Egypt and the Nile River Valley System

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Egypt and the Nile River Valley System

  • SC Standards 6-1.3, 1.4, 1.5

Where is Egypt?

  • Egypt is on the continent of Africa.
  • The River Nile runs through Egypt
  • The capital of Egypt is Cairo

Where is Egypt?


  • The Egyptians, like the Mesopotamians, settled near a river because of the benefits and contributions it gave.
  • Do you remember some of the reasons?
        • Travel
        • Trade
        • Irrigation for crops
        • Water for drinking and cooking
        • Yearly flooding, which left behind rich, fertile soil

The Nile River Valley

  • The Nile is the longest river in the world – almost 4,000 miles long!!
  • It is shaped like the lotus flower so often seen in ancient Egyptian art.
  • The Nile flows from south to north because of the geography of the land.
  • Mountains are to the south and low lying plains are in the north.
  • As the water comes down the mountains it flows through the river delta and empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

Natural barriers of protection

  • The ancient Egyptians enjoyed many natural barriers.
  • There were deserts to the east and west of the Nile River, and mountains to the south.
  • This isolated the ancient Egyptians and allowed them to develop a truly distinctive culture.
  • Other natural barriers included the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Red Sea to the east.

The Nile’s natural barriers of protection

The Nile River Valley

  • Civilization started along the Nile about 5,000 years ago. Without the Nile, Egypt would be a desert because it rarely rains.
  • Each spring, water would run off the mountains and the Nile would flood.
  • As the flood waters receded, black rich fertile soil was left behind.
  • The ancient Egyptians called this rich soil ‘The Gift of the Nile.’
  • Egyptians celebrated the 3 stages:
      • Inundation (flooding which usually lasted 4 months)
      • Emergence (planting & growing)
      • Harvest (collecting the food)
  • The area after flooding is called “black land” because of the nutrient-rich soil created by silt (Because of this black represented life and was often used in statues showing the afterlife.)
  • The surrounding desert area is known as the “red land”.

Gifts of the Nile

  • Fertile soil for crops was not the Nile's only gift.
  • The Nile gave the ancient Egyptians many gifts.
  • Thanks to the Nile, these ancient people had fresh water for drinking and bathing.
  • The Nile supported transportation and trade.
  • It provided materials for building, for making cloth for clothes, and even for making paper - made from the wild papyrus weed, that grew along the shores of the Nile.

“Gifts of the Nile”

  • The Nile River is known as the “Giver of Life.”
  • It provided many things for the Egyptians to survive:
    • Fertile soil for farming
    • Fishing- food
    • Fresh water
    • Transportation
    • Trade routes
  • The Nile was unfortunately also a taker of life.
    • Many people accidentally drowned.
    • Extreme rainfall washed away crops.
    • Light flooding resulted in poor soil and crops would not grow.

Test stop Questions? Copy and answer the following questions.

  • What continent is Egypt located on?
  • What are the 2 types of “land” in Egypt and what do they represent?
  • What are the 3 stages of the annual flooding of the Nile River called?
  • Besides the rich soil, what are some (at least 3) of the “Gifts of the Nile?”

Pharaohs & gods

  • The Egyptians believed their pharaoh was both a god and a king.
  • They also believed that animals, especially the cat, were sacred and deserved to be worshipped.


  • The most powerful person in ancient Egypt was the pharaoh.
  • The pharaoh was the political and religious leader of the Egyptian people, holding the titles: 'Lord of the Two Lands' and 'High Priest of Every Temple'.
  • As 'Lord of the Two Lands' the pharaoh was the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt. He owned all of the land, made laws, collected taxes, and defended Egypt against foreigners.
  • As 'High Priest of Every Temple', the pharaoh represented the gods on Earth. He performed rituals and built temples to honor the gods.


  • The Egyptians worshipped more than 2,000 gods and goddesses.
  • The chief god was Amon, the god of Thebes. He was later merged with the god of the sun, Ra, to become Amon-Ra.
  • During the “reign” and worship of Amon-Ra, the Egyptian people were very polytheistic.

Mummification and the gods

  • Osiris, the god of the dead, and Isis, his sister/wife and goddess of nature, were also important.
  • Egyptians considered the afterlife more important than the time spent on earth. Because of this, they gave great thought to burial of the dead.
  • The body was preserved in salts and spices and then wrapped in linen.
  • This mummy was then placed into a wooden coffin, called a sarcophagus, sometimes made of pure gold.
  • Amulets or jewels were then placed on the body.
  • Adults were buried with furniture, artwork, and pottery.
  • Children were buried with toys. This gave the dead items to keep them happy in the afterlife.
  • The sarcophagus was then placed into the pyramid tombs to enjoy their time in the afterlife.

Draw the Egyptian social pyramid.

Upper and Lower Egypt

  • Remember the mountains and flat plain of Egypt’s geography?
    • Southern Egypt is called Upper Egypt (located high in the mountains)
      • The pharaoh of Upper Egypt wore a white crown.
    • Northern Egypt is called Lower Egypt (located in the plain next to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • King Narmer (aka: Menes) united Upper and Lower Egypt and also the crown.
  • A mural of Narmer or Menes conquering Lower Egypt (c.a. 3100 B.C.)

Test stop Questions? Copy and answer the following questions.

  • How did the pharaoh combine religion and government?
  • What are the 2 areas of Egypt known as?
  • Describe the crowns of Egypt.
  • Who united Upper and Lower Egypt?
  • Be able to draw and fill in the social pyramid.

The 3 Kingdoms of Egypt

  • The ancient Egyptian timeline is divided into three big blocks of time – the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom.

The Old Kingdom The Pyramid Age (500 years)

  • Pharaohs had absolute power and were considered to be gods on earth.
  • King Narmer (Menes) unified Upper and Lower Egypt.
  • Pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, are built to serve as tombs for the pharaohs.
  • Mummification was used to preserve dead bodies.

The Middle Kingdom The Golden Age (300 years)

  • Pharaohs should be “good kings”; wise and gifted rulers.
  • Built strong armies and fortresses.
  • Egypt conquered Nubia and invaded Syria and Palestine.
  • Literature and the arts expanded and greatly improved through contact with trading countries.
  • Pharaohs were buried in secret places.

The New Kingdom The Empire (500 years)

  • Pharaohs should be all powerful; great kings and queens.
  • Created an empire through force and military conflict.
  • The first female pharaoh, Hatshepsut, ruled.
  • The Valley of the Kings is created; all pharaohs are buried here.
  • Egyptians become monotheistic.
  • The Pyramid of Meydum
  • The Bent Pyramid
  • The Great Pyramids of Giza

Test stop…

  • Make sure you know:
    • what the 3 kingdoms are
    • The role of the pharaoh in each kingdom
    • Major contributions to Egyptian life from each kingdom

Egyptian Writing

  • Over 5000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians wrote things down using a picture writing called hieroglyphics.
  • The people who did the actual writing were called scribes
  • The ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to record and communicate information about religion and government.


  • A cartouche is an oblong enclosure
  • with a horizontal line at one end,
  • indicating that the text enclosed
  • is a royal name.

Writing and language of Egypt

  • How do we know so much about the Egyptians?
    • Because they loved to write!
  • Egyptians, mainly scribes, wrote laws, trade records, ruling family information, and myths and legends using hieroglyphics.
  • Another “gift” from the Nile River was papyrus made from the reeds that grew alongside the banks of the river.
  • Egyptians harvested the papyrus and flattened the pulp from the center of the reeds into sheets of paper.
  • On these sheets were the recordings of the scribes.

Rosetta Stone

  • Over time the Egyptian method of writing changed from one form to another. As it changed, more and more people forgot how to read the hieroglyphics.
  • Finally around 1800 CE, a stone was found called the Rosetta Stone.
  • On the stone there were three kinds of writing telling the same story.
    • At the bottom was Greek (which the archaeologists could read)
    • In the middle was Demotic-a later Egyptian writing (which could be read too)
    • At the top was hieroglyphics. Archaeologists could translate it based on the meanings, words, and symbols from the other two languages!

Test stop Questions? Copy and answer the following questions.

  • What was the main written language of the Egyptians?
  • What gift from the Nile was used by scribes to record details of Egyptian life?
  • Explain what the Rosetta Stone is and its importance.

Activity: Write like an Egyptian Create a cartouche of your name using ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

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