The Northern Fertile Crescent

Mounds visible (at full resolution) on the SRTM 90m terrain model, and interpreted as tells. Only the most prominent mounds are plotted. The top map uses the SRTM terrain model as a base-map; the middle one uses Landsat 7 imagery draped over the terrain model; and the bottom map shows the "flat" Landsat imagery without artificially adding the terrain. The distribution follows a characteristic belt of flat, reasonably well-watered country. For examples of higher-resolution imagery, return to the main page and click on the yellow boxes on the following map.


Question: what does it mean?

An interesting question, of some theoretical significance, is the relationship between natural resources, site-locations, and routes. In several places, sites can be seen to form a chain (south of the Jebel Sinjar, for instance, or parallel to the middle Tigris), and the overall distribution has the form of an east-west corridor. The localized alignments undoubtedly reflect spring-lines and valleys, while the broad scatter of sites follows the constraints of a climatic-vegetational zone. Nevertheless the pattern of sites is not just a mirror of environmental conditions, but also arises from their positions in a network of interconnections, as a corridor of communication between east and west, with specific routes running through it. Certain locations possessed advantages in terms of their onward connections as well as their local resources, and it is this which explains their importance. (The changing prominence of particular sites at different times is thus a good indicator of their changing roles within these networks.) This dialectic or recursiveness between "locational" and "positional" factors is an important consideration in understanding settlement history and its changing organization in economic and social terms. (For similar thoughts in relation to the Neolithic, see Origins of Farming figures 32-8.)

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How to cite this page: Andrew Sherratt (2006), 'Tellspotting: The Northern Fertile Crescent', ArchAtlas, Version 4.1,, Accessed: 16 December 2017