In field of history and culture, there is a well-known "determinism of geographical environment", according to which geographical environment determines development of history and culture, and even determines character of nation. The editor believes that while geographic environment does not necessarily play a decisive role, it does at least play a fundamental role. Why did earliest civilization in world arise in ancient Egypt? Studying its geographic environment will help us better understand origins of civilization.First, gift of Nile
Toynbee put forward theory of "challenge and challenge" in "Historical Studies". He believed that birth of first generation of civilization lies in successful response to various challenges emanating from natural environment and material environment. The challenge is too strong to be accepted by caller; challenge is too weak to provoke a victorious challenge. Ancient Egypt was a civilization that arose amidst crises and challenges.
Time goes back 10,000 years ago, when last glaciation of Eurasian continent had not yet ended, northern hemisphere was still very cold, and region of North Africa was very warm and relatively humid. At that time, North Africa was not a desert, but a vast savanna with countless wild animals growing on pastures. At that time, people did not depend on agriculture and people only needed to gather or hunt to solve basic problems of survival. However, with end of last glacier, temperatures began to rise, and North African region gradually turned into a desert. Thus, North Africans faced a new challenge. But Nile gave North Africans opportunity to meet the challenge.
The Nile River originates from East African Plateau and flows into Mediterranean Sea for 6600 kilometers. This is longest river in world. The climate in North Africa is very dry, but Nile River brought abundant water resources, so that population of ancient Egypt was mainly concentrated on both sides of Nile River. Of course, Nile River brought not only water, it brought too much to Egyptians. Firstly, Nile River is a very regular river that floods regularly (the water begins to rise every June, and flood period is from July to October), and there will be no flood disasters. People can divide seasons by level of water in Nile River and engage in agriculture; Secondly, upper reaches of Nile River are African savannahs, and they have a lot of humus. a river that will accumulate on both sides of lower Nile during flood /strong>. The flood not only loosened soil downstream, but also brought a lot of nutrients.
So, for ancient Egyptians, task was easy. For agricultural production on both sides of Nile, they needed only simple production tools. No wonder Herodotus called Ancient Egypt "the gift of Nile River." The ancient Egyptians called their country “black land.” One can imagine importance of fertile land for ancient Egypt. Egypt was "granary of Mediterranean" until Roman times. Herodotus once described agriculture of Egypt:
It was easier for them than for any other people in world, including other Egyptians, to reap fruits of earth without much effort, because they did not have to do work that other people had to do in order to reap benefits. harvest. The farmers there just had to wait for river to come out on its own, flow into fields to irrigate, irrigate, and then retreat back to riverbed, and then everyone scattered seeds in their fields, told pigs to advance. seeds and then just wait for harvest. They use pigs to thresh grain and then collect grain in barn. —— Herodotus "History of Persian War"
But there are two sides to everything.The unique farming conditions bring convenience of farming, but also lead to a lack of motivation for social progress in later period. The ancient Egyptians could only harvest with some simple tools, so why develop some metal agricultural tools? Since you can eat enough with simple labor, why engage in intensive farming? Therefore, agricultural tools in ancient Egypt did not make much progress over thousands of years, and even some of agricultural tools in later period were stone tools. Ancient Egypt was still in Copper and Stone Ages before advent of stone tools of Middle Kingdom, and Egypt became last country in Middle East to enter Iron Age. The Nile River allowed Egyptians to enjoy the fruits of civilization first, and also made Egypt boring and ultimately doomed.2. Valleys and deltas: establishing political structure of ancient Egypt.
Egypt has a relatively enclosed natural environment: Mediterranean Sea to north, vast Sahara desert to south, and deserts to east and west. Only a corner of Sinai Peninsula can lead to region of Mesopotamia. In eyes of ancient Egypt, its territory was mainly located along Nile River and some oasis regions. The Nile River flows through Egypt for 1200 kilometers, forming two main regions, Nile Valley and Nile Delta. People call Nile Valley "Upper Egypt" and delta "Lower Egypt".
Geographically, Nile Delta is very different from Nile Valley. The low plains here are formed by natural alluvial deposit of tributaries of Nile River. There are many swamps in delta, which is relatively difficult for agricultural development. Only sandy uplifts in delta are suitable for agriculture and habitation. Although not as excellent as Upper Egypt, it is still an important agricultural production area in Egypt. Among them, sandy uplands can be cultivated, low-lying lands can be used as pastures, and swamps can be used to develop fisheries. In first year 1400, land here was extensively built up, and its cultivated area was twice area of the Nile Valley. In addition, connection with Western Asia is closer, so it is also a center of cultural exchange.
Overall, while Lower Egypt is important, it still cannot compete with Upper Egypt. The economic center of ancient Egypt was always located in Upper Egypt, which also led to fact that almost all unification wars in Egypt were fought from south to north. About 3100 BC Hierakompolis in Upper Egypt strengthened, united Lower Egypt and established its capital in White City (Memphis) at junction of Upper and Lower Egypt; around 2040 BC Debe was capital of Upper Egypt. The 11th dynasty of Sri Lanka reunited Egypt and entered era of "Middle Kingdom"; after collapse of Middle Kingdom, Hyksos occupied Lower Egypt, while Egypt preferred Upper Egypt. By 1570 B.C. The 18th Dynasty of Thebes expelled Hyksos and reunited Egypt in era of "New Kingdom".
Areas outside Nile Basin tend to be deserts and oases. The oasis was also an important manufacturing base in ancient Egypt, as was famous Faiyum oasis, which has a large lake, Lake Melis. During Middle Kingdom, water conservation projects were built to release large amounts of lake water, increasing area of cultivated land, making it breadbasket of Egypt. While desert areas are almost useless for agriculture, they are rich in minerals. Turquoise mines of Eastern Desert, gold mines and copper mines, these minerals have a great influence on development of civilization and aesthetics in Mediterranean. Through Eastern Desert passes Sinai Peninsula, connecting region of Western Asia. The small Sinai Peninsula was only land passage for ancient Egypt's foreign exchange, as well as Egypt's only source of foreign intrusion. From here Hyksos, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs entered Egypt.3. The influence of geographical environment of Egypt on culture
The culture of ancient Egypt also began with Nile River. Since flooding of Nile River is very important for agricultural production, ancient Egyptians always recorded rise in water level of Nile River to predict whether it would be a good year. In accordance with phenomenon of flooding on Nile River, people divide year into three seasons, first of which is "flood season". The second is "Peret", which means that after flooding, land is exposed, which is season for planting. The third is "summer spear", that is, dry season and harvest season.
Due to regular flooding of Nile River, Egyptians were able to draw astronomical knowledge from it. After a long period of accumulation, people found that average interval between last flood and next flood was about 360 days, so ancient Egyptian calendar was 365 days a year. At same time, ancient Egyptians discovered that when flooded Nile River flooded near Memphis, Sirius and sun rose in sky at same time. The ancient Egyptians set this day as beginning of year, and it was said that birth of Sirius (the goddess Isis) Tears caused Nile to flood. Thanks to astronomical observations of simultaneous appearance of Sirius and Sun, ancient Egyptians formulated world's earliest solar calendar, dividing year into 12 months of 30 days in each month. In first 18th century, Egyptian calendar was revised and 5 days were added as holidays at end of each year, making year 365 days. The movement of sun is so connected with rise and fall of Nile River that ancient Egyptians believed that sun was ruler of world and worshiped sun god Ra.
Temple of Amun
Sunrise and sunset and regular flooding of Nile created illusion among ancient Egyptians that world is cyclical, like life. The ancient Egyptians considered death to be just a continuation of life. After death of man, ancient Egyptians preferred to live in western desert. Firstly, they did not occupy cultivated land, and secondly, they were closer to sunset. They believed that soul is reborn with help of sun. The massive construction of pyramids during Old Kingdom also reflected people's worship of sun and their belief in return of soul. The ancient Egyptians believed that while body is preserved, soul returns again. Therefore, ancient Egyptians sought to make mummies in order to preserve their bodies. The creation of mummies requires dissection of corpses, which gives people a scientific understanding of structure of human body and contributes to development of surgical techniques and medicine. In era of Old Kingdom, Egyptian medicine was divided into internal organs, ophthalmology and dentistry, in New Kingdom there were medical books introducing blood circulation.
Knowledge of Egyptian mathematics is also associated with Nile River. The annual flood of Nile will flood part of land and add new land. People must use mathematical knowledge to measure land area to determine tax of year. Geometry is needed to measure earth, so Egypt was place where geometry was invented. The Greek philosopher Democritus said: "Almost ancient Egyptians could draw all kinds of straight lines, and everyone was first teacher to draw a line." Herodotus introduced mathematics of Ancient Egypt:
If a river washed away any part of a man's allotted land, that man could go to king and report what had happened to him. Therefore, pharaoh sent people to investigate and measure area of the lost mound. Thus his rent will be collected according to area of the reduced land in future. It was because of this need that geometry first appeared in Egypt, and it was from there that Greeks learned it.
The influence of geographical environment on ancient Egyptian culture is everywhere. For example, due to lack of wood, ancient Egyptians preferred to use stones for construction, which contributed to development of mechanics; gems in desert influenced their aesthetic. concepts. This is also source of Westerners' preference for gemstones; symmetrical relationship between eastern and western deserts makes Egyptians prefer symmetrical art...