The settlement of humans in the Near East began with the movement of Homo sapians off the African continent roughly 2 million years ago during the Paleolithic period. Over the course of several thousand years, humanity spread throughout the Near East.


The first three phases of the Paleolithic period (Lower, Middle and Upper) extend from roughly 2.5 million years BC through 14,000 BC. Each phase is defined by changes in human habitat, stone tool technology, and diet. During most of that time, humans lived in open-air campsites and in small natural caves. They hunted wild animals and fished, gathered wild plants, and wandered over a large geographic area. During the time period following between 14, 000 BC and 9, 000 BC humans lived in circular or semi-circular structures called pit houses. These houses often had plaster floors and sometimes several pits were linked together to form various rooms.
(Pit House)

Plants and animals were domesticated in the Near East roughly between 11, 000 BC and 6, 500 BC. By 9, 000 BC modern humans were living in settled communities throughout the Near East.

The Archaeological site of Jarmo, Iraq, dates from the pre-Neolithic period and is believed to be the first example of a "town" with "houses" (four walls and a roof). The "town" consisted of 150-200 people who lived in 20-30 houses, spread over an area of 3.2 acres.

(Jarmo from above)
(A house in Jarmo)

Between 6, 000 BC and 4, 000 BC, farming communities like Jarmo, increased in size and complexity through out the fertile cresent with a few centralized towns of over 2000 inhabitants.
The period after 3, 500 BC saw the world's first civilization, the Sumarians, reach a peak of cultural dynamism as thier small city-states competed with one another for dominance.