Mesopotamian ancient history is divided into several periods extending from prehistory into the 7th century CE. Prehistory is marked by the Ubaid and Uruk periods (c. 5900-2900 BCE) followed by the Bronze Age lasting from c. 2900 BCE to c. 1100 BCE (Early Bronze Age including Akkadian Empire, Ur and Early Assyrian Kingdom (c. 2900-1900 BCE), Middle Bronze Age of Early Babylonia (c. 1900-1620 BCE), Late Bronze Age of Assyrian Empire (c. 1620-1100 BCE)). The Iron Age (1100-500 BCE) was marked by the Neo-Hittite, Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires, the later period of Classical Antiquity including first Persian then Roman occupation.
Mesopotamia was part of the Fertile Crescent (sometimes referred to as the ‘Cradle of the Western World’), an arc of rich sedimentary soils extending from the Nile delta in Egypt along the Levantine corridor (the eastern Mediterranean, a coastal trading region) then down the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, in the region we now know as Iraq (but including northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and parts of SW Iran) arose these first Mesopotamian city states.
Already by the seventh millennium BCE there were mud-brick farming villages scattered through the Fertile Crescent, the villagers growing wheat, barley and pulses and herding sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. Even then, copper and obsidian from the uplands of Anatolia and Iran was being traded and there were distinctive regional pottery styles. When new irrigation technology was developed facilitating the large-scale irrigation of crops the population grew rapidly and social development associated with city-scale social organization appeared. During the Uruk period (4200-3100 BCE) the first cities with populations of over 1000 people were built in southern Sumer flourishing in the Early Dynastic Period c. 2900-2350 BCE. From the earliest urban communities of the Ubaid period (c. 5300 BCE) emerged, in about 3,000 BCE, the great Mesopotamian city states who, built canals and irrigation systems, harnessing the water for the agriculture that provided the means of providing sufficient food to feed their large populations that were housed in mudbrick buildings alongside vast temple complexes. Some cities were laid out on a formal way with rectilinear streets and buildings while other cities grew in a more haphazard way.
Though urban space was most noticeably allocated to temple and palace there were also leading families who controlled extensive private property. At the time when writing emerged it appears that these leading families were distributing land as though it were privately owned, being bought and sold from this time on in a kind of property market.
These conurbations were city-states, sovereign political centres that governed the surrounding territory. Cities were surrounded by walls and dominated internally by temples and palaces whose precincts contained impressive monuments. Though the religion was polytheistic each city tended to have its own dynasty of rulers and its own supreme god or gods. Taxes, often in the form of livestock, were gathered and men could be drawn from the general population for military service. Domestic housing was clustered together but in some places, a in ancient Abu Salabikh, many houses were quite large with six or more rooms aggregated around a courtyard and probably made up an extended family or kinship group with their servants.