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Ancient Egypt

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Egypt is a country located in North Africa , on the Mediterranean Sea , and is home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth. Its name comes from the Greek word ” Aegyptos “ which was the Greek pronunciation of the ancient Egyptian name “Hwt-Ka-Ptah”  which had as meaning ” Mansion of the Spirit of Ptah “ , which was originally the name of the city of Memphis , the Egypt’s first capital and a famous religious and commercial center ; its high status is attested by the Greeks alluding to the entire country by that name.

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General features

  • When it was founded:  3100 BC
  • When it ended:  629 AD
  • Capital:  Memphis, Tinis, Thebes
  • Religion: Egyptian religion ( polytheistic )
  • Government:  Theocratic Monarchy

What is ancient Egypt?

The ancient Egypt was one of the most important civilizations of humanity that developed along the river Nile and left us an invaluable legacy in the history of mankind.

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Summary History of Ancient Egypt

It developed in northeast Africa on the banks of the Nile River . It was created from the mixture of various peoples such as the mythical, the Semites and the Nubians in the Paleolithic period . It began to form in the Neolithic period and in the year 4000 BC small units called nomes began to form that were united into two groups, Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt . Years later, Menés , the ruler of the Upper Nile united the two kingdoms, giving way to the dynastic period.

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Source

The origins of this civilization are still unknown with certainty. Historians consider that the primitive inhabitants  of ancient Egypt lived under the influence of the culture of the Near East . The descriptions of civilization are based mainly on hieroglyphics .

Stages

The history of ancient Egypt is complicated and historians have not yet managed to reach an exact agreement that allows us to know it. But it is known that it has been divided into periods or stages that are mentioned below:

  • Predynastic Period : began in the Neolithic. The Nile was the reference line since the nomads began to live on its banks. Different cultures are established and two kingdoms are formed: that of Upper and that of Lower Egypt .
  • Proto-Dynastic Period : called late predynastic , it was the final stage of the Predynastic Period. The first cities were born and at the end of this period, Egypt was divided into small kingdoms and the process of unification was carried out by the kings of Hierakonpolis, Menes being the founder of Dynasty I.
  • Archaic Period : it was called the Tiny period and includes the first two dynasties of Egypt. The capital was in Tinis .
  • Old Kingdom: it  includes the III and VI dynasties and the Egyptian culture flourished , great pyramids were made , the first hieroglyphic texts emerged and in the end there was the weakening of the central power entering the First Intermediate Period.
  • First Intermediate Period : in this period Egypt was ruled by two parallel and antagonistic dynasties : the X dynasty, with its capital in Heracleópolis; and the XI dynasty, centered in Thebes, to the south.
  • Middle Kingdom : The first great works of Egyptian literature were written and centralized authority weakened again, entering the Second Intermediate Period.
  • Second Intermediate Period : Some local rulers controlled the delta and the rulers of an Asian settlement controlled most of the country and were called Hyksos kings . After struggles, the last king of the 17th dynasty managed to expel the Hyksos and reestablish the unified government of the country.
  • New Kingdom:  culture and territorial expansion flourish again , great architectural projects were created . There is the reign of Ramses that was the culminating point of this period, with a peace treaty with the Hittites. There were philosophical and theological advances , and the greatest architectural projects developed since the time of the pyramids.
  • Hellenistic Period :  Alexander the Great destroys the Persian Empire and gains control of Egypt. After his death, Egypt passes to Ptolemy . Although of Macedonian origin, he ruled Egypt as pharaoh. The country prospered with a powerful centralized government and a program of reconstruction and renovation of ancient monuments.

Characteristics

The main characteristics of ancient Egypt were:

  • His government was a hereditary theocratic monarchy .
  • The pharaoh was the one who had all the power.
  • They practiced the cult of the dead .
  • They were polytheists .
  • Their main source of income came from the Nile River .
  • They organized into social and political groups .
  • The upper middle class was made up of priests.

Location of ancient Egypt

It is located to the northwest of Africa . Formerly it limited to the north by the Mediterranean Sea , to the south by the desert of Nubia , to the east by the Red Sea and to the west by the desert of Libya . It had two regions, Upper Egypt to the south and Lower Egypt to the north.

Extension

It developed along the middle and lower reaches of the Nile River . The territory extended from the delta of the Nile in the north to the Fourth Cataract in the south during the time of maximum expansion , where territories of the desert were dominated western and oriental to the Red Sea and the peninsula of the Sinai .

Political and social organization

Ancient Egypt had a hereditary theocratic monarchy type government and power was in the hands of the pharaoh who in turn had a court of officials , noble priests and warriors . The pharaoh was the owner of all the lands and waters of the Nile , dictated laws, controlled commerce and was considered the son of the God Ra . He delegated functions to the Royal Scribe who kept the accounts and controlled the trade. The Grand Vizier , the intermediary between the authorities that controlled the nomes and the pharaoh. And the High Priest which presented the pharaohs as descendants of the Gods.

There was also the people who were the most numerous and consisted of farmers , artisans and merchants who had to pay taxes, and slaves who were prisoners of war or who had been bought abroad.

Pharaohs

The most important pharaohs of Egypt were:

  • Narmer or Menes
  • Djoser
  • Cheops
  • Teti
  • Amenophis III
  • Tutankhamen
  • Seti I
  • Ramses II
  • Cleopatra VII

Economy

The ancient Egyptian economy depended on the River Nile . When the water level dropped, it left a kind of fertile mud that favored the sowing of wheat, barley, vegetables and legumes. They rationed water to prevent stages of drought , built nilometers , dams and canals . Industry and commerce were also important, mainly linen weaving, metal production for weapons, jewelry, combs; the pottery and paperbased on papyrus. They practiced barter to exchange art objects and fabrics for wood, metals and livestock

Cultural manifestations of ancient Egypt

  • Architecture : they made pyramids with exact measurements, corridors and bedrooms. They were built with huge blocks of stone and placed artistic figures, engravings, drawings and inscriptions on them. Sphinxes were also built in honor of the pharaohs
  • Music : it was considered a science and represented the thought of their culture for what was important to the people.
  • Art : it was the way in which they expressed religious beliefs , its content was mythical , they did not use perspective and the colors were flat . They painted faces in profile and was used to decorate ceramics, chambers, temples, and palaces.
  • Sculpture : it was made of ivory , bronze , wood and stone . Mythological and political characters were represented . He had a high level of perfectionism and detail.

Ancient Egyptian customs and traditions

The Egyptians believed that the soul was detached from the body when dying to travel to the mansion of Osiris . They handled the book of the dead that helped souls to reach their resting place.

Science and Technology

Their beliefs regarding the deceased advanced them in the field of medicine and chemistry . They established types of injuries and had knowledge of anatomy . They developed mathematics and also delved into the field of geometry . They developed addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They used instruments of measurement .

Mummification

It was the process by which they kept the corpses from decomposing . It was the essence of their religion and spirituality . It ensured the conservation of the material body so that it could later join the soul and continue with its life. For the inhabitants of ancient Egypt, the main objective of this practice was to purify the soul and body . It was carried out by embalmers and the process lasted 70 days.

Ancient Egyptian writing system

They used paper made from the stalks of papyrus . This writing was deciphered by Jean-François Champollion in 1822 and three types of writing are known:

  • Hieroglyphic writing : it was used in tombs and temples, it was difficult to interpret since it is made up of images of animals and objects and signs.
  • Hieratic script : only used by people of great culture and priests.
  • Demotic Writing : it is an abbreviation of the previous one and it was the one used by the people.

Religion

He was a polytheist and his most important deities were Ra (God of the Sun), Amun (creator of the world), Osiris (fertility), Seth (the night that represented evil), Anubis (judge of the dead) and Thot (God of the wisdom). In addition, in ancient Egypt they believed in life after death and followed the rules of the Book of the Dead which contained all the funeral rites and magic formulas that had to be done when a person died.

Feeding

The main foods were bread , beer , fish , meat which were roasted or dried. Although they ate fish they did not do so often as it was considered a reincarnation of the god Seth . Garlic, onion, grape, watermelon, melon were consumed by the high elites.  Legumes , beans, peas, lentils and vegetables for the rest of the town.

Clothing

Only linen clothes were used , because they believed that it was more pure , the production of linen was very important and the favorite color was white , although it could have drawings on the edges. The wool was known but considered impure , because the animal fibers were subject to impairment, and were used only coats were also banned in temples and sanctuaries .

The peasants and workers of ancient Egypt wore loincloths and when they dressed they wore the shenti, which was a skirt that was wrapped around the waist and tightened with a leather belt. Then a light tunic and a kind of pleated blouse were used . The nobility wore tunics , false hair , and the men a particular headdress, the claft , which was formed with a square fabric made with a striped cloth, adjusted to the forehead and with falls on the sides. The women wore a long skirt with a high waist, like a long tight dress

Contributions

The main contributions of ancient Egypt were:

  • The culture .
  • Writing .
  • Philosophical contributions with the Instructions of Ptahhotep.
  • Myths and legends .
  • The administration of the company.
  • Technological advances in agriculture, surveying, construction, engineering.
  • Use of construction materials such as bricks, cement, white plaster, ceramics, glass.
  • The math , geometry , geography .

Importance of ancient Egypt

The importance of ancient Egypt lies in all the contributions that they left for humanity today. Aspects as important as architecture, mathematics, geography and geometry , have lasted to this day, and have been the basis for the development of the modern world.

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