Impact of Resources on the Movement of Products, Capital & People in Africa & the Middle East

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  • 0:01 Important Resources
  • 0:32 Water in the Middle…
  • 1:51 Wealth in the Middle…
  • 2:43 Oil in the Middle East…
  • 3:37 Changing Technologies
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The Middle East and Africa have some of the areas with the greatest population densities in the world, as well as some of the lowest. This lesson helps explain such patterns in the Middle East and Africa.

Important Resources

Natural resources are very important when determining where to settle. This is especially true of regions that have an abundance of natural resources in some areas, but a complete lack in others. Africa and the Middle East provide two great opportunities to see how people have decided to settle largely on the basis of natural resources. More interestingly, they also show us how settlement has changed as desired resources have changed, as well as how new technologies make increased settlement possible.

Water in the Middle East and Africa

For much of the Middle East and Africa, the most important natural resource is water. It sounds really basic, but in reality, it is absolutely essential, and we need only look at the places that humanity settled in order to see this. For starters, the first settlements in either place were areas that had access to water, but were high enough to avoid flooding, such as Catal Huyuk in Turkey or the Kush culture of Sudan. However, the wealth water provided was tempting, and soon, people were settling in much more flood-prone areas, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia. Such regions came with a real risk of flood, but the gamble was that in years when there was no catastrophe, settlements could grow and become rich.

In fact, these settlements grew so rich that access to water became a primary way to trade and build knowledge and wealth. Soon, Egypt and Mesopotamia became centers of both, leaving behind earlier societies that had no such access to water. The same thing happened with the Zimbabwe people in southern Africa and Ghana in Western Africa - the rivers there provided transportation for trade and wealth, in addition to more stable food stocks. In fact, it was only after humanity began to trade over the seas that areas such as Axum and Yemen were able to catch up.

Wealth in the Middle East and Africa

When Axum and Yemen did catch up, they caught up in a big way. Both were crucial markets for spices, and spices were often worth more than their weight in gold. As demand for gold rose, the empires of Africa and the Middle East set out to find it. Significant quantities were found in West Africa, but it presented a problem - how could it reach the rest of Africa without crossing either the Sahara or the jungles of the Congo? Transporting it was a problem, but humanity eventually found a solution with its settlements. By placing small outposts throughout the Sahara, close to permanent oases, or sources of water in the desert, the trade routes were allowed to link. These places never grew really massive, but became amazingly wealthy. In fact, you've heard of the most famous one - Timbuktu!

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