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The Mesopotamians

As the Stone Age came to an end, hunter-gatherer and nomadic herder lifestyles were gradually supplanted by ones based on agriculture. This led naturally to the rise of settlements localized around crop-growing regions along with produce surplus and trade. This led to the development of the first cities. The Sumerian civilization that developed in Mesopotamia is commonly acknowledged to be the first on the planet in this respect.

The Sumerians and Babylonians

The date for the foundation of the oldest known Sumerian city, Eridu, is c5400 BCE. Historians believe that the Sumerians invented the system of time that we use to this day, one based on the number 60. This number has the mathematical

Graph of integers versus the number of their factors

Fig. 4.1 Graph of integers versus the number of their factors.

property of being highly composite, meaning that it has relatively many factors given its size. It is the smallest number divisible by 12 different integers (counting one and itself) and it is the smallest number that is divisible by the integers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Figure 4.1 is a graph of the first 100 integers against the number of their factors.

The Sumerians divided hours into 60 minutes and applied the same system to geometry, dividing one complete rotation into six multiples of 60 degrees, with each degree being divided into 60 minutes.

Every year at the start of their New Year festival Akitu, the ancient Babylonians re-enacted their creation myth, the Enuma Elish. Recovered from clay tablets found at the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh and dated as far back as the sixteenth or eighteenth century BCE, this theogony myth recounts the rise of the chief Babylonian god Marduk and the creation of humans.

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