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Region, Middle East. The term describes a crescent-shaped area of arable land, probably more agriculturally productive in antiquity than it is today. Historically the area stretched from the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea around the Syrian Desert north of the Arabian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf; in general, it often includes the Nile River valley as well. Sedentary agricultural settlements in the Fertile Crescent can be dated to c. 8000 BC. It was the scene of the struggles and migrations of some of the earliest known peoples, including Sumerians, Assyrians, Akkadians, various Semitic groups, Babylonians, and Phoenicians.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Fertile Crescent, visit Britannica.com.