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Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia: Social Studies - Grade 6

Subject: Social Studies

Grade: Sixth

Lesson Objective: To understand daily life in ancient Mesopotamia. Understand the development of civilizations and how the ancient world translates into today's society and structure. Have students create a poster-sized map of their own unique start-up civilization. The poster must include all things necessary for a civilization to succeed, such as water source, food sources, political/religious following of students choosing, etc. Students may also make 3D models on a cardboard base if they prefer.

Common Core Standard: CSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


  • Cardboard
  • Posterboard
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Markers
  • String
  • Glue
  • Colored Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Pom Poms
  • Pipe Cleaners


  • Say: Let's all imagine ourselves in ancient Mesopotamia. What would our lives have looked like?
  • Say: Society and early civilizations, in particular, all require certain things to succeed. What are the most important things we would need close by to us?


  • A major body of water would have been especially important to our survival and advancement. Mesopotamians lived near two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. This allowed them to pull water for many purposes. In fact, Mesopotamia got its name from the Greeks because of its location. In Greek, Mesopotamia means "Between Two Rivers." Can we name some things the rivers would have been useful for?
  • In addition to having water to fish in, drink, and water our soil, the rivers would help enrich the soil when they flooded. This flooding happened annually and deposited a substance called silt. This gave humans the ability to farm the land by creating fertile land in an otherwise very arid place. Because of its location between the two rivers and the fertile soil, this area of land became known as the Fertile Crescent. Mesopotamia has since become known as the "Cradle of Civilization" because it was the first place people settled; they left the life of hunter-gatherers behind them for a stable life of agriculture. Mesopotamia was located in what we now know as Iraq.
  • Once they farmed, irrigated, and maintained the land, the people of Mesopotamia and Sumer were able to branch out into new professions. They did this by cultivating a surplus of food and storing it for later use. The people who were able to step away from agriculture were often creating goods. These people are called Artisans.
  • Artisans soon began forming larger cities out of small villages. This allowed them to trade goods and services in a more efficient manner. This came about in the southern region of Mesopotamia called Sumer.
  • There was a hierarchy of classes in these City-States, made up of the wealthy upper class, middle class, and the poorer lowest class. The highest cast was made up of rulers and their families, and priests were not far behind in their social status. The middle class was made up of tradespeople, people who created things like cloth, paper, tools, and clothes. This class also held the civil servants, people who worked in the government and often could read and write. These people were scribes.
  • The lower class consisted of farmers and fisherman, people who cultivated the land and supplied the food and labor essential to keep the cities running. However, they did not necessarily remain in these positions. As a farmer or fisherman, you could gain wealth and status.
  • These City-States participated in the slave trade. The slaves were of the lowest class, without the possibility of outgrowing their cast. The slaves were owned by the uppermost wealthiest classes and often consisted of war or battle prisoners.
  • Most people during this time lived in houses that they constructed from mud bricks. This was both because of local raw materials and because of the insulation properties of the mud brick. Constructing their homes out of this style of brick allowed them to keep their homes cool during the warmer seasons and warmer during the cooler months.
  • Because of the newfound structure and surplus of food, entertainment became a new focus of ancient Mesopotamia. Art and culture took hold. They had paintings throughout their temples, and both men and women wore makeup. Jewelry was also extremely popular during this time.

Feedback: Open up the floor for discussion of the lecture.

  • Ask: What would each of you be doing today if you lived in one of the city-states?
  • Allow for discussion, questions to be asked and answered.

Final Assignment:

  1. Break students into groups of two to four.
  2. Task them with drawing out a map of their own unique upcoming civilizations.
  3. Allow them to name it and place it geographically where they see fit.

They must include a water source, source of agriculture, housing, and social structure of their choosing. These may be drawn or built as a 3D diagram. Allow students to be creative in both their method of design and the culture they are building.


Written by Alynne White

Education World Contributor

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