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Starting around 8000 B.C.E., the most extensive exploitation of agriculture occurred in river valleys, where there were both good soil and a dependable water supply regardless of the amount of rainfall. In the Near East, this happened in the Fertile Crescent, the region extending up the Nile Valley in Egypt, north through the Levant (Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria), and southeast into the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys of Mesopotamia. The richest soil was located in the deltas at the mouths of the rivers, but the deltas were swampy and subject to flooding. Before they could be farmed, they needed to be drained and irrigated, and flood-control systems had to be constructed. These activities required administrative organization and the ability to mobilize large pools of labor. In Mesopotamia, perhaps as a consequence of a period of drought, massive land-use projects were undertaken after 4000 B.C.E. to cultivate the rich delta soils of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The land was so productive that many more people could be fed, and a great population explosion resulted. Villages grew into cities of tens of thousands of persons. These large cities needed some form of centralized administration. Archaeological evidence indicates that the organization initially was provided by religion, for the largest building in each city was a massive temple honoring one of the Mesopotamian gods. In Uruk, for example, a 60-foot-long temple known as the White House was built before 3000 B.C.E. There were no other large public buildings, suggesting that the priests who were in charge of the temples also were responsible for governing the city and organizing people to work in the fields and on irrigation projects building and maintaining systems of ditches and dams. The great concentration of wealth and resources in the river valleys brought with it further technological advances, such as wheeled vehicles, multicolored pottery and the pottery wheel, and the weaving of wool garments. Advances in metal technology just before 2000 B.C.E. resulted in the creation of bronze, a durable alloy (or mixture) of about 90 percent copper and 10 percent tin that provided a sharp cutting edge for weapons. By 3000 B.C.E., the economies and administrations of Mesopotamia and Egypt had become so complex that some form of record keeping was needed. As a result, writing was invented. Once a society became literate, it passed from the period known as prehistory into the historic period. In fact, the word "history" comes from a Greek word meaning "narrative" – people could not provide a detailed permanent account of their past until they were able to write. The totality of these developments resulted in the appearance, around 3000 B.C.E., of a new form of culture called civilization. The first civilizations had several defining characteristics. They had economies based on agriculture. They had cities that functioned as administrative centers and usually had large populations. They had different social classes, such as free persons and slaves. They had specialization of labor, that is, different people serving, for example, as rulers, priests, craft workers, merchants, soldiers, and farmers. And they had metal technology and a system of writing. As of 3000 B.C.E., civilization in these terms existed in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China. This first phase of civilization is called the Bronze Age because of the importance of metal technology. The most characteristic Near Eastern Bronze Age civilizations, those of Mesopotamia and Egypt, were located in river valleys, were based on the extensive exploitation of agriculture, and supported large populations. Bronze was a valuable commodity in these civilizations, the copper and tin needed for its manufacture did not exist in river valleys and had to be imported. Bronze was therefore used mainly for luxury items, such as jewelry or weapons, not for everyday domestic items, which were made from pottery, animal products, wood, and stone. In particular, bronze was not used for farming tools. Thus, early civilizations based on large-scale agriculture, such as those of Mesopotamia and Egypt, were feasible only in soils that could be worked by wooden plows pulled by people or draft animals such as oxen. Other Bronze Age civilizations, however, such as those that arose in the Levant and eastern Mediterranean took advantage of their location on communication routes to pursue economies based on trade.