A great thing about learning is that one has the opportunity to be surprised at any moment. Today's surprise came in our history class. In discussing the development of agriculture, we learned that building and maintaining irrigation systems in Mesopotamia called for the development of societal structures. That is, a system has to be in place to organize the whole infrastructure of water and crops; from this development sprang the many predecessors to modern society. Laws, division of labor, trade, and writing are all the byproducts of a system of agriculture. Fair enough.
The surprise came in the form of this photograph. It seems that ancient bedrock formations are rock over which oceans once existed. Salt was, and is, a component of all oceans on earth. As the ancient Mesopotamians learned to control water, they learned to irrigate. Once they could grow crops, they noticed dramatic increases in yields. To increase yields, they began to excessively water their crop land. This excess water soaked the earth down to the bedrock, which began to release the salt that resided in the rock. The salt worked its way to the surface and, over time, altered the chemical composition of the soil to the extent that the land could no longer grow anything. Thus, today, the formerly fertile Mesopotamian River Valley is an arid wasteland, incapable of supporting any agricultural production.
Has Man been altering his environment literally since the beginning of recorded history?
Note: The photo is the property of the John & Peggy Sanders Collection found here.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Posted by Agricola at 3:25 PM