Cuneiform tablets found in excavations of the ancient cities of Mari and Ebla have provided a wealth of information about the history and daily lives of the peoples in early Mesopotamia and Syria. The inhabitants of this region were Sumerian and their earliest settlements were in Sumer around the Persian Gulf. Archaeologists call this region ‘the cradle of civilization’ because the Sumerians (who named themselves ‘the black-headed people’) dispersed northwards and established the first cities in Mari and Ebla c. 4300 BCE. By 3600 BCE, they had invented the wheel, writing, irrigation and sailing boats. By the time Sargon the Great (a royal gardener) overthrew King Lugal-Zage, Sumeria had become a small empire. After seizing the throne, Sargon expanded the region into the multinational Akkadian Empire. Sargon’s conquests included the whole of Syria, which became part of his Mesopotamian Empire.
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