Some of the earliest known human settlements have been found in present day Iraq. Habitations, shrines, implements, and pottery found on various sites can be dated as early as 5000 B.C. Some sites bear names that are familiar from the bible, which describes the region of the Tigris (Dijlah) and Euphrates (Al Furat) rivers as the location of the Garden of Eden.
Iraq lies in what historians and geographers commonly refer to as the ‘Fertile Crescent’. Running through the heart of the country are two great rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) that at one time fed and nourished the beginnings of civilization. Because these two rivers flood periodically, leaving behind fertile soil after the waters recede, farmers were able to produce crops in abundance. This surplus meant that not every person in the society had to devote him or herself to subsistence living, and so industry, government, and religion developed.
The first great nation to rise out of the fertile crescent was Sumeria, around 4000 B.C. The Sumerians built irrigation canals, and also developed the first known form of writing, known as cuneiform. However, like all empires, the Sumerians would pass from the scene. Subsequently, the region would spawn empires or host them over the centuries. These included the Chaldeans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, the Medes, Greeks (Macedonian and Seleucid), Romans, Parthians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, and the British. The reason why so many empires fought over the area was partly the region's agricultural resources. In modern times oil has been a factor because Iraq possesses huge reserves. However, an alternative reason why Iraq has been fought over so often, is that it lies in a conspicuous place on the world map, in the middle of an invasion route linking three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe (Rayment, 2014).