Date and Time: 10-11 AM, November 3013
Venue: Room E3B, GET Building, University of
Mindanao, Matina Campus
Speakers: Marvin B. Gonzaga
Paul John B. Gataber
Violeta G. Dumanayos
Egypt is a country in North Africa, on
the Mediterranean Sea, and is among the
oldest civilizations on earth. The name 'Egypt' comes
from the Greek Aegyptos which was the Greek
pronunciation of the Egyptian name 'Hwt-Ka-Ptah'
(which means House of the Spirit of Ptah, who was a
very early God of the Ancient Egyptians). In the early
Old Kingdom Egypt was simply known as 'Kemet' which
means 'Black Land' so named for the rich, dark soil
along the Nile River where the first settlements began.
Evidence of overgrazing of cattle, on the land
which is now the Sahara Desert, has been dated to
about 8,000 BCE. This evidence, along with artifacts
discovered, points to a thriving agricultural civilization
in the region at that time. As the land was mostly arid
even then, hunter-gathering nomads sought the cool of
the water source of the Nile River Valley and began to
settle there sometime prior to 5500 BCE. Organized
farming began in the region c. 5000 BCE and
communities known as the Badari Culture began to
flourish alongside the river.
-the Egyptians studied the night sky, taking measurements
from the stars to accurately align their pyramids and sun
temples with the earth's four cardinal points. Taking
sightings of the Great Bear and Orion with an instrument
called a merkhet (similar to an astrolabe), astronomer-priests
marked out the foundations of buildings with astonishing
-The Great Pyramid at Giza provides an example. This
remarkable building has a footprint of over 13 acres and
consists of approximately 6.5 million limestone blocks. Its
four sides are accurately aligned to face north, east, south,
and west, with an error of less than half a degree. They are
also virtually identical in length, with less than a 20 cm (8
inch) variance between one side and another.
The Egyptian calendar was based of a year of 365 days,
with twelve months and three seasons. Each month
had three ten-day weeks, for a total of 30 days. The last
five days of the year corresponded to the birthdays of
five deities: Osiris, Isis, Horus, Seth and Nephthys.
The three seasons corresponded to the cycle of
the Nile and agriculture. New Year's day was on July 19
(in the Julian calendar) and marked the beginning of
the first season, akhet. This was the time of the
flooding of the Nile. The next season, during which
the crops began to emerge, was called peret and
started on November 16. The last season, Shemu,
began on March 17 at harvest time.
Although the Egyptians lacked the symbol for zero, they
calculated numbers based on the decimal and the
repetitive (numbers based on the power of 10). The
following signs were used to represent numbers in the
The Egyptians knew about fractions and used special
signs for two-thirds, three-quarters, four-fifths and
five-sixths. They also had some basic knowledge
of geometry, such as the fact that the area of a
rectangle was equal to its length multiplied by its
width, and they were able to calculate the area of a
circle according to the length of its diameter.
The doctors of ancient Egypt combined magic spells with
remedies. If a person fell sick, the illness was thought to
be caused by the wrath of the gods or by an evil spirit that
had entered the body. Both priests and doctors were called
upon to heal the sick, combining their powers and skills to
fix the problem. The most common cure for maladies was
an amulet and a magic spell to modify the incorrect
behaviour that had caused the illness in the first place.
By the fifth century B.C., Egyptian doctors had their
own specialization. Most of the doctors were men and, within
their ranks, there was a hierarchy. Throughout the pharaonic
times, the most sought-after positions were in the royal
court. These doctors looked after the health of the
pharaohs, their families and members of their court.
Women practised contraception by using concoctions such as
honey and natron, which they injected into their vaginas. The
Egyptians also devised the earliest-known pregnancy test.
Women moistened a sample of barley and emmer (wheat)
with their urine each day. If the barley grew, it meant the
child would be a male; if the emmer grew, it would be a
female. If neither grew, it meant the woman was not
pregnant. The effectiveness of this test has been validated by
modern science. The urine of non-pregnant women will
prevent barley from growing!
The ancient Egyptians believed in the resurrection of the
body and life everlasting. As long as order was maintained,
life after death could be achieved provided certain conditions
were met. For example, the body had to be preserved through
mummification and given a properly furnished tomb
with everything needed for life in the afterworld.
The practice of mummification began in Egypt in 2400 B.C.
and continued into the Graeco-Roman Period. During
the Old Kingdom, it was believed that only pharaohs could
attain immortality. Around 2000 B.C., attitudes changed,
however: everyone could live in the afterworld as long as the
body was mummified and the proper elements were placed in
the tomb. But since mummification was expensive, only the
wealthy were able to take advantage of it. The art of
mummification was perfected in the Third Intermediate
Period (1070-712 B.C.).
The Pyramids of Egypt
The Great Pyramids of Giza are located on a plateau on the west bank of
the Nile River, on the outskirts of modern-day Cairo. The oldest and
largest of the three pyramids at Giza, known as the Great Pyramid, is the
only surviving structure out of the famed seven wonders of the ancient
world. It was built for Khufu, second of the eight kings of the fourth
dynasty. The sides of the pyramid's base average 755.75 feet (230 meters),
and its original height was 481.4 feet (147 meters), making it the largest
pyramid in the world. Like other pyramids, Khufu's is surrounded by rows
of mastabas, where relatives or officials of the king were buried to
accompany and support him in the afterlife.
The middle pyramid at Giza was built for Khufu's son Khafre (2558-2532
B.C). A unique feature built inside Khafre's pyramid complex was the
Great Sphinx, a statue carved in limestone with the head of a man and the
body of a lion. It was the largest statue in the ancient world, measuring
240 feet long and 66 feet high. The southernmost pyramid at Giza was
built for Khafre's son Menkaure (2532-2503 B.C.). It is the shortest of the
three pyramids (218 feet) and is a precursor of the smaller pyramids that
would be constructed during the fifth and sixth dynasties.
Approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone (averaging about
2.5 tons each) had to be cut, transported and assembled to
build Khufu's Great Pyramid. The ancient Greek historian
Herodotus wrote that it took 20 years to build and required
the labor of 100,000 men, but later archaeological evidence
suggests that the workforce might actually have been around
20,000. Though some popular versions of history held that
the pyramids were built by slaves or foreigners forced into
labor, skeletons excavated from the area show that the
workers were probably native Egyptian agricultural laborers
who worked on the pyramids during the time of year when
the Nile River flooded much of the land nearby.
Alexandria is a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in
northern Egypt founded in 331 BCE by Alexander the
Great. It is most famous in antiquity as the site of the
Pharos, the great lighthouse, considered one of the
seven wonders of the ancient world, for the Temple of
Serapis, the Serapion, which was part of the legendary
library at Alexandria, as a seat of learning and, once, the
largest and most prosperous city in the world. It also
became infamous for the religious strife which resulted
in the martyrdom of the philosopher Hypatia of
Alexandria in 415 CE. The city grew from a small port
town to become the grandest and most important
metropolis in ancient Egypt.
The city grew to become the largest in the known world
at the time, attracting scholars, scientists, philosophers,
mathematicians, artists, and historians. Eratosthenes
(c.276-194 BCE) calculated the circumference of the
earth to within 50 miles (80 km) at Alexandria. Euclid
taught at the university there. Archimedes (287-212 BCE)
the great mathematician and astronomer may have
taught there and was certainly studied there. The
greatest engineer and mathematician of his day, Hero
(also known as Heron, 10-70 CE) was born and lived in
Alexandria. Hero was credited with amazing feats in
engineering and technology including the first vending
machine, the force-pump, and a theatre of automated
figures who danced, among his other inventions.
The city became steadily impoverished after the rise of
Christianity, both financially and culturally, and became
increasingly a battlefield for warring faiths.. The forces of the
Christian Byzantines and the Muslim Arabs then fought for
control of the city, and Egypt, until the Arabian forces
prevailed in 646 CE and Egypt fell under Islamic rule. The
churches were now destroyed or transformed in mosques and
Christian legend claims that it was at this time that the great
library was burned by the Muslim conquerors.
What was not destroyed by war was taken down by nature
and, by 1323 CE, most of Ptolemaic Alexandria was gone. The
great lighthouse was steadily destroyed by earthquakes as was
much of the port. In 1994 CE the first discoveries were made
known of a number of relics, statuary, and buildings in the
harbor of Alexandria. These have been steadily excavated by
Professor Jean-Yves Empereur and his team who continue to
bring to light the lost golden age of Alexandria.
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