Fertile Crescent

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Author: Laxman Burdak IFS (R).
Map of Middle East Countries

Fertile Crescent (also known as the "cradle of civilization") is a crescent-shaped region where agriculture and early human civilizations like the Sumer and Ancient Egypt flourished due to inundations from the surrounding Nile, Euphrates, and Tigris rivers.[1]

Technological advances in the region include the development of writing, glass, the wheel, agriculture, and the use of irrigation.


Modern-day countries with significant territory within the Fertile Crescent are Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, as well as the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringes of Iran.[2][3]

What constitutes the Fertile Crescent

The term "Fertile Crescent" was popularized by archaeologist James Henry Breasted in Outlines of European History (1914) and Ancient Times, A History of the Early World (1916).[4][5][6][7][8][9] Breasted wrote:[10]

This fertile crescent is approximately a semicircle, with the open side toward the south, having the west end at the southeast corner of the Mediterranean, the center directly north of Arabia, and the east end at the north end of the Persian Gulf (see map, p. 100). It lies like an army facing south, with one wing stretching along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean and the other reaching out to the Persian Gulf, while the center has its back against the northern mountains. The end of the western wing is Palestine; Assyria makes up a large part of the center; while the end of the eastern wing is Babylonia.

This great semicircle, for lack of a name, may be called the Fertile Crescent.1 It may also be likened to the shores of a desert-bay, upon which the mountains behind look down—a bay not of water but of sandy waste, some eight hundred kilometres across, forming a northern extension of the Arabian desert and sweeping as far north as the latitude of the northeast corner of the Mediterranean. This desert-bay is a limestone plateau of some height—too high indeed to be watered by the Tigris and Euphrates, which have cut cañons obliquely across it. Nevertheless, after the meager winter rains, wide tracts of the northern desert-bay are clothed with scanty grass, and spring thus turns the region for a short time into grasslands. The history of Western Asia may be described as an age-long struggle between the mountain peoples of the north and the desert wanderers of these grasslands—a struggle which is still going on—for the possession of the Fertile Crescent, the shores of the desert-bay.

1. There is no name, either geographical or political, which includes all of this great semicircle (see map, p. 100). Hence we are obliged to coin a term and call it the Fertile Crescent.

In current usage, the Fertile Crescent includes Iraq, Kuwait, and surrounding portions of Iran and Turkey, as well as the rest of the Levantine coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon. Water sources include the Jordan River. The inner boundary is delimited by the dry climate of the Syrian Desert to the south. Around the outer boundary are the Anatolian highlands to the north and the Sahara Desert to the west.

As well as possessing many sites with the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans (e.g., at Tabun and Es Skhul caves in Israel), later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers, and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers (the Natufians); the Fertile Crescent is most famous for its sites related to the origins of agriculture. The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements (referred to as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), which date to around 9,000 BCE (and includes sites such as Göbekli Tepe and Jericho).

This region, alongside Mesopotamia (which lies to the east of the Fertile Crescent, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates), also saw the emergence of early complex societies during the succeeding Bronze Age. There is also early evidence from the region for writing and the formation of hierarchical statelevel societies. This has earned the region the nickname "The cradle of civilization".

It is in this region where the first libraries appeared, some 5,000 years ago. The oldest known library was found in northern Syria, in the ruins of Ebla, a major commercial center that was destroyed around 1650 BCE.[11]

Both the Tigris and Euphrates start in the Taurus Mountains of what is modern-day Turkey. Farmers in southern Mesopotamia had to protect their fields from flooding each year, except northern Mesopotamia which had just enough rain to make some farming possible. To protect against flooding, they made levees.[12]

Since the Bronze Age, the region's natural fertility has been greatly extended by irrigation works, upon which much of its agricultural production continues to depend. The last two millennia have seen repeated cycles of decline and recovery as past works have fallen into disrepair through the replacement of states, to be replaced under their successors. Another ongoing problem has been salination — gradual concentration of salt and other minerals in soils with a long history of irrigation.

Early domestications

Prehistoric seedless figs were discovered at Gilgal I in the Jordan Valley, suggesting that fig trees were being planted some 11,400 years ago.[13] Cereals were already grown in Syria as long as 9,000 years ago.[14] Small cats (Felis silvestris) also were domesticated in this region.[15]

Alistair Moffat[16] notes...Where DNA does underline the sustainability of stock-rearing as a staple for prehistoric communities is in the adaptation to milk drinking. Most mammals, including human mammals, lose the ability to digest milk once they have been weaned. But, about 10000 years ago, when farming first arose in the Near East, a genetic variant arose that allowed older children and adults to continue to metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk. A small number of independent variants arose in pastoralist communities in Africa, but elsewhere across the vast regions animal milk is not drunk in any quantity.

In the early farming Communities of the Fertile Crescent, the first people in home this new genetic variant appeared had a great advantage, in that their bodies were able to use the milk of domesticated goats, sheep and cattle as a reliable and regular source of food. A process of Natural Selection began which meant that the first milk drinker’s advantage usually ensured that he or she had many children who inherited the variant and survived in turn, they themselves having many children. In this way the ability to drink milk spread very rapidly. Anyone who carries the marker of what Geneticists call lactose persistence is descendant of the original Near East farmer in whom it arose.

Jat History

Gutian Map

Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[17] writes.... The antiquarians, who connect Jat (जाट) with Jata (जट), a root given by Panini, ignoring the fact that it trickled down to Panini from earlier times, generally opine that search for Jats and variants of this name in further remoter times may be an attempt as ephemeral as a furrow in water. The ocean of history and the womb of time, however, have vast stores of information which they would yield to those who have faith and persistence. The morel in one's hand reaches the seeking mouth unerringly even in pitch darkness.

A further groping into the dark abyss of the past yields yet another clue which, will take us on another long voyage of exploration. According to Saggs, a dynasty termed Guti or Gutian, had twenty one kings who ruled over Mesopotamia-( the land of Twin Rivers or the Fertile Crescent) from 2250 BC to 2120 BC140 They were considered foreigners coming down probably from the hills

The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations: End of page 349

of Turkistan or Meru (Pamir) and the period of their § dominance was abhorred as an age of barbarism, for they did not respect the gods of the land as well as of the last (third) Ur dynasty, besides plundering their temples141.

This bit of information aroused us to ask ourselves from where these Gutian invaders had descended upon Mesopotamia and what was their identity? The answers to these questions are not difficult to seek, if we have a fair knowledge of the contemporary people of the Indus valley. The Indus valley (Sapta Sindhu) has been the cradle of the Jats since time immemorial and from there they have ever been pushing up migrations in different directions. The awareness of this historical fact goes far back into the hoary past. Sheikh Said Abi ulkhair141a, the author of the Majmul-ut-Twarikh142 a Persian translation of a earlier Arabic work, which is still an earlier translation of an ancient Sanskrit text of Mahabharat (3102 B.c.)143 informs us that the Jats and Meds, living on the hanks of Sindh, very often fought against each other for supremacy over the valley at that time. The Vahikas, the authors of the Indus Valey civilization144, were none else than Jats. The condemned people of Rigveda, the Panis, (who were "Punis" of the Romans145, the Peoni in Latin146, the Phoenix or Phoinikes or "Phoenicians" of early Greeks147, (the pre-Vedic Indo-Aryan authors of Harappan Scrip1t147a), Aparnis of the classical writers148, a branch of the Dahae Massagetae149 (Dahiya Maha Jats149a), were present in Sindh as authors 150 of the Indus Valley civilization. The Panis were ab initio on the bank of the short-coursed Jamuna, on the coast of Aryavata sea and in Parniprastha, (the ancient name of Panipat) where from they were uprooted by Indra of Indraprastha to move to Rajasthan and Sindh 151.

The Indo-Sumerian seals, dating from 4000 B.C. to 2300 B.C.152, were discovered at Mohanjodaro and Harappa, the primary sites of the Harappan (Indus) civilization. These were deciphered by

§ - These reflections about the Gutian, need to be taken with a pinch of salt for "the ancient authors always tended to depict the foreign conquerors as well as exotic peoples and things with numerous exaggerated reproofs and most obnoxious epithets". It has been the general practice in religion and caste-ridden societies, especially of the East to denounce the heroes and warriors of their communities as barbarous plunderers

The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations: End of page 350

Waddell, but his opinions, unfortunately, could make little headway in his time. They are now given partial recognition by recent archaeologists 153. Waddell154 interprets some of these seals to assert that Guti or Gut engraved on them was either the name of a Saka chief or was an ethnic title of a tribe. Further, he155 identifies Guti or Gut with Goth, or Getae, Sacae (Saka) descendants of Narishyanta156 of the Solar race that ruled over Vaisali in pre-historic time, at least twenty one157 generations prior to Rama Dasrathi. It may not be inopportune to recollect here that we have already identified the Saka people, the original inhabitants of India 158 with Jats159 who were called Guti or Gutia in archaic Chinese and who were considered foreigners160 in China. As we have shown already, these people moved to fertile lands below the lake Balkash and gave their name to the region of their settlement as Gete, which to Greek historians161 accounts for the use of the root-word Getae as the name of the Nordics. In fact, Gete, as a name connotes newly found or gained or acquired homeland by the Getae, in Gothic language162. The anthropoogists163 assert that population in Sindh, Panjab and Saurashtra remained more or Jess stable from Harappan and Burzahom163a times to the present day. The array of evidence cited above compels us to conclude that the people of Sindh in the contemporary period of the Guti or Gutian rule over Mesopotamia were undoubtedly Jats who may in all probability be the authors of the Harrapan civilization, if not of the civilization of Mesopotamia or Sumeria. Waddell's claim that Gut or Guti of Sindh were Goth or Sacae Getae (Jats) is too well established to be easily rejected.

140. Saggs, F.W.J.; Greatness that was Babylon, London, 1962, pp. 52ff. CAH. Vol. I, Pt. 2, p. 444. Their home is said to be the territories now occupicd by Kurds and Luris (a Jat tribe of the Indus Valley) Great Soviet Ency., Vol. 7, p. 498. Guti or Gutei or Gutians or Kuti, the ancient semi-nomadic tribes. He said to be related to Kurds anthropologically. Mesopotamians (Ibid., Vol. 10. p.) called the people in N. and E. Guti including (Mannai and Meds were Jat tribes), (within the brackets mine). To Saggs the 21 Guti Kings were elected and not hereditary. Their tradition of electing their kings unmistakably betray that of the ancient Jat republican tribes.

141. Saggs, op.cit., p. 53.

141a. Sami, Ali; Shiraz Eng. Tans. by Rev. R.N. Sharp, 1958, Musavi Printing Office, Sh i raz, p. 8.

142. Shrava, Satya; op.cit., p. 2. He firmly believes that Jats, Getae and Sakas are one and the same people and belong to the original Caspian type. Elliot, Sir 1-1.1-1 and .John Dawson; His. of Ind., Vol. I, Kitab Mahal, Allahabad, 1969, pp. 100, 103-05.

143. Vaidya. C.V.; The Mbt. (A Criticism). Bombay, 1904, pp. 55-78. Mirashi, V.V.; Date of Mbt. War. JOIB, Vol. XXV, nos. 3-4, 1976, p. 286-98. Sharva, op.cit., p. 2. The Last author holds that 3102 n.c. as the date of the Mbt. War was decided on very sound grounds.

144. Shembavenekar, K.H.; The Identity of the Indus Valley Race with the Vahikas,' IHQ. Vol. XII, No.4, Dec. 1936, pp. 477-84.

145. Kalyanaramana. op.cit., p. 129. Chakraberty, Chandra; op.cit., pp. 2, 56-7.

146. Chakraberty, 0p.cti., pp. 2,56-7.

147. Ibid.

147a. Rahurkar,V.G.,"Who were the Panis? CASS. studies, No. 2,1974, Uni. of Poona,p.45f. Rao,SR;"The Indus People Begin to Speak" JAHRS, No. 33, 1972-73, p. 6.

148. ASRJ, 1863-64, Vol. II, pp. 29-32. Kephart, op.cit., pp. 279-523, 529, 532, Pusalker, Vedic Age, p. 253.

149. Ibid.

150. Pusalker, A.D.; The Vedic Age, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1965, p.l97.

151. Bhargava, M.L,; Geog. of the Rigvedic Ind, Lucknow, 1964, pp. 26,41, 45f, 51.

152. Waddell, L.A.; Indo-Sumerian Seals Deciphered, Delhi, 1976, pp. 112f.

153. Kalyanaramamna, op.cit., Vol. 1, p. 15. In view of the long-drawn out rivalry between the Brahman and the Kashatriya for supremacy, we are, however, not persuaded of Ramachandra's opinion. That the truth of Waddell's decipherement, a suppressio veri for a long time, may not have been as much a victim of the then established school of thought of Marshall and Wheeler as that of the Brahmanical opposition, for the latter could ill afford the honourable status which Waddell's revelations are deemed to bestow on their old rivals, i.e. the Sakas or Sacae or Goths or Jats, whom he reckons among the authors of the Harappan Culture.

154. Waddell, op.cit., pp. 70f, 100.

155. Ibid., pp. 53, 63, 101, 103, 108.

156. Ibid., pp. 67, 72. Pargiter, AIHT, p. 256. Cf. also Br. Pur. 7.24: RV, 10, 64,1; Ag.272. 10. Siv. VII, 19; Mat, 12.20; Pad. V. 8.125; and Lg. 1.66.49.

157. Pargiter, op.cit., p. 147.

158. Ibid., p. 256. Dev, A; q. in op.cit., p. 45. Thomas. F.w.; CHI, Vo1.lI, Ch. on Kushans, Puri, B. 'Nationality of Kushanas' in op.cit .. pp. '182-89, Cf. f.n. 92, Supra, Chakraberty, Chandra, op.cit., p. 109.

159. Supra.

160. Supra.

161. Ibid., fn. 40.

162. Ibid., fn. 40.

163. Sethna, K.D.; The problem of Aryan Origins, Calcutta. 1980, pp. 18f. Cf. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Memorandum No. 9-'Human Skeletal Remains from Harappa' in Bull. of Anthro. Sur. of Ind .. July, 1960, Vol. 9, No.2. Wheeler. The Indus Civilization, Camb. Univ. Press, 1968. pp. 68. 72. Roy, Asim Kumar and Gidwani, N.N.; Indus Valley Civilization (Bibliographical Essay) Delhi, n.d. p. 19; Dutta, Pralap C.; The Bronze Age Harappans, Calcutta, 1983 p. 16, Cf. also Gupta, P., P.C. Dutta and A. Basu, Human Remains from Harappa, 1962, Calcutta. Grahame Clark op.cit., (1979). p. 71, and f. ns 1-4 on it. Sarkar, S.S.; Ancient Races of Panjab. Blochistan and Sindh; q. by Romila Thapar, op.cit., p. 229f, f.n. 14. Cf. also Dr. K.Sen. 'The Races of India and Pakistan, a study of Methods". in Ancienl India. No.20-21 , 1964-65 178ff.

163a. Rasu, Arabinda; and Pal, Anadi; Human Remains from I u zahom, Calcutta 1980, pp. VI. 79.

DNA study on Y-STR Haplogroup Diversity in the Jat Population

David G. Mahal and Ianis G. Matsoukas[18] conducted a scientific study on Y-STR Haplogroup Diversity in the Jat Population of which brief Conclusion is as under:

The Jats represent a large ethnic community that has inhabited the northwest region of India and Pakistan for several thousand years. It is estimated the community has a population of over 123 million people. Many historians and academics have asserted that the Jats are descendants of Aryans, Scythians, or other ancient people that arrived and lived in northern India at one time. Essentially, the specific origin of these people has remained a matter of contention for a long time. This study demonstrated that the origins of Jats can be clarified by identifying their Y-chromosome haplogroups and tracing their genetic markers on the Y-DNA haplogroup tree. A sample of 302 Y-chromosome haplotypes of Jats in India and Pakistan was analyzed. The results showed that the sample population had several different lines of ancestry and emerged from at least nine different geographical regions of the world. It also became evident that the Jats did not have a unique set of genes, but shared an underlying genetic unity with several other ethnic communities in the Indian subcontinent. A startling new assessment of the genetic ancient origins of these people was revealed with DNA science.

The human Y-chromosome provides a powerful molecular tool for analyzing Y-STR haplotypes and determining their haplogroups which lead to the ancient geographic origins of individuals. For this study, the Jats and 38 other ethnic groups in the Indian subcontinent were analyzed, and their haplogroups were compared. Using genetic markers and available descriptions of haplogroups from the Y-DNA phylogenetic tree, the geographic origins and migratory paths of their ancestors were traced.

The study demonstrated that based on their genetic makeup, the Jats belonged to at least nine specific haplogroups, with nine different lines of ancestry and geographic origins. About 90% of the Jats in our sample belonged to only four different lines of ancestry and geographic origins:

1. Haplogroup L (36.8%)- The origins of this haplogroup can be traced to the rugged and mountainous Pamir Knot region in Tajikistan.

2. Haplogroup R (28.5%): From somewhere in Central Asia, some descendants of the man carrying the M207 mutation on the Y chromosome headed south to arrive in India about 10,000 years ago (Wells, 2007). This is one of the largest haplogroups in India and Pakistan. Of its key subclades, R2 is observed especially in India and central Asia.

3. Haplogroup Q (15.6%): With its origins in central Asia, descendants of this group are linked to the Huns, Mongols, and Turkic people. In Europe it is found in southern Sweden, among Ashkenazi Jews, and in central and Eastern Europe such as, the Rhône-Alpes region of France, southern Sicily, southern Croatia, northern Serbia, parts of Poland and Ukraine.

4. Haplogroup J (9.6%): The ancestor of this haplogroup was born in the Middle East area known as the Fertile Crescent, comprising Israel, the West Bank, Jordon, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Middle Eastern traders brought this genetic marker to the Indian subcontinent (Kerchner, 2013).

5.-9. Haplogroups E, G, H, I, T (9.5%): The ancestors of the remaining five haplogroups E, G, H, I, and T can be traced to different parts of Africa, Middle East, South Central Asia, and Europe (ISOGG, 2016).

Therefore, attributing the origins of this entire ethnic group to loosely defined ancient populations such as, Indo-Aryans or Indo-Scythians represents very broad generalities and cannot be supported. The study also revealed that even with their different languages, religions, nationalities, customs, cuisines, and physical differences, the Jats shared their haplogroups with several other ethnic groups of the Indian subcontinent, and had the same common ancestors and geographic origins in the distant past. Based on recent developments in DNA science, this study provided new insights into the ancient geographic origins of this major ethnic group in the Indian subcontinent. A larger dataset, particularly with more representation of Muslim Jats, is likely to reveal some additional haplogroups and geographical origins for this ethnic group.


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  18. Y-STR Haplogroup Diversity in the Jat Population Reveals Several Different Ancient Origins