Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Sjur C Papazian

  • FB: Sjur Papazian

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Armenian Eternal Symbol

  • Forget-me-not

  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

  • Archives

Upper Mesopotamia and Mesopotamia

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on August 3, 2018

Upper Mesopotamia

Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, in the northern Middle East. The region extends south from the mountains of Anatolia, east from the hills on the left bank of the Euphrates river, west from the mountains on the right bank of the Tigris river and includes the Sinjar plain.

It extends down the Tigris to Samarra and down the Euphrates to Hit. The Khabur River runs for over 400 km (250 mi) across the plain, from Turkey in the north, feeding into the Euphrates. The major settlements are Mosul, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Al Hasakah, Diyarbakır and Qamishli. The western, Syrian part, is essentially contiguous with the Syrian Al-Hasakah Governorate and is described as “Syria’s breadbasket”.

The eastern, Iraqi part, includes and extends slightly beyond the Iraqi Ninewa Governorate. In the north it includes the Turkish provinces of Şanlıurfa, Mardin, and parts of Diyarbakır Province. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers transform Mesopotamia into almost an island, as they are joined together at the Shatt al-Arab in the Basra Governorate of Iraq, and their sources in eastern Turkey are in close proximity.

The region is extremely important archeologically. This is the area where the earliest signs of agriculture and domestication of animals have been found, and thus the starting point leading to civilization and the modern world. It includes the mountain Karaca Dağ in southern Turkey, where the closest relative to modern wheat still grows wild.

At several sites (e.g. Hallan Çemi, Abu Hureyra, Mureybet) we can see a continuous occupation from a hunter-gathering lifestyle (based on hunting, and gathering and grinding of wild grains) to an economy based mainly on growing (still wild varieties of) wheat, barley and legumes from around 9000 BC. Domestication of goats and sheep followed within a few generations, but didn’t become widespread for more than a millennium. Weaving and pottery followed about two thousand years later.

After the Arab Islamic conquest of the mid-7th century AD the region has been known by the traditional Arabic name of al-Jazira, also transliterated Djazirah, Djezirah, Jazirah & the Syriac (Aramaic) variant Gazerṯo or Gozarto. The name means “island”, and at one time referred to the land between the two rivers, which in Aramaic is Bit Nahren.

Historically, the name could be restricted to the Sinjar plain coming down from the Sinjar Mountains, or expanded to embrace the entire plateau east of the coastal ranges. In pre-Abbasid times the western and eastern boundaries seem to have fluctuated, sometimes including what is now northern Syria to the west and Adiabene in the east.

The name al-Jazira has been used since the 7th century AD by Islamic sources to refer to the northern section of Mesopotamia, which together with the Sawād, the name used in early Islamic times (7th–12th centuries) for southern Iraq, made up al-‘arāq (Iraq).

Sawad means “black land” and refers to the stark contrast between the alluvial plain of Mesopotamia and the Arabian desert. As a generic term, it was used to denote the irrigated and cultivated areas in any district, in Arabic and Persian.

The term Sawad was also used in early Islamic times for the region of the alluvial plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, contrasting it with the arid Arabian desert. As an Arabic word it means “hem”, “shore”, “bank”, or “edge”, so that the name by folk etymology came to be interpreted as “the escarpment”, viz. at the south and east of the Jazira Plateau, which forms the northern and western edge of the “al-Iraq arabi” area.

Under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, it was an official political term for a province encompassing most of modern Iraq (except for the western desert and al-Jazira in the north).

The Arabic name al-ʿIrāq has been in use since before the 6th century. There are several suggested origins for the name. One dates to the Sumerian city of Uruk (Biblical Hebrew Erech) and is thus ultimately of Sumerian origin, as Uruk was the Akkadian name for the Sumerian city of Urug, containing the Sumerian word for “city”, UR.

The historical period in Iraq truly begins during the Uruk period (4000 BC to 3100 BC), with the founding of a number of Sumerian cities, and the use of Pictographs, Cylinder seals and mass-produced goods.

An Arabic folk etymology for the name is “deeply rooted, well-watered; fertile”. During the medieval period, there was a region called ʿIrāq ʿArabī (“Arabian Iraq”) for Lower Mesopotamia and ʿIrāq ʿajamī (“Foreign Iraq”), for the region now situated in Central and Western Iran.

The term historically included the plain south of the Hamrin Mountains and did not include the northernmost and westernmost parts of the modern territory of Iraq. Prior to the middle of the 19th century, the term Eyraca Arabic was commonly used to describe Iraq. In accordance with the 2005 Constitution, the official name of the state is the “Republic of Iraq” (Jumhūrīyyat al-‘Irāq).

Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia literally means “(Land) between rivers” in ancient Greek. The oldest known occurrence of the name Mesopotamia dates to the 4th century BC, when it was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.

Later it was more generally applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but also almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey.

The neighbouring steppes to the west of the Euphrates and the western part of the Zagros Mountains are also often included under the wider term Mesopotamia. A further distinction is usually made between Upper or Northern Mesopotamia and Lower or Southern Mesopotamia.

Upper Mesopotamia, also known as the Jezirah, is the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris from their sources down to Baghdad. Lower Mesopotamia is the area from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf and includes Kuwait and parts of western Iran.

In modern scientific usage, the term Mesopotamia often also has a chronological connotation. It is usually used to designate the area until the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD, with Arabic names like Syria, Jezirah and Iraq being used to describe the region after that date.

It has been argued that these later euphemisms are Eurocentric terms attributed to the region in the midst of various 19th-century Western encroachments. The regional toponym Mesopotamia (“land between rivers”) or Syriac Beth Nahrain (“land of rivers”) comes from the ancient Greek root words meso (“middle”) and potamos (“river”) and translates to “(Land) between two/the rivers”.

It is used throughout the Greek Septuagint (ca. 250 BC) to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalent Naharaim. Naharin, which is usually pronounced as Naharin from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim, was the Ancient Egyptian term for the kingdom of Mitanni during the New Kingdom period of the 18th Dynasty.

Ancient writers later used the name “Mesopotamia” for all of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates. However the usage of the Hebrew name “Aram-Naharaim” does not match this later usage of “Mesopotamia”, the Hebrew term referring to a northern region within Mesopotamia.

The Book of Jubilees 9:5 places Aram’s portion between the Tigris and Euphrates, and lying north of the Chaldeans, who are south of the Euphrates: “And for Aram there came forth the fourth portion, all the land of Mesopotamia [Naharaim] between the Tigris and the Euphrates to the north of the Chaldees to the border of the mountains of Asshur and the land of ‘Arara.”

The translation of the name as “Mesopotamia” was not consistent – the Septuagint also uses a more precise translation “Mesopotamia of Syria” as well as “Rivers of Syria”. Josephus refers to the subjects of Chushan, king of Aram Naharaim, as Assyrians.

In Hebrew, Ashur denotes the region of Assyria proper on the Tigris, and is listed as distinct from Aram Naharaim in Jubilees. Aram Naharaim lay west of Ashur, as it contained Haran. Haran lies on the west bank of the Balikh, east of the Upper Euphrates.

The traditional Jewish location of Ur Kasdim (at Edessa) and the Balikh itself lie west of the Khabur, and the latter may have been considered one of the “two rivers” delineating this Aramaean homeland, the other being the Euphrates.

Jubilees, however, clearly associates the city of Ur Kesed (Ur Kasdim, “Ur of the Chaldees”) not with the descendants of Aram who received Aram Naharaim as an inheritance, but rather with those of Arpachshad, his brother, who was Abram’s ancestor. Both Jonathan ben Uzziel and Onkelos translate Aram Naharaim “Aram which is on the Euphrates”.

Aram-Naharaim (Hebrew: ’Aram Naharayim) is a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. It is commonly identified with Nahrima mentioned in three tablets of the Amarna correspondence as a geographical description of the kingdom of Mitanni.

In Genesis, it is used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah’s family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place from which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan.

Paddan Aram refers to the part of Aram-Naharaim along the upper Euphrates, while Haran is mainly identified with the ancient Assyrian city of Harran on the Balikh River. According to one rabbinical Jewish tradition, the birthplace of Abraham (Ur) was also situated in Aram-Naharaim.

An even earlier Greek usage of the name Mesopotamia is evident from The Anabasis of Alexander, which was written in the late 2nd century AD, but specifically refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. In the Anabasis, Mesopotamia was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.

The Aramaic term biritum/birit narim corresponded to a similar geographical concept. Later, the term Mesopotamia was more generally applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but also almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey.

Eber-Nari (Akkadian, also Ebir-Nari), Abar-Nahara (Aramaic) or ‘Ābēr Nahrā (Syriac) was the name of a region of Western Asia and a satrapy of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), Neo-Babylonian Empire (612-539 BC) and Achaemenid Empire (539-332 BC).

Eber-Nari roughly corresponded with the Levant (modern Syria), and was also known as Aramea. It means “Beyond the River” or “Across the River” in both the Akkadian and Imperial Aramaic languages of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (that is, the Western bank of the Euphrates from a Mesopotamian and Persian viewpoint). It is also referred to as Transeuphratia (French Transeuphratène) by modern scholars.

The province is also mentioned extensively in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Additionally, sharing the same root meaning, Eber was also a character in the Hebrew Bible from which the term Hebrew was widely believed to have been derived, thus the Hebrews were inferred to have been the people who crossed into Canaan across the (Euphrates) river.

The definitive origin of the term “Hebrew” remains uncertain. The Biblical term Ivri (“to traverse” or “to pass over”, is usually rendered as Hebrew in English, from the ancient Greek and the Latin Hebraeus. The Biblical word Ivri has the plural form Ivrim, or Ibrim.

Genesis 10:21 refers to Shem, the elder brother of Ham and Japheth and thus the first-born son of Noah, as the father of the sons of Eber, which may have a similar meaning. Some authors argue that Ibri denotes the descendants of the biblical patriarch Eber, son of Shelah, a great-grandson of Noah and an ancestor of Abraham, hence the occasional anglicization Eberites.

Since the 19th-century CE discovery of the second-millennium BCE inscriptions mentioning the Habiru, many theories have linked these to the Hebrews. Some scholars argue that the name “Hebrew” is related to the name of those seminomadic Habiru people recorded in Egyptian inscriptions of the 13th and 12th centuries BCE as having settled in Egypt.

Other scholars rebut this, proposing that the Hebrews are mentioned in older texts of the 3rd Intermediate Period of Egypt (15th century BCE) as Shasu of Yhw, Semitic-speaking cattle nomads in the Levant from the late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age or the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt.

The name’s etymon may be Egyptian š3sw, which originally meant “those who move on foot”. Levy, Adams, and Muniz report similar possibilities: an Egyptian word that means “to wander”, and an alternative Semitic one with the meaning “to plunder”.

The term Eber-Nari was established during the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC) in reference to its Levantine colonies, and the toponym appears in an inscription of the 7th century BC Assyrian king Esarhaddon.

The region remained an integral part of the Assyrian empire until its fall in 612 BC, with some northern regions remaining in the hands of the remnants of the Assyrian army and administration until at least 605 BC, and possibly as late as 599 BC.

Nairi was the Assyrian name for a confederation of tribes in the Armenian Highlands, roughly corresponding to the modern Van and Hakkâri provinces of modern Turkey. The word is also used to describe the Armenian tribes who lived there.

Nairi has sometimes been equated with Nihriya, known from Mesopotamian, Hittite, and Urartean sources. The Battle of Nihriya, the culminating point of the hostilities between Hittites and Assyrians for control over the remnants of the former empire of Armenian (Indo-European) Mitanni, took place there, c. 1230 BC. However, its co-occurrence with Nihriya within a single text may argue against this.

During the Bronze Age collapse (13th to 12th centuries BC), the Nairi tribes were considered a force strong enough to contend with both Assyria and Hatti. The Nairi fought against the southern incursions of the Assyrians and would later unite into Urartu. Nairi was incorporated into Urartu during the 10th century BC.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: