National Geographic : 1952 Jun
Southwest Asia Again Makes History New National Geographic Map Shows Where Modern Crises Erupt Among Scenes of Man's Earliest Civilizations WITHOUT the arts of writing, cartog raphy, arithmetic, and the wheel, all invented or first used in Southwest Asia, the map of that vital area which ac companies this issue of the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE could never have been compiled, printed, and distributed. More than 2,000,000 copies of the National Geographic Society's timely new 10-color map of Southwest Asia (and including most of Egypt, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and Ethiopia in Africa) have been printed for the benefit of The Society's members throughout the world.* Viewed down the vista of history, no area on earth is as important as this, for here our history began. Here a stylus first marked Mesopotamian mud tablets with ancient rec ords and laws in wedgelike script. Here the intricacies of thought and the rhythms of poetry were recorded on Egyptian papyrus or the parchment of Pergamum (Bergama) in present-day Turkey. Here the granddaddy of all known maps was incised on Mesopota mian clay 4,500 years ago. Southwest Asia was not only the nursery of our civilization but also our linguistic primer. Be it Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, Per sian, Greek, Hindi, or Urdu, Southwest Asia gave things their names, gave thought its vocabulary. Even the heavens yielded up their secrets to the inquiring mind of ancient man. Here the swing of our sphere around the sun was first measured; here the seasons were tamed to almanac and calendar. No other area has been such a laboratory of human geography. Here man and environ ment have wrestled, in some of the earth's most fertile valleys and most forbidding des erts, since history began. Science Pushes History Backward On the shores of the Caspian Sea, beside Mesopotamia's twin rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, on the storied shores of the Nile, and along present Pakistan's northwest fron tier, the horizon of history is being pushed steadily back by deep-delving archeologists. At Jarmo, 30 miles east of Kirkuk, arche ologists of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute believe they have found the earliest human settlement so far discovered. They estimate that this "world's oldest village" thrived between 5000 and 6000 B. C. This vast region between the Western Desert in Egypt and the Chindwin Valley of Burma is a land of extremes: among the richest and poorest, highest and lowest, driest and wettest. In Arabia's Empty Quarter, even a vulture would have to carry a canteen-and every camel does. In parts of Assam, enough rain falls in a year to float the largest U. S. Navy aircraft carrier, fully loaded, with room to spare beneath her keel. In one bumper year, 1861, there was more than twice that much 1,041.78 inches. Curving around the northern frontiers of India and Pakistan, the highest mountains on earth isolate India more surely than do its seas. Through the passes have moved mighty armies, tribesmen's annual forays for food, and sun-helmeted explorers seeking Lhasa in the vast, silent seclusion of Tibet, now in the hands of Red China. Only the finding of the frozen bodies of two British mountain climbers, last seen near ing Mount Everest's summit in 1924, may reveal whether its 29,002-foot pinnacle has yet been conquered by man. A tiny blue spot, partly hidden by the magic name "Jerusalem," marks the deepest dimple in the face of Mother Earth, and a salty, scabrous dimple it is. Like a syrup kettle in a Vermont maple sugar camp, the Dead Sea contains a thick fluid from which the water of ages has been evaporated. A cruel sun focuses its un clouded glare into a desolate depression nearly a quarter of a mile below sea level and five and three-quarter miles lower than Mount Ever est's lonely peak. Five Faiths Began Here Mighty as are Nature's forces, they are matched by man's desire to fathom them and to worship their Creator. No great religion on earth is alien to this area. Most were born here. Buddha grew up on the foothills of the Himalayas. Hindustan's sacred Ganges, flow ing past the bathing ghats of Banaras (Be nares), bears away the ashes of Hindus of many castes. Abraham's Ur and Hebron, Jesus' Bethlehem and Golgotha, Mohammed's Mecca and Medina are near neighbors in this southwest part of Asia. In the small inset map, the breadth of the Moslem world is compared to the relatively tiny size of Texas. Roughly one man out of * Members may obtain additional copies of the new map of Southwest Asia, India, Pakistan, and North east Africa (and of all standard maps published by The Society) by writing to the National Geographic Society, Washington 6, D. C. Prices in United States and elsewhere, 50¢ each on paper; $1 on fabric; Index. 25¢. All remittances payable in U. S . funds. Postpaid.