In addition to the influence of rivers on conceptions of the journey to the afterlife, the solar cycle seems to have played a significant role in situating the destination of the deceased. The Sun is a luminous and blinding object to behold; as it crosses the sky it affords sight, warmth and energy. The daily birth and death of the Sun and its journey across rivers might have been among humankind’s first perceptions of a cycle. It is easy to imagine pre-historic people correlating the diurnal birth and death of the Sun with our own seemingly miraculous awakening during birth and the sudden and irreversible inevitability of our passage into death. As the Sun travelled above the rivers of the near east and reached its zenith, perhaps it would even have appeared to burn both in the sky and within the river. Along with the distance to the Sun, the rivers of the ancient near east must have seemed impenetrable barriers. As recounted in the Egyptian Song of the Harper (1), the afterlife is a mysterious place from which none return:
A king of some sort ultimately ruled both Egypt and Mesopotamia. While Mesopotamian kings did claim to be direct messengers of the gods, Egypt's pharaohs claimed extra power and authority as actual embodiments of the gods mesopotamian civilization was extremely decentralized. It basically consisted of largely independent city-states in which one city state would temporarily gain military dominance over others and exploit their resources and manpower to conquer additional city-states. Each Mesopotamian "empire" (whether Babylonian, Sumerian, or Assyrian) was basically a federation of city states. In contrast, ancient Egypt was, a unified stated with a centralized administration beneath the Pharaoh.
In addition, these civilizations both created sophisticated writing system to differentiate their culture from others, such as Egyptians developing hieroglyphics written on papyrus while the Mesopotamians lived by the cuneiform writing system. These first civilizations developed high levels of political centralization, urbanization, and technology due to their situations in river valleys, and their need to support agriculture through rainfall forced these communities to work as one ton construct and maintain canals, dams, weirs, and dikes.