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The Middle East. Not only the wars that have been waged in this area since prehistoric times, not only the lively trade and trade routes that cut through the ancient land, but also the drastic climatic changes have largely determined the history of these places. Palestine is perhaps the first territory where the destinies of different peoples are intertwined. The constant exchange of languages, ideas and religious cults contributed to the fact that many achievements of human culture were born here already in distant times.

The most significant, truly revolutionary step of mankind in ancient times was the transition from gathering and hunting to agriculture and cattle breeding. Archaeologists in recent years have identified the places where this turn of events took place in the Middle East. These are two centers located relatively close to each other-they are separated by only 1000 kilometers.

The first is located in southeastern Anatolia (now part of Turkey). In the town of Nevali Kori, archaeologists have unearthed one of the oldest religious buildings (it appeared about 7000 years before the new era), where a statue of the deity was erected, exceeding human growth. The statue stood in an arena, which was apparently flanked by people who worshiped the idol.

The second center is the area of the village of Ain Ghazal, located near the modern Jordanian capital, Amman. From the ruins of a well-planned ancient settlement, archaeologists have recovered several human figures with a height of 35 to 90 centimeters, made of lime. Their age is 9,000 years. According to the researchers, the figurines indicate that the inhabitants of the settlement worshipped their ancestors and believed in an afterlife.
 

Images for ayn Ghazal

These two facts clearly show that the stage of simple satisfaction of human needs — for food, clothing, and shelter-has passed, and the transition to cultivated agriculture has become a milestone in social life. A person has vital material resources that have allowed him to at least partially free himself from caring for the needs of everyday life. And then, with curiosity, he was able to look beyond the banal everyday life and think about the world around him, about the passage of time, about life and death. Professor Hartmut Kuehne, an archaeologist from Berlin, says: "The first high culture, in my opinion, arose in the Stone Age, before man learned to burn clay-this was more than 3000 years before the invention of writing." "All this suggests," the scientist continues, " that science will have to reconsider the previously accepted ideas about the social structure of those ancient times as very primitive."

The photo shows a relief depicting archers of King Tiglath-Pileser III attacking a Palestinian city. Next to it is a wall — battering machine.

The domestication of wild animals has also become an essential prerequisite for people to reach the first step on the ladder of progress. But animal husbandry requires forage land, and water is needed to moisten the soil and make it fertile. Such lands in the Middle East — the so-called "fertile crescent" - stretch from Egypt through Palestine, northern Syria to the banks of the Euphrates. Here there were rivers and groundwater, rain fell (albeit irregularly), and there were fertile steppes suitable for agriculture. But in other years, these places, mainly their eastern part, were visited by drought. It is the climate instability in this region of the globe that has played a significant role in the historical and political development of the Middle East, and, as the latest work of archaeologists has proved, much more than previously thought.

Excavations have shown that already in the VII millennium BC, organizational forms of life were quite developed, for example, dwellings in villages were no longer scattered chaotically, but were placed systematically. The houses were built rectangular, with many rooms, in some places the floors and walls have preserved to this day traces of decorative decoration-mainly ornaments applied with a sharp stick on wet clay. The houses were equipped with water-cooled rooms, the same kind that can still be found today in the villages of the Middle East, where there are no electric air conditioners.

For a long time, however, archaeologists could not understand the social structure that developed in these settlements, since the excavations did not show any signs of social inequality among the inhabitants. Only the figures indicating the existence of the ancestral cult in Ain Ghazal and the temple discovered in Nevali Kori gave some insight into the social structure: there was reason to assume that even at such an early stage of human community, there was already a hierarchy determined, apparently, by the religious sphere of life. Probably, people who made amulets, idols, and tools already stood out in society. This was followed by a difference in the distribution of food products and their storage.

Thus, in the seventh millennium BC, Western Asia reaches a certain flourishing point, but by the sixth millennium, the established culture suddenly disappears. Archaeological research proves that the inhabited places, where life was still boiling recently, were completely depopulated several centuries later. The reason for the flight of people is easily guessed: the climate became drier and drier, and the land could not feed the ever-increasing population. Eventually, after leaving their homes, people went north and west — where conditions for agriculture were more favorable, where long-term droughts were not rampant.

Such a shock did not pass without a trace, again a person was faced with the task of elementary satisfaction of his immediate needs, and his spiritual interests receded into the background. Food was once again the primary and only concern.

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Since 5500, the climate of the Near East has changed again — it becomes more humid. And once abandoned lands came to life, but no one restored the old settlements. The creative, spiritual nature of the people was largely lost; it is now revealed in other areas-painted ceramics have appeared, and some progress is being made in agriculture. This is the Neolithic period between 5500 and 4000 BC. By the end of this time, the first urban-type settlements were founded, but still closely connected with the surrounding peasant farms. The culture of Mesopotamia and near-sea Palestine reached its peak between 2900-2800 BC.

Cities in the early Bronze Age-probably the residences of princes-were characterized by strong buildings, they were surrounded by high walls, and gates were built to enter the city, which were locked at nightfall. The peasants supplied the cities with food and raw materials, such as animal skins for making leather. The townspeople processed and processed surplus agricultural products, engaged in crafts and trade. This relationship was beneficial to both partners as long as the fields yielded crops and the animals were fed.

In the 2400s BC, a new wave of devastating droughts began in Palestine and in the 2200s-2100s in Northern Syria. The well-established system of economy began to lose its effectiveness. Eventually, climate change drove the peasants off their land. The Middle East is once again semi-desert. The history of the peoples of these places, which turned into a deserted space, is interrupted for about half a thousand years — from the 2400s to the 1900s BC. In the layers dating back to this time, archaeologists have not found any material evidence of any economic life here. Historians also lack reliable information about the life of Palestine during this long period. All that is known is that the Canaanites came here together with another people, the Amorites, and built villages consisting of small houses, of which almost no traces remain. In other words, the population was entirely peasant, engaged in subsistence farming.

The invasion of the" peoples of the sea " ended in 1200 BC with the capture of many cities. Only the Egyptians were able to repel their onslaught. The relief is dedicated to the sea battle of the Egyptians with the "peoples of the sea", who then fought with Palestine.

More is known about the life of Mesopotamia and Mesopotamia at this time, primarily due to the so-called "texts from Mari". Cuneiform records were found in the archives of the palace of the city of Mari, which lay on the right bank of the Euphrates (today it is the land of Syria). The cuneiform collection contained 25,000 clay tablets. The palace belonged to a local Amorite prince, but at times this city was ruled by Assyrian governors (see the article "Science follows in the footsteps of the Bible". Nauka i Zhizn, No. 8, 1997).

The prolonged drought forced the Amorite tribes to move from the steppes of Syria down the Euphrates River, to the east. The wealthy city-states of Sumer and Akkad saw this migration as a threat and tried to resist it, but the newcomers infiltrated Sumer and gradually took over the leading position in the country. However, within the tribes there was an internecine struggle for the right to dominate. The Amorite tribe won. One of the rulers of this tribe is the historical King Hammurabi (who ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC). A skilful politician and commander, he ended civil strife and created a strong army. He turned the inconspicuous city of Babylon into the capital of a powerful state — Babylonia. As you know, Hammurabi left a significant mark on the history of social structure, having compiled the first set of laws — the "Code of Hammurabi".

As already mentioned, historians do not have written documents about the ancient times of Palestine, but indirect sources and letters from countries and cities that had a connection with Palestine help to recreate the picture of life. Archaeologists are very much hoping for the success of the search for the archive in Asor, a Palestinian city that passed through the Bronze Age trade routes connecting this city with Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Assyria. Not only did goods move along these routes, but also ancient mail — cuneiform messages from rulers, ancient diplomats, or trade partners.

At this time, the culture of the peoples of the Near East and their religion did not have a solid foundation: many peoples, many beliefs — everything was seething and mixed (no wonder, apparently, the legend of the Babel of Babel was born), violence triumphed. The only thing that resisted this anarchy was trade. It covered and united many countries. Aromatics - from the southern coasts of Arabia, lapis lazuli-from Afghanistan, amber-from the far North, obsidian - from Turkey, turquoise - from southern Palestine, tin-from the east, copper-from Cyprus, cedars - from Lebanon, ceramics - from Greece. There were many markets where they sold live goods — slaves. "Everyone was dependent on this trade, but the trade itself was dependent on the international situation, that is, on relations between countries," sums up one of the researchers of the Bible and the history of the Middle East.

Another climate change around the XIII-XII centuries BC (again it became more arid) this time, in addition to Asia Minor, affected the Balkans and raised the peoples of the peninsula to march. They took ships south and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Cretan-Mycenaean culture, which occupied part of mainland Greece and the Aegean islands, in particular the island of Crete, was destroyed. Further south ,the" peoples of the sea, " as history has called this invasion, destroyed the states that occupied a strip along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and finally attacked Egypt, which with great difficulty repelled the attack.

Even before the arrival of the "peoples of the sea", the drought had already dealt a severe blow to Palestine. Its mineral resources did not contain any wealth, the country was an intermediary in established international trade. Climate change has disrupted the system of economic ties.

What happened in these parts then-between 1200 and 800 BC? Archaeologists and historians believe that even in the so-called "dark ages", about which there is almost no information, it is possible to trace the main milestones of events. As is often the case in historical studies, it is only necessary to change the angle of view, and the seemingly disappeared people appear again-only this time not in the capital, not in busy commercial cities, but in settlements and villages. This is especially true in Palestine. The Old Testament provides researchers with reference points for the history of these places, dating back to 1200 BC. First, the conquest of Palestine by the Israelites, the consolidation of new tribes, then the destruction of the kingdom, the captivity of the people by the Assyrians, then the Persians, and finally the return from captivity. Ancient history ends with the affirmation of the "One God".

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