The Essential Nile
Many features of civilization have evolved over time to become what one commonly thinks of as "civilized society." The development of government and writing in the classical civilization of Egypt can be credited to the reliability of the Nile River. The Nile was a source of unification and centralization in the Egyptian society, helping in the development of government and writing with the growth of surpluses.
The Nile River, because of its predictable cycles, "unified and centered" the Egyptian society. Because of its predictability , the Nile "created a stable agriculture." All the Egyptians needed to do was to "put seeds in the mud, have pigs trample the seeds down into the ground, and when the time came, harvest the crop." Essentially, the river was important to the well-being of the cities, and was a vital source for irrigation. Not only did the river provide a steady flow of water, its flooding also provided fertile silt. Planted in this fertile soil, crops grew abundantly and allowed for the facilitation and development of surpluses.
Beginning about 5000 B.C.E., farming had already been instituted along the banks of the Nile. But it wasn't until later (3200 B.C.E.) that real agricultural advances occurred. Encouraged by the stability of their farming, the Egyptians were able to develop surpluses in the area. This abundance (which allowed for the evolution and advancement of culture because it encouraged more people to specialize in crafts other than farming) led to a division of labor, and then to social stratification. The improvement of agricultural methods also led to the enlargement of cities. This enlargement then led to the need for bureaucracy and administration, and eventually toward the advent of writing. Writing, a "very important" aspect of daily life, was a pre-condition for a more formal government.
In brief, the flooding of the Nile river made agriculture easy for the Egyptians who came to depend on its unfailing waters. Many of the great features of civilization, primarily the development of more formal government and the beginnings of writing, can be traced back to the surpluses brought about by the Nile.
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