The ‘Cradle of Civilisation’ is a phrase that is as persistent as it is nebulous. It has been used to describe regions as specific as the Nile Valley or as broad as the entire Middle East, and has no clear reference to any calendrical period of time. The use of this phrase implies that ‘civilisation’ originated in the Middle East but then developed fully into its contemporary form in Europe, or the West more generally, while the Middle East stagnated. In this chapter, I argue that the ‘cradle of civilisation’ is not merely a rhetorical construction, but rather a concept that is continually re-made by archaeological practice as well as research questions and media attention that search for the earliest evidence of many recognisable cultural practices in the Middle East. Ironically, the unchanging use of this term illustrates the lack of transformation in archaeological writing and methodology, rather than in the Middle Eastern region. Alternative narratives and new material practices will both be necessary to move beyond the Orientalist legacy of the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’ concept.