A much more stable and
hierarchical entity than
Civilization lasted roughly
Peoples of the Nile
The population itself was
uniform, similar languages and
Stability was facilitated by its
relative isolation (impassable
desert on all sides), an
advantage that Mesopotamia
Thus, for 3,000 years, the
political, religious, and cultural
areas was uniform from the
south to the delta.
The Nile Valley
The Nile has a regular pattern of
rainfall, which floods the banks of
the river every spring and summer
from the rainy season further south
in the Sudan and East Africa.
Flooding was more regular and
predictable than the Tigris and
Euphrates in Mesopotamia.
Soil at either side was fertile
because of the flooding.
Egypt also had precious metals
(copper), and stone that was useful
both for tools and construction
Upper and Lower Egypt
Before 3100 BC, the regions
were divided into two parts of
Lower Egypt: the part from
the Nile Delta to Memphis; it
was lower in the sense that it
was the terminus of the Nile.
Lower in Elevation.
Upper Egypt: All points along
the river south of Memphis to
Nubia, a separate kingdom.
Beyond Nubia is Kush and
Predynastic and Early Dynastic
ca. 3500—2686 BCE
ca. 2686 BCE – 2181 BCE
ca. 2055—1650 BCE
ca. 1550—1069 BCE
Egyptian High Priest of the 3rd
Chronicled Egyptian history
Recorded “Dynasties” in Greek
A “Dynasty” is a succession of
Pharaohs from the same family
Roughly 30 Dynasties total
(aka, Re, Ra and Aten) the god of
the sun. He is also depicted as a
scarab beetle who emerges in the
the god of the solar disk (depicted
by the disk of the sun)
Goddess of truth and the universal
order; wife of Thoth
She wore an ostrich feather
Judges awarded the feather to the
winner of a case
Her feather was used on the scales
of judgment of the dead
Egypt, as in many civilizations, was
a theocracy, government by the
The Pharaoh was a god; god’s will
flowed through him.
Order vs. Chaos
Many authorities, have argued that
order was the highest value in
Egyptian theology. Egyptians saw
order as being in constant tension with
the deeply dreaded “chaos.”
Horus vs. Seth
Egyptians: Conceptions of
Death and the Soul
Death was the doorway to a new
life..but the body had to be
preserved for this to occur.
Ka: the dead person’s “vital
essence” that it housed, enabled
the body to enjoy life in the afterlife
as in the earthly life
Upraised arms above head
symbolized the ka
A surrogate could act as substitute
for body this could be a sculpture or
even a hieroglyph.
Cult of the Dead/Afterlife
At death, the pharaoh was
prepared for a life of eternity
A detailed and complex ten-week
embalming procedure was strictly
adhered to in order to ensure safe
passage to the afterlife.
Pyramids themselves were
constructed solely for entombment
of the pharaoh; they were not used
for ritual or any other purpose.
Book of the Dead
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
describes the journey of the soul
between one life and the next;
judgment based on karma
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
prepares the soul for judgment.
Here, Horus balances the heart
against the feather of Ma’at
If the heart outweighs the feather,
the animal to the right will devour
“Eye of Horus”
Ward off evil, promote re-birth
Spells ensured return of the heart to
its rightful owner.
Writing system in which
Pictorial symbols (ideograms) are
used to convey particular sound,
object, and/or idea.
The Rosetta Stone
Disc. 1799- Napoleon
Unlocked the mysteries of Egypt
2) Demotic (late Egyptian)
A decree by priests of Memphis
honoring Ptolomey V
Ca. 196 BCE
Deduced the hieroglyphs were related
to spoken Coptic, and broke the code.
There is some indication that early
hieroglyphs were more important
for recording rule and kinship than
they were for economic
Over time, hieroglyphic writing
became more and more complex
Writing was reserved for the
scribes, ranked third below the
pharaoh and priests
A “Cursive” form of Hieroglyph
Read up to down/left to right
Predynastic and Early
Ca. 3500—2686 BCE
People, boats, and animals, detail of a watercolor copy of a wall painting from tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis, Egypt,
Predynastic, ca. 3500–3200 BCE. Paint on plaster, entire painting 16’ 4” X 3’ 7 3/8”. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Palette of King Narmer (left, back; right, front), from Hierakonpolis, Egypt, Predynastic, ca. 3000–2920 BCE. Slate,
2’ 1” high. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
Unification of Egypt
After the conquest attributed to
Menes, or Narmer,the region was
united into one empire
Narmer was the first pharaoh of a
family dynasty of 33 generations
Symbolism: a boxy Red Crown
(Lower Egypt) with a curlicue;
And a White Crown (Upper Egypt)
After Narmer’s conquest, he wore
a Double Crown to symbolize the
unification of the two Egypt’s (lower
The Symbolism of the
Union—And Defeat of Upper
To the right, Narmer (wearing
white crown) subdues a
Hieroglyph at top writes out
God Horus (protector of all
Kings) holds the captive by a
Papyrus blossoms symbolize
To the left, two long-necked
lions are entwined, suggesting
union), with lion tamers on
There are the decapitated
warriors in defeat
At the bottom is a bull
symbolizing royal power
It is well known that representations of the
human figure in ancient Egyptian art usually
conformed to highly stylized principles in
which the proportions between the different
parts of the human body were determined by
a set of fixed laws constituting a Canon of
Proportions. Egyptian artists were thereby
able to make use of a conventional system of
proportion which was found to be
aesthetically pleasing, while also rendering
their subjects in idealized forms which may
or may not have been faithful to the exact
proportions of the persons in question.
The Egyptian Canon of Proportions was
maintained over many centuries through the
medium of the artist's grid, in which the
different parts of the human body
corresponded to different squares in the grid.
This grid system was not merely a copying
device which made it possible to render a
particular scene on any chosen scale, but
rather a complete system of proportions by
means of which the human figure could in
theory be correctly represented.
The mastaba was the standard type
of tomb in pre-dynastic and early
dynastic Egypt for both for the
Pharaoh and the social elite.
Serdab-room & chapel for effigy
(statue or likeness of the
Section (top), plan (center),and
restored view (bottom) of typical
Egyptian mastaba tombs.
Great Pyramids, Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth
Dynasty. From bottom: Pyramids of
Menkaure, ca. 2490–2472 BCE; Khafre, ca.
2520–2494 BCE; and Khufu, ca. 2551–2528
Great Pyramids, Gizeh, 2551-
Eternal resting place for
Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure
“Stairway” to sun
Based on the ben-ben
pyramidal shaped stone
Pure white limestone casing
stones with gold apex
Benben or Ben-ben, in Egyptian
mythology, specifically in the
Heliopolitan tradition, was the mound
that arose from the primordial waters,
Nu, and on which the creator god
In the Pyramid Texts, e.g. Atum himself
is at times referred to as "mound". It
was said to have turned into a small
pyramid, located in Annu, which was
the place Atum was said to dwell
Great Pyramids, Gizeh, 2551-
Khufu: Oldest and largest: 775’
long, 480’ high, 13 acre area
West of the Nile
Sides oriented to the cardinal
Temples faced East (rising
Solid limestone masonry
2.3 million blocks of stone
Each weighs 2.5 tons
Section of the Pyramid of Khufu, Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, ca. 2551–2528 BCE.
Model of the Fourth Dynasty pyramid complex, Gizeh, Egypt. Harvard University Semitic Museum, Cambridge. 1)
Pyramid of Menkaure, 2) Pyramid of Khafre, 3) mortuary temple of Khafre, 4) causeway, 5) Great Sphinx, 6) valley
temple of Khafre, 7) Pyramid of Khufu, 8) pyramids of the royal family and mastabas of nobles.
Great Sphinx (with Pyramid of Khafre in the background at left), Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, ca. 2520–2494
BCE. Sandstone, 65’ X 240’.
Relied on seasonal labor force (Nile
Paid workers (average citizens)
It took 20,000- 30,000 workers 23
years to build a pyramid.
Relief from the tomb of
Djehutihotep depicting 172 men
pulling a statue of said pharaoh,
which is estimated to weigh 58
tons. The large pyramid blocks
were probably pulled in a similar
Khafre enthroned, from Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty,
ca. 2520–2494 BCE. Diorite, 5’ 6” high. Egyptian
An abode for the Ka
Intertwined lotus and
papyrus- united Egypt
How is Kingship shown?
suppression of movement
Ideal not Real
Menkaure and Khamerernebty(?),
from Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty,
ca. 2490–2472 BCE. Graywacke, 4’ 6
1/2” high. Museum of Fine Arts,
Shows the formalism of Egyptian
Clenched fists, rigid stance, left foot
forward, and beard and headdress
of the Pharaoh
Supportive stance of wife; hand
around waist and on arm
Relief or sculpture in the round?
Seated scribe, from
Saqqara, Egypt, Fourth
Dynasty, ca. 2500 BCE.
Painted limestone, 1’ 9”
high. Louvre, Paris.
Ti watching a hippopotamus hunt,
relief in the mastaba of Ti,
Saqqara, Egypt, Fifth Dynasty, ca.
2450–2350 BCE. Painted
limestone, 4’ high.
Goats treading seed and cattle fording a canal, reliefs in the mastaba of Ti, Saqqara,
Egypt, Fifth Dynasty, ca. 2450 – 2350 BCE. Painted limestone.