As the Sun set on the evening of what would someday be known as Saturday, October 22, 4004 BCE, nobody in the world could imagine what the next 6,000 years would be like. The people of that time—all 14 million of them—lived in a world of stone and wood. With few exceptions, they knew nothing beyond family and clan, trade routes and war, Earth and the sky. This day, this Saturday, was special, and nobody in the world at the time could have told you why, because it is only special to us.
The center of the world at this time is Mesopotamia. Here, during what historians would someday call the Uruk Period, some of the world’s first cities have grown up. Some of the cities of the Fertile Crescent, such as Jericho, are already so old that their founding is as remote from the people of 4004 BCE as that date is from us. For 5,000 years, the people of this land have farmed a fertile hybrid of two grasses that they—and we—know as kweit, or “wheat.” Some use copper, but bronze working is yet a far-off dream, and iron is all but unknown among them. Their land is lush and fertile, but the climate is changing, and soon their descendants will subsist in an arid dustbowl.