Egypt, in North Africa, and Mesopotamia, in Southwest Asia, were the earliest
known human civilizations. Mesopotamia arose in the fertile crescent of land
between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Sumerians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians
were peoples who lived in and around Mesopotamia.
Like Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt grew out of a river valley—the Nile. The two
kingdoms of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt were united in 3100 B.C. under a great
ruler called a pharaoh. The Egyptian religion was polytheistic—meaning that
they believed in many gods. They also believed in a form of life after death.
The pharaohs were buried in elaborate tombs called pyramids. The ancient Egyptian
system of writing is called hieroglyphics. With the discovery of the Rosetta
Stone in 1820, experts were finally able to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Egypt conquered many lands during its long history, and its trade routes stretched
far and wide. Eventually, however, the Egyptian empire grew weak and was conquered
by even greater empires—the Greeks and Romans.