What Were Some of the Public Works of Mesopotamia?

Some Mesopotamian public works included sewer drainage systems, public baths, private baths and wells. Other public works included city walls, royal palaces and stepped temples called ziggurats.

Mesopotamia used a basin-type irrigation system to manage water flow from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and their tributaries. Gaps were dug in the embankment to open the basins and were filled with mud to close them. Bitumen was heavily used for both constructing and plugging irrigation systems. The Mesopotamian irrigation systems were destroyed by the Mongols who invaded in 1258. Palaces and mansions in Mesopotamia were equipped with bathrooms where residents could refresh their skin by splashing themselves with water or anoint themselves with oil. Common citizens bathed in courtyard cisterns or on the banks of canals.

The Sumerian priests of Mesopotamia developed a numerical notation system to help with planning the region’s vast public works system. The system was based on the number 60 and gives us the 60-second minute and the 60-minute hour.

In addition to a great deal of planning, the building of public works also required extensive labor. The workforce came from a corvée, which was a type of forced labor imposed on the heads of households as a kind of tax. These forced laborers worked government-owned fields, built dwellings, dug irrigation systems and built defense systems such as city walls.