The basic element in thelengthy history ofEgyptian civilization isgeography. The Nile River risesfrom the lakes of centralAfrica as the White Nileand from the mountainsof Ethiopia as the BlueNile. The White andBlue Nile meet atKhartoum and flowtogether northward tothe Nile delta, where the4000 mile course of thisriver spills into theMediterranean Sea(see map).
Rainfall Less thantwo inches ofrain per yearfalls in the deltaand rain isrelativelyunknown in otherparts of Egypt.Most of the landis uninhabitable.Thesegeographicalfactors havedetermined thecharacter of theEgyptiancivilization.The Soil And AgriculturePeople could farm only along the banks of the Nile, where arid sand meets the fertile soil. Ofcourse, each summer the Nile swells as the rains pour down and the snow melts on the mountains.The river overflows its banks and floods the land with fresh water and deposits a thick layerof rich alluvial soil. The land would then yield two harvests before winter. This yearlyflood determined more than just the agricultural needs of early Egypt. It also determined thelifecycle of society and helped to create the world view of ancient Egyptian civilization.
The basic source of Egyptian history is a list of rulers compiled in c.280 B.C. byManetho for the Macedonians who ruled Egypt. Manetho divided Egyptiankings into thirty dynasties (a 31st was added later) in the following manner. NAME DYNASTY YEARS Archaic Period 1-2 3100-2700 B.C. Old Kingdom 3-6 2700-2200 B.C. Intermediate Period 7-10 2200-2050 B.C. Middle Kingdom 11-12 2050-1800 B.C. Intermediate Period 13-17 1800-1570 B.C. New Kingdom 18-20 1570-1085 B.C. Post-Empire 21-31 1085-332 B.C. Early Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, one in Upper Egypt (Nile Valley), and one in Lower Egypt (Nile delta). Remember, the Nile flows from south to north.
Social ConditionsThe Lifestyle, Beliefs & Practices
The Pharaoh: “Owner” of all EgyptBy the time of the Old Kingdom, the land had been consolidated under the central power of a king, who was also the "owner" of all Egypt.Considered to be divine, he stood above the priests and was the only individual who had direct contact with the gods.The economy was a royal monopoly and so there was no word in Egyptian for "trader."Under the king was a carefully graded hierarchy of officials, ranging from the governors of provinces down through local mayors and tax collectors.The entire system was supported by the work of slaves, peasants and artisans.
In the Old Kingdom, royal power was absolute. The pharaoh (the term originally meant "great house" or "palace"), governed his kingdom through his family and appointed officials. The lives of the peasants and artisans was carefully regulated: their movement was limited and they were taxed heavily. Luxury accompanied the pharaoh in life and in death and he was raised to an exalted level by his people. The Egyptians worked for the pharaoh and obeyed him because he was a living god on whom the entire fabric of social life depended. No codes of law were needed since the pharaoh was the direct source of all law.In such a world, government was merely one aspect of religion and religion dominated Egyptian life.The gods of Egypt came in many forms: animals, humans and natural forces.Over time, Re, the sun god, came to assume a dominant place in Egyptian religion.
ReligionReligion was integral to Egyptian life. Religiousbeliefs formed the basis of Egyptian art, medicine,astronomy, literature and government. The greatpyramids were burial tombs for the pharaohs who wererevered as gods on earth. Magical utterances pervadedmedical practices since disease was attributed tothe gods. Astronomy evolved to determine the correct timeto perform religious rites and sacrifices. The earliestexamples of literature dealt almost entirely with religiousthemes. The pharaoh was a sacrosanct monarch whoserved as the intermediary between the gods andman. Justice too, was conceived in religious terms,something bestowed upon man by the creator-god. Finally,the Egyptians developed an ethical code which they believedthe gods had approved.
From its earliest beginnings, Egyptianreligious cults included animals. Itis no accident that sheep, bulls,gazelles and cats have been foundcarefully buried and preserved intheir own graves. As time passed, thefigures of Egyptian gods became human(anthropomorphism) although they oftenretained the animals head or body.
The Priests: “Sons of ‘Re’” The priests, an important body within the ruling caste, were a social force working to modify the kings supremacy. Yielding to the demands of the priests of Re, a sun god, kings began to call themselves "sons of Re," adding his name as a suffix to their own. Re was also worshipped in temples that were sometimes larger than the pyramids of later kings.
Death & The Life AfterThe Egyptians had a very clear idea of the afterlife. They took great care to bury their dead according to convention and supplied the grave with things that the departed would need for a pleasant life after death.The pharaoh and some nobles had their bodies preserved in a process of mummification. Their tombs were decorated with paintings, food was provided at burialincluded full sized sailing vessels for the voyage to heaven and Some tombs even and after. beyond.At first, only pharaohs were thought to achieve eternal life, however, nobles were eventually included, and finally all Egyptians could hope for immortality.
The Script: HieroglyphicsThe Egyptians also developed a system of writing. Egyptian writing beganas pictographic and was later combined with sound signs to produce a difficult and complicated script that the Greeks called hieroglyphics ("sacred carvings").
The Rosetta Stone In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt as part of his Grand Empire. His Commission discovered a basalt fragment on the west bank of the Nile at Rachid. The fragment is now known by its English name, the Rosetta Stone.The Rosetta Stone contains three inscriptions. The uppermost is written in hieroglyphics; the second in what is now called demotic, the common script of ancient Egypt; and the third in Greek. The Rosetta Stone is now on display at the British Museum in London.
The Old Kingdom reached its The Great Pyramids at Gizahighest stage ofdevelopment in the Fourth Dynasty. The most tangible symbols of this period of greatness are the three enormous pyramids built as the tombs of kings at Giza between2600 and 2500.Each of the three pyramids had a complete monumental complex of mortuarytemples, Mastabas tombs, smaller subsidiary pyramids, in which members of the royal familyand officials were buried. The whole complex was connected, by a causeway, to three valley temples and thesphinx. These in turn were linked, by a cannel, to the Nile.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest and largest of the three pyramids The entrance of the Pyramid The Grand Gallery of the Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Sphinx, a large human-headed lion that was carved from a mound of natural rock. It is located in Giza where it guards the front of Khafras pyramid.This is part of the beard of the Great Sphinx.The beard was added during the NewKingdom, hundreds of years after the GreatSphinx was first carved.
Construction material & techniques used Materials The Great Pyramid consists of Casing stones an estimated 2.3 million At completion, the Great Pyramid was surfaced by white limestone blocks with most "casing stones" – slant-faced, but flat-topped, blocks of believed to have been highly polished white limestone. These were carefully cut to transported from nearby what is approximately a face slope with a seked of 5½ palms quarries. The Tura limestone to give the required dimensions. used for the casing was quarried across the river. The largest granite stones in the pyramid, found in the "Kings" chamber, weigh 25 to 80 tonnes and were transported from Aswan, more than 500 miles away.
Pyramids at Giza: Top View The largest, Khufu (called Cheops by the Greeks), was originally 481 feet high and 756 feet long on each side. Khufu was made up of 2.3 million stone blocks averaging 2.5 tons each. This pyramid took 100,000 men and twenty years to build. The pyramids are remarkable not only for their technical engineering expertise, but also for what they tell us about royal power at the time. They are evidence that Egyptian kings had enormous wealth as well as the power to concentrate so much energy on a personal project.
Temple of Horus at Edfu The Temples inscribed building texts "provide details [both] of its construction, and also preserve information about the mythical interpretation of this and all other temples as the Island of Creation." Architectural description Construction material Sandstone Height 36 meters Width 79 meters Length 36 metersThe Temple of Edfu is an ancient Egyptian temple located on the west bank ofthe Nile in the city of Edfu. It is the second largest temple in Egyptafter Karnak and one of the best preserved. The temple, dedicated to the falcon godHorus, was built in the Ptolemaic period between 237 and 57 BCE.
Reliefs on the walls of the Temple of Edfu Courtyard columns of Edfu temple
Inside the sanctuary at the centre of the temple
The Temple of KarnakThe temple of Karnak was known asIpet-isut (Most select of places) bythe ancient Egyptians. It is acity of temples built over 2000years and dedicated to theTheben triad of Amun, Mut andKhonsu. It covers about 200 acres1.5km by 0.8km. The area of thesacred enclosure of Amon alone is 61acres.The Hypostyle hall at 54,000 square feet with its 134columns is still the largest room of any religious buildingin the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are severalsmaller temples and a vast sacred lake. It was used duringfestivals when images of the gods would sail across it on goldenbarges. Karnak was also the home of a flock of geese dedicated toAmun.
View of the first pyl on of th e temple of Amun -RePillars of the Great Hypostyle Hall from the Precinct of Amun-Re es at K arnak Ram statu The Sacred Lake of Precinct of Amun-Re
Abu Simbel Next to the Pyramids of Giza, Abu Simbel is perhaps the most recognized monument of ancient Egypt. The two temples at Abu Simbel were built between 1269 and 1256 BC, early in the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1212 BC).The facade of the Great Temple is30m (90) high and 35m (105)wide, and the four colossal seated Between 1964 and 1968, in order to preserve thestatues of Ramesses II at the temples from the rising waters due to the Aswanentrance measure about 21m(60) high. Abu Simbel lies about Dam, they were cut apart into huge blocks200 miles south of Aswan and and reassembled nearby on higher ground.20 or so miles north of the The temples were rebuilt inside two enormoussecond cateract. artificial hills, at a cost of about $40,000,000.
Abu Simb el Temple en trance, fr ont viewAbu Simbel Temple interior, Statues of Ramesses II Cut-away view of Pharaoh Rameses IIs Temple, Abu Simbel le interior Abu Simbel Temp
How did the Egyptian Civilization fall?In around 1000 B.C. there was struggle for power by priests and noblesand the country started to split up. Rich people who wanted to take overEgypt hired men to take over areas in Egypt. As there was struggle forpower, enemies from other countries invaded Egypt. In 343 B.C. aPersian conqueror named Artaxerxes took over Egypt as part of hisconquest. When taking over Egypt, he did so with minimum casualties. Alexander’s army defeated Artaxerxes.
Alexander became the Pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire and he was loved by the Egyptian people. He was committed to the well being of the people so he chose not to change their ways.After Alexander the Great died, his generals each ruled areas he conquered. A general named Ptolemy was given Egypt and started a period in Egyptian history called the Ptolemaic period. The Ptolemaic period lasted 300 year until Rome took it over.
Cleopatra was the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt. She shared some power with her father and eventually ruled Egypt. She married Mark Antony, a co-ruler of Egypt. In 33 B.C. Octavian, another co-ruler of Egypt, had a war against Antony; he defeated Antony and claimed Egypt. Three years later Cleopatra and Antony committed suicide. Romans ruled Egypt for seven centuries, Egypt was a great source of wealth to the Romans. The Egyptians had huge sources of wheat because of the Nile, which helped Rome when it was in need of food. The Romans brought Christianity to Egypt. The Roman period of Egypt was peaceful even though the ancient religion of Egypt was taken over by the fast spread of Christianity. In 639 B.C. Arabs took over Egypt and preached Islam to the country, thus ending the period of Ancient Egypt.