Term Paper: Mesopotamia &amp Egypt

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[. . .] Originating deep in Africa, the Nile River descends through many cataracts to sea level at the delta in Egypt, where in its annual flooding, rich soil is deposited. Hemmed in by its narrow valleys, the Nile flows through regions that may not have a single drop of rainfall in a decade (Von Soden, 103). Yet crops grow luxuriantly from the fertilized silt, just as they did in ancient times. Thus, the great Nile made life possible and allowed the peoples of Egypt to build one of the greatest civilizations of all time.

In the days of the Pharaohs, the land of Egypt was dotted with marshes and island ridges, and what is now arid desert valley was grassy meadows well suited for grazing cattle, hunting and, of course, the erection of buildings. The fertility of Egypt, as Braidwood recounts, "was proverbial, and at the end of its history, when Egypt had become a province of the Roman Empire, it was the granary of the Mediterranean world" (356). In addition, the naturally-occurring rock outcrops in Egypt, such as those found in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens in Lower Egypt, played a very important role in Egypt's ability to construct buildings and tombs. And like the Mesopotamians, the Nile River also provided mud for bricks and pottery that was made by the local peoples for their own homes mostly situated along the banks of the Nile, where soil for cultivation and water for drinking and irrigation was plentiful.

Of course, the most prominent use of stone in ancient Egypt was for the construction of tombs and buildings associated with various religious beliefs. The mastaba was a rectangular brick or stone structure with sloping sides erected over a subterranean tomb chamber and connected with the outside by a shaft. With this design, it is significant to note that in Mesopotamia there was a relative indifference to the cult of burial and to the permanence of the tomb, while in Egypt, such matters were considered to be of the first importance. About 2750 B.C.E., another important structure appeared on the wind-swept plains of Egypt, being the Stepped Pyramid of King Zoser of the 3rd dynasty. Raised at Saqqara, this pyramid stood as the compromise between the mastaba and the later true pyramids at Gizeh and resembles in part the great ziggurats of Mesopotamia.

In conclusion, it is abundantly clear that the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians fully understood the natures of their environments and utilized them in order to create and develop their own individual societies that literally changed the world forever.


Braidwood, Robert J. The Near East and the Foundations for Civilization. New York: Collier Publishing, 1952.

Sasson, Jack, ed. Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. UK: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

Trigger, Bruce. Ancient Egypt: A Social History. UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Von Soden, Wolfram. The Ancient Orient: An Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Near East. Berlin: William B.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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