According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, why was the Fertile Crescent the origin of so many important developments in early history?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jared Diamond would say that there are two main reasons why the Fertile Crescent was the origin of many important developments.  One reason was that the Fertile Crescent was ideal for the development of farming while the second had to do with the fact that it was easy for crops to diffuse from that region.

Diamond says that the Fertile Crescent had many advantages that allowed it to be the place where farming first developed.  These advantages are discussed in Chapter 5.  The Fertile Crescent had a good climate and it had many plant and animal species that could be domesticated.  Because farming started in the Fertile Crescent first, civilization started there as well.  Farming creates food surpluses, which allows some people to do things other than farming.  Those who do not need to farm can do things like developing new technologies.  Thus, geographical advantages allowed the Fertile Crescent to develop agriculture and agriculture allowed the region’s societies to develop various technologies including writing.

The second factor is the ease of diffusion from the Fertile Crescent.  After developments originated in the Fertile Crescent, they had to spread in order to be important in world history.  Diamond says that it was easy for crops to diffuse from the Fertile Crescent.  Eurasia has a long east-west axis, which means that crops can diffuse along single lines of latitude, which tend to have similar climates and growing conditions.  (Please refer to Chapter 10 for an extended discussion of why this is important.)  Because of this, agriculture (one of the most important developments in world history) could spread out from the Fertile Crescent.  Along with agriculture, other developments like writing could spread as well.  This meant that developments that originated in the Fertile Crescent could diffuse across great distances rather than remaining cooped up in that region.

In these ways, the Fertile Crescent became the origin of many important developments.  Its geography allowed farming and civilization to develop there first and it allowed those developments to spread to other parts of Eurasia.