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lay at the centre of the ancient world, Syria early became the principal transmitter of culture. On one side stretched the valley of the two rivers, on the other the valley of the one river. No other region can vie in antiquity, activity and continuity with these three, in which we can observe more or less the same peoples for fifty centuries of uninterrupted history. Their civilization has been a going concern since the fourth millennium before Christ. The early culture of Europe was but a pale reflection of this civilization of the eastern Mediterranean.

Even in prehistory Syria looms high in significance, as recent archaeological investigation indicates that it was the probable scene of the first domestication of wheat and the discovery of copper, which combined with the local invention of pottery to effect a change from a nomadic hunting way of life to a sedentary agricultural pattern. This region, therefore, may possibly have experienced settled life in villages and towns before any other place. Earlier still, as we shall see in our third chapter, it may have served as the nursery of one of our direct ancestors, the emerging modern type of man (Homo sapiens). But before we consider the prehistoric period, let us inspect the land which was to be the stage for great events.