What did Mesopotamians invent?
Sumerian astronomers also named the planets after their gods: Marduk (Jupiter), Ishtar (Venus), Ninurta (Saturn), Nabu (Mercury), and Nergal (Mars). They first observed the way the planets moved, and were able to predict what the planets would do next. They used this information to invent the signs of the zodiac and cast horoscopes.
Today we know that the future can’t really be predicted by horoscopes, or by the signs of the zodiac. But what the Sumerians learned about the movement of the planets is still important to astronomers today.
Hours and minutes: telling time
Furthermore, the Sumerians developed the way we tell time. In Sumer, people thought there was something special about the number 12 (because that was the number of phases of the moon in one year), and about the number 60 (because it was 5 times 12).
So they divided the day up into two sets of twelve hours, 24 hours. They divided each hour into 60 minutes, and each minute into 60 seconds. We still use these divisions today.
Bronze and iron
Charcoal filters and glass
The Phoenicians may have been the first people to burn the inside of their wooden water barrels into charcoal.
The charcoal layer acted as a water filter and kept water cleaner on board ships for long trips. And the Phoenicians and Syrians invented glass. (Unless glass was actually invented in Egypt; nobody knows for sure.) They sold glass beads and glass bottles to all their neighbors.
Inventing the screw pump
The first good roads
When Alexander the Great conquered West Asia in 331 BC, it came under Greek rule, and during this Hellenistic period many West Asian cities had famous schools and came up with a lot of new scientific ideas.
Parthian and Sassanian science
Parthian and Sassanian medicine
West Asian doctors used a lot of medicines imported from India like sandalwood (from the Arabic word “sandal” from the Sanskrit word “chandan”) and camphor (from the Arabic word “kafur”, from the Sanskrit word “kapur”). At Gondishapur, they opened one of the world’s first hospitals and made doctors train there in a medical school, instead of apprenticing to one particular doctor.
West Asians in the Roman Empire
At the same time, West Asians under Roman rule made other contributions. The doctor Galen of Pergamum (in modern Turkey) spread Egyptian doctors‘ ideas that the heart pushed blood around the body, and that nerves controlled movement.
Phoenician ship-builders also developed better ships and better sails, and mold-made glass, pottery and oil lamps. But with the coming of Islam and the decline of the Buddhist universities in India and the University of Alexandria in Egypt, Baghdad became a big center of learning, and produced many more major scientific advances.