From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Mediterranean Basin comprises the lands around and surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation. As a rule of thumb, the Mediterranean Basin is the Old World region where olive trees grow.
Neanderthals inhabited western Asia and the non-glaciated portions of Europe starting about 230,000 years ago. Modern humans moved into western Asia from Africa less than 100,000 years ago. Modern humans, known as Cro-Magnons, moved into Europe approximately 50-40,000 years ago.
The most recent glacial period, the Wisconsin glaciation, reached its maximum extent approximately 21,000 years ago, and ended approximately 12,000 years ago. A warm period, known as the Holocene climatic optimum, followed the ice age.
Food crops, including wheat, chickpeas, and olives, along with sheep and goats, were domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean in the 9th millennium BCE, which allowed for the establishment of agricultural settlements. Near Eastern crops spread to southeastern Europe in the 7th millennium BCE. Poppy and oats were domesticated in Europe from the 6th to the 3rd millennium BCE. Agricultural settlements spread around the Mediterranean Basin. Megaliths were constructed in Europe from 4500 - 1500 BCE.
A strengthening of the summer monsoon 9000–7000 years ago increased rainfall across the Sahara, which became a grassland, with lakes, rivers, and wetlands. After a period of climatic instability, the Sahara settled into a desert state by the 4th millennium BCE.
Wheat is the dominant grain grown around the Mediterranean Basin. Pulses and vegetables are also grown. The characteristic tree crop is the olive. Figs are another important fruit tree, and citrus, especially lemons, are grown where irrigation is present. Grapes are an important vine crop, grown for fruit and to make wine. Rice and summer vegetables are grown in irrigated areas.