The Fertile Crescent
The quarter-shape of a moon is often called the crescent but it is also part of the name of a region in the Middle East. The Fertile Crescent curves through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Northern Egypt. Egyptologist (a person who studies Egypt) James Henry first used the term in 1916 to describe the region also known as the Cradle of Civilization, which is regarded as the birthplace of agriculture, urbanization, writing, trade, science, history and organized religion.
The area is important as the 'bridge' between Africa and Eurasia, which allowed the Fertile Crescent to sustain a great amount of biodiversity than either Europe or North Africa. The Middle Eastern land-bridge was important to the distribution of flora, fauna, and the spread of humanity.
In addition, the region is often referred to as the earthly location of the Garden of Eden in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The Fertile Crescent had many diverse climates which led to the evolution of many annual plants, which produced more seeds than the perennial plants.
The area was first populated over 12,000 years ago. Agriculture (farming) and the domestication (taming) of animals began in the region. One-thousand years later the growth of wild grains and cereal was wide-spread and then by 5,000 BC, irrigation was developed for the growth of crops. Finally, about 500 years later the first wool-bearing sheep were cultivated and used.
By 5,400 BC, the first two cities to rise in the area included Eridu and Uruk. By 3,500 BC, a breed of dog known as the Saluki appeared regularly on vases, ceramics, and wall paintings. The extremely fertile soil of the region led to further cultivation of wheat, rye, barley, and legumes. The earliest beer was also brewed in cities along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Throughout the ages, the control of the region changed many times. It had been controlled by the Sumerians, Sargon of Akkad, the Babylonians, Cyrus the Great, Persians, the Romans, Arabian Muslims, and several other empires and leaders.
Throughout the civilizations there was much fighting, destruction, and military conquests along with natural disasters such as earthquakes and fire, which left many of the cities mostly in ruins. The over-use of the land also resulted in the decline and abandonment of cities of the Fertile Crescent.
Today, only the name of the region exists. There has been extensive damming of rivers, a massive drain works program initiated in Iraq from the 1970's on, thus reducing the fertile marshlands from about 7,700 square miles to 770 square miles. Pleas to stop the damming were ignored and the situated became worse. The region which was once the lush paradise and cradle of civilization is now mostly dry, cracked plains of sunbaked clay.
In summary, the Fertile Crescent was the Cradle of Civilization which included the development and production of many agricultural crops and the domestication of important species. Crops included wheat, barley, peas, lentil and many others, and domesticated animals such as cows, goats, sheep, and pigs. The Fertile Crescent also has an impressive record of past human activity with the finding at many sites of the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans.
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