This activity can be used to demonstrate the concept of bartering to students.
In the activity, students are given one of four professions in ancient Mesopotamia: farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, and weaver. Each profession starts with certain goods and must trade to acquire other goods that they need.
A worksheet with four questions for students to answer after the activity is included.
Sheets with professions need to be cut in half by the teacher, while students will need to cut out their goods to trade.
The trade economy is somewhat delicately balanced. If there are an even number of farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and weavers, there are enough goods for everyone. If there are not an even number of each profession, there are still enough goods for everyone as long as the farmer is the first or second profession added.
In my experience, the students have needed about 15 minutes to trade. Some enterprising students have acquired everything they need fairly quickly- in such cases I challenge them to see if they can become the wealthiest person in Mesopotamia.
I have done this activity with my sixth grade students in groups of four, and also as a whole class of around 20 students. I prefer having the whole class trade with each other as it is a bit more challenging, but if you want to keep in simpler, you can put students into smaller groups. If you want to add to the challenge, goods can be removed from the trade economy before the activity begins.
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Hammurabi’s Code Worksheet
Mesopotamian Meals Worksheet