The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia, the Nile Valley and Nile Delta of northeast Africa, it was also near Asia Minor or known as Anatolia. The term was popularized by University of Chicago archaeologist James Henry Breasted. Having originated in the study of ancient history, the concept soon developed and today retains meanings in international geopolitics and diplomatic relations.
In current usage, all definitions of the Fertile Crescent include Mesopotamia, the land in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The modern-day countries with significant territory within the Fertile Crescent are Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, and Egypt, besides the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringes of Iran.
The region is often called the cradle of civilization; it saw the development of some of the earliest human civilizations, which flourished thanks to the water supplies and agricultural resources available in the Fertile Crescent. Technological advances made in the region include the development of writing, glass, the wheel and the use of irrigation.
The Fertile Crescent has an impressive record of past human activity. As well as possessing many sites with the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans (e.g. at Kebara Cave in Israel), later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers (the Natufians), this area 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 BC (and includes sites such as 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 statelevel societies. This has earned the region the nickname "The Cradle of Civilization."
Both the Tigris and Euphrates start in the Taurus Mountains of what is today 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.
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.