A picture’s worth a thousand words - we all know that - and when the picture is a map, it can serve as a powerful tool for making complex concepts easily comprehensible. And what concept is more complicated than the Middle East?
Modern maps become dynamic when you mix in digital technology. Click to see timelapsed border changes ; or watch ethnic groups migrate across continents. Put down that dusty encyclopedia and step away from Google Earth - these amazing maps can switch on instant understanding of socio-political subtext, in a readily digestible way!
The folks at Vox  have compiled a portfolio of some of the cleverest maps for this region that explain - in clear snapshots - how nations were formed  from the historically lush soils and ample waterways of the Fertile Crescent  (the region now known as Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Israel-Palestine).
All the coolest civilizations claim this zip code! Starting with the Sumerians who formed the world’s first known urban society 47 centuries ago (complete with a political system and written laws), then (surf’s up!) new waves of change by the Phoenician , Persian , Byzantine  and Ottoman Empires  that swept across the region.
In the early 7th century, Islam emerged in present-day Saudi Arabia . Beginning as a religion, it soon becoming an empire in itself. Within a century, Islam and the Arabic language had spread across Arabia, the Levant, the Gulf, North Africa, Persia and southern Europe, creating a shared Middle Eastern identity and making the Muslim empire a center of wealth, arts and sciences.
Nineteenth century ascendance of the West and its subsequent colonialism of Arab lands radically changed political borders and demographics, setting off catastrophic social and economic outcomes
Want a crash course in what makes the Middle East tick? See how our nations were formed. Watch our language and culture spread. View maps that illustrate our ethnic richness, diversity and conflict. Review others that present the face of the new Middle East and the changes resulting from the 2012 uprisings , the continued horror of civil war  and occupation .
Here are 15 maps that can game-change your understanding of the Middle East.