Diary Of A Mesopotamian Farmer

10,000 years ago


Name: Isam
Address: Large Mud Hut Near The River
Occupation: Farmer


¨ Cultivation of wheat, barley, flax, and peas.
¨ domestication of sheep, cows and goats
¨ tanning of leather
¨ developed method of irrigation to maintain crops

Daily responsibilities:

¨ Feed livestock at daybreak.
¨ retrieve milk from cows and goats
¨ carry milk to wife for cheese making
¨ check crops for weeds, pulling any I find
¨ turn livestock out to graze
¨ retrieve water from the river, using a goat to carry buckets
¨ carefully water crops
¨ harvest as necessary
¨ hand cultivate plots for re-planting
¨ round up livestock before dusk, return them to their enclosure

Weekly responsibilities:

¨ slaughter goat, sheep or cow for meat
¨ stretch hides for tanning
¨ make repairs on mud hut as necessary

Other activities:

When I am not working in my fields or trying to design a better irrigation system, I assist my neighbors with their livestock and crops. We trade often with each other – barley for wheat, mutton for beef, flaxen cloth for woven woolens, milk for cheese.

My wife is a skilled weaver and cheesemaker – she is known throughout the region for her finely woven flaxen linens and her rich and perfectly cured cheeses. She works daily to maintain our household,
filling the air with the scent of her rich lamb stews and unleavened bread, and working to spin yarn, weave fabric, and sew comfortable clothing for us. Our daughter assists her in these daily tasks. (Until his death recently from a mysterious fever, our son helped to tend the sheep. He fell ill shortly after several sheep had died, but the village healer could not help him. He suspected the boy may have been made ill by the sheep!)

It is my goal to improve irrigation and harvest methods, as well as ease the burden of working the soil, so that my entire day is not spent in the fields. I would like to spend a bit more time learning to fashion clay pots in which to store our grains, but this requires time and I am very tired at the end of the day.

20,000 Years Ago – Ice Age – North America

Scientists believe that early humans crossed the Bering Straits into what is now called Alaska about 20,000 years ago. Somewhat taller and more robust than their earlier counterparts, these humans had to concern themselves with keeping warm. They built sturdy huts (from animal hides wrapped around strong posts, bound together with sinew) with central hearths for winter quarters, made innovations in stitching their garments (bone needles with eyes in them, for instance) from animal skin and developed new methods of weaving cloth and better methods of tanning skins. In the summer, they followed the
herds and lived in easily moved tents.

As with their predecessors, the daily life of the Ice Age human centered primarily around the hunt. Game was plentiful and varied – large game birds, mammoths, caribou and bison flourished. It was at about this time that the bow and arrow was developed, allowing for greater flexibility in the hunt.

A more socialized tribal structure was developing. Art and story telling are said to have flourished, and items such as beads, shells and small carvings were used to barter for items, much in the manner
of modern currency. Based on some artifacts found, it seems religion also began to develop – carved female figurines known as “Venus figures” hint at Earth or Goddess worship.

The Ice Age human’s day began before sun-up. As with his predecessors, he shared hunting responsibilities with others of his tribe. The few not out hunting for the day would remain behind to
help protect the women and children from predators (bears and saber-toothed cats chief among them), to tan hides, cure meat, and assist in repairing huts. Others were responsible for making tools, spears, bows and arrows.

While the men were out hunting, women foraged for wild grains (such as wheat and barley), root vegetables (such as yams and wild potatoes) and assorted berries and nuts. They were also responsible for catching small animals (squirrels and hares) to help supplement the diet of the tribe. Like the men, they divided the labor – some women would forage, others would see to catching small prey, others would remain behind to mind the children and dogs (who were becoming domesticated around this time), grind flour for unleavened bread, cook, weave cloth from plants such as nettles, and sew garments and boots. Evidence indicates that nets and ropes were also made, to aid in the capture of small prey and in the catching of fish in coastal communities.

Tasks alternated daily to help provide a fair division of labor.

The hunters typically returned shortly before sundown with their catches, which were immediately skinned and cleaned, and portioned out for curing or cooking. Meals were communal, and consisted of that day’s kill, as well as the nuts, fruits and vegetables gathered that day.

In the evenings, those skilled at carving would take up their tools to create beads, decorative carvings, and figurines. Evidence points to some worship rituals that included the entire tribe, perhaps a collective giving of thanks. Most members of the tribe retired to sleep shortly after sundown, exhausted by the day’s strenuous activity. Bedding consisted of furs and skins, and exhibits at Chicago’s Field Museum indicate that sleeping arrangements began including raised beds fashioned from wood and rope at about this time.