Impact of geography on Ancient Egypt The geography of Northeast Africa and the Nile Valley had a profound influence on the ancient Egyptian civilization and culture as is evidenced by their hieroglyphs, art and monoliths of the period. Ancient Egyptian civilization was initially settled along the banks of the Nile River with two major urban settlements, one along the upper Nile and the other along the banks of the lower Nile (civilization. ca). These areas became known as the “double lands” or “two lands” of Upper and Lower Egypt (civilization. a). Egyptian civilization was established in a very long and narrow strip of fertile land located along the banks of the Nile River. The Nile River flows south to north for 4000 miles in the middle of two very inhospitable deserts, the sandy Libyan Desert to the west and the mountainous Arabian Desert to the east. The annual cycle of the Nile flooding its banks brought new layers of nutrient rich silt down from the Ethiopian highlands and deposited them along the shores of the Nile River.
The flooding cycle of the Nile facilitated the abundant agriculture success the ancient Egyptian people enjoyed and was instrumental in creating such a rich, vibrant and optimistic civilization (Feiro21). Historians speculate that a rapid climate change took place during the period 5000 BCE, causing Northeast Africa’s climate to become hotter and more arid which reduced the number and size of oasis that the nomadic tribes depended on for food and water (civilization. ca). The nomadic tribes began to settle along the banks of the Nile River transforming into an agrarian society growing food and raising livestock.
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The Nile flows north more than 4000 miles from it’s tributaries in Ethiopia’s mountains and highlands. The two tributary rivers eventually join with the Atbara River to become the infamous Nile River of the ancient Egyptian people (mnsu. edu). The Niles importance in Egyptian culture is depicted in many of their hieroglyphs and pottery by the boats and reeds that adorn many period pieces. The Nile made transportation between cities easier as the south to north flow allowed boats to roe with the current and north to south winds allowed them to raise sails to capture the winds energy.
Transport along the Nile River made construction of the pyramids easier by moving the massive stone cut from the queries in Aswan region to the construction sites along the river by barge (mnsu. edu). Because of ancient Egypt’s geographic location between two vast deserts and the Mediterranean Sea, they were relatively invulnerable to foreign invasion, a condition which allowed them to enjoy fairly uniform religious, political and cultural life that lasted for over 3000 years (Feiro21).
Egypt was geographically isolated from other civilizations of the same period which allowed its population to have a common language and common world view without outside influence (Feiro21). The regularity of the Nile flooding; the rising and setting of the daily sun; and the protection from foreign invasion contributed to the optimism and security which pervades the “the hymn to Aten” that typified ancient Egyptian culture (Feiro 21).
Geography and the climate of the region worked to shape the world views and religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptian people. The Sun God “Amon” or “Ra” held the highest place of honor in the Pantheon of the ancient people’s polytheistic belief system due to its life giving warmth and necessity in growing crops. Ancient Egyptians identified the God Osiris, whose body was scattered along the Nile River and reconstructed by his wife Isis, with the Nile River and the ideal of resurrection and rebirth which was at the center of their belief system (Feiro 21).
From the natural elements of the sun, the Nile and the largely flat topography, the ancient people constructed their cosmology of the origin and structure of the universe (Feiro 21). Egyptians believed that the Earth was a flat platter floating on the waters of the underworld from which the primordial waters of the Nile brought forth a mound of silt, out of which came the self-generating sun God Amon from whom the rest of the gods were born.
Many archeologists have speculated that the Pyramids are representative of the silt mound from which Amon was created and from whom all the other gods hail. The geography of ancient Egypt had a profound influence on its civilization and culture. The Nile River was the giver of life along with the sun and was represented by symbolizing them as their most powerful gods. Egypt’s geographic isolation from other cultures due to the vast deserts and Mediterranean Sea allowed its people to speak one common language and share the same view of the world outside (mnsu. edu).
The cyclical rising and setting of the sun, the flooding and retreat of the Nile River along with the annual planting and harvesting of bountiful crops, brought the Egyptian people a sense of security and optimism which is evident in the “the hymn to Aten”. Works Cited Fiero, Gloria K, The Humanistic Tradition; prehistory to the early modern world, fifth edition, vol 1, New York, McGraw Hill 2006, Print. “The Ancient Egyptian Culture Exhibit”, Emusuem @ Minnesota State University, Mankato. Sarah Burns, 2003, Web 11 Jul, 2010. “Mysteries of Egypt”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, n. p. 30 April 2010, Web, 11 Jul. 2010.