The “Temperamental” Nile

The topic that most drew my attention in the last couple lectures was the one discussing the Nile River.  The Nile was one of the most important aspects with in Egypt and it is one the main focuses of the country even today. What caught my eye was this idea that the Nile could be seen in two lights, both good and bad. In the same year, the Nile, could bring a wealth of crops and then destroy them with a high flood that brought infestation of insects.

The Nile each year would renew the land, flooding it with fresh nutrient rich soil, that could grow many different types of crops. To me this reliance on the environment was fascinating because had the Nile moved or changed in some way we may have not seen the Egypt that grew from the agricultural productivity in this area today. The Egyptians relied heavily on the Nile, not only for its fertile soil cycles, but also for transportation. They used the natural flow of the river, and the direction of the winds to travel up and down the Nile. The current flowed north so those going against the current could use sails to travel south. This was possible because the prevailing winds blew from north to south. For those wanting to travel north along the river the use of poles were used. The easiness of travel along the river allowed for the transportation of goods, as well as the intermixing of ideas through out the area.

The way that the ancient Egyptians were able to use the river and still maintain their civilization is commendable.   Other societies in history have thought to been destroyed by major climatic changes such as the Ancient Harrappan Society that arose in Indus Valley. Which is thought by some to have been destroyed by random floods, as well as a change to the desert like conditions we see in that area today. The very fact that the Egyptians were able to cope with the constantly changing cycles of the Nile and use it to their advantage is admirable.

This idea has made me wonder how on the edge growing societies as well as established ones are from a decline. Since we live in a “first world” country, i begin to wonder what are decline might be. We have talked about the decline of civilizations in class as being a mixture of elements. It has me analyzing what would make supposedly an advanced” society today fall.  Would it be environmental reasons, war, internal disruption or some outside element that is still unforeseen.



1 thought on “The “Temperamental” Nile

  1. Manesha

    It’s very interesting that you bring up the turbulent nature of the Nile. The duality of the river’s purpose is in complete congruence with other themes we have studied in class. It can either “bring a wealth of crops and then destroy them with a high flood that [brings] infestation of insects.” A parallel can be made with population density. For settlements to arise there needs to be a decent number of people create a community, but today, Earth’s 7 billion human inhabitants worries many scientists. Have we reached our maximum sustainable population size? Temperance seems to be an archetype motif that should be kept in mind when studying anthropology. Even a small shift in the natural balance seems to perpetuate significant change.

    Another fascinating point you brought up was the “fact that the Egyptians were able to cope with the constantly changing cycles of the Nile and use it to their advantage.” This is so different that what society does today. If anything in nature is inconvenient to us, we try and modify, manipulate, or control it in whatever way we can. To elaborate, it did not take long from the time the Industrial Revolution reached Egypt till the Aswan High Dam was constructed for the Nile’s annual inundation to be governed by human will. And while I sympathize with how tied the river was (and is) with the country’s economy, it is one of the pivotal causes for Egypt’s uncontrollable population growth.

    The constant manipulation of Earth’s ecological system will be our demise. The more we upset the balance, the closer our civilization’s end becomes.

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