Jared Diamond strongly believed that
geography is fundamental to the development of civilizations. Where continents
lie in relation to latitude affects in a great expense its potential for food
production. A quick look at a world map will reveal a stark difference between
the geography of the Fertile Crescent as compared to Africa or America. The
continents differ in axis orientation.
The Fertile Crescent has an East-West axis.
Its land mass is larger in width rather than length. Because of almost the
whole region lies in the same latitude, the climate is the same everywhere.
That is why the major crops of Fertile Crescent spread throughout the entire
region. Thus, food production as a whole prospered which is the foundation of a
contrast, Africa has a North-South axis. The crops from Fertile Crescent prospered
in Egypt. However, downwards to Ethiopia which is characterized by highlands, they
all failed to develop. That Ethiopia lies in lower latitude than Egypt and the
climate there is not suitable for wheat or barley. In Sub-Saharan Africa,
however, wild plants were domesticated because of the summer rains and warm
temperature. Yams and sorghum which are indigenous to West Africa and the Sahel
zone became bountiful. Horses which also came from Fertile Crescent never
thrived south of the equator. It took centuries before goats, sheep and cattle
were domesticated in South Africa.
This is also the case in America. Mexico, with its
cool highlands, is ideal for raising potatoes, guinea pigs and llamas. They
were also domesticated in the southern part of the Andes because of similar
latitude and climate. However, these crops and animals did not spread northward
to Central America with its hot lowlands. On the other hand, sunflower and turkeys
from Mexico thrived in the northern Andes but not southward because of the
tropical climate. Therefore, crop diffusion became very selective and slow.