Ancient River Valley Civilizations

By: Edward Butler, Jacob Liston, Ben Kim, Karthik Kura

Where to Begin?

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Ancient Egypt (Nile River Valley Civilization)

Cities: Some of the major cities included Thebes, Memphis, and Cairo. Nearly all of the cities were located on the low-ground along the Nile River

Religion: Egyptian's had a polytheistic religion, meaning they believed in many gods. They believed that the gods were not very far from the human world. Priests often left offerings that consisted of vast quantities of food, valuables, and beer. The priests served day and night and even dressed as their statue representations.

Their religion was mostly centered around rituals.

Government: The Pharaoh's word was absolute law, and he was believed to be a god. He had advisors and ministers to help him. The land was divided into small provinces called nomes, which each had their own governor who was picked by the Pharaoh.

Art: Egyptians painted tombs, temples, pyramids, and sculptures with paintings of religious gods and objects and depictions of their way of life.

Writing: The ancient Egyptians used picture symbols called hieroglyphics for literature, records, and letters. To write, they would use a pen made of a reed, a type of glass plant.

Social Structure: There are four classes under the Pharaoh. The upper class consisted of government officials, nobles, and priests. The middle class included scribes, artisans, tradespeople and soldiers. The lowest class is the largest class and it includes peasants, farmers, laborers, and servants. The bottom class were the slaves that were captured from foreign regions.

Mesopotamia (Tigris and Euphrates River Valley)

Mesopotamia is located in present day Iraq.

Cities: Some of the major cities include Babylon, Assur, Uruk, and Akkad. Nearly all cities were located along the river and river branches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Religion: The Mesopotamians also had a polytheistic religion. Each division, or city-state, had it's own set of gods that it worshipped. Monuments, called ziggurats, were built to give praise to the gods. The people believed the gods were powerful but also cruel. The Babylonians were known for placing an emphasis on religion.

Government: A king ruled the people, but a group of elected officials in the Assembly also had control. You can think of it as a mix between a monarchy and democracy.

King Hammurabi of Babylon is very famous for his organized set of laws. It is considered one of the first written sets of law.

Art: Art in Mesopotamia was created to give worship to their gods and their king. Artisans created stone carvings, pots, baskets, and jewelry. Boats also were carved with patterns and decorations.

Writing: Sumerians developed first form of writing, the cuneiform, which is made of wedges on soft clay.

Social Structure: Nobles were at the top of the class. Nobles were religious officials and royal family. In the middle were the commoners. The commoners made up over 90% of the population. Finally, at the bottom, were the slaves.

Indus River Valley

The Indus River Valley Civilization is located on the Sub-Continent of India.

Cities: Some of the Major cities were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. More than 100 Indus Civilization has been excavated at that during time. Some of those major cities were Mohenjo-Daro, Lothal, Dholavira and many others.

Government: Some of the major Governments that linked back to the era of 3500 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E are surprisingly a mystery. Just like religion, they had no solitary proof of it’s existence other than the diverse statues that have been built that could have represented gods or goddesses. Generally, the government is almost similar to the religion cause of the mysteriousness and unclearness. But judging by the regulated economic system, standardized weights and measures, and decent city layouts. Archaeologists predicted that there was some form of ruling body, but unfortunately unclear. Generally, most excavations have not shed any light, as well as the information learnt by the various artifacts is very brief.

Religion: Unfortunately, Culture is just as unknown and puzzling as writing and government in the ancient era. Some of the Indus River Valley seals contain Swastikas which are found in many religions worldwide such as Hinduism,Jainism, and Buddhism, and these symbols were discovered as early as the Harappan Period. While there were some seals and statues found to represent the Indus River Valley Civilization like the Swastika seal or the statue of the “priest-king” sculpture of Mohenjo-Daro, there were no Palaces, Monuments and Temples that have ever been found to represent the culture or religion of the Indus River valley Civilization.

Art: Some of the culture and art formed by the people of the Indus River Valley Civilization (IRVC) are creations such as Pottery, Fine Ceramics, Tools, Agate, Onyx beads, and even gold or silver jewelry. Amazingly enough the culture provided by the Indus River Valley Civilizations can be but not limited to even toys, transported goods, flat bottomed boats (used for rivers) and even Clay Seals (much like rubber stamps) which were even used to help ship bundles and had awesome carvings of various animals like Bulls and Elephants.

Writing: One of reasons why scholars don’t know much about the Indus Language is because it’s very difficult to decipher there writing system, kind of like the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. But, years of hard work and research have paid off and some stuff that we know actually comes from Mesopotamia records.

Social Structure: The Social Structure formed by the IRVC in about 2500 BCE is actually a Caste System. There are four different types of Caste’s and when born into the social class, it cannot be changed unfortunately.

The Brahmins-They are known for their vast knowledge. (priests and the king)

The Kshatriyas - They are very honourable and join the military and usually protects the IRVC.(Warriors and Aristocrats)

The Vaishyas -The Vaishyas are known for their Business Advancements, Cultivation skills and being a exceptional Merchant. (cultivators,artisans and merchants)

The Shudras -The Shudras are known for Peasant work, like shoe shining and are near untouchables. They are the lowest of the Social System and are often compared to as unclean. Shudra’s is the 4th Varna and is known for serving the other 3 Verna.

Yellow River Vally Civilization (China)

Cities: The major city is Anyang, also the capital.

The capital of this civilization is Anyang, which is where the Shang King lived and ruled from. The territory was divided into smaller states, which were ruled by military leaders (similar to senators today). The king had the power to select and remove these military leaders.

Religion: The Yellow River Valley Civilization had a polytheistic religion. People here worshipped their ancestors, as well as the ruler god Shang Ti and others. They believed in speaking to supernatural forces and believed that sacrificing would please the gods.

Art: People here crafted pots, wrote poems, and carved wooden ornaments. Bronze and jade were considered valuable and were used in most of the art pieces.

Writing: Their language was called Zhon literature, and the people wrote messages through pictograms on oracle bones to communicate. Zhon Literature was prominent in the Yellow River Valley Civilization. Many books were written about the history and religious rituals of the civilization. However, most of the writings were destroyed, so we do not have much information.

Social Structure: The Shang King was at the top of the class structure. Bureaucrats were below that, and then were the peasants. Finally, at the bottom were the slaves.