Maps of the Levant

Map showing ancient kingdoms of the Levant circa 830

Dlv999 / Richard Prins / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

"Levant" or "The Levant" is a geographic term that refers to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the nearby islands. Maps of the Levant don't show an absolute boundary, because at no time in the past was it a single political unit. Rough boundaries are generally west of the Zagros mountains, south of the Taurus Mountains and north of the Sinai peninsula.

The term is often used in reference to the ancient lands in the Old Testament of the Bible (Bronze Age): the kingdoms of Israel, Ammon, Moab, Judah, Edom, and Aram; and the Phoenician and Philistine states. Important cities include Jerusalem, Jericho, Petra, Beersheba, Rabbath-Ammon, Ashkelon, Tyre, and Damascus. 

Like "Anatolia" or "Orient," "Levant" refers to the area of the rising of the sun, from the perspective of the western Mediterranean. The Levant is the eastern Mediterranean area now covered by Israel, Lebanon, part of Syria, and western Jordan. In antiquity, the southern part of the Levant or Palestine was called Canaan.

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What is "the Levant"?

Portolan or Navigational Map of Greece, the Mediterranean and the Levant
Buyenlarge / Getty Images

The Levant is a French word. It is the present participle of the French word for to rise "lever," and its use in geography refers to the direction that the sun comes up. The geographic term means "the countries of the east." The east, in this case, means the eastern Mediterranean region, meaning the islands and the adjoining countries. Its first documented use in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is in the late 15th century. 

Other terms used for the same region are the "near East,"  and the "Orient" which is also based on a French/Norman/Latin terms meaning east.  The Orient is slightly older, it means "the lands to the east of the Roman empire," and it appears in Chaucer's "Monk's Tale."

The "middle east" is generally more extensive, meaning those countries from Egypt to Iran. 

The Holy Land generally refers to Judea (Israel and Palestine) alone. The 

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Brief Chronology of the Levant

Ancient map of the Levant
Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

The earliest humans in the Levant made some of the earliest stone tools made by our human ancestors Homo erectus after they left  Africa, at a handful of known sites in Israel, Syria, and Jordan some 1.7 million years ago. The Levantine corridor—land which connects the continent of Africa to the Levant—was also the main pathway for modern humans to leave Africa, about 150,000 years ago. Stone tools were used to process plants and butcher animals for food. 

The Levant region called the Fertile Crescent saw some of the earliest use of domesticated plants and animals during the Neolithic period; and some of the earliest urban sites arose here in Mesopotamia, what is today Iraq. Judaism got its start here, and from it, Christianity developed a few thousand years later. 

Also known as Classical antiquity, the Classical Age refers to when the Greeks achieved new heights in art, architecture, literature, theater, and philosophy. This period expanded a new maturity in Greece that lasted for roughly 200 years.

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Map Collections of the Levant

Ancient Locations is a database of detailed placemarks for archaeological sites and the owner Steve White has amassed a set of maps from the Levant, as well as archaeological sites such as Jerusalem and Qumran 

PAT (the Portable Atlas) run by Ian Macky, has a collection of public domain maps for use at the country or region level.

The Oriental Institute has a collection of Ancient Near East Site Maps, 300 pixel gray-scale images. 

The German Society for the Exploration of Palestine maintains a detailed set of maps drawn by Gottlieb Schumacher (1857–1928). You'll need to request to use the maps,but there is a widget right on the page. 

Max Fisher writing in Vox has a collection of 40 maps "explaining the middle east," collected from different places and of differing quality. 

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Your Citation
Gill, N.S. "Maps of the Levant." ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2021, Gill, N.S. (2021, September 1). Maps of the Levant. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Maps of the Levant." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).