Monday, June 17, 2024

This is where it all began

This is where it all began. The Fertile Crescent. The cradle of civilization. 

For the first 190,000 years or so of human existence, we roved about in small hunter-gatherer bands, eking out a subsistence living day to day, constantly in fear of predators and of other humans. But about 10,000 years ago, in the Mesopotamian area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now Iraq, some people decided to stay put. It is impossible to overstate the importance of that decision.

In the Fertile Crescent an agriculturally-based society arose. Rather than wandering around searching for food in a constant state of conflict, humans began to plant seeds and grow their own crops. To store it they began building structures. To protect it they banded together in cooperation and mutual defense. Whereas before human societies were typically limited to a few dozen people, now villages arose—then towns, then cities. And humanity flourished.

Here, in these early settlements in the Fertile Crescent, humans first developed written language (probably to keep track of accounts). They domesticated animals. They invented the wheel, the plow, and multi-story architecture. Monotheistic religion arose. By about 2500 B.C. the first libraries were created. The things that we think of as characterizing “civilization” began here.

A few thousand years ago people from the Fertile Crescent fanned out into Europe and Asia, taking with them the knowledge accumulated there. And seeds and farm animals. The rest is history.

Of course, it wasn’t all pretty. We were still humans after all. Although social cooperation emerged on a scale that would have been previously unimaginable, violence and what we would now regard as superstition and injustice remained. But in the Fertile Crescent humans had taken an immensely important first step toward the flowering of the incredible civilization we enjoy today.

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