The word Mesopotamia , derived from the Greek, means literally “between the rivers,” but it is generally used to denote the whole plain between and on either side of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The plain was bordered to the north and east by mountain ranges, in whose foothills, as we have seen, agriculture was first practiced.
To the southwest lay the forbidding deserts of Syria and Arabia . Each year the two great rivers were swollen with the winter snows of the northern mountains, and each year at flood stage they spread a thick layer of immensely fertile silt across the flood plain where they approached the Persian Gulf .
Mesopotamia is the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, north or northwest of the bottleneck at Baghdad, in modern Iraq; it is Al-Jazirah (“The Island”) of the Arabs. However, in the broader sense, the name Mesopotamia has come to be used for the area bounded on the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and on the southwest by the edge of the Arabian Plateau and stretching from the Persian Gulf in the southeast to the spurs of the Anti-Taurus Mountains in the northwest.
The Iranian Plateau straddles the crossroads of our world, providing a continuously snow free route between Europe, the Mediterranean and Egypt, India and lands East. The summer road over the Iranian plateau leads to Transoxiana and beyond to China. The winter road crosses South Iran to the Indus. The states along this route profited from the trade, often becoming dependent on it, and their isolation was reduced.
Only from the latitude of Baghdad do the Euphrates and Tigris truly become twin rivers, the rafidan of the Arabs, which have constantly changed their courses over the millennia. The low-lying plain of the Karun River in Persia has always been closely related to Mesopotamia, but it is not considered part of Mesopotamia as it forms its own river system.
Northern Mesopotamia is made up of hills and plains. The land is quite fertile due to seasonal rains, and the rivers and streams flowing from the mountains. Early settlers farmed the land and used timber, metals and stone from the mountains nearby.
Serious mineralogical study of Mesopotamian cylinder seals has emphasized the difficulty of identification in the case of this category of stones, which was particularly favoured for seals in the akkadian period. Sax adopted the following definition: greenstones are low grade metamorphic rocks which are composed of complex mixtures of minerals including quartz, feldspar and amphiboles.
Basalt was primarily used for building, for monumental sculpture, and for vessels in Mesopotamia, appears sporadically in the repertory of beads, amulets and pendants, as well as for seals in pre historical time.
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Ancient Mesopotamian Mountains, Topology