Most of the earliest civilizations flourished due to agricultural activities in River valleys. Archaeologist have uncovered civilizations at the river valleys of; Nile,Tigris and Euphrates, Indus river and Huang He.
Here is a little bit of discussion on the river valleys civilizations.
The Nile Valley.
Of the four river-valley civilizations, the Nile civilization is the most famous. The Nile valley’s first inhabitants called their land kemet meaning ‘ black land ‘, after the soil. Later on, the ancient Greeks renamed the area Egypt. The early inhabitants of Egypt relied on the annual flooding of the Nile for water and grew cereal crops such as wheat and barley. The Nile also provided ducks and geese in it’s marshlands and fish in the water. Papyrus growing wild along the banks of the Nile was harvested and used to make ropes, baskets and writing materials. Around 3000 B.C., Egypt was united by King Menes who ruled both lower and upper Egypt from his capital at Memphis. Menes marked the beginning of the first Egyptian dynasty ( from 3000 B.C. until 332 B.C. , a series of 30 dynasties ruled Egypt ). The Egyptians built lasting monuments to honour their god-kings such as the pyramids and the Sphinx. Religion guided every aspect of the Egyptian life and many deities were worshipped; deities were often represented as half human and half animal. The Egyptians carved picture symbols onto pieces of slate known as hieroglyphics, which was their earliest form of writing. They made several achievements such as advances in mathematics and architecture ( the pyramids and temples are proof of this ), worked out an accurate 365 days calendar and Egyptian doctors wrote directions on papyrus on how to treat wounds and diseases.
Tigris and Euphrates.
The name Mesopotamia means ‘ land between the rivers ‘ in Greek. Around 3500 B.C. , the Sumerians arrived at Mesopotamia and settled. They formed 12 city states which governed themselves independently. The city states each worshipped their own deity and had common features such as the Ziggurat . Archaeologist believe that the writing system the Sumerians invented, the cuneiform, dated to about 3100 B.C. Sumerians wishing to learn cuneiform studied at special schools called eddubas. The professionals later on produced literal works such as the epic poem Gilgamesh, that was written down about 1850 B.C. The Sumerians invented the wagon wheel, the potter’s wheel, the sundial, a 12 month calendar, a metal plow and many more inventions which have prompted one scholar to observe that ‘ History begins at Sumer! ‘.
Archaeologist dated the Indus river valley civilization to about 2500 B.C. , they named it The Harappan civilization, after one of it’s major cities Harappa. Another important Harappan civilization city was Mohenjo-Daro. From their ruins, a fortress built on a brick platform overlooked each city ( probably serving as a government or religious center ). Below the fortress, each city was laid out in a grid pattern.
Most Harappan people worked the land and grew wheat, barley, rice and cotton. They also worked bronze and copper into tools, mass produced clay pots, wove cotton cloths and traded with other people including Mesopotamians. The lack of written records has made it difficult to learn as much about the Harappan civilization. By 1500 B.C. the civilization disappeared and historians have many speculations on what could have caused it; probably flooding or Invaders.
The Huang He civilization began around 4000 B.C. and had continued to the present day. The Shang dynasty controlled the river valley from about 1700 B.C. to 1000 B.C. The people developed myths to explain their past. The Shang Kings communicated with the deities and had special powers to call on ancestors by the use of Oracle bones ( They had a priest scratch a question on an animal bone or tortoise shell, the bone would be exposed to intense heat and the cracks on the bone would be interpreted as answers ). They invented writing from the use of Oracle bones, perfected their metal casting skills, carved ivory and Jade statues, wove silk and made fine pottery from kaolin.