History Courses / Course / Chapter

Mesopotamian Trade Routes & Transportation

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Mesopotamians used land and water routes to reach their trading destinations. Explore how Mesopotamians traveled to and from their markets, including journeying in camel caravans, boats, and using wheeled conveyances to transport goods and people. Updated: 01/11/2022

Trade Routes & Transportation

Meet Assurnasirpal. Yes, his name is unpronounceable. But that's because Assurnasirpal is an ancient Mesopotamian merchant. You didn't expect him to be called Bob, did you? Assurnasirpal is going to be kind enough to tell us what kinds of trade routes, passages and ways used with some frequency to allow for commerce between different places, and transportation, means of traveling, he uses to make some gold coin in this lesson.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Mesopotamian Trade Products & Economy

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

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Trade Routes & Transportation
  • 0:35 Water Routes & Transportation
  • 2:03 Land Routes & Transportation
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

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

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Water Routes & Transportation

Assurnasirpal wants to let us in on a little secret. If you want to make a killing out here, you have got to rely on water to transport your goods. Not just any water, either. Specifically, he tells us the best trade routes rely on the two main rivers of ancient Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates.

These are like the major highways in a country, except they're water-highways. Assurnasirpal says that, thanks to them, and their sub-rivers, canals, lakes, bays, and lagoons, you can reach almost every major place you need to get to. Just expect traffic. Literally. These rivers and canals can be crowded with ships and boats.

Ships and boats rarely used sails because the winds blew in an unsuitable manner on the two rivers. Instead, oars and poles were used to push boats here and there. Both male and female slaves could be found working on these vessels. But don't expect to sail right on through. The rivers had checkpoints that required a permit. So make sure to get that ahead of time to avoid unnecessary delays.

So where would you want to go to make a killing? Assurnasirpal says you should head over to the ports in Lagash and Umma to sell timber in southern Mesopotamia. If you want to stock up on copper to sell elsewhere, head on over to Magan. If you'd like to trade things like gold, copper, and pearls then make a stop in Dilmun.

Land Routes & Transportation

In case the city you need to get to isn't near any water, then a land route is your best option. For travel purposes, you could buy or hire one of the following:

  • Human porters
  • Mules and donkeys to serve as draft or pack animals
  • Camels as pack animals
  • Wheeled vehicles, like wagons and carts
  • Sledges

Assurnasirpal immediately tells us that you want to avoid the wheeled vehicles if you can. The roads around Mesopotamia are unpaved and it can be pretty muddy in a lot of places in ancient Mesopotamia, so the wheels get stuck and break down left and right.

Instead, he says, stick to the sledges, which are like large sleds on runners, as they can navigate the terrain a bit better, or use the so-called 'royal roads' if you want to avoid major potholes. These roads are maintained by the government specifically so people can quickly move between one location and another with as few obstacles as possible. These roads even had rest areas for travelers to spend the night.

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

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

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

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account