Does Geography Determine Destiny?


Early Technology: Harnessing the Nile River

Long before the rise of great civilizations in the Nile Valley, about 6000 BCE, irrigation began in Ancient Egypt. Irrigation gave life to the Egyptian Empire. Annually, as the flood season began every summer, ancient Egyptians sang a hymn to honor the river that gave them fertile land and nourishing food. They looked forward to these floods which they managed with great technology. Teamwork had to be in place for the Egyptians to control the flow of the water. They worked together to construct dikes which held back the water. The irrigation ditches that they dug diverted, or channeled, the rising waters. Collaboration was also the key as they created basins, also known as reservoirs, to hold great amounts of water to be used later during the dry season. The land left behind by the flood waters was fertile - good for producing crops. The river’s current had picked up bits of black soil, clay particles, and the flood’s fertilizer called silt.

Thanks to advancements in irrigation, the Egyptians were able to lessen their hunts for elephants, hippopotamus, and wild fowl. Their choice of foods started to vary. They continued to fish in the Nile River and later started to rely on meat from animals they raised like long-horned cattle, geese, sheep, and goats. Vegetables they grew were onions, leeks, garlic, beans, lettuce, lentils, cabbages, radishes, and turnips. They ate fruit mainly as a dessert. Their fruits were melons, plums, figs, grapes, and dates. They also grew grains like wheat, barley, and flax. They made bread and brewed beer from the grain. They spun the flax into linen, which they sewed into garments to wear, and other helpful cloth.