Fertile Crescent

Fertile Crescent

The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East, originally incorporating the Levant and Ancient Mesopotamia, and often extended to Ancient Egypt. The region is sometimes referred to as the "Cradle of Civilization." The term "Fertile Crescent" was coined by University of Chicago archaeologist James Henry Breasted, around 1900. [cite encyclopedia |last= |first= |author= |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |encyclopedia=Columbia Encyclopedia |title=Fertile Crescent |url=http://education.yahoo.com/reference/encyclopedia/entry/FertileC |accessdate=2008-09-23 |edition= |date= |year=2008 |publisher=Columbia University Press |volume= |location= |id= |doi= |pages= |quote= ] The region was named so due to its rich soil and crescent shape. It is also believed to be the original location of the Garden of Eden in the Bible because of it's unnatural fertility.


Watered by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (as well as the Nile when Egypt is included) and covering some 400,000-500,000 square kilometers, the region extends from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea around the north of the Syrian Desert and through the Jazirah and Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf. These areas correspond to present-day Israel and Lebanon and parts of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, south-eastern Turkey and south-western Iran. As crucial as rivers were to the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, they were not the only factor in the area's precocity. Ecologically the area is important as the "bridge" between Africa and Eurasia. This "bridging role" has allowed the Fertile Crescent to retain a greater amount of biodiversity than either Europe or North Africa, where climate changes during the Ice Age led to repeated extinction events due to ecosystems becoming squeezed against the waters of the Mediterranean seaCoupled with the Saharan pump theory, this Middle Eastern land-bridge is of extreme importance to the modern distribution of Old World flora and fauna, including the spread of humanity. The fact that this area has borne the brunt of the tectonic divergence between the African and Arabian plates, and the converging Arabian and Eurasian plates, has also made this region a very diverse zone of high snow-covered mountains, fertile broad aluvial basins and desert plateaux, which has also increased its biodiversity further and enabled the survival into historic times of species not found elsewhere., lived nearby.

As a result the Fertile Crescent has an impressive record of past human activity. As well as possessing many sites with the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans (e.g. at Kebara Cave in Israel), later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers (the Natufians), this area is most famous for its sites related to the origins of agriculture. The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements (referred to as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)), which date to around 9,000 BC (and includes sites such as Jericho). This region, alongside Mesopotamia (which lies to the east of the Fertile Crescent, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates), also saw the emergence of early complex societies during the succeeding Bronze Age. There is also early evidence from this region for writing, and the formation of state-level societies. This has earned the region the nickname "The Cradle of Civilization."

Both the Tigris and Euphrates start in the Taurus Mountains of what is today Turkey. Farmers in southern Mesopotamia had to protect their fields from flooding each year, except Northern Mesopotamia which had just enough rain to make some farming possible. [cite book | last = Beck | first = Roger B. | authorlink = | coauthors = Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, | title = World History: Patterns of Interaction | publisher = McDougal Littell | date = 1999 | location = Evanston, IL | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0-395-87274-X ]

Since the Bronze Age, the region's natural fertility has been greatly extended by irrigation works, upon which much of its agricultural production continues to depend. The last two millennia have seen repeated cycles of decline and recovery as past works have fallen into disrepair through the replacement of states, to be replaced under their successors. Another ongoing problem has been salination — the gradual concentration of salt and other minerals in soils with a long history of irrigation.

In the contemporary era, river waters remain a potential source of friction in the region. The Jordan lies on the borders of Israel, the kingdom of Jordan and the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority. Turkey and Syria each control about a quarter of the length of the Euphrates, on whose lower reaches Iraq is still heavily dependent.

ee also

*Neolithic Revolution
*Early civilizations


External links

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/05/0518_crescent.html "Ancient Fertile Crescent Almost Gone, Satellite Images Show" - from National Geographic News, May 18, 2001]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fertile Crescent — Fertile Cres|cent the Fertile Crescent an area in the ↑Middle East in the shape of a ↑crescent (=a curved shape) from Israel to the ↑Gulf, including the land around the rivers ↑Tigris and ↑Euphrates. Several important ancient ↑civilizations had… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Fertile Crescent — historical crescent shaped region in the Middle East, extending from the E end of the Mediterranean Sea to the Tigris & Euphrates rivers: significant as the birthplace of several ancient civilizations …   English World dictionary

  • Fertile Crescent — 1. an agricultural region extending from the Levant to Iraq. 2. an area in the Middle and Near East: formerly fertile, now partly desert. * * * Region, Middle East. The term describes a crescent shaped area of arable land, probably more… …   Universalium

  • Fertile Crescent —    The earliest inhabited zone of the Near East often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization in which agriculture and the ancestors of the Mesopotamian peoples first developed. The term Fertile Crescent was coined in the early twentieth… …   Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary

  • Fertile Crescent — crescent shaped agricultural region in the Middle East stretching from the Mediterranean Sea through the Tigris Euphrates valley to the Persian Gulf …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Fertile Crescent — noun /ˈfɜːtaɪl ˈkrɛsənt,ˈfɝːtəl ˈkrɛsənt/ (Ancient History) A crescent shaped strip of fertile land stretching from present day Iraq through eastern Turkey and down the Syrian and Israeli coasts …   Wiktionary

  • Fertile Crescent — geographical name semicircle of fertile land stretching from SE coast of Mediterranean around Syrian Desert N of Arabia to Persian Gulf …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Fertile Crescent — Fer′tile Cres′cent n. geg a crescent shaped agricultural region of the ancient Near East beginning at the Mediterranean Sea and extending between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Persian Gulf …   From formal English to slang

  • Fertile Crescent — /fɜtaɪl ˈkrɛzənt/ (say fertuyl krezuhnt) noun 1. an arc shaped region favourable for agriculture extending from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. 2. an area in western Asia, once fertile but now partly desert, in which it is believed that… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Fertile Crescent — noun a geographical area of fertile land in the Middle East stretching in a broad semicircle from the Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates • Instance Hypernyms: ↑geographical area, ↑geographic area, ↑geographical region, ↑geographic region • Part… …   Useful english dictionary

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