Starting about 8,000BC, all of Northern Africa became a drier, more desert-like place. Back then, man lived in nomadic groups of hunters and gatherer. The climate forced man to migrate to more hospitable lands, some migrated to Nile River Valley which is a vast land surrounding the Nile River. There in this land abundant with life, there were plenty of food and water for these people. During the Neolithic Revolution (10,000BC to 3,500BC) man discovered the art of agriculture, this skill arrived in Egypt approximately 7,000BC. Humans were finally able to use the rich silt brought by the yearly flooding of the Nile River which annually flooded since 60,000 years ago.
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The Nile River is the world’s longest river, it is approximately 4,160 miles long and flows from the highlands in Central Africa to the Mediterranean Sea. It is the main reason why the Ancient Egyptians were such a successful people, the moisture from the river was the only thing keeping Egypt from change to a desert. Even back then, everybody knew that without the river they had no chance of survival. First of all the main food the Egyptians ate were bread made from the grain grown with the precious silt and water from the Nile River. Barges and boats made with papyrus reeds or wooden planks(used after 3,000BC) were filled with different thing such as grains were floated downstream and carried by the current, or if they needed to be floated upstream, you would simply just raise the sails up and the ship would sail upstream, the Egyptians invented sails at approximately 3,200BC. Although the Nile is such an abundant source of life, it fertilize just a narrow strip of land, eventually the Egyptians built large irrigation systems which would carry water into the desert.
Ancient cultures were often plagued with warfare and attacks from other cultures, Egypt’s geography protected it from most of its neighbors. The Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Nubian Desert, and the Libyan Desert surrounded Egypt, it was very hard for an outside to even enter Egypt. In the Nile River there are six cataracts, waterfalls or rapids, these prevented people from a region called Kush which would be modern day Ethiopia from using the river to travel to Egypt and attack it. Still there were invaders who would attack Egypt, from the Sinai Peninsula invaders attacked Egypt, but Egypt also used this land as a path to conquer other people.
The small villages that lined the river eventually became two kingdoms, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. The name of the king that eventually united the two kingdoms is Menes, he originally ruled just Upper Egypt, but by conquering Lower Egypt, he not only increase his own power, he created one of the greatest civilizations ever. His successors, the king after him, wore a double crown to symbolize that they ruled both kingdoms.
Sometime between 1,554BC and 1,304BC, people began calling their kings “pharaohs” which means “great house”. Egyptians believed that the pharaohs were descendants of the sun god, Amon-Ra. A “dynasty” is a government where the right to rule passes father to son. Occasionally these dynasties were overthrown or died out and a new dynasty is formed. The first dynasty was said to have been establish by King Menes who united Upper Egypt with Lower Egypt. There are about 30 dynasties that ruled Egypt, historians and archeologists have divided the history of Egypt into three parts based on these dynasties. The Old Kingdom(2,700BC to 2,200BC), the Middle Kingdom(2,050BC to 1,800BC), and the New Kingdom or Empire Age(1,570BC to 1,090BC).
With every ancient society we have seen a unique religion, the Egyptians are no exception. Egyptian mythology or religion did not influence their culture as religion did to other cultures much, a unified sense of faith never existed among them. What I mean by this is that since each city worshipped a different god or goddess, there wasn’t really a togetherness in their religion. So if I use the word “worship” in this report, I am referring to the fact that they thought that god or goddess was important. In fact the Egyptian religion contains a remarkable amount of conflicting beliefs, this is probably base on the fact that their religion is just a collection of stories and mythology.
The earliest of the Egyptian gods to be invented were in the form of animals such as the sacred cat of Babastis, these gods were worshipped before Egypt united. Later however, gods were half human-half animal creatures, usually a human with the head of some animals.
According to the Egyptian account of creation, only the ocean existed at first. Then Ra, the sun(later confused by the Egyptians with Amon, this created a new god Amon-Ra), came out of an egg (a flower, in some versions) that appeared on the surface of the water. Ra brought forth four children, the gods Shu and Geb and the goddesses Tefnut and Nut. Shu and Tefnut became the atmosphere. They stood on Geb, who became the earth, and raised up Nut, who became the sky. Ra ruled over all. Geb and Nut later had two sons, Set and Osiris, and two daughters, Isis and Nephthys. Osiris succeeded Ra as king of the earth, helped by Isis, his sister-wife. Set, however, hated his brother and killed him. Isis then embalmed her husband’s body with the help of the god Anubis, who thus became the god of embalming. The powerful charms of Isis resurrected Osiris, who became king of the netherworld, the land of the dead. Horus, who was the son of Osiris and Isis, later defeated Set in a great battle and became king of the earth.
The Ancient Egyptians also believed in life after death, in fact they have the world’s most elaborate rituals. After a person dies the Egyptians believes that the soul or ka live in the kingdom of the dead, but the believed that the ka could not survive without the body. The Egyptians mummify the body in order to keep it preserved, but in the event that the corpse is destroy there are wood or stone replicas of the body which will serve as a body, the more replicas in a tomb the better chances of the ka surviving.
After leaving the tomb, the souls of the dead supposedly were beset by innumerable dangers, and the tombs were therefore furnished with a copy of the Book of the Dead. Part of this book, a guide to the world of the dead, consists of charms designed to overcome these dangers. After arriving in the kingdom of the dead, the ka was judged by Osiris, the king of the dead. The Book of the Dead also contains instructions for proper conduct before these judges. If the judges decided the deceased had been a sinner, the ka was condemned to hunger and thirst or to be torn to pieces by horrible executioners. If the decision was favorable, the ka went to the heavenly realm of the fields of Yaru, where grain grew 3.7 m (12 ft) high and existence was a glorified version of life on earth. All the necessities for this perfect existence, from furniture to reading matter, were, therefore, put into the tombs. As a payment for the afterlife and his benevolent protection, Osiris required the dead to perform tasks for him, such as working in the grain fields. Even this duty could, however, be obviated by placing small statuettes, called ushabtis, into the tomb to serve as substitutes for the deceased.
Egypt had a very simple social structure consisting of only three classes. The ruling class were on the top of the list followed by the middle class, and on the bottom of the list were the peasants and slaves. The ruling class were the most respected and well treated people in the society, besides the pharaoh the priest were the most important people in the society because people thought that they could talk to the gods who controlled everything from life to death. The priest often positions as governors of provinces, court officials, or tax collectors. The chief minister, who administered the business of the country in chosen from this class. The middle class were a small group of people who consists of merchants, traders, and artisans. Traders brought dyes, gold, and ivory which the merchants sold to the nobles, artisans were paid by nobles to make things such as pottery, stone carvings, glass objects, wooden carvings, and linen so fine that it looked like silk. Most Egyptians were farmers who does the same thing each day over and over again, they waited for the Nile to flood and then they plant their crops when the water recedes. The peasant live a simple life with brick houses and few furniture, they paid half their harvest to government tax. They were also require to work on palaces, temples, clear irrigation ducts, and serve in the army. Slave were mostly descendants of war prisoners some lived like free peasant and others lived in the houses of nobles serving them.
The ancient Egyptian society really respected women, women had the right to buy or sell land. There weren’t many divorces, but women had the right to divorce as well as men. The most important thing that makes it more equal for woman are that property is inherited through the female line.
In the Egyptian society, there were few people who were not farmers besides the nobles. Since the Egyptians didn’t have any money, workers were often paid in wheat and barley or other goods, extra amounts could be traded for needed goods or services. Farmer worked mostly on the land of the royal family, temples, and other rich people, they got a small amount of the crop because a large amount was taxed. Others rented lands of their own from rich landowners. Craftsmen worked in small shops which they manufacture things such as pottery, bricks, tools, glasses, weapons, furniture, jewelry, perfume, rope, basket, mats, and writing materials. Miners mined for limestone, sandstone, copper, gold, tin, gems, and granite for the construction of pyramid and monuments. Traders sailed to different lands trading for stuff like silver, iron, horses, ivory, leopard skins, copper, cattle, cedar logs, and spices. The royal family and temples also employed other kinds of skilled workers such as architects, engineers, carpenters, artists, sculptors, bakers, butchers, teachers, scribes, accountants, musicians, butlers, and shoemakers.
The Egyptians had many different invention and contribution to future society. First of all, all the Egyptian had many advances in the math and sciences. Each year after the floods by the Nile River, farmers had to measure the boundary lines all over again. This led them to develop advance ways to measure the land. Geometry was the most advance field of mathematics they developed; they knew how to figure out the volume of a circle or the area of a square. Needs to predict the yearly flooding of the Nile forced them to look carefully at the stars. Their priest-astronomers developed the first 365-day calendar; there were 12 months, three seasons (the Nile flooding season, the planting season, and the harvest season), each month had 30 days and the last month had 5 extra days. The problem with their calendar is that they did not account for leap years, later on, the Romans and Greeks modified this calendar to the one that we use today. The stone cutting and medical techniques developed by the Egyptians were also very impressive. They used hot fire and cold water make rock crack. They had ways to treat bone and spinal injuries too, the Greeks and Romans learned most of their medical knowledge form the Egyptian. These contribution as well as the monument and marks left behind made Ancient Egypt such a renowned place. Nowadays, Ancient Egypt is gone and what is left behind is just a fraction of what was.
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