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  • - [Narrator] In this video, we are going to give ourselves

  • an overview of ancient Egypt,

  • which corresponds geographically pretty closely

  • to the modern day state of Egypt in northeast Africa.

  • Now the central feature in both ancient Egypt

  • and in modern Egypt is the Nile River

  • that you see in blue right over here.

  • And the Nile River is one of the great rivers of the world.

  • It rivals the Amazon River as the longest river

  • and it sources the tributaries of the Nile Rover

  • start even south of this picture

  • and the water flows northward

  • and eventually its delta reaches the Mediterranean Sea.

  • The delta, which is where a river opens into the sea,

  • is called a delta because, as you can see, these rivers,

  • you can even see it from

  • the satellite pictures right over here,

  • they start branching up a bunch

  • and you have this upside down triangular region,

  • which looks a little bit like

  • an upside down Greek letter delta,

  • so that's why river delta is called that.

  • And this one just happens to be upside down.

  • If it was flowing the other way,

  • it would be a right-side-up delta.

  • So the Nile River, it flows from, you could say,

  • eastern mid-Africa up into the Mediterranean Sea

  • and because it has this northward flow,

  • the southern parts of the river are upriver

  • and they are actually called the Upper Nile.

  • So, Upper.

  • The Upper Nile is actually south of the Lower Nile,

  • of the Lower Nile.

  • And once again, that's because the Upper Nile is up river,

  • it's also flowing from higher elevations

  • to lower elevations.

  • So as you go south, you get to higher and higher elevations.

  • Now, the reason why the river is so important,

  • we studied this multiple times,

  • rivers are a source of fresh water,

  • when they flood they make the surrounding soil fertile,

  • they're suitable for agriculture,

  • and the Nile Valley is one of the first places

  • that we see agriculture emerging

  • during the neolithic period.

  • In fact, human settlement we believe

  • was along this Nile River Valley

  • as far as 6,000 BCE or 8,000 years ago,

  • and it might have been there even further back in time.

  • And because you have that agriculture,

  • it allowed for higher population densities,

  • which allowed for more specialization of labor

  • and more complex societies.

  • It's not a coincidence that some of the first,

  • that one of the first great civilizations emerged here.

  • Now, the story of the Nile River, or of Egypt,

  • and actually they are tied very closely,

  • even though Egypt is considered a lot of this region,

  • most of the human population, this is true even today,

  • is right along the river, around that fertile soil,

  • where the agriculture actually occurs.

  • In fact, this was so important to the ancient Egyptians

  • that their whole calendar, their seasons,

  • were based on what the Nile River was doing.

  • They had a season called the inundation,

  • or the flooding of the river, which makes the soil fertile.

  • They had a season of growth,

  • which is now talking about the growth of the crops

  • and they had a season of harvest.

  • And so you had people in this valley for thousands of years,

  • but when we talk about ancient Egypt,

  • we formally talk about it as a civilization

  • around 3,100, 3,150 BCE.

  • And this is where we get to our timeline right over here.

  • So we're talking about right around there on our timeline

  • and the reason why this is considered

  • the beginning of the ancient Egyptian civilization

  • is this is when we believe

  • that upper and lower Egypt were first united

  • under the king and there's different names used,

  • Narmer sometimes or Menes.

  • I'm going to mispronounce things

  • every now and then and I'm probably doing it here as well.

  • And so he was the king that unified upper and lower Egypt

  • into an empire and the empire, as we will see,

  • which lasted thousands of years,

  • every one of these spaces is a hundred years.

  • We're gonna go over huge time span,

  • but the ancient Egyptian civilization is roughly divided

  • into three kingdoms.

  • You have the old kingdom, which went from about,

  • right from about the 27th century BCE

  • up to about the 17th century BCE.

  • You have the middle kingdom and you have the new kingdom.

  • And once again, this is spanning right over here

  • over a thousand years of history.

  • And in between those, you have these intermediate periods

  • where the kingdom or the empire

  • was a little bit more fragmented.

  • You have in some of these intermediate periods,

  • you have some foreign rule.

  • But just to get a sense of some of what happened

  • over this thousands of years,

  • and I'm kind of laughing in my head

  • because it's hard to cover over two, 3,000 years,

  • in the course of just a few minutes,

  • but this will give you a sense of what ancient Egyptian

  • civilization was all about.

  • Now the kings are referred to as pharaohs

  • but as we'll see that term pharaoh is not really used

  • until we get to the new kingdom.

  • But I will refer to the kings as pharaohs

  • throughout this video,

  • just to say, hey these are the Egyptian kings.

  • And the old kingdom is probably most known today

  • in our popular culture for what we most associate

  • with ancient Egypt and that is the pyramids.

  • And here, right over here are the pyramids,

  • there's the Great Pyramid of Giza,

  • which is near modern-day Cairo today.

  • This is the Sphinx and they were built in that old period

  • under the Pharaohs Sneferu and Khufu, right over here

  • in the 26th century BCE.

  • And we are still trying to get a better understanding

  • of how this was done.

  • We actually now don't believe

  • that it was done by slave labor,

  • but instead it was done during, you could say,

  • the off season by the peasants as a form of taxation.

  • Okay, you're done planting or harvesting your crops?

  • Well now that you have some time,

  • and this shows actually the importance of agriculture

  • for freeing people up, so to speak,

  • why don't you help the pharaohs built these massive tombs,

  • which I've seen various estimates

  • that it might have taken some place between

  • 10 and 100,000 people several decades to build each.

  • But these are even today,

  • these were built over 4,500 years ago,

  • are some of the most iconic symbols

  • that humanity has ever created.

  • And the reason why we know so much about ancient Egypt

  • is that we have been able to decipher their writing.

  • It's a symbolic, they have these pictographs,

  • these hieroglyphics, I'm sure you've heard

  • of the word before,

  • and for a while we had no idea what they said.

  • We would see these encryptions in these tombs

  • and we had a sense that, okay these tombs,

  • especially things like the pyramids

  • would be for these great kings,

  • we could tell that it was a stratified society,

  • that nobility had better tombs than others,

  • but we didn't really have a good sense of what was going on

  • until we discovered this, which is the Rosetta Stone,

  • which was discovered in 1799.

  • The reason why this is so valuable

  • is it has the same text

  • written in three different languages.

  • It has it written in the hieroglyphs

  • of the ancient Egyptians,

  • and it has it written in a later script used in Egypt,

  • called demotic Egyptian, and most importantly,

  • it has it also written in Greek.

  • And so historians were able to say,

  • okay, we can now start to decipher what these symbols mean

  • because we have a translation of them

  • and that's why it's one of the first civilizations

  • where we're able to put the picture together.

  • And hieroglyphics are one of the first forms of writing.

  • But let's now go on in our journey

  • through thousands of years of ancient Egyptian civilization.

  • Between the old kingdom and the middle kingdom,

  • you have the first intermediate period