The crescent of fertile land that curves from the Nile Valley to the Persian Gulf is commonly credited as the cradle of civilization. It enjoyed several unique advantages: on the land bridge between three continents, it retained greater biodiversity than the surrounding landmasses, particularly of edible and potential cultivar plants. Rainfall was higher than in the deserts it girdled, and the terrain more manageable than its mountainous northern flanks. Pigs were first domesticated in Mesopotamia (c. 13,000 BCE), cultivated figs have been dated to 9000 BCE in Jericho. Sporadic cultivation of the Neolithic founder crops had developed into systematic sowing and harvesting in the Nile Valley by 8000 BCE. With agriculture came the earliest urbanization, hierarchical social systems, organized religion and commerce, scientific/astronomical observation and writing. By the third millennium BCE, the crescent had given rise to breathtaking monumental architecture in Egypt, Hammurabi’s legal code and the Epic of Gilgamesh in Mesopotamia.
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