Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Sjur C Papazian

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  • 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

Various Sites

VARIOUS SITES

Kars

Ani

Dogubeyazit

Van

Akdamar

Chavushtepe

Hoshap Castle

Hasankeyf

Pool of Abraham

Harran

Zeugma

Yesemek

Mount Nemrut

Karatepe

Antakya

Kars

Kars, once a flourishing city founded by the Armenians, has a checkered history. It was taken by Seljuks, Mongols, Tamerlaine, Ottomans and Russians before being given back to Turkey by Lenin and Trotsky.

Today it is famous for its cheese, carpets and felt. The Cathedral of the Apostles, built by the Armenian King Abbas in 937, was converted into a mosque only 100 years after its construction. The nearby Tash Kopru, or Stone Bridge, is made of the same volcanic rock as the church.

The castle, destroyed and rebuilt by the Russians, is open as a park with good views of the city. The museum has an interesting ethnographic section (this region is famous for its kilims and carpets), some ancient pottery and the bell and doors from the cathedral.

Ani

Ani, which succeeded Kars as the capital of Bagratid Armenia, was once a very wealthy city with a population of 100,000 and was known as the city of 1001 churches. Today, having been deserted for over 300 years, it is a huge open-air museum of the finest Armenian architecture.

The Lion Gate was added by the Seljuk leader Alp Arslan, and there are many churches and mosques to explore. The Church of the Redeemer (1036) was cut in half by lightening in 1957. The Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (1215) is the best preserved one, with animals in relief on the outside and beautiful frescos on the inside, and some of the scenes depicted, such as the life of Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, originate from apocryphal texts which were part of the Armenian Bible.

The largest of Ani’s buildings is the Cathedral of the Apostles (1010), and it is unusually positioned on a north-south axis so that light would flood the church only at midday. Menucehir Mosque (1072), said to be the earliest Seljuk mosque in Anatolia, was possibly a former Armenian palace.

Dogubeyazit

The road to Dogubeyazit passes through the foothills of the extinct volcano, Mount Ararat, which at 5,165 meters is the highest point in Europe. According to Christian tradition, Noah’s Arc came to rest here when the flood subsided.

For Armenian monks, this permanently snow-capped mountain was sacred and climbing it was forbidden, and even today with its peak often hidden in cloud it still has a mystical aura. On the slopes of the mountain is the underground Ice Cave with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, and 35km east of Dogubeyazit is a huge 60m deep and 35m wide crater left by a meteor impact in 1913.

Van

Van was founded on the lake shore by the Urartian king Sarduri I in the 9th century BCE. The modern city, a few kilometers away, was rebuilt after World War I. At the Rock of Van, the ruins of the ancient Urartian citadel has many inscriptions in Assyrian cuneiform and Urartian hieroglyphics that have filled in many gaps in history.

The world’s best collection of Urartian artifacts can be seen in the museum in Van: Urartian gold jewellery, bronze belts and terracotta figures are accompanied by Mesolithic rock carvings (9,000-8,000 BCE) that remind one of Van’s prehistoric roots.

Lake Van is the world’s biggest alkaline lake (3,713km2), and is the largest lake of Turkey. It is so deep (1,646m) that locals believe a creature like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland lives in the depths; they call it Van Dam!

Akdamar

During Ani’s halcyon days, a separate Armenian state, Vaspurakan, flourished around Lake Van, and its greatest king, Gagig Artzruni, built a palace and monastery for himself on this island in 921.

The only part remaining today is the Church of the Holy Cross. It is a wonderful example of Armenian church architecture: the outside walls are completely covered with awesome reliefs from the Old Testament such as Jonah and the Whale, Abraham and Isaac, and David and Goliath, as well as mythical animals and Armenian inscriptions.

Chavushtepe

Chavushtepe, 22km SE of Van, is the site of the 8th century BCE Urartian palace and city of Sardurihinili, and is where the best Urartian artworks were found. It was built by Sardurill in honor of the War God, Haldi.

An inscription states that it arose where nothing was before – a feat made possible by the construction of the 80 km Menua irrigation canal which brought water to 5,000 hectares of land; it is still in use today, nearly 3,000 years later!

Hoshap Castle

Hoshap, meaning Beautiful Water has a castle built by the local Kurdish despot Sari Suleyman in 1643. The enormous iron doors reveal the ruins of the council room, baths, prison cells and harem. The keep has watch towers and places from where boiling hot oil was poured over the enemy.

Hasankeyf

Hasankeyf was originally founded by the Romans at the eastern-most point of their empire on the banks of the Tigris. The ruins of the palace and the old city date from the 12th century when it was the Artukid Turkoman capital. Many of the ruined houses have interesting decorations, and the 15th century Zeyfelbey Turbesi is a red-brick onion-domed tomb decorated with colored tiles.

Pool of Abraham

Urfa, ancient Edessa, is important for both Christians and Muslims because of the cave where the prophet Abraham was born. Nearby is the carp-filled Pool of Abraham: according to Muslim tradition, when the Assyrian King Nemrut attempted to burn Abraham for destroying idols, God intervened, turning the fire into water and the firewood into fishes. An additional biblical connection is that the locals believe this region, on the edge of the Mesopotamian plain, was the original Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived.

Harran

Harran, one of the oldest settlements on earth, has been inhabited for at least 6,000 years. Abraham lived here for several years, and it prospered as an Assyrian trade colony. Under the Romans it became an important centre for learning, and after the Arab conquest, the first Islamic University was founded here. Today, it is famous for its beehive houses and the remains of its fortress.

Zeugma

Gaziantep museum holds the mosaics uncovered in the last-minute excavations at the Roman city of Zeugma, a site now under the waters of the Birecik dam. Among the many mosaics on display are Zeugma’s ‘Mona Lisa’, with staring eyes that follow you wherever you go, and Achilles being recruited to fight in the Trojan War. These superlative mosaics are a wonder to behold, and one can only imagine about the other incredible mosaics that have been lost forever.

Yesemek

Yesemek was the stone quarry and sculpture workshop of the Hittites. It was most probably set up under Shuppiluliuma I in the 14th century BCE. Today, more than 300 finished and unfinished statues and reliefs carved out of a mauvish-grey basalt are spread over a large area.

From studying these remains we know something about the sculptors’ techniques: firstly the forms were roughly chipped out, then detailed carving and polishing was carried out, and lastly the final polishing was done. No one knows what happened to these craftsmen when this vast studio was invaded by Sargon II at the start of the 8th century BCE. Maybe they were carried away to work as slaves for their new masters.

Mount Nemrut

On top of Mount Nemrut lies the final resting place of the Commagene kingdom’s most famous and egocentric ruler, Antiochus I, a tomb beneath an artificial mountain peak of piled stones. Archaeologists have yet to discover a way to open the “tomb to rival that of Tutankhamen” without destroying everything.

The Eastern Terrace, from where one can watch a miraculous dawn, has five sitting statues of Antiochus I and his celestial relatives, who each represent both Greek and Persian deities.

Further around, the western temple has further statues, reliefs and inscriptions, including the world’s first horoscope: that of Antiochus on the coronation of his father, Mithradates, on July 14thy 109 BCE. This site is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The road up to the summit passes the Karakush (Blackbird) Tumulus of Antiochus’ wife, the 2,000 year-old Roman Cendere Bridge, and Arsameia, the ancient capital of the Commagene kingdom with the famous relief of Hercules and Mithradates I Callinicus shaking hands.

Karatepe

The Neo-Hittite fortress of Karatepe is second in importance only to Hattusha in terms of the reliefs and artefacts discovered. Karatepe was founded in the 8th century BCE by the Hittite King Asitawanda, who ruled the Adana plain and made Karatepe his summer home.

Statues of lions and sphinxes protected the citadel, and the reliefs on display show musicians entertaining, a mother breast-feeding her baby, and even the king at dinner with a monkey under the table waiting for crumbs.

The bilingual texts found here, the first examples of Hittite hieroglyphic writing, were key to deciphering Hieroglyphic Luwian.

Antakya

Old Houses of Antakya - Antakya, Hatay

Antakya, ancient Antioch on the Orontes, was founded in the fourth century BCE by Seleucos Nicator. By the second century BCE, it was one of the largest cities in the ancient world, with a population of over half a million.

This was undoubtedly one of the reasons why Saint Peter the apostle came here with Saint Paul and Saint Barnabus to found one of the first Christian communities. The word Christian was coined in this city, and the cave church where Saint Peter preached his first sermon is still here, with a facade added in the thirteenth century by the crusaders.

Antakya’s Archaeological Museum holds the world’s best collection of Roman mosaics. They are just incredible, with subjects from abstract designs similar to those on today’s Turkish carpets to scenes from everyday life and Roman mythology, including the Rape of Ganymede, the Marriage of Tethys and Oceanus, and a rather fearsome rendition of the evil eye.

At Harbiye there is a beautiful grove with mesmerizing waterfalls. This is ancient Daphne, where Anthony and Cleopatra were married and the home of the Antioch Games, which became more famous and important than those at Olympus. One thing you won’t see is the magnificent temple of Apollo, which was dismantled by Christians who used the stones to build their churches.

The mountain-top monastery where Saint Simeon stood on his pillar has spectacular views of the sea coast, and down on the sea front, once the ancient port of Seleucia ad Pieria, is the famous Tunnel of Vespasian, a feat of engineering that prevented the harbor silting up. There’s also a unique Roman cave graveyard carved out of the rock near the tunnel.

 
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