Without a doubt, Ancient Mesopotamia deserves exploration. History of this region helps scientists understand the way humanity was evolving. This fertile land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates was the cradle of civilization, where people established first villages and cities, domesticating wild plants and animals. People of Mesopotamia made many important discoveries. They invented the wheel and the concept of time. They used cuneiform, the world’s first form of writing, to write down information (Pollock 244). Mesopotamians have invented sexagesimal concept of counting. Their civilizational success relied on prudent use of favorable geographical position and agricultural innovations. One particular area of Ancient Mesopotamia played especially important role in its history. Eventually, the geographical location of the Zagros Mountains shaped the Mesopotamian civilization in regards of economic strengths such as agriculture and trade.
The Zagros Mountains are the mountain range between modern Iraq, Iran, and partly Turkey. Winter rains and spring snowmelts from the mountains supply the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. in times of Ancient Mesopotamia, large fertile valleys, which intersect mountain range, used to have diverse flora and fauna (Beaumont et al. 19). A substantial amount of pistachio, wild wheat and barley grew there, and the ancient gatherers were the first to use them as a food source (Cowan et al. 39). They started to cultivate plants, using moist and fertile marshy areas of plains. Soon, they domesticated other plants, such as pea, lentil, vines, and olives. Also, they started domesticating animals such as donkeys and horses. This resulted in change of their lifestyle. Former hunters and gatherers, who were in constant search for food, settled down and founded first villages (Cowan 43). This area was called the Upper Mesopotamia. However, farmers found out that foothills of the Zagros Mountains did not provide them with enough water to supply all their fields due to arid climate. Therefore, they started constructing first irrigation channels, using rainfall runoff. Soon, this practice shifted down from foothills to plains of the Lower Mesopotamia, encouraging farmers to grow more crops (Hall at al. 10). Thus, the agriculture of Ancient Mesopotamia had emerged due to favorable geographical location of the Zagros Mountains.
Despite the arid climate, lands of the Ancient Mesopotamia were called the Fertile Crescent due to highly developed agriculture, which was the cornerstone of this civilization. The Fertile Crescent was an area which had fertile soil, more suitable for farming than other territories of the Near East. The Fertile Crescent also included areas of modern Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Syria. It was a cradle of another civilization, the Ancient Egypt, which also contributed from irrigation. It was situated in the Nile Valley, and Egyptians strongly relied on water from the Nile, just like Mesopotamians relied on the Tigris and Euphrates. Despite the Nile being much more predictable than the rivers of Mesopotamia, Egyptian farmers needed to control its level more efficiently. In addition, due to arid climate they needed additional sources of water to maintain their fields. However, unlike Mesopotamians, Egyptians used another system, called basin irrigation. It consisted of network of walls, which collected the water inside during floods, saturating the soil (Pollock 219).
Despite the developed agriculture, the highlands and the lowlands of Mesopotamia were unequal in terms of raw resources. The Zagros Mountains provided their inhabitants with various sorts of metals, stones and trees, whereas fertile alluvial plains of the lowlands could give only clay, bitumen, and reeds. As a result, they were in high demand for construction supplies. This inequality is considered one of the main developing factors of Mesopotamian economy. The lowlanders were in constant search for the resources, and it encouraged them to begin economical relationship with the highlanders, offering rich agricultural goods. They also established trade routes through the mountain range, trying to get more raw sources. One of them was the Great Khorasan Road, which connected cities of the Iranian plateau with those of the alluvial valley (Pollock 42). Thus, the geography of the Zagros Mountains also contributed to Upper Mesopotamia’s wellbeing.
In the 25th century BC, the city of Assur emerged. It was situated on the Northern East of Mesopotamia, near banks of the Tigris and the Zagros mountain range. Later, Assur became the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Along with Babylon on the South, it was the powerful country, which expanded its borders from Egypt to the Persian Gulf. In fact, their geographical position contributed to their success, although, in indirect way. Being close to the mountains meant being close to warlike tribes of Lullubi, Turukku, and Medes. Because of their vulnerable geographical position, Assyrians had to maintain a strong army (Radner 10). Lust like their predecessors, they relied on agriculture and trade. Cooler climate of the Zagros Mountains made it easier to grow crops; being close to the mountains put Assyria in favorable position for trade.
To sum up, the main benefits of the Zagros Mountains’ geographical location were moist, fertile soil, and closeness to trade routes. Fertility encouraged primitive gatherers to become farmers, who have established the new lifestyle and, eventually, have founded the first civilization. Despite arid climate, Mesopotamian society was prosperous, and economical wellbeing motivated it to start trading with other cultures. Fertile soil of the Upper Mesopotamia was a cradle of the Assyrian Empire, which continued tradition of farming and trade. Overall, the area of the Zagros Mountains can be considered a cradle of the whole Western civilization due to Mesopotamians’ numerous contributes to developing of humanity.
- Beaumont, Peter, Gerald Blake, and Malkolm J. Wagstaf. The Middle East: A Geographical Study. Routledge, 2016. https://books.google.com.ua/
- Cowan, Wesley С., Patty J. Watson, and Nancy L. Benco. The Origins of Agriculture: An International Perspective. University of Alabama Press, 2006. https://books.google.com.ua. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.
- Hall, Anthony E., G. H. Cannel, and H. W. Lawton, eds. Agriculture in Semi-Arid Environments. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. https://books.google.com.ua/
- Pollock, Susan. Ancient Mesopotamia. Cambridge University Press, 1999. https://books.google.com.ua/
- Radner, Karen. Ancient Assyria: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2015. https://books.google.com.ua