Western Asia, or Southwest Asia, are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East, which describes a geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than its location within Asia. Due to this perceived Eurocentrism, international organizations such as the United Nations, have replaced Middle East and Near East with Western Asia. This region and Europe are collectively referred to as Western Eurasia.
Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Sumerian and East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Chaldean peoples living in Mesopotamia (approximately the area of modern Iraq and north east Syria) that dominated the region for a period of 4,200 years from the fourth millennium BCE throughout Mesopotamia to approximately the 10th century CE in Assyria.
Polytheism was the only religion in ancient Mesopotamia for thousands of years before entering a period of gradual decline beginning in the 1st century CE. This decline happened in the face of the introduction of native Eastern Rite forms of Christianity, as well as Manicheanism and Gnosticism, and continued for approximately three to four centuries, until most of the original religious traditions of the area died out, with the final traces existing among some Assyrian communities until the 10th century CE.
The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia, and the Nile Valley and Nile Delta of northeast Africa. The term was popularized by University of Chicago archaeologist James Henry Breasted. Having originated in the study of ancient history, the concept soon developed and today retains meanings in international geopolitics and diplomatic relations.
In current usage, the Fertile Crescent has a minimum extent and a maximum extent. All definitions include Mesopotamia, the land in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The modern-day countries with significant territory within the Fertile Crescent are Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Occupied Palestinian territories, besides the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringe of Iran.
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeastern Syria and Kuwait), ancient Egypt (although the majority of Egypt is geographically in North East Africa), ancient Iran (Elam, Media, Parthia and Persia), Anatolia/Asia Minor (modern Turkey and Armenia), the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, State of Palestine and Jordan), Malta and the Arabian Peninsula. The ancient Near East is studied in the fields of Near Eastern archaeology and ancient history. It begins with the rise of Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, though the date it ends varies: either covering the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in the region, until the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC or Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.
The ancient Near East is considered the cradle of civilization. It was the first to practice intensive year-round agriculture, it gave the rest of the world the first writing system, invented the potter's wheel and then the vehicular- and mill wheel, created the first centralized governments, law codes and empires, as well as introducing social stratification, slavery and organized warfare, and it laid the foundation for the fields of astronomy and mathematics.