What Is The Fertile Crescent?

The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East and Southwest Asia saw the rise of many of the earth's first great civilizations.

5. Early History

With the end of the last Ice Age, which according to most historians happened about 12,000 years ago, a climate similar to the contemporary one was established in the vast expanses of Eurasia. Most of the Middle East was occupied with the dry steppe or desert, and only in the north, in a wide band from the mountains of the Levant and the Taurus Mountains in the west to the east of Zagros, was water more abundant. There, caught on the highest peaks, the clouds poured rain, abundantly irrigating the slopes of the mountains. Mountain streams merged into a large rivers, the greatest of which were the Tigris and Euphrates. In the valleys, the water was more than plentiful enough to support wildlife, and the area between them had become a country of lakes and marshes, abundant with fish and game, but of little use to human life. Hillsides covered with dense forest, with green lawns and meadows, became the most convenient for the human hunters and gatherers of the period. The inhabitants were multiple, including wild goats, sheep, donkeys, and other animal species, many of which remain here up to this day. Among the birds found there were almost all kinds of spices coming here for the winter from Europe, as well as eagles, hawks, and partridges for most of the year.

4. Rise To Prominence And Accomplishments

Among the grasses and meadows the ancestors of future crops had been growing, including the ancient progenitors of modern barley and wheat. Wild grasses began to attract the attention of the ancient hunters. This is evidenced by the findings of special silicon knives which were used to collect wild plants. The region of the Fertile Crescent had another advantage which performed an important role in the life of our ancestors as well. The mountains were rich in obsidian, a volcanic glass, that was a main material for the manufacture of arrowheads, javelins, and spears, the first weapons of ancient hunters. The obsidian was also used in crafting the blades for the wild grasses collection and processing of hides.

3. Challenges and Controversies

Irrigation facilities of earlier civilizations came into disrepair or had been changed by subsequent generations. This has led to the most important problems of agriculture in the region, namely the increasing problem of soil salinization. The soils with a long history of irrigation have witnessed a steady increase in salt and other mineral concentrations. Another problem of the modern era is that the fresh river waters remain a potential source of conflict in the region. The Jordan River is on the borders of Israel and Jordan, and about a quarter of the Euphrates River and the area located in the lower reaches of Iraq, heavily dependent on agriculture, is controlled by Turkey and Syria.

2. The Fertile Crescent Today

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, the Fertile Crescent stretched from Mesopotamia and the Levant. In turn, this area was divided into historic Syria and historic Palestine. Today, it occupies the territory of modern Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, southeast Turkey, and northwestern Jordan. Excavations in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, conducted in 2013 by German anthropologists, have shown that as many as five groups of early Middle Eastern settlers independently discovered the secret of growing crops in the region approximately 9,800 years ago.

1. Historical Significance and Legacy

Nowadays, the Fertile Crescent is a relatively well-watered land stretching from the coast of the Persian Gulf, upstream of the Tigris and Euphrates to northern Syria, and to south through the Levant to the lower reaches of the Nile. Scientists traditionally considered Fertile Crescent as a "Cradle of Civilization", with the most famous arising in Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. It was the area of the first monumental buildings, including pyramids and ziggurats, in a land where sophisticated crafts developed in a variety of realms, including pottery and weaving, metallurgy, and writing systems, all of which saw marked improvement. Modern archaeological research and radiocarbon methods confirm the existence of settled agricultural communities as early as the 8th Millennium BC. This region is of particular importance for the modern civilization as a motherland of Judaism, Hellenism, and Christianity. Arab conquest led to the domination of Islam in the territory of Fertile Crescent, and parts of the territory became the object of the Crusades, which ceased in the Middle Ages after being taken over by the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, the region has long been an arena for some of the worst bloodshed in the world, which continues into present times.

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