Named for its rich soils, the Fertile Crescent, often called the “cradle of civilization,” is found in the Middle East. Because of this region’s relatively abundant access to water, the earliest civilizations were established in the Fertile Crescent, including the Sumerians. Its area covers what are now southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, and parts of Turkey and Iran. Two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, regularly flooded the region, and the Nile River also runs through part of it. Irrigation and agriculture developed here because of the fertile soil found near these rivers.

Access to water helped with farming and trade routes. Soon, its natural riches brought travelers in and out of the Fertile Crescent. This led to an exchange of culture and ideas, and advancements in the region as writing (cuneiform), math, and religion all soon developed there.

As time has passed, however, challenges have arisen in the Fertile Crescent. Turkey, Syria, and Iraq all depend on the waters flowing from the region. Increased population and demands on the rivers from urbanization have depleted the once-fertile soil. The construction of multiple dams has also put more pressure on the area, leading to lower water output and quality. As a result, much of the volume has declined to the point where nations utilizing the Euphrates River have to negotiate solutions to ensure each has access to needed water. 

The environmental strain on the once lush and thriving area has been cited as a secondary reason for tensions in the region, including the conflicts in Syria. Political issues became entangled with geographical problems, and the result was a battle for control of the region, which began in the early 2000s.

While the current state of the Fertile Crescent is awash with uncertainty, its status as the cradle of civilization remains intact.

 

Fertile Crescent

Fed by the waterways of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Nile rivers, the Fertile Crescent has been home to a variety of cultures, rich agriculture, and trade over thousands of years.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

fertile
Adjective

able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

Noun

region extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast through Southwest Asia to the Persian Gulf.

negotiate
Verb

to discuss with others of different viewpoints in order to reach an agreement, contract, or treaty.

strain
Verb

to stretch beyond a reasonable or safe limit.

urbanization
Noun

process in which there is an increase in the number of people living and working in a city or metropolitan area.