Login

Villages to Cities: How Cities Were Invented

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Horse People and Nomadic Pastoralism: What is Civilization?

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:07 The First Farmers
  • 0:44 Problems Being a Lone Farmer
  • 2:25 The First Villages
  • 3:48 The City of Uruk and…
  • 5:35 Becoming an Empire
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Max Pfingsten
In this video lesson, you'll meet Uruk, a lone farmer living in ancient Mesopotamia. As Uruk tries to become a successful farmer, he realizes the difficulties in sustaining a fruitful farm without the help of a community. Watch to understand how these difficulties contributed to the creation of villages and cities throughout history.

The First Farmers

The year is 5300 BCE, the beginning of what archaeologists now call the Ubaid period. The place - Mesopotamia, a fertile tract of land between the Tigris and Euphrates.

Meet Uruk the farmer. Uruk has found himself a beautiful place to farm. Fertile land, plenty of water, a commanding view of the plains around him. He's got his seeds and he's got his livestock. Surely, Uruk has everything he needs to be a successful farmer.

The problem is that farming requires much more than planting and reaping.

Problems Being a Lone Farmer

To succeed, Uruk the farmer must also practice dozens of other skills.

To use the food he's grown, he'll need to be a miller and a brewer. To store his food, he'll need some sort of vessel, which means he has to be a potter and a weaver.

Most baskets and pots don't do well without a roof overhead, so he's going to need buildings. To create and maintain these buildings, Uruk needs to be a carpenter, a thatcher, a mason and a blacksmith.

To take care of his livestock, he needs to be a shepherd, and by extension, a hunter, a sheep shearer and a tanner.

To get any of his products to market, he'll need to be a wheelwright and a carter.

To keep track of his accounts, he'll need to be an accountant and a scribe.

To ever make children he's going to have to find someone unrelated to breed with.

Finally, Uruk is going to need to be able to defend himself; Uruk must be a warrior. Why? Barbarians! Barbarians are the bane of farmer. Why do all the work of growing food? Why not instead find someone, like Uruk, who has done all the work for you and take what you want from him? You see, for a barbarian to get all the things civilization can do, he can either learn to do all the things Uruk does, or just train to be a better fighter than Uruk and take his things.

So you can see, being a solitary farmer is a very difficult life. You must have dozens of skills and specialized equipment. Most of all, you're constantly in danger of attack.

The First Villages

To overcome these problems, Uruk invites nearby families to live with him in the valley. They form a village. This village allows them to band together for common defense. This also allows for a division of labor. With all of these farmers living together, not everyone needs to be a farmer. Now someone can be a blacksmith, someone else can be a thatcher, someone can be a potter, someone can be a weaver, and Uruk, all Uruk has to be is a farmer. And probably most importantly for Uruk, this village gives him a place to meet girls on a Saturday night.

Yet this cute little village is still vulnerable to barbarians. The village of Uruk can now fight off a small barbarian clan, but the bigger the village, the more tempting the target. While the farm of Uruk might have escaped the attention of raiding barbarian bands, by contrast, the village of Uruk is just begging to be pillaged.

Despite these risks, the benefits of living in a community are so great, more and more people come to live there. Gathered together, they still have a better chance of defending themselves from barbarians than they do on their own.

Over the course of a thousand years, the village of Uruk grows into the town of Uruk. In the course of this history, Uruk gets invaded, flooded and burned, but people keep returning to this ideal place for a town.

The City of Uruk and Larger Populations

Around 4000 BCE, Uruk emerges as the first of what we recognize as a city. It is such an important city, archaeologists call the next thousand years the Uruk period.

The thousand years following the formation of the first city, Uruk, is known as the Uruk period
Uruk Period

Here is what it may have looked like then.

This what it looks like now.

While villages and towns might hold a few hundred people, the city of Uruk was home to tens of thousands. That massive population brings new opportunities, the foremost of these being a greater division of labor and an opportunity for specialization.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support