The Fertile Crescent is a boomerang-shaped area in the Middle East that has been home to some of humanity’s oldest civilizations.
This location, often known as the “Cradle of Civilization,” gave rise to a multitude of technical advances, including writing, the wheel, agriculture, and irrigation. Mesopotamia was formerly part of the Fertile Crescent.
In a 1914 high school textbook, American archaeologist James Henry Breasted invented the name “Fertile Crescent” to characterize this archaeologically important area of the Middle East, which includes portions of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Cyprus.
The Fertile Crescent appears on a map as a crescent or quarter-moon. It stretches from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in the south to Turkey’s southern frontier in the north. The Mediterranean Sea borders the Fertile Crescent on the west and the Persian Gulf on the east. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers run through the Fertile Crescent’s center.
Historically, the area had extraordinarily rich soil as well as prolific freshwater and brackish wetlands. This resulted in a plethora of wild edible plant species. Around 10,000 B.C., when humans moved from hunter-gatherer communities to permanent agricultural civilizations, they started to experiment with the production of grains and cereals.
Mesopotamia is an ancient, historical area in modern-day Iraq, as well as sections of Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Mesopotamia, which was part of the Fertile Crescent, was home to the oldest known human civilizations. Scholars say here is where the Agricultural Revolution began.
The first inhabitants of Mesopotamia lived in mud and brick circular houses in the higher portions of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys.
Around 11,000 to 9,000 B.C., they started to pursue agriculture by domesticating sheep and pigs. Around 9,500 B.C., domesticated plants such as flax, wheat, barley, and lentils first emerged.
The archaeological site of Tell Abu Hureyra, a tiny settlement along the Euphrates River in modern Syria, has some of the oldest traces of farming. From around 11,500 to 7,000 B.C., the settlement was inhabited.
Around 9,700 BCE, the inhabitants began harvesting wild grains after hunting gazelle and other wildlife. At the site, many big stone implements for grinding grain have been discovered.
Nineveh (near Mosul in modern Iraq), one of the earliest known Mesopotamian towns, may have been founded as early as 6,000 B.C. Around 5,000 B.C., the Sumer civilisation evolved in the lower Tigris-Euphrates valley.
Aside from farming and towns, ancient Mesopotamian communities created irrigation and aqueducts, temples, ceramics, early banking and credit systems, property ownership, and the earliest legal codes.
The beginnings of Sumer civilisation are unknown, but archaeologists believe that by the fourth century B.C., Sumerians had created around a dozen city-states, including Eridu and Uruk in what is now southern Iraq.
Early humans shared their sleeping quarters with more than just Neanderthals.
Sumer is the first known civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia, and it is possible that it was the world’s first human civilization. The Sag-giga, or “black-headed ones,” were their name.
Bronze was initially used by the ancient Sumerians. They were the first to utilize levees and canals to irrigate their crops. Cuneiform script, one of the first types of writing, was established by Sumerians. They also constructed ziggurats, which are huge stepped pyramids.
Art and literature were highly valued by the Sumerians. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a 3,000-line epic that chronicles the exploits of a Sumerian monarch as he confronts a woodland monster and searches for the mysteries of everlasting life.
As early as the mid-1800s, British and French archaeologists started searching the Fertile Crescent for the remnants of legendary Mesopotamian civilizations like Assyria and Babylonia.
The following are some of the most well-known Mesopotamian archaeological sites:
The Ziggurat of Ur is a massive temple in southern Iraq that is one of the outstanding examples of Sumerian architecture still standing. It was created approximately 2100 B.C., according to archaeologists.
Babylon: This ancient metropolis and Biblical city, founded about 5,000 years ago on the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq, was the last great state in Mesopotamia to fall under Persian rule in 539 B.C.
Hattusha: This UNESCO World Heritage site was formerly the capital of the Hittite Empire, which peaked in the second millennium B.C. and is one of Turkey’s most important ruins.
Persepolis: Persepolis, an ancient Mesopotamian city in southern Iran, is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, featuring a vast number of architecturally notable Persian structures.
The Fruitful Crescent is no longer as fertile as it once was: Starting in the 1950s, a succession of large-scale irrigation projects diverted water away from the Tigris-Euphrates river system’s famous Mesopotamian wetlands, causing them to dry up.
Saddam Hussein’s administration erected a series of dikes and dams in the Iraqi marshes in 1991 to further drain them and punish dissident Marsh Arabs who earned a life farming rice and rearing water buffalo there.
By 1992, NASA satellite photographs indicated that about 90% of the wetlands had vanished, converting over a thousand square kilometers into desert. Over 200,000 Marsh Arabs were displaced from their homes. Many of the Hussein-era dams have since been demolished, but the wetlands are still only half as large as they were before they were drained.
The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped area in the Middle East that includes modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Northern Egypt, as well as Kuwait’s northern part, Turkey’s southeast region, and Iran’s western section.
Crops thrive in the damp, rich soil found near rivers. Mesopotamia means “country between the rivers” in Greek. The country between the rivers—the Tigris and the Euphrates—was known as Mesopotamia. Because the region between these rivers was so fruitful, it was dubbed “The Fertile Crescent.”
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers start near the Black Sea in the highlands. They dump silt (fine sand and soil) on the surrounding plains as they make their way south into the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia’s soil is very fruitful as a result of this.
By the early ninth century bce, the Fertile Crescent was supposed to be the site of the earliest permanent agricultural societies in the Middle East and Mediterranean basin. James Henry Breasted, an American Orientalist, coined the phrase.
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