In the seminal work Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies, author Jared Diamond refutes the notion that some races are more inherently talented than others and instead offers evidence that environment was the most crucial factor in the creation and growth of complex societies. Diamond explains that in early history, humans were hunters and gatherers, wandering from place to place living off wild plants and wild animals wherever they could find them. To be able to settle, they needed a ready source of indigenous plants that could be cultivated and harvested.
The Fertile Crescent was rich in wild plants that could be converted into cultivatable crops such as wheat, barley, peas, and lentils. The area also had abundant sheep, goats, and cattle that could be caught and domesticated. These resources enabled groups of people to settle together in communal units that would eventually become towns and cities.
The author points out that when societies are able to remain in one place, as opposed to moving about like hunters and gatherers, they are able to consolidate into classes and castes such as scholars, administrators, and craftspeople, which encourages the development of writing, specialized tools, and other technologies. This is what happened in the Fertile Crescent.
Diamond further explains that another important factor that contributed to the importance of the Fertile Crescent was the east-west axis of the Eurasian continent. This enabled easy travel, trade, and exchange of ideas and culture through similar climate zones. In contrast, North and South America and Africa lie upon a north-south axis with large natural barriers and radical climate differences, making travel and the exchange of ideas much more difficult.