The ancient Near East, and the historic regions of the abundant Crescent and Mesopotamia in particular, are usually seen together the birthplace that agriculture. In the 4th millennium BCE, this area was more temperate than it is today, and it to be blessed with fertile soil, two good rivers (the Euphrates and also the Tigris), and hills and also mountains come the north.

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The beginnings of Agriculture

The bear of farming was a pivotal minute in human background that allowed the earliest civilizations to to happen in the fertile Crescent. In spite of Mesopotamia being dubbed the "Cradle the Civilization", we now know that farming (and person civilization) additionally arose individually in other regions of the world. In central America, people domesticated maize and also beans, and rice and also millet and pigs were first domesticated in China; both without expertise of earlier advances in the near East.

Even today, 90% of our calorie come from foodstuffs that were domesticated in this an initial wave the the farming revolution.

The development of agriculture occurred gradually in the hill country of south-eastern Turkey, western Iran, and also the Levant, many likely due to the fact that the region happened come be house to a wide variety of plants and also animals that lend us to domestication and also human consumption. Wheat and also goats were domesticated by about 9000 BCE, complied with by peas and also lentils approximately 8000 BCE, olive trees by 5000 BCE, horses by 4000 BCE. Grapevines to be domesticated about 3500 BCE, marking the end of the change to agriculture. Also today, 90% of our calories come from foods items that were trained in this very first wave of the agricultural revolution.

Agriculture started many likely because hunter-gatherers who gathered grains would certainly have had actually to take them ago to your camp in bespeak to different the grain from the chaff. During this process, part seeds inevitably loss to the ground. When human beings returned to the very same campsite the next year, cereals would be growing approximately the campsite, which they harvest again, causing an ext seeds come fall. As the lot of cereals roughly the site increased, the people stayed much longer to harvest, eventually transforming into semi-nomads with seasonal villages, such as the Natufian society that prospered circa 12500 - 9500 BCE.

Over time, few of these semi-nomads chose to remain in their agricultural villages year-round to cultivate cereals, while others would proceed as nomads. Through 8500 BCE, the Middle eastern was house to many permanent villages whose citizens were mainly farmers. The agricultural revolution had begun. Through the increase in food production from agriculture, an ext human life can be sustained, populaces increased, and villages turned into cities that provided rise come the Mesopotamian civilizations.

Geography that the fertile Crescent

Due to its varied geography, Mesopotamian agriculture was highly varied in regards to food sources, regional crop yields, and annual rainfall or irrigation variation (agricultural production could be as much as 100x greater in particularly good years). There were two types of agriculture:

Irrigation agriculture, which was focused in lower Mesopotamia.


Many harvests were destroyed by drought or flooding. Fabricated irrigation systems existed, but people wanted to depend on the rainy, hilly areas to certain a an ext even spread out of precipitation.

Irrigation to be at an initial conducted through siphoning water from the Tigris-Euphrates flow system directly onto the areas using little canals and shadufs; crane-like water lifts that have existed in Mesopotamia because c. 3000 BCE. In the drier regions, agriculture was only possible with irrigation canal systems, which space attested indigenous the mid-1st millennium BCE, including aqueducts. The Jerwan aqueduct, the oldest well-known aqueduct in the world, was built by king Sennacherib i of Assyria in between 703 and also 690 BCE.


The Urartians were the masters of canal building, and also many of their watering systems tho exist. The key canals were typically created and maintained through the state, and the tiny ones by the farmers themselves or the local communities. Irrigated farmland, as is tho the situation today, to be under continuous threat the salination.

The soil, an especially in the flood levels in the arid climate of Babylonia and Assyria, was at risk to dry up, harden, and also crack. In stimulate to store the floor arable, the plow had to it is in used. By 3000 BCE plows to be known and also in vast use – countless Assyrian emperors boasted to have invented a new improved form of plow. Fields were regularly long and narrow, v the small edges bordering the canals come maximize watering efficiency.

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Mesopotamian Crops

Mesopotamia was house to among the many plentiful farming systems in the old world.

The main varieties of grain that were used for farming were barley, wheat, millet, and emmer. Rye and also oats were not yet known for agricultural use. In Babylonia, Assyria, and also the Hittite lands, barley was the key grain for human use. It was a widely-used type of payment, and flatbread was made indigenous barley. The the smallest unit of load was the equivalent of one serial (1/22 g). Beer and also luxury foods were do from wheat and emmer. Wheat play a minor function as that was much less salt-resistant 보다 barley.

Other agricultural products encompass sesame (derived native the Akkadian indigenous šamaššammu), which was widely cultivated and used to do oil. Olive oil was produced in the mountains. Flax was supplied to make linen cloth. Peas were cultivated in Mesopotamia, when lentils were wanted in Palestine. Figs, pomegranate, apple, and pistachio groves were discovered throughout the abundant Crescent. In villages and also cities of southern Mesopotamia, groves of date palms were common, regularly with vegetable such as onions, garlic, and also cucumbers farming in the shade of the palm trees. The dates were consumed either fresh or dried, and also palm lumber was additionally used in crafts, however not in construction.

Harvest & Storage

Harvest required far-reaching manpower, as there was enormous time press on perfect the harvest before winter collection in. Serial was reduced with a sickle, dried in shacks, and also threshed by driving pets over it come "tread out" the grain. ~ threshing, the grain to be separated from the chaff by winnowing, which to be only feasible in publicly weather. The grain to be then either stored in granaries or transported away follow me the rivers (sometimes also exported to other countries). In the granaries, cats and mongooses were offered to protect the keep from mice.

The crop yields of agricultural economies in old Mesopotamia were about comparable to what traditional Middle east farmers accomplished in the 19th and early 20th century CE, prior to the introduction of contemporary agricultural practices. Mesopotamia was house to among the many plentiful farming systems in the old world.


Agricultural Societies

The cultures of Mesopotamia depended mainly on farming and access to water. Initially, the majority of the land was owned through the palace and the temples, but in the 18th century BCE, big swathes that land were privatized. The the smallest unit that land was the ilkum, which to be leased by the holy place or the palace to a smallholding family. Even though it was legally no inheritable, de facto the very same tenancy commitment continued across multiple generations.

An farming surplus was necessary to the production of the very first cities and also urban societies. Only as soon as farmers" chop yields gone beyond their subsistence requirements was it possible to sustain the demands of cities. In Mesopotamian society, rulers were very concerned with crop yields as stability and also food it is provided were vital to legitimizing their rule. Big canal networks and also aqueducts to be planned and also managed through the state in order come ensure the supply of water come its subjects. Politics continuity was paramount to the region"s economic well-being, as any break in the dynastic bespeak could reason serious discontinuity of agricultural tasks as well together trade, periodically with disastrous consequences for the poor.

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Editorial ReviewThis write-up has been reviewed because that accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards before publication.


Michael Jursa. "Agriculture, ancient Near East." The Encyclopedia of old History, edited by Bagnall, i get it S. Et al. Blackwell Publishing, 2013


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