The Fertile Crescent with cities and features as named in the Raising Up Pharaoh epic novels (See this website’s Names Tab)
I’ve been developing a plan, or syllabus if you like, for how this blog will proceed for its second 50 posts. We’ve previously investigated a number of ancient cities in the Middle East, but each time primarily focused on single issues within a limited perspective. We’ll now begin to broaden our perspective and dig deeper into cities, terrain, and climatic features that are central to the epic story of the six Raising Up Pharaoh novels and coming sequels. Other cities are mentioned in the novels, but I believe the big story of the time was the simultaneous rise of both the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, and their curious commonalities and differences. Having thoroughly covered the Indus Valley civilization, we’ll now be proceeding counter-clockwise through Iran and the Fertile Crescent, from east to west.
Zagros and Karkas Mountains of Iran: Abyaneh,Isfahan
Southern Mesopotamia: Susa, Ur, Eshnunna.
Sea Route from Southern Mesopotamia to Harappa: Dilmun, Mohenjo-Daro, Aden
Northern Mesopotamia: Mari, Choga Mami, Hamoukar, Terqa, Tuttul, Emar.
Northern Levant: Aleppo, Ebla, Alalakh, Ugarit, Hama, Kadesh.
Southern Levant: Jericho, Amon, Aik Ghaiso, Ashkelon, En Gedi,
Sea Route from Harappa to Southern Levant: Hudaydah, Masawa, Jeddah, Jabal Radwa, Ezion-Geber, Suez.
Nile: Buto, Maati, Faiyum/Herakleopolis, Abydos, Hierakonpolis, Aswan/First Cataract.
Cyprus: Larnaca, Kyrenia
The epic story starts in 3203 BC at a nameless Chalcolithic village nestled in a moraine beneath the glacier atop Mount Karkas, near Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment plant, about 80 miles north of Isfahan. It is labelled “Boy’s village” just northwest of the large “Saklend” label in the above map. An invading force (not Indo-Europeans) from Central Asia is sacking villages and acquiring slaves enroute to pillaging southern Mesopotamia. These invaders have been expanding their frontier westward for decades during the warm seasons, while wintering with their families behind their advancing frontier, and are just now reaching the Karkas Mountain range for the first time. They travel on foot using Bactrian camels and slaves as load bearers. Neither attackers nor defenders are mounted, so the fighting is decided hand-to-hand.
In 3203 BC, the only people domesticating horses were the Indo-Europeans in the Eurasian Steppes where horses were kept as a meat source and as draft animals pulling plows and carts. Steppes herdsmen were already riding horses as the only way they could control their horse herds, but that skill had not yet spread south of the steppes. Some riders arrive in Mesopotamia shortly afterward, introducing rapid mobility to communications and warfare, but on a small scale.
At the same time, Bedouin were domesticating dromedary camels for meat, milk, camelhair, and as mounts and draft animals in the southeastern region of the Arabian peninsula, where the Dilmun civilization prospered as a link between Mesopotamia and Meluhha (the Indus Valley civilization), and the Magan civilization produced and exported copper. Bedouin tribes riding camels were already appearing in substantial numbers in southern Mesopotamia, introducing feasible transportation over substantial distances in the desert and more rapid transportation through the savanna and periphery.
Ahead of the invaders, the cities of southern Mesopotamia lay unprepared, uninformed of the approaching menace. Few have escaped the attackers, and refugees who abandoned their homes ahead of menacing rumors have scant believable information.
Modern Village of Abyaneh built on a foothill of Mt. Karkas, Iran.
The nameless village in the beginning of the epic story would have been smaller but situated much like Abyaneh in the picture above. 5,203 years ago some of the single-story adjoining homes would share walls with neighbors (like row houses do today), only losing heat through their exposed front and back walls and roof, but not on the shared sides. Walls in rocky regions like this would be made of stacked stones, plastered airtight with mud, and sometimes limed to foster cleanliness. They would huddle together like this to keep warm during the bitter winters below the lingering glacier topping the 3895 meter (12,779 foot) Mount Karkas (see pictures).
The temperature on a dry day varies -10°C per 1000 meters of altitude, so there is a difference of 40°Celsius (72°Fahrenheit) between sea level and Mount Karkas’s top e.g. it is 32°F atop Karkas when it is a sweltering 104° by the Persian Gulf, and that’s why the glacier lasted so long. And that’s also why living in a high altitude village can be quite comfortable in summer, and very cold in winter. The region was still enjoying the Neolithic Subpluvial and these mountains were heavily forested. The foreground of Abyaneh’s picture contains desert-tolerant trees and plants, but 5,203 years ago, both the foreground and the bare lower mountains in the background would have been heavily covered with hardwood and coniferous trees. Lions, wolves, leopards, hyenas, and bears would have been common local hazards. Wildlife flourished throughout Iran during these last centuries of melting glaciers and ample rainfall. The villagers would be raising goats and sheep for wool, milk, cheese, and meat. Shepherds would be grazing flocks and herds, sometimes camping for days in distant pastures. The climate subsequently changed to today’s arid conditions in the region and to the east and remain so to this day. (see Sahara Pump Theory) .
The Karkas mountain range lies east of the Dena sub-range of the nearly thousand mile long Zagros mountain range to its west. Within the 50 mile length of the Dena sub-range are over 40 peaks topping 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), the largest reaching 4,400 meters (14,435 feet). These would have been topped by the last regional glaciers during the Neolithic Subpluvial, and the surrounding region would have been well-watered until the end of the Neolithic Subpluvial when it became increasingly arid up to our present day. Mt. Shasta in northern California is about the same height, still topped by glacial ice, and surrounded by lush forests–much as I envision Mt. Karkas 5,203 years ago. I make this comparison because I was a frequent visitor to Mt. Shasta’s thick forests and fast flowing streams while living in the Bay Area. This Shasta region still provides most of the water flowing south into California’s Central Valley agriculture. The southern end of the Zagros mountain range terminates in what is now desert, probably savanna then, beyond which lie Afghanistan to the north and the Indus Valley to the east, both of which were involved in the Indus Valley Civilization.
The opening scene of the Raising Up Pharaoh epic finds the village’s defenders already dead, surviving villagers being corralled by the victorious invaders, and returning shepherd boys watching from atop a cliff behind the village as the soldiers begin exterminating their families and the others. The air is filled with the cries of villagers chanting, “Deiwos. Deiwos. Deiwos, ” pleading for help from their Indo-European gods, the cries subsiding until there are none. The shepherd boys turn and flee in anguish as the invaders send a detachment to catch and slaughter them. One boy mutters, “Where’s the Deiwos when we need him?”
Next week, we’ll begin investigating the terrain between the now burning village and Reilend, the fertile land between the rivers.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke