Memphis: United Egypt's First Capital
The city of Memphis, located on the Nile near the modern city of Cairo, was founded around 3100 B.C. as the first capital of a recently united Egypt. The choice of Memphis by Egypt's first kings reflects the site's strategic importance. First, and most obvious, the apex of the Nile River delta was a politically opportune location for the state's administrative center, standing between the united lands of Upper and Lower Egypt and offering ready access to both parts of the country. The older predynastic (pre-3100 B.C.) centers of power, This and Hierakonpolis, were too remote from the vast expanse of the delta, which had been incorporated into the unified state. Only a city within easy reach of both the Nile valley to the south and the more spread out, difficult terrain to the north could provide the necessary political control that the rulers of early dynastic Egypt (roughly 3000-2600 B.C.) required.
The region of Memphis must have also served as an important node for transport and communications, even before the unification of Egypt. The region probably acted as a conduit for much, if not all, of the river-based trade between northern and southern Egypt. Moreover, commodities (such as wine, precious oils, and metals) imported from the Near East by the royal courts of predynastic Upper Egypt would have been channeled through the Memphis region on their way south. In short, therefore, the site of Memphis offered the rulers of the Early Dynastic Period an ideal location for controlling internal trade within their realm, an essential requirement for a state-directed economy that depended on the movement of goods.
Equally important for the national administration was the ability to control communications within Egypt. The Nile provided the easiest and quickest artery of communication and the national capital was, again, ideally located in this respect.Recent geological surveys of the Memphis region have revealed much about its topography in ancient times. It appears that the location of Memphis may have been even more advantageous for controlling trade, transport, and communications than was previously appreciated. Surveys and drill cores have shown that the level of the Nile floodplain has steadily risen over the last five millenniums. When the floodplain was much lower, as it would have been in predynastic and early dynastic times, the outwash fans (fan-shaped deposits of sediments) of various wadis (stream-beds or channels that carry water only during rainy periods) would have been much more prominent features on the east bank. The fan associated with the Wadi Hof extended a significant way into the Nile floodplain, forming a constriction in the vicinity of Memphis. The valley may have narrowed at this point to a mere three kilometers, making it the ideal place for controlling river traffic.
Furthermore, the Memphis region seems to have been favorably located for the control not only of river-based trade but also of desert trade routes. The two outwash fans in the area gave access to the extensive wadi systems of the eastern desert. In predynastic times, the Wadi Digla may have served as a trade route between the Memphis region and the Near East, to judge from the unusual concentration of foreign artifacts found in the predynastic settlement of Maadi. Access to, and control of, trade routes between Egypt and the Near East seems to have been a preoccupation of Egypt’s rulers during the period of state formation. The desire to monopolize foreign trade may have been one of the primary factors behind the political unification of Egypt. The foundation of the national capital at the junction of an important trade route with the Nile valley is not likely to have been accidental. Moreover, the Wadis Hof and Digla provided the Memphis region with accessible desert pasturage. As was the case with the cities of Hierakonpolis and Elkab, the combination within the same area of both desert pasturage and alluvial arable land (land suitable for growing crops) was a particularly attractive one for early settlement; this combination no doubt contributed to the prosperity of the Memphis region from early predynastic times.
Surface Fluids On Venus And Earth
A fluid is a substance, such as a liquid or gas, in which the component particles (usually molecules) can move past one another. Fluids flow easily and conform to the shape of their containers. The geologic processes related to the movement of fluids on a planet's surface can completely resurface a planet many times. These processes derive their energy from the Sun and the gravitational forces of the planet itself. As these fluids interact with surface materials, they move particles about or react chemically with them to modify or produce materials. On a solid planet with a hydrosphere and an atmosphere, only a tiny fraction of the planetary mass flows as surface fluids. Yet the movements of these fluids can drastically alter a planet. Consider Venus and Earth, both terrestrial planets with atmospheres.
Venus and Earth are commonly regarded as twin planets but not identical twins.They are about the same size, are composed of roughly the same mix of materials, and may have been comparably endowed at their beginning with carbon dioxide and water. However, the twins evolved differently largely because of differences in their distance from the Sun. With a significant amount of internal heat, Venus may continue to be geologically active with volcanoes, rifting, and folding. However, it lacks any sign of a hydrologic system (water circulation and distribution): there are no streams, lakes oceans or glaciers. Space probes suggest that Venus may have started with as much water as Earth, but it was unable to keep its water in liquid form. Because Venus receives more heat from the Sun, water released from the interior evaporated and rose to the upper atmosphere where the Sun's ultraviolet rays broke the molecules apart. Much of the freed hydrogen escaped into space, and Venus lost its water. Without water, Venus became less and less like Earth and kept an atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide acts as a blanket, creating an intense greenhouse effect and driving surface temperatures high enough to melt lead and to prohibit the formation of carbonate minerals. Volcanoes continually vented more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On Earth, liquid water removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and combines it with calcium, from rock weathering, to form carbonate sedimentary rocks. Without liquid water to remove carbon from the atmosphere, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus remains high.
Like Venus, Earth is large enough to be geologically active and for its gravitational field to hold an atmosphere. Unlike Venus, it is just the right distance from the Sun so that temperature ranges allow water to exist as a liquid, a solid, and a gas. Water is thus extremely mobile and moves rapidly over the planet in a continuous hydrologic cycle. Heated by the Sun, the water moves in great cycles from the oceans to the atmosphere, over the landscape in river systems, and ultimately back to the oceans. As a result, Earth's surface has been continually changed and eroded into delicate systems of river valleys - a remarkable contrast to the surfaces of other planetary bodies where impact craters dominate. Few areas on Earth have been untouched by flowing water. As a result, river valleys are the dominant feature of its landscape. Similarly, wind action has scoured fine particles away from large areas, depositing them elsewhere as vast sand seas dominated by dunes or in sheets of loess (fine-grained soil deposits). These fluid movements are caused by gravity flow systems energized by heat from the Sun. Other geologic changes occur when the gases in the atmosphere or water react with rocks at the surface to form new chemical compounds with different properties. An important example of this process was the removal of most of Earths carbon dioxide from its atmosphere to form carbonate rocks. However, if Earth were a little closer to the Sun, its oceans would evaporate; if it were farther from the Sun, the oceans would freeze solid.Because liquid water was present, self-replicating molecules of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen developed life early in Earth's history and have radically modified its surface, blanketing huge parts of the continents with greenery. Life thrives on this planet, and it helped create the planet's oxygen- and nitrogen-rich atmosphere and moderate temperatures.
Population Growth In Nineteenth-Century Europe
Because of industrialization, but also because of a vast increase in agricultural output without which industrialization would have been impossible, Western Europeans by the latter half of the nineteenth century enjoyed higher standards of living and longer, healthier lives than most of the world’s peoples. In Europe as a whole, the population rose from 188 million in 1800 to 400 million in 1900. By 1900, virtually every area of Europe had contributed to the tremendous surge of population, but each major region was at a different stage of demographic change.
Improvements in the food supply continued trends that had started in the late seventeenth century. New lands were put under cultivation, while the use of crops of American origin, particularly the potato, continued to expand. Setbacks did occur. Regional agricultural failures were the most common cause of economic recessions until 1850, and they could lead to localized famine as well. A major potato blight (disease) in 1846-1847 led to the deaths of at least one million persons in Ireland and the emigration of another million, and Ireland never recovered the population levels the potato had sustained to that point. Bad grain harvests at the same time led to increased hardship throughout much of Europe.
After 1850, however, the expansion of foods more regularly kept pace with population growth, though the poorer classes remained malnourished. Two developments were crucial. First, the application of science and new technology to agriculture increased. Led by German universities, increasing research was devoted to improving seeds, developing chemical fertilizers, and advancing livestock. After 1861, with the development of land-grant universities in the United States that had huge agricultural programs, American crop-production research added to this mix. Mechanization included the use of horse-drawn harvesters and seed drills, many developed initially in the United States. It also included mechanical cream separators and other food-processing devices that improved supply.
The second development involved industrially based transportation. With trains and steam shipping, it became possible to move foods to needy regions within Western Europe quickly. Famine (as opposed to malnutrition) became a thing of the past. Many Western European countries, headed by Britain, began also to import increasing amounts of food, not only from Eastern Europe, a traditional source, but also from the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Steam shipping, which improved speed and capacity, as well as new procedures for canning and refrigerating foods (particularly after 1870), was fundamental to these developments.
Europe's population growth included one additional innovation by the nineteenth century: it combined with rapid urbanization. More and more Western Europeans moved from countryside to city, and big cities grew most rapidly of all. By 1850, over half of all the people in England lived in cities, a first in human history. In one sense, this pattern seems inevitable growing numbers of people pressed available resources on the land, even when farmwork was combined with a bit of manufacturing, so people crowded into cities seeking work or other resources. Traditionally, however, death rates in cities surpassed those in the countryside by a large margin; cities had maintained population only through steady in-migration.Thus rapid urbanization should have reduced overall population growth, but by the middle of the nineteenth century this was no longer the case. Urban death rates remained high, particularly in the lower-class slums, but they began to decline rapidly.
The greater reliability of food supplies was a factor in the decline of urban death rates. Even more important were the gains in urban sanitation, as well as measures such as inspection of housing. Reformers, including enlightened doctors, began to study the causes of high death rates and to urge remediation. Even before the discovery of germs, beliefs that disease spread by "miasmas" (noxious forms of bad air) prompted attention to sewers and open garbage; Edwin Chadwick led an exemplary urban crusade for underground sewers in England in the 1830s.Gradually, public health provisions began to cut into customary urban mortality rates. By 1900, in some parts of Western Europe life expectancy in the cities began to surpass that of the rural areas. Industrial societies had figured out ways to combine large and growing cities with population growth, a development that would soon spread to other parts of the world.