River valley civilization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from River civilization)
Jump to: navigation, search

A river civilization or river culture is an agricultural nation or civilization situated beside (and often drawing sustenance from) a river.


The first great civilizations all grew up in river valleys. The oldest, 3300 to 2500 BCE, was along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East; the name given to that civilization, Mesopotamia, means "land between the rivers". The Nile valley in Egypt had been home to agricultural settlements as early as 5500 BCE, but the growth of Egypt as a civilization began around 3100 BCE. A third civilization grew up along the Indus River around 2600 BCE, in parts of what are now India and Pakistan. The fourth great river civilization emerged around 1700 BCE along the Yellow River in China, also known as the Huang-He River Civilization.[1][2]


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 floods , 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.[3][4]

Early civilizations[edit]

Mesopotamia was the earliest river valley civilization, starting to form around 3500 BCE. The civilization was created after regular trading started relationships between multiple cities and states around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Mesopotamian cities became self-run civil governments. One of the cities within this civilization, Uruk, was the first literate society in history. Eventually, they all joined together to irrigate the two rivers in order to make their dry land fertile for agricultural growth. The increase in successful farming in this civilization allowed population growth throughout the cities and states within Mesopotamia.[5]

Egypt also created irrigation systems from its local river, the Nile River, but it was different from the other civilizations because its irrigation system was more intricate than the others. The Egyptians would rotate legumes with cereal which would stop salt buildup from the fresh water and enhance the fertility of their fields. The Nile River also allowed easier travel among the civilization and eventually created two kingdoms at the north and south areas of the river until both were unified into one society by 3000 BCE.[6]

The Indus valley civilization is different from the civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China in that much of its history is unknown. Discovered in the 1920s, Harappan society remains a mystery because the Harappan system of writing has not yet been deciphered. It was also larger than both Egypt and Mesopotamia, which is strange considering its apparent lack of both violence and a ruling class. There are no distinctive burial sites and there is not a lot of evidence to suggest a formal military. Historians, however, believe that the lack of knowledge about the ruling class and the military is mainly due to the inability to read Harappan writing.[7]

Localized chiefdoms were the primary forms of society in China until the third century BCE. Early Chinese tribes were organized into patriarchal lineages. Men held roles as leaders and members of the lineages, while women were considered “assets” that could essentially be traded between tribes to establish alliances[citation needed]. When women entered new lineages through marriage, they had no status until they gave birth to a son. As their sons grew older, mothers gained status and security through them. Although women could gain high status by arranging for their sons to hold prominent places in court, many had to settle for exercising power only in domestic matters. Ritual sites were also significant to early Chinese civilization. Those who had access to ritual sites had political power. Shrines were dedicated to specific lineages, and worshipers paid tribute to their ancestors in the hopes that they would have successful harvests and good luck. Gifts included objects such as jade carvings and pieces of pottery. Archaeological evidence suggests that violence was a common occurrence in the Yellow River Valley. Although violence led to changes in political leadership, no significant cultural changes resulted from such conflict.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McCannon, John (2008). Barron's AP World History. Barron's Educational Series Inc. pp. 57–60. ISBN 978-0-7641-3822-5. 
  2. ^ "The River Valley Civilization Guide". rivervalleycivilizations.com. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Rivers and Civilization: What's the Link?. Mindsparks. 2007. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-57596-251-1. 
  4. ^ Mountjoy, Shane (2005). Rivers in World History: The Indus River. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 15. 
  5. ^ Adrian Cole and Stephen Ortega, The Thinking Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 83, 95-101.
  6. ^ Adrian Cole and Stephen Ortega, The Thinking Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 83, 95-101.
  7. ^ Adrian Cole and Stephen Ortega, The Thinking Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 106-108.
  8. ^ Adrian Cole and Stephen Ortega, The Thinking Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 110-112.

Further reading[edit]

  • Clayton, Peter A. & Dent, John (1973). The Ancient River Civilizations: Western Man & the Modern World. Elsevier. ISBN 9780080172095