2 Early Civilizations 4000–1000 BC - granbystudents / 2 Early Civilizations 45 ... The green Nile Valley contrasts sharply with ... Chapter 2 Early Civilizations 47 Stemming the Flood Ancient Egyptians

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  • 2C h a p t e r

    40001000 B.C.

    Early Civilizations

    > Relation to Environment TheEgyptians learn to control thefloodwaters of the Nile River uponwhich their agriculture relies.Section 1

    > Cooperation The peoples of theFertile Crescent work together tobuild irrigation systems and cities.Section 2

    > Cultural Diffusion Cities in earlyIndia develop close trading andcultural ties with the Fertile Cres-cent area. Section 3

    > Innovation Early Chinese civiliza-tion excels in metal-casting. Section 4


    Under the blazing sun, a gigantic stone structure began to

    take shape on the desert sands of Egypt in northeastern Africa.

    A hundred thousand men toiled together, building a burial pyra-

    mid for Khufu, a king of Egypt about 2500 B.C. Gangs of labor-

    ers dragged huge blocks of limestone up winding ramps of dirt

    and brick to pile layer upon layer of stone. Farmers during the

    rest of the year, these laborers were compelled to work for the 3

    or 4 months during which the annual flooding of the Nile River

    made farming impossible. It would take 20 years of their forced

    labor and more than 2 million blocks of stone before the Egyp-

    tians completed the massive pyramid. Today, the Great Pyramid,

    built almost 5,000 years ago, still stands at Giza, near the city

    of Cairo.

    In what ways were each of the early civilizationsunique? How were they different? How did the river valleycivilizations lay the foundations for the global civilizationthat we know today?

    Historical Significance

    Chapter Themes


  • Chapter 2 Early Civilizations 45

    Fowling scene from a tomb at Thebesalong the Nile River, EgyptArt&


    Sumerian scribes studied at specialschools called eddubas. There theylearned cuneiform writing. After read-ing Section 2, write a short creativeaccount of a scribes day at an edduba.

    Your History JournalChapter Overview

    Visit the World History: The Human ExperienceWeb site at worldhistory.ea.glencoe.com andclick on Chapter 2Chapter Overview to preview the chapter.


  • O ne of the worlds first civilizationsdeveloped along the banks of the NileRiver in northeastern Africa. The NileRiver valleys early inhabitants called their landKemet, meaning black land, after the dark soil.Later, the ancient Greeks would name the Nile areaEgypt. Of the four early river valley civilizations,people today probably know the most about theancient Egyptian civilization. People still marvel atits remains in modern Egyptespecially the enor-mous Sphinx, the wondrous pyramids, and themummies buried in lavish tombs.

    A River Valley and Its PeopleRunning like a ribbon through great expanses

    of desert, the Nile River for thousands of years hasshaped the lives of the Egyptians. The land ofEgypt receives little rainfall, but its people haverelied instead on the Niles predictable yearlyfloods to bring them water.

    At 4,160 miles (6,690 km) in length, the NileRiver is the worlds longest river. Several sources inthe highlands of East Africa feed the Nile. The riverthen takes a northward route to the MediterraneanSea. On its course through Egypt the Nile crossessix cataracts, or waterfalls. Because of the cataractsthe Nile is not completely navigable until it reachesits last 650 miles (1,040 km). Before emptying intothe Mediterranean, the Nile splits into manybranches, forming a marshy, fan-shaped delta.

    The Gifts of the RiverThe green Nile Valley contrasts sharply with

    the vast desert areas that stretch for hundreds ofmiles on either side. Rich black soil covers therivers banks and the Nile Delta. From late springthrough summer, heavy tropical rains in centralAfrica and melting mountain snow in East Africaadd to the Niles volume. As a result the river over-flows its banks and floods the land nearby. The

    > Terms to Definemonarchy, dynasty, theocracy, bureaucracy, pharaoh, empire, polytheism, hieroglyphics

    > People to MeetNarmer, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Akhenaton, Ramses II

    > Places to LocateNile River valley, Memphis, Thebes

    Live for today; the afterlife willcome soon enough! The following message aboutthe brief pleasures of this life demonstrates thatEgyptian poets sometimes sang what theirwealthy patrons liked to hear:

    The pharaohs, those ancient gods, rest nowin their pyramids. Thepeople who built houses;their walls have crum-bled, as if they had neverbeen! Listen! Put per-fume upon your head,wear fine linen. Makeholiday! No one whohas died has everreturned.

    freely adapted fromSong of the Harper,Journal of Near EasternStudies 4, 1945, translatedby Miriam Lichtheim

    S e c t i o n 1

    The Nile Valley


    46 Chapter 2 Early Civilizations

    King Narmer

    Read to Find Out Main Idea Egypt was called the giftof the Nile.

  • floodwaters recede in late fall, leaving behind thickdeposits of silt.

    As early as 5000 B.C., nomadic hunter-gatherersof northeastern Africa began to settle by the Nile.They took up a farming life regulated by the riversseasonal rise and fall, growing cereal crops such aswheat and barley. The Nile also provided theseNeolithic farmers with ducks and geese in itsmarshlands and fish in its waters. The earlyEgyptians harvested papyrus growing wild alongthe banks of the Nile, using the long, thin reeds tomake rope, matting, sandals, baskets, and later on,sheets of paperlike writing material.

    Uniting EgyptProtected from foreign invasion by deserts

    and cataracts, the early farming villages by theNile prospered. In time a few strong leaders unit-ed villages into small kingdoms, or monarchies,each under the unrestricted rule of its king. Theweaker kingdoms eventually gave way to thestronger. By 4000 B.C. ancient Egypt consisted oftwo large kingdoms: Lower Egypt in the north, inthe Nile Delta, and Upper Egypt in the south, inthe Nile Valley.






    Describe ancient ways of control-ling rivers. How are the Nile and otherrivers tamed today? Why might peo-ple object to some modern methodsof river control?

    Around 3000 B.C., Narmer, also known asMenes (MEEneez), a king of Upper Egypt, gath-ered the forces of the south and led them north toinvade and conquer Lower Egypt. Narmer set upthe first government that ruled all of the country.He governed both Lower Egypt and Upper Egyptfrom a capital city he had built at Memphis, nearthe border of the two kingdoms.

    Narmers reign marked the beginning of the firstEgyptian dynasty, or line of rulers from one family.From 3000 B.C. until 332 B.C., a series of 30 dynastiesruled Egypt. Historians have organized the dynastiesinto three great periods: the Old Kingdom, theMiddle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom.

    The Old KingdomThe Old Kingdom lasted from about 2700 B.C.

    to 2200 B.C. During the first centuries of the unifiedkingdom, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt kept theirseparate identities as kingdoms. In time, however,Egypt built a strong national government under itskings. It also developed the basic features of its civilization.

    Chapter 2 Early Civilizations 47

    Stemming the Flood

    Ancient Egyptians had to take control of theirriver environment. Over the years farmers builtditches and canals to carrythe floodwaters to basins.There the silt settled andserved as fertilizer for plant-ing crops. Machines, such asthe shadoof, lifted water

    to cultivated land. Farmers even-tually built damsand reservoirs,making year-round irrigationpossible.

    Built in the 1960s, the Aswan

    High Dam in southeastern Egypt trappedthe waters of the Nile in a huge reservoir for later irrigation. When the rising watersof the Nile behind the dam threatened to destroy statues of Ramses II, engineershad to move the statues to higher ground.Today, the dam generates electrical powerand protects against flooding. Because thedam prevents the Nile from flowing overthe valley land, however, the floodwaters nolonger deposit fertile silt annually. Farmersmust add expensive chemical fertilizers to their fields. The absence of silt has also increased land erosion along the Nile.

  • The Egyptian MonarchyThe Egyptian people regarded their king as a

    god who ruled over all Egyptians. Such a govern-ment, in which the same person is both the reli-gious leader and the political leader, is called atheocracy. As a god, the king performed many ritu-al acts believed to benefit the entire kingdom, suchas cutting the first ripe grain to ensure a good har-vest. As political leader, the king wielded absolutepower, issuing commands regarded as the law ofthe land.

    Unable to carry out all official duties himself,

    the king delegated many responsibilities to abureaucracy, a group of government officials head-ed by the kings vizier, or prime minister. Throughthe vizier and other bureaucrats the king controlledtrade and collected taxes. He also indirectly super-vised the building of dams, canals, and storehousesfor grainall crucial to survival for an agriculture-based civilization.

    The Pyramids: A Lasting LegacyTo honor their god-kings and to provide them

    with an eternal place of rest, the Egyptians of theOld Kingdom built lasting monumentsthePyramids. The Step Pyramid was built for KingDjoser in the mid-2600s B.C. Overlooking Memphis,it was the first large, all-stone building in the world.Later the Egyptians constructed the three Pyramidsat Giza, which stand today as testimony toEgyptian engineering skills. The Great Pyramid,the largest of the three, stands 481 feet (147 m) high.Long, narrow passageways lead to the kings burialchamber deep within the pyramid.

    The Egyptians believed that a kings soul con-tinued to guide the kingdom after death. Beforeentombing a dead king in his pyramid, they firstpreserved the kings body from decay by a proce-dure called embalming. Next they wrapped thedried, shrunken bodycalled a mummywithlong strips of linen and placed it in an elaborate cof-fin. Only then could the coffin lie in the burialchamber of the pyramid along with the kingsclothing, weapons, furniture, and jewelryperson-al possessions the king could enjoy in the afterlife.

    The Middle KingdomAround 2200 B.C., the kings in Memphis began

    to lose their power as ambitious nobles fought eachother for control of Egypt. The stable, orderedworld of the Old Kingdom entered a period ofupheaval and violence. Then, around 2050 B.C., anew dynasty reunited Egypt and moved the capitalsouth to Thebes, a city in Upper Egypt. This newkingdom, known as the Middle Kingdom, wouldlast until after 1800 B.C.

    In time Theban kings became as powerful asthe rulers of the Old Kingdom and brought unrulylocal governments under their control. They sup-ported irrigation projects that added thousands ofacres to the land already under cultivation. TheTheban dynasty seized new territory for Egypt, set-ting up fortresses along the Nile to capture Nubia(part of modern Sudan) and launching militarycampaigns against Syria. Theban kings also

    48 Chapter 2 Early Civilizations



    Lower Egypt

    Upper Egypt




    Mediterranean Sea

    Red Sea






    Nile Delta

    30E 35E


    Ancient Egypt

    The Pyramids were constructed during the Old Kingdom near Memphis. Under the Middle

    Kingdom, the capital was moved south to Waset, later called Thebes by the Greeks.Human/Environment Interaction How did Theban kings add thousands of acres to the land under cultivation?

    Extent of Old KingdomExtent of Middle KingdomExtent of New KingdomPyramids

    Lambert Conic Conformal Projection

    0 100


    200 mi.

    0 200 km





  • Syria and pushed the Egyptian frontier to thenorthern part of the Euphrates River. In a shorttime, Thutmose III had conquered an empire forEgypt, bringing many territories under one ruler.

    The Egyptian Empire grew rich from commerceand tribute. The capital of Thebes, with its palaces,temples, and carved stone obelisks, reflected thewealth won by conquest. No longer isolated fromother cultures, Egyptians benefited from culturaldiffusion within their empire.

    Akhenaton Founds a ReligionA new ruler, Amenhotep (AHmuhnHOH

    TEHP) IV, assumed power about 1370 B.C.Supported by his wife, Nefertiti, Amenhotep brokewith the Egyptian tradition of worshiping many

    Chapter 2 Early Civilizations 49

    ordered construction of a canalbetween the Nile and the Red Sea,and as a result, Egyptian ships trad-ed along the coasts of the ArabianPeninsula and East Africa.

    In the 1700s B.C., local leaderschallenged the kings power again,shattering the peace and prosperityof the Middle Kingdom. Egypt thenalso faced a serious threatinvasionby the Hyksos (HIHKSAHS), a peo-ple from western Asia. The Hyksosswept into Egypt with new tools forwarbronze weapons and horse-drawn chariots. They easily con-quered the Egyptians, who foughton foot with copper and stoneweapons. The Hyksos established anew dynasty that ruled for 110 years.

    The New KingdomTo overthrow the despised

    Hyksos rule, the Egyptians learnedto use Hyksos weapons and adoptedthe horse-drawn chariots of theirconquerors. About 1600 B.C. Ahmose(ahMOHsuh), an Egyptian prince,raised an army and drove the Hyksos out.

    Pharaohs Rule an EmpireAhmose founded the first dynasty of the New

    Kingdom. He and his successors took the titlepharaoh, an Egyptian word meaning great houseof the king. Ahmose rebuilt Egypt, restored aban-doned temples, and reopened avenues of trade. Thepharaohs who followed him, however, used largearmies to realize their dreams of conquest. Theypressed farther to the east and into the rest of Africathan had previous kings.

    Around 1480 B.C. Queen Hatshepsut (hatSHEHPsoot) came to power in Egypt, first rulingwith her husband and then on behalf of her stepsonThutmose (thootMOHsuh) III, who was tooyoung to govern. Finally she had herself crownedpharaoh and assumed all the royal trappings ofpower, including the false beard traditionally wornby Egyptian kings. Hatshepsut carried out anextensive building program, which included agreat funeral temple and a tomb built into the hillsof what is now called the Valley of the Kings.

    Thutmose III did reclaim the throne atHatshepsuts death and marched with a large armyout of Egypt toward the northeast. He conquered

    The Great Pyramid (left), built for King Khufu(Cheops), rises on the Nile Rivers west bank in north-

    ern Egypt. The smaller pyramid (right) was constructed for King Khafre(Chephren). Why did the Egyptians build pyramids for their kings?


    Student Web Activity 2

    Visit the World History: The Human Experience Web site at worldhistory.ea.glencoe.com and click on Chapter 2Student Web Activities for an activity relating to the New Kingdom.


  • 50 Chapter 2 Early Civilizations

    The mummy ofRamses the Great(above) lies in a dis-play case on thesecond floor of the EgyptianMuseum in Cairo. For manycenturies before Ramses wasbrought to Cairo, the greatpharaoh lay in his tomb nearLuxor in a richly decoratedcoffin (left), embellished withsymbols of Osiris, god of theafterlife. Ramses was nearly

    90 when he died in 1237 B.C. His mummy hasrem...