THE CIVILISATION OF ANCIENT EGYPT

Coming naked into the world, man had gradually provided himself with the essentials of civilisation except the means of writing. He had an assured food supply, language in which to sing the praises of the heroes of his race, and the promise of a stable society in which he could grow to the full height of his powers. It is easy to take all this for granted and to forget by what ages of striving and by what genius of invention these results had been attained. The man who discovered how to chip a flint to the shape he wanted used as much fundamental brain-work as the man who invented the steam-engine, and the bow and arrow was as revolutionary in its effects as gunpowder and the cannon ball. The peoples of Europe were still in a state of savagery when those of Egypt and Babylonia had long reached a high level of civilisation, and so we must now examine the contribution to human progress which came from these two lands. Egypt was from early times divided into two partsUpper Egypt, consisting of the river valley from the first cataract up to the Delta ; Lower Egypt, consisting of the lands watered by the Delta. Here all the conditions for a steady development occur together. The Nile floods the narrow alluvial plain every year and leaves a rich sediment, which fertilises abundant crops of wheat. On either side, about ten miles away, the desert protects the land from invasion. The climate is dry and healthy and permits an open-air life all the its predecessors among the thousands of labourers who toiled at the limestone blocks of the Pyramids.