10 March 2009
Necessity, mother of invention
Despite having almost no natural resources, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates (Mesopotamia) was home to the world’s first civilization. The people who settled there made creative use of their meager resources—reeds, rushes, clay, palm trees.
Although most of Mesopotamia was desert, reeds—a general term for any tall, grasslike plant that grows in wet places—grew abundantly along the rivers and canals. The ancient Mesopotamians used reeds to:
•make styluses to write with
•drink beer out of large jars, thus avoiding the sediment at the bottom
•probably make furniture
•burn for fuel
•build boats, some with reed structures on them (see seal impressions)
•build houses (with reeds bound together serving as structural supports, bent reeds forming the curved roof, woven reeds serving as walls and "carpeting," and perhaps a clay "skin" for insulation)
A comparison of ancient carvings of reed houses with modern reed houses suggests reed houses in Mesopotamia have changed little in thousands of years. The Ma'dān (“Marsh Arabs”) of Southern Iraq and some others who live in marshy areas still make reed mats, furniture, and buildings. The picture at left shows a particularly elegant reed house, apparently wired for electricity given the light fixture on the right side.
Carleen Brice is running a poll at her White Readers Read Black Authors blog. She invites you to stop by and cast a vote for whether you think bookstores should have a separate section for African-American fiction.