The Neolithic Revolution led to the rise of civilization. A civilization is an advanced stage of human society marked by a well-organized government and high levels of culture, science, and industry. At different times in different parts of the world, food surpluses allowed some Neolithic villages to grow into cities, the central feature of civilization.
Why was farming so crucial to the development of river valley civilizations, including those that flourished in Egypt?
The world's earliest civilizations developed independently in four river valleys. The civilization of Sumer rose along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. A second river valley civilization developed along the Nile River in Egypt. The Indus River in present-day Pakistan was home to the Indus Valley civilization. A fourth river valley civilization, the Shang, emerged along the Huang, or Yellow River in China.
These four river valleys offered benefits to Neolithic farmers. The soil was fertile, and the rivers provided a regular water supply as well as a means of transportation.
The animals that gathered to drink at the rivers offered a source of food. These favorable conditions helped farmers produce the food surpluses needed to support the growing populations in cities.
Other conditions in the river valleys affected farming. Floodwaters from the rivers spread silt—fine sand, soil, or other material—across the valleys. The silt renewed the soil in the river valleys, keeping it fertile. Flooding posed problems, however, to early farmers, just as it does today.
Floodwaters could destroy crops and even whole villages. People had to learn to control floodwaters and redraw boundaries washed away by the water. They also needed to take water from the rivers to irrigate crops.