• Civilization in Egypt began around 3,100 BCE and lasted approximately 3,500 years.
  • Egyptologists have been uncovering the ruins and artifacts, deciphering inscriptions, and restoring monuments of ancient Egypt for centuries.
  • 13th Century BCE – Khaemwese was the first Egyptologist (son of Ramses II).
  • Ancient Egypt is much more than just Pharaoh, pyramids, elaborate burials, and curses.
  • Many historians suffer from “tunnel vision” – grandeur of monuments overshadows the people and society.
  • The study of ancient Egypt is ongoing – with each new discovery comes new questions and theories about ancient Egyptian civilization and life.

The Geography of Egypt

  • Isolated and protected by deserts on all sides.
  • Inhospitable environment of the desert protected Egypt from invasion and from outside influences.
  • Slow, isolated development – stability was the goal; change was done slowly and with caution.

The Nile River

  • Developed around a great river system – the Nile River.
  • Extremely fertile due to annual, predictable flooding.
  • Was a lifeline – provided water, silt, natural highway.
  • Nile Delta – area where the Nile empties into the Mediterranean Sea; largest area of fertile land.
  • Lived on the eastern side; buried the dead on the western side.

Red Land, Black Land

  • Red Land (deshret) – dead (unfertile) sands of the surrounding desert; the “forbidden” territory; houses many minerals (gold, fine gems).
  • Black Land (kemet) – rich silt soil along the bank of the Nile.

The Mediterranean

  • Close access to the Mediterranean helped to increase and expand trade and culture.

Historical Overview

  • Egypt began as two separate kingdoms: Upper and Lower Egypt.
  • Upper – tall white crown
  • Lower – red crown
  • There are seven major periods:
  • Predynastic Period
  • Old Kingdom
  • Middle Kingdom
  • New Kingdom
  • Late Dynastic Period
  • Greek Period
  • Roman Period

Historical Highlights

  • UNIFICATON – upper and lower Egypt are unified; began 3000 years of ancient Egyptian civilization.
  • AGE OF PYRAMIDS – began during the era of the Old Kingdom; evolved from mastabas, to step pyramids, to the true pyramid.
  • NATIONAL GOD: AMON’RE – the god Amon was merged with the god Re, becoming the national god of Egypt, Amon-Re.
  • EXODUS – Hebrew slaves in Egypt (under the reign of Ramses II) were led out of Egypt by Moses.

Predynastic Period

  • 3100 to 2650 BCE (1st -2nd dynasty)
  • 3100 BCE – war broke out between Upper and Lower Egypt, with Upper Egypt being triumphant.
  • King Menes united the kingdoms, beginning the first Egyptian dynasty.
  • Wore the double crown.
  • Memphis named the capital.
  • Developments:
  • Hieroglyphics
  • Irrigation system

Old Kingdom

  • 2650 to 2134 BCE (3rd to 6th dynasty)
  • King (pharaoh) is considered to be a living god
    – the supreme ruler of all affairs.
  • “Age of the Pyramids”
  • A symbol of unlimited authority of Egyptian pharaohs.
  • Step Pyramid at Saqqara (Djoser)
  • Great Pyramids at Giza (Khufu/Cheops, Khafre/Chephrem, Menhure/Mycerinus)
  • Imhotep – first vizier
  • the founder of Egyptian system of medicine
  • architect (space and design)
  • only man who was not a pharaoh, yet recorded in history
  • Developments:
  • Hieroglyphics improve
  • Farming and trade regulated
  • Egypt divided into provinces/districts; governor appointed
  • A time of general disorder and anarchy (about 150 years).
  • Began after the death of Pepi II.
  • No strong king able to control entire territory.
  • Many were competing for power and trying to form own dynasty (7th to 10th Dynasty).
  • Memphis falls into a state of neglect.

Middle Kingdom

  • 2040 to 1640 BCE (11th to 12th dynasty)
  • Egypt was reunited by Theban kings of the 11th Dynasty and began to prosper again.
  • Local governors still posed a threat.
  • Developments:
  • Amon-Re becomes the national god
  • Trade links rebuilt
  • Creation of fine crafts
  • Interest in learning was renewed
  • Architecture, literature, and arts flourished
  • Hyksos introduced horse-drawn chariots, copper arrowheads, daggers, curved-blade sword, and compound bow
  • AKA: The Hyksos Invasion
  • Period of time where Egypt was controlled by foreign rulers (Hyksos Kings).
  • “Rulers of foreign land”
  • The Hyksos were a warlike people from areas now known as Syria and Palestine.
  • While Egypt was culturally superior, they lagged behind in technology
  • The superior technology of the Hyksos enabled them to take over Egypt.
  • Once Egyptians were able to master new technology and weapons, they were able to drive the Hyksos out of Egypt.

The New Kingdom

  • 1550 to 1070 BCE (18th to 20th Dynasty)
  • Pharaohs were fearless, tireless, strong, and invincible.
  • Egypt would never fall to foreign hands again
  • Stronger, larger standing armies
  • Expanded Egyptian empire
  • Religious revolution under Amenhotep (Akhenaton)
  • The Amarna Revolution
  • Developments:
  • Leather body armour covered with medal scales
  • Charioteers carried large shields
  • Foreign trade is extended
  • Hatshepsut
  • Powerful female pharaoh (one of four)
  • Stepmother and regent to Tuthmosis III (rightful heir)
  • Rebuilt Egypt’s trade network
  • Tuthmosis III
  • A military genius – “Napoleon of Egypt”
  • Amarna Revolution – made the sun god Aton the only recognized
    god of Egypt (polytheistic to monotheistic)
  • Tutankhamun (Tutankhaton): Son of Akehaton; took power at age 9 or 10 (the boy king)
  • Restores the old religion of Egypt
  • Discovery of his tomb renewed people’s interest in ancient Egypt
  • Horemheb: Repudiates the religion of Akhenaton
  • Ramses II: Rules as empire crumbles under pressure from the Hittites
  • Believed to be the pharaoh who reigned during Exodus

The Late Dynastic Period

  • 1070 to 332 BCE
  • Bitter struggles for power increased among priests and nobles.
  • Egypt broke up into a number of small states.
  • Lost territory abroad.
  • Weakness attracted invaders
  • Egypt is invaded and dominated by a series of groups: Nubia, Assyria, Saite, Persia.

The Greek Period

  • 332 to 48 BCE
  • Egyptians resented Persia’s occupation.
  • Revolts and opposition were frequent.
  • 332 BCE: Alexander the Great (Macedonia) conquers Persia and takes control of Egypt.
  • Alexandria was founded.
  • After Alexander the Great’s death, Ptolemy I ruled Egypt.
  • Greek culture was spread – temples built to Greek gods.

The Roman Period

  • 48 BCE to 395 CE
  • Cleopatra VII and her brothers wrangled for power and drew the attention of Rome.
  • Cleopatra eventually formed alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
  • Egypt became a territory of Rome upon the suicide of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.
  • Roman law was introduced
  • Iron weapons and tools, clear glass, terra-cotta lamps, lathe, split-nib pen, key, ox-drawn waterwheel, threshing machine
  • By 642 CE, Egypt was conquered by Muslims from Arabia.

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