The ancient river civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt were a significant aspect of our world’s development from an uninhabited planet to the cultured society known today. The geographical features of their regions heavily affected how their people lived and their relationship towards other countries. Both ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt used their rivers as important sources of trade and resources. However, the ancient Mesopotamian religion and society was adapted to harsh, warring conditions whereas the ancient Egyptians believed in order and self-sufficiency.
Trade was an important responsibility for the Mesopotamian and Egyptian rivers. Both regions were unable to depend on land travel for trade because transport by land was very difficult. Animals such as the camel, donkey, and horse that could carry heavy burdens for long distances weren’t introduced until the later period of both civilizations’ histories. The ancient people had to rely on their boats and barges in order to communicate and trade with other regions. The Mesopotamians had widespread trade connections throughout the Middle East. Goods such as wood, vegetable oil, and barley were exchanged for cedar, silver, gold, and copper as well as other materials.
Because the Tigris and Euphrates rivers traversed a wide variety of different regions, merchants were able to barter and sell their products at different canals and ports the rivers passed through. The ancient Egyptians were known for their infatuation with Nubian gold. They were able to easily access Nubia through the Nile River, which flowed from Nubia and emptied out into the Egyptian delta. Both civilizations depended on their rivers in for transport to different areas in order to trade and exchange goods.
The civilizations’ geography also impacted what resources they were able to access and what foods they could cultivate. Due to the limited rainfall in both areas, irrigation was a significant advancement that allowed farmers to grow certain crops and produce valuable goods. Remains of the ancient canals and other river constructions built by the early peoples are still around today as proof of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian manipulation of the river’s flow. Both civilizations used methods to cultivate the land for important resources that they could later use amongst their people and exchange the surplus for other important goods. Farmers planted crops that could withstand the soil and environment they lived in. Barley was the main cereal grain that ancient Mesopotamia produced because it could withstand the harsher climate and could feed many people.
Egypt also farmed many crops well adapted to their soil, especially after the Nile flooded its riverbanks each year. Both civilizations were heavily dependent on their main rivers for important resources such as clay and reeds, which later influenced their system of writing. Ancient Egyptian papyrus reeds were used by their scribes in order to write hieroglyphics, whereas the Mesopotamian pressed sharpened reeds into moist clay in order to write cuneiform. Clay bricks were frequently used to build walls to cities and homes due to their simple structure and wide availability. The land and rivers heavily influenced what resources the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian resources.
The Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations had significantly different religions influenced by the weather conditions and behavior of the rivers in their region. Mesopotamian people were frequently plagued by natural disasters caused by the dangerous and unpredictable rivers. They believed that their harsh and severe gods were responsible for these disasters and sought to placate them.