Some of the most important tools in history were first developed in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians were the civilisation of people who lived in ancient Mesopotamia and developed tools for a variety of projects, from farming to fighting to transportation. Many of their tools were designed to ease the tasks associated with everyday life.
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Copper was the most widely used metal largely because it was the cheapest until the Neo-Babylonian period, when iron became cheaper. Copper was used to make a variety of tools, including axes, hammers, sickles, daggers and chains. Sumerians also made jewellery, awls and chisels using copper and tin metals.
By 3000 B.C., Sumerians had learnt how to make bronze tools, which were much harder than tools made out of copper alone. Bronze tools marked a major innovation in the history of tools. They were made by smelting copper with tin. Perhaps the most consequential use of bronze by the Sumerians was the socketed axe. The socketed axe had a bronze socket that slipped over the handle, or the haft. This solved the problem of the axehead falling off its handle during intense battles. The socketed axe became an important battle weapon for 2,000 years.
Many tools in Mesopotamia were made from animal bones of all sizes. Large bones were used as awls to make leather, and small bones were used to make things like utensils and needles. Some early weapons were made out of bones, like bone knives for instance. Bones made good natural handles with their natural sockets. Bone handles were used on weapons, tools and mirrors. Bone was also used in jewellery, including beads, pedants, rings and bracelets.
The peoples of ancient Mesopotamia invented transportation tools that transformed the world of trade and travel. They started using the wheel in 3,500 B.C. and attached them to carts to transport people and goods. Mesopotamian inventions include the sail to navigate the seas by using the power of the wind. They took their sail-driven boats as far away as India.
Mesopotamian people invented the seeder plough, which enabled farmers to carry out the tasks of seeding and ploughing at the same time. The plough created the furrow as seed was dropped into a funnel. They further enhanced the technology of the plough by learning how to use oxen to power it.
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- Ancient Mesoptamians: Ancient Mesopotamian Tools
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- "Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries"; P.R.S. Moorey; 1999
- University of Chicago News Office; It Happened First in Ancient Mesopotamia; July 15, 2003
- The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago: Science