Ancient Egypt

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Ancient Egypt

Introduction

Basically there are two important elements contributed to the formation of the ancient history of Egypt. These two elements were later serve as pillars of the first ancient civilization in the whole world which known by the Pharaonic civilization. These two elements are the river Nile and the religion

The River Nile

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Egyptian culture has been called the gift of the Nile. Without the Nile River, Egypt might never have existed. Most of Egypt was dry, barren desert. Along the Nile, though, the land was different. Yearly floods brought fertile soil to the river valley. When the floods ended, farmers began planting. While the water level was low, they grew crops.

Farmers knew the Nile would flood every year, but in other ways the floods were unpredictable. Sometimes the flood level was low. Then farmers could not raise enough food. If the water rose too high, fields and homes were destroyed. The ancient Egyptians had to find ways to control the river. They built canals to carry water to inland fields. They built up the riverbanks to keep the floods from causing damage.

The Nile brought other gifts, too. One gift was transportation. Boats carried goods and people from one part of Egypt to another. Transportation made trade profitable. The Nile also provided natural resources. Egyptians used its mud to make pottery and bricks. They made a paper like material called papyrus from a plant that grew along the banks.

The Religion

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The religion of the Ancient Egyptians was extremely important to them and touched every aspect of their life. The religion of Ancient Egypt was a polytheistic religion (with many gods). There was just one short period of monotheism (the worship of one god), during the reign of Akhenaten - who became known as the Heretic Pharaoh

The Egyptian Gods numbered nearly 2000. The main Egyptian Gods and Goddesses were fundamental to the Ancient Egyptian religion and fundamental to their beliefs. The main gods were worshipped throughout the whole of Egypt but many minor gods had just a local following. There were massive temples built to the gods but small shrines were also found in the homes of the Ancient Egyptians. In difficult times Egyptian Gods were offered various gifts, which were accepted by the priests and priestesses who offered prayers on behalf of the donor

The religion of the Ancient Egyptians encompassed the following fundamental beliefs:

·        The Priests evolved a Family tree of the main Egyptian Gods and Goddesses to explain how some of the Gods and Goddesses were related. 

·        Life and Death were seen as stages of progress to a better life in the next world

·        All Egyptians provided for their afterlives according to their earthly means

·        The Ancient Egyptian Priests evolved a creation myth, or cosmogony, to explain how some of the Gods and Goddesses came into being and the the nature and genesis of the universe

·        In the Ancient Egyptian religion certain animals were seen as sacred#b5b5b5 as they believed that the Spirit of a God resided in these animals which were revered and worshipped as reincarnated Gods during their lifetimes

·        Mummification - The Egyptians believed that preserving the body in death was important to keep their soul alive. In the process of mummification the brain and the internal organs, except the heart, were removed. The Ancient Egyptians believed that a physical body was essential for an eternal life for the deceased. Without a physical body the soul had no place to dwell and became restless forever

·        Tombs - Tomb decorations carried messages affirming the religious beliefs of the person

·        The Underworld - Definition: The Underworld, called Duat, was a land of great dangers through which every Egyptian would need to pass through after death according to the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptian religion

·        The Book of the Dead - Definition: A guidebook known as the Book of the Dead which contained spells and instructions to ensure safe passage through the dangers of the Underworld. Funeral prayers and spells were chanted to Egyptian Gods and a papyrus scroll of the Book of the Dead was buried with the Ancient Egyptians

·        Hall of the Two Truths - The God of the Dead Anubis would lead the dead in the Underworld at the Hall of Two Truths to a set of scales where his or her heart was weighed against the feather of truth and their fate would be decided - either entrance into the perfect afterlife or to be sent to the Devourer of the Dead

·        The Afterlife - A perfect existence in an ideal version of Egypt. Ancient Egyptians provided for their afterlives according to their earthly means

·        Temples were believed to be the dwelling place of the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Only priests and priestesses, and the Pharaoh, were allowed inside the temples. The common folk were only allowed access to the temple forecourts

·        Statues of the Gods - Statues of the Gods and Goddesses were believed in the Ancient Egyptian religion to be living embodiments of the deities. The statues were revered and offered prayers together with physical items such as food and drink. The statues were washed, oiled and adorned with make-up, jewelry and clothes

·        Divine Kingship - The Egyptian Pharaohs were also believed to be living Gods in the Ancient Egyptian religion

·        Pharaohs believed that they became gods in the afterlife

·        Ancient Egyptians believed that as long as a pharaoh's name was remembered, the king would live on through eternity

·        Pyramids and other monuments such as tombs and obelisks were inscribed with the names of Pharaohs and scenes that represented their earthly lives

The Ancient Egyptian religion held the belief that each person was thought to have three souls:

·        The "Ka" - "soul" or "vital energy" - a "double" of a living person. The heart was considered to be the seat of the Ka

·        The "Ba" - said to emerge from the body at death, similar to a ghost who could visit previous haunts of the mortal world

·        The "Akhu" - centerpoint of each person's divine soul

Early Egyptian History

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Historians divide the history of Egypt into three periods: The Old Kingdom, The Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom.

The Old Kingdom is also called the Age of the pyramids. During this period, Memphis, situated near modern Cairo was the capital. The civilization of Egypt with its advances in art, religion and sciences was developed during the period 3000-2000 B.C and during The Middle Kingdom (2000-1750 B.C). But in the 18th century B.C, Egypt was overrun by invaders called the Hyksos, which came from the east. They were nomadic people and their culture was far less advanced than the Egyptian. Their war chariots and new bronze weapons, however, proved much superior to the Egyptian arms and they conquered Egypt. Their rule was short; soon the Egyptian kings regained their land, and The New Kingdom was founded. Now began a new chapter in the history of Egypt. The Egyptian army was transformed and new tactics of warfare and the horse-drawn chariot were adopted. This enabled the Egyptian kings to conquer many lands. These kings also continued to develop the arts and the sciences

Egyptian Social Classes- Pharaoh to Slave

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The Egyptian king was called the Pharaoh. He had absolute powers. The land belonged to him and his word was law. He was also looked upon as God and his statues were put in temples. His deeds and victories were inscribed on temple walls. Next to the Pharaoh came priests, officials, artists and craftsmen. Below these people were the farmers who lived beyond the cities and then came the slaves who were generally the prisoners of war and owned by the king.

 

 

Occupations, arts and crafts in ancient Egypt

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Agriculture was the most important occupation of the people. The rivers fertilized the land every year and the people worked together to build canals to make it possible to grow crops all the round year. Thus they could cultivate a wide area. They appear to have used oxen to draw the plough as early as 3000 B.C and sickles with flinted flakes mounted on stout sticks. The chief crops grown were wheat, barley and millet. They also grew dates, figs, apples, peaches and mulberries. Like the people of other civilizations, Egyptians also domesticated animals. Goats, dogs, asses, pigs and geese were common. The horse was brought to Egypt by the hyksos and was used to draw war chariots. Flax was grown in plenty of Egypt. The Egyptian people wore linen garments. During the period of middle kingdom, potter’s wheel came into use. They started using metal on a large scale gradually. They made beautiful stone vases and the carpenters of Egypt made beautiful furniture inlaid with ivory and precious stones, which was well preserved in the royal tombs

Trade and Commerce along and beyond the Nile

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The lavish life of the Egyptians required such luxury products such as incense, oil, silver, timber for building and other things which had to be brought from foreign countries. Internal and foreign trade was controlled by the king. Transport of goods overland was done on pack asses. The Nile was uses as a waterway. The Egyptians had also sea-going ships which were used both in war and for peaceful purposes.

 

 

Egyptian Architecture and Sculpture

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The pyramids were the most remarkable buildings in the ancient Egypt. Still remaining as achievements of those years are 30 large pyramids and a number of small ones. The most imposing of all is the Great Pyramid of Giza near Cairo. It was built about 2650 B.C by the Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) of the old kingdom. Since these pyramids were the tombs of the pharaohs, they contained the mummies of the monarchs and also all kinds of precious things they used. The pyramid wall contained a large number of paintings. They give us a wealth of information about the lives of the people, for they depict wars and battles, hunting sense and sacrificial processions and numerous other aspects of everyday life.

Another peculiar specimen of the Egyptian architecture is the sphinx. The sphinx is a mythological animal with the body of a lion and the head of man. Each sphinx was carved out of single solid stone. Egyptians temples are also remarkable buildings.

Hieroglyphic Script

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The Egyptian script is known as the hieroglyphic script which means ‘sacred writing’. It consisted of 24 signs, each of which stood for a single consonant. Vowels were not written. Later, the Egyptians started using symbols for ideas and the total number of signs rode to about 500. The importance of writing was soon recognized and thus writing became a specialized art. The writers, who constituted an important section of society, wrote with reed pens on the leaves of the plant called ‘papyrus’ from which we got the word ‘paper’.

 

Mathematics and Sciences in Ancient Egypt

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The Egyptian made significant advances in many fields of knowledge. They developed a decimal system of numeration. Numbers from 1-9 were represented by one sigh repeated to give a desire number. For 10 and its multiples, there were different signs. There were separate symbols for 1, 10, and 100 and so on. Addition and subtraction was easy in this system. The mathematics which the Egyptians developed was quite sufficient for their practical needs, but it was not very systematic. They could calculate the area of a triangle or a rectangle. The measurement of land, the amazing achievements in the art of building and the calendar are evidences of their mathematical skills. The crowning achievement of Egyptians was Solar Calendar. Almost all early people formulated their calendars on the basis of lunar months. But this system was not enough for agricultural people who require an accurate knowledge of seasons and rains and floods for their agricultural operations. After years of observations, the Egyptians found out that the average length of the period between two floods was 365 days. They also observed that a very bright star, Sirius, was the last to appear on the horizon when the flood reached Cairo, and that this happened after every 365 days. These two independent operations led the Egyptians to conclude that a year has 365 days. The year was then divided into 12 months, each of 30 days. The extra 5 days were set apart for the celebration of religious festivals.

The Egyptian’s practice of preserving the body of the dead by embalming bodies was a stimulus to science. It added to the knowledge of the structure of the human body, and to the skill in surgery. Chiefly, priests practiced medicine and surgery.

End of the Great Days of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs

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By about 1000 B.C, the great days of Egypt were over. The Pharaoh had to fight for their very existence against the invaders from the areas to the south of Egypt in Africa or the new powers across the Mediterranean Sea, from Crete and Cyprus. In quick succession Egypt was conque red and became part of the empires of Assyrians, Iranians and Romans

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