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  Nile River
General Info

The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that Egypt was the gift of the Nile. An unending source of sustenance, it provided a crucial role in the development of Egyptian civilization. Silt deposits from the Nile made the surrounding land extremely fertile because the river overflowed its banks annually. The Ancient Egyptians were able to cultivate wheat and other crops around the Nile. Flax was grown, mostly for trade. Wheat was also traded; it was a crucial crop in the Middle East where famine was very common. This trading system secured the diplomatic relationship Egypt had with other countries, and contributed to Egypt's economic stability. That far-reaching trade has been carried on along the Nile since ancient times can be seen from the Ishango bone, possibly the earliest known indication of Ancient Egyptian multiplication, which was discovered along the headwaters of the Nile (near Lake Edward, in northeastern Congo) and was carbon-dated to 20,000 BC.

The Nile’s water attracted game such as water buffalo; and after the Persians introduced them in the 7th century BC, camels. These animals were killed for meat, and were captured, tamed and used for ploughing — or in the camels' case, travelling. Water was vital to both people and livestock. The Nile was also a convenient and efficient means of transportation for people and goods.

The Nile was an important part of the ancient Egyptian spiritual life. The god named Hapy was the deification of the annual floods, and both he and the pharaoh were thought to control the flooding of the Nile. The Nile was considered to be a causeway from life to death and the afterlife. The east was thought of as a place of birth and growth, and the west was considered the place of death, as the god Ra, the Sun, underwent birth, death, and resurrection each day as he crossed the sky. Thus, all tombs were located west of the Nile, because the Egyptians believed that in order to enter the afterlife, they must be buried on the side that symbolized death.

 

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