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Early Civilization Interaction With Their Environment


The first civilization is believed to have occurred in Mesopotamia and the Nile River in Egypt between 4000-3500 B.C (Majumdar, 21). However, other civilizations developed independently in other parts of the world. For instance, the valleys of the Indus River in India supported a flourishing civilization (Majumdar, 22). The city of Harrapa was at the heart of the Indus civilization, which grew for hundreds of years. Another river valley civilization developed along the Yellow River in China about 4000 years ago (Spielvogel, 6). This civilization emerged under the Chang dynasty of kings. This civilization contained impressive cities with huge city walls, royal palaces, and large royal tombs. A system of irrigation made it possible for early Chinese civilization to maintain a prosperous farming society governed by an aristocratic class whose major concern was a war (Spielvogel, 7). This paper discusses how and why early civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus valley, and China were able to successfully interact with their particular environments.

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The earliest civilization occurred in Mesopotamia. It was the Greeks who named the land between Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Mesopotamia. This region received scarce rainfall, but over the years, the layers of silt deposited by the two rivers enriched and enlarged Mesopotamian plains (Spielvogel, 7). Rivers Tigris and Euphrates used to overflow their banks and deposit their fertile silt in the late spring; however, this flooding depended on the melting of snows in the upland mountains where the rivers originate. This overflow was irregular and sometimes catastrophic. In such situations, human intervention in the form of irrigation and drainage ditches was required to facilitate agriculture. It was necessary to have a complex system to control the flow of rivers and grow crops. The adoption of irrigation on large scale led to the expansion of agriculture in the Mesopotamia region, and abundant food presented the material base for the development of civilization in Mesopotamia (Spielvogel, 7).

The Egyptian civilization was necessitated by the Nile River. Just like Mesopotamia, Egypt was a river valley civilization. River Nile is the longest river in the world. The Nile river banks were fertile for crop production (Spielvogel, 6). It flooded annually during summer from rains in Central Africa which left deposits of silt that enriched soils in Egypt. The flooding of the Nile, unlike Mesopotamia Rivers, was gradual and usually predictable. The overflow was viewed as life-enhancing and was not catastrophic among the Egyptians. Unlike Mesopotamia where massive state intervention was needed to develop a system of organized irrigation, organized irrigation systems were developed by small villages along the Nile. The organized irrigation system enabled Egypt to produce surplus goods that made her prosperous (Spielvogel, 14).

The Indus Valley civilization was developed along the banks of a river system, just like Mesopotamia and Egypt civilizations. The valleys of the Indus River supported a flourishing civilization between 3500 and 1500 B.C.E (Majumdar, 21). This civilization extended from the Himalayas to the coast of the Arabian Sea. The city of Harrapa was at the heart of this advanced civilization, which flourished for many years (Majumdar, 22). As in city-states that arose in Mesopotamia and the Nile Rivers, the Harrapan economy also depended primarily on agriculture. The city was master-planned, constructed uniformly, and had sophisticated drainage systems. It also had an advanced industry. In addition to using technologies such as bricks, farmers in Indus Valley grew cotton, and its artisans made clothes. This shows that the people of Indus had an organized central government (Majumdar, 21).

Last but not least, the earliest Chinese civilization occurred in the period between 1800-1000 BC (Spielvogel, 6). It was also a river valley civilization as it grew on the rich alluvial soils found where the Yellow River spread out over the North China plain. During historic times, the Yellow River changed its course and even its sea outlets a number of times. This enhanced its potential for irrigating and fertilizing soils through controlled flooding spread over a wide area. Later, the real thrust of growth of Chinese civilization happened when the regular water supply from the Yellow River was extended to the loess soils that covered the surrounding plains using an elaborate regulated system of irrigation. Later, Chang’s civilization expanded from the North China Plain to control a wider region, establishing the cultural foundation for subsequent civilizations in China (Spielvogel, 7).

In sum, it’s difficult to explain why civilization developed. This is because civilizations emerged differently in different parts of the world. However, challenges forced people to take initiatives that resulted in the growth of civilization. This was the main reason why early civilization emerged in four main geographical areas which included; the fertile river valleys of Mesopotamia, Nile River, Indus valley, and the Chinese Yellow River.


Majumdar, R. Ancient India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications, 1977.

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Spielvogel, J. Western Civilization. Edmonton: I Chapters.Com, 2008.

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