In its position midway between the Middle Eastern
coastal strip, Mesopotamia, and the mountains of the north, Syria
has always been a crossroads for the distinct geographical regions
of the Middle East.
For most of its history Syria also falls into
several cultural divisions.
Eastern Syria was part of Mesopotamia in terms
of its cultural affinities, while the coastal region formed part
of the Canaanite zone of city states, sharing their development
with the southern Levant.
Only central Syria developed a cultural identity
which was unique to itself. During the Early Bronze Age (between
approximately 3500-2200 BC), the native Amorite population in this
region, inheriting much of their civilisation from Sumer and possibly
founding Babylon, built large and powerful city states such as Ebla
in the north and Hamath in the south.
Because of its lucrative trade with Mesopotamia,
Syria did not suffer the same period of economic recession as Canaan
in the last quarter of the third millennium (2250-2000 BC), and the
city states continued to prosper.
The second millennium saw the infiltration of
non-Semitic northerners, the Hurrians, whose origins are still obscure.
The best theory is that they emerged in circa 2000 BC from the
mountains to the north and west to occupy the upper Tigris Valley
and the upper Euphrates.
Although the Hurrians became a dominant political
force in their own right in the region of Urkesh, they only began
their rise to greatness thanks to the arrival around four hundred
years later of a new influx of settlers.