As mankind began to develop more complex ways of life, and as cities began to increase in size and complexity, a new type of society emerged. These societies are known today as civilizations. A civilization is a nation or people that share a common culture, common laws, a common economy, and typically a common faith or religion.
The Nile Valley
One of the earliest civilizations to evolve also happens to be among the most famous. This civilization grew out of the peoples who inhabited the valley cut out by Africa’s Nile River.
The Nile River provided an endless source of fresh water, fertile soil, and food. For thousands of miles in all directions this part of Africa is covered by the sands of the desert. The lands around the Nile River, however, are quite different. Over hundreds of thousands of years, flooding of the river has deposited a thick layer of rich fertile silt across the landscape.
The people living in this area dug irrigation ditches which carried the invaluable waters out from the Nile River to their farms, making the area perfect for growing food.
The Formation of An Egyptian Empire
The first settlements in the Nile Valley began around 7,000 years ago. As in other parts of the world, these settlements gradually developed into more and more complex societies. The first peoples to inhabit this region called their land Kemet, which means black lands. This name comes from the rich black soil that was found there.
The different regions of the Nile River were ruled and governed by tribal chiefs and kings. As the centuries passed, smaller kingdoms joined together forming larger and larger kingdoms. This continued until around 6,000 years ago when the Nile Valley consisted of only two large kingdoms. These kingdoms were called Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt. Lower Egypt was in the northern portion of the Nile Valley, and Upper Egypt was in the southern portion of the Nile Valley.
Around 5,000 years ago a powerful king from the Upper Egyptian nation led an army north in order to conquer Lower Egypt. This king’s name was Narmer. Narmer established a unified Egypt throughout the Nile Valley. He built a capital on the border between Lower and Upper Egypt, which he named Memphis. From Memphis, Narmer and his descendants ruled Egypt. A family that rules a nation is known as a dynasty. From 5,000 years ago until around 2,300 years ago Egypt was ruled by 30 different dynasties. Historians divide the nearly 2,500 years of Egyptian history into three periods. These periods are known as the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom.