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Ancient Egypt: Geography
The Gift of the Nile
The Nile River brought life to Egypt. The river was so important to people in this
region that the famous Greek historian Herodotus (hi-RAHD-du-tus) called Egypt the
“gift of the Nile.”
A. Location and Physical Features
1. The Nile is the longest river in the world.
A. It begins in central Africa and runs 4,000 miles north to the
Mediterranean Sea.
B. Egyptian civilization developed along a 750-mile stretch of the Nile in
northern Africa.
2. Ancient Egypt included two regions, a southern region and a northern region.
A. Upper Egypt, the southern region, was located upriver from the Nile’s
B. Lower Egypt, the northern region, was located downriver.
C. The Nile rushed through rocky, hilly lands south of Egypt. At several
points, this terrain caused cataracts, or strong rapids, to form. These
rapids made sailing through the Upper Egypt portion of the Nile very
D. In Lower Egypt, the Nile divided into several branches that fanned out
and flowed into the Mediterranean Sea. These branches formed a
delta, a triangle-shaped area of land made of soil deposited by a river.
Some two thirds of Egypt’s fertile farmland was located in the Nile
B. The Floods of the Nile
1. Because it received so little rain, most of Egypt was desert.
a. Rainfall south of Egypt caused the Nile to flood. The floods were
easier to predict than those of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in
2. The Nile flooded Upper Egypt in midsummer and Lower Egypt in the fall,
coating the land around the river with rich silt, or fertile soil and tiny rocks.
a. Egyptians eagerly awaited the flooding of the Nile. It was a life-giving
miracle. Without flooding, people never could have settled in Egypt.
3. Instead of four seasons, the Egyptian year had only three:
a. Akhet, when the Nile flooded the valley
b. Peret, when the water receded
c. Shomu, when water was scarce
Civilization Develops Along the Nile
A. By 10,000 BCE, Hunter-Gatherers settled along the Nile in small villages.
a. Now an agricultural society, farmers developed an irrigation system to
collect water during the yearly floods and store the water during the
b. Canals directed water from the basins to the fields where it was needed.
B. The Nile provided a surplus of food.
a. Wheat, barley, fruits, vegetables, cattle, sheep, fish, wild geese and
C. The Nile provided natural barriers that made Egypt hard to invade.
a. West – desert was too big and harsh to cross
b. North – Mediterranean Sea; sea invasion is difficult
c. South – Nile cataracts made sailing difficult
d. East – Red Sea; sea invasion is difficult
D. Protected from invades, the villages along the Nile grew.
a. By 3200 BCE, the villages banded together and developed into two
kingdoms: Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.
Kings Unify Egypt
A. Lower Egypt – capital was Pe and the king wore a red crown.
B. Upper Egypt – capital was Nekhen and the king wore a cone-shaped white
C. Around 3100 BCE, a leader named Narmer, or Menes rose to power in Upper
1. Historians consider Menes to be Egypt’s first pharaoh, the title used by the
rulers of Egypt.
A. Pharaoh means “great house”
B. Menes also founded Egypt’s first dynasty, a series of rulers from the
same family.
C. Memphis, in Lower Egypt, became the new capital city.
D. Menes combined the red crown and white crown into a double crown
symbolizing his leadership over the two kingdoms.
D. The First Dynasty lasted for about 200 years, until rivals challenged the First
Dynasty for power. These challenges took over Egypt and established the Second