Lebanon is a country in Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history, and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than 7,000 years predating recorded history. Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for nearly 2,500 years (3000–539 BC). Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronite Catholics and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and established a unique political system, known as confessionalism, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. French troops withdrew in 1946.