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Unformatted text preview: nd Empire ca. 2125–2027 B.C.E. Third Dynasty of Ur ca. 2000–1800 B.C.E. Establishment of Amorites in
Mesopotamia ca. 1792–1750 B.C.E. Reign of Hammurabi ca. 1550 B.C.E. Establishment of Kassite Dynasty at
Babylon Making Bread. A hallmark of the early river civilizations was the development
of techniques to increase harvests. This statue from the Old Kingdom in Egypt
(ca. 2700–2200 B.C.E.) shows a woman kneading dough for bread. CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 15 Chapter 1 The Birth of Civilization 15 Pyramids at Giza. The three largest pyramids of Egypt, located at Giza, near Cairo, are the colossal tombs of pharaohs
of the Fourth Dynasty (ca. 2640–2510 B.C.E.): Khufu (right), Chafre (center), and Menkaure (left). The small pyramids and
tombs at their bases were those of the pharaohs’ queens and officials. Pictor/Uniphoto Picture Agency. The Egyptians recognized two sets of geographical divisions in their country. Upper (southern) Egypt consisted of the narrow valley of the Nile. Lower (northern)
Egypt referred to the broad triangular area, named by the
Greeks after their letter delta, formed by the Nile as it
branches out to empty into the Mediterranean. The
Egyptians also made a distinction between what they
termed the “black land,” the dark fertile fields along the
Nile, and the “red land,” the desert cliffs and plateaus
bordering the valley.
The Nile alone made agriculture possible in Egypt’s
desert environment. Each year the rains of central Africa
caused the river to rise over its floodplain, cresting in September and October. In places, the plain extends several
miles on either side; elsewhere the cliffs slope down to the
water’s edge. When the floodwaters receded, they left a rich
layer of organically fertile silt. The construction and maintenance of canals, dams, and irrigation ditches to control the
river’s water, together with careful planning and organization
of planting and harvesting, produced agricultural prosperity
unmatched in the ancient world.
The Nile served as the major highway connecting
Upper and Lower Egypt (see Map 1–3 on page 16). There
was also a network of desert roads running north and south,
as well as routes across the eastern desert to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Other tracks led to oases in the western desert.
Thanks to geography and climate, Egypt was more isolated
and enjoyed far more security than Mesopotamia. This
security, along with the predictable flood calendar, gave
Egyptian civilization a more optimistic outlook than the
civilizations of the Tigris and Euphrates, which were more
prone to storms, flash floods, and invasions.
The 3,000-year span of ancient Egyptian history is traditionally divided into thirty-one royal dynasties, from the
first dynasty, said to have been founded by Menes, the king
who originally united Upper and Lower Egypt, to the last,
conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E. (as we shall
see in Chapter 3). Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals,
founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty, whose last ruler was
Cleopatra. In 30 B.C....
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