Tag Archives: irrigation

Down by the river

The Egyptians were able to farm the land next to the Nile because it flooded regularly every year. When the water receded, it left behind a sludge—silt—of dead fish and plants which turn into nutrients. Crops love those yummy nutrients. The Egyptians figured out how to irrigate—they built levees and dams and canals to direct water from the Nile into their farm fields. Irrigation made farming even easier. Farming could be done by fewer people while still producing enough food to feed everybody. People who weren’t farmers could do other jobs which paid money or produced goods so they could buy or barter for food. This is how an economy begins.

Did I say growing food is easy? It’s pretty back-breaking for the poor slobs who do the work. I don’t know what their headwear is here, or why it’s brimless. A gourd shell, maybe? The Egyptian sun must have been unrelenting.

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How to start up a civilization

Sumer, in the ancient Middle East, was the very beginning of Western Civilization.

Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers (I put in modern place names so you can find this on a bigger map).

A civilization means a big group of people with a government and laws; an economy; technology; religion; and a language and writing system. The Sumerians had all that. They were located in between the Tigris (TEE- gris) and Euphrates (EH-you-FRAH-tays) Rivers—a valley that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.* It’s a friendly place to farm: melting snow from mountains in Turkey feeds the rivers which flood regularly. When the rivers recede they leave behind a sludge of decayed plants, dead bugs and fish bones. That sludge, or silt, is fantastic for growing plants in. The Sumerians learned to control the flood. They built levees and dug canals and reservoirs so they could bring water wherever and whenever it was needed.
https://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/levee.htm

Remember that farming for food turned out to be easier than hunting or gathering it. Levees and canals made farming easier still. That meant not everybody had to work on a farm. People could have other jobs, like priests or scribes. Some people built houses and towers. Some people ran the government. This is how a civilization gets started.

Mesopotamia: from Greek words— ‘meso’ means between; ‘potamia’ means rivers.

* Yes, I know, I’m a pronunciation geek.

https://www.penfield.edu/webpages/jgiotto/onlinetextbook.cfm?subpage=1525827

The Sumerians


https://mesopotamia.mrdonn.org/inventions.html

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