• 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.
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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