Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash
plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern
Syria and southeastern
Turkey, in the northern Middle East. After the
conquest of the mid-7th century AD the region has been known by the
Arabic name of al-Jazira (Arabic: الجزيرة "the
island"), also transliterated Djazirah, Djezirah, Jazirah & the
Syriac (Aramaic) variant Gazerṯo or Gozarto (ܓܙܪܬܐ). The
Tigris rivers transform
Mesopotamia into almost an
island, as they are joined together at the Shatt al-
Arab in the Basra
Governorate of Iraq, and their sources in eastern
Turkey are in close
The region extends south from the mountains of Anatolia, east from the
hills on the left bank of the
Euphrates river, west from the mountains
on the right bank of the
Tigris river and includes the
It extends down the
Samarra and down the
Euphrates to Hit.
The Khabur River runs for over 400 km (250 mi) across the
Turkey in the north, feeding into the Euphrates.
The major settlements are Mosul, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Al Hasakah,
Diyarbakır and Qamishli. The western, Syrian part, is essentially
contiguous with the Syrian
Al-Hasakah Governorate and is described as
"Syria's breadbasket". The eastern, Iraqi part, includes and
extends slightly beyond the Iraqi Ninewa Governorate. In the north it
includes the Turkish provinces of Şanlıurfa, Mardin, and parts of
2.2 Early history
2.4 Modern history
3 Current situation
4 See also
Further information: Levant, Greater Syria, and Iraqi Kurdistan
Typical view of farmland in the area north of Al-Hasakah, with an
ancient tell visible on the horizon
Tigris rivers transform
Mesopotamia into almost an
island (hence the
Arabic name al Jazira, meaning island), as they are
joined together at the Shatt al-
Arab in the
Basra Governorate of Iraq,
and their sources in eastern
Turkey are in close proximity.
The name al-Jazira has been used since the 7th century AD by Islamic
sources to refer to the northern section of Mesopotamia, which
together with the Sawād, made up al-‘arāq (Iraq). The name means
"island", and at one time referred to the land between the two rivers,
Aramaic is Bit Nahren. Historically, the name could be
restricted to the
Sinjar plain coming down from the
or expanded to embrace the entire plateau east of the coastal ranges.
Abbasid times the western and eastern boundaries seem to have
fluctuated, sometimes including what is now northern
Syria to the west
Adiabene in the east.
Al-Jazira is characterised as an outwash or alluvial plain, quite
distinct from the
Syrian Desert and lower-lying central Mesopotamia;
however the area includes eroded hills and incised streams. The region
has several parts to it. In the northwest is one of the largest salt
flats in the world, Sabkhat al-Jabbul. Further south, extending from
Mosul to near
Basra is a sandy desert not unlike the Empty Quarter. In
the late 20th and early 21st centuries the region has been plagued by
Neolithic Revolution and Fertile crescent
Al-Jazirah is extremely important archeologically. This is the area
where the earliest signs of agriculture and domestication of animals
have been found, and thus the starting point leading to civilization
and the modern world. Al-Jazirah includes the mountain
Karaca Dağ in
southern Turkey, where the closest relative to modern wheat still
grows wild. At several sites (e.g. Hallan Çemi, Abu Hureyra,
Mureybet) we can see a continuous occupation from a hunter-gathering
lifestyle (based on hunting, and gathering and grinding of wild
grains) to an economy based mainly on growing (still wild varieties
of) wheat, barley and legumes from around 9000 BC (see PPNA).
Domestication of goats and sheep followed within a few generations,
but didn't become widespread for more than a millennium (see PPNB).
Weaving and pottery followed about two thousand years later.
From Al-Jazirah the idea of farming along with the domesticated seeds
spread first to the rest of the
Levant and then to North-Africa,
Europe and eastwards through
Mesopotamia all the way to present-day
Pakistan (see Mehrgarh).
Monumental stone buildings at Göbekli Tepe, ca. 9000 BC
Earlier archeologists worked on the assumption that agriculture was a
prerequisite to a sedentary lifestyle, but excavations in Israel and
Lebanon surprised science by showing that a sedentary lifestyle
actually came before agriculture (see the Natufian culture). Further
surprises followed in the 1990s with the spectacular finds of the
megalithic structures at
Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey. The
earliest of these apparently ritual buildings are from before 9000
BC—over five thousand years older than Stonehenge—and thus the
absolute oldest known megalithic structures anywhere. As far as we
know today no well-established farming societies existed at the time.
Farming seemed to be still experimental and only a smallish supplement
to continued hunting and gathering. So either were (semi)sedentary
hunter-gatherers rich enough and many enough to organize and execute
such large communal building projects, or well-established
agricultural societies existed much further back than hitherto known.
Göbekli Tepe lies just 32 km from Karaca Dağ.
The questions raised by
Göbekli Tepe have led to intense and creative
discussions among archeologists of the Middle East. Excavations
Göbekli Tepe continues, only about 5 percent has been revealed so
Further information: Assyria
Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BCE).
Mesopotamia is the heartland of ancient Assyria, founded circa
the 25th century BC. From the late 24th Century BC it was part of the
Akkadian Empire. When the empire broke up, the northern Akkadians
reformed Assyria, and from 2050 BC until 605 BC it was an integral
part of the Assyrian nation, and the
Old Assyrian Empire
Old Assyrian Empire (circa
Middle Assyrian Empire
Middle Assyrian Empire (1365-1020 BC) and Neo Assyrian
Empire (911-605 BC).
Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BC) existed from the protohistoric
Early Bronze Age
Early Bronze Age period in Mesopotamia, including a
section of the upper region.
The region fell to the Assyrians' southern brethren, the Babylonians
in 605 BC, and from 539 BC it became part of the Persian Achaemenid
Empire where it was known as
Athura (Persian for Assyria). From 323 BC
it was ruled by the Greek Seleucid Empire, the Greeks corrupting the
name to Syria, a 9th-century BC Indo-European version of Assurayu
(Assyria), which they also applied to Aramea.
It then fell to the
Parthians and Romans and was renamed
both. The area was still known as
Assuristan (Assyria) under the
Sassanid Empire until the
Islamic conquest of the mid 7th
Century AD when it was renamed al-Jazira.
Arab and pre-
Islamic times, al-Jazira has been an
economically prosperous region with various agricultural (fruit and
cereal) products, as well as a prolific manufacturing (food processing
and cloth weaving) system. The region’s position at the border of
Sasanian and Byzantine territories also made it an important
commercial center, and advantage that the region continued to enjoy,
even after the Muslim conquest of
Persia and Byzantine possessions in
Al-Jazira included the Roman/Byzantine provinces of
Mesopotamia, as well as the Parthian/Persian provinces of Assuristan,
Arbayestan, Nisibis, and Mosul.
Al-Jazira region and its subdivisions (Diyar Bakr, Diyar Mudar, and
Diyar Rabi'a), during the
The conquest of the region took place under the early Caliphate that
left the general administration of the region intact, with the
exception of levying the jizya tax on the population. At the time of
Mu‘awiyah (governor of
Syria and the later founder of the Umayyad
Caliphate), the administration of al-Jazira was included in the
administration of Syria. During the early
Islamic Empire (i.e., the
Umayyads), the administration of Jazira was often shared with that of
Arminiya (a vast province encompassing most of Transcaucasia) and
Adharbayjan (Iranian Azerbaijan).
The prosperity of the region and its high agricultural and
manufacturing output made it an object of contest between the leaders
of the early conquering
Arab armies. Various conquerors tried, in
vain, to bind various cities of the former Sassanian provinces, as
well as the newly conquered Byzantine provinces of Mesopotamia, into a
coherent unit under their own rule.
The control of the region, however, was essential to any power
centered in Baghdad. Consequently, the establishment of the Abbasid
Caliphate brought al-Jazira under the direct rule of the government in
Baghdad. At this time, al-Jazira was one of the highest tax-yielding
provinces of the
During the early history of Islam, al-Jazira became a center for the
Kharijite movement and had to be constantly subdued by various
caliphs. In the 920s, a local dynasty called the
an autonomous state with two branches in al-Jazira (under Nasir
al-Dawla) and Northern
Syria (under Sayf al-Dawla). The demise of the
Hamdanid power put the region back under the nominal rule of the
Caliphs of Baghdad, while actual control was in the hands of the Buyid
brothers who had conquered
Baghdad itself. At the turn of the 11th
century, the area came under the rule of a number of local dynasties,
the Numayrids, the Mirdasids, and the Uqaylids, who persisted until
the Seljuq conquest.
With the arrival of the First Crusade, the western part came into
Crusader hands as the County of Edessa, while the rest was ruled by a
succession of semi-independent Turkish rulers until taken over by the
Zengids, and eventually the Ayyubids. Thereafter the northern and
eastern portion were ruled by the Artuqids, while the western parts
came under the
Mamluks of Egypt
Mamluks of Egypt until the
Ottoman conquest of Egypt
Ottoman conquest of Egypt in
Main articles: Cizre, Decline of the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate
of Mesopotamia, History of Iraq, and Iraqi Kurdistan
The region is the traditional homeland of the indigenous Assyrian,
Christian descendants of the ancient Mesopotamians.
Thousands of Assyrian refugees entered into Syrian Al-Jazira, from
Turkey following the
Assyrian Genocide of World War I. Additionally,
in 1933 a further 24,000 Assyrian
Christians fled into the area,
Simele Massacre in the
Mosul region of northern Iraq.
However, violence against
Christians changed the demographics of this
Kurds had cooperated with Ottoman authorities in the massacres
against Armenian and Assyrian
Christians in Upper
Mesopotamia and were
in return granted their land as a reward.
Christians began to emigrate from
Syria after the Amuda
massacre of August 9, 1937. This massacre, carried out by the Kurd
Saeed Agha, emptied the city of its Assyrian population. In 1941, the
Assyrian community of al-Malikiyah were subjected to a vicious
assault. Even though the assault failed, the Assyrians were terrorized
and left in large numbers, and the immigration of
the area have converted al-Malikiya, al-Darbasiyah and
completely Kurdish cities. The historically-important
Nusaybin had a similar fate after its
Christian population left
when it was annexed to Turkey. The
Christian population of the city
crossed the border into
Syria and settled in Qamishli, which was
separated by the railway (new border) from Nusaybin.
Qamishli became an Assyrian city. Things soon changed,
however, with the immigration of
Kurds beginning in 1926 following the
failure of the rebellion of Saeed Ali Naqshbandi against the Turkish
Djezirah is one of the four dioceses of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
The others are in Aleppo, Homs–
Hama and Damascus.
The area has experienced a high rate of emigration in the past 40
years. Prime factors have been drought and the emigration of Assyrian
Christians due to economic hardship and conflict with Kurds.
Geography of Iraq
^ Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq
^ The next battlefield
^ See discussion at "So Fair a House:
Göbekli Tepe and the
Identification of Temples in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near
East". JSTOR 10.1086/661207. Missing or empty url= (help)
^ "Göbekli Tepe: Series Introduction". Genealogy of Religion. 12
October 2011. Archived from the original on 18 October 2011.
^ a b Mouawad, Ray J. (2001) "
Iraq – Repression:
Christians of the Middle East"
Middle East Quarterly
^ Hovannisian, Richard G., 2007. The Armenian Genocide: Cultural and
Ethical Legacies. Accessed on 11 November 2014.
^ Abu Fakhr, Saqr, 2013. As-Safir. Beirut.
[assafir.com/Article/331189#.UrbZIuK_guh التراجع المسيحي
في الشرق: مشهد تاريخي] (
the History of the Persecution of Middle Eastern
Christian Decline in the Middle East: A Historical View (English
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Al Jazira.
Moore, Andrew M. T.; Hillman, Gordon C.; Legge, Anthony J. (2000).
Village on the Euphrates: From Foraging to Farming at Abu Hureyra.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510806-X.
Peter M. M. G. Akkermans; Glenn M. Schwartz (2003). The archaeology of
Syria: from complex hunter-gatherers to early urban societies (c.
16,000–300 BC). Cambridge University Press. pp. 72–.
ISBN 978-0-521-79666-8. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
Istakhri, Ibrahim. Al-Masālik wa-al-mamālik, Dār al-Qalam, Cairo,
Brauer, Ralph W., Boundaries and Frontiers in Medieval Muslim
Geography, Philadelphia, 1995
Ibn Khurradādhbih. Almasalik wal Mamalik, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1967
Lestrange, G. The lands of the eastern caliphate. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1930
Mohammadi Malayeri, Mohammad. Tārikh o Farhang-i Irān dar Asr-e
Enteghaal, Tus, Tehran, 1996
Morony, Michael G.
Iraq after the Muslim Conquest, Princeton, 1984
Pre- / Protohistory
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB)
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