... Jerusalem ... 22 Just as the new earth and the new heavens will endure by my power, so your descendants and your name will endure ... Isaiah 66 (GNT), 18 ... Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and its PALACE restored. Jeremiah 30:18 (GNT)


Israel's boarders through ages:kingdoms and empires, maps part 1 of 7

Through millennia the region where the Land of Israel is situated, modern-day Middle East, has been the centre stage for kingdoms and empires. Why?

A maps-overview and history since ancient times up to our modern era shows how the Promised Land went from …

… being the land where Canaan was situated to be the Land of Israel, followed by the Kingdom of Israel and ultimately in our time to be the State of Israel. 
Middle East, source: wikipedia

The Land of Israel was and is currently situated at the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the territory of ancient Near East, modern-day Middle East.

Israel's long history actually started since the pre-historic time from which it went through various ages in history up to the modern age of today. It went through the bronze age and the iron age, to the early Israeli period that witnessed the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem and later through the Hellenistic and Roman period, during which the Jewish-Roman Great Wars were fought and the second Temple was destroyed, followed by the periods of Christianity, the Byzantine, the the Persians, to the Islamic period with the Ymayyad, Ayubid, Faimid, the Christian Crusader period, after which the Mamluke, the Ottoman, and in more recent time the rise of Zionism, the British Mandate ultimately to the State of Israel today and onwards to current affairs, and the historic events set to happen in the near and far future of the Land of Israel.

But first, what makes the region of the Middle East so special? Through centuries kingdoms and empires rose and fell in this region, and conquerors came and went fighting to overpower the city-states and nations of this region. What made this territory worth forging all these wars for? This region has been of major importance to ancient civilizations up to the modern-age because of its natural resources, such as bronze, gold and iron. Of equal or even more importance is its fossil fuel, crude oil, and its location for trade both by land and sea between the West and the Far East.

The Fertile Crescent

Fertile Cresent, source: Wikipedia The region often called the cradle of civilization is also referred to as the Fertile Crescent - Mesopotamia, eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea (= Levant) and Egypt - which is a crescent-shaped region containing moist and fertile land in comparison with the arid and semi-arid land of Western Asia and the Nile Delta and Valley of north-east Africa. The fertile regions were possible due to the rivers at the Euphrates and Tigris, Jordan and the Nile. The supplies and agricultural resources available in this region were of use to many of the first human civilizations, including western civilizations during their earliest development. Some the technological inventions attributed to this region writing, glass, the wheel and the use of irrigation.

The Fertile Crescent was the first region where the emergence of metallurgy occurred, giving way to the Bronze Age in the 4th millennium BCE after the Copper Age in the Middle East and the Caucasus is the 5th millennium BCE, which lasted for about a millennium. There was also an independent invention of copper and bronze smelting techniques by the people of the Andes civilization in South America passing it by sea trade to West Mexico. The European transition from Copper Age to Bronze Age occurred around the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennium BCE.

Bronze and Iron Age

The Middle East had been of extremely importance for the development of metallurgy in ancient history, both as a source for certain raw materials needed to make metal alloys and as a provider of the necessary routes for trade between the peoples at that time.

The Bronze Age
The beginning of recorded history, written history c. 4th millennium BCE, marked the start of the Bronze Age. This period was preceded by the Stone Age, which ended between 6000-2000 BCE, and followed by the Iron Age, c. 1200 BC-700 CE. These are the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system proposed by the Danish antiquarian Christian Jürgensen Thomsen in modern times for classification and study of ancient societies. The Copper Age is considered part of the Bronze Age and not of the Stone Age because of the use of metals instead of stone.

Metallurgic diffusion, source: Wikipedia

The Bronze Age started in the Middle East, from 3600 to 1200 BCE, until the beginning of the Iron Age, 2000-1000 BCE. In Southern Europe the Bronze Age started around 3200 BCE, in Northern Europe centuries later about 2500 BCE and lasted until the beginning of the Iron Age in Northern Europe 600 BCE. This period was characterized by the use of copper, its alloy bronze and the emerging of proto-writing - early writing system in the 3rd millennium BCE - in Eurasia, the continental landmass of Europe and Asia. Its also the period of other features of urban civilization.

Bronze is an alloy of primarily copper and usually with tin as additive. It made it possible for people to make objects that were harder and more durable, such as armour and various building materials, then those made in the previous ages of stone and copper. Brass - copper with zinc additive - is a copper alloy that is believed to be known by the Greeks and came more in use by the Romans.  

Initially arsenic bronze was made out of copper and arsenic - toxic material - a raw material in the Middle East, or directly from naturally or artificially mixed ores of those. Its only later about 4000 years after the discovery of copper smelting that tin bronze, which was stronger and easier cast than arsenic bronze, was made by adding tin - not toxic material - to copper during a more easily to control alloying process.

Metal production in ancient Middle East, source: Wikipedia
Ores of copper and tin are rarely found together, so producing bronze always involved trade. Sources and trade of these materials had a major influence on developing cultures in ancient times in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Europe.

An example of the usage of bronze was the gates of the Temple of Jerusalem for which Corinthian bronze made by depletion gilding - surface enrichment - was used. Depletion gilding was most used in Egypt, Alexandria, where alchemy is thought to have begun. Other practical uses for bronze were in holistic medical science in ancient India, for surgical instruments and other medical equipment. The Egyptians also used it for medical applications and to sterilize water.

The Iron Age
The Iron Age (c. 1200 BCE-700 CE) marked by iron as the substance mainly used in society for many different purposes. The Iron Age distinguished itself from the preceding ages by the introduction of alphabetical characters and the consequent development of written languages.
The Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age because Iron was easier to find and to process into poor grade metal and with more effort into higher grades. Although Bronze was still used during the Iron Age. As iron working improved, iron became cheaper and gradually people learned how to make steel, which was stronger than bronze and could maintain a sharper edge longer.

Crude Oil

Crude oil just like natural gas and coal is a fossil fuel. According to the Greek historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus asphalt was used in Babylon for the construction of its towers. There were oil pits near Babylon and great quantities of oil were found on the banks of one of the tributaries of the river Eupharates, the river Issus.

Ancient Persian tablets mentions the use of petroleum in their upper levels of society for medicinal and lighting purposes. By 347 CE bamboo-drilled wells were in use for oil production in China. Today about 80% of the world's readily accessible reserves are located in the Middle East. Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States are the top tree oil producing countries.

The Middle East has also been of significant importance for trade between peoples which added greatly to the development of early civilizations to become the modern-day nations.

Trade routes

Several routes - a network of a series of pathways and stoppages either by land or sea used for transportation of goods and people connecting markets and nations - for trade went over the Mediterranean Sea through Mediterranean ports inland as far as the Far East and North Africa.

One of the many goods traded over ancient trade routes was Lapis Lazuli. Its obtained from a deep blue coloured semi-precious stone acquired through mining in Afghanistan as early as the 7th millennium BCE. Afghanistan was the source of Lapis Lazuli for the ancient Egyptians, the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, and later for the Greeks and Romans. It was used to obtain different shades of blue in the ancient world including ancient Mesopotamia. This blue was not that of sapphire. Because scholars agree that sapphires were not known before the Roman Empire, that imported sapphires from Sri Lanka - maintained close ties to European civilizations, including the Romans - to be used in their jewelery. 
Lapis Lazuli, source: Wikipedia
Lapis Lazuli has been exported to the Mediterranean peoples and South Asia, and was used in for instance ancient Canaan, in Egypt as eye-shadow, for ornaments and jewelery In Mesopotamia the Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians used it for seals and jewelery and in our current era at the end of the Middle Ages it began to be exported to Europe where it was made into the most finest and expensive ultramarine pigment. Today mines in north-east Afghanistan are still a major source of Lapis Lazuli.

This colour - symbol of divinity to Jews - is mentioned in biblical scripture, for instance Ezekiel 28:12-14 and Exodus 24:9-11 (NIV),
9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. 12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”

Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea which is surrounded by the Mediterranean region and connects to the Atlantic Ocean was an important central route of transport for travellers and merchants in ancient times, allowing trade trade and cultural exchange between the peoples of the region which contributed to the development of many ancient civilizations into the modern societies of today. The trade encompassed three continents, being Southern Europe, North Africa with Egypt playing an important role and Western Asia from the Near – Middle East - to the Far East.

One of the notable ancient peoples whom were known for their excellent seafare were the people of Northern Canaan, also called by others the Phoenicians.

Phoenician trade, source: Wikipedia

They had an extended commercial network over the Mediterranean Sea heaving their base on the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Sidon, Byblos and Tyre.

In ancient times west-east canals were build to facilitate travel through the Nile in Egypt to the Red Sea. Much later the Sea. Suez Canal - a man-made 10 year project, opened in 1869 - connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea providing a short-cut route enabling sea fare to Asia.

There were several well traveled trade routes in the Middle East, which shows the importance of this region for trade in the past. For instance the ancient Via Maris as early as the Bronze Age, Silk Road and the incense route between the 7th century BCE to the 2nd century CE.

Ancient trade routes Midle East, Via Maris, source: Wikipedia

Via Maris
Via Maris – the way of the sea – is modern name for an ancient major trade route that linked Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia – in modern-day Turkey – and Mesopotamia. The route dates from early Bronze Age, from 3600 to 1200 BCE in the Middle East. It was crossed by other trading routes, in such way that it was possible to travel from Africa to Europe or from Asia to Africa. It was also in use by the Romans and the Crusaders. The state in control of the route was in the position to insure safe passage for its own citizens and to impose tolls on outsiders using the route for either commercial trade or non-commercial travellers

Its name in ancient times was the Way of the Philistines, with a passageway through the Philisine Plain – modern-day Israel – branching out further into two ways. One running along the Mediterranean coast and the other an inland route through Megiddo, the Jezreel Valley, the Sea of Galilee, from where the road continued through Hazor, Dan and further to cross the river Jordan, to go over the Golan Hights and continued its way north-east into Damascus. Travelers could continue over other routes to the Euphrates River or proceed northward into Anatolia.

The name Via Maris seems to be based on a biblical – the Vulgate bible, Latin translation – passage, Matthew 4:15 (NIV),
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. [also Isaiah 9:1]

Silk Road
Silk Road was a trade route of the ancient world that extended about 6,437 kilometres, which linked the West and the East by land and sea. It got its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade (206 BCE – 220 CE) – during the Iron Age - that began during the Han Dynasty. And besides silk many other goods were traded, such as precious gems - Egypt was also a source of gems - incense, Lapis Lazuli and much more. 

Silk Road, source: WikipediaThere was also an exchange of various technologies - such as the art of Chinese paper-making - religions and philosophies amongst the peoples along this route. But, merchants also took diseases along with them on the Silk Road, the most devastating one was the bubonic plague or Black Death that was transferred from the East to the West, which caused the deaths of fifty million people world wide including one third of the European population at that time.

Incense route
The ancient incense route was a major land and sea trading routes linking the Mediterranean world with Eastern and Southern lands that provided luxury goods. The incense route stretched from the Mediterranean ports across the Land of Israel and Egypt through north-eastern Africa and Arabia to India and beyond.

Traded goods were spices, incense, precious stones, pearls, ebony, silk and fine textiles, Arabian frankincense and myrrh, and from the Horn of Africa – modern-day Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia - rare woods, feathers, animal skins and gold. With Saudi Arabian's incense land trade flourishing roughly between the 7th century BCE to the 2nd century CE.

Many travellers and merchants went through these routes, one of which being the Jewish Radhanites.

Radhanites trade routes

Jewish merchants known as Radhanites also traded through the Silk Road between the Christian and Islamic worlds during the Early Middle Ages from c. 500 to 1000 CE. Historically most trade between Europe and East Asia had been conducted via Persian and Central Asian intermediaries traveling over the ... trade routes.

Trans Asia trade routes 1st century, source: Wikipedia

The Radhanites were among the first ones to establish a trade network stretching from Western Europe to Eastern Asia while engaging themselves in regularly trading over an extended period of time. They functioned as neutral merchants in-between Christian Europe, the Middle East and North Africa whom often banned each others merchants from entering their ports and raided each others shipping. The Jewish merchants enjoyed significant privileges as in France and through out the Muslim World as a result of the revenues they brought in.
Radhanites trade routes in blue, source: Wikipedia

The Radhanites are mentioned in the Book of Roads and Kingdoms written by Abu'l Qasim UbaidÁllah ibn Khordadbehprobably around 870 CE. He was Director of Posts and Police for the Jibal provinceunder the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tamid (ruled 869-885 CE). He described the Radhanites as being sophisticated an multilingual trading over four main trade routes, all starting in the Rhône Valley in southern France and ending on the China's east coast. They traded in several goods, such as spices, perfumes, jewelery, silk oils, incense, steel weapons, furs and slaves. 

Today trade routes such as the Silk Road still exist, all be it more for the purpose of tourism. Nation-states have other routes and means to trade their goods nowadays.

Which were the ancient civilizations in the Middle East during the pre-Israeli ear?

Pre-Israeli Era: ancient civilizations

Author: © Mrs A. vd Laan-LeitoPosted in: History