Derived from the Italian word “levante,” which describes the rising of the sun in the east the term in time became synonymous with the counties along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
From 1300 to 1400AD, the Levant became part of the Italian trade market in the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt. Geographically this area is divided between the coastal plans of the west and the hill country of the east. Consequently, the amount of rainfall decreases from the north to the south leaving the northern regions to develop economically faster than the southern region.
During excavations in the Jordan Valley of Israel evidence of early human occupation in the southern Levant, from 1,400,000 to 250,000BC were discovered. These excavations also contain the earliest evidence of domesticated dogs and controlled use of fire in the area. Evidence found throughout this region proved the presence of the Mousterian
Culture, from 250,000 to 48,000BC. The Booker Tachit Culture, from 52,000 to 50,000BC, followed by the Levanto-Aurignacian and Ahmarian Cultures, from 40,000 to 24,000BC, who successfully joined other existing prehistoric groups.
Afterwards, from 18,000 to 12,500BC, the Kebaran Culture migrated across the Sinai developing and establishing the first domesticated settlements becoming the ancestors to the other cultures that extended throughout the Levantine region. The Natufian Culture, from 10,500 to 8500BC, settled in northeastern Levant developing into larger agricultural settlements and communities along with the domesticating of sheep and goats. Their settlements discovered in northern Syria and along the Euphrates River were made of groups of round houses that changed into square houses. The Harifian Culture, from 8500 to 7500BC, remained a hunter-gatherer group similar to the later cultures of Egypt and the Sinai becoming one of the first nomadic cultures in the Ancient Near East that spread from the south near the Red Sea to the north into Mesopotamia. Located in Syria the Ghassulian Culture, from 5600 to 3500BC, created the foundation of the Mediterranean economy of agriculture consisting of wheat, barley, vegetable crops, grapes and olives as well as animal husbandry.
The Akkadian Empire, from 2350 to 2100BC, conquered large areas of the Levant followed by the Amorite kingdoms, in 2000 to 1600 BC, then the Mitanni ruled, from 1700 to 1600BC, the Hittites, from 1600 to 1400BC, the Hyksos, in 1400BC to 1200BC, when most of the interior of Canaan as well as Babylonia became overrun by the Arameans, around 1100BC, leaving the southern shoreline to be invaded and settled by the Philistines followed by the Egyptians. At the end 1100BC, all of these cultures suddenly collapsed due to weather conditions causing famine over most of the area leading to the migration of various cultures. Assorted tribal raiders invaded and conquered cities all over the eastern Mediterranean within a span of a few decades, leaving the destruction of a number of the smaller kingdoms and city-states.
The Assyrians, in 900BC, finally conquered the Aramaeans eventually taking control of all of the Levant, Egypt and Babylonia, but the Assyrian Empire collapsed, in 626BC, and later finally defeated by an alliance of armies from Neo-Babylonian and Medes, in 605BC.
Later in 500BC, the Persians revolted against the Medes to gain control of the Levant area along with Anatolia, Damascus, Babylonia and Egypt and established Zoroastrianism as the predominant religion of the land.
Alexander the Great defeats Persia leaving the Near East to become part of Seleucid kingdom, followed by the Parthians, then Rome and the Byzantine Empire, later the Sassanid Empire and finally the Islamic Empire, in 651AD.