Monday, October 20, 2014

4000-30 B.C.: 'Black Land' creates mighty civilization, part 1

Here's the overall landscape of Egypt and the surrouding
area.  (
So I'm saying it again:  the single most important event in the history of mankind that made everything we have today possible -- electricity, televisions, microwaves, computers, the Internet, the wheel, pottery, iPad, baskets, ice cream, albuterol, etc. -- was the formation of the first civilizations.  While the Sumerians were busy creating one in Southern Mesopotamia, the Egyptians were forming one of their own in Egypt.

Some people speculate that environmental changes that resulted in a drier climate forced humans to migrate to areas where there was plenty of water, which is perhaps why so many different groups of people merged into land near the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile Rivers.  People learned there was plenty of game by the rivers, and this was ideal for hunters and gatherers. Miracles happen, though, when humans are forced together, and among the first miracles was improved management of land and resources.

Over the next thousand years, small clans and families living in these areas learned they could make their own food by tilling the soil and planting seeds.  In Egypt people planted barley and wheat, and they even learned to make bread and beer. They also developed a taste for vegetables, mostly onions, leeks, cabbage, lettuce and cucumber.  Their general diet was vegetarian in nature, as they lived on bread, vegetables and beer.  (Some portray them as drunkards, although in reality their beer was watered down and more acidic compared to ours.  The ancient Mesopotamians were known for drinking wines, and this too was probably watered down compared to ours.)

They went fishing for fish, and hunted for beef, lamb, goat, duck, and geese.  They also made flax, and from this was made linen and clothes. And this was all possible because people shared ideas and worked together. The more they worked together, the better able they were to manage natural resources.  The better they were able to do this, the more free time they had.  The more free time they had, the more they blended ideas, and the more they discovered and invented.  This was all made possible, and they knew it, because of the mighty Nile River.  (Martell, page 30)(Shuter, page 18-20)

The Nile River is the longest in the world, flowing for over 4,160 miles from the equator, through northeast Africa, and for 600 miles through Egypt until it breaks into various channels and dumps into the Mediterranean Sea.  Where the Nile ends at the Mediterranean coast is referred to as the Nile Delta (Kobasa, page 6-7) (Sigerist, page 218)

Henry Sigerist, in his 1951 history of medicine, explains that the Nile Delta receives the most rain in the region, "on average of 42 days.  Cairo has an average of only 26 rainly days, and there is hardly any precipitation in Thebes."  For this reason, the land depended almost completely on the Nile river for irrigation. (Sigerist, page 218)

Henry Sigerist explains that there are essentially two rivers that come together north of Khartun, in the Sudan, a desert area. The two rivers are the White Nile that comes from central Africa, and the Blue Nile that comes from the mountains of Ethiopia.  The flooding occurs due to winter rains in central Africa and melting of snow in the mountains of Ethiopia.  The rivers come together, carrying through Egypt vegetation from the grasslands of Africa and mud from Ethiopia.  This caused humus to gather in various places along the river, and in the Nile Delta. This mud gave Egypt its name: "the Black land." (Sigerist, page 219)

This allowed the people of the area to differentiates Egyptian lands with the sun beaten hot sands alongside the river, which the Egyptians referred to as "Deshret," or Red :and." (Shuter, page 6)

They also referred to the river as the "Black River," perhaps due to the black mud left after the inundation.

To be continued...

References:  See "4000-30 B.C.: The "Black Land" creates mighty civilization, part 4

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