Houses and Farms

Around the temple were clusters of houses made of sun-dried brick and inhabited by farmers and artisans. The populations of the Babylonian cities cannot be estimated with any reasonable degree of accuracy, because the authorities, so far as extant documents reveal, took no census. The number of inhabitants of a city probably ranged from 10,000 to 50,000. The city streets were narrow, winding, and quite irregular, with high, windowless walls of houses on both sides.

The streets were unpaved and undrained. The average house was a small, one-story, mud-brick structure, consisting of several rooms grouped around a court. The house of a well-to-do Babylonian, on the other hand, was probably a two-story brick dwelling of about a dozen rooms and was plastered and whitewashed both inside and out.

The ground floor consisted of a reception room, kitchen, lavatory, servants' quarters, and, sometimes, even a private chapel. Furniture consisted of low tables, high-backed chairs, and beds with wooden frames. Household vessels were made of clay, stone, copper, and bronze, and baskets and chests of reed and wood. Floors and walls were adorned with reed mats, skin rugs, and woolen hangings.

Below the house was often located a mausoleum in which the family dead were buried. The Babylonians believed that the souls of the dead traveled to the nether world, and that, at least to some extent, life continued there as on earth. For this reason, pots, tools, weapons, and jewels were buried with the dead.

Agriculture formed the economic base of Babylonian civilization with production of barley, wheat, fruits, vegetables, with cattle and sheep predominating.

The main crop in the time of the ancient Babylonians was barley. The farmer would sow his seed with a tool known as a "seeder plough" The plough would create a furrow into which a seed would be dropped using a funnel. A man would have to walk beside the seeder plough and drop the seeds in at regular intervals. This would mean that all the seeds would be at exactly the correct depth.

It would have taken considerable skill to achieve tasks such as irrigation and the winnowing. If the farmer got the irrigation wrong he could flood the field or let it get too dry to allow the plants to grow. Similarly if the farmer did the winnowing in too strong a wind the grain would also blow away but if he did in too weak a wind there would be chaff and dirt still mixed in. The farmer would have probably followed his father in his trade and would have been taught by him. The farmer would almost certainly have been "apprenticed" by his father.