Sunday, September 16, 2007

The History of Civilization

Chapter Three: Egypt's Old Kingdom (3100 - 2200 BC)

Egypt's ancient empire is one of the mightiest and most beautiful civilizations in history.

Any discussion of Egypt must begin with the Nile, the longest river in the world. It floods predictably each year, which provided our ancestors with a reliable source of food. They built a magnificent irrigation system and series of canals, spreading the water for miles into surrounding farmland and growing towns.

But the Nile didn't just bring water: it also provided an outstanding route of communication, which encouraged early and lasting political unification, and an artery of transportation for long-distance trade. Egypt proper also has the advantage of being relatively isolated by the Sahara Desert, allowing its inhabitants to develop without the constant invasions which threatened Mesopotamia.

The first small villages, called Nomes, began joining together into the Kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt. The next step, which came at the beginning of the civilized era, was the creation of a united kingdom. This event took place under the supervision of Pharaoh Menes, around 3100 BC.

Egypt is probably most famous for its spectacular monuments, such as the Pyramids at Giza. The most mammoth of these, the Tomb of Khufu, was built around 2600 BC, and contains almost 6,000,000 tons of stone in a structure 481 feet high! These buildings were constructed as elaborate tombs for the Pharaohs, to shelter them in the afterlife.

Such an emphasis does not mean that the inhabitants of the Nile valley were morbid, though religious fears did exist. The upper classes at least enjoyed life so much that they wished to cling to its delights, even after death.

To Be Continued...

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