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Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City [Paperback]

Gwendolyn Leick
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 24, 2003 0140265740 978-0140265743

More than seven thousand years ago, the first urban civilization began in Mesopotamia, in an area corresponding to present-day Iraq. This remarkable book is the first to reveal everyday life as it was in ten long-lost Mesopotamian cities. Using archaeological fragments of jewelry, textiles, and writings, anthropologist Gwendolyn Leick paints a colorful picture of the lives of Mesopotamians—from poets and priests to businesswomen and divorcées—and the incredible achievements of their advanced and imaginative society.

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Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City + A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000 - 323 BC, 2nd Edition
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Editorial Reviews


"As Leick convincingly shows, Mesopotamian antiquity has as much interest as, and even greater importance than, Egypt; and her welcome book helps redress the balance of knowledge in its direction."

About the Author

Gwendolyn Leick is the author of various publications on the ancient Near East.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140265740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140265743
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting survey July 9, 2003
I'm reading Leick's book right now, and enjoying it. She surveys ancient Mesopotamia through the examination of 10 ancient city sites, from Eridu to Babylon. Naturally this narrative device is a springboard for digressions into the culture as best we can know (or guess) at it. Leick does stints as a tour guide, if I recall the author bio correctly, & it shows in her writing, which is accessible if a bit repetitive when she wants to make a point. She also attends to the different archaelogists who've dug up Mesopotamia and their biases, hypotheses, etc.; she takes a similar approach with contemporary scholarly debates, "teaching the conflicts" as it were. This & Roux's "Ancient Iraq" seem to be the two best books for us lay readers in the past 40 years or so.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tale of Ten Cities September 26, 2006
Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City by Gwendolyn Leick is a book only a history major could fall in love with. But even non-history majors can enjoy it. The book is ten chapters, each chapter a detailed history of one city, using archaeological information in the form of textiles, writings and ruins. From the first city of Eridu, to the last city of Babylon, we follow the lives of the people, as they go from city-state, to Kingdoms to large Empires, from waiting for the rain to come feed their gardens to redirecting rivers to feed their fields. Artists, soldiers, priests and Kings, we learn how the region developed and follow the history of one of the first civilizations by how the cities developed.

Because the history of each city overlaps, weaving a complex history of warfare, trade, worship and power. The only problem some readers might have it how detailed it truly becomes in the last few chapters. Also some of the text accompanying the photos were placed on the wrong part of the page. Or the photos were placed on the wrong part of the page. Either way some photos don't match the text that go with them.

The chapters come with a simple timeline, a useful map, a helpful index and a not so helpful glossary (as some words I wanted to look up were not in it).

Overall it is still a great find and worth getting for any library on history, urban development or the Middle East.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction January 26, 2004
By kallan
I enjoyed this book a lot. It's a book that manages to be both scholarly and readable as it introduces the archaeology and history of various cities around Mesopotamia. Archaeology is the main focus, but Leick draws on written texts, notably literary texts, to illuminate the physical evidence. This book also shows how much more investigative work there is to be done in that region of the world.
A good read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best short summary available October 5, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The dawn of civilization has long been a dark mystery to everyone except a handful of scholars in dusty libraries and museum collection rooms. While endless material has been written and published about Egypt, Rome, and Greece, almost nothing has been available for the layman with an abiding interest in the very dawn of civilization: Sumer and Akkad. Gwendolyn Leick's book "Mesopotamia" has changed everything. This is far more complete, far more readable, and far more detailed than anything currently available on the market. If you are looking for one book with a complete, impartial view of how civilization began, then this is the book you're looking for!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent review site by site September 3, 2009
This book has the merit of paying careful attention to sites not often included in the usual accounts, and evaluating their significance for developments such as writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read! September 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book devotes a chapter to each of ten Mesopotamian cities. Each city is representative of a particular era the 4000 year old history of Mesopotamia, beginning with the Sumerians and ending with the Babylonians. In between, the reader is introduced to the Akkadians, the Assyrians and a string of other nations as they appear, conquer and are conquered in turn. The chapters are all organized in the same way, starting with the archaeological findings at each site, and using these findings to relate the political structure, economy and religious life of the residents of the city. From there, each chapter discusses the history of the city, its rise to prominence and its decline, and its significance within the larger regional conquest. Ultimately, one feels one knows the city, its avenues, monumental buildings and its people. It's an admirable analytic framework, providing insights and points of comparison than might otherwise be missed.

There are a number of revelations within each chapter. The role of women in some of these societies, the importance of scholarship, the peculiar architectural practices were all new to me. But the key insight I took away from this book was the incredible stretch of time covered by the text. From the Ubaid period to the neo-Babylonian period, we're talking about 3500 years, vastly longer than the entire existence of Western Civilization. It's a healthy reminder of our own insignificance in the long march of human history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 7, 2014
It was in great condition when I received. The book looks interesting to read. Thanks
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4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfull partner to Paul Kriwaczeks Babylon May 15, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book after reading Paul Kriwaczeks Babylon:Mespotamia and the Birth of Civilisation - and I recommend reading in that order. This book provided infill and detail on each of layers of civilisation that ebbed and flowed across the region over 50 millenia. It certainly provided perspective and detail on some of the great builders of infrastructure - irrigation, temples, ziggaruts and agriculture products as well as the administration that managed and controlled operations across thousands of kilometers. A most enjoyable read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok
lots of info but a little off topic in beginning but I would read it one more time maybe I think I will stick to the revolutionary war.
Published 1 month ago by Jacob Higgins
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
This book was difficult to obtain anywhere but I've started reading it and it seems to be very good.
Published 9 months ago by Jane A. Kipp
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview
A nice overview of the recovery of the lost civilizations of Mesopotamia, told chronological from the first Sumerian city of Eridu to the later and more known cities in the north,... Read more
Published 10 months ago by AMW van den Elzen
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent intro to Ancient Mesopotamia
Well written, well document coverage of the growth of cities and the city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, as well as providing good historical information on the religion and culture... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Frank Holtry
4.0 out of 5 stars The Very Beginning
I am trying to establish the secular beginning of intelligence. Mesopotamia appears to be a good starting point and this book is the most thorough discourse I've found so far.
Published 11 months ago by Michael Knauff
4.0 out of 5 stars The detail is outstanding
There is no doubt that this book is an exhaustive collection of details on what archeologists know from the ancient sites. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Gary Judge
4.0 out of 5 stars great introduction to cities and ancient Iraq
Leick seems to have inherited from Kramer the ability to be the most engaging writer for the educated lay public in topics concerning Mesopotamia. Read more
Published on April 12, 2007 by Robert L. France
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