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Ancient Egypt

A map of ancient Egypt One of the greatest and longest-lasting civilizations in history grew up on a narrow strip of fertile land along the banks of the River Nile in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians were surrounded by the arid Sahara Desert and their farming year relied on the annual flooding of the Nile. Yet their civilization lasted for 3500 years, during which time some of the most spectacular monuments of the ancient world were created. The first Egyptians came from the surrounding desert to settle in the Nile Valley from around 6000 BC. At that time, the Sahara Desert was a land of savanna grasslands and woodlands, but it was becoming more and more arid; its inhabitants found it more difficult to hunt game or herd their livestock. The settlers discovered that the Nile's summer floods provided fertile soil for growing grain and pasture for raising sheep, goats and cattle.

A wall painting from a tomb showing crops being harvested

The dawn of civilization

The Nile floods were essential but they could also be disastrous. If the waters rose at the wrong time of year, all the crops would be ruined. If there was not enough water, the crops would not grow and people would starve. Early Egyptian farmers learned to control the flood waters by building dykes and ponds for storing water for use in time of drought.
As time passed, villages grew into towns and cities and the people developed a system of government. Craftworkers in the towns and cities learned to work metals such as copper. The potters’ wheel, an import from Asia, was a valuable tool. Egypt became wealthy as trading increased. A great new civilization had begun.A town in ancient Egypt
A pharaoh oversees the building of a pyramid.


The last ruling pharaoh of Egypt was Cleopatra (69–30 BC), who was descended from a Greek king, Alexander the Great. She had a son with Julius Caesar, named Caesarion. She killed herself after her forces were defeated by the Romans under Octavian (later called Augustus) at the Battle of Actium. Egypt then became a province of the Roman Empire.


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