Historically the first great civilizations all grew up in river valleys. The oldest, 3500 to 2000 B.C.E., was along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East; the name given to that civilization, Mesopotamia, means "between the rivers". The Nile valley in Egypt had been home to agricultural settlements as early as 5500 B.C.E., but the growth of Egypt as a civilization began around 3100 B.C.E. A third civilization grew up along the Indus River around 2600 B.C.E., in parts of what are now India and Pakistan. The fourth great river civilization emerged around 1700 B.C.E. along the Yellow River in China.
Civilizations tended to grow up in river valleys for a number of reasons. The most obvious is access to a usually reliable source of water for agriculture and human needs. Plentiful water, and the enrichment of the soil due to annual flooding, made it possible to grow excess crops beyond what was needed to sustain an agricultural village. This allowed for some members of the community to engage in non-agricultural activities such as construction of buildings and cities (the root of the word "civilization"), metal working, trade, and social organization.
Additional advantages of locating near a river included easy transportation by water as well as good hunting and fishing.
- McCannon, John (2008). Barron's AP World History. Barron's Educational Series Inc. pp. 57–60. ISBN 978-0-7641-3822-5.
- "The River Valley Civilization Guide". rivervalleycivilizations.com. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- Rivers and Civilization: What's the Link?. Mindsparks. 2007. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-57596-251-1.
- Mountjoy, Shane (2005). Rivers in World History: The Indus River. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 15.
- Clayton, Peter A. & Dent, John (1973). The Ancient River Civilizations: Western Man & the Modern World. Elsevier. ISBN 9780080172095
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