During the Old Stone Age, the Paleolithic period, the area we know today as the Sahara Desert was a savanna. The people living there were hunters and gatherers. Around 5000 B.C., the climate began to change and the Sahara began to dry. Animals left and plants died.
People were not able to survive in the harsh desert and began to move into the Nile River Valley. The Nile River Valley has fertile land along each side of the river. It is the world’s longest river. The river flows northward for more than 4,000 miles from its main source at Lake Victoria in central Africa.
The river flows to the Mediterranean Sea where the Nile Delta is formed. The land around the river is higher at the beginning of the river and lower near the mouth of the river. The ancient people called the higher land in the south “Upper Egypt.” The land in the north, the delta area, was called “Lower Egypt.”
Lower Egypt was made up mainly of the Nile Delta. The delta forms a huge triangle at the mouth of the river. Long ago the river broke up into many branches, but today there are only two. High cliffs surrounded the Nile in Upper Egypt. In some places there was a narrow strip of flat fertile land between the cliffs and the river.
The cliffs are made of limestone and sandstone. Farther south, in the area once known as Nubia, the cliffs are made of granite. The river hasn’t been able to cut a clear path through the hard granite and runs through cataracts, a series of rapids and waterfalls.
Upper and Lower Egypt Both had rich soil. The land was perfect for growing crops. People were able to settle around the river and farm instead of hunting and gathering. Sound Familiar ?
Each year heavy rains in central Africa caused the river to overflow its banks. When the floodwaters drained away, a rich silt remained. The silt was a natural fertilizer. The dark soil was called “Kemet” meaning “black land.”
The Ancient Egyptians believed their god Hapi caused the yearly flooding. The yearly flooding continued until the Aswan Dam was built in 1972. Now the people use pumps, canals, and chemical fertilizer to keep the land suitable for farming.
The dry, barren lands of the Sahara were known as “Deshuret,” or the Red Land.
The Nile River cuts the eastern part of the Sahara in two. The land on the west side of the river is called the Western Desert. The land on the east side of the river is called the Arabian Desert.
Wealthy landowners controlled almost all of the farmland. Farmers rented and the owners took part of the crop as payment. Typical crops included wheat, barley, onions, lettuce, and beans.
Farmers also raised cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs for food. Meat Milk products – including cheese Beef – mainly for the wealthy Most could only afford beef for special days, so they caught fish or used nets to catch geese or ducks.
Plants and animals were important for more than just food. Fibers of flax plant – used to spin linen thread Sheep’s wool – woven into cloth Leather – continers, sacks, shoes Other plants – sandals, boxes, tabletops
Describe the Nile River. Why was the flooding of the Nile River so important to the Egyptians? What is the difference between the Black Land and the Red Land? How might Egypt have developed if the Sahara had not dried and become a desert?
The Nile was know as the giver of life. It united the populous of Egypt into one Nation-State.
Nation-state A region with a single government and a united group of people. predict To be able to tell ahead of time. inundation Yearly flood in Ancient Egypt.
afterlife nome Life after death Towns that were capitals of city-states.
The Nile River affected all Egyptian activities. Farming Religious Beliefs Ways of Governing The Nile was called the “Giver of Life” and helped bring the people together.
The Nile became a river highway. Ancient Egyptians became expert shipbuilders. The first ships were made of reeds. Later ships were made of wooden planks,and some were 60 feet long. Boats going downriver (north) could use the strong current to travel. Boats going upriver (south) used sails to catch the steady north wind.
Light rains upriver - no overflow Land baked in the sun – crops died Too much rain at river’s source – Wild flooding Crops washed away People and animals drowned
Common problems helped unite the Ancient Egyptians. They were able to predict when the yearly floods (inundation) would come. To keep track of this event they created a 365 day calendar based on the sun.
The Egyptians divided the year into three seasons based on the river’s actions. Inundation – the start of the new year Emergence – land emerged from beneath the water Harvest – the time when crops were ready
Inundation – The land was made new by the rich silt left by floodwaters. Emergence – Farmers planted using plows or hoes to create furrows. They dropped seeds and led cattle or other animals through the fields to push the seed into the ground.
Harvest – The final season. In most years farmers would have a large crop. Very little rain fell in Egypt. The hot, dry climate was very harsh. The Ancient Egyptians developed irrigation so they could water their crops.
During Emergence they trapped water in ponds to use in case of drought. They also built dams and dikes to hold back the river when there was too much flooding. Canals were built to carry excess water back to the river from the fields.
The Ancient Egyptians believed in many gods and used stories about them to explain events in nature. They believed the sun was a god that was born each day and died each night. They believed religion was important to their survival in the Nile River Valley.
god of wisdom goddess of love ruled over the dead god of the river the sun god (most important)
The Egyptians prayed to their gods and believed in life after death.
About 5000 B.C. small farming villages grew up along the Nile. As populations grew, villages became towns. Some towns became capitals of city- states called nomes. Leaders of nomes competed for wealth and power.
By around 3,500 B.C. the city-states joined together forming two large kingdoms. The kingdoms were known as the “Two Lands.” Lands.” (Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt) Around 3000 B.C. the Upper Egyptian Kings had gained control of Lower Egypt. Uniting Egypt marked the Beginning of the world’s first nation-state, which lasted for 3,000 years.
No one really knows. Legend says King Menes did. Some experts think King Narmer did because in artwork he is shown wearing a double crown that combines the white crown of Upper Egypt and the red crown of Lower Egypt.
How did the Nile bring people together? What did the Egyptians do to control the river? How did the Egyptians explain events in nature? Why was uniting Egypt important?
dynasty pharaoh vizier decrees A series of rulers from the same family. king Important government official, advisor commands
hieroglyphics papyrus pyramid mummy Ancient system Of writing using over 700 symbols Paper made from reeds that grew along the Nile. A burial place for the dead A preserved body
Egyptians called their kings “pharaoh.” The word pharaoh means “great house” and referred to the ruler’s palace. Pharaoh had total authority and was believed to be the son of Re, the sun god. Pharaoh was believed to be a link between man and the gods.
The pharaoh was obeyed without question. The structure of the government didn’t change. Viziers carried out the pharaoh’s decrees and took care of running the government. There were many officials to help govern Egypt.
Officials collected taxes, planned building projects, and enforced laws.
Egyptians left written records. They developed hieroglyphics, a system of writing. more than 700 symbols most stood for sounds some stood for whole words or ideas
Scribes studied for years to learn hieroglyphics. They also learned math. A scribe’s job often involved tax collecting and record keeping. They wrote on stone and on papyrus. Books were scrolls – rolls of papyrus joined end-to-end. Some were over 100 feet long. Scribes recorded Egyptian history.
The Old Kingdom The Middle Kingdom The New Kingdom 2625 to 2130 B.C. 1980 to 1630 B.C. 1539 to 1075 B.C. Great achievements in building Changes in government, trade expanded, changes in society First full time army, empire expanded Intermediate period
Dynasties 4- 8 ruled Pharaohs began to look outside of Egypt for resources Colony started in Nubia Traders sent south in Africa to find incense oils, ebony, ivory, & other items Trade in Asia – cedar wood & silver
Largest stone buildings in the world Built as a burial place for the dead Pyramids built for rulers and other important people Egyptians believed they would need their bodies in the afterlife.
Preserving a body took about 70 days All internal organs removed except the heart Organs placed in canopic jars Heart – believed to be the home of the soul Body covered with natron –a kind of salt Natron absorbed the water in the body
Body was rubbed with special oils & wrapped in linen cloth Everything that a person might need was placed in the tomb with the body.
The Egyptians believed the soul appeared before the god Osiris and a group of judges. The dead person’s heart was placed on one side of a scale and a feather (the feather of truth) was placed on the other side.
A balanced scale meant the soul would live forever. An unbalanced scale meant the soul was heavy with sin. Egyptians believed the sinful soul would be eaten by an animal that was part crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus.
Imhotep, architect for King Zoser, built the first stone tomb – a step pyramid. Egyptians believed that pharaoh went to Live with Amon-Re, their most powerful God. The step pyramid may have been Imhotep’s way to help the king “climb the stairway to heaven.”
The best known pyramids were built at Giza beginning in about 2600 B.C. The largest pyramid was built for Pharaoh Khufu. The citizens of Egypt had to pay a labor tax by working for the government. As many as 10,000 farmers worked on the pyramids during inundation.
Workers cut and moved more than 2 million stone blocks. Each block weighed about 5,000 pounds. The blocks were probably moved on sleds. The Great Pyramid of Khufu is about 480 feet high and covers 13 acres.
Clothing – Women – long sleeveless dresses made of linen Men – knee-length linen skirts with or without short-sleeved shirts Men & Women wore jewelry and makeup Wealthy often wore fancy wigs
Houses – made of mud brick & had a shrine for worship of household gods Farmers worked for the government during inundation. Men – artists, carpenters, builders, stonecutters – worked 10 days, off 1 day They listened to music, sang, & danced at religious festivals & parties.
Women - in charge of household matters, didn’t hold government jobs Some women were craft workers. Most weavers were women. Women could own property and had full legal rights.
Children were seen as gifts from the gods. They played games such as leap frog, tug-of-war, and wrestling. Education – Girls learned weaving & household skills from their mothers. Boys learned their father’s trade. Upper class children learned math, literature, and writing.
Who controlled the land and people of ancient Egypt? Why did the Egyptians preserve their dead? How did the Egyptian government get workers to build the pyramids? What were the periods between the three main kingdoms called?