Most people agree that the History of the civilizations of the Middle East is the oldest known history in the world. Beginning about 11,000 years ago in some of the world's oldest cities like Catal Huyak, Jericho and Ur, the people that make up this region began to use agriculture to make living easier and safer than during their hunting and gathering age. Like today, throughout its history, the Middle East has many different tribes, and ethnic groups that have built a complex culture. Sometimes the differences have also led to warfare and generations of conflict. The AP World History Course will test your knowledge of Middle Eastern history from the Sumer Civilization on the Ephrates and Tigris Rivers to the current age of nation states. Middle Eastern culture can be best understood by studying the politics, economics, religion, social life, intellectual life, and art. Often the AP exam also expects students to know how the geography of a place influences the historical developments over time.
Religion is one of the dominant forces driving politics and daily life in the Middle East. Polytheism in the early civilizations slowly gave way to monotheistic Judaism, dualistic Zorastrianism, then Christianity and finally, Islam, the dominant religion of today. Although westerners tend to focus on the conflicts caused by religion in the Middle East, these great religions have also caused some of the world's most beautiful architecture and the great wisdom of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures. Many of the world's most important inventions come from the people of the Middle East. The Sumarians invented the first solar calendar, the wheel, the base 6 system which we still use for time (60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour), the concept the kindship and many other innovations.
The geography of the Middle East is very important to its history. Since much of the Middle East and North Africa are desert, the rivers of the region have been very important for transportation, drinking water, irrigation for crops, and often borders between tribes and peoples.
The Nile, Ephrates and Tigris rivers are each obvious in this satalite image. These rivers are the population centers for both ancient and modern nations in the Middle East. Also notice the Mediterranian Sea, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf which are essential to trade throughout this region.