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Although the discovery of early agriculture and domestication enabled more permanent settlements during the Neolithic age, they were not entirely sustainable. Humans still had to search for resources nomadically, until the ancient river valley civilizations built the earliest versions of what eventually made societies possible.
See the fact file below for more information on the ancient river civilizations or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Ancient River Civilizations worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
GEOGRAPHY AND CIVILIZATION
- In Mesopotamia, civilizations formed around the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys, in China, the Yellow River valleys, in India, the Indus River valley, and in Egypt, the Nile River valley. Although these civilizations’ development cannot be attributed to geography alone, it is exceptionally significant for three primary reasons: food, transportation or navigation, and defense.
- FOOD. Agriculture and domestication preceded any of the river valley civilizations, but settling around rivers improved it significantly.
- Rivers were steady sources of fresh and running water, leaving behind silt, sand, and clay that were rich in nutrients and much more agriculturally efficient.
- Water as a basic need for all living things attracted wild animals. The people no longer had to hunt for meat; it was already always near them.
- Similarly, running water enabled irrigation, making farming and domestication much easier. Having a source of water stretch to more lands also encouraged population growth, and more human resources meant faster development.
- When there were more resources than the population could consume, they were stored as surplus, so that they were ready for times of the year when food grew much slower, or when animals were in hibernation such as winter.
- Division of labor, other than being a means to strengthen production (and surplus, for that matter), also gave people more time to do other things than survive. This advantage paved the way for the speedy development of governments, religions, cultures, science, specialization, and many other things.
- TRANSPORTATION. The running river water made for a great waterway, efficiently transporting both goods and people, helping them explore and hunt further if they needed more resources. Rafts, canoes, and other small kinds of boats worked well with the rivers.
- DEFENSE. The utilization of the rivers came with the construction of walls, habitations, and other structures, which, in turn, became useful as defensive tools as well, in the case of invasions.
- Mesos in Greek stands for “middle” and potamos for “river”, making Mesopotamia the “[land] between two rivers”. The Tigris and Euphrates River valleys where the Mesopotamian Civilization flourished lie in parts of present-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Turkey, and Syria.
- The Mesopotamian civilization is called the “Cradle of Civilization” as they began the concept of cities.
- Religion. Mesopotamians had more than a thousand deities, and their documented lore surrounding their gods is believed to be the bases of multiple Biblical stories such as Noah’s Ark.
- Education. It was in these institutions where the people learned to read and write and explore other disciplines such as law and medicine.
- Women generally had almost the same rights as men, and there were no religious or cultural beliefs of their subservience. All Mesopotamians treated their jobs as their ways of keeping the world peaceful, and a means to contribute to society.
- Significant contributions. Systematized the first cities; crafted one of the earliest writing systems, cuneiform; trade networks were broad because of many city-states; made substantial contributions to engineering and architecture; invented mathematical methods of trade.
- Being one of the most successful civilizations of its time, Ancient Egypt continues to amaze archaeologists and historians, even having its sub-branch of study, Egyptology. It encompasses what is now Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, and Sudan.
- Agriculture as the primary driving force of the four ancient river valley civilizations was best highlighted in Egypt, as the papyrus plant that grew abundantly resulted in various innovations, such as sandals and ropes, but most importantly, the very surface on which they first wrote. Their writing system was called hieroglyphics.
- Architecture. The Mesopotamians constructed the Ziggurats for worship, and the same could be said of Egypt’s pyramids, but these were also built to showcase a Pharaoh’s power.
- Governance. Egyptian dynasties were comprised of the rich ruling as a monarch. Like Mesopotamia’s kings, Egyptians viewed their pharaohs as “god-kings”.
- Significant contributions. Their construction techniques alongside land surveying and mining remained prominent and were used by succeeding civilizations; mathematical developments in algebra, geometry, and in the number system itself were more advanced; built the first planked boats.
INDUS RIVER VALLEY
- Architecture. Harappan architecture proved to be highly advanced, even more than that in present-day India and Pakistan. This advanced urban planning, but separated them from the Egyptians and Mesopotamians who had large structures across their territories.
- Their cities (called citadels) were well-protected, having various military establishments surrounding them. Generally, their civilization was protected by massive walls.
- Governance. Systems of governance is one of the blurry areas of Harappan history due to their undeciphered scripts. However, the overall structures found in their cities were said to suggest that implementations were not made by one leader alone.
- Economy. Harappan trade was enabled primarily by transportation, which was also advanced. Various evidence of trade as far as Central Asia and the Middle East was found, as well as discoveries of canals, boats, and other vessels for maritime travel.
- Significant contributions. Made some of the greatest innovations in metallurgy, successfully working with tin, bronze, copper, lead, and other materials; had the first-known ports and plowed fields.
- The Yellow River valley civilization, also called Huang He, was inspired by the river’s yellowish color due to its silt. Being called China’s Sorrow, its floods were stronger than those of the other civilizations’ rivers.
- Governance. Ancient China has been dynastic, and despite the existence of earlier cultures in the Yellow River, the Shang Dynasty is considered the first-known dynasty.
- Religion. Their faith was polytheistic, having Shang-ti, the founder of the Shang Dynasty, as the most prominent god. When their leaders died, the people filled their tombs with various items to aid them in their afterlife journey.
- Economy. Ancient Chinese economy was based on a barter system. Beyond the already isolated geography of the Yellow River, trade with other civilizations was discouraged.
- Significant contributions. The Peking (prehistoric) Man was said to have occupied the Yellow River basin; the later dynasties crafted the first gunpowder and built upon existing knowledge on metallurgy; introduced paper that they perfected later on, as well as printing; improved maritime travel through the creation of the boat rudders, in turn enabling the existence of larger ships.
Ancient River Civilizations Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the ancient river civilizations across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Ancient River Civilizations worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Ancient River Civilizations. Although the discovery of early agriculture and domestication enabled more permanent settlements during the Neolithic age, they were not entirely sustainable. Humans still had to search for resources nomadically, until the ancient river valley civilizations built the earliest versions of what eventually made societies possible.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Ancient River Civilizations Facts
- Mapping the Ancient World
- Fertile Crescent
- Fascinating Facts
- Marvelous Egypt
- China’s Sorrow
- Comparison of Four
- It’s Me!
- In Depth!
- Other Civilizations
- Artifacts Today
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.