Using ArcGIS to Investigate the Connection between Bedrock Geology and the Development of Ancient Egyptian Civilization

Barbara and David Tewksbury
Hamilton College
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This page first made public: Jul 9, 2008


In this assignment, students use ArcGIS (DEMs plus georeferenced geologic maps) to analyze the influence of bedrock geology on the development and extent of Ancient Egypt.

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This exercise is part of an introductory geology course called Geology and Human Events in Africa and the Middle East. The course focuses on the underlying influence of geology and geologic processes on human events.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have basic ArcGIS skills and be able to work with DEMs in ArcMap, create and manipulate hillshades, manipulate layers in ArcGIS, and create map layouts.

How the activity is situated in the course

This exercise takes place about three weeks into the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will consolidate concepts related to rock type, rock resistance, faults, floodplain formation and evolution, and correlations between bedrock geology and topography.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will independently analyze how bedrock geology contributed to development and extent of Ancient Egypt. The aim is also to have students clearly distinguish between observations and interpretations/explanations.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students will practice GIS skills learned in previous assignments.

Description of the activity/assignment

In this exercise, students use DEMS of the Nile valley plus georeferenced geologic maps to make observations first about the changes in floodplain width from Khartoum northward to the Mediterranean and then about correlations between floodplain width and bedrock geology. They write an analysis paragraph offering an explanation for their observations about the correlations they observed and summarizing what they have concluded about the influence of bedrock geology on the development and location of Ancient Egypt. They each create an ArcMap to illustrate their observations and interpretations.

You can also download a GIS Primer (Acrobat (PDF) 1.2MB Mar30 10) that we have written, which is a simple GIS "how-to" manual for tasks including those used in this exercise.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students will be evaluated on the basis of the quality of their analyses of how bedrock geology contributed to development and extent of Ancient Egypt, on the quality of their exported ArcMaps, and on how well their ArcMaps illustrate the points made in their explanatory paragraphs.

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