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Mesopotamia: The Rise of River Valley Civilizations
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

For early humans, fresh water could be hard to find. Because water was scarce, rivers became very important. For thousands of years, hunter-gatherers around the world stayed close to rivers. They followed them as their tribes moved from place to place. Along the banks of a river, they could find plants and animals to eat. Over time, humans began to grow their own food and domesticate animals. They did this along the banks of rivers. As their small tribes grew, they formed the first civilizations.

About 5,500 years ago, the first civilization appeared. It appeared between two rivers in western Asia. These two rivers were the Tigris and the Euphrates. The rivers surrounded a land called Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia means “land between rivers.” The first civilization that appeared in Mesopotamia is called Sumer. The Sumerians tamed the Tigris and Euphrates. They directed its waters toward their crops. They built amazing buildings and worshipped many gods. In Sumer, the first laws were made. The first written language was set down on clay tablets.

Around the same time, hunter-gatherers almost a thousand miles away were settling by the Nile River. By 3000 BC, these little villages had grown into the first Egyptian kingdom. The ancient Egyptians would create their own system of writing. Like the Mesopotamians, they would also learn to control the river. They used it to water their crops. Both societies began to trade with each other.

The people of ancient India also depended on rivers for survival. They settled in a region called the Indus river valley. There they formed a great civilization. It is known for its huge cities of 100,000 people. Their civilization is known as the Indus Valley Civilization, or Harappa.

Further east, the people of the Huang He River in China formed a civilization too. It was called the Shang Dynasty. The Shang had a strong military. The had large cities and beautiful metal artwork. They were isolated from the rest of the world by huge mountains. However, they still were able to trade with Mesopotamia.

The civilizations of Mesopotamia, the Nile river valley, the Indus river valley, and the Huang He River all formed on their own. They formed far away from each other. They grew into very different societies. Each had their own language, customs, and religion. But each of these civilizations had one important thing in common. Each civilization depended on the river for survival.


River Valley: a lowland with a river running through it
Scarce: found in small numbers; rare
Civilization: an advanced form of human society
Mesopotamia: a land that lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in western Asia
Isolated: cut off from others; alone

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