The Myth of ‘The Desert and the Sown’

In A Companion to the Ancient Near East, in which I read one article about humans’ environmental impacts, I came across a discussion on pp. 140-1 about an early twentieth century historiography which “partitioned the population of the Near East into nomads, as destroyers of the land, versus sedentary peoples, as keepers of the land. … These authors maintained that the collapse of agriculture during the first centuries of Islamic rule in the Near East could be blamed on a widespread shift to a pastoral economy. Recent works on the problem have shown that such a thing never occurred, and that agriculture actually flourished in some areas, while others went into decline (Kedar 1985).”

Kedar, Benjamin. “The Arab Conquests and Agriculture: A Seventh-Century Apocalypse, Satellite Imagery, and Palynology,” Asian and African Studies 19 (1985), 1-15.

A man makes tea kettles in Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Photo: Jon Vidar)

A man makes tea kettles in Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Photo: Jon Vidar) by jonkaj on Flickr.

Candy makers in Diyarbakir, Turkey (Photo: Jon Vidar)

Candy makers in Diyarbakir, Turkey. (Photo: Jon Vidar) by jonkaj on Flickr.

Decoration in the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent by Vince Millett on Flickr.

Islam’s first university, Harran, Turkey by Efe Arat on Flickr.