Ancient Egypt The earliest civilization in Africa developed in the Nile Valley of Egypt about 7,000 years ago. People settled here because the Nile provided fertile soil for farming. Farmers in Egypt grew wheat, barley, onions, beans, carrots, radishes, turnips, cucumbers, melons, and gourds. As the people perfected their farming skills they produced more food, allowing the population to grow. The growing population created a need for more government. Powerful leaders called pharaohs emerged and united the villages along the Nile under one empire. The pharaohs were believed to be gods and were worshipped by the Egyptians. Pharaohs ruled over a diverse population that included priests, government officials, tax collectors, merchants, farmers, and slaves. The Egyptians were polytheistic, or believed in many gods. They believed these gods controlled the forces of nature. They also believed in an afterlife. This is why they built huge pyramids or tombs for deceased pharaohs. Slave labor was used to create the massive tombs. The Egyptians were a very advanced society. They created a writing system based on pictures and symbols called hieroglyphics. They used hieroglyphics to produce a calendar and study medicine. The Empire of Ghana Ghana was the first powerful kingdom in West Africa. The emperor was the head ruler who appointed princes and officials to rule under him. The emperor became wealthy because of the gold trade in western Africa. Under the emperor and princes were city mayors. Below the mayors were the laborers. These included farmers, gold miners, artists, and craftsmen. You were born into a social class and there was very little social promotion. Ancient Ghanaian religion was a mixture of supernatural and spiritual powers. They believed plants and animals had spirits as well as humans and that these spirits co-existed together. They believed that if they neglected their ancestors that it would bring them bad luck. Anytime something bad happened they offered sacrifices to their ancestors with the help of spiritual leaders. They used a form of writing called Cuneiform. Cuneiform formed from the ancient writing called pictographs. Pictographs used pictures to describe words, cuneiform used shapes, such as blocks, as letters.