Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Article Title

Terms for Ancient Places



ancient Mesopotamia, geographic Mesopotamia, cultural Mesopotamia


The terminology that we use to refer to long lost lands and cultures can be confusing. For example, the October FARMS Update (number 108) referred to Mesopotamia in the cultural sense rather than in a geographic sense - ancient Ebla was at various times within the cultural sphere of Mesopotamia but is not part of the geographic area usually referred to as Mesopotamia. Even the geographic sense is ambiguous; some reputable reference works (perhaps the majority) use Mesopotamia to refer to the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, while others extend the area considered to be part of Mesopotamia to the northwest to include all of the plains drained by the two rivers.