||Life in Ancient Egypt
Because of its location
at the crossroads of the African and Asian
continents, Egypt has been an important geographical and political power
since the earliest times. In ancient times, the boundaries of Egypt were
the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Elephantine (modern Aswan) to the
south. Its eastern and western boundaries were in the high desert on either
side of the narrow strip of Nile valley and low desert. The Nile River,
the most important geographic feature in the area, runs the length of
the country, flowing from south to north.
Egypt was divided into two regions: Upper and Lower Egypt. Lower (northern)
Egypt consisted of the Nile River's delta made by the river as it empties
into the Mediterranean. Today the Delta is fifteen thousand square miles
of alluvium (silt), which has been deposited over the centuries by the
annual flooding of the Nile. For much of Egypt's history, this area was
only thinly settled, although it was used as a grazing area for cattle.
Upper Egypt was the
long, narrow strip of ancient Egypt located south of the Delta. This area
is composed of four topographic zones: the Nile River, the floodplain,
the low desert, and the high desert. Each of these zones was exploited
differently by the ancient Egyptians.
Throughout their history,
Egyptians shared a common language, world view, and institutional structure,
as well as a common territory. Ancient Egyptians had a keen sense of the
distinctiveness and superiority of their culture, and they struggled to
maintain it. Many of the rituals they performed encouraged continuity
with earlier periods of their history that they visualized as ideal.