Mesopotamia & Egypt: One of the Major Term Paper

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MESOPOTAMIA & EGYPT:

One of the major events that marked the beginning of civilization was the development of agriculture which was made possible by the presence of three important rivers -- the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the so-called "Cradle of Civilization," and the great Nile River in Egypt, where one of the greatest civilizations first appeared some five thousand years ago. As pointed out by Wolfram Von Soden, the area now known as the Near East, comprised of Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, "dried out into desert and semi-desert regions after the last retreat of the glaciers which compelled the inhabitants to move to the fertile valleys" bounded by the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile Rivers (67). One reason for this exodus to the "Cradle of Civilization" was the presence of native plants, such as wild wheat and barley, and herds of animals that could be domesticated for various purposes associated with farming and husbandry; there was also sufficient rain for the raising of crops that would feed the inhabitants.

It was only after the village/farming life was well developed that settlers, attracted by the greater fertility of the soil, moved into the river valleys and deltas. It was here that civilized societies, such as the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Hittites and the Sumerians in Mesopotamia and the Egyptians in the Nile River valley, first originated and designed such things as government, law and formal religions, not to mention several important techniques like writing, measurement and calculation, weaving, metalwork and pottery.

Of course, all great civilizations, whether highly ancient or of modern extraction, are heavily dependent on their various environments.
In the case of Mesopotamia and Egypt, both of these societies relied upon an abundance of naturally-occurring materials for the construction of homes and buildings, such as mud and water resources for bricks and pottery, lumber for furniture and other utensils and metals like iron ore and copper for tools and weapons. As Robert J. Braidwood maintains, the presence of agriculture, "being so firmly linked with the environment, proves that the societies of Mesopotamia and Egypt were in advanced stages which presupposes a long and complicated development" (289).

Sometime in the early 4th millennium B.C.E., a very critical event took place in Mesopotamia, namely, the settlement of the great river valleys associated with the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It was after this event that writing, art, monumental architecture and new political forms were introduced in Mesopotamia and Egypt, but with striking differences in function. Thus, not one, but two civilizations emerged from this area, each with its own special character and culture. From this time forward, world history would record the birth, development and disappearance of many civilizations and the rise and decline within them of peoples, states, and nations. In the words of Bruce Trigger, "it is with these mighty, contrasting civilizations bordering the eastern Mediterranean region that the drama of Western mankind truly begins, due to the environments which made it all possible" (127).

In contrast to the civilizations that arose and perished in the "Cradle….....

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