The Fertile Crescent Cradle of Civilization
In his brilliant and informative book , Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies , (Norton, 1999), Jared Diamond traced the remarkable scope of the role played by the dwellers of the Fertile Crescent , the Sumerians, in the history of civilization.
* Part of Southwest Asia area known as the Fertile Crescent (because of the crescent-like shape of its uplands) appears to have been the earliest site for a whole string of developments including cities, writing, empires, and what we term civilization (p 135).
* The Fertile Crescent was perhaps the earliest center of food production in the world, and the site of origin of several of the modern world's major crops and almost all its major domesticated animals (p 134).
* Most food production depended initially on Fertile Crescent domesticates. Their spread was soon followed by that of other innovations originating in or near the Fertile Crescent, including the wheel writing, metalworking techniques, milking, fruit trees, and beer and wine production…The Sphinx and the pyramids were built by people fed on crops originally native to the Fertile Crescent, not to Egypt (p 182).
* By the time of Christ cereals of Fertile Crescent origins were growing over the 8 000- mile expanse from the Atlantic coast of Ireland to the Pacific coast of Japan (p 185).
* Pottery appeared in the Fertile Crescent (and China ) by around 10 000 years ago (p 254).
* Chiefdoms arose by around 5500 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent and by around 1000 B.C. in Mesoamerica and the Andes (p 273).
*Tribal organizations began to emerge around 13 000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and later in some other areas (p 271).
*States arose around 3700 B.C. in Mesopotamia and around 300 B.C. in Mesoamerica, over 2000 years ago in the Andes (p 278).
* With the possible exceptions of the Egyptian, Chinese, and Easter Island writing, all other writing systems devised anywhere in the world, at anytime, appear to have been descendants of systems modified from or at least inspired by Sumerians or early Mesoamerican writing (p 224).
* The two indisputably independent inventions of writing were achieved by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia somewhat before 3000 B.C. and by Mexican Indians before 600 B.C….The independent invention that we can trace in greatest detail is history's oldest writing system, Sumerian cuneiform. For thousands of years before it jelled , people in some farming villages of the Fertile Crescent had been using clay tokens of various simple shapes for accounting purposes (p 218).
Following are four tables redrawn here from the book:
|Historical Trajectories Of Eurasia and the Americas|
|Approximate Date of Adoption||Eurasia||Native America|
|Fertile Crescent||China||England||Andes||Amazonia||Mesoamerica||Eastern U.S.|
|Plant Domestication||8500 B.C.||by 7500 B.C.||3500 B.C.||by 3000 B.C.||3000 B.C.||by 3000 B.C.||2500 B.C.|
|Animal Domesti||8000 B.C.||by 7500 B.C.||3500 B.C.||3500 B.C.||?||500 B.C.||-|
|Pottery||7000 B.C.||by 7500 B.C.||3500 B.C.||3100-1800 B.C.||6000 B.C.||1500 B.C.||2500 B.C.|
|Villages||9000 B.C.||by 7500 B.C.||3000 B.C.||3100-1800 B.C.||6000 B.C.||1500 B.C.||500 B.C.|
|Chiefdoms||5500 B.C.||4000 B.C.||2500 B.C.||by 1500 B.C.||A.D. 1||1500 B.C.||200 B.C.|
|Widespread metal tools or artifacts (copper and/or bronze)||4000 B.C.||2000 B.C.||2500 B.C.||A.D. 1000||-||-||-|
|States||3700 B.C.||2000 B.C.||500 A.D.||A.D. 1||-||300 B.C.||-|
|Writing||3200 B.C.||by 1300 B.C.||A.D. 43||-||-||600 B.C.||-|
|Widespread iro||900 B.C.||500 B.C.||650 B.C.||-||-||-||-|
|Source: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, pp 362-363, Norton, 1999. Redrawn by Nadine Boutros|
|Early Major Crop Types Around the Acient World|
|Cereals, Other Grasses||Pulses||Fiber||Roots, Tubers||Melons|
|Fertile Crescent||emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, barley||pea, lentil, chickpea||flax||-||muskmelon|
|China||foxtail millet, broomcorn millet, rice||soybean, adzuki bean, mung bean||hemp||-||[muskmelon]|
|Mesoamerica||corn||common bean, tepary bean, scarlett runner bean||cotton (G. hirsutum), yucca, agave||jicama||squashes (G. pepo, etc.)|
|Andes, Amazonia||quinoa, [corn]||lima bean, common bean, peanut||cotton (G. barbadense)||manioc, sweet potato, potato, oca||squashes (G. maxima, etc.)|
|West Africa and Sahel||sorghum, pearl millet, African rice||cowpea, groundnut||cotton (G. herbaceum)||African yams||watermelon, bottle gourd|
|India||[wheat, barley, rice, sorghum, millets]||hyacinth bean, black gream, green gram||cotton (G. arboreum), flax||-||cucumber|
|Ethiopia||teff, finger millet, [wheat, barley]||[pea, lentil]||[flax]||-||-|
|Eastern United States||maygrass, little barley, knotweed, goosefoot||-||-||Jerusalem artichoke||squashes (G. pepo)|
|New Guinea||sugar cane||-||-||yams, taro||-|
|Source:Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, pp 126-127, Norton, 1999. Redrawn by Nadine Boutros|
|Approximate Dates of First Attested Evidence for Domestication of Large Mamal Species|
|Species||Date (B. C.)||Place|
|Dog||10 000||Southwest Asia (the Fertile Crescent) , China, North America|
|Sheep||8 000||Southwest Asia|
|Goat||8 000||Southwest Asia|
|Pig||8 000||China, Southwest Asia|
|Cow||6 000||Southwest Asia, India, (?) North Africa|
|Water Buffalo||4 000||China?|
|Bacterian camel||2 500||Central Asia|
|Arabian camel||2 500||Arabia|
|Source: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, p 167, Norton, 1999. Redrawn by Nadine Boutros|
|Species Domesticated in Each Area|
|Area||Domesticated||Earliest Attested Date of Domestication|
|Independent Origins of Domestication|
|1. Southwest Asia||wheat, pea, olive||Sheep, goat||8500 B.C.|
|2. China||rice, millet||pig, silkworm||by 7500 B.C.|
|3. Mesoamerica||corn, beans, squash||turkey||by 3500 B.C.|
|4. Andes and Amazonia||potato, manioc||llama, guinea pig||by 3500 B.C.|
|5. Eastern United States||sunflower, goosefoot||none||2500 B.C.|
|? 6. Sahel||sorghum, African rice||guinea fowl||by 5000 B.C.|
|? 7. Tropical West Africa||African yams,oil palm||none||by 3000 B.C.|
|? 8. Ethiopia||coffee, teff||none||?|
|? 9. New Guinea||sugar cane, banana||none||7000 B.C.?|
|Local Domestication Following Arrival of Founder Crops from Elsewhere|
|10. Western Europe||poppy, oat||none||6000-3500 B.C.|
|11. Indus Valley||sesame, eggplant||humped cattle||7000 B.C.|
|12. Egypt||sycamore fig, chufa||donkey, cat||6000 B.C.|
|Source: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, p 100, Norton, 1999. Redrawn by Nadine Boutros|