Early River Valley Civilizations
The four early river valley civilizations were the Sumerian/Mesopotamia, Egyptian, Harappan and Ancient China. All of these civilizations were located on fertile river beds to make planting crops much easier. They all made technological advances in their time span and set the ground for future generations. The Sumerian civilization also known as Mesopotamia/The Fertile Crescent is located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers…. this is how it gets its name the Fertile Crescent. The climate for this civilization is dry except in the area between the rivers.
The river flood at least once a year leaving a thick layer of mud called silt behind. There were draw backs to living hear though flooding was often unpredictable and very dry through the summer months. There were also no natural barriers so if you were a village out in the open you were likely to be attacked. Natural resources were also limited.
The solutions to some of these problems were; they built irrigation ditches, put up walls and traded with people around them for resources that they lacked. Mesopotamia’s government structure was a city state.
Each city in Mesopotamia had its own government, rulers, and warriors. Each city had its own god also in the center of each city-state was a ziggurat a place where that city-state’s god could be worshipped. Even though the cities all shared common culture they all functioned independently. The different rules often kept the ruling in the family for many generations this also known as a dynasty. The religion aspect of this civilization was polytheistic or believed in many gods. There were 3 branches to the social class priests and royalty were on top followed by wealthy merchants and ordinary workers.
Women in this civilization were not allowed to attend school making it so they could not read or write unless you were wealthy. Slaves were used and they were not free. This civilization invented one of the first forms of writing also known as Cuneiform. They also invented the wheel, the sail and the plow. They were also the first to use bronze. At about 2,000 BCE Mesopotamia became the Babylonian Empire. The capital of this empire was Babylon built on the Euphrates River. The reign of power was held by Hammurabi. He is most well-known for his laws “An eye for an eye, an ear for an ear. These laws were strictly followed though even if they were very harsh. He unified all the city states into one large kingdom. The Egyptian civilization was located on a narrow strip along the Nile River. The geography of this land was desert on both sides providing them with natural barriers and protection form invaders. The desert also caused isolation for this civilization. They suffered from flooding but it was predictable. The form of government they had was theocracy where the ruler believed that they were divine and god-like.
The whole nation of Lower and Upper Egypt was united as whole nation though. Egypt was ruled by a pharaoh otherwise known as a form of king. They also believed that the pharaohs were a type of god. So the pharaohs would play a role in political and religious roles. Egyptian people also believed that even after a ruler died they still ruled in the afterlife. The slaves of the society built giant temples or tombs for the rulers to be placed into along with many belongs and other earthly things to be passed on to the afterlife with them.
These structures are what we know today as pyramids. The type of beliefs they had been polytheistic because they believed all rulers were gods. Societies social class was divided…You had the royal family…. the upper class made up of landowners, priests, army commanders and government officials. Then you had the middle class made up of artisans and merchants. Then there was the lower class made up of peasants and unskilled workers. Women in this society had the rights as the men and could seek for divorce. Their righting system was called hieroglyphics.
They invented papyrus a form of paper to write on. This civilization was the first to use the stone column. They made great advances in medicine and used a number system with a base of 10 and had decimals. The Indus River Valley Civilization began at about 2500 B. C also referred to as the Harappan Civilization settle along the Indus River. This area was larger than Mesopotamia. They were farmers with very limited government control. There wasn’t much of a social class because they all lived in similar housing systems.
They were peaceful people from what historians can tell because not very many weapons were found. Their religion is linked to Hinduism making them polytheistic. They suffered from yearly monsoons in the summer and they were predictable and this is when the river would flood. Ancient China developed along the Huang He/ Yellow River. The geography was ocean, desert, and high mountains. This caused China to develop in isolation leading them to think they were the venter of the world. They developed calligraphy writing and the art of paper making.
In their society there was a sharp division between kings, nobles and peasants. There was also an emphasis on family and respect of parents/elders. The religion was worship to gods and to their ancestors. Oracle bones used to consult their ancestors. The writing system was unlike anything instead of a letter representing a sound it represented an idea making easier for people who spoke other languages to understand. A new idea of royalty that claimed rulers got their authority from heaven. This was known as the Mandate from Heaven.
From here on out the Chinese would believe in divine rule. These meant disasters could be blamed on the rulers and they would frequently be replaced by the gods being unpleased. This led to a pattern of rise and fall of dynasties in China known as the dynastic cycle. This is the four great river valley civilizations. All of these civilizations made great contributions to future generations. They all had advances in technology and their own ideas on how a government system should be run. Each society had similar traits but they were all very different.