What Was The Architecture Like In Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia Architecture

Mesopotamia is an area where civilization appeared for the first time an estimated 6,000 years ago in the Middle East. During that time, a great variety of architecture was developed.

In the city of Ur, one of the oldest cities of Mesopotamia, grand temples were built in honor of city gods. The first temples had small platforms to elevate them above the city, however, over the centuries, the size and splendor of the temples increased. The temples were elegant structures composed of geometric shapes and large walls of sun-dried mud bricks. They often featured a staircase to the roof, were painted in various colors, and had beautiful facades.

The city of Ur also had multi-story residential dwellings, made of mud bricks and held up by wooden beams set in the walls of the building. The houses became increasingly luxurious as the city’s population grew over time. Typically, they were two or three stories, had flat rooftops, and were painted with white, blue, and yellow glazed substances. Clay tiles, which symbolized floods, were also a popular form of decorative artwork.

The Sumerians, who also lived in Mesopotamia, developed a type of structure known as the Ziggurat. Ziggurats were platforms constructed from sun-dried bricks, with a flat top, and four sides that became increasingly steep as the height of the structure was reached. On the flat top of the Ziggurat, there was a temple for the gods. There would be terraces at the foundation of the structure, which would then rise in levels, like a pyramid.

The Assyrians, also from Mesopotamia, were known for their military might and their hilltop fortifications. They were constructed using large stone blocks, and were often surrounded by moats and water-filled trenches, making them difficult to be attacked and conquered. These structures were cleverly designed with projections and platforms along the walls, which allowed archers and soldiers to effectively protect the city from invaders.

Overall, the architecture of Mesopotamia was greatly inspired by the region’s culture and religious beliefs. The people of Mesopotamia embraced an impressive array of designs, from mud brick houses, to grand temples and sacred Ziggurats, to formidable fortifications. Whether it be elegant temples, sturdy fortifications, or multi-story houses, there’s no doubt that the architecture of Mesopotamia has had a lasting impact on the architecture of today.


Terracotta, which is a type of earth structure, was commonly used by the people of Mesopotamia who lived along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The majority of the terracotta structures were used as temporary housing, and could easily be built and dismantled. They often featured wooden beams for support and sun-dried mud bricks for the walls.

Terracotta was also used to build tombs, which were often quite elaborate. The tombs were constructed from mud bricks and arranged in tiers to form a staircase. These staircases led to the tomb chamber which was stocked with offerings and furnishings for the deceased. The funerary rituals that accompanied these tombs have also been found in other ancient cities from the same time period.

The National Museum of Iraq, in Baghdad, features many terracotta artifacts, including works of art such as pottery and figurines, as well as tools used in daily life. The museum also contains a large collection of cuneiform tablets, which are the earliest known form of writing, that were discovered in what is now modern-day Iraq.

Terracotta was a very important material in Mesopotamia, and it’s still used in some parts of the world today. Although the structures may not be permanent as they were in ancient times, terracotta is still used as a material in many places, as it is highly durable and can be made in diverse shapes and sizes.

Urban Design

Mesopotamian urban design was very distinct and heavily influenced by the culture of the region. Cities were often laid out in a grid-like pattern with residential districts and commercial centers, separated by fortified walls. Each district often had its own unique architecture and style. This layout was believed to be a reflection of the divine plan of the gods.

One of the most notable features of Mesopotamian urban design is the use of mud walls to protect and fortify cities. These walls typically had a sloped portion at the base, with layers of mud bricks on top, and were often adorned with images of bulls and lions as symbols of strength and power. The walls also featured gates and watchtowers to allow for the safe passage of people and goods.

The roads within the cities were usually narrow and winding. To protect their privacy, the wealthy would often construct high walls that surrounds their properties. Inside these walls, the wealthy would often have gardens, orchards, and fountains to beautify their space.

Mesopotamian urban design was both practical and aesthetically pleasing, with structures and roads carefully planned in order to achieve maximum efficiency. Despite the age of some of these cities, modern urban design still incorporates many of the same principles as those of the ancient Mesopotamians.


The Mesopotamians were very resourceful when it came to engineering. They were able to manipulate the terrain of their landscape in order to create efficient waterworks. They built canals, built dams for flood control, and open channels for irrigation. These constructions allowed them to easily transport goods, and also support a significant agricultural system.

The most impressive waterworks of Mesopotamia is the Shatt al-Arab River. It is an extensive canal system that connects the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, providing a crucial form of transportation from the northern regions to the Gulf. This canal system is believed to be the oldest in the world, and is estimated to be 5,000 years old. It is an impressive and lasting example of the immense knowledge and engineering capabilities of the ancient Mesopotamians.

In addition to canals and channels, the Mesopotamians also built reservoirs and wells. These were used to collect, store, and cleanse water. This allowed the people of Mesopotamia to easily access clean, potable water and served as an important component of their infrastructure.

The waterworks of Mesopotamia were advanced and impressive, and set the stage for today’s infrastructure. Without the waterworks, many of the great ancient cities of Mesopotamia would not have flourished as they had.


Gardens have been a staple of Mesopotamian culture since the beginning of civilization. These gardens were typical of the region and often found in private homes, temples, and palace grounds. They typically contained a variety of trees, shrubs, flowers, and herbs, and were designed to be visually pleasing and to represent the abundance of the region.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which is believed to have been created by King Nebuchadnezzar II, is one of the most impressive examples of Mesopotamian gardens. This garden was said to have been built on a wide terrace and had trees, shrubs, and flowers planted in beautiful geometric formations. It also had a system of canals and reservoirs, which allowed the water to be carried up the terrace to irrigate the plants.

The garden of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae is another example of a Mesopotamian garden. This garden was ornately decorated and contained gardens of roses, lilies, and pomegranates. It also contained pathways, fountains, and a pool of fish.

Gardens have long been a representation of beauty, bounty, and prosperity, and the gardens of Mesopotamia are no exception. The many gardens of the region testify to the great engineering expertise and wealth of the people of this ancient culture.


Woodworking is an ancient craft, and was a cornerstone of Mesopotamian culture. Every part of daily life was touched by woodworking, from carpentry and furniture making to boat building and weapon production.

The Mesopotamians were very adept at woodworking, with craftsman possessing the ability to craft intricate and detailed items. The most common tools used in woodworking were bow saws, chisels, and wedges. These tools enabled the Mesopotamians to craft items like chests and boats, as well as furniture for the home, for example chairs and beds.

The Assyrians are known for their skill in producing ornate and detailed items from wood, such as carved palace doors and intricate wooden statues. They also used wood to make siege engines, such as battering rams and catapults.

Woodworking was a vital part of the Mesopotamian culture, and its influence is still seen today in the form of wooden structures, furniture, and other ornamental items. The skill and expertise of the ancient Mesopotamian woodworkers has set the stage for modern woodworking techniques.


Pottery is an ancient craft that dates back to the Mesopotamian times. The people of this region excelled at producing pottery, with their works of art being highly sought after by their contemporaries.

Mesopotamian pottery was typically made by hand from clay, which was sourced from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This clay was then mixed with water to form a malleable mixture, which was then shaped and dried. After drying, the pottery was then glazed with a substance called bitumen, and then fired in a kiln. This process resulted in durable, waterproof containers, which were essential for the people of the region.

Mesopotamian pottery is highly valued, with pieces being found in many of the world’s great museums. This pottery typically features geometric shapes and figures, and is often decorated with designs such as animals and flowers. The pottery of Mesopotamia is an enduring testimony to the skill and expertise of the ancient peoples of this region.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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