The arc of arable land stretching between modern day Turkey and Syria through Iraq and Iran became known as the Fertile Crescent. It included Mesopotamia, the ancient lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was in the Fertile Crescent that a revolutionary change occurred in how men and women lived their daily lives. They began to use the wheel and the plow and to tame their environment by controlling water. The oldest written documents also come to us from Mesopotamia and vary from simple inventories to The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Their greatest and most characteristic artistic works were huge carved stone reliefs that embellished both palaces and temples and depicted animals, kings, and gods. Everyday objects were also enhanced by artist-craftsmen into beautiful utilitarian works of art.
In the 19th century, Europeans and Americans began to undertake systematic excavations in the region. The treasures they found there have given us a remarkable glimpse into these early civilizations.