Ancient Egypt was the birthplace of one of the World’s greatest civilizations. It was far more advanced than European tribes of the same time period, who were still in the Stone Age.
Located in the northeast corner of Africa, Egypt grew to be an important civilization for over three hundred years because of the Nile River.
Egypt was originally divided into two kingdoms: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.
Pharaoh was believed by the Egyptians to be the supreme ruler chosen by the gods to lead his people. They believed that when a man became a pharaoh, he also became a god. To keep the bloodline of the gods pure, pharaohs often married their sisters, mothers, and cousins.
A Biblical Overview of Egypt
Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, was the favorite child. His father made him a coat of many colors. His brothers were jealous of him. They were going to kill him, but sold him as a slave. He found favor with the Pharaoh Potiphar. He interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh. Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain where they ran into Joseph. They did not recognize him. He tested them and revealed his identity. He forgave them for sending him away. He said it was God who sent him to Egypt to save people’s lives.
When a new Pharaoh ruled Egypt, he was worried that the Israelites would rise up against him. He decided that every baby boy should be thrown into the Nile River. One woman was determined to save her son. She kept the baby boy hidden for three months, then she put him in a basket she had made and let him float down the river. The Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby boy and called him Moses, which means “pulled out or the water”.
Moses was commanded by God to ask the Pharaoh to release the people of Egypt. He obeyed God’s command and asked Pharaoh to let his people go. God knew that Pharaoh would deny the command and he did. God sent ten plagues to Egypt to curse the land.
Major Time Periods of Egypt
The Old Kingdom
When the pharaohs built
The Middle Kingdom
When training and military explorers were sent out to expand Egypt’s boundaries
The New Kingdom
Ending with Queen Cleopatra losing her land to Augustus Caesar and Rome
There were about 80 along the banks of the Nile River.
The largest is the Great Pyramid, built by King Khufu in about 2600 B.C.
It stands about 481 feet high and covers 13 acres.
The pyramids functioned as huge burial tombs for the Egyptians’ dead pharaohs and queens.
They used the Nile River like a highway to transport people and goods to foreign lands.
The first ships were made out of bundles of papyrus reeds tied together to make a canoe-like vessel.
As the ship trade flourished, the hulls of the ships were made of cedar, and oars and sails were added for greater speed.
These were pictures and symbols that served as one of the first written languages in the world.
Calendars were developed in 4241 B.C. with 365 days in a year.
It was based on the flooding of the Nile River.
New Years was on June 1, not January 1!
cartouche – a tablet with a border, used as a nameplate
hieroglyphics – a sophisticated system of pictures and symbols used in ancient Egypt to communicate information
Nile River – river that runs through Egypt
Ankh – a symbol for life after death
pyramids – burial place for kings
Pharaoh – Ruler of Egypt
necropolis – the place of the burial tombs for the kings and the wealthy
papyrus – type of plant paper was made from
Daily Life of Workers
The poor worked long hours for goods that they could exchange in the marketplace for the products they needed.
Agriculture was a major trade and many workers were farmers.
Boys learned a trade from their fathers, and girls were taught to care for the home and family by their mothers.
Women and girls wore straight, sheath-like dresses of rough, unbleached linen.
Men and boys wore short cloth kilts.
Their homes were usually one-story made out of sun-dried brick. There would be a basement and four rooms. They had little furniture. Stairs led to the flat rooftop so that the family could enjoy the cool night air after the sun went down.
Daily life of the Wealthy
Men were busy all day as merchants, trading along the Nile River.
Others supervised the daily workings of gigantic farms.
Many of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Egypt were priests.
Boys were taught to read and write.
Women could own land, run businesses, testify in court, and bring charges against men.
Women oversaw the running of the households and gave the servants instructions for daily menus and child care.
Children were allowed much playtime. Girls practiced singing and dancing. Boys wrestled and played army.
Women and girls wore straight dresses of beautiful lined and a lot of jewelry. At parties, they wore cones of incense on their heads that melted slowly giving off a pleasant smell.
Men and boys wore linen kilts
Both men and women wore eye make-up made from black ashes.
Their homes were brick and wood containing many rooms, as well as walled garden and a shrine for a favorite god.
Life after Death
The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife of beauty, peace, and contentment.
Since most of their lives were filled with hard work, they looked forward to death as a release from this lifetime.
They believed their souls would need to use their bodies again, so the Egyptians invented a process to embalm their bodies called mummification.
Wealthy could afford better mummification than the poor
Steps in Mummification
After the body was washed and covered with scented oils, the liver and kidneys were removed and placed in jars that would be put in the coffin later.
The brains were removed carefully, but the heart was left in the body because they believed it was the mind and would be needed immediately in the next life.
Then the body was wrapped in either linen or rough cotton strips and a sticky tar-like mixture was poured over the cloth strips forming a protective outer covering for the body.
When the mixture hardened, the mummy was placed in a wooden coffin, which was carved and painted to resemble a person.
Then the mummy was laid in its tomb, along with many objects the Egyptians thought it would need for daily use in the next lifetime, such as tools, jewelry, furniture, religious statues, and food.
Painting and Sculpture
Egyptians reached a highly advanced level of sculpture. Beautiful figures sculpted from wood, ivory, bronze, gold, and turquoise have been found in tombs.
One of the most famous sculptures in the world is the head of Queen Nefertiti.
Another famous work of art is the Great Sphinx, a huge statue of a man’s head on a lion’s body, which guards the pyramids near Giza.
Tutankhamen, or King Tut, for short was called “The Boy King”.
He became pharaoh when he was nine years old. During the year 1350 B.C.
He lived in a beautiful palace in the city of Thebes. He had servants who did everything for him. They believed him to be a god.
A typical day for him began in the audience chamber of his palace, where he sat on a throne of gold, silver, and jewels, and wore a heavy gold headpiece shaped like a flame. Ambassadors from foreign countries came to bow before him and bring him riches. Egyptians came to him to settle their disputes. He led his people in a three-hour a day worship ceremony. He had a formal dinner in the evening, then visited with his wife, Ankheshamen, who was two years younger than he.
King Tut died when he was only nineteen years old. No one really knows if he died from an accident, illness, or his enemies. His burial chamber was found by Britain's Howard Carter in 1922. The treasures of King Tut’s tomb can be seen today in Cairo, Egypt.
Questions to Review
Egypt is located in which continent?
What is the famous river in Egypt?
What were the name of the three period of times into which Egypt was divided?
What happened to Egypt when Pharaoh wouldn’t obey God’s command?
Name the four most remembered accomplishments from the Egyptians.
Discuss at least three likenesses and differences between the workers and the wealthy.
Briefly name the steps of mummification. You may list them.
Name two famous works of art by the Egyptians.
How old was King Tut when he became Pharaoh?
Who discovered his tomb and where is it located?
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