Egypt and Mesopotamia
Many of the world’s first civilisations developed at many different times and places, however some emerged simultaneously. Although it’s quite hard to tell, scientists have been able to roughly estimate the time cities first became civilised. It is arguable as to what civilisation began initially, however it is assured that Egypt and Mesopotamia were two of the first. These two civilisations progressed along major rivers that affected the settlement and everyday lives of the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Due to their geographical positioning, Egypt and Mesopotamia both developed and depended on irrigation, however their different rainfall patterns caused them to progress individual techniques for agricultural practices in regards to irrigation.
Egypt began around 5000-3000 BC in the valley of the Nile River situated in north eastern Africa. It was divided into two sections known as Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. These names can be quite deceiving as Upper Egypt is actually situated in the south of Egypt, and Lower Egypt is in the north. This is because the Egyptians based their direction around the Nile, and the Nile flowed from south to north, being one of the only major rivers in the world to do so. To the west of the Nile lay the Western Desert, a huge limestone plateau at a height of 450 metres, taking up two thirds of Egypt. To the east of the Nile is the Eastern Desert, which is stated by Ade`s (2007, p. 8) to be, “…a rugged, mountainous region notched by deep wadis that remain dry for much of the year...” . These deserts along with the Nile acted as a natural barrier to Egypt as they were very difficult for an invading army to cross. This is not the case for Mesopotamia however, as its landforms were quite vulnerable to invasions, often finding itself at war. According to Pollock (1999, p.8), “Mesopotamia is, geologically speaking, a trough created as the Arabian shield has pushed up against the Asiatic landmass, raising the Zagros Mountains and depressing the land to the southwest of them.” Within this trench, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and their tributaries have laid down enormous quantities of sediments, forming the Lower Mesopotamian Plain. To the southwest of the Euphrates stands the Western Desert. This desert contains a very limited number of water sources which made it an effective weakness to travel through, especially before the use of camels around 1000 BC (Pollock, 1999). To the northeast rises a range of hills known as the Jebel Hamrin which signifies the beginning of the Zagros Mountains. The Jebel Hamrin is a relatively low elevation, approximately 200 metres high, however it is very limited in regards to crossing points due to being steep and deeply divided.
In ancient Egypt, no single geographical feature was more important than the Nile River for agricultural practices. The Greek historian Herodotus quoted (Christensen, 2009), “The Egypt to which we sail nowadays is…the gift of the river”. The Nile accounts for barely 3 per cent of Egypt, but it is the most vital geographic attribute that pumps its fertile waters across the length of the country. Food production relied solely on the Nile, with the timing of the inundation being fairly predictable and flooding before sowing season, leaving behind rich, black silt (Heinrichs, 2009). This silt was very fertile, and as an effect made it perfect for crops to grow. The Nile’s two main tributaries are the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The longer of these two is the White Nile, carrying waters that descend from eight different countries, however it only contributes about 14 per cent to the main Nile. The other 86 per cent comes from the Blue Nile. The White Niles principal source is Lake Victoria which is fed by yearly rains. The water flows quite progressively out of the lakes until it reaches the...
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