. (Exported)
  • Different types of meat were eaten in Mesopotamia. Usually only the wealthy could afford it. Pieces of beef, sheep and goat were carried between villages and cities along the rivers and canals. (Imported)
  • Reeds were cut along the river banks and woven into mats. They were also exported as bundles and were used to build boats and houses.

By Cart

CART.gif
Carts were used to transport goods. They were made of local timber, held together with copper or bronze nails, or wooden pegs. Donkeys or oxen were used to pull the carts.

Carried By Cart

  • Chunks of copper and smaller amounts of gold, silver and precious stones would have been carried in carts. (Imported from the mountains into Mesopotamia).
  • Sometimes fish were transported alive in pottery tanks but often they were dried, salted or pickled.
  • Textiles were one of the most important trade goods in Mesopotamia. Babylonian textiles were thought to be the best.
  • Oil made from different plants like sesame was traded all over Mesopotamia. These oils were used in cooking. Fish oil was used in lamps. Oil was transported in pottery jars.
  • Mud-bricks or baked bricks were the main building materials. Babylonian merchants transported thousands of bricks from city to city.

By Donkey

DONKEY.jpg
Donkeys were one of the most common methods of transporting goods in Mesopotamia. Babylonian merchants travelled with their goods on donkeys between Babylonian cities and as far away as Kanesh in Turkey.

Carried By Donkey

  • Textiles were one of the most important trade goods in Mesopotamia. Babylonian textiles were thought to be the best. Bundles were tied to donkeys.
  • Small amounts of gold, silver and precious stones were carried by donkeys from the mountainous regions to Mesopotamia where the merchants would exchange them for local goods.
  • Wine was probably only drunk by wealthy people. It was transported in large pottery jars which were tied to the sides of a donkey.
  • Large amounts of grain were transported by caravans of donkeys.
  • This beautiful blue stone was mined in Afghanistan. Chunks of it were transported across Iran to Mesopotamia to be used for jewellery and inlay decoration.

So how does this all add up to the mesopotamian economy?

Trade was important to all ancient civilizations, it did not only bring the necessary products and primary materials but was also the source of new knowledge. New ideas and techniques were exchanged and allowed cultures to grow and become wealthier.

The same was the case for Mesopotamia. They lived in the southern part of the Fertile Crescent and lacked many basic materials which the North could provide. Soon the traders would go beyond the lands known to them and make contact with other cultures.

Critical Thinking: Monologue


“My son, I worked in Dilmun a port city and trade center, tis located on the island of Bahrain hugging the Saudi Arabia coastline in the middle of the Persian Gulf. Dilmun rose to a status as a trading center where travelers could obtain copper, carnelian, ivory, and so much more.” My young boy nodded with interest.

“I’m a hardworking man, as it should be. Soon you will be one too. I will teach you my methods, and will guide you to riches!” He was listening attentively.

“I like to carry my goods in carts. They are made of local timber, held together with copper nails. I use Donkeys or oxen to pull the carts, but I preferred oxen because they aren’t so stubborn. Some of the goods I sold were:

Chunks of copper and smaller amounts of gold, silver and precious stones would have been carried in carts. (Imported from the mountains into Mesopotamia).

Sometimes fish were transported alive in pottery tanks but often they were dried, salted or pickled.

Textiles were one of the most important trade goods in Mesopotamia. Babylonian textiles were thought to be the best.

Oil made from different plants like sesame was traded all over Mesopotamia. These oils were used in cooking. Fish oil was used in lamps. Oil was transported in pottery jars.

Mud-bricks or baked bricks were the main building materials. Babylonian merchants transported thousands of bricks from city to city.” He tried his best to write it all down in cuneiform.

"Sometimes I hire a slave to trade goods with the people. The load is usually small, and the slave could carry sacks. For big loads, a piece of cloth should be wrapped around the goods, then the ends of the cloth should be attached at the forehead. The goods a slave would usually carry are:

Barley and wheat. They are important for making beer and bread. Only a small amount of grain can be carried in this way.

Different types of meat. Only the wealthy can afford it. Pieces of beef, sheep and goat should be carried within a city. Make sure you over charge the wealthy people.

Fish should be transported alive in pottery tanks but sometimes they can be dried, salted or pickled and be carried between villages and cities.” I said

“My boy there are many other ways of transporting and trading. I have only talked about very few today. I will save the rest for another day.”