Egypt is basically a desert, part of the great Sahara Desert. However, near the Nile River, the land is very moist and fertile.
The Nile River basin was home to many different types of animals, as opposed to the Sahara, which few animals inhabited. Ancient Egyptians built most of their towns and villages near the Nile to be nearer to the precious water. The water from the Nile allowed the Egyptians to grow huge crops of barley, emmer wheat, beans, chickpeas, flax, and other types of vegetables. They were also able to raise different farm animals, like chickens and cattle. In addition, the Nile supplied the Ancient Egyptians with a year-round supply of fish to eat.
Egyptians did not use their crops of grains only for food. They also made different types of oil, which was used in the society as almost a form of money!
The civilization of Ancient Egypt flourished for more than 3,000 years. It survived years of wars and political struggle. Most of Ancient Egyptian history is organized according to the Kingdom, or Dynasty, that was in control of Ancient Egypt at the time. To see a table of the major Kingdoms and the important events in history, click here.
Education was very important to the Ancient Egyptians. By becoming educated, Egyptians could move up to a more respected position in the society. Getting a respected job, however, meant learning how to read and write. Egyptian writing is known as hieroglyphs, which is basically little pictures instead of the letters of our alphabet. Schoolchildren spent hours copying these hieroglyphs in order to get their education. Egyptian children also learned a lot about math in school. Math was an important part of Ancient Egyptian life because they couldn't have figured out how to build the pyramids without math! They had to know how to take very exact measurements of the stone blocks they cut from the eastern hills of Egypt.
The language spoken by Ancient Egyptians changed a bit over time. Basically, the Egyptian language came from the languages spoken to the east of Egypt, Semitic languages like Hebrew, and languages spoken to the south, Hamitic languages like Somali. The words in this language are mostly made up of consonant sounds, unlike the vowel sounds we use today in English.
Old Egyptian is the language that scientists believe was being spoken at the time when the pyramids were built. Middle Egyptian came a bit later and has been found on many recently discovered business and government documents. Coptic is the last known stage of the Ancient Egyptian language. It used a lot of the Greek alphabet, with only a few additional letters from the older Egyptian languages. Coptic was mainly used by the Egyptian Christians toward the end of the time of the Ancient Egyptians.