- Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent is a
crescent-shaped region in the Middle East, originally incorporating the Levantand 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 Chicagoarchaeologist 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 Edenin the Biblebecause of it's unnatural fertility.
Watered by the
Euphratesand Tigrisrivers (as well as the Nilewhen Egypt is included) and covering some 400,000-500,000 square kilometers, the region extends from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Seaaround the north of the Syrian Desertand through the Jazirah and Mesopotamiato the Persian Gulf. These areas correspond to present-day Israeland Lebanonand parts of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, south-eastern Turkeyand 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 biodiversitythan either Europe or North Africa, where climate changes during the Ice Ageled to repeated extinctionevents 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 floraand 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 Cavein Israel), later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers and Epipalaeolithicsemi-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 farmingsettlements (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 ]
Bronze Age, the region's natural fertility has been greatly extended by irrigationworks, 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.
* [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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