The Ancient Egyptians
By the same author Coptic Egypt History and Guide The American University in Cairo Press, rev. ed. 1990 The Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai History and Guide The American University in Cairo Press, 1991 Aswan and Abu Simbel History and Guide The American University in Cairo Press, 1993 Luxor Ancient Thebes and the Necropolis Sakkara and Memphis The Necropolis and the Ancient Capital Upper Egypt and Nubia The Antiquities from Amarna to Abu Simbel
The Ancient Egyptians
Life in the Old Kingdom Jill Kamil
New and Completely Revised Maps and Illustrations by Elizabeth Rodenbeck
The American University in Cairo Press
Nadine. No part of this publication may be reproduced. recording or otherwise. electronic. without the prior written permission of the publisher.Dedicated with love to my granddaughters Natasha. 1996 by The American University in Cairo Press 113 Sharia Kasr el Aini Cairo. and Dina
Copyright © 1984. photocopying. Dar el Kutub No. mechanical. stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means. Egypt All rights reserved. 3724/96 ISBN 977 424 392 7 Printed in Egypt at the Printshop of the American University in Cairo
Acknowledgments Chronology Introduction
vn vm I
I Beginnings 5 The Gift of the Nile • Hunters and Gatherers • Adjusting to the Environment • Semi-Nomadic Settlers • A Settled Way of Life • The Nile and Society • Burial Practices in Upper Egypt • Leadership • On the Threshold of Civilization • Cultural Exchange • Toward Unification • The Predynastic Legacy • Origin of Ancient Egyptian Religious Beliefs • Sense of Cosmic Order
Search for the Earliest Kings • Divergence of Opinion • Early Records • Royal Cenotaphs and Tombs • Unity Consolidated • Loyalty Won • Cult Centers • Artificial Development of Cult Centers • Keepers of the Cult Statue • Local Prestige • Threat of the Use of Force • Provincial Celebration • Creating a Tradition • Unified Artistic Expression • Anthropomorphic Gods • Zoser's Step Pyramid • Preparing for a National Festival
The Great Pyramid Age • The Economic Structure • Recruitment of Labor • Funerary Estates • The Giza Group • How the Pyramids were Built • Workers' Accommodation • The Cult of the King • Cult Statues • The Sphinx • The Egyptian Religion • Significance of the Pyramidal Shape • The King is Dead. Long Live the King • The Kingship Ideal
Sun Temples and Solar Worship • Abu Sir Archives • All the King's Men • The Power of Pepi • A Boy on the Throne • To Protect a Heritage • King Lists • The Pyramid Texts • Propagating the State Dogma • Guardians of a Tradition • The Final Collapse
The Watery Highway • Sea Voyages • Movement Overland • Rural Movement • Journey to the Afterlife
Enjoyment of Life • Noble Men and Women • Food and Drink • Clothing and Accessories • The Ideal Family • Right and Wrong • Children • Peasant Farmers and Laborers • Piety of the People • The Royal Family • Honor of Ancestors • Class Mobility
The Earliest Industries • Medical Practice • Mummification and Priests • Scribes and the Law • Papyrus Production and the Bureaucracy • Art and Architecture • Shipbuilding • Stone and Pottery Vessels • Textile Manufacture • Viticulture • Other Industries • Wages • The Farming Masses • Animal Husbandry • The Bucolic Afterlife
Entertainment • Outdoor Sport • Indoor Games • Folk Tales and Myths • Rural Festivals
Conclusion For Further Reading Index
187 190 192
I would like to add that the hypotheses presented here .on the creation of cults.VII
For this new and updated edition I have received advice. and Dr Zahi Hawwas.
. director of the Giza plateau. and the significance of ancestor worship . the importance of festivals. and help from many sources. encouragement.are not necessarily shared by these scholars. professor of Anthropology and Egyptology at the American University in Cairo. I would also like to thank Lyla Pinch Brock for her patient editing of the manuscript and invaluable critical analysis. particularly from Dr Kent Weeks.
3 400 BC
.00080 30.000 BC 50.50.00-20.000 -10.000 -6000 BC 6000 .00 .000 BC 12.VIII
(All dates are approximate and some periods overlap)
Lower Paleolithic (early Old Stone Age) Middle Paleolithic Late Paleolithic Final Paleolithic Neolithic
The Old Kingdom (the period covered by this book) extends from the Fourth Dynasty to the end of the Sixth (2575-2145 BC).2 890 BC 2890 . which divides the Early Dynastic Period into three dynasties (3000-2575 BC).
.2686 BC 2686-257560
Userkaf • Sahure • Neferirkare • Shepseskare • Neferefre • Nyuserre • Menkauhor • Djedkare • Unas
Teti • Userkare • Meryre (Pepi I) • Merenre • Neferkare (Pepi II) • Merenrell • Menkure
Ancient Egyptian chronology remains a controversial issue among scholars and is subject to variation.IX
Early Dynastic Period First Dynasty Second Dynasty Third Dynasty Old Kingdom Fourth Dynasty 2575-246560
Senefru • Khufu • Redjedef • Khafre • Baufre • Menkaure • Shepseskhaf • Dedefptah
3ooo . Guidance here is taken from the Department of Anthropology and Egyptology of the American University in Cairo.
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we now know more than ever before about the growth of the ancient Egyptian civilization. During the Old Kingdom the core of Egyptian thought and institution was formed.among them Flinders Petrie at Naqada and Quibbell and Green at Hierakonpolis (Nekhen) along with a vast amount of information which has come to light from more recently excavated sites in the Delta and Upper Egypt. power. It was a time to which the ancient Egyptians themselves looked with pride and regarded as a model throughout their history. and New kingdoms.They have studied the lifestyle and culture of Predynastic communities based on discoveries made in the Nile Valley by scholars before and around the turn of the twentieth century . The first period. it is surprising how few books have been writ-
. In view of this. is the subject of this book. Middle. the legendary King Menes (3000 BC) who united the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt. As a result. This period has been roughly divided into thirty dynasties. the Old. which have been grouped into three great periods. It traces the origins of Egyptian civilization from the earliest settlers in the Nile Valley through the rise and fall of an era unparalleled in grandeur. archaeologists have taken a keen interest in the origins of the ancient Egyptian civilization. wealth.Introduction
Egypt's ancient history covers some three thousand years from Narmer. the Old Kingdom or 'pyramid age' (2575 to 2145 BC). and prestige. Since the 19605. to the conquest of Alexander the Great (33230).
The boundaries of our knowledge are rapidly opening up but publication has fallen behind the progress made. and travel? How did they spend their leisure time? Today. This work differs from earlier histories in concentrating on a single period. Many outdated theories still dominate popular literature and there is a tendency. and in including national festivals. religious rites. for early concepts to persist that are now known to be mistaken. and religion organized and maintained? How did the ancient Egyptians live. This neglect is largely responsible for the impression that little of value is known about the rise of the first class-based society. This book attempts to remedy the situation. My aim is to synthesize a vast amount of information that has been revealed on the earliest human occupation of the Nile Valley by describing the formative years of the dynastic civilization. and tracing its fall at the end of the Sixth Dynasty. the Old Kingdom. pursuing the ideals of the expanding state in the Old Kingdom. and mortuary rituals as part of the narrative. Today we tend to ask the very same questions about ancient Egypt once posed by the earliest travelers and scholars. Two themes in particular are developed: i) that ancestor worship lay at the root of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. even in some specialized publications. and 2) that a well-devised plan to establish cult centers created both a common religious and cultural tradition and a reciprocal service relationship between the central government and distant communities. Who were the first inhabitants in the Nile Valley? What led them to a settled existence? How was unification between Upper and Lower Egypt achieved in a land that physically did not lend itself to centralization? What triggered the growth of a complex and highly stratified society in which a ruling class created monumental works of art by extracting surplus production and labor from the masses? How were the administration. work.2
ten for non-professional readers to bring them up to date on recent discoveries. judiciary.
The Early Dynastic Period covers the first three dynasties (3100-2575 BC) and the Old Kingdom the Fourth to Sixth dynasties (2575-2145 BC). on the Turin Papyrus.' as well as the Greek 'nome' and 'nomarch. The words 'province' and 'governor.the palace hierarchy and its associated departments. and formulated a state religion . The Predynastic site commonly known by its Greek name Hierakonpolis is here referred to by its Egyptian name Nekhen.and the king as an individual.' are abandoned in favor of 'cult center' and 'local leader' to distinguish the latter from the officials . there is no interruption in the line of Narmer (Menes) until the end of the reign of Unas in 2345 BC. Only toward the end of the Old Kingdom did provinces exist in the true sense of the word. in order to relate the 'souls of Nekhen' and the 'souls of Pe' (originally sacred centers of ancestor worship) as parallel political insti-
. which owned the land.' derived from per-aa 'great house. a period of six and a half centuries. The word 'pharaoh.usually members of the royal family who were later given power in the settlements by royal decree.Notes on Chronology and Terminology
we might raise additional questions: What was the role of women in ancient Egypt? What do we know of childhood and education? What was the attitude of the affluent elite toward the masses? How were the latter recruited for large-scale building construction? Did the ancient Egyptians have a pacific or aggressive social ideal? Did they have a moral code? What was the cause of the remarkable homogeneity and continuity of their ancient civilization? Notes on Chronology and Terminology The latest subdivisions of Manetho's royal dynasties have been adopted here. monopolized trade.' is not used here. In the most ancient King List. so that a distinction may be made between the 'Great House' .
because 'totem' has associations with worship.
. Chephren. Finally. The word 'emblem' is used rather than 'totem' to describe the images depicted on flagpoles on Predynastic pottery and early ceremonial palettes and maceheads. Khafre. Greek spellings of the kings' names (Cheops. and Menkaure. and Mycerinus) have been abandoned in favor of the ancient Egyptian spellings as transliterated by Sir Alan Gardiner: Khufu. of which there is no evidence.4
the land is internally divided: Upper Egypt is mostly' barren apart from the narrow ribbon of verdant land flanking the Nile. the Nile emerges from the lakes of equatorial Africa and flows 6. It cascades over Egypt's granite threshold (known as the First Cataract) at Aswan and flows northward along its narrow valley in Upper Egypt toward modern-day Cairo. the basis for the great productivity of the soil. the Delta. About 320 kilometers before it reaches the sea.' one of the ancient Egyptian terms for the country. Pri-
. It is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north and by large tracts of barren desert to east and west.buffered by sea. is geographically true. The longest river in the world. forming Lower Egypt. In Upper Egypt maximum temperatures range from 5O°C in summer to 2O°C in winter. which produced one of the great literate societies of the ancient world. while Lower Egypt is completely fertile. Upper and Lower Egypt were united in ancient times only in their uniform dependence on the River Nile. whereas the Delta has a temperate climate with maximums of 35°C in summer and i3°C in winter. the Nile fans into a wide triangle.671 kilometers to the sea. lies in the northeast corner of the African continent. Physically isolated from neighboring countries . The Western (or Libyan) Desert and the Eastern (or Arabian) Desert are separated by the River Nile. and the First Cataract . sand. The 'Two Lands.I
The Gift of the Nile
000 and 5 50.
Hunters and Gatherers Hand-axes." In order to trace the earliest known human habitation in Egypt it is necessary to go back in geological time to the ancestor of the modern Nile. fist-wedges. and other primitive implements dating back to the period known as the Lower Paleolithic. Each lowering of the riverbed resulted in the formation of terraces. between 100. For hundreds of thousands of years the river had poured its heavily charged waters over the sloping plateau of northeastern Africa.000 BC. It was ultimately upon this regular and abundant water supply.000 and 50. date from between 650.000 BC. with its rich alluvium deposits. the people were entirely dependent on the river to water their crops. They reveal no signs of human life. have been found in widely separated areas
. The highest terraces.6
or to the construction of the High Dam at Aswan in the 19605 the river annually brought a copious deposit of rich silt from the tableland of Ethiopia. that the ancient civilization was based. It is only at the thirty-meter level of terraces in some parts of Upper Egypt that we can break from purely geological dating and trace the earliest known human occupation of the country. over a hundred meters above the river. The swiftly flowing water found depressions and channels in the limestone plateau and began to carve its bed. Because rainfall was almost nonexistent in Egypt. When the Greek traveler and historian Herodotus came to Egypt around 445 BC he aptly described Egypt as "the gift of the Nile. Not until Miocene times did a cooling of the world's climate and a reduction of forested areas affect the landscape of Egypt. which were left high above the newly formed river valley. This did not occur in one continuous movement but in sharply defined stages.
Hunters and Gatherers MEDITERRANEAN SEA
Kufra £££$. Victoria
The Nile Valley
. Gilf Kibir = Gabal Uwenat ^ &-
During most of the Late Paleolithic (30. Its velocity diminished and the increasingly sluggish river was able to deposit some of its dark.poured toward Egypt.000 BC) was a slow process. Such tools were fashioned to provide a grip for the hand and were used for chopping. mineral-rich silt along its banks. buried the river channel.000-6000 BC) there was a marked decrease in local rainfall. and the White Nile was joined by the Atbara and the Blue Nile to bring an increase in the annual summer flood. crushing. It covered most of the early terraces in Upper Egypt. There was a tendency to form groups. digging. It carried the surplus alluvium northward to the Delta. handaxes disappeared and more refined tool-manufacture appeared. and possibly more humid. The humans sometimes lived in camps and caves around main sources of food like the oases of the Western Desert and in the Fayyum depression. When the flood water reached Kom Ombo it was no longer confined by sandstone cliffs to the east and west but spread out to form lakes and marshy tracts along the banks of the river. such as the thigh bones of animals for clubs and spears.8
from northern Sudan to the region of Asyut in Middle Egypt. This was a period in which people and animals alike migrated over vast areas of northern Africa. they simply collected wild plants when available and developed hunting aids. and probably stabbing. and largely obliterated the discarded implements of early human settlement along the banks. These groups did not produce their own food. skinning.000 to 20. This swollen water .the direct result of the rains in Ethiopia . It was a semi-tropical environment with trees and swamps extending from Sudan in the south to Dakhla Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert. Animal life was not
. sometimes of several families. and establish a home base. Plants grew in the enriched soil and much of Egypt became fertile. The climate during this time was somewhat cooler than today. Tool development from the Lower to the Middle Paleolithic (around 50.
may have been cattle-breeders . giraffe. and hippopotamus flourished. moving in from the Sahara. shellfish. Evidence of elaborate flint-mining between Qena and Asyut. buffalo. ostrich. They roamed around the water holes. especially those that moved down to Egypt from the south. These ideal conditions also existed along parts of the western bank of the Nile as far north as the shore of Lake Qarun in the Fayyum.Hunters and Gatherers
much different from that of East Africa today. Some of the groups. most groups continued a nomadic life. There they could continue to hunt as well as exploit the river's resources. They exploited natural sources of food.like the Nuer in present-day southern Sudan . This occurred gradually. lion. indicates that more permanent hunting and fishing camps were established along the banks of the Nile. Fossilized bones reveal the presence of elephant.only drawing near the river to water their herds. cheetah. follow sources of water. and a semi-nomadic pattern continued well into the Final Paleolithic era (12. wild ass. Experiments in the trapping and domestication of birds and animals were probably carried out and techniques developed for making more specialized tools and
. and move toward the valley. with advanced tools like retouched blades. The groups that gravitated toward the Nile did not consciously choose to settle there. Others. Comparative studies of early societies reveal that people do not become sedentary unless compelled to do so for environmental or other reasons. moving over extensive areas.000 to 6000 BC). which hosted a profusion of waterfowl. Despite such attractive conditions for a sedentary existence in the Nile Valley. but rock drawings at various sites in the Eastern and Western deserts attest to a continued nomadic existence. gazelle. and hyena. Increasing desertification in northern Africa eventually forced many hunters to abandon the plains. crocodile. may have gradually given up large-game hunting for small-game hunting and eventually set up camp on the edge of the desert above the floodplain. where fish.
the land was left bare to the fury of the hot. has only occurred within the last five thousand years.io
weapons. the khamasin. but like the searing sun that drove hunters and gatherers from the savanna. desert winds. a series of low floods could cause famine. Seasonally flooded depressions dried out. and the river itself. the river could also be a destructive force. July marked the peak of summer. Fishing was limited to the permanent pools. tamarisk.with the exception of hardy acacia. dry. and a similar rhythm gradually developed in the lives of the people who depended upon it. sweeping away shelters and livestock. they
. fauna to perish. but it remained precarious. chisels. The Nile flood came with regularity. Animals on the fringes of the valley may have moved southward or scattered into the desert in search of food. In tracing human settlement in Egypt we can see a slow and steady adjustment to local conditions.
Adjusting to the Environment The dramatic desertification of the Western Desert. along with a bola. which caused lakes to shrink. however. a rope with a stone attached for catching animals. occurred with tireless regularity. which were collected in large amounts. vegetation . Large concentrations of knife-blades.began to diminish. As the low-lying desert became progressively submerged. and sycamore along the edges of the Nile Valley . rodents. and Nile clams. and the earth became scorched and ashen dry. and considerable denudation. The rise and ebb of the flood. side channels. The people withdrew with their animals to the higher land which flanked the valley. wooded areas near the water offered turtles. awls. and scrapers have been found between Qena and Sohag. Too high a flood could cause destruction. In spring when the river was low. when the Nile became swollen with the annual flood and spilled out over the land.
moved again to outcrops on the dry rim of the plateau, where they waited until the water had reached its full height, toward the end of August. When the river began to recede it left behind a fairly uniform deposit of silt, as well as lagoons and streams that became natural reservoirs for fish. A variety of plants including wild wheat, brush, bulrush, and papyrus formed lush vegetation in the newly enriched soil. Thus began the season of abundance. The people gathered together their possessions, rounded up their animals, and went back to the floodplain. The level of the river continued to fall, until by April it was at its lowest level. Vegetation diminished and seasonal pools dried out. Then in July the Nile started to rise again, and the cycle was repeated. This annual movement of people, mirroring changes in the level of the Nile, continued until the middle of this century when the construction of the High Dam at Aswan put an end to the floods. A strong bond between the people and the land, with its three distinct seasons - the drought (shemu)^ the inundation (akhet), and the growing or 'coming forth' (peret) - is an important, and early established, feature of Egyptian civilization.
Semi-Nomadic Settlers Seasonal settlements can be traced to many sites, including those along the northern fringe of the Fayyum's Lake Qarun; at Merimda on the southwestern edge of the Delta in Lower Egypt; and at Badari, Hammamiya, and Tasa near Asyut in Upper Egypt. These cultures, named after the sites where they were first identified, were not necessarily the earliest - or the only - herding and farming settlements. Countless others in Upper Egypt were doubtless obliterated by the swirling waters of particularly high floods in ages long past or, in the Delta, submerged beneath successive layers of alluvial soil. Despite these lost settlements, available evi-
dence attests to varying phases of development at different sites but little, if any, contact between them. For thousands of years the communities who lived near the banks of the Nile appear to have remained independent of one another. The oldest known seasonal settlements are in the Fayyum. The depression was filled by the Nile around 8000 BC, creating a considerable lake with a much higher water level than it has today. (Dimeh, for example, an ancient site now isolated in the desert, may originally have been an early settlers' camp on the northern shore.) Then the level of the lake gradually fell. Mud huts were built on mounds along its north and northeastern shores where the land was fertile and, beginning around 5,000 BC, emmer, wheat, barley, and flax were cultivated and harvested using sickleflints set in wooden handles. Judging from the great care given to their storage, crops were plentiful. Underground silos lined with basketry were constructed on ground well above the level of the lake. The people also buried their dead here, in simple graves under the dry desert sand. Traces of cloth reveal that they wove linen clothing, probably worn beneath an outer garment of leather. Stone beads and pendants show that they had also developed drilling techniques. Pottery made of coarse clay was fashioned into a variety of simple shapes. As well as the cultivation of grain and flax, sheep, cattle, and pigs were kept. Hooks, spears, and harpoons were used to catch
Reed basket, Fayyum culture
fish in the shallow waters of the lake and, despite increases in animal husbandry, expeditions into the desert to hunt large mammals continued. A seasonal, semi-nomadic existence can also be traced in Upper Egypt. Burial grounds of the 'Badarian' culture have been identified at many sites south of Asyut. They most likely date to about the same period as early occupation in the Fayyum, around 5000 BC. The actual settlements, probably built on natural levees along the banks of the river, have long disappeared. The burial grounds, however, were constructed in the desert above the floodplain,the bodies laid to rest in the fetal position in shallow oval graves in the sand surrounded by basketry, skins, and objects of daily life. These have been well preserved and provide evidence upon which to base our knowledge of early society. Ivory spoons, figurines, and small copper objects - hammered, not cast - were among the grave goods. Remnants of clothing show that the people wore kilts, sometimes with decorative girdles, and feathered headgear. Strings of blue-glazed beads, anklets of shells, and bracelets of ivory were also buried. Oval slate palettes which bear traces of red ocher or green malachite were probably used to grind body paint for ceremonial purposes. Indeed, some of the characteristic red-brown pottery of these sites - blackened around the rim - bears traces of the prepared pigment.
Ivory carvings, Fayyum culture
A Settled Way of Life
The earliest evidence of fully sedentary village life in Egypt can be found at Merimda, a sandy rise in the Western Desert on the edge of the Delta near the Rosetta branch of the Nile. Radiocarbon readings reveal evidence of occupation from 4440 to 4145 BC, although some scholars suggest a date of as early as 5040 BC for the first Merimda settlement. Groups of small, flimsy, pole-framed huts made of wicker were built on spurs overlooking large stretches of arable land. Many were oval in shape and most were too small to accommodate an adult. They were clearly not houses. The fact that few habitations of this period have been found in either Upper or Lower Egypt suggests that in a climate as gracious as that of Egypt shelter was less important than in other regions of the world. The huts may have been used for much the same purpose as in rural communities in Egypt up to the present day: for storing food and tools rather than for human habitation. These lightly-constructed shelters may have further provided shade for workshops and cooking areas. The granaries at Merimda were not separated from the community as in the Fayyum, but scattered through it: storage was associated with individual farmsteads, which suggests that each family was responsible for its own food production. The burial practices at Merimda also differed from those of the Fayyum: the dead were buried around their shelters. This was a practice quite alien to the nomadic, or even semi-nomadic, way of life. The bodies were laid in shallow oval graves with pottery, garments, spindles, and, for the first time, flowers: a bouquet was found on the chest of a body in one grave. A molded clay head - the oldest known sculpture from Egypt - was also found. In almost all burials a pottery jar was placed in front of the contracted body of the deceased, whose head lay toward the south and whose face was directed toward the west. The earliest pottery was coarse mono-
^J —. Abydos .»Mustagidda
.. ..A Settled Way of Life
M E D I T E R R A N E A N SEA
»Mustagidda L. NaqadaJ Coptos al-Kab
Predynastic sites and ancient routes
.-Ballas.. .. ..
goats. both coarse. flint implements. Their granaries contained wheat and barley. Heliopolis became a religious capital. including pendants and necklaces. Maadi. grew to be the major Delta settlement.specifically emmer. Dietary habits and social patterns were in transition and some of these early settlements were to develop into important communities. and there is evidence that they baked a sort of cake of crushed emmer and barley. bringing an increase in economic security and leisure. opposite the SaqqaraAbusir necropolis.
The Nile and Society The period from 5000 to 340030 was characterized by the improved preparation of stone tools and weapons to suit an increasingly sedentary existence. and Buto.and fine-weave garments were produced and there is evidence of leather-working. Spinning and weaving were well developed at Omari. in the north central Delta. Refuse heaps composed of ashes. north of Helwan at the mouth of the Wadi Hof in the Eastern Desert. later developed into an important trading center. those of Omari seem to have used more jewelry for personal adornment. Large jars to store domesticated grain . a settlement of farmers and stockbreeders who raised beef-cattle. Arts and crafts began to flourish. sheep. and pigs.16
chrome ware in simple shapes. In contrast to the early settlers of the Fayyum and Merimda. With an increase in settled farming. for example. They used ostrich eggshells for containers and even cooking pots. and animal bones have been found along with hearths. Maadi. Subsequent stages of settlement can be traced to several sites in Lower Egypt including Omari. Heliopolis. What
. which originated in western Asiawere later buried up to their necks in the ground. there was a marked rise in population. and Buto (Tell al-Fara'un).
Both Naqada and Nekhen are important sites in tracing Predynastic development in Upper Egypt.a practice that continues to this day. during which many of the components of what we call 'civilization' were laid. but all evidence has since disappeared. The Naqada culture was widespread in Upper Egypt from Nekhen (Greek Hierakonpolis. overlapping with the Badarian culture. This was a crucial time. Precise stratigraphic techniques in contemporary archaeology have facilitated a better understanding of this culture. It was named after Naqada (opposite Qift) and fell into three stages. The Predynastic settlement of Nekhen. with a vast adjacent burial ground of over two thousand graves packed into seventeen acres. one of the earliest and largest settlements in the Nile Valley was found. as well as the stylistic evolution of grave objects. which was characterized by slow and continuous change in the economy and social organization. Some of the earliest settlers may have set up camp on levees at the edge of the river.The Nile and Society
is known as the Naqada culture. or they were depleted by modern farmers digging away at the enriched soil to fertilize their fields . One of the highlights of this period was the formation of a 'class-based society. was considerably smaller. It spread over a ninety-meter-square area. revealed in recent excavations. opposite al-Kab) in the south.from 4000 BC to the beginning of the dynastic period. Either the camps were built of perishable materials and swept away by the flood. however. Naqada I. At the edge of the Naqada floodplain. to Abydos in the north. Naqada was situated within the loop of the Nile north of Luxor where the river most closely approaches the Red Sea.' a term used by anthropologists today to denote early civilization prior to the introduction of writing. Its graveyard comprised some two hundred individual burials extending for three kilometers along the edge of the desert. Both Naqada and Nekhen were
. and Naqada III. developed over a span of nearly a thousand years . Naqada II.
as well as hunt and herd animals. The earliest steps in water management probably involved reinforcing natural embankments along the edge of the Nile as soon as the flood reached its peak in order to retain it on the floodplain. The repercussion was that people drew together into larger settlements as they were forced to move nearer the valley. By subsequently erecting lateral embankments (dikes) the entry and exit of the flood could be controlled. and there was consequently more interaction among them. Naqada I
. pasturage shrank. When a period of low water coincided with a decline in rainfall. Large-scale cultivation of grain. They were situated at the edge of wadis (dried-out waterways) where the people could plant wheat and barley. How long such a life would have continued had it not been for climatic change is difficult to say. and the water could even be guided to land quite distant from the river. Recent geological studies have shown that there were fifty-year fluctuations in the level of the Nile flood: extended periods of relatively high annual floods were followed by equally long periods when the annual high-water level fell below the average. And with the help
Unconventional pottery with incised geometric lines. An awareness grew of the need to make lasting and economical use of the flood waters. necessary to feed the growing communities. and the river failed to cover the inner floodplain.18
ideal locations for settlement. Basins were dug to retain the water long enough to produce a crop. wadis dried up. required group effort.
Burial Practices in Upper Egypt The earliest graves at the Naqada burial grounds. Great care was given to the communal storage of grain. which was then brought to productivity. a channel could be dug toward the low-lying desert. grave pits were replaced by well-constructed brick-lined tombs and the grave goods reflected a more highly developed standard of living. were shallow. and others were fashioned into the shapes of birds and fish. When the 'black land' (the silt-rich soil) spread over parts of the 'red land' (the arid desert). ivory and bone combs. were covered with coarse matting. Some pottery items were black-topped. a concept that grew from the need to assure food supplies.
Bone hairpins and combs. others took fancy forms such as double vases or square containers. and a huge variety of polished pottery were produced. twigs. With the development of larger settlements and a more stratified society. Clay figurines. like those of the earlier Badarian sites. carved ivory plaques.Burial Practices in Upper Egypt
of such basins. Naqada I
. The bodies. The quality and range of these goods clearly show a developing artistic sense among a growing community of professional craftspeople. sometimes two in a single grave. the settlers became peasant farmers: Egypt's soilbound and conservative fellahin. or animal skins.
segregated from their poorer neighbors. but it was important for several reasons. and certain burial rituals were becoming standard. and animals in red. white. Burnished pottery was invariably placed at the north end of the tomb.
Leadership As sprawling. Some continued to be placed in the contracted position. and covered with mounds of earth. Varying sizes and positions of tombs show. One in particular. while the southern end was reserved for wavy-handled jars. roofed with sticks and matting. semi-sedentary settlements began to coalesce into more heavily populated communities. in the eastern part of the cemetery. Although the bodies were covered with no more than mats and hides.2O
In the next stage of development (Naqada II). was more elaborate than the others. While most people continued to be interred in shallow graves covered with mats and hides. where there are five unusually large graves among the burials. They were rectangular pits. for example. boats. Referred to as the 'painted tomb' at Hierakonpolis. often lined with woven branches and brush. It was brick-lined. important people were buried in larger graves. an association between social status and burial custom. they remained remarkably well-preserved. for the first time. This tendency continued through to dynastic times. The bodies of both men and women show that they braided or plaited their hair and wore necklaces of shells and stone beads. This is especially apparent at Nekhen. plastered. leadership became an increasingly vital part of social development. it is now lost. and decorated with images of people. Firstly. both the leader and the site became sacred through the very act of building such a large structure and Nekhen retained its importance throughout an-
. and black on a yellow background. the graves became larger.
more powerful) than the accompanying figures.smiting bound enemies with a raised club.whether local leader or king . representations of high-prowed boats with deck-cabins have their prototypes on the Predynastic pottery found at this site. and the owner of the tomb is shown larger (that is. it had the earliest known attempt at mural decoration. A figure holding two lions. In addition. Thirdly.Leadership
cient history. on an ivory knife-handle from Gebel al-Arak. There is a victor .striking evidence for cultural diffusion. Each eventually became a cult center. Secondly. and it is interesting to note the emergence at so early a date. Their rulers came to exemplify the emerging ideology of power and were probably buried in the so-called royal tombs in the Predynastic cemeteries in both places. its brick walls and floor made this tomb a fore-runner of the large brick-lined tombs of the early dynasties. Each was strategically situated with direct connections through large wadis: west to Kharga Oasis and east to the gold-bearing region between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea. of certain motifs that were to become part of the artistic tradition in dynastic times. is thought to be of Mesopotamian origin . of Horus (the hawk) and Set (a mythical desert animal) respectively. Nekhen and Naqada both bear marks of having developed into communities of substantial influence in Predynastic times. a leader stands beneath a sunshade. Abydos is another site where lasting associations of leadership
From the 'painted tomb' at Nekhen
On the Threshold of Civilization
Between about 3400 and 3000 BC Egypt entered the last stage of its Predynastic experience. which can become a form of ancestor worship.named after a village north of Meidum in the Fayyum where it was first identified . canals. It is not beyond the bounds of reason. and Abydos. The myth of Osiris as an ideal ruler (see chapter in) occurs in so many different forms that it must contain an element of truth. to suppose that he was originally a leader who exercised ingenuity and led his people to an understanding of the benefits of water control.22
developed. Royal monuments of the First and Second dynasties were found here and recent excavations have revealed. among other things. therefore. In settled societies where the deceased are buried close to the living. there is a great awareness of and respect for the dead.the god depicted in mythology as an earthly leader who ruled in Predynastic times. Perhaps he judged cases of disputed embankments. sprouting vegetation. far too delicate for utilitarian use. and judgment. or catchment basins because he was associated throughout dynastic times with water as a source of fertility. a Predynastic cemetery. Over the millennia people paid homage through pilgrimage to Naqada. Nekhen. Evidence of the Naqada III or Gerzean culture . were obviously orna-
. the soil. the three sites associated with early leaders. Craft specialization was one direct result of food sufficiency: flint of fine quality was obtained from beds in the cliffs along the Nile Valley and fashioned with unsurpassed skill into ripple-chipped knives which. rapid advances were now being made.can be found at numerous sites throughout Egypt. Abydos developed a sacred aura and was later believed to be the burial place of Osiris . In contrast to the slow pace of earlier development.
people were skilled in the execution of their work. The stone was shaped by skilled artisans using stone drills. although it is not known whether these were fertility figures . marble. and granite. and a kind of chessboard that were often buried with children. Ivory statuettes have been found. chisels. Decorative ware included small boxes of ivory. At a more practical level. Naqada III or Gerzean period
. or wood inlaid with ivory. daggers. hoes. white limestone. adzes. Amulets were produced in a larger assortment of stones and in different designs. A keen artistic sense can be seen in the way that the roughly-made slates of Badarian times were now formed into bird.On the Threshold of Civilization
mental. Slate palettes for grinding paint were carved in decorative fish. red breccia. diorite.since some were carved with exaggerated sexual characteristics . bird. to hold a woman's possessions. The Gerzean period was also known for its vases produced from a variety of hard and brightly-colored stone: basalt and alabaster. game pieces. One of particularly fine execution has its lid carved with a human figure in low relief and its sides decorated with geese. hippopotamus. Furniture was placed in tombs: low stools made of stone and wood-frame beds with mattresses of woven linen lashed to the frame. did not exist. and knives of beaten metal were produced. and fish designs. Although art.or toys like the small stone balls. and animal designs. in today's sense of the word. tools like axe-heads. Clearly the owners of such objects were no longer primarily concerned with survival. These ob-
Decorated ivory box.
which may have served as shade for an important traveler. animals.
Cultural Exchange Trade in luxury goods became a royal business in dynastic times. These contained a complex of rooms. or mud-brick and extra chambers were added to accommodate grave goods. the importation of raw materials for the development of industries seems to have been a local affair. They include drawings of boats. hills. and humans. some of the settlements were
. sometimes with two streamers hanging from them. They were lined with matting. wood. also frequently lined with matting or strengthened with wooden planks. however. In the Gerzean period.invariably rowing boats . Some of the boats appear to have cabins. whose tombs underwent change during this period.cast considerable light on ancient society.24
jects were made to serve a growing elite. The boats . In the late Gerzean period a distinctive ware developed . Being represented on boats. These ensigns were visible marks of tribal identity.some reminiscent of the 'painted tomb' at Nekhen . Because of their strategic location.were each identified with emblems on poles. Drawings were made on the pots in manganese before firing and the designs . The simple mound over the tomb of previous times became enlarged into a low rectangular superstructure to which the Arabic word mastaba (bench) has been given. they further suggest increased river trade among different communities to acquire all that was needed to enhance the status of local leaders. This resulted in the manufacture of uniform texture and color that provided a suitable surface for decoration.widelipped. plants. buff-colored .in addition to the black-topped pottery. These vessels were fired in an improved kiln in which higher temperatures could be produced and better controlled.
developed into a Predynastic commercial community. as well as large quantities of copperware. and furniture-making in Egypt. boat-building. Late Gerzean
. suggests trade with Byblos on the eastern Mediterranean. twelve kilometers south of modern-day Cairo. These may have been trade items. Attractive and well-made products carved from a wide variety of stones. Small painted pots. Underground houses. They are characterized by ledge or wavy handles that have no prototypes in the Nile Valley. Upper Egypt became rich from the procurement of stone and minerals from the Eastern Desert. That is to say. used in tombconstruction. its main activity was not agriculture . Copper and turquoise mined in Sinai brought wealth to some of the Delta settlements.although herding and farming were practiced there . Trade with Nubia saw the flow into Egypt of copper and incense from the lands lying even further south. It enjoyed a favorable position for trade with Sinai and western Asia via Wadi Digla.but commerce. evidently imported from Palestine. which runs eastward to the Bitter Lakes. suggest that Maadi may even have ac-
Pottery with elaborate decoration. form the most distinctive link between the two regions. The presence of cedarwood. Their contents included perfumed vegetable fat and other items imported from the east. Maadi. not found elsewhere in Egypt.Cultural Exchange
destined to acquire more wealth than others. Huge amphorae found in large cellars below the forty-five-acre site strongly resemble those of Palestine. have been found at Maadi.
their leaders prospered. In Upper Egypt. recessed paneling in tomb architecture. In Lower Egypt the formation of a major settlement is not so clearly de-
Wavy handled vases of Palestinian type
Toward Unification As certain settlements became richer . and the facade of a building in Tell alFara'un (ancient Pe [Buto].26
commodated foreign merchants.and consequently larger than their neighbors. linen. Its evidence has been found in Egypt in the forms of cylinder seals. A similar exchange occurred between Egypt and Nubia to the south. Nekhen came to enjoy particularly strong leadership. whose wares were transported in this distinctive pottery to other parts of the country. Objects of early Egyptian manufacture have also been found at Byblos on the Mediterranean in present-day Lebanon. Cultural diffusion is a natural process following commercial contact. The land bridge of Sinai facilitated the free flow of trade and culture. Egypt's rich agricultural surplus. motifs of fantastic animals with intertwined necks depicted on the handles of weapons and palettes. which developed into a major settlement in the Delta) featuring cones that have their prototypes in Mesopotamia. and honey were exchanged for mining rights in Nubia and access to trade routes beyond the Second Cataract.
may have been encouraged to move northward toward the temperate climate and abundant food supply of the Delta.including Tell Ibrahim Awad. the Battlefield Palette. Awareness of the benefits of contact with the countries of the eastern Mediterranean may have been an added inducement.in view of the changing climatic conditions .Toward Unification
fined. One. Tell Farkha. because many Delta settlements were submerged by flood deposits in relatively recent times. however. Tell al-Fara'un has now been identified as Pe (Buto). and Tell al-Kabir . One cause might have been the economic attraction of the Delta: Upper Egyptians. Confrontation between various settlements is also suggested by decorative motifs on two palettes of this period found at Abydos.increasingly hostile environment of the Nile Valley. Tell Samara. Whatever the reason. the leaders of Nekhen first extended their influence toward Naqada and then farther north to Thinis (modern Girga). but the reason remains obscure. toward the end of the Predynastic Period the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt . confined to the narrow and .
.later to form the basis of the country's political organization . just north of Abydos. Political expansion was not without warfare. Now. however. On the contrary. excavations at many sites in the eastern and central Delta . judging from the number of maces with disc-shaped heads in hard stone found alongside an unusually large number of broken bones among the bodies of the dead at Naqada.cast light on settlements of the same time span as the late Gerzean in Upper Egypt. Products of Upper Egyptian origin began to appear in the Delta during the Late Predynastic Period and pottery from the Delta made its way to Upper Egypt.stand out as separate entities with greater clarity than ever before. This long-distance internal trade did not lead to a uniform material culture. the traditional counterpart of Nekhen in Upper Egypt. The thrust toward unification was spearheaded by Upper Egypt.
or the quality of the contents. Myths. A partially robbed Predynastic tomb at Abydos. there is evidence not only of a class-based society but also of the invention of writing long before the dynastic period. until recently.two of the earliest kings identified in Upper Egypt-were found at Tell Ibrahim Awad in the Delta. Several centuries passed before objects of Upper Egyptian origin replaced those in the Delta and until the names of Ka and Narmer . making Egyptian one of the world's oldest written languages. Today it is known that the origins of the world's earliest civilizations predate the appearance of written records. once dismissed as unreliable. was equated with literacy. in their earliest form. Roughly painted inscriptions on the seals and labels of funerary equipment were precise records .
.trademarks that revealed the owner's identity. 'civilization' and 'First Dynasty' became synonymous. have been based upon actual conflict between the two strong Upper Egyptian settlements: Nekhen. The possibility of internal conflict is also suggested from oral traditions. are now being recognized as reflections of important historical and social realities.
The Predynastic Legacy Civilization. The many myths describing battles between Horus of Lower Egypt and Set of Upper Egypt may. Political integration was extremely slow.i8
shows slain captives being preyed upon by lions. and because the earliest known records of ancient Egypt were those dating to the First Dynasty. provides evidence that the hieroglyphic script was developed much earlier than archaeologists had previously supposed. and Naqada. where the hawk was the emblem. In Egypt. while the Towns Palette is thought to represent different clans destroying walled settlements. associated with the Set animal. the contents of a vessel. dating to around 3200 BC.
a large object. The event is an unmistakable record of military triumph by a leader whose attributes included physical
Relief scene on macehead of King Scorpion
. The early pictographic records were most explicit. He wears the distinctive headgear that has become known as the White Crown of Upper Egypt and his tunic has a bull's tail. and carved in three registers. Behind him are fan-bearers and people rejoicing. which became a common attribute of kings. hung from standards bearing their emblems. He is depicted in an agricultural setting breaking the ground with a hoe. One 'scorpion' leader left a fascinating record on a pear-shaped macehead (Ashmolean Museum. associated with various tribes on the borders of Egypt. Only in dynastic times did the names and titles of kings become standardized. Oxford). Below is another agricultural scene. however. apparently used for ceremonial purposes. Dominating the central scene is the scorpion king himself. while the top register shows dead lapwings.The Predynastic Legacy
The leaders who lived during the crucial years immediately prior to unification identified themselves with names like Ka and Iryhor or with symbols like the elephant and the scorpion.
starting with the sighting of Sothis. Ancient Egyptians were dependent upon the annual flood. i.and whose obligations included water control and ensuring the fertility of the land. breaking the bonds imposed by the lunar month was another important Predynastic legacy. To forecast its arrival would obviously be advantageous but difficult. The earliest written evidence of the heliacal rising appears on a small ivory tablet belonging to Djer. as it signaled the start of the whole agricultural cycle. also known as Sirius or the dog-star. the light of Sothis was entirely swallowed up by the brightness of the sun and the star became invisible for a period of seventy days. Countless years of living in an environment of rhythmic cycles eventually led to the observation that the rising flood waters were accompanied by a heavenly sign. It reads: "Sothis. in the glow of the rising sun.inherited from his ancestor. Inundation.' and was witnessed just before the flood waters began to rise each year. In its most primitive
. A night would come at the end of this period when Sothis became visible in the eastern sky just before dawn. The new Egyptian calendar was based on a year of three seasons. Along with the invention of writing. as no fixed number of lunar months corresponded to the agricultural year.30
prowess and bravery . Opener of the Year. This sighting is referred to as the 'heliacal rising. Its position changed as the earth moved around the sun. It was an astronomical event of great importance because it heralded the promise of the land's rebirth and the beginning of another agricultural year. causing a shifting point of observation. Sothis. the second king of the First Dynasty (around 3000 BC). thus the invention of the nilometer was another important legacy. was the brightest of all fixed stars in the night sky. the tribal hunter ." The ability to anticipate the flood level was an important means by which a leader could vindicate his power. At one stage during the lunar cycle.
Death seems not to have been regarded with fascination and fear as the final. In contrast to other early societies where rites of fasting ensured the annual regeneration of the land. apart from the certainty of life beyond the grave. supreme crisis of life but as the necessary prelude to rebirth.Origin of Ancient Egyptian Religious Beliefs
form. Whatever it was that encouraged devotion and emotional com-mitment is so far unknown.
Origin of Ancient Egyptian Religious Beliefs It is not possible to trace religion as a vehicle of reverence in Predynastic times because the only sources of reference are burial grounds. and despite the abundance of material remains there is no indication of the extent to which the idea of divinity . This is clearly demonstrated at all Predynastic sites and remained one of the most basic aspects of the ancient religion.outside the power of natural forces . Egyptians took it for granted. where other nilometers were still registering its rise. He was a provider who had power over that powerful force of nature.was formulated. This simple invention may have led to the concept that the king was divine: he governed the crops and the seasons. the cataract region at Aswan. the Nile. As soon as the water crested on the southern border. The discovery of some burials in both Badari and Naqada where the body was laid prone with the head pointing south (the source of the Nile and the annual flood) and the face turned to the west has led to the notion that Egyptians early regarded the west-
. a nilometer was merely a scale consisting of a series of horizontal notches marked on a convenient rock. The cyclical regularity and predictability of the environment gave them faith in their own immortality. Preparations could then be made to maximize the water's use. information regarding its height could be rushed by courier to all parts of the country.
Natron (sodium carbonate) was applied to the body. were frequently preserved may lie at the base of the ancient belief that the likeness of the deceased was necessary for eternal life. in an effort to main-tain the deceased's likeness. its waxing and waning seen as the resurgence of vitality like the flood waters. In Early Dynastic times.32
ern horizon. the sprouting grain. When it was observed that bodies in large tombs perished more easily than those interred in pits . or strips of woven cloth. as the gateway to the afterlife. the place of the setting sun. Certainly the sun and the river. which together formed the dominating means of survival. It was seen as a natural succession to death. The natural desiccation of bodies into leather-like figures that occurred when they were buried in hot desert sand may have encouraged the belief that the preservation of mortal remains was important. and undoubtedly lay at the root of the ancient Egyptian conviction in the afterlife.attempts were made to preserve the body by artificial means. and the river that invigorated the soil could also destroy whatever lay in its path. too. The fact that the most minute facial details. The moon (Thoth). skins. Rebirth was a central feature of the Egyptian scene. including hair and eye-lids. They were two natural forces with both creative and destructive power: the life-giving rays that caused the crop to grow could also cause it to shrivel and die. the death of the land was followed by the rebirth of the crops with the river's annual flood the following year. must have made an early impression on them. Both the sun and the river embodied the pattern of death and rebirth: the sun died when it sank on the western horizon only to be reborn in the eastern sky the following morning. symbolized death and rebirth. the head and body were carefully molded over
.a few instances of high-status. Corpses were first wrapped in matting. and the rising sun. brick-lined graves at Naqada containing poorly-preserved human remains suggests that this type of enclosure was considered ineffective .
The symbol of the ka . "How beautiful it is in the company of my ka forever. genitalia. based on early rituals and beliefs. statues were fashioned after the likeness of the owner of a tomb and placed in a sealed-off chamber known as the serdab.first appeared on Predynastic standards painted on pottery. As a result. It played a role in the deceased's association with the tomb. Also. Wep-
. Mounds built over the grave may have been an attempt to keep these animals from digging up the bodies. in an early effort to assuage the hunger of these creatures and prevent them from violating the tomb. the "everlasting abode. From the Third Dynasty.two upraised arms .' and offerings to the ka became the subject of prayer in a complex mortuary ritual. The priests were described as 'servants of the ka." chants a mortuary priest in the Old Kingdom. It is not known exactly how the ancient Egyptians envisaged the relationship between a person and their ka. It also served as repository for the immortal aspect known as the ka. or indeed how early the concept of a spirit or guardian-double was formulated. complete with painted facial details. and breasts. food might have been laid near the grave. Beliefs in the sustenance of the ka were early developed and continued for thousands of years. as revealed in the Pyramid Texts. A dead person was described as one who joined his or her ka." and guided their fortunes in the afterlife. Eventually a ritual to propitiate these animals evolved into the belief that the wolf (Wepwawet) and the jackal (Anubis) guarded the dead. This statue served as a substitute should the body be damaged beyond recognition and consequently fail to be identified.Origin of Ancient Egyptian Religious Beliefs
the corpse in plaster. indicate that at death the ka became a separate entity. an association between wolves or jackals and burial grounds developed. Mortuary texts. There was always the fear in Predynastic times that the shallow graves might be desecrated and the bodies destroyed by desert animals like the wolf and the jackal.
The sight of the flood waters subsiding each year leaving mounds of earth upon which plants grew undoubtedly triggered the idea that in the beginning there was a watery waste (Nun). out of which the first land appeared. Like many other early societies.' Anubis ultimately became associated with embalming. Material equipment to serve the dead throughout eternity eventually became.34
wawet is called the 'foremost of the westerners' in the earliest mortuary texts and his name means 'opener of the ways (to the afterlife). On this primordial mound the intense rays of
. The regularity of nature's forces provided the basis of the ancient Egyptians' sense of order and balance. Their early observations of nature and the solar forces were later incorporated into the doctrine that formed the basis of the official religion (see chapter iv). During that time many basic religious rituals were formulated. with the growth of the state.
Sense of Cosmic Order
The long period of social and cultural development was well advanced before the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. The number of elaborate preparations provide ample proof of their deep interest in the fate of the departed. which provided their means of existence. They were able to explain the origins of life in relation to their environment. Feasts of Anubis are mentioned as early as the First Dynasty. It is clear that the ancient Egyptians had great respect for the dead and the inhabitants of the afterlife. No effort was spared to assist in the renewal of life or to preserve the memory of the deceased through mortuary gifts. an industry to which all classes of society were called into requisition. their religious focus was on nature. The lack of explanation of these observations strongly suggests that certain concepts were already taken for granted. and funerary rituals. prayers.
. like the setting sun.traversed by the sun by day and with glittering heavenly bodies by night-and Geb.corresponding with the east bank of the river . entered the afterlife beyond the horizon. Between Nut. like the sun. the mountains of the deserts to east and west. they would rise and live again.Sense of Cosmic Order
the sun brought forth plant life. This was regarded as the place of the afterlife. When a person died. like the stars. The most widely held view involved river transport: the orb that rose in the eastern sky . air (Shu) and moisture (Tefnut). "know no destruction. there were two other discernible phenomena. A First Dynasty tomb inscription records that there the deceased person became an akh. they. the sky . If the ancient Egyptians harbored any concern about how the sky might be held aloft it was presumed to be by four great pillars. the akhs were spirits which. which annually gave forth vegetation. like the supporting pillars of early shelters. And. There were many explanations as to how the sun moved across the heavens each day and presumably through the underworld at night in order to rise in the eastern sky the following morning.crossed the heavenly river (the sky) by boat to set in the western sky .the west bank of the river. the earth. a glorified spirit. The host of the dead were seen to take their place with the circumpolar stars (the 'imperishable ones') in the northern part of heaven.
around 3000 BC. Menes. and from king-lists drawn up by the Egyptians themselves at different
. Josephus. The ancient Egyptians attributed unification of their country to a single king. It was honored by most of the important kings throughout this time and was traditionally the place where they were crowned. Memphis was strategically situated at a point where the Nile Valley of Upper Egypt widened into the vast Delta region of Lower Egypt.II
Search for the Earliest Kings With the advent of the First Dynasty. About twenty-five kilometers south of present day Cairo. a divine king with absolute power over a united country.' It was their capital for about one thousand years and remained an important religious and commercial center throughout the three thousand years of the country's ancient history. the 'Two Lands.' and described it as 'the balance of the Two Lands. who is traditionally credited as the first king and founder of the capital at Memphis. Until just before the turn of the twentieth century all that was known of Menes and the early kings was from vague accounts by classical writers like Herodotus. an astonishing transformation took place: the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. and Africanus. It turned an individual from the most successful among leaders into a ruler without peers. The ancient Egyptians knew Memphis as the 'White Wall.' The splendid civilization that was to peak in the Great Pyramid Age was launched.
Cairo. He divided the history of Egypt into thirty dynasties . Among the objects were the ceremonial 'scorpion' macehead and a shield-shaped slate palette .Search for the Earliest Kings
periods of their history. It was based on oral traditions and fragments of earlier lists. Manetho's account forms the basis of the chronology we still use today. often fragmentary and contradictory. The most complete was recorded by Manetho. Middle and New kingdoms.now in The Egyptian Museum.the Palette of Narmer .47 BC). The king-lists were unreliable. Early Egyptologists sought evidence for the existence of Menes and thought they had found an answer in 1898-99 when an archaeological team came upon a cache filled with votive objects of historical importance at the Predynastic burial ground at Nekhen (see chapter i). The latter caused tremendous excitement. It was decorated with reliefs in registers on both faces inscribed in the name of Narmer and was generally
Ceremonial palette of Narmer
. an Egyptian historian who lived in the reign of Ptolemy II (28 5 .and these have been grouped into three 'great periods': the Old.from Menes until the Greek conquest .
Enezib. which was taken by many scholars as proof that he was the legendary Menes. The discovery of the palette identified Narmer as the first king to wear the distinctive crowns of each of the Two Lands. Narmer or Aha? If Aha came first. some grave objects bore the single name Narmer. Aha's name alone was inscribed. In a lower register. as an animal that inspired the greatest respect for its strength and virility. and Ka. At Naqada. On an ivory tablet from Naqada and on jar seals found at other burial grounds. however.38
regarded as a record of unification: the definitive victory of the southern kingdom over the Delta.the distinctive 'palace-facade' design of recesses and buttresses associated with the royal palace. Archaeologists digging at Abydos have found historical proof of the order of succession of the first two dynasties: an impression on a clay seal names the earliest kings as Narmer. Djet. On one side of the palette the king wears the White Crown of Upper Egypt and is shown with a raised club striking a kneeling enemy. Djer. Subsequent evidence was confusing: on some of the jar seals found in early dynastic graves at Abydos. Which king came first. Throughout ancient Egyptian history. Aha. Den. accompanied by standard bearers later called 'Followers of Horus. the drawing up of royal genealogies was carried out with care. Semerkhet.' inspects the bodies of decapitated enemies. The king's name was clearly inscribed in the frame of a serekh . but whether he was the same person as the legendary Menes was not clear. while others showed Narmer and Aha alongside one another. The bull became linked with royal ideology in early times. he is shown as a bull trampling an enemy. Narmer's name was inscribed adjacent to hieroglyphic signs for mri. The idea was undoubtedly to establish a decisive beginning to the unified state by giving
. On the other side he wears the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and. should he then be identified with Manetho's Menes? This issue remained a thorny one among scholars for nearly a century and has only very recently been put to rest.
Many scholars. Another question that remains unresolved is whether Narmer was indeed the first king to unify the Two Lands or whether there was an earlier union between Upper and Lower Egypt. Divergence of Opinion Despite proof of the sequence of rule. New hypotheses on the vital early years of the civilization are being made. When little was known about the kings of the first two dynasties . they claim it is not clear whether Narmer himself commemorated his own conquest or whether the Palette was sculpted hundreds. Many theories earlier regarded as plausible are proving to be unfounded. maybe thousands. The genealogies are also significant in their demonstration of pious regard for royal ancestors. of years after his death in commemoration of an historical event.Divergence of Opinion
Narmer ultimate credit for both his own achievements and those of his predecessors. More than a thousand years later. point out that archaeological techniques a century ago were poor by today's standards and that the palette was not accurately recorded in situ. there still remains considerable divergence of opinion on the Early Dynastic Period. New discoveries and observations on the Egyptian civilization are compelling scholars to modify their views time and again. Even the historical importance of the Palette of Narmer has been challenged. connecting the Nineteenth Dynasty royal house in continuous sequence to the first dynastic kings. a scene in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos shows the king and his son (later Ramses II) presenting offerings to the names of the kings written in elliptical cartouches. unconvinced of its message of unification.what appeared as a sudden cultural advance at the beginning of the First Dynasty was described by some scholars as the incursion of a new 'master race'
. In other words.and even less about the Predynastic Period .
They argue that dynastic Egypt was as clearly a continuation of the Predynastic culture as the late Gerzean period was the culmination of long cultural and social development. Supporters of this hypothesis pointed to carvings such as the ceremonial slate palettes found at Abydos.' This term.
Elevation of the paneled brickwork known as 'palace facade'
. the 'painted tomb' at Nekhen. isolated. The question of a Predynastic union nevertheless remains a hotly debated issue. More recent scholars have refuted the master-race theory. Another important issue that has recently gained currency relates to the origin of the concept of the 'Two Lands. the first king of the Fourth Dynasty (2575 BC). is central to an understanding of its political and social development. Before the end of the nineteenth century. and the appearance of people traditionally known as the 'Followers of Horus' as evidence for their claim.40
into Egypt. Predynastic communities in both Upper and Lower Egypt gradually coalesced until two independent kingdoms emerged and that the formation of these federations was a step toward unification. especially in view of an astounding discovery made recently at the already heavily excavated site of Abydos. In a Predynastic cemetery evidence has been found of the possibility that there may have been as many as fifteen kings before Narmer. and Predynastic Egypt was only a shadowy outline. our knowledge of Egypt's history did not extend beyond the reign of Senefru. which was used by the ancient Egyptians to describe their own country. It was widely believed at this time that small.
physically or culturally . the capital of an Upper Egyptian kingdom. are being presented as artificially created parallel institutions. was promoted to bind together a country that did not lend itself . the capital of a Lower Egyptian kingdom. Throughout ancient history.to unification. Nekhen. although evidence has come to light of major settlements in both Upper and Lower Egypt. and its hieroglyph was frequently followed by the determinative signs of two houses. rather than a single unified state. generations before a king could assume the titles 'King of Upper and Lower Egypt. there was never a king of Egypt. the palace which formed the seat of the government. The 'Great House' itself. That is to say. nor a cabinet.' a 'double treasury. victorious battle but an evolutionary process that continued for two. had a double entrance representing the two ancient kingdoms.' and even a 'double granary.' and 'Lord of the Two Lands. or even three. who gave each part of the country a distinctive name. This fact appears to have been recognized by the early kings. Valley and Delta were linked only in their dependence on the Nile. especially in regard to royal epithets writ-
Early Records The invention of writing in Predynastic times was followed by its rapid development in the Early Dynastic Period.' Each name was a powerful expression of national unity. The concept was inviolable. The one point on which there is general consensus among scholars is that unification was not the result of a single. it is suggested that the concept of Two Lands. There was a 'King of Upper and Lower Egypt. Certain rules were early established.' a 'double cabinet.Early Records
Today scholars are revising their views. thereafter treating them as though they had once been independent kingdoms. nor a treasury. and Pe.
Djer. and Djet were inscribed within a serekh surmounted by a hawk. Also dating to the reign of Aha is a record on an ivory label of an historical event. The names of Aha. his Horus name is shown along with a nebty or 'two ladies' title. which is first in evidence on the partially-intact paneled wall of Aha at Nekhen. This second important part of the titulary combined the cobra associated with Lower Egypt and the vulture of Upper Egypt over two basket-like signs denoting 'lord' (that is. Other titles were to follow. It was a graphic representation denoting the king in his dwelling place. undoubtedly modeled on the design used in First Dynasty palace architecture. This 'Horus name' of the king became the first and most enduring of the royal titulary."
Royal Cenotaphs and Tombs Until the 19305 the main sources of our knowledge of the earliest
'Horus name' of King Aha
. two figures in the lower register can be seen performing some function over an unidentified object. Although the crucial center portion of the label is missing. On an ivory label belonging to Aha. lord over each part of the country). In the middle register a ceremony is being performed. The ceremony is described as "receiving the south and the north.42
ten in sequence.
Pottery jars held oil. and other foodstuffs.much larger and more impressive than the surrounding tombs. Studies on the remains of these tombs show that their owners were all under the age of twenty-five. servants and retainers of the royal household or artisans of various industries were buried. These were brick-lined. shallow. the royal structures at Abydos stood apart . Recent re-
Ivory label from Naqada showing events in Aha's reign
. beer. In neighboring subsidiary pit graves.Royal Cenotaphs and Tombs
kings and the suggestion that they may have been regarded as divine in the First and Second dynasties came from Abydos. rectangular trenches hewn out of the bedrock and divided by a series of crosswalls. Like the Predynastic tombs at Nekhen. The superstructures have entirely disappeared but excavations of the tombs themselves show that they were large. grain. toiletries. both burial places and symbols of leadership. suggesting that they were put to death in order to serve the king in the afterlife. In a cemetery known as Umm al-Qaab the kings were buried in tombs far grander than anything previously constructed. The king was buried in the central chamber. and an unprecedented wealth of jewelry in gold and choice foreign materials like lapis lazuli and obsidian. The other chambers were store-rooms designed to contain provisions for his afterlife. frequently with a second lining of wood. They were expressions of power and prosperity. This practice did not survive past the early dynasties. Grave goods included a variety of exquisitely fashioned furniture.
however. Where were the kings actually buried? The tombs at Saqqara were generally larger than those at Abydos and. have revealed evidence that is re-tilting the scales in its favor: the tomb of Aha has proved to be a grand construction. were situated west (the direction associated with the dead) of the capital at Memphis. Scholars were nonplused. Between 1936 and 1956 the theories built up around the early kings collapsed when another royal burial ground was discovered at Saqqara in honor of the same kings who were buried at Abydos. and successive burials show increasing elaboration in design and inscribed objects. It would appear that in these early years when unity was being consolidated the royal tombs were progressively enlarged as the most evident signs of the kingship ideal. Recent excavations at Abydos. The controversy has not yet been conclusively resolved. Many scholars nevertheless clung to the idea that Abydos was the burial ground and suggested that the massive tombs at Saqqara belonged to officials who controlled the strategic fortification on the border between the Two Lands.44
excavation of the monuments has revealed that they were built in several stages rather than to a single plan. moreover. These link the royal tombs to the
Decoration on macehead of Narmer
. which argued in favor of the Saqqara tombs being the actual burial places and the structures at Abydos being cenotaphs associated with the birthplace of the kings.
The enclosure of Khasekhemwy.422. 400.Unity Consolidated
nearby Predynastic burial ground. and double crown
. a queen in whose impressive monuments at Helwan and Naqada the names of both Narmer and Aha appear.000 men. These have now been identified as mortuary temples built to serve the royal cult and provide the massive storage space necessary for its perpetuation. foreign bearded captives. Huge walled constructions . and 1.000 goats. The earliest indication that the king was regarded as a god comes from Abydos. Oxford) dating to Narmer's reign is another record of conquest. red crown. The protective wings of a vulture hover above the covered niche in which he sits.
Unity Consolidated Picking up the threads of the historical narrative. a ceremonial macehead (Ashmolean Museum. Perhaps the seated figure is Neith-hotep.000 oxen. an unidentified seated figure on a palanquin. This time it shows the king enthroned and wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt only. which perhaps belonged to the immediate forerunners of the kings of the First Dynasty. She may have been
White crown. a precise record in numerals and signs of 120. is the largest. built at the end of the Second Dynasty.long referred to as 'forts'-were built on the plain below the royal burial ground. In front of him are standard-bearers.
He was the first king to wear the Double Crown which combined the White Crown of Upper Egypt and the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. he is enthroned on a stepped platform facing a court. He wears the White Crown and the close-fitting robe and emblems that came to be associated with the legendary ancestor Osiris. In the first. It heralded a time of innovation. It shows the king in the upper right-hand register in two adjacent representations. not even in later periods when others were added to the royal titulary. the fifth king. combined symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt.46
the consort of Narmer and the mother of Aha. The prominence given to their enumeration became a part of a growing tradition. Perhaps the most important record of Den's reign is an ebony label that records the earliest Sed festival. which. In the second he is shown wearing the Double Crown and a tunic. striding between crescent-shaped objects or boundary markers. like the earlier nebty title. Den also adopted a new royal title known as the nesw-bit title. which would provide the earliest evidence of the rule for royal succession passing to the son of the 'Great Royal Wife' (see chapter vi). A great deal has been written about the Heb Sed but no explana-
. The most prosperous reign of the First Dynasty was that of Den. this time in the form of the sedge and the bee. None of these early titles was ever abandoned. not only in tomb construction but also in the enhancement of the kingship ideal.
including the artificial beard. The various robes and emblems of office. lacking some sort of local administrative device no individual can hold down large masses of people or elicit the loyalty of communities of which they are not a part. There must be some sort of willing response. Loyalty Won The method by which loyalty and allegiance were won is crucial to an understanding of ancient Egyptian society. Den initiated the first national festival in which the king appeared in a dramatized setting to perform rituals before people from all parts the country. This suggests that it was in his reign that unity was consolidated. But it is unrealistic to suppose that any individual could engender the trust and confidence of communities from Elephantine to the Mediterranean by simple
Ebony label of Den showing (top right) the Heb Sed ritual performed between markers
. Even today. nor has its strange name .Loyalty Won
tion of its purpose or origin has been fully accepted. Perhaps this tail became a part of the recognized royal insignia during the earliest Heb Sed and gave the festival its name.been explained. Most early representations of the king depict him wearing the tail of an animal attached to the back of his simple garment.the 'tail-festival' . combined to project an image of power and authority. According to available evidence. Most scholars attribute the king's success in ancient Egypt to his claim to divinity.
settled communities had developed a strong sense of identity.in life and in death. There was such a high degree of self-sufficiency in some areas that leaders could maintain a growing body of workers to build their tombs and artisans to produce grave goods.its ideological base. literature.
The Palermo Stone. written in mythological language. the second is a collection of mortuary literature known as the Pyramid Texts. complex organization. And more. Fortunately. this would not explain how loyalty was maintained. they all support the hypothesis that unity between Upper and Lower Egypt was consolidated through the artificial creation of local cults which neutralized the differences between widely-dispersed communities and provided an ideological base for ceremonial ritual and leadership. three literary sources. architecture. and ceremonial ritual . But it is a question of challenge and defeat to admit that we still do not have a very clear picture of what actually happened that could so bolster one man's authority that the Great House could turn to matters of culture: art. considered as a unit. and religion throughout Upper and Lower Egypt. that the pattern set would continue for thousands of years. The first is a secular text.48
pronouncement. named after the city where the largest of several surviving fragments is housed. even a cooperative spirit in the pursuit of common goals like agricultural control and the storage of grain. and the third is the so-called Memphite Drama. provides clear evidence of the
. internal solidarity. the Palermo Stone. Despite their widely divergent subjects. Especially when. as we have seen. Even if allegiance were won by armed conflict. suggest the method by which control was established and maintained. Generations of scholars have addressed the meaning and function of divine kingship .
Harishaf the ram.inscribed on walls of pyramids of the kings who ruled toward the end of the Old Kingdom .
. and records such noteworthy information as the biennial cattle count and the height of the inundation. Nekhbet the vulture-goddess of Nekheb in Upper Egypt. was associated with an activity known as 'stretching the cord' ..probably measuring out areas for sacred buildings. you settlements of mine. Min of Coptos (opposite ancient Naqada). especially those addressed to the gods in heaven. Matit the lioness of Thinis (north of Abydos). the third king of the First Dynasty.. including those of Wadjet the cobra-goddess of the Delta settlement of Pe. I am Horns. as in the case of the gods Sheshat and Mefdet in the reign of Den. Ptah of Memphis. Although this compilation of prayers and rituals concerns the welfare of the king in the afterlife. Neith of Sais. some of the dialogues. among the activities regarded as sufficiently important to serve as reference points were ones expressed in such specific terms as 'the birth of Anubis.. A large part of the original slab is missing but the stone lists the names of the earliest kings from the reign of Djer. Numerous other 'births' are mentioned on the Palermo Stone. Twenty-one of the thirty-odd entries relate to the fashioning of images.. Some kings explicitly note that the deities came into being simultaneously with their visit..' 'the birth of Min. Hathor the cow.. The Pyramid Texts . and Thoth. have strong political overtones that reflect an earthly experience.Cult Centers
creation of cults. It reveals that the kings traveled widely and with some regularity in the Early Dynastic Period to lay the foundations of buildings that were called 'throne-of-the-gods'.underscore the creation of cults in mortuary literature. whose symbol was a star on a pole surmounted by inverted horns. Sheshat.' and other gods. It is I who set you in order. It is I who restored you. who should be restored.
The Memphite Drama is also explicit on the creation of cults...5°
/ built you.
Wooden label from Abydos suggesting form of cult center of Neith
. every clay. He settled their offerings. all the gods with their kas. They were gathered to him. Everything that grows upon him... He placed the gods in their shrines. with the dialogues recited in mythological language. (And) you shall do for me every good which I (desire). Content. You shall act on my behalf wherever I go. which most scholars ascribe to the Sixth Dynasty.. He made their bodies according to their wishes. United with the Lord of the Two Lands. He established their shrines. gave birth to the gods. every stone. Ptah of Memphis is presented as a creator-god who declares that he .. This remarkable text. you city of mine. Thus the gods entered into their bodies Of every wood. has survived in a late copy. He made the towns. It is in the form of a drama. He established the provinces. In which they came to be.
Although these texts cannot be deciphered with certainty. it is possible to glean their meaning. each given a definitive form based on either the Predynastic emblem of the settlement or a plant. which is offered "four times.Cult Centers
The text suggests that shrines were built and cult statues made out of various local materials. There is a boat and a structure of reeds. In the top register. each was provided with a ka (immortal spirit) which set it apart from the work of human hands. All the labels bear texts relative to the commodity to which they were attached. This may have been achieved in a ritual similar to that performed on a corpse to imbue it with eternal life by touching the mouth with an adze. To the
First Dynasty representations of shrines show them as lattice-work structures
. which date to the reign of Aha. By an act of magic (an important facet of early society). bird. Most were probably small at first. Labels of wood and ivory attached to objects and stores placed in tombs further support the artificial creation of cults. the Horus name of the king can be seen to the right. and beams topped with an ensign of two crossed arrows on an animal skin identified with Neith. but frequently some of the larger labels record events in the king's reign. Two identical labels found at Abydos. a figure holds a vessel marked "electrum" (a gold and silver alloy). give an idea of the appearance of an early cult center. or animal indigenous to the area. the statues were then animated. In the second register." thus confirming the Memphite Drama text concerning offerings. branches.
suggest that they were made of uncovered lattice-work. The fact that they are larger than life is not surprising: parts of three colossal Predynastic limestone statues of the ithyphallic god Min of Coptos (Ashmolean Museum. the Egyptian word for 'god' or 'divine. and similar light structures for Anubis and Harishaf depicted on other labels dating to the reign of Den. These. like the shrines depicted on the labels. The shrine of Neith has two flagstaffs to the left of the courtyard which are similar to those depicted on pottery of the Gerzean period: stylized streamers that later symbolized neter. this time surmounted by a bird. The Abydos labels show that statues were placed in front of shrines in a courtyard surrounded by a fence. A wooden label dating to the reign of Djer. They may be statues being presented for a royal blessing. The shrines depicted on these labels. provide a prototype for later architecture.
Artificial Development of Cult Centers Archaeological evidence supports the idea of uniform cult center development. perhaps on a carrying frame and thus portable. Oxford) show that statues more than double life-size were fashioned. reveals an activity that may also be related to the cults. Recent excavations of early temple foundation deposits at Abydos have revealed examples of the so-called 'tent-shrines' made of faience and limestone. for example. Aha's successor. were kept apart from
.' Shrines were referred to as 'god's houses' and the earliest word for a settlement was 'seat' or 'abode' (of a god). Recent excavation of some of the earliest settlement sites has revealed certain elements which point to artificial development.52
right is a bull in an enclosure and a structure similar to that of Neith. All sacred enclosures. In the top register two large figures are shown being carried toward the serekh of the king.
Some of the baked clay objects placed at cult centers were so crude as to suggest they were made by local artisans for simple people who wished to make offerings.featured a surrounding wall. And at Abydos an early dynastic structure composed of a complex of small brick buildings dedicated to Khenti-Amentiu (the jackal) stood in the corner of a heavily walled enclosure. although later temple-remains largely obliterated the earliest structure. the clay offerings included animals. Another feature common to the earliest known cult centers are hundreds of votive offerings. At Nekhen. fertility. the range of votive objects
Wooden label of Djer from Saqqara showing ritual before the king
. the 'main deposit' (where the macehead of Scorpion and the Palette of Narmer were found) lay beneath a mud-brick shrine built on the site.which was much later developed into the now-restored temple of Satis . human figurines (both male and female. Belief in a power within a statue at the theoretical level gives rise to a need to secure prosperity. among the granite boulders at the southern tip of the island. and the like by propitiating or pleasing it at the practical level. and model pots. adult and child).Artificial Development of Cult Centers
the eyes of the public. Although no early architecture has been encountered at Coptos. At Elephantine. which was constructed on a mound of desert sand protected by a rounded wall of sandstone blocks. At Abydos there was a similar scattering of votive objects. At Elephantine. surrounded by a wall. a tiny shrine .
birds. The ancient Egyptians developed twin cities: one on the site of an ancient settlement and the other more strategically situated to exploit mineral deposits and trade routes. frogs. agate. and jasper. lay at the mouth of Wadi Hammamat. and 'he of Qift' (Coptos). the latter was a convenient departure point for trade. Prayers and hymns addressed to them differed only in epithets and attributes.
. where Khnum of Elephantine guarded the Cataract Region. with access to the oases of the Western Desert as well as to copper. There was no twin city on Egypt's southern border. The gods remained vague characters. The material achievements of the unified state depended on the resources of the land. 'he of Edfu' (Horus). was not at the ancient settlement site of Nekhen on the west bank of the Nile but on the east bank at Nekheb (modern al-Kab). which gave access to the mineral-rich Eastern Desert with its deposits of copper. along with their hieroglyphic determinatives. It was clearly the place. 'she of Sais' (Neith). Naqada (Ombos) was the site of a Predynastic community in the Western Desert. It also seems certain that some cult centers owed their rapid and continued growth to geopolitical factors. Pe (Buto) and Dep (modern Fara'un) were twin cities on a major tributary in the Delta. The cult center of the vulture-goddess Nekhbet. and no one was more important than the others. while Coptos (Qift). for example. the shortest route to the Red Sea and the gold-bearing veins of the Eastern Desert. and gold further south in the Eastern Desert.again suggests an early shrine like those of Nekhen. feldspar. Egypt's main source of granite. crocodiles. that mattered. later described in such terms as 'he of Ombos' (Set). not the god. and animals . Elephantine. almost opposite.including tiny statues of scorpions.54
found beneath the site . and there is every indication that its administration was early mapped out. in the sense that. they remained archetypes to which future generations had recourse. Uniformity can be found too in the images of the gods. and Abydos.
The pyramids of Giza from the village of Nazlet al-Simman. (Michael Jones)
.The Great Pyramid with the boat museum in the foreground.
.The modern village of Mit Rahina and its distinctive palm groves rise above the ruins of ancient Memphis.
Khufu's funerary boat is made of cedar. A second boat awaits excavation. (Robert Scott)
Tomb of Nefer. Tomb of Ti. (Robert Scott)
(Elderly men transport papyrus plants.Young farmhands milking a cow. (Robert Scott)
A farmhand carries a basket of ducklings. Tomb of Kagemni. (Robert Scott)
.A farmhand attends his flocks. Tomb of Mehu. (Robert Scott)
Dancers going through their paces with clappers beating time. Tomb of Nefer.
Tomb of Kagemni. (Robert Scott)
. (Robert Scott)
Offering-bearers in a newly-discovered Sixth Dynasty tomb at Saqqara.Fishermen in papyrus skiffs.
it is not unreasonable to suggest that today's mulids (religious holidays). their role at first being no more than acting as 'servants of god' to take care of the shrine and the cult statue. Political vision is evident from the beginning of the historical period. In fact.
Local Prestige The creation of cult centers not only neutralized the differences between the various settlements but created a strong bond between people of all walks of society.sometimes no more than a piece of cloth or bunch of flowers . These offerings. were used for the maintenance of the servants of god. health. there remained managerial skills to see it brought to
. At the official level. They were not priests as we use the term today. and fertility.' individuals were appointed to take care of it. royal endowments were substantial when the king attended the 'birth' days of the gods. They came in the form of bread and cakes. the ancient Egyptians probably came to believe that the statue in the shrine held the key to a good crop. They made pious gestures not much different from today's offerings and prayers to the shrines of Christian saints and Muslim sheikhs. represent a time-honored practice. when people set up camp around sacred shrines and leave simple offerings . jars of beer and wine. The annual celebrations involved the slaughter of sacrificial animals in the name of the king. the laity. At the popular level. oxen and other cattle. Under the guidance of the Great House their religious observance soon became a convention.Local Prestige
Keepers of the Cult Statue Once a shrine was built and the statue imbued with 'power. The balance was distributed to the people. geese and other birds. having once lain on the altar of the shrine and fulfilled their religious function.as gestures of their devotion.
They had power. The prestige of the elite. perhaps linen. The significance of the title Followers of Horus (literally 'the gods who follow Horus. Now.' that is. the land earmarked for their use belonged not to them as individuals but to the local cult. The king threatened to deny the performance of the cult. The earliest mention of them by name can be traced back to the reign of Den. Others observed the great strides made in art and architecture at the start of the First Dynasty and presented the master-race theory. especially those that include
. Hemaka. the king) has long been debated among scholars.' suggesting that he had authority to act on his king's behalf. and here the local elite came into play. One. It was they who mobilized people to construct shrines to house sacred statues and paid them in kind with lavish gifts like electrum. bore the title 'sealbearer of the King of Lower Egypt. however. When this happened. in order to provide them with the means to cater for the splendor that must inevitably have surrounded royal visits. but there was always the risk of resistance. created an atmosphere in which it was no difficult task to draw on them to carry out the census of land and livestock on behalf of the king. The Pyramid Texts (many of which date to Predynastic times. or later to recruit labor for mining and trading expeditions. some Egyptologists concluded that the dynastic kings were the successors of an early Predynastic union of the Two Lands. however. coercion was used.56
Threat of the Use of Force
The concept that the gods and the king had mutual claims on one another was strong. which was triggered from Lower Egypt. and land. In the late nineteenth century. thus enhanced. only by virtue of the king. it seems the Followers of Horus may simply have been the king's appointed officials who acted on his behalf.
a tradition survived that Khufu closed temples in the land. but the leader would lose his prestige and the servants of god their positions." and "Horus decapitates." "Horus seizes. there are none who shall escape. It meant more than loss of identity: it amounted to a threat of annihilation. he takes away powers and bestows power. There is therefore every indication that the divine king shared a common feature with the leaders of most early societies: he was a warlord. O King. whom he wishes to die will die. According to Herodotus." And he goes on: "This king comes indeed." he declared." "Worship him. may you stand among the gods and among the spirits. for it is dread of you which is in their hearts." To fear god and honor the king were one and the same act. and the Westcar Papyrus (a later document that related events in the Old Kingdom) refers to his closing down at least one temple. In such event. the goddess of Waset south of Thebes." The effect of such a threat on a community of landed leaders and servants of god can well be imagined." In the lower register of the ceremonial Palette of Narmer the king is shown as a bull trampling a fallen
. Little wonder that the Pyramid Texts abound with proclamations of loyalty: "O King. was absorbed by Montu the hawk-god of neighboring Armant). for it is fear of you which is on their hearts. "Whom he wishes to live will live. succeed to your throne at the head of the living.Threat of the Use of Force
phrases referring to a time when the dead were laid to rest in simple sand pits and when desert animals were prone to desecrate bodies) include utterances in which the king addresses the gods in heaven as he may have addressed the cult centers: "that he may destroy (their) power and confer (their) powers. the sacred name and divine attributes of the local god could be absorbed by a neighboring god (as not infrequently happenedWast. Among his remembered designations from early times were "Horus fights. for example.
enemy. according to Old Kingdom documents. Nor were any sacred objects ever destroyed. mentioned in the early documents. which remained small until a later period. There was no local administration apart from the activities that centered around the shrines.to enhance the aura of successive kings. "My name is there in the horizon. and confirmation that this was no idle warning survives in oral traditions: as we have noted. Surrounded by an
. Gradually there emerged some twenty cult centers in Upper Egypt and perhaps sixteen in Lower Egypt. enlarged. it became the symbolic portrayal of punishment inflicted on any who committed an offense to a king or cult. Although the accompanying caption reads "first time of smiting the east" and is generally taken to refer to evidence of foreign conquest. temples constructed around or above the original sanctuaries were never completed. they were buried in the consecrated ground. and several places like Shemra and Ha." utters the king in the Pyramid Texts. on an ivory label found at Abydos dating to the reign of Den he is shown in a pose that was to become classic: smiting an enemy with a raised club. In fact. In any event. and altered . the story of the closing down of at least one temple survived to the time of Herodotus in the fifth century BC. never reappear. They were always under construction . the holy images fear me. the fact that the enemy is shown in pharaonic dress suggests it might refer to border conflict. The Palermo Stone records the destruction of an unidentified locality called Werka in the reign of Den. Provincial Celebrations People all over the land were drawn together into public life through frequent royal journeys to participate in provincial celebrations. If no longer needed.continually tended. The anniversary of the 'birth' day of a local god was one in which public life reached a peak of intensity.
indeed they felt it an honor . Moreover. kingly rule. In ancient times. carried in procession. when large numbers of men were required by the Great House for expeditions or building construction they could be recruited in the name of the king from the cult centers he had built. Such ceremonial invention created homogeneous belief in the power of the king over the 'powers' (the gods) and over the Nile flood. however. When the villagers saw the royal barges carrying his majesty or his representative to officiate at the celebration. could be held at which all provincial leaders were called upon . not as active participants. as today.Provincial Celebrations
enclosure wall. the Heb Sed. a repeat performance. creation. but as willing sightseers. Through the creation of cults the Great House managed to establish a measure of cohesion such that a national festival. the verb 'to appear' was used equally to refer to sunrise. the sacred shrine of the deity was accessible only to the servants of god for most of the year. On this one occasion. In return for missions successfully accomplished the king
Ivory label showing Den striking a dweller of the Eastern Desert
. A sense of awe undoubtedly surrounded it when it appeared to the populace. to belief in appearance (birth) and reappearance (rebirth).to attend. In texts of all periods. the shrine was brought out of seclusion. in one way or another. There was no aspect of life in ancient Egypt that was not tied. neighboring cult centers probably took part in each other's festivals. it was a confirmation of order. and the appearance of gods on their 'birth' days.
evidence is lacking because the tombs of the first three kings of the Second Dynasty have never been found. were engaged in a power conflict. the sixth king of the Second Dynasty. Perhaps the leaders of the two Upper Egyptian cult centers. It was a symbiotic relationship between the king and local god. the adoption of a Horus-and-Set title by Per-Ibsen's successor. and stability was reestablished. The reason for such a revolutionary act is not clear. and hence their prestige.6o
gave thanks and made sacrificial offerings at the shrine of the local god. described by Manetho as a time of "very great calamities. when he broke with tradition by abandoning the royal Horus title and adopting a Set title. After one short setback toward the end of the First Dynasty. In other words. Be that as it may. he exceptionally surmounted his serekh with the Set animal instead of the hawk of Horus. depended. state and temple
Creating a Tradition The effort that went into promoting nationalism by creating a common culture was largely successful.
Inscription on stone vase of Khasekhem(wy)
." there was a change of dynasty. He further expressed his gratitude to the leaders by rewarding them with land grants to help maintain the cults on which their success. Nekhen where Horus was chief deity and Naqada associated with Set. This lasted until the reign of Per-ibsen.
and the confrontations between Horus and Set were eagerly transmitted because of their dramatic content. this time "within the center of Nekheb. After the reign of Khasekhemwy the Horus title was readopted. "the Two Lands are at peace with him" (found on a clay seal). and three stone vessels indicate he resorted to warfare.whose name is also written in dual form as Khasekhemwy . Khasekhemwy adopted another epithet. Variations came with the passage
Horus name of Sekhemib. Two of his statues. from which Horus always emerged victorious." Two identically inscribed vases also refer to northern enemies.Creating a Tradition
Khasekhem . and it remained standard throughout ancient history. which suggests that his adoption of the dual form of his name may have been a mark of his satisfactory resolution of the conflict between Upper and Lower Egypt. and the text records "northern enemies. a stela. figures are shown in the contortions of death. Set name of Peribsen. The whole episode involving Horus and Set was important enough to become a part of the country's mythological tradition. They fought terrible battles in countless myths.indicates that differences were reconciled." The goddess Nekhbet in vulture form is shown standing on a circle in which the word 'rebel' is inscribed. shown as Horus wearing the White Crown. On the base of one seated statue. and Horus and Set name of Khasekhemwy
. Epic battles are the stuff of oral tradition. In her claw she holds the emblem of unity before the serekh of the king. Thereafter. the two gods appear as antagonists reconciled.
Unified Artistic Expression Having consolidated unity. the moon was described as one of the two eyes of the heavenly hawk. The sun hidden by clouds symbolized the loss of the eye of Horus at the hands of his enemy. From the First Dynasty. To celebrate the occasion he commissioned a royal statue. It became a symbol of luck associated with ideas that lay at the very heart of the Egyptian culture.62
of time. in due time every offering at a shrine or to a deity was a sacrifice known as the eye of Horus. Set. which is important because it represents the massive and distinctive character of the monolithic statuary being developed at that time in royal workshops. A style in art developed early and soon became another concrete expression of national unity. Khasekhemwy organized a Sed festival like that recorded in the reign of Den. there
Second Dynasty funerary stela from Saqqara
. signifying the power of the king. But most important was the association of the eye with kingship: the uraeus on the royal crown was specifically referred to as the eye of Re. when Memphis became capital and monumental tombs were built on the necropolis of Saqqara. injured at its waning and gradually restored. until the popular myth came to penetrate many spheres unrelated to society.
the artisans perfected their skills. Den. poultry. and work was provided for an ever increasing number of artists and artisans. and calves in the mortuary structures at Saqqara in particular show that statues were produced from an early stage in the posture with the left foot advanced . carpenter. Scenes such as these became part of the artistic tradition.Unified Artistic Expression
had grown a demand for luxury goods. A finely carved funerary stela from Saqqara shows the owner seated on a chair in front of a funerary meal of bread and beer. Two fragments of feet. potter. ankles. Its 'chief craftsman' was attached to the shrine of the local god Ptah.the conventional pose of most male statues. but fragments of life-size or near life-size wooden statues that can be dated to Djer. Unfortunately. It seems likely that the canon of proportion and conventional ways in which the human body was represented were laid down at Memphis. And two statues of Khasekhemwy found at Nekhen are the earliest ex-
Limestone statue of Khasekhemwy
. and artist alike. Stone and other raw materials for their production were easily transported by river. Striving to please a rich and powerful elite who valued fine work. and jars of wine. and Ka reveal that certain poses early became traditional. little sculpture has survived from the first two dynasties. meat. who was early seen as the inspiration behind builder.
they would appear to have been an artistic device to identify the local god with an idealized figure of the king. the other crossed over the chest. From their uniformity.
Anthropomorphic Gods Stylized art can also be seen in the earliest anthropomorphic figures. These composite representations that combine the human body and an animal head first appeared on cylinder seals and objects of the Early Dynastic Period. He wears the White Crown and is robed in the cloak generally associated with the Sed festival.
Zoser's Step Pyramid The Third Dynasty (2686-2575 BC) marks the culmination of a
Anthropomorphic gods on Early Dynastic objects
amples of the king seated with one hand on his knee. The bottom row of one ivory label found at Nekhen depicts anthropomorphic gods all carrying before them the ankh . in side view and often with some sort of headgear.the symbol of life. Such uniformity strongly suggests a single guideline. Each is shown as an animal or bird head. mounted on a human figure in the one-foot-forward stance (for male figures) and carrying a staff.
summarizes the immense achievements of the first two dynasties. The facades of the shrines in the Heb Sed court are reminiscent of their organic prototypes: some are constructed as bun-
•a iii mil
Engaged columns in Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
. transport. It is a remarkable monument. and reed structures of the state capital that have all since perished. Zoser's step pyramid at Saqqara. Zoser's builder. a stage set for the king to reenact in the afterlife his experience on earth. He adopted many features of Khasekhemwy's enclosure at Abydos. and construct such a monument. In this lies the importance of his building works at Saqqara. papyrus. wood. and palm-stalk fences into heavy masonry and. He faithfully imitated the brick. The enclosure wall. he staunchly followed earlier traditions. together with other buildings within the complex. It represents the increasing prosperity and confidence of the nation. including the positions of the entrances to the vast complex (544 by 277 meters) and a square mound of sand clad in brick that became the first stage of Zoser's pyramid. and organization such that the Great House was able to quarry. It is the earliest surviving structure to be built entirely of stone. its political unity. so he turned to contemporary structures for inspiration. Imhotep.Zoser's Step Pyramid
long period of vision and invention. was built in the same recessed paneling as earlier royal monuments. had no stone architectural tradition from which to draw. moreover. notwithstanding the many innovations such as buttressed walls. He transcribed matting.
Zoser's funerary complex mirrors the capital. The main feature of the complex is the Step Pyramid itself. tall huts of matting with corners reinforced by bundles of reeds tied together to form a cornice. It casts considerable light on the rituals involved in the Sed festival and the cult of royal ancestors. fif-
Heb Sed Court
Ground plan of Step Pyramid complex
. Whether tent-like structures with convex roofs. rising in six unequal tiers over a myriad of corridors and storage chambers below ground. In transforming buildings constructed of perishable building materials into a durable medium for the king's afterlife. others are carved to represent animal skins bound over the fanning heads of reed columns to prevent them from weakening in the wind.66
dies of reeds or papyrus with heads fanning out to form capitals. even pendant leaf capitals and reed fences . It stands near the center of a huge.all were simulated in stone.
thought to represent the palace where the king took up residence. To the east of the Great Court is a building popularly known as the T-temple.Zoser's Step Pyramid
teen-thousand-square-meter court.found in the corridors beneath the Step Pyramid itself and under the socalled 'south tomb' in the southwest corner of the Great Court. to display his person before representatives from Upper and Lower Egypt. which makes it appear that Zoser was not only striding between the symbolic boundaries in the Great Court but out of the complex completely. In three of the panels he strides between crescent-shaped markers like those earlier depicted on Den's label. Lord of the Two Lands. a thigh-length garment with a strap over the left shoulder. At one end of the complex. symbolized the boundary markers between which he strode in his Heb Sed ritual. a site also associated with early leadership. Six carved limestone panels . a large elevated platform may once have held a double dais like that depicted on the label of Den (chapter i) . Recent studies have revealed that all the subterranean panels are aligned with the dummy gateway on the southern wall of the complex. probably to 'circuit the walls' in one of the oldest ceremonies dating from the First Dynasty. and a bull's tail attached to the back of his tunic. depict Zoser either standing or striding in different ritual clothing.and above his head hovers the vulture. associated with Nekhen.associated with Abydos. It was the dramatic setting for the king.where the king sat on a throne on a stepped platform facing the court.actually false doorways . It served as a robing chamber where he could don the appropriate apparel for his dual role as King of Upper and
. somewhat like joined horseshoes and known as half-moon markers. two B-shaped constructions. Like Narmer (see chapter i) he wears the White Crown. the birth place of the early kings . Nearer the center of the court. near the southern face of the pyramid. the royal beard. In front of him is a standard of the wolf-god Wepwawet .
had shrines that may have accommodated cult statues brought by the different delegations on portable shrines. foodstuffs. "O King. fill your hand with the Ars-scepter that it may equip you as a god". The festival was an opportunity for the delegations to travel to the capital and pledge their loyalty to the king. the birth-place of the kings). or as representing his cenotaph in Upper Egypt. be clad with the Eye of Horus". take your bright tunic. and "O King. put his Eye on your brow in its name Great-of-Magic . they received gifts." The Heb Sed court. I bring you the Eye of Horus . Alternatively. Other structures in the complex also reflect the dual nature of kingship: two subterranean tomb chambers (one regarded as the actual tomb. linen.variously interpreted as a burial place for his canopic jars or for his ^-statue. The Pyramid Texts abound with such utterances as: "O King.. the other . and parallel shrines known as the 'house of the North' and
One of the reliefs of Zoser striding between markers
. to the east of the Great Court. The Pyramid Texts contain many references to "a boon which the king gives" and the few early texts that have survived show that this sometimes came in the form of precious minerals...Growth
Lower Egypt and receive the emblems and scepters of power. In return.the 'south tomb' . and in view of the kingship ideology. statues of the king may have been installed inside the doorways and niches of the shrines on both sides of the Heb Sed court. and livestock. appear as King of Upper and Lower Egypt.. take your cloak upon you.
the more enhanced his image would be. He was
. some may read "creation" or "dedication. There is no doubt that Zoser revered his royal ancestors. but as a divine leader to whom they owed allegiance." Participation at the Sed festival clearly marked the cult centers as the common property of the Great House. They may have been collected during the last stages of construction of his tomb from destroyed funerary estates all over the country. In a cache in the subterranean corridors of his pyramid.' situated to the north of the Heb Sed court (these may be symbolic reconstructions of the shrines of the royal ancestors in Upper and Lower Egypt. stone vessels included the names of virtually all of them. not as a recently crowned monarch or celebrating his jubilee as in later tradition. Perhaps by observing the present we can more clearly understand the past: national and religious festivals in Egypt today suggest that river craft were built or assembled at the various cult centers to carry the delegations to the capital.
Preparing for a National Festival Because of the paucity of written material one can only speculate on the activities that went into preparing for such a festival. Decisions had to be made on the livestock and other gifts to be transported for presentation.Preparing for a National Festival
the 'house of the South. The Sed festival provided an opportunity for the various cult centers to see how many of them were united in recognition of the king. Choosing the size of a delegation probably presented no great difficulty since the larger the entourage of a local dignitary. Although interpretation of the hieroglyphs on Zoser's panels is not certain. Yet it is important to do so because the care and attention expended on festivals is vital to our understanding of political and social life in ancient Egypt. textually referred to as the 'souls of Nekhen' and the 'souls of Pe').
three each to the north and south. Through them. because all cult centers were within easy reach of the river. Both northbound and southbound vessels converged at the apex of the Delta. there would have been a reception committee along with hordes of sightseers from outlying towns and villages. the local population could look on them with increased awe. The dignitaries and the bearers of the sacred statues would have been accompanied from the port to the Great House. when a large mining expedition was planned for supplies of copper or gold. as suggested by Zoser's funerary complex. At Memphis. the flotilla grew as it sailed toward the port of Memphis.perhaps served specific functions but their significance has been lost. where they entered through the largest bastion of the enclosure wall to the east. or when a corvee had to be organized to build mighty monuments in the name of the king . four to the west. Each of Zoser's successors was able to marshal a vast portion of the country's workforce to construct the most magnificent monuments the world has ever known. Participation in the festival cemented the link between the king and the leaders of the cult centers. the Great House was able to monopolize trade and issue royal decrees to announce when men were required to serve a national cause: if an army was needed to settle disputes with Bedouins hindering the free movement of trade. and five to the east . The various dummy doors in the surrounding wall . They were ready to serve their king and country.
.the loyalty of these local dignitaries was assured. The sacred statues would have been placed in their respective shrines and preparations made for the upcoming celebration. When the delegations returned home. their leaders personally enriched and the image of their cults enhanced./o
undoubtedly seen off by a large assembly of people and.
when the mass and durability of the new medium was handled for its distinctive qualities. Although this was also initially conceived as a step pyramid. they once rose in pure geometric simplicity. is only slightly smaller. when stone for his Step Pyramid complex (i) was cut into easily handled blocks. shows that the pattern of tomb construction established in the dynasty of Zoser was at first continued. to Khufu's Great Pyramid. nowhere betraying an entrance. Now mostly denuded of their outer facing of fine-quality limestone. The earliest and largest of the group belongs to Khufu. Known as the Great Pyramid. Evidence from the very ruined layer pyramid of Khaba at Zawiyet al-Aryan (2). is less than half the height of the other two. a stepped structure south of Giza with subterranean chambers. The enormous strides made in the mastery of stone can be charted in stages from the time of Zoser. The second pyramid.Ill
The Great Pyramid Age On the limestone plateau to the north of the ancient capital of Memphis are the three pyramids of Giza. that of Menkaure. while the third.' Senefru's own
. A change came with the pyramid of Meidum (3). constructed by his successor Khafre. it is the only survivor of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. which has been attributed to the Third Dynasty king Huni. it was later enlarged by Senefru. They were built in the Fourth Dynasty (2575-2465 BC) and are among of the most famous monuments in the world. who also filled in the steps and turned it into the first 'true pyramid.
Necropolis and Pyramids ofSaqqara
MEMPHIS / .72
\ Pyramid of Abu Rawash
Mokattam Hills Pyramids of Giza
Pyramid of Zawiyet al-Aryan
Pyramid of AbuGhurab Pyramids of Abu Sir
^ . Mit Rahina
Pyramids of Dahshur
The Giza necropolis
The Great Pyramid Age
Consequently. The stones in the lower courses of the bent pyramid incline inward and downward for stability while the higher courses were laid horizontally. Even today. These innovations show the striving for an architectural ideal. the 'bent' (4) and 'northern' (5) pyramids at Dahshur. labor. reveal more confidence in the handling of large blocks of limestone. following ten recent years of the most meticulous archaeological survey using precise tools and techniques in what is known as the Giza Plateau Mapping Project. which was finally achieved with the perfect symmetry of the pyramid of Khufu on the Giza plateau (6). as well as the ability to assemble an ever-increasing labor force. it is difficult to visualize the task of moving huge blocks of stone from quarry to site and then lifting them to a height of over 146 meters above the plateau. Wheeled conveyances were unknown four thousand years ago.74
mortuary structures. many questions remain unanswered. and materials in each huge structure was a ringing insistence that service to the Great House was the most important task of the state. Not surprisingly. the Great Pyramid has been subjected to more in-depth studies over a longer period of time and has been longer theorized and debated upon as to its function and purpose than any other single monument in Egypt. its mortuary temple. The pyramids of Dahshur and Giza conform to what became the established plan of pyramid complexes in the Fourth Dynasty: the flat-faced pyramid itself (the tomb). Each complex included queens' pyramids and at least one subsidiary 'satellite' pyramid with its own entrance and tomb chamber but with neither sarcophagus nor mortuary objects. a technique that was continued in the northern pyramid.
. The enormous investments in time. and a causeway linking it to a valley temple. Pyramid-building represented the largest ongoing industry. artisanal skills. The assembly of labor and organization of vast numbers of workers represent a triumph of management.
Departments known as the 'White House' and the 'Red House' functioned as the state archives. Apart from being "the eyes and the ears of his sovereign . Another son. Fortunately the Nile Valley yielded a rich harvest. As revenue helped consolidate the position of the king. ever attentive (to his wants) both night and day. Here scribes equipped with palette and reeds." it was the viziers' task to supervise the biennial census of raw materials. who bore the title Great Royal Wife. which became the inherited right of princes borne by the first queen. the regular collection of taxes was methodical. The vizier bore two other important titles: 'high priest of Heliopolis' (with two assistants known as 'treasurers of god') and 'master of works. They supervised and recorded various transactions..' Senefru's elder son Kanufer was the first recorded holder of the title.' He was a vigorous leader and his reign saw a rising tide of prosperity. as a skipper. Meanwhile reliefs and statuary production also reached new peaks in his reign. His bent and northern pyramids at Dahshur (the pyramid of Meidum has also been attributed to him) illustrate rapid progress in constructional techniques. and cattle for the royal treasury.both its mineral and agricultural wealth .The Economic Structure
The Economic Structure Senefru was the first king of the dynasty that was the 'age of the great pyramid builders. so taxes. produce. and as 'sealbearers of the king' had the authority to certify them. Netjereperef. was appointed 'overseer of three leaders in Upper Egypt. kept complete records of the produce in store-
. viziers were responsible for the registration of people and property for tax purposes. based on the extent of the arable land. could be high.' As top-ranking officials. especially those involving land.. This was made possible through centralized control over sources of raw material and labor through creation of the post of vizier. The country's resources .flowed smoothly into the capital. ink cakes and papyrus rolls.
now became extensively used. It was a national duty. grain.which first made its appearance on early dynastic clay tablets . wine. We also know from autobiographical texts that every effort was made to recover the bodies of expedition leaders who died abroad and ensure that they were suitably buried. Standard-weight rings of gold and copper were used in some palace transactions (coinage was not introduced to Egypt until much later by the Greeks). It consisted of simplified forms of hieroglyphs. you
Recruitment of Labor It is not known whether the people resisted when large bodies of men were mobilized to help build the funerary complexes. in the shadow of the royal pyramid. poultry. In return for satisfactory service and loyalty an official was permitted to build a private tomb on the necropolis.76
houses.along with their birth place and parentage . Perhaps they considered participation in a glorious deed to be reward enough. Ostraca bearing the names of dead officials at quarry sites . Mortuary priests were similarly encouraged to cooperate with the Great House: O all you gods who shall cause this pyramid and this construction of the king to be fair and endure.suggest that those who died on duty were transported home for burial. some so abbreviated that all likeness to the original was lost. and industrial products.raising the required numbers of people. but taxes were mostly calculated in produce: cattle. Cursive writing known as hieratic . and fight punitive wars to safeguard sources of supply. especially for everyday government business. Leaders of cult centers were committed to .and successful in . mine the raw material for their construction.
shall be effective. you shall have souls. and retainers at construction sites and to pursue the policy of the Great House in supporting local leaders and maintaining local shrines. artisans. clothing and alabaster. you shall be given bread and beer. secular and religious. Every worker was paid in rations from the enormous surplus produced by the agricultural land. you shall have power. part of the income went toward the payment of officials. The reign of Senefru saw the first substantial increase in the number of such estates. son of Khafre. Some estates were situated in the valleys near the funerary complexes. In practice. In Senefru's valley temple the collection of taxes became a subject of sacred art: each of his funerary estates. some even in unoccupied land in the Delta where peasant farmers or captives from military skirmishes in Nubia and Libya were settled.
Funerary Estates Each of the funerary complexes was economically independent. oxen and fowl. Some thirtyfive were mentioned individually on the Palermo Stone in his reign. individually named. is shown as a female offeringbearer. endowed by the Great House as funerary estates. the size and splendor of the pyramids stand as evidence. restored. shows that his funerary monument was endowed with the revenue of no fewer than twelve towns. others in distant provinces. There is evidence that Khufu rebuilt. or "embellished with silver and
. It was a reciprocal service relationship at two levels. which obviously worked. A text in the tomb of prince Nekure. as well as 122 cattle farms. The income from these estates was theoretically reserved for the perpetual maintenance of the royal monuments. you shall be strong. which were exempt from taxes. however.
When they grew up they acquired positions of trust. Inscriptions left by quarry workers show that stone was usually extracted in April and November.when agricultural work was at a standstill due to the annual flood . This was necessary because each successive reign produced a fresh demand for raw materials for further funerary and national monuments and for the ever-increasing upper class aspiring to lavish funerary equipment. not during the inundation in August and September as was previously supposed. Pyramid construction brought together people from all walks of society. Royal children. Senefru's reign came to evoke the image of orderly rule and he himself was the archetypal 'good king. Above his head is a cartouche . and blood. To his right are his conventional nesw-bit and nebty titles and. the earliest evidence of a new element in the royal titulary.78
bronze statues" several provincial shrines. The most important officials were thus bound together by education. It was probably from one to one and a half million.in which his name is inscribed. the 'golden Horus' name. the idea that they were mobilized for three months every year to serve the state . to
. in the bottom right-hand corner.
The Giza Group The size of the population in the Old Kingdom is not known.a loop made by a double thickness of rope with the ends tied together . the sons of concubines. which depicts the hawk above a sign for gold. Until recently. friendship. He wears the Double Crown and holds the flail. including those at Dendera and Bubastis.was generally accepted. and promising young men of noble families were educated together and formed early friendships. largely farmers. Moreover.' On his finely carved funerary stela found at Dahshur he is shown enthroned. Now studies on the organization of work suggest year-round labor.
On the western plateau. This limestone came from Tura. raised them to the required height. on the east bank of the Nile. quarry-workers to extract local stone for the core of the pyramid. straining at the ropes strung over their shoulders. fed.had to be housed.
How the Pyramids were Built Having chosen the Giza plateau as an ideal location for Khufu's mortuary structure. and sometimes buried on the Giza plateau. and sarcophagi. others to quarry the fine quality limestone for its facing and for statues.as we now know from the discovery of a workers' settlement and neighboring burial ground . The idea has long been held that this was achieved using a grid of water-filled channels that covered the area of the base and that by
Senefru's limestone stela at Dahshur
. There were teams to prepare the site for construction. the pyramid base had first to be accurately leveled. planned with precision by 'master builders/ Officials as well as workers .How the Pyramids were Built
build the Great Pyramid an extremely large work force was required (a great mass of masonry estimated at sixteen million tons went into its construction) and full-time as well as part-time workers were needed. Giza was a vast construction site where workers from all over the country toiled to build a grand necropolis. ramps had to be built to haul the blocks to the building site. stelae. where teams of men.
Perhaps it was fed by a canal during low Nile so that shallow-bottomed vessels with their heavy loads could moor there all year round. The quarry must have resounded with copper chisels and stone hammers chipping on stone. across the river. Perhaps they chanted and grunted in rhythm much as work-gangs do today at construction sites. the high level of the Nile would have enabled ships to approach the Giza plateau. Sockets in pairs have been found around the pyramids. from the outside. has now been confirmed with the discovery of what appears to be the ruins of a stone pier.000 in number. The facing stone from Tura had to be transported. The idea of a harbor at Giza. were organized to raise the mighty blocks to their required position above the bedrock.300. The core of Khufu's pyramid was built of local limestone. long suspected.8o
subsequently marking the waterline and then draining off the water. with some up to sixteen tons. One can imagine both harbor and plateau teeming with workers and their ever-present overseers. During the annual inundation. Once the stone was raised to the plateau then gangs of workers. Thus in order to level the site. in the case of Khafre. these blocks weighed an average of two and a half tons each. trenches of uniform depth could be excavated. this time in groups of ten under the watchful eyes of overseers. An estimated 2.
. the ancient Egyptians appear to have surveyed the area using stakes mortared into the bedrock. which attest to this method for achieving perimeter level accuracy. Teams of twenty to fifty men hauled the stone up broad ramps of piled rubble by ropes slung over their shoulders. probably in crude blocks. identified as the depression directly south of the pyramid. This theory was put to rest when it was observed that the pyramids of both Khufu and Khafre were built up on huge cores of bedrock. the bedrock rose to a height of over ten meters. It is likely that there was also a network of smaller canals dug off the main waterway to transport food for the workers. which was mined from the main quarry on the plateau.
another part of the people's staple diet. but no evidence of this in the form of debris has yet been discovered. is that a ramp wrapped around the pyramid and grew with it. In the bakeries. A large number of bread molds found are identical to those depicted in the Fifth Dynasty nobles' tombs at Saqqara. but this would not be practicable as it would have had to be about one kilometer in length. large containers that could hold some fifteen kilograms of dough were found. based on a large quantity of limestone chips and mortar (a mixture of gypsum and local clay called tafla) that now fills the main quarries on the plateau. lay them. gave access to a workers' community.
Workers' Accommodation A massive wall with a gateway at the foot of the Giza plateau. The grains dug up suggest that the bread was made of barley. They were apparently covered with coals in large vats to bake the bread. which probably bordered the harbor. Another suggestion was that a brick ramp was constructed. and then proceed with the next course. One suggestion was that a vast sloping ramp was built straight up to the pyramid. An estimated thirty thousand people lived near the construe-
. and a third camp housed specialized workers and overseers. which is among the most remarkable discoveries of recent years. raise the ramp.Workers' Accommodation
Generations of scholars have debated the baffling question of how the ancient Egyptians raised such huge blocks to their elevated positions. another was a service area with two bakeries to provide bread to feed the vast numbers of people. which was also the basis for beer. Workers could conceivably drag the stones up each course at a time. If the surface of the ramp were plastered with clay then water would have acted as a lubricant and facilitated movement of the blocks. A recent tentative theory. One camp accommodated the general workers.
. or whether the shape evolved from mounds placed over Predynastic graves.82
tion site. along with some fine burnished red ware. In other words. the priest of Hathor will strike twice any who enters this tomb or does harm to it. or did the masses seek to emulate the wealthy? The workers' cemetery had narrow streets. The community reveals a high degree of organization. which would support the idea that a national effort was required to raise the pyramids. This last discovery raises the issue of whether the pyramidal shape was exclusively reserved for royal tombs. including the name. The crocodile. Some were copied from the tombs of the upper classes. In the ruins of this vast settlement area are thousands of fragments of pottery. trays for sifting grain and flour. and one even had a pyramidal superstructure. Some six hundred tombs have been excavated west of the service area. was the pyramid a development of folk architecture. and the funerary texts are most explicit. they have no uniform architectural features. and lion will eat him. The gods will confront him. Among them were artisans who decorated the tombs of the relatives of the king and his loyal and devoted officials. Records were kept of every activity. with vaulted ceilings. Perhaps the most remarkable picture of the pyramid builders comes from the cemetery associated with these communities. in imitation of the cemetery to the north of Khufu's pyramid for his loyal officials. as previously supposed. some were tiny replicas of pyramids within an enclosure wall.. Listen all of you (who approach this tomb). and rations of each worker. The discovery of typical Upper Egyptian pottery suggests that some of the food may have been sent to Giza from other areas of the country. As would be expected. hours. including cooking pots. hippo. The gods will not allow anything to happen to me or to my tomb because I am [one] honored by his lord [the king]. beer jars. A certain Petti wrote.
lay adjacent to the east side of the pyramid. and sculptors who made my tomb. crushed fingers. Many. constructed immediately to the north of her husband's. draftsmen. The purpose of the five statues is not clear." who would strike any desecrater. farmhands. now destroyed. An interesting text in the tomb of an official called Wag is addressed to "the tomb-makers. craftsmen. and an altar in front of an inner sanctuary. I hope they were satisfied. open court. to cooks. and compressed vertebrae from bearing heavy loads. Traces of a drain in the court suggests that an altar for sacrificial slaughter or libations may once have stood there. but since the number did not vary in subsequent mortuary temples they obviously served a specific function. A large proportion of the utterances in the Pyramid Texts contain words spoken by mortuary priests making offerings of everything considered necessary for the king's afterlife:
. and skilled and semi-skilled workers. unfortunately. others specified responsibilities. I gave them bread and beer." Quite clearly.The Cult of the King
The tomb of Petti's wife. bore a similar text but with the additional threat of "snakes and scorpions. Khufu's mortuary temple. the workers were not slaves whipped by merciless overseers as described by classical writers like Herodotus. They ranged from overseers and priests. bore the scars of their labor. stores. five niches for statues. there were scribes to keep accounts and overseers to take charge of cattle. and other property. and burials show missing limbs. but willing contributors to the national cause. Certain titles reflected the king's trust and favor. Its ground plan shows that it was separated from the pyramid itself by a paved alleyway and comprised an entrance hall. The Cult of the King To ensure that a hierarchy of officials could take care of all matters related to the royal mortuary cult.
you have your food. Boats had an important symbolic and ritual role in ancient Egypt but the significance of their burial on the plateau remains uncertain. the doors of the coffin are drawn back for you. raise yourself O king. They may originally have been used during his lifetime for ceremonial journeys and buried on the plateau as part his funerary equipment. Cairo. The fact that there are five precludes the possibility that they were ritual boats for carrying the soul of the king to the four cardinal points or that they were solar boats for his journey across the heavens and through the underworld. the tomb is open for you.84
You have your water. Five boat pits have been found around the Great Pyramid.
. The two to the south contain full-size wooden boats . Little remains of the valley temple of Khufu.one now in a museum above its pit. which lies beneath
Diorite statue of Khafre. the other unexcavated. the doors of the sky are thrown open for you. Egyptian Museum. There may even be some connection that so far eludes us between the five niches for statues in his mortuary temple and the five boat pits around the pyramid. you have your efflux which issued from Osiris.
schist. It is built on an almost square ground plan with thick walls of local limestone faced. one of the great treasures of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. They might well be samples given to different sculptors to reproduce on a large scale and en masse. Architectural elements along the walls and fragments of diorite. however. and alabaster found nearby reveal that a total of twenty-three statues once stood there. and a third is a bust cut off at the arms in the manner of 'trial pieces' of later times. No other building of this dynasty has survived in such a state of preservation. The original location of this magnificent work was probably the T-shaped hall leading westward out of the antechamber. Two short entrance passages lead to a long antechamber where the famous diorite statue of Khafre. with Aswan granite. The magnificent diorite statue of Khafre shows the king with a hawk spreading its wings around the royal headcloth. both inside and out. another is a head and crown carved against a pillar with the projection of the colonnade above. The valley temple of Khafre. In large galleries to the north of Khufu's pyramid (reexcavated in 1993) fragments of figurines have been found that suggest a royal workshop. One eroded fragment shows the king with one leg forward. is a remarkable monument that serves as a good example of Fourth Dynasty architecture. Although none of Khufu have survived. This expresses much the same idea as the
the modern village of Nazlat al-Simman.
Cult Statues It would appear that the creation of royal statues was a large industry in the Old Kingdom and it seems likely that at Giza standards were strictly maintained. Royal statues undoubtedly played an important part in maintaining national unity. recent studies suggest that they may have been usurped much later by Ramses II and are now at Memphis. was found.
It has commanded a great deal of attention in recent years because of the rate of its deterioration. Their function probably arose from the fact that the king could not discharge his ritual duties simultaneously all over the land.the king would be depicted in relief making these offerings and being blessed in return suggests this original function.' Surviving examples at Tell Basta and Bubastis show that they were more grand than the shrines to local gods in having limestone elements decorated with reliefs. The lowest part of the statue lies in the hard rock strata of the plateau. the goddess Hathor. Statues at cult centers were housed in a special building known as a '&<z-house. was frequently sculpted in pair-statues (dyads) or as a member of a group of three (triads). the stone from which was used to build the Sphinx Temple to the east. It is isolated in a horseshoe-shaped trench. The fact that in later periods . and different local deities. This vast statue with the body of a lion and a human head was carved directly from an outcropping of rock left unexcavated on the Giza plateau. nor could he make offerings of thanks to the local gods for every mission successfully accomplished.one of the world's best known and most frequently photographed monuments.
The Sphinx Near Khafre's valley temple is the Great Sphinx . builder of the third pyramid at Giza. Fragments of statues in stone and copper found at many sites suggest that there may originally have been as many triads as there were cult centers. Menkaure. he could make symbolic offerings of thanks to the local god whenever necessary.86
hawk depicted on top of the royal serekh bearing the king's name: kingship.when the simple shrines had grown into large temples . while most of the
. In placing a statue of himself at cult centers. These triads were composed of the king.
however. the strata from which the head was carved were harder. Fortunately. their back and front walls being nearly aligned. and the walls of both were built of large limestone blocks faced with red granite. show a similarity in style and technique to the monuments of Khufu. aware of the friable nature of the body.
The Great Sphinx. The Old Kingdom sources are silent about it. This interesting observation has led to speculation that the Sphinx may have been the main feature of a temple originally designed not by Khafre but by his father. gave it its shape by the addition of stone blocks. (Amr Gamal)
. and the earliest references to it are from the Eighteenth Dynasty. about a thousand years after it was built. The Sphinx remains an enigma to this day.The Sphinx
body was carved through softer layers. when it was described as Re-Harakhte. Certain architectural features of the Sphinx Temple. "Horus of the Horizon." Recent excavations and study in the Giza Plateau Mapping Project (started in 1984) show that the Sphinx Temple was designed as an integral part of Khafre's pyramid complex: both the Sphinx Temple and Khafre's Valley Temple lie on the same terrace. The builders of the Sphinx. Giza. with the neck in the softest strata of all.
however. toward the rising sun. Either way. closely related to burial practices and belief in the afterlife. which was based on age-old and deep-rooted traditions. Evidence appears from the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty. scholars are generally predisposed to the idea that the Sphinx Temple complex was designed to fulfill the function of a trend that developed during the reigns of Khufu and Khafre toward the solar-oriented religion.88
The possibility of solar alignments between the Sphinx and the pyramids has now been raised. one to the west) aligned on the central axis of the temple representing the sun's daily circuit. is that what appears to be a complex mesh of diverse cult activities in ancient Egypt emerges from a single mold of thought. Some scholars believe that the Sphinx was a representation of the sun-god and that the court of the Sphinx Temple was the earliest sun temple.
The Egyptian Religion That the centralized power in the Fourth Dynasty should be matched by an equally unified religion is a concept that has long been held by scholars. Every religion is composed of two parts: ritual practices and intellectual conceptions. Other scholars see the Sphinx as representing the king in the form of Horus. secondly. What is clear. But generation upon generation of the most rigorous philologists have not managed to discern an integrated system. Ritual practices in ancient Egypt were. there was faith in the efficacy of prayers and offerings. when the mortuary temple of the pyramid of Meidum was built against the east face of the pyramid. its twenty-four square granite pillars each symbolizing one of the twenty-four hours of the day and night and the two sanctuaries (one to the east. which were sincere and deep-rooted. As for the intellectual
. in the first place. facing the rising sun and giving offerings.
Isis.much as the Nile flood waters withdrew each year leaving mounds of alluvial soil out of which plants grew. Geb and Nut were at first joined together but Shu came between them. The myth of Osiris underwent many changes with the passage of time. and Nut the sky-goddess. Atum-Re's emergence dispersed darkness and created light. Within these waters reposed the sun-god Atum (whose name may have meant either 'not being' or 'being complete'). his wife Isis. Re. It describes the period from the creation of the physical world up to the triumph of Horus as king. placing air between earth and sky. equally loved by the people. When the waters subsided a primordial hill appeared . He taught the people the art of making agricultural implements and controlling the waters of the Nile flood. In the beginning a watery waste. There are several 'creation stories' in ancient Egypt. he masturbated to produce two children: Shu the god of air and Tefnut the goddess of moisture. On this hill Atum manifested himself as the physical sun. this came later. He
. in her devotion to her husband. secretly aspiring to his position of favor. In order to create a link between the solar sphere and human society mythology described Geb and Nut as the father and mother of Osiris (the legendary ancestor associated with the fertile land). the earliest (and the one on which subsequent theories were largely based) is known as the Heliopolis Doctrine. Alone. It involved the Nine Gods of the Ennead and was based on the claim that Heliopolis was the site of the creation. tricked him into entering a coffin designed to fit him alone. In one form it relates how he ruled the land justly with his wife Isis at his side. Nun. she intimated the benefits of domestic life. and their counterparts Set (associated with the arid desert) and his wife Nephthys. taught them how to grind grain and weave linen and. Osiris's brother Set was jealous of his popularity and. whose union then created Geb the earth-god. filled the void that was the universe.The Egyptian Religion
view of nature and the origins of the universe.
In due time she gave birth to Horus and raised him to manhood. and nature. and the myths relating to his battles with Set are many. which featured Osiris as the wise and benevolent ancestor official sanction was given to widespread beliefs. In one terrible confrontation Horus's eye was ripped out by his antagonist. and reassembled them with the necessary prayers and incantations. was victorious. But he recovered. Kings of the early dynastic period were already regarded as heirs to their legendary ancestor Osiris: early reliefs and statuary reveal that they wore the cloak and held the emblems associated with him at their Sed festival. and battles between Horus and Set were already part of the mythological tradition. how she collected the parts of his body (earlier discovered by Set and hacked into fourteen pieces and scattered throughout the land). and became the prototype of kingly rule.the solar. The purpose of the Heliopolis Doctrine (fragments of which appear in the Pyramid Texts) was to explain the creation of the physical world in terms that could be understood and at the same time to present the divine character of the king as of solar descent. In uniting the two spheres . where it was borne northward by the flow. The Heliopolis
Tefmat (moisture) solar cult
. which featured Atum-Re as creator. Numerous myths describe Isis searching for Osiris.90
then sealed it and cast it on the waters of the Nile. The grown Horus then set out to avenge his father's death. Then she descended on Osiris in the form of a bird and received his seed.
O Re. conceived for Re. that I may live thereby. I have satisfied the Two Lands." He also lays claim to being "the son of Atum" and "the well-beloved son of Re. health. Khaf-Re. built by Imhotep for his king Zoser. Re.. beard. the flood ofNepthys. bring me the milk of I sis. I have united the Two Lands. Evidence of an association between the king and solar power can be traced to the Fourth Dynasty. who takes his place at the zenith
. prosperity. and behind him is a row of gods. A common epithet that appears in the names of the kings from the Fourth Dynasty is "Horus the great god. begotten for Re. you who traverse the sky and cross Nut. lord of heaven. the overspill of the lake. mostly destroyed." This intellectual view of the universe was early portrayed in art. son of Osiris. Hail to you. having traversed the winding waterway. Geb. Hail to you. and food. He is shown seated. and Menkau-Re. he was also 'the god' or the 'good god. who daily endures. and necklace. which must have represented the other gods of the Ennead. Horus was not only the king. born of Re.. happiness. the surge of the sea." Homage to the solar orb was repeated with compelling authority in the Pyramid Texts: Hail to you. life.. bread. in your life and in your beauty. In the Pyramid Texts the king is so closely associated with the life-giving river that he could declare: "I have inundated the land. Bauf-Re.The Egyptian Religion
Doctrine brought the marvel of the creation closer to the people by linking it with the existing royal line. In the ruins of a small shrine at Heliopolis. Unique One.. wearing a wig. when four kings compounded their names with the sun-god: Djedef-Re. is a representation of the earth-god. clothing.' physically and spiritually linked with the natural forces common to the Two Lands: the sun and the river (with which Osiris was associated). Hail to you.
The shape of the pyramid has long been a subject of discussion. if there ever was one. the living uraeus which should be upon me.
Significance of the Pyramidal Shape The high priest of Heliopolis bore titles both religious and practical: he was 'chief of observers' as well as 'leader of expeditions.92
of the sky. and the idea that the king was buried under the symbol of the ben-ben. they
. O Re." Conservation of the monuments at Giza between 1987 and 1989 involved clearance of the so-called 'air shafts' that extend at an angle from the tomb chamber to the outer face of the pyramid.' and 'master of works. monuments that were much more than tombs. The original stone symbol. Its development into a pure geometrical form came in stages over successive reigns. that it was an upright stone with a rounded top. You traverse the sky in your striding. based on its artistic depiction as a determinative in the Pyramid Texts. in the place where you are content. has long held sway. even though the Pyramid Texts describe the king as ascending to heaven on the rays of the sun: "May the sky make the sunlight strong for you. Whether the remarkable spectacle of the sun's rays shining down to earth on a cloudy day inspired the shape is by no means certain. and "I have laid down for myself this sunshine of yours as a stairway under my feet on which I will ascend to that mother of mine. To the great surprise of the excavators. is now lost but it seems probable. you include Lower and Upper Egypt within your journeyings. That it had some sort of religious significance is certain.. may you rise up to the sky as the Eye of Re". which came to represent the mound of creation.' As leader of expeditions he acquired raw material from all over the country and as master of works he raised monuments in the name of his king.
finally. to which praises were henceforth addressed. the adoption of sacred regalia such as the scepter. perhaps to enable the soul of the deceased to ascend directly to the place of the ancestors in the northern sky: "I ascend to the sky among the 'imperishable stars/ my sister is Sothis. and perhaps share in a dawn prayer demonstrating that there was no break in continuity. and taking official possession of the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. Long Live the King Upon the death of a king. and they grasp my hand at the field of offerings. as once supposed. Perhaps it was there he announced that preparations should be made for the coming coronation. a symbol of kingship and the religion of the first great nation-state. a royal tomb. accession took place as quickly as possible. a development of the mound of creation. probably at dawn with the symbolic spreading of light. and flail. a grandchild of Khufu) his successor underwent a number of elaborate rituals. and. The shafts would appear to have served a religious function.The King is Dead. crook. as had also been suggested.
. have been many things at once: a material representation of the sun's rays which provided the practical means by which the king could ascend to heaven. for the observation of the constellations. The purpose of the shafts was therefore neither air circulation. Long Live the King
were found to be blocked at both ends. journeyed to the provinces to visit the provincial deities. in fact. Then it seems certain that the future king." The pyramidal shape may. These included purification by two priests representing Horus and Set. duly empowered. pay respects to the local elite. my guide is the morning star. During the time the king was prepared for burial (normally seventy days.
The King is Dead. though 272 days is given as the interval between death and burial in the case of Queen Meresankh III. nor.
. on the wind"." Or.. Services were conducted. where priests recited formulae guaranteeing the supply of provisions and offered prayers for the rebirth of the immortal spirit. You ascend from the east of the sky. All work came to a standstill as news spread to different parts of the country. as your yearly sustenance which you fashioned for your
. "You shall ascend to the sky as a great bird". Then the funerary cortege made its way to the mortuary temple. I have mourned you. being haphazard compilations of mortuary ritual obtained from various sources and probably of different time periods. that he may be on high from the east to the west in company with his brethren the gods. I will not be inert until the voice comes forth from you every day. at the setting down of the brazier at the festival of Thoth . the imperishable stars: "O king. often present contradictory views about the deceased's method of conveyance to the afterlife: "A stairway to the sky is set up for me that I may ascend on it to the sky". you are this great star. who traverses the sky with Orion. "The king ascends on the thighs of Isis." Mortuary and provincial priests alike went through their ritual paces in mourning the king: "O king. the mourning-woman called to you. quakes at you.94
Meanwhile. the companion of Orion. "The reedfloats of the sky are set in place for this king. being renewed at your due season and rejuvenated in your due time. I will not forget you. Mortuary rituals in the Pyramid Texts include such passages as: "The sky weeps for you. an elaborate funerary ritual including bathing and the regeneration of the spirit was carried out in the valley temple. The utterances in the Pyramid Texts.. in the monthly festival. the king climbs upon the thighs of Nepthys". "The king is bound for the sky on the wind." After the king's remains had undergone mummification. he would become a spirit and take his place among the ancestors. in the half-monthly festival.. a period of mourning was observed for the deceased king. who navigates the underworld with Osiris.
the king was the focal point of national unity. The king is a sacred image... raise yourself. there was a ringing insistence on the pinnacle of power. the king is at the head of the gods..". my father." As part of the coronation ritual. the royal cult. The gods do obeisance when
. Alive and dead. the most sacred of the sacred images of the Great One. make your abode in the Field of Offerings . and he is provided as a god. at the cult centers preparing to attend the coronation. and the bull's tail attached to his waist. on this your day when you stand before Re when he ascends from the East and when you are clad with your dignity which is among the spirits". coronation) became an annual event. One of the requirements of succession was to conduct the funeral of the previous ruler. Perhaps he made a circuit of the walls of the ancient city in a carrying chair borne by pole-bearers. Horus followed Osiris and the cycle was repeated as tirelessly as the cycles of nature... The deceased king was addressed by his son: "Hail to you.The King is Dead. He took his official dress. for he is your son of your body for ever. The anniversary of his 'appearing' (that is. my father . the ceremonial beard. along the banks of the Nile where the people could watch the royal boat. the living Horus undoubtedly paid honor to the dual shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt in order to mark a new beginning. "Behold. "Raise yourself. "O Atum. raise this king up to you. enclose him within your embrace. The passing of each king meant no more than the official transference of power to his son and heir. which included the emblems of power on his chest. The former became "a great power. traverse the sky.. who has power over the powers. a renewal of the union between the Two Lands. Long Live the King
monthly festivals. Glorification of the dead king and the living king helped solidify that power. and among workers and bargemen whose tasks were temporarily suspended.. go in your spirit-state"." On the royal necropolis where the funeral was carried out.
.the sun reborn daily in the eastern sky and the land unfailingly reborn after the death of the crop each year .generally described as 'authority. you dawn for the king. you gods. Osiris. and maat . Rejoice at the king. Support of the dogma was sincere and unchanging because the king was seen by the laity as a descendent of a farmer like themselves. for he has taken possession of the horizon. It referred to the harmonious state of the universe which was seen to be in order . and.of maat. The idea that the land belonged to the king was perhaps not seriously challenged.96
meeting the king.' Maat was a common epithet of the kings of the Fourth Dynasty. lord . the goddess of truth." The living king was honored daily at dawn: "O Re. lord of all things". The established order became part of the ritual and inviolable. just as the gods do obeisance when meeting the rising of Re when he ascends from the horizon. These were hu.. at the intellectual level. The Great House was the state and the king was the giver of bounty. he had benevolent qualities and pacific attributes.or owner . "Make salutation. As the organizer and judge of the community. if you dawn in the sky. but the people found proof in nature that a
. the creation of a political system based on the ideological framework of kingship changed their way of life little. the king was neb maat.as well as to good rule and social justice. Abstract ideas were represented as gods: in the Pyramid texts maat was described as a power. It was an abstract concept that developed into the spirit of national guidance.. sia."
The Kingship Ideal For the majority of the population.' 'perception/ and 'justice. to the king (when he) shines anew in the East. The Two Lands were destined throughout the country's long history to erupt into political disorder and the spiritual vigor of the nation would decline under foreign occupation.
The Kingship Ideal
powerful force was not indifferent to temporal affairs, and the one who controlled the natural forces was the king. Even when national harmony was temporarily disrupted at the death of a king, maat was inevitably reinstated at the coronation of his successor. There was total confidence in the order of things as they were. The cult centers were drawn into the state religion in their daily prayers: "Make salutation, you gods, to the king (when he) shines anew in the East. ... Rejoice at the king, for he has taken possession of the horizon." Neith of Sais was described in the mortuary texts as the "daughter of Re"; Hathor the cow-goddess of Dendera was linked with Nut the sky-goddess or with Isis the mother of Horus. The waxing and waning of Thoth, the moon-god, was also described: the moon was one of the two heavenly eyes of Horus that suffered an injury from Set only to be restored every month. In every temple in the land, hymns and prayers to the sungod could be conducted in harmony with nature through the medium of the local gods: May you wake in peace,, O purified, in peace, May you wake in peace, O Horns of the East, in peace, May you wake in peace, O soul of the East, in peace, May you sleep in the Night-bark, May you wake in the Day-bark, For you are He who oversees the gods, There is no god who oversees you. Scholars from all over the world have long pondered over the meaning of the words 'god' and 'gods' in ancient Egyptian texts, which, although written side by side, were never confused with one another. In the present context it can be seen that all the 'gods' were drawn into the central theology of the state through 'god,' the king, who was in direct line to Osiris the legendary ancestor of
solar origins. It seems certain that the Heliopolis Doctrine was a factor in national unity as strong as, if not stronger than, the creation of local cults, which neutralized the differences between settlements and gave them equal prestige; through it, all the 'gods' were drawn into the central theology just as, much later (in the Middle Kingdom), they would be solarized by compounding their names with the sun-god Re and adopting the solar disk on their heads. Having thus consolidated the cultural heritage by formulating a state religion, the Great House could now embark on an era of increased solar worship in the Fifth Dynasty.
Sun Temples and Solar Worship Menkaure's pyramid was incomplete when he died. The facing was unfinished and both the mortuary and valley temples were hastily assembled in mud-brick and wood. The pyramid is the smallest of the three principal pyramids at Giza, occupying a quarter of the area covered by the Great Pyramid and less than half its height. The smaller size of Menkaure's and subsequent pyramids has frequently been taken as an indication of a diminution of centralized power. Some scholars suggest that the state could no longer support large-scale enterprises; others believe that it simply became redundant for each king to endeavor to outdo his predecessor. In fact, although the Fifth Dynasty pyramids at Saqqara were small and built of inferior material, their mortuary temples were large and decorated with magnificent reliefs. Moreover, each king built a massive sun temple at Abu Sir north of Saqqara, which suggests that labor was not reduced so much as redirected. The male line of Senefru ended with Menkaure's death. His successor, Shepseskhaf, appears not to have been a son of the Great Royal Wife, and not only his lineage but his ideas were untraditional. In place of a pyramid, his tomb at Saqqara - known as mastabat fara'un ('Pharaoh's bench' in Arabic) - has the appearance of a large rectangular sarcophagus. The break in tradition was only temporary, because subsequent kings of the Fifth through to the end of the Sixth Dynasty built funerary complexes
with the same elements as those of the Fourth Dynasty, consisting of a pyramid, mortuary temple, causeway, and valley temple. The sun temple reflected the same architectural uniformity (main structure, causeway, valley temple), except that instead of the bulk of the pyramidal structure there was the elevation of the sacred ben-ben., which was perched on top of a huge, squat obelisk- standing on a base of hewn stone - near the center of a court that featured a vast offering table. Such purposeful design served a specific function. The sun temples were built not for mortuary rituals to a dead king (as in the pyramid complex), but as public buildings made for theater. Here, the processions and activities of the living king were displayed before the people, and he provided bounty. The sun temples could be built and decorated on an impressive scale because the labor trained under the Fourth Dynasty kings was released from large-scale pyramid construction. The resources that previously went into funerary monuments, and the building of private tombs as gifts to the kings' relatives and favored officials, were channeled into the construction of sun temples. Artistic standards were maintained in the Fifth Dynasty. A number of fragmentary royal heads show that work of outstanding quality was produced. An innovation was statuary on a colossal scale. The first free-standing, larger-than-life sculpture of dynastic times is the head of Userkhaf - first king of the Fifth Dy-
Son of Re' included in royal titulary
and Djedka-re. Only two of the massive monuments these kings built in honor of their father the sun-god have so far been located with certainty. it gave a powerful impression of the majesty of kingship. Like the lifesize statues of Khafre. Surviving texts reveal that the Great House continued to protect the authority of the king. Worship was in the open. frequently referred to in texts but totally destroyed.found in his mortuary temple at Saqqara. The deeper-carved sunken reliefs were for the diffused light of inner chambers and corridors. were exquisite carvings that were sensitive to the play of light. Neferirka-re. Although they were dedicated to the sun-god. The former. await discovery. was built at this time of intense solar worship. and Field of Re and comprised huge open courts surrounded by high walls. The sun temples were adorned with reliefs along the corridors that opened from the entrance hall and ran along the sides of the court. they also adopted a new epithet . The reliefs largely concerned rites performed by the king and officials at the Sed festival. Shepseska-re. at first. The entrance to the open court may have been so oriented that on the spring or autumn equinox the rays of the rising sun would shine through the gateway to strike the sacred symbol.which became a regular element of the royal titulary.'Son of Re' . remained unchallenged. referred to in texts. Neferef-re. It is likely that the sun temple of Re-Harakhte (Horus of the Horizon) at Heliopolis. beneath the sky. the flora and fauna through the three seasons of the agricultural
. whose power. there are no surviving shrines to accommodate a cult image. carved to a depth of no more than a few millimeters. The kings continued to compound their names with that of the sun-god Re: Sahu-re. Horizon of Re. Nyuser-re. The sun temples bore such names as Pleasure of Re. Four others.Sun Temples and Solar Worship
nasty . The quality of limestone was such that both raised and sunken reliefs could be executed with great precision. and in small chambers.
The scenes of the Sed festival include the opening ceremonies at which representatives from Upper and Lower Egypt are assembled to witness the king's claim to the land by striding between markers. At each corner of the temple. implements. who hands them to the king. A sand bed was subsequently laid. In the closing ceremony he is borne on a box-like litter flanked by the Chief of Pe and the Chief of Nekhen .representing two of the earliest cult centers . around two thousand pieces of papyrus were found . In a mud-brick storeroom. they provide a wealth of information on ancient bureaucracy: records. and offerings. as well as scarabs or plaques bearing the name of the royal founder were placed.some complete rolls. In a small shrine in the sun temple of Nyuserre there are also representations of temple foundation ceremonies: the king and the goddess Sheshat (probably represented by the queen) are each depicted holding a measuring cord near the ground to mark the dimensions of the temple.loi
year. on which stone blocks were placed to form a firm foundation. The king is then enthroned four times. The procession then moves toward the shrines of Horus and Set . instructions. Taken together with similar finds at neighboring temples. and the ceremonial sacrifice of foreign captives. now known as the Abu Sir archives. have been found in the mortuary temple of Neferirkare. registers. others mere fragments.the royal ancestors of Lower and Upper Egypt. deposits consisting of models of tools. They include
. a priest gives bows and arrows to the royal priest. each time facing one of the points of the compass. who shoots an arrow to each of the cardinal points. and letters. respectively.and. lists.
Abu Sir Archives Bureaucratic records written on papyri. at each destination.
000 by the kneeling figure of the god Heh with upraised arms. Ten thousand was represented by a finger.received from funerary estates. 100. like those of the mortuary temples.000 by a tadpole. wooden chests. and 1. Daily accounts were kept of commodities . Cylinder seals bearing incised hieroglyphs were rolled across the clay that sealed documents. Regular inspection of all seals was carried out and columns were left in the administrative records for observations of theft or any other disorder. and cakes. There was a remarkable system of registration and supervision of assets. Thirty thousand meals were recorded for another festival. Both the funerary and the sun temple complexes were state property and carefully guarded. The archives (not yet fully deciphered) give us the first real insight into elaborate officialdom.000. hundreds. were parttime workers. Ten-day work periods seem to have been interspersed with leave. each mentioned by name. On the occasion of Nyuserre's Sed festival in the thirtieth year of his reign. the Great House. beer. an understanding of the administration of the Old Kingdom was primarily gained through analyzing titles and speculating on their significance. Sun temple staff. the circle of activities that surrounded the king and the strict observance of ritual spring to life. units were indicated by strokes.600 meals of bread. the list of items included 100. and thousands each had their particular signs. The lists of donations to the sun temples were extremely large. and the funerary complexes. Tables were drawn up in red and black ink for each day of the thirty-day month. tens. accounts. schedules for religious sacrifices. and deliveries between the sun temples. The Egyptian system of counting was decimal. presumably in order for them to return to normal village life when seasonal obligations so de-
. and even sacks and jars. working in rotation.Abu Sir Archives
royal edicts. state archives.mostly foodstuffs . doorways of storehouses. Now for the first time scholars have access to actual records. Prior to this discovery.
the king. the font of all honors. The purpose of the huge altar in the sun temple of Abu Ghurab was not. the balance was undoubtedly distributed among the workers and their families.
All the King's Men Some viziers and important officials in the Fifth Dynasty bore names compounded with Ptah. The role of the butcher in such temple rituals was an important one. The throat would be cut. Distribution of meat by the king was part of the tradition. thirteen oxen were sacrificed on ten consecutive days in one temple alone. the spurting blood caught in a vessel of alabaster. Huge numbers of people received partial support from the state. the god of Memphis who was represented from the First Dynasty as a smooth-headed standing fig-
. On another occasion. Records show that for the duration of one celebration alone. The legs of a sacrificial bull would first be tied together and the animal tethered to a limestone block in the paving stones. could immediately demonstrate his largesse and distribute the meat.IO4
manded. fully understood. until now. The giving of food on festive occasions has remained a tradition among Egypt's wealthy until today. Payment was in kind. and the alabaster altar with the four hetep signs was the place where the bulls were laid before being sacrificed. six animals were slaughtered each day for an unspecified number of days. and finally the foreleg would be severed with a large flint knife and carried to the main altar. Nor were offerings wasted: after the mortuary priests had taken their share. After the appropriate offering had been made. New evidence suggests that it was a huge slaughterhouse. Recent studies on the sun temples have revealed that there were huge slaughterhouses where offerings were made by the king to the sun-god. mostly in the form of rations of staple food and clothing.
and Sinai. A builder called Nekhebu wrote: "His majesty found me a common builder. at distant cult centers. Whereas the viziers of the Fourth Dynasty were often in charge of the administration of several cult centers . a fleet of ships sailed across the 'great green' (the Mediterranean) to import cedar wood and other products from western Asia for which there was a growing need.
.the situation changed after the reign of Userkhaf. As trade with neighboring countries increased-to fulfill the demands of the stateproducts and raw materials were transported there from Nubia. and reforms were set in motion. wearing a tightly-fitted garment that resembles the dress of the king at the Sed Festival." Loyalty to king and country in and around the capital remained strong. and conferred upon me (successive posts of) journeyman builder.. were introduced in the reign of Neferirkare. but farther afield. all of whom were scrupulous in expressing debt and loyalty to the king in their biographies.some were even assigned to supervise areas in both Upper and Lower Egypt . Wealth was amassed in the capital. His majesty did all this because (he) favored me so greatly. Then. Sudan. A large number of titles. master builder. and master of a craft. administrative reforms were necessary. The suggestion by some early scholars that this represented a religious rift in the Fifth Dynasty has now been abandoned. still not fully understood.' also held a responsible post in the earliest sun temple at Abu Sir. when traces of the accumulation of power in the hands of the provincial elite in Upper Egypt can be detected for the first time.. titles reveal that officials such as Ptah-Shepses. The Great House tightened up the hitherto rather informal system of grading high-ranking officials.All the King's Men
ure in an open shrine. Among the well-preserved reliefs in Nyuserre's sun temple are records of the names and careers of various officials. Memphis was the center of commerce. who was 'high priest of Ptah' and 'chief of craftsmen.
had fostered a spirit of self-sufficiency. Others .began to organize a lucrative trade with the south. During his reign a number of decrees related to the economy were
. the office of 'overseer of Upper Egypt' was introduced. who ruled for over thirty years.or rock-tombs sprang up in the Sixth Dynasty. One was the cost of maintaining ancestor cults by providing perpetual endowments for funerary monuments. Where once the highest ambition of a local dignitary was to perform his duties and have a tomb built near his king's pyramid.' inscribed along with the name of their province. The other was the fact that the Great House. Five provincial cemeteries of brick. The 'great chiefs' began to play the role previously performed only by the king or his representative: participation in cult ritual and its related seasonal festivals. the powerful Pepi I. who took charge of most of the quarrying and transportation of Aswan granite for the royal monuments .like those of Elephantine. in granting concessions to leaders of cult centers. The border province of Elephantine was among the first to agitate for independence. Abandoning their title 'first after the king. One of them boasted of bringing people from neighboring areas to settle in the outlying districts of his province to infuse new blood into it.' the powerful leaders called themselves 'great chief.106
under Djedkare. dominates the Sixth. The Power ofPepi Just as Khufu stands out as the dominant figure of the Fourth Dynasty. ostensibly for the king but not without benefit to themselves. Some leaders had acquired land in return for their services to the state and began to derive wealth from it. He had major problems to contend with. which severely taxed the resources of the state. their wealth became such that they could now afford to be buried in their own provinces. Pepi recognized the problems and sought to minimize them.
Pepi also pursued a vigorous foreign policy: control was gained over Nubia to the south and Egyptian influence was extended to southern Palestine and to Punt on the Somali coast.The Power of Pepi
tabled. Art and architecture attained great heights in the Sixth Dynasty but a difference in royal statuary can be discerned.apart from Coptos. The king was shown also in a more subservient role. A statuette of Pepi for the first time shows a king kneeling.in order to protect trade routes. Among them was protection of certain temples from compulsory labor dues and exempting two monuments of his remote ancestor Senefru from taxation. This trend was later continued in temple reliefs. He also exempted architects. cattle. and fragrant gums flowed into Egypt. Raw materials. and while cult statues in the early tradition continued to depicti him seated on a throne. These measures were. and a hawk on the back of his throne (reminiscent of Horus depicted on the throne of Khafre). Bubastis. one of Pepi's officials. perhaps. resins. a new trend was developing. incense. those in Tanis.which included various contingents under the command of the chief priests of the temples of Upper and Lower Egypt . While the lifesized copper statue of Pepi I and his son found at Nekhen (Egyptian Museum. who was able to raise a great army . Cairo) reflects the all-powerful king striding forward in the traditional stance. He followed the footsteps of the early kings in enhancing his own reputation by enlarging ancient shrines and converting them into temples . minerals.
. not so much an attempt to win the loyalty of the chiefs of strategically important cult centers as recognition of the forces of change. The success of his policy is clearly reflected in the autobiography of Weni. Abydos. the Heb Sed robe. and herds of donkeys at the temple of Min at Coptos from taxes. wearing the White Crown. where the king was untiringly shown in consort with the gods and making offerings to them. and Dendera are specifically mentioned. offering libation vessels.
Also.some ninety years according to the Turin Papyrus .passed into the hands of any nobleman of outstanding ability. What remains of his pyramid in north Saqqara is a very dilapidated structure. also gave his daughter in wedlock to a provincial lord. a child of six years old. But the pyramid must once have been a fine structure.
A Boy on the Throne Merenre had a short reign and was succeeded by his half-brother. Times were changing. for which the copper statue found at Coptos was made. His son and successor. Thereafter the position of vizier . in an effort to show a link with a greater past. Ancient Egypt's aristocratic period of confidence had passed and the country was in transition. The rule of Pepi II was one of the longest in history . It was known as Men-nefer (meaning 'beautiful monument'). Merenre. New estates were founded. one specifically dedicated to the maintenance of Pepi I's ancestor cult.io8
The exclusivity of the royal family broke down when Pepi married two of his daughters to a chief near Abydos called Khui. Pepi II.once the exclusive right of princes .' Men-nefer was later corrupted by the Greeks to Memphis. and the robbers who forced an entrance completely wrecked the black basalt sarcophagus. There was a further increase in royal decrees to exempt religious foundations from taxation and the people who ran them from service.during which time continued efforts were made by the Great House to reestablish control. a designation which came to refer to the nearby capital. replacing the earlier 'White Wall. Pepi II's mortuary temple was decorated with reliefs of the activities of the
. When Pepi was ready to commission his mortuary complex he sent his chief builder and two 'treasurers of god' along with a body of workers to the quarries of Wadi Hammamat to procure the finest stone.
as depicted in his sun temple. evidence was gathered and committed to writing. What was originally an historical record in Sahure's reign took its place in the repertoire of achievement of a successful ruler. the very names of the Libyans defeated in battle were copied.To Protect a Heritage
Fifth Dynasty king Sahure. and formulated a national religion. By the reign of Teti we have the earliest evidence (at Edfu) of the title of 'great chief being combined with that of 'high priest' of the local deity. the energies of the state had been channeled toward unifying the country and maintaining control over cult centers in order to monopolize its resources. Perhaps an awareness grew during this time of the need to record and transmit the sacred heritage before it was too late. This was an extraordinary achievement. codified art forms. mortuary texts were gathered and inscribed in the pyramids. For hundreds of years. Now. An updated king list was compiled. in order to ensure that such a memorial to achievement was not swept from the public memory. Despite efforts made to enhance the image of the Great House. Only during times of disharmony or change does tradition need to be stressed. because although much of the textual evidence was forged in mythological language it formed a lasting historical base for the future. Learned literates could look back to early records and trace how their ambitious and imaginative ancestors had formalized hieroglyphic writing. and dramatizations of kingship rituals and oral traditions were put to written record. when the provincial elite began to acquire wealth the tide of change could not be controlled.
To Protect a Heritage When political power is not contested it needs no reinforcement.
. standardized mortuary ritual.
or a composite figure that embodied the achievements of many leaders . and Thoth the moon-god and measurer of time were all there. Conversely. Scorpion. Shu the god of the atmosphere. Written centuries after unification .and probably aided by a nobility register . Den of the First Dynasty.the Turin Papyrus . Geb the earth-god. the biennial census.
. although it had been used in some architectural elements of earlier monuments. was said to have written books on anatomy. yet in his reign the hieroglyphic writing system was still in its formative stages. gave continuity and historical sequence to their ideology. The importance of the Palermo Stone was that.no
King Lists Lists of dead kings. according to a later king list . The compilers of the king lists also laid claim to an even more ancient and embellished heritage: the 'time of the gods. Menes . apart from listing the names of successive kings. Zoser of the Third Dynasty was dignified with the invention of stone architecture.726 years. compilers of the king lists credited the earliest kings with achievements that came only later. and it itemized the 'birth' days of gods.whether Narmer.lived for 3. Set his adversary. They were royal ancestors to whom pious regard was shown. With an obvious pride in the past.became the traditional unifier of the country and a decisive beginning to the First Dynasty. The information revealed by the Palermo Stone was drawn from earlier king lists that predate the historic period. and was described as the scribe of the gods.' Re the sun-god. Osiris the legendary ancestor. Aha. Thoth. for example. which the ancient Egyptians themselves compiled.the margin of error was undoubtedly small. and hence a god of wisdom. it documented religious festivals. and the height of the Nile flood during successive reigns. which was regarded as a model of order. keeper of the secret books.
the (porters) are silent. and offerings of food.
Propagating the State Dogma The fragmented text known as the Memphite Drama is a remarkable document in which the political. the weeping goddess hanging over the body of her dead brother. drink. One prayer for the rebirth of Osiris intones: "Loosen your bandages.abound. others in the third. They are not bandages. and social history
. there may have been many who deliberately dramatized their recitations. No effort was made to collate them or present a coherent picture. the bows stagger. and prayers on behalf of the dead.Propagating the State Dogma
The Pyramid Texts Mortuary rituals inscribed in the pyramid of Unas and the kings of the Sixth Dynasty. They cover very ancient rituals. They formed the basis of similar literature in the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom.which naturally occur with transmission over time and place . hymns. Apart from the desire of individual priests to create the necessary atmosphere of piety and hope. when they see Unas dawning as a soul. and the so-called Book of the Dead in the New Kingdom. Some of the verses were written in the first person. mortuary spells. religious. and other items for the afterlife." Another example is an imaginative rendition of the king's spirit ascending to the sky: "Clouds darken the sky. the stars rain down. the bones of the hell-hounds tremble. as spoken by the king. clothing. they were undoubtedly part of the mortuary tradition throughout the land. were undoubtedly collected from many sources. Presumably at every funeral there were variants of traditional recitations. fragmentary allusions to myths." Although the Pyramid Texts were written in royal tombs. they are the locks of Nephthys. Textual contradictions . as by mortuary priests.
the recovery of his body by Isis and her sister Nephthys. and the crowning of Horus as king. The first act. now united. The reigning monarch.' is justified by the ritual combat between Horus and Set. after the Kushite king who found it (around 720 BC). It was live theater. recognized its importance. and rebirth: Set's attack on him and his dismemberment. Memphis.' proclaims the political unity of Upper and Lower Egypt with Memphis as the center of the realm. the land. In the second scene. which supports the hypothesis of a conscious effort to put tradition to writing. the legendary ancestor associated with water. The local god is declared to be Ptah Ta-Tjenen (Ttah the risen land'). It survived in a late copy on what is known as the Shabaka Stone. which presented the ancient Egyptian view of the world and society.ii2
of ancient Egypt's formative years are presented in the form of a mythological drama in three acts. The second act presents the story of Osiris. Geb the earth-god commands the Ennead to judge between the two. introduced by a 'presenter. introduced as 'King of the Two Lands. the play was clearly set in a national framework. Its precise date is still a matter of dispute. The first act of the drama thus confirmed political unity and provided a legal base for the rule of Horus as king. The drama was staged in the capital. battles between Horus and Set. In the first scene he makes Set king of Upper Egypt and Horus king of Lower Egypt. the primordial hill on which Atum the sungod manifested himself. Act three centers around a council of gods and their decision to build the royal city and construct the
. Surrounded by the gods of the Ennead. and had it copied on stone. and the performers enacted the story of the creation of the physical world up to the triumph and coronation of Horus as king. the antagonists are called upon to struggle no more but to unite instead. Horus acquires domination over both Upper and Lower Egypt. but its language resembles that of the Pyramid Texts and many scholars attribute it to the late Fifth or Sixth Dynasty.
temples." The authors of the Memphite Drama neither obscured nor denied widely-held beliefs. when the Hermetic writings state that "our ancestors invented the art of creating gods. where she saved him. As brothers now at one and reconciled. in Egyptian parlance. Peace is made in Memphis. called the 'Balance of the Two Lands' because it stands athwart their boundaries and holds the balance there between them both. the site where Isis beheld the body of her beloved husband drowning in the water. the eternal ocean Nun. Ta-Tjenen the first land. bound his limbs together. by means of the spoken word). and brought him back to life. in his mind) and was made manifest by being pronounced by his tongue (that is. It is interesting to observe a tradition that survived to the second century ad.Propagating the State Dogma
'White Wall. The performance ended with a hymn to Ptah.' Here the actors place reeds and rushes on each side of the entrance to the temple of Ptah and the presenter says: These reeds and rushes here placed side by side by Atum symbolize Horns and his rival Set. the great and mighty. and it is argued that everything that existed originated in his heart (that is. It has been argued that the Memphite Drama represents an intellectual account of the creation because Ptah conceived of the world in his heart and brought order . Each act. their struggle is ended. the dialogue should be taken at face value: a political process by means of which power was granted to inanimate gods by naming them. The drama confirmed the sacred charter
. indeed every scene.into being through the 'word'. In fact. was in accordance with tradition.gods. cities. Ptah is again presented as the primordial hill that contained all the elements necessary for life and political order. the 'lofty throne' where the sun-god Atum-Re came to be. and all earthly things .
and Romans are all marked by great building activity. killed. and religious ramifications is further embellished. Dynasties of Libyans. gave prestige to the various cult centers by rebuilding or enlarging their temples. With the passage of time the ideology with strong political.ii4
of the Heliopolis Doctrine and provided the conventional portrait of an ideal ruler that all future kings were bound to observe. as an animal was bound. which was retained to the end of ancient Egyptian history. Horus with benevolence. in casting Ptah as himself the primordial hill on which the first god Atum appeared. Moreover. and dismembered so would the enemies of the king suffer that fate. Set featured in all ritual sacrifices.' the latter its opposite. All seasonal and kingship festivals stressed the triumph of Horus over Set. All variations became part of a living and enduring tradition. Set became associated with the desert and with evil. Battles between Horus and Set. but even alien conquerors and usurpers were accepted as king once they took the sacred emblems of kingship.
Guardians of a Tradition As the thread of a tradition passes from generation to generation.
. Kushites. underwent the necessary coronation rituals. The former was the prototype of the 'good god. Leaders could come and go. and all actively participated in the ancestor cult as well as the rituals and festivals that formed the fabric of society. and made pilgrimage to their shrines. loyalties change. wore the Double Crown. Greeks. social. the drama underscored the reputation of the capital and its local god. more and more people become its guardians. became one epic struggle between two protagonists representing Upper and Lower Egypt. honored the royal ancestors in festivals like the Sed. for example.
lavishing resources on festivals. Social change. the time which the ancient Egyptians themselves regarded as a model throughout their history.and so ingeniously imposed were its ideals . They believed that there was once a Golden Age. and rewarding officials by helping with their tomb construction. the Nile failed to revitalize it. Year after year the sun scorched the land. and the drain on the treasury caused by the maintenance of royal ancestor cults were undoubtedly contributing factors. distinctive features of the early culture endured. the undertaking of huge non-economic enterprises like constructing the pyramids and the sun temples. The Old Kingdom. but its great resources could not provide security against the consequences of continual natural disasters like low flood and famine. became the classic standard. and the crops failed to grow. was another cause. the most decisive factor in its collapse. The exceptionally long reign of Pepi II.The Final Collapse
The Final Collapse The causes of the Old Kingdom's collapse are still debated among scholars. Yet so deeply rooted were the traditions . the
. But the famine that hit the land toward the end of the Sixth Dynasty was. and the costs of maintaining provincial loyalty. These factors.that although the Old Kingdom civilization collapsed and a period of anarchy and bloodshed followed. The Great House may have managed to maintain a high degree of political stability despite the independence of some provincial chiefs. perhaps. must have combined to burden the state. when the hard core of Egyptian thought and institution was formulated. when leaders of cult centers found themselves increasingly rebelling against supervision by the Great House. Society could not sustain a catastrophe of such dimensions. It cast doubt on the very ability of the divine king to control nature and ensure the eternal well-being of the land and its people. A period of political turmoil and spiritual disillusionment swept the land.
It implies the beginning of an event and is often taken to mean 'the beginning.' or 'creation. however.in ancient Egyptian texts is not known.' when the principles of justice reigned over the land. a confirmation that order once existed. What was actually meant by this oft-repeated phrase .the 'first time' . simply have represented recapitulations that reflected the Egyptians' pride in their own culture.
'first time.' The 'first time' might.
boats were built on the shore.except by boat. It was the vital artery that linked Upper and Lower Egypt. In fact.V Travel
The Watery Highway There was ceaseless activity in ancient Egypt.was vitally important. channels were excavated through great granite obstructions in the cataract region. the bulk of the movement was dependent on the Nile and its subsidiary canals. the Nile was used to transport boatbuilding material to the point where it most closely approached the Red Sea (Coptos) and then. after being carried through the Wadi Hammamat. The importance of the river to Egypt's economy cannot be underestimated. Because the geography of the land made transport difficult . Ownership of a boat .or access to the use of one . Even when excursions were organized to neighboring countries in search of raw materials. When trade with Nubia was expanded in the Sixth Dynasty. the ancient Egyptian attitude toward movement was so closely linked to the idea of sailing that
. for example. the most effective and practical method for transporting goods destined for the royal treasury. the logistics of sailing had to be considered. and the means by which provincial dignitaries journeyed to attend festivals in the capital and the 'Followers of Horus' to conduct the biennial census.if not impossible . All major settlements were within easy reach of the river and all valley temples in both pyramid and sun temple complexes were at the edge of the Nile. When valuable commodities such as myrrh or frankincense were imported from Punt.
drove in a mooring peg. ferry services were operated along its banks and in many subsidiary canals. and fastened prow and stern. Because of the varying water level of the Nile and the constantly changing sand banks and central channel.' Boats were so familiar a sight and so connected to the commercial and religious life of the people that it is not surprising to find them among the earliest objects depicted in art and included among funerary equipment. They were probably made of local acacia wood.118
travel south was referred to as 'going upstream' and travel north as 'going downstream. Ownership of a boat was important even in villages that lay far from cult centers. and the
. a train of barges would be used. Cargo vessels with flat stern and bow varied in size and could transport anything from stone weighing hundreds of tons to agricultural products and livestock. flat sailing boats used by people of rank. they skimmed the water. no costly ports were built. Boats were needed for the movement of crops and livestock in the simplest villages. their prow and stern high out of the water. shipbuilding was one of the oldest industries. and the services of the ferryman were required to transport the dead for burial on the necropolis. Naturally. A vessel simply landed on the sandy riverbank. Also appearing on Predynastic pottery and in the painted tomb of Nekhen are long. Even large boats were built with very shallow draft. These were propelled by oars or paddles and continued to be used by fishermen for traveling along canals or in the marshes throughout the historical period. scarcely a third of their length touching the surface. The Nile was the watery highway on which life and prosperity depended. On ceremonial occasions when special stone was brought to the capital for the construction of a royal tomb. The earliest boats painted on Predynastic pottery were skiffs or rafts made of papyrus reeds lashed together. Perhaps the king performed the solemn act of holding the foremost rope.
The great ceremonial court of the Step Pyramid Complex at Saqqara lies between the entrance colonnade and the pyramid itself. (Robert Scott)
.The shrines in the Heb Sed Court of Zoser's funerary complex at Saqqara housed statues of deities.
.The Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara with newly excavated tombs in the foreground.
.The sophistication of the earliest stone architecture is reflected in the shrines of the Heb Sed Court at Saqqara.
. Cairo.Triad of Menkaure with the goddess Hathor and a local deity. Egyptian Museum.
Mereruka was a high-ranking nobleman. a member of the elite. (Robert Scott)
Tomb of Mereruka.Scribes kept strict records and dealt with cases of tax evasion. (Robert Scott)
. (Michael Stock)
An attentive Mereruka listens to his wife playing the harp.The Great Sphinx at Giza with the Pyramid of Khafre in the background. Tomb of Mereruka.
It is the sailors who row Re. others . Helwan. stood behind the main mast on the deck. The evidence is tantalizing because no firm conclusions can be drawn. the crew comprised captains. The relief at Saqqara shows that the columns were shipped in pairs on two boats and a fragment of an autobiographical text states that it took only seven days to cover the distance of nearly a thousand kilometers from Aswan to Memphis. It is interesting to note that quarrymen and stone-masons were organized like a ship's crew. and Abu Sir . directors. especially at Abydos. which could have been enclosed with plaited matting. Some of the vessels have been found in conjunction with royal burials. Twelve have been found in mud-brick graves outside the surrounding walls of Shunet al-Zibib.with non-royal burials. related to the journey of the divine king in the afterlife: "I assume my pure seat which is in the bow of the bark of Re. and it is they who will row me. Adding to the confusion and raising many questions regarding the function of boats. Near the tomb of the First Dynasty king Aha at Abydos a great (but empty) boat pit-over thirteen meters long and nearly three meters widewas found. boats have been excavated in large numbers in recent years. it is the sailors who convey Re round the horizon. and overseers. Sailors were titled according to the size of the boat. It is believed (though by no means certain) that the boats at royal funerary complexes may have religious significance. in 'groups often. It raises a vision of this king traveling in state. and it is they who will
.at Abydos.' Apart from the great boat pits discovered at Giza. is a simulated boat made of mud-brick that was found at the edge of the plateau at Abu Sir. and two of twelve chambers of a partially-robbed tomb of a 'scorpion' king were filled to the roof with undisturbed vessels that have been dated to the reign of Aha.The Watery Highway
deck-cabins. When huge sarcophagi or granite columns like the ten-meter-high palm-capital monoliths depicted in the causeway of Unas at Saqqara were shipped.
convey me round the horizon. this was the job of the pilot. One thing is now certain: boat burials were a feature of great importance in the Old Kingdom.as between Qena and Nag Hammadi . boats carried both single sails and oars (generally about twelve on each side). with his knowledge of the river and with the help of a pole to test the depth of the water. or even towing from the bank. the need to bring large quantities to the Memphite necropolis made timber for boat construction one of Egypt's most pressing requirements. Although travel southward was facilitated by the prevailing north wind (travel northward being with the current). it was refloated by the simple mechanics of pushing and heaving. who. But this does not explain why the boats were actually buried there nor how the pilgrims returned home. Consequently. Passing through places where islands or rocks lay athwart the river. Once monumental building in stone began. a vessel was towed by a group of sailors onshore. gave directions to the steersman. its passage controlled by others using oars and rudders on deck. the person who used a boat took no part in its management. zig-zag course was necessary. In historical times. as in the Cataract region. the interior of
Sea Voyages Egyptians traveled great distances in search of raw materials." The most plausible explanation for the vast numbers of boats buried at Abydos is that they were pilgrims' vessels used to transport them to the sacred site where the ancestors were buried. the Nile does not flow in a straight south-north line. There are places where it flows east to west . In places where the water was too shallow and a boat became stuck on a sandbank. so sometimes a laborious.and there were occasions when the wind failed to blow. Wood was also needed for the substructures of the tombs.
and for flagstaffs. and Asiatic copper for the Egyptian treasury. Some of the foreign traders were rewarded for their efforts by a trip to Egypt. a cable connected the bow and stern above the deck. Egypt's popular cowgoddess. The text mentions that the ships were one hundred cubits long (approximately forty-five meters). For added strength. a single mast held by four ropes. The ship-building material had to be transported overland from Coptos to the region around Quseir. indeed. a high curved stern with two rudders situated on each side. A shrine was set up at Byblos in honor of Hathor. and one of the earliest surviving texts that specifically makes mention of an Egyptian fleet records that in the reign of Senefru forty ships sailed across the 'great green' (the Mediterranean) to Byblos and returned to Egypt laden with timber. They had a long hull. The Egyptian fleet was a familiar sight on the eastern Mediterranean. Syrian wine. travel along this waterway was more frequent than is usually supposed. coffins. in Sahure's sun temple a relief depicts the homebound fleet with bearded Syrians aboard. a competent nobleman from Elephantine. and a wide sail. It provided a place of worship for the sailors and a convenient point from which to recruit laborers from among the inhabitants. largely fishers and farmers. and these displayed certain modifications in comparison with craft designed for river and canal traffic. though it is likely that they hugged the shore rather than heading across open sea. one caravan leader and the troop with him were murdered by Bedouin tribes. their arms uplifted in homage to the king. was dispatched by the
. The term 'Byblos ship' was used of a seaworthy vessel.Sea Voyages
the pyramids. (While engaged on such a mission. to fell the timber and transport it to the port. lapis lazuli. Pepi-Nakht. Sahure also sent ships down the Red Sea to Punt on the Somali coast. Byblos became a sort of protectorate to which traders brought their wares: cedar oil (frequently mentioned on offering lists). and doorways. The best quality wood was the cedar from Lebanon.
The imports from one journey alone were eighty thousand measures of myrrh.600 staves of ebony. A text in Wadi Hammamat shows the size of missions sent to quarry in the Eastern Desert: one thousand officials. some six thousand units of electrum. wheels were not used for transportation in the Old Kingdom. limestone from the Tura quarries south of Helwan.
. and gold and copper ores from the Eastern Desert. The extent of internal movement and communication can best be realized by considering the widely separated areas from which the raw material came: copper and turquoise from the mines in Sinai. alabaster from Hat-Nub in Middle Egypt. who recorded that he accompanied his lord on a dozen occasions. the stone would be transferred to sledges again and dragged to the chosen site.' When stone was quarried for statues or sarcophagi. and 2. fine and coarse granite from the quarries around Aswan. diorite from the Western Desert of Lower Nubia. The stones were then eased onto wooden sledges and towed by gangs of men to the river to be levered onto the waiting barges.) The frequency of expeditions to Punt is clear from the text in the tomb of a subordinate official from Elephantine. and no distance was too great to travel in search of metal and stone of the finest quality. Although there is a representation of a scaling-ladder on wheels in a Fifth Dynasty tomb.122
Great House to resolve the problem and recover the body. and one hundred 'necropolis workmen. basalt from the eastern Delta. Having sailed to their destination on the swift-flowing currents.
Movement Overland No effort was spared to build the most beautiful and enduring monuments. it was roughly shaped before transportation in order to reduce the weight. twelve hundred quarrymen.
Apart from Wadi Alaqi. the relationship between Egyptians and Nubians was mutually beneficial. six thousand units of electrum. They depended on Egypt for corn. and 23. It was from these tribes that Weni recruited additional troops to sup-
. near a particularly rich vein of copper in Wadi Alaqi in the Eastern Desert of Nubia. Rock inscriptions at Kulb. Neferirkare. The Nubians were impoverished: they lived in settlements of low-built houses along the river's edge or beside water holes and channels.Movement Overland
Regular incursions into Nubia were carried out from early times. Sahure. One of the most important discoveries made during the Nubian salvage operations in the 19605 was an apparent attempt by the Great House to control Lower Nubia by creating centers of permanent occupation. the land was desolate. Although primarily maintained to satisfy Egyptian requirements.020 measures of unguent brought from Punt in his reign.900 units of wood. situated some two hundred kilometers south of Aswan and the gateway to sources of incense. and other items. Djer left an inscription at the entrance to the Second Cataract. was occupied for two centuries while large quantities of ore were smelted. 2. and gold. and at the mouths of subsidiary river beds. Apart from a narrow strip between the Nile and the ridges. Throughout the Fourth and Fifth dynasties there was considerable activity there. clothing. oil. animal skins. honey. There is evidence that one site. The Nile in Nubia was flanked by a wall of hills to east and west that closely confined the valley. The reign of Sahure was particularly active. Royal names on mud-seals include Khafre and Menkaure of the Fourth Dynasty and Userkaf. The Palermo Stone mentions eighty thousand measures of myrrh. reveals the southernmost point at which prospectors worked.also below the Second Cataract . ostrich feathers.where copper ore was crushed and smelted. ivory. and Djedkare of the Fifth. a gold-mining area south of the Second Cataract. the ruins of another settlement were discovered in Buhen . ebony.
and Wawat bow to him. It shows him leaning on a staff while the chiefs of Medja." and so great was Egypt's prestige in Lower Nubia that the timber for their construction was provided by the local chiefs. He quelled revolts on no less than five occasions and was thenceforth appointed 'keeper of the door of the south. The gateway to the vast riches of the interior of Africa was open. Wawat." The Nubians respected the loose sovereignty exercised over them. With peaceful relations and the waterway open it was natural that the surrounding areas should be more fully exploited. especially the ridges of Nubia's Eastern Desert bearing rich veins of gold-bearing quartz. and Medja cut the timber for them. Merenre. Yam. His main responsibility appears to have been to keep Nubian tribes on the border from warring with one another and hindering trade. Weni's success is attested by the fact that in the fifth year of Merenre's reign the king personally traveled from Memphis to the First Cataract to receive homage from the Nubian chiefs.. Caravans could explore overland routes to dis-
. Irtje.." Three boats and four barges were then constructed to transport the "very large blocks for the pyramid. I made a (saving) for the palace with all these five canals. I did it all in one year. Weni's next task was to improve methods of communication between Nubia and Memphis to aid in the conveyance of granite blocks for the king's tomb. Broken pottery vessels with the names of Pepi I. and Pepi II have been found as far south as Kerma in Sudan.124
press agitating Bedouins in the frontier provinces of the Delta and in Sinai. The now-aged official was put in charge of digging five channels through parts of the cataract.' Elephantine. A rock inscription in the Cataract region records the occasion. . and a closer interest in Yam (Upper Nubia) and Kush (Sudan) developed. Weni wrote: "The foreign chiefs of Irtje. The project was so successful that Weni claimed: "Indeed. Journeys even further south were no longer formidable.
following old river channels where wells and springs could be found. who made four journeys to Yam. He was the first recorded explorer in history. Under the adventurous Harkhuf. His second was more adventurous. however. Harkhuf was one such leader." and that he brought back items "the likes of which no one has ever brought back before. The expeditions were usually successful but they were not without hazard. Egypt had always acted on the defensive against incursions on the Nile Valley from the Western Desert. a convoy followed the chief of Yam westward and reduced him to subjection. His first journey took seven months.Movement Overland
tant Punt. The journeys must have been interminable and exhausting. It took months to cover routes that camels can today cover in a few weeks. the inhospitable region south of the Second Cataract. used today for transporting herds of camels from the Sudan.laden with tributes and products and furnished with a heavy escort . He also traveled westward to unexplored regions on the 'Elephant Road. and he recorded that "never had any companion or caravan-leader who went forth to Yam done (it).camels were introduced only in the much later Persian Period." When Harkhuf reached Yam on his third expedition he found the country in an uproar. The tombs of successive noblemen from Elephantine clearly indicate the vigorous approach being introduced in Egypt's foreign policy toward the end of the Old Kingdom.' which may have been the route extending southward from Kharga Oasis. The convoys were obliged to travel slowly. previously only approached by sea. Caravan leaders traveling on foot were accompanied by pack-donkeys . The chiefs were engaged in war with the settlements of the Temehu (tribes related to the Libyans).so impressed the tribal chiefs of the Nubian border that they offered
. and more than one nobleman lost his life venturing into unknown regions of Africa. in order to import exotica considered indispensable to the wealthy. On his return journey Harkhuf's convoy .
in the presence of the king. incense. including representatives of the Great House. logs of ebony. south of Elephantine. Weni was sent at the head of a considerable force to suppress them. a door-shaped stele with its setting. the king ordered him to go to Seheil Island. under Weni's leadership. so that no one attacked his fellow. In the reign of Pepi I when the Bedouin tribes were hindering mining operations in Sinai. He wrote: "It was I who commanded them . This included a sarcophagus with its lid. Pepi granted him the furnishings for his tomb in the choicest white limestone from the quarries of Tura. and chiefs of the priests. elephant tusks. to select granite for his own sar-
.. cowry shells. Having ensured the continued loyalty of his 'servant' Weni by this generous gesture. and a dancing pygmy for the child-king. so that no one took a goat from anyone. their numbers augmented by Nubians of several different tribes. Able-bodied men were rounded up from all over the country. and a table for offerings.." On his return to the court Weni was granted the most distinguished mark of favor he could receive: the right to carry a staff and wear sandals in the palace. so that no one took a cloth from any town. with royal seal-bearers. this motley group was orderly and well supplied with sufficient rations." It was a national effort and it says a great deal for the integrated society of the Old Kingdom that. so that no one seized a loaf from a traveler. lion and leopard skins. whether in search of raw materials or to fight punitive wars to keep trade routes open.ii6
him guides to complete his journey. needed tremendous organization. In his autobiographical text Weni recorded that the force numbered thousands. as well as "chief district officials at the heads of the troops from the villages and towns that they governed. Overland journeys. heads of the provinces. gum Arabic. Due to Weni's successful mission for the Great House. It was on his fourth mission that Harkhuf brought back to Egypt gold. ostrich feathers. Pepi II.
When a canal had to be crossed herders simply guided their animals through the shallow water. using a pole like a punt to cross a canal. and this served as a path between the fields. As they made their way to the granaries and storehouses laden with produce. and the land was irrigated through a system of large and small canals. and the donkey and the ox were the only beasts of burden. and precautions were intermittently taken to prevent over-flooding. Central control over raw materials was a great source of power. when there was a breakdown in central control. a ferryman was inevitably available.
. Since regular attention was given to canals to guide water to land that would otherwise remain barren. men like Weni remained subservient to the government. The farmer who dug a canal to regulate the flow of water to the crops simultaneously constructed a dike with the excavated earth. Foreign trade and mining were controlled by the Great House and distribution was regulated. Larger dikes beside deep canals could serve also as tow-paths for small boats. These were used by the peasant community. Almost all of Egypt's cultivable soil was used for crop-growing. and was probably paid for his services in farm produce.Rural Movement
cophagus and lid and to Hat Nub for a piece of local alabaster for his table of offerings. their routes were trodden into firm dirt-track roads. Well into the Sixth Dynasty. by herdsmen and their cattle. alternatively. There were no bridges. They were used by the farmers and their livestock. and as playgrounds for children. Royal workshops played a crucial role in transforming these raw materials into the luxury goods required for the ever-increasing upper classes. by female offering-bearers from the estates.
Rural Movement In the rural areas the people traveled on foot. the paths were kept in good order.
even the deceased king had to cajole the ferryman to do his duty. This crossing was conceived in the same manner as the living transported their dead along channels to the burial grounds: by a ferryman who stood in the stern of the boat facing backward as he poled along. Funerary texts indicate that this individual had a tedious job waiting for passengers and resented being called upon at inconvenient hours. the watery highway-on which life and prosperity depended. should be reflected in ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. According to the Pyramid Texts. He would complain of being woken up or of having a faulty vessel and would offer other excuses to save himself the trouble. First the dead had to cross the 'lily-lake' . the ancient Egyptians regarded the ferrying of a boatless traveler across a canal or marshy area as a good deed of the caliber of giving food to the hungry and clothing to the poor.the sacred region where they were purified. nor that boats should be regarded as a means by which the deceased would reach the afterlife. Indeed.
Journey to the Afterlife It is not surprising that the Nile.
were symbolic of the fertile land of Egypt. The king was the leader of the nobility and after him came the royal family. members of other powerful families. What was important was to ensure that the best food was grown for eternity. Presumably it was not considered necessary to depict the canal system of irrigation.VI Living
Enjoyment of Life Most of the buildings of ancient Egypt. including the royal palace. and adequately stored. Evidence to the contrary is abundant. Ripe wheat fields and orchards laden with fruit would provide food for the afterlife. along with overseers. They thought of the afterlife as a natural sequence to their earthly existence and decorated their tombs with categories of activities they wished to repeat. Artisans employed by the state came next. and those promoted in rank. superinten-
. methods used in transforming stone into monuments. This gives the erroneous impression that the ancient Egyptians were preoccupied with the afterlife.common to all tombs . so most of the surviving structures are of a funerary nature. Scenes of hunting. and Helwan attest to three distinct social classes in the Old Kingdom: the nobility. and peasant farmers. or techniques of construction. Giza. were made of wood and sun-dried brick. Burial grounds around Memphis. Stone was reserved for tombs and temples. officials and artisans. and the rearing and care of animals were likewise symbolic in their purpose. prepared in the best possible way. Representations of agriculture and food . fishing.
Tomb reliefs provide a rich saga of the daily lives of aristocratic families. They were frequently borne on tours of inspection in a carrying-chair on the shoulders of pole-bearers. papyrus. and there is every indication that noble men and women were proud and ambitious. and weaving factories. They took obvious pride in their responsibility. as well as leather. granaries. including the inspection and supervision of industries. and the documentation of income from mining expeditions. An impor-
. the collection of grain taxes. Inequality was accepted as the normal condition. In short. From this vantage they could inspect vineyards. Their wealth depended on coordinating different activities in the interest of the Great House. However. and possessions. Large estates were usually self-supporting. herdsmen. furniture. At the bottom of the scale were farmers. and laborers.
Noble Men and Women Our knowledge of life in the Old Kingdom is chiefly derived from the reliefs and contents of the tombs of the nobles at Giza and Saqqara. their job was to administer state property. appearance. Noble families lived well and appreciated material comforts. and their families. within each social stratum the people had their own gradations of power and wealth.130
dents. and fisheries.
much as they do today. Houses were usually whitewashed inside and out.located near the king's palace. and the ancient Egyptians appear to have had well-developed drainage systems. the purpose may have been hygienic as well as aesthetic. The earliest evidence of a bathroom comes from a Second Dynasty tomb at Saqqara. All useful items were fashioned with care. There the piles of refuse grew and probably attracted scavengers. and a larger country house on one of the estates under his control. Insect pests were controlled by washing the house with a solution of natron. well suited to the warm climate with latticed windows and large open courtyards.one of a pair built back-to-back and opening onto a street . Household waste was accumulated and swept out from time to time but only as far as the street or to an empty lot. It reveals that water was drained off into pits that could be closed with a metal plug or emptied through a copper conduit. Furniture fre-
Grave goods: a slate dish with two hieroglyphic symbols. Chairs and beds .Noble Men and Women
tant official often had a small town house . as attested by the ruins of some wealthy houses excavated at Giza. Some of the mud-brick structures were built on foundations of stone covered with clay. copper basins for ablutions. The country house was airy and spacious. legs of a bed
. and wooden beams.which often had leather or rope-weave seats or mattresses fastened to the frame with leather thongs .had legs carved in the form of the powerful hind-limbs of ox or lion. The wealthier homes had limestone lintels above the doorways. Floors were frequently paved with brick tiles.
quently had decorative copper fittings. a calyx might form the bowl of a wine glass. Walls were decorated with hanging rugs and the ceilings were frequently painted blue. Vines. fruit trees. the occupant having to recline or squat. and gardening came to play a large part in the daily lives of the wealthy families. Guests could also sit on beautiful woven mats on the floor. As early as the First Dynasty. clothes and other objects were tidily laid inside them. a stone lamp was shaped like a papyrus bud. If extra water were needed in the heat of the summer. Chests and boxes were richly inlaid with ivory. and silver were equipped with stands to raise them to the required height. As early as the Third Dynasty an important official named Methen had a large house .two hundred cubits (approximately ninety meters) square . gold. Chairs tended to be low. Beneath the high beds there was adequate storage. Vases and vessels of copper. and vegetables grew on their estates. Tables were either round on a central pedestal or shaped like a half-ellipse on four legs. The handle of a spoon might be fashioned to resemble a lotus blossom. palms. gardeners filled heavy jars from the canals and brought them in pairs on yokes. The earliest lamps were shallow pottery bowls with wicks of twisted grass.which he mentions
. the oil was animal fat. In the unfinished tomb of Neferherenptah at Saqqara is a scene of gardeners clapping sticks to scare away birds and watering and cutting lettuce. Every household cultivated part of its land.
. Red wine was served. butter. weighed down a table. The oil of sesame seeds and refined butter . figs and vines (are) plentiful . the former serving also for curing and preserving fish and meat. chick peas. The nose was a determinative sign used in writing both these nouns. In a tomb at Saqqara belonging to a woman of the lesser nobility her relatives had laid out food on rough pottery.were used for
. and ordinary peas.
Food and Drink Representations of tables laden with large varieties of food and drink show that the upper classes ate heartily. and a great quantity of wine (is) made there. wheat bread. It is unlikely that this represented the courses of a single meal. and a very large lake made. and fowl.Food and Drink
was "built and furnished. the food was identified as a type of barley cereal. plants. fish (cleaned and dressed with the head removed). alabaster. and stewed fruit. a pigeon stew. Undisturbed for thousands of years. and eat the fruit of the trees they had planted. Their feeling for nature is also revealed in a common mortuary prayer that hopes the deceased might return. and diorite bowls and dishes beside her sarcophagus.." In his garden he claimed "fine trees were planted. ribs of beef. two cooked kidneys. cow peas. a cooked quail. and cheese. as well as beans. A well-stocked larder included lentils. Goats and cows supplied milk. along with bread and honey. sit in the shade.ghee . and animals recorded in monuments. both as regards smell and taste. Eggs were stacked in earthenware dishes." That the ancient Egyptians were great nature-lovers is attested by the encyclopedic lists of birds.' Food was enhanced by the use of salt and oil. Eating was a sensual delight. The sweet product valued above all others was honey and bee-keeping was an important minor industry. as well as the verb 'enjoy' or 'take pleasure in. Great piles of fish. small cakes. beef.
Egyptian caviar was a great delicacy produced from early times. Vegetables included onions and garlic. One of the most popular methods of preparing smaller fowl . Geese . pomegranates. and quail were eaten. It was made from coarse barley bread that was only lightly baked so as not to destroy the yeast. and grapes. Straw. A more popular drink among the upper classes was domestic wine. and perch. Not surprisingly.and one that is still used in Egypt today . The tombs of Ti (a high-ranking official who worked under three kings of the Fifth Dynasty) and Kagemni (a Sixth Dynasty vizier and judge) show how the ovaries of the gray mullet were extracted. In the double tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep (low-ranking priests of the sun temple of Nyuserre and 'manicurists of the court'). which came from large estates around the country. Fish was very popular and it seems that no larder was complete without its assortment of mullet. Residues have been found in Predynastic jars and the earliest mention of beer is in the Third Dynasty. Among the fruits were watermelons. mixed with water and malted barley. placed on a low slab of limestone that served as a hearth. This was broken up. Poultry was an important source of protein. Beer was the national drink. fish is shown being broiled in a cauldron over an open fire.134
cooking. along with branches of acacia and tamarisk. the former being a preliminary step to the latter. and animal dung were used for fuel. cucumbers and leeks. Most cooking was done outdoors. catfish. and left to ferment.which were the favorite among farm birds . in a courtyard partly roofed with matting or palm thatch. and quantities of duck.was to split the bird across the breastbone and spread it flat for grilling. salted. The earliest evidence of grape wine conies from the Predynastic settle-
. bread-making and brewing were depicted together in ancient Egyptian tombs. palm leaves. pigeon. It was sometimes sweetened with dates and stored in pottery jars. or on a metal brazier.were generally roasted over live embers. and dried for this purpose.
" It is interesting to note that there was no standard offering list tirelessly repeated from generation to generation. The benefits of long-term storage were known.Food and Drink
ment of Omari. Palm-wine. four kinds of beer. sixteen kinds of bread and cakes. near Helwan. treading. is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts.
. eleven kinds of fruit. and wines from vintage years seem to have been prized. Date-wine . Many vintages were known by name. They changed with the passage of time to include delicacies as and when they were introduced from countries across the Mediterranean. and leaving it to ferment . while the royal household had five. and pressing of grapes of different colors. The main wine-growing areas were the Delta. It included "ten different kinds of meat. five kinds of poultry. The Pyramid Texts indicate that ordinary people had three meals a day. One wealthy nobleman drew up a list of food items to be inscribed in his tomb. from which we may infer that the ancient Egyptians knew white as well as red wine. the Fayyum. six kinds of wine.made by steeping a certain variety of date in water. and a wine-press hieroglyph was used as early as the First Dynasty. fermentation rendered it toxic. pressing out the liquid.is also mentioned. made of the sap of the date palm obtained by making an incision in the heart of the tree. and the oases of the Western Desert. Representations of viticulture show the gathering. in addition to all sorts of sweets and many other things.
They washed their bodies with particular attention before meals. ankle-length. took great pains with their toilet. often with blossoms around the neck. The simple effect of the clothing was enhanced by colorful jewelry . Girls often wore their hair short or had a pony-tail. Children did not wear clothing. studs. as well as different types of earrings: hoops.both men and women wore elaborate colored necklaces. bead collars of carnelian. unadorned dress with broad shoulder bands. pleated skirts and sandals. using a basin and a vessel with a
Statue of Princess Nofret.136
Clothing and Accessories The ancient Egyptians dressed to suit their climate of almost constant sunshine. Maidservants and dancers wore only loincloths and girdles. broad. Silk and cotton were unknown and wool was only rarely used. a close-fitting. Cairo. turquoise. and lapis lazuli. Egyptian Museum. People were fastidious about cleanliness. Most garments were made of linen. sometimes weighted with a pompon or a disk-shaped ornament. and ear plugs. Women wore a sheath. especially. Bracelets of silver and ivory were worn by women.
. Men wore short. Women.
' or hair-curlers . Small plaited locks of hair were treasured. Even as early as the First Dynasty. The tomb of
. alabaster. and fashioned into curls and plaits. her lips and cheeks were colored with rouge.including locks. at liberty to leave service if they so wished. Cairo) shows the nobleman with the modest mustache that appears to have been fashionable during the Old Kingdom. 'cup-bearers' to wait his table. 'tweezer-razors. anointed with oils. ancient Egyptians of poorer classes. A nobleman had 'listeners' for his call. Special care was taken with the hair. These were free servants. They shaved their limbs with bronze razors with curved blades and used tweezers and scrapers. and 'followers' to bear his sandals. She applied this with the aid of tiny ivory and wooden sticks. hairpins. and marble.Clothing and Accessories
spout. matting. sometimes engraved with miniature high relief. and her palms were stained with henna. attending master and mistress punctiliously from the moment they rose in the morning. as well as for adornment. Men. there is evidence that women sometimes padded out their own hair with artificial tight curls and braids to make it appear thicker. too. and fly-whisk. Wealthy households included numerous servants. again using razors with curved blades. All small items . and young dancers performed. Servant girls poured water over the hands of guests before food was brought in. Both human hair and vegetable fiber were made into wigs when either fashion or age necessitated it. which was washed. The famous statue of Rahotep and his wife (Egyptian Museum.were kept in decorative containers of ebony. musicians played. mirrors. using mirrors of highly polished copper fitted with handles. They wore kilts of varying lengths and tended to be clean-shaven. She applied a characteristic band of color around the eye with a paint produced from lead ores and known from Predynastic times as a remedy for eye ailments. dressed their hair with oils and fashioned it into different styles. A woman's skin was rubbed with perfumed oils.
being allowed into the courtyard and garden. Cats seem not to have been allowed inside houses in the Old Kingdom. Although she lived in a special women's quarter of the house with her children. geese. They were depicted only in papyrus groves. she was free to move around as she pleased.138
Ptahhotep (one of the highest officials in the land in the reign of Djedkare) shows the seated nobleman with a pedicurist at his feet and a manicurist working on his hands while musicians entertain him and his pet greyhound and a monkey take refuge beneath his chair.
The I deal Family Among the upper classes a man had one legal wife who was 'mistress of the house' and mother of his legal heirs. Domestic fowl included ducks. the domestic chicken had not yet been introduced. A wealthy landowner might have had concubines. and other animals of the desert. ibex. gazelle. and waterfowl. Most households included dwarfs and hunchbacks who were employed in the laundry or the kitchen. No marriage contracts are known to exist nor is there any indication of a special ceremony. One dog buried near his master in a First Dynasty burial ground had a tombstone inscribed 'Neb' (Lord). but his wife held a special place and was treated with the utmost deference. which they caught. and kept on their estates. and salukis were favorites. as well as his hunting companion. or put in charge of household pets. They had long learned that the dog was a man's best friend. All rich landowners possessed monkeys. greyhounds (often on a leash). Greyhounds and salukis were allowed to enter the house and even sleep beneath the master's chair. tamed. The Nile goose was given special treatment. pigeons. but they were given names. There are no representations of a nobleman petting a dog. Sheepdogs. raiding birds' nests. with his picture.
and good behavior toward friends and neighbors.The Ideal Family
It would appear that the bride. the closeness of brothers and sisters. Gladden her heart so long as she lives . simply made her way to the house of her appointed or approved husband. his wife. In this context the reliefs take on new meaning. The boy wears his hair with the sidelock of youth and holds a lotus stalk in one hand and a hoopoe in the other. and his son . Ptahhotep stressed the togetherness of a husband and wife..are several scenes showing family devotion. In one chamber of the tomb is an intimate and delightful bedroom scene: the nobleman and his wife hold hands as they watch their bed being prepared by servants. At the entrance to the tomb Mereruka is depicted with his son Meri-Teti. which have come down to us in four copies: three on papyrus and one on a wooden tablet. the other half concerned personal character and family relations. In the tomb of Mereruka (the son-in-law of the Sixth Dynasty king Teti) .. which were regarded as among a man's most valuable possessions. Behind him are Mereruka's wife and several rows of attendants. fill her body. who was well advanced in years when he asked his king whether he could instruct his own son and prepare him for the official duties that lay ahead of him. wrote some fortythree paragraphs of random instructions (the so-called 'instruction literature').. Half of them covered official duties and conduct in administrative circles.." These are the words of Ptahhotep. She plays a harp while he marks time with his hand. wise from experience and learning. His duties toward her are clear: "If you are a successful man establish your household. The king consented and the aged man.. clothe her back . Pictorial and written evi-
.. Love your wife in the house as is fitting .whose tomb at Saqqara comprised chambers for himself. she is a fertile field for her lord. a Fifth Dynasty vizier (not to be confused with his namesake whose tomb is at Saqqara). together with her dowry. In another chamber Mereruka is depicted with his wife on a double couch. the recipe for her limbs is ointment.
and by the Greeks.which was held in high esteem . And in the rockcut private tombs at Giza are statues of tomb owners along with their immediate relatives cut out of the living rock.140
dence abound with loyalty and devotion: a nobleman's affection for his wife and children. Pair statues of man and wife. and sisters. There is no confirmed disclosure of marriage between two children of the same parents in the Old Kingdom. The famous tomb of Ti at Saqqara shows Ti sailing with his wife and daughter through the marshes in a papyrus boat. Take council with the unlearned as with the learned. The main professions open to them were midwifery . and weaving. mother.spinning. and play musical instruments. The first piece of advice Ptahhotep gave his son was on modesty: Be not proud because of your learning.' Ancient Egyptian morality is often judged today by the practices found during the later periods of history in the New Kingdom. meaning 'loved one. Worthy speech is more hidden than a greenstone being found among slave-women at the mill-stone. The girls were encouraged to sing. and good character is a thing remembered. who declared that marriages between brothers and sisters were normal practice in ancient Egypt. The upbringing of boys was left largely in his hands and that of girls in the hands of their mother. Family outings were encouraged. dance. The father was the chief authority in a strictly disciplined home. Precious to a man is the virtue of his son.
. a son's loyalty to his father. mother and daughter were common. for the limit of a craft is not fixed and there is no craftsman whose worth is perfect. 'Brother' and 'sister' were terms of endearment and even after marriage a husband called his wife snt (sister). The education of boys was considered to be of great importance. during the Persian period. brothers.
and it is not wise to intrude upon them. The place where they are [i..e. He proudly records his loyal mission in his tomb. He was in-
." Tomb inscriptions indicate that youths had great respect and love for their fathers.. a stranger] who is not known in her town. Sabni unhesitatingly set forth on the same journey in order to recover his father's body and bring it back to his native land for embalming and burial. If you desire to establish friendship in a house into which you enter. early marriages were recommended: a youth was advised to "take to himself a wife when he is young that she might give him a son whom he will see a man. Happy is the man who has a large household and who is respected on account of his children. The case of Sabni. in the time of Pepi II. Concubines were placed in a special category and Ptahhotep told his son that they should be kindly treated. Ptahhotep warned: Beware of a woman from abroad [i. and immorality was strongly condemned. His father was an official in charge of the Southern Gate at Elephantine who was killed while venturing southward on a trading mission.e.. Look not upon her when she comes and know her not. no effort was spared by a loyal son to ensure proper burial for his departed father. As a solution to immorality.. beware of approaching women. A thousand men are undone for the enjoyment of a brief moment like a dream.. is an example. On the death of the head of a household.The Ideal Family
The ancient Egyptians were discreet on matters of sexual behavior. he also warned him not to have any physical association with boys. the harem] is not seemly. The oldest living son was always the executor of the deceased's land and entrusted with his funds.. the oldest son took care of his mother..
" Their 'teachings' were ethical. In fact.where it is stated: "Justice is given to he who does what is liked.. a standard of behavior. .142
structed to guard the property of the family and expressly forbidden to share the wealth entrusted to him. and then they speak with their children.. The teachings were copied from generation to generation for literally thousands of years: "Do not be mean toward your friends" and "Do not plunder a neighbor's house" were two of the rules of behavior. anthropological studies have shown that the concept of right and wrong in preliterate communities springs from a subconscious social feeling. he speaks with his children. Today we often make the mistake of assuming that a sense of moral behavior was not common in early societies. The earliest such reference in was recorded on the Shabaka Stone.. "Never utter words in heat. make maat to flourish. attain character. control your mouth" and "Guard against the vice of greed.. and "every man who instructs is like a sire ... not a religious one. but not religious in the sense that they were taught by priests." Right and wrong were a civil question. and that it is compulsive and strong. Whatever occurs with consistency and is found to be pleasant or useful is passed on from generation to generation until it becomes a spontaneous duty... ne-
. injustice to he who does what is disliked. What was regarded as correct behavior was learned by rote within the confines of the family. The rules governing moral behavior were passed from father to son. from the Late Period. Disobedient children were punished..
Right and Wrong The ancient Egyptian words 'custom' and 'behavior' refer to the modern ideas of morals and ethics. a grievous sickness without cure" were others. Ptahhotep told his son how to take care of his own son in due course: "If he strays.
or judgment before the sun-god. such texts may refer to fear of judgment by the divine king. I ferried him who had no boat. With plenty of fresh air and sunshine. were inscribed in tombs.had the attributes of his 'father' the sungod.
. A sense of right and wrong. the caravan leader from Elephantine who was one of the early explorers of Africa. Just as maat gave stability and authority to the state. it is the Great God who shall judge (him).. Either way. I will seize him like a wild fowl.Children
gleets your council. clothing to the naked." Since the king . danced in the streets during festivals. and it seemed good to them beyond anything in the whole land."
The depiction of the children of ancient Egypt in tombs and temples give us an appealing insight into their lives. it is apparent that fear of judgment was a deterrent against unacceptable conduct and that a person's motive for declaring worthy deeds was "that it may be well with me in the Great God's presence. disobeys all that is said. he shall be judged for it by the Great One." These became sacred rules of behavior automatically adhered to for the simple reason that "it was always done that way". which seem to have been happy. recorded: "I gave bread to the hungry. punish him for all this talk!" Kagemni instructed his children to "recite it as it is written. because it was rnaat. and pride in doing good deeds.the focus of national unity ." Similarly. it provided discipline and respect in the family. Harkhuf." He also added a curse: "As for any man who shall enter into (this) tomb as his mortuary possession.. fishing on the lakes. they went swimming in the canals (the crawl seems to have been a favorite stroke). his mouth spouting evil speech. the steward Meni placed a warning above the doorpost of his tomb: "Even he who does anything against it (my tomb).
The wise man rises early to establish himself.characterized by moderation.
. they did not copy texts extolling the exploits of heroes who fought wars nor did they copy texts lauding physical strength. boastfulness.144
and had plenty of fresh food and vegetables to keep them fit.excessive pride. The people danced with sticks in the ritual conflict of a peace-loving society. The texts and model compositions that were given to children show that they were urged to remember the names of ancient sages who taught behavior and morals. Children are the stuff of future generations and what they are taught is an indication of what is regarded as important to society. In fact. When you sit with a glutton eat when his greed has passed. Never utter words in heat. warlike games or warlike training were rare. Report on a thing observed. not heard. When you drink with a drunkard take when his heart is content. apart from wrestling scenes depicted on some tomb walls. and gentleness . and avarice: Greater is the appeal of the gentle than that of the strong.' in which two young girls in the center hold four partners with outstretched arms. Girls' games included 'swing around. The boys played tug-of-war. tag.against the dangers of undesirable behavior . discretion. but the fool is in trouble. Let your mind be deep and your speech scanty. and a game of forfeit in which they exchange copper mirrors. the wise man with the fool. and a game in which a whole group of boys try to touch a crouching player with the foot while attempting to evade his hands. reserve. Ptahhotep contrasted the good man with the bad. He balanced desirable behavior .
as he plays his flute. he passes the time of day with the west-fish. A musician follows a line of reapers and. others in the bakery grinding flour. he talks with the nar-fish. Furnishings comprised no more than a rough stool. Reed mats were hung from the walls and baskets and earthenware pots were used for storage. The tombs of the nobles contain numerous scenes of the lives of the poorer people: fishermen drying fish in the sun or repairing nets and snares. a box or chest. Both reliefs and inscriptions indicate that the people were happy. A shepherd leading sheep through the fields sings: "The shepherd is in the water among the fish. wore loincloths. The farmers. and perhaps a headrest. and no windows. A naked peasant goes to market with his sandals in his hand and his shoulder slightly bent beneath the weight of the bag slung over it. singing the 'song of the oxen. one of the reapers simultaneously holds a sickle and claps his hands. farmers fattening geese or sowing the crops. who probably rose with the sun.' A piper accompanies the harvest. Their shelters of sun-dried brick or reeds daubed with clay were not much different from the houses of either their Predynastic ancestors or many of their descendants in the twentieth century: a single room (oblong or square). one door." Some of the reliefs are accompanied by texts of conversations between workers:
. a baker and his wife knead dough. The smaller statues of the Old Kingdom depict an array of good-natured folk. which they frequently cast off during the day. workers from the vineyard vigorously treading grapes. The men who carry the nobleman around his estate in his carrying chair sing that it is as light to bear with their master seated in it as it is when empty.Peasant Farmers and Laborers
Peasant Farmers and Laborers Egypt was an agricultural country and the bulk of its people were peasant farmers.
' also shows a man broad of build. The farmers watched the land
.600 silver talents' worth of radishes. I loaded my donkeys with 202 sacks while you were sitting.obese and lazy . The diet of the people consisted mainly of bread. the people responded to nature. as is evident in later times.asserts that the workmen employed in building the pyramid of Khufu ate 1. leaving the land covered with a layer of rich alluvial soil.146
That is a very beautiful vessel (you are making). a potter's wife obtains a jar of fragrant ointment for two bowls from her husband's kiln. they sowed their seed and the sunshine did the rest. and dried Nile fish. The foremen of the various projects appear to have been more heavily built than their slim and muscular workers. the 'director of the granaries.known as the 'Sheikh al-Balad' (village chief) shows a heavy. onions. It was a totally predictable pattern of life. That's nothing. I have brought four pots of beer. They loved garlic. In a relief in the tomb of Ptahhotep is a scene of a foreman . That of Nofir.probably with his usual exaggeration . When the flood receded. they withdrew from the floodplain. The lower classes bartered for their needs. vegetables. a carpenter's wife gives a fisherman a small wooden box for some of the day's catch. Herodotus . Indeed. When the level of the water began to rise each year and spread over the parched land.seated in a skiff accepting a drink from an oarsman. They might. The famous statue of Ka-aper . lentils. As all life depended on the annual flood. have made simple offerings of flowers or a goose that the water should not rise so high as to wash away villages or be so low as to cause want. and garlic. stocky but energetic man striding forward with an acacia staff in his hand. it is. In tomb representations a loaf of bread is exchanged for some onions. along with sycamore figs and dates. onions.
Set's tearing to pieces of the body of Osiris and scattering its parts up and down the Nile Valley may be interpreted as the concept of sowing grain. a farmer.oral traditions know no barrier.Piety of the People
slowly become a carpet of green from the germinating clover and grain. This poignant and probably best known of ancient Egyptian myths also reflected a social ideal. The annual miracle of life over death was performed before their eyes. motherhood (care of
. after which .apart from their conviction in a life after death and their tendency to make offerings at sacred places . cult centers that wished to give importance to their areas each claimed that a part of Osiris's body was buried there. The legendary ancestor was. Children climb on donkey-carts and roam the streets to the beating of drums and castanets. The activities probably originate from a long-standing rural tradition. The entire population takes to the outdoors to picnic on brown beans. spring onions. He was associated with the rebirth of the land and he fell victim to Set. or rural festivals . and the myth of Osiris was probably as widespread among the masses as the nobility. Adults pay homage at the graves of their dead.
Piety of the People Although we have no evidence of the beliefs of the illiterate masses .with the necessary incantations (like those performed by Isis and Nephthys). after all. Later. The sprouting of vegetation was a striking manifestation of the forces of rebirth. The past becomes more understandable through an awareness of how closely it might resemble the present: today's spring festival known as Shamm al-Nasim ('smelling the breezes') is a national holiday shared by Muslims and Christians alike. boiled eggs. who was associated with the relentless desert. It expressed wifely devotion (Isis for Osiris).the stalks of grain would be reborn. and salted fish.
A king was well-equipped for his role as political and spiritual leader. if not actually practice. and honoring leaders of cult centers for their active service to the state. which found expression in the tales of Horus avenging his father's death. His training began early. probably because they were sacred symbols not regarded as funerary equipment) and an artificial beard attached to it. Much of his time was spent traveling around the land to perform his ritual duties. But there is no reason to suppose that they did not cherish. As vizier he had supervised building operations. they had devoted wives and sons who completed their tombs for them or arranged for the continued supply of nourishment for their eternal well-being. The social significance of the myth should not be overlooked. Allusions to them appear in the mortuary literature and in national and seasonal festivals. many of the kings were good and just. and flail. Osiris. and he remained active throughout his term of office. laying foundation stones. learning to read. As a youth he might have accompanied his father on mining and trading expeditions. and Horus were the ideal family. He wore the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt (of which no examples have been found. and absorb the 'instruction literature' that he copied.
The Royal Family The king of Upper and Lower Egypt did not live like a lazy despot. the same values. The emblems he carried were the scepter. crook. and filial devotion. attending festivals. Isis. and been in charge of the treasury. of which many representations can be found in the museums of the world. The wholesome ideals of Ptahhotep might not have been widespread among the masses. Like Osiris.148
Horus until he reached manhood). As a child he underwent basic education. write. controlled the court of law.
One of the earliest funerary monuments at Naqada is the huge 'palace facade' monument belonging to Queen Neithhotep. retainers.' and an 'overseer of the cosmetic box' who "performed in the matter of cosmetic art to the satisfaction of his lord. One retainer boasted in his tomb of the unprecedented privilege of kissing the royal foot rather than the dust before it.The Royal Family
which expressed regal authority. and servants.
. In the palace there was a strict and complex structure of titles. Even the 'sandalbearer of the king' was proud to record that he did his duties to royal satisfaction. There was a 'chief court physician.' who probably distributed the remains of the five royal meals a day to the people. through physical contact with her husband (a god). provided the rule for royal succession and legitimacy for rule." It is from inscriptions of rank and privileges. and it is suggested that she was Den's consort.' a 'chief manicurist of the court. the royal family dressed little differently from landed noble men and women. Nemathap was probably the wife of Khasekhemwy.' a 'keeper of the royal robes.' a 'director of music. duties and tasks that we are informed of life in the royal palace and of the honor that serving the king was meant to be. There was also a 'guardian of the royal crown and jewels. who had his own attendants and their appointed helpers. since she bore the title 'king-bearing mother' and was revered in later times as the ancestor of the kings of the Third Dynasty. It is therefore not surprising that some queens were accorded considerable prominence from the beginning of the dynastic period. Each department had its head.' and even an official who called himself 'he who is head of the reversion. Naturally the elaborate court etiquette required the king and his family to have a host of courtiers. the wife of Aha. The Great Royal Wife was accorded a privileged position because it was she who. Apart from wearing richly encrusted jeweled collars. The tomb of Queen Meryetneith at Abydos was large and rich.
copper. It was also his duty to maintain the cult of ancestors. Wealth and prestige were not restricted to those born into a certain ruling class. and a gold manicure set. two chairs . Hetepheres. along with her funerary equipment.150
Honor of Ancestors To conduct the funeral of a previous ruler was apparently a requirement for succession. secret tomb at Giza. and alabaster. this was easier for those who lived and
. minor officials. When Khufu learned that thieves had entered the tomb of his mother. among the smaller items. or promotion could change the status of an individual.
Class Mobility All people could hope to gain promotion in life.the only royal furniture to have survived intact from the Old Kingdom. he ordered a reburial for her in a new. whether they were nobles. The basic design of furniture did not greatly change in later periods. vases of gold. inscribing his deed on the walls.all gold-trimmed. inheritance. or humble servants. Many a king completed the funerary monument of his father before commencing construction of his own. gold razors. the symbol of the 'ankh (the key of life). It included the supports and uprights of a royal canopy encased in gold from which mats were hung as curtains to ensure privacy. the workers lowered it into a shaft to the east of the Great Pyramid. Unaware that the mummy had already been removed from the sarcophagus. an inlaid footboard. and an ibex . a royal bed that sloped downward toward the foot to provide a headrest. and this applied to royal wives as well as kings. It is thanks to Khufu's devotion that the furniture was saved . The chairs are magnificently carved with figures of the hawk and the lotus. Naturally. Marriage.one of which was portable and.
"has the like been done for any servant. I was excellent in the heart of His Majesty beyond any official of his. when Nekhebu's responsibilities increased. beyond any servant of his. The text tells of his gradual rise from 'scribe and overseer of the stores' to 'governor' of a number of towns and districts in the eastern Delta. In ancient Egypt a person who proved fit in performing one task was considered equally fit for others. beyond any noble of his. Weni eventually became one of the highest dignitaries of the Great House. Nekhebu was an ordinary builder who eventually rose to the position of 'royal master builder. his marriage to Princess Neferhotpes gave him a special position. a man of humble birth who started his career as a minor official under King Teti and rose to the position of 'favored courtier' under Pepi I. rose to high honors and died as viziers or governors of provinces. doorway. who died in the reign of Senefru and was buried near Zoser's mortuary complex at Saqqara (his tomb has been transported to Berlin and reconstructed in the Egyptian Museum there). and his children ranked with royalty. Promotion could be rapid. entrusted by his king with supervising a group of workmen to bring a block of stone suitable for the royal sarcophagus.he was put in charge of a body of troops detailed for an expedition against hostile tribes in the Eastern Desert and the nomadic tribes of Nubia. his brother
. Later. One of the earliest biographical accounts describing a rise in rank is that of Methen. and two jambs for the tomb. lintel. "Never. One of the best-known examples was that of Weni. After Weni." he inscribed in his tomb.' supervising a wide range of projects for the Great House. or even base servitude. The Fifth Dynasty official Ti was a vigorous nobleman but not of royal blood. as well as a libation table . He took his brother as an apprentice and the youth started off by carrying his older brother's palette and measuring rod.Class Mobility
worked close to the capital. performed the task efficiently ." Many persons of obscure origin.transporting it complete with lid.
. especially at an official dinner given by one of higher station. While Ptahhotep had much to say on behavior in the presence of superiors ("If you meet one superior to you." Literature and tomb inscriptions stress the ideal of a self-made. including attitudes to be taken toward both superiors and subordinates. have no knowledge of his former low estate." Ptahhotep had some shrewd advice on the matter of being helpful to one's employer: "your food hangs upon his mood. . You are not greater than another like you to whom the same has happened. look at what is before you. the belly of one loved is filled. "If he above you is one who was formerly of very humble station. for substance comes not of itself." Table manners.. and shoot him not with many glances. which has come to you as a gift of the god. gave advice on behavior to ensure success in official circles. so shall you be very agreeable to his heart and what you do will be very pleasant to his heart. but do not look at what is before him. bend
. Ptahhotep.. fold your arms. were considered important: Take when he gives to you what he puts before you. be not unmindful of how it was with you before." Or conversely: "If you have become great after you were little. self-reliant person. be respectful toward him because of what he has achieved. the sage who instructed his son to prepare him for the official duties that lay ahead of him..152
managed his property for him so successfully that he could claim that there were "more things in his house than in the house of any noble.. Laugh when he laughs.. Be not boastful of your wealth. your back shall be clothed thereby. and have gained possessions after you were formerly in want. Turn your face downward until he addresses you and speak only when he addresses you.
your back. To flout him will not make him agree with you."), he particularly stresses: "If you meet a poor man, not your equal, do not attack him because he is weak... wretched is he who injures a poor man." A nobleman's attitude toward his subordinates is particularly apparent through Ptahhotep's enumeration of the qualities of leadership: "If you are a man who leads, seek out every good deed, that your conduct may be blameless If you are an administrator, be gracious when you hear the speech of a petitioner." He also taught: A man is recognized by that which he knows. His heart is the balance for his tongue; His lips are correct when he speaks, and his eyes in seeing; His ears together hear what is profitable for his son, who does maat and is free from lying. Established is the man whose standard is maat, who proceeds according to its way.
The Earliest Industries Large-scale building construction, shipbuilding, and stone-carving were among the earliest industries in Egypt, along with a number of agriculture-related activities like papyrus-manufacture, spinning, and weaving. All tools were made of copper, which was cast in open molds from as early as 3300 BC. The discovery that copper melts when heated may have been made when some malachite - a green ore ground on cosmetic palettes for eye paint - dropped on the glowing ashes of a hearth and globules of copper ran out. Copper beads and jewelry fittings were made from early times. Later, the techniques of melting and smelting became more sophisticated. Fifth and Sixth dynasty tombs have representations of the metalworker's craft, with smelters using blowpipes around a charcoal fireplace to produce a high temperature. Vessels of copper were worked by hammering, the spouts and handles being joined by copper rivets. Plain copper wire was used for the construction and repair of furniture as early as the First Dynasty and a variety of implements were used by barbers, carpenters, sculptors, stone masons, and house servants. Axes, adzes, and saws were needed for industrial and agricultural purposes and delicate instruments for the medical profession.
Medical Practice The temples of Heliopolis and Memphis seem to have been cen-
ters of learning from early times. Here astronomers studied the constellations and the courses of the planets and physicians were trained. Titles such as 'chief of the dental physicians' (Hesi-Ra), 'palace eye expert, physician of the belly, one comprehending internal fluids, and guardian of the anus' (Iri), and 'chief physician of the eyes of the Great House' (Wah-Dwa) show that specialists were attached to the Great House and were part of the king's large entourage taking care of his welfare. The ministry of health - if one might call it such - comprised the 'inspector of doctors' and assistants (non-specialists), who were under an 'overseer of doctors,' controlled by the 'eldest of doctors.' Such titles as 'chief physician of Upper Egypt' (Ibi) or 'greatest physician of Upper and Lower Egypt' indicate that within the medical profession there was a liaison with distant provinces. The medical papyri, of which there are over a score, are clear indications of advances in the medical field. Some of the later texts that date to the Middle and New kingdoms were copies (sometimes third and fourth hand) of earlier texts; archaic grammar and obsolete words point to their antiquity as well as certain references to the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, believed to be the earliest, dealt with forty-eight carefully arranged surgical cases of wounds and fractures, detailing a dispassionate examination of the patient and prescribing cures. No ailment was ascribed to the activity of a demoniac power, and there was very little magic - although belief in the potency of spells or exorcisms undoubtedly existed. The ancient Egyptian medical practitioners were not witch doctors who gave incantations. They were physicians who prescribed healing remedies and conducted operations. Though some of the cures might be considered rather fanciful - extract of the hair of a black cat to prevent graying - others became famous for their efficacy. We know from mummified bodies that dental surgery was
practiced from early times. Some have teeth extracted, and a Fourth Dynasty mummy of a man shows two holes beneath a molar of the lower jaw, apparently drilled for draining an abscess. The discovery in a grave at Giza of a body with several teeth wired together suggests that dental treatment was already well advanced in the Old Kingdom. Sesa's tomb at Saqqara, known as the 'doctor's tomb,' shows the manipulation of joints. The tomb of Ankhmahor, known as the 'physician's tomb,' shows an operation on a man's toe and the circumcision of a youth. Circumcision was practiced on boys between six and twelve years of age. By the Sixth Dynasty, there appears to have been a firmly established medical tradition. When Weshptah, builder and friend of the Fifth Dynasty king Neferirkare, suffered a stroke in the king's presence, the king showed great solicitude for his stricken friend and ordered his officials to consult medical documents for a remedy to help the vizier regain consciousness. Doctors were well paid for their services; in one case the reward was "a false door of limestone for that tomb of mine in the necropolis."
Mummification and Priests Contrary to some older ideas, doctors did not take part in the preparation of mummies to improve their knowledge of anatomy. Embalmers and physicians belonged to two entirely different professions, and there is no evidence of any connection between them. Early efforts to preserve a lifelike appearance of the deceased can be traced to the Second Dynasty, when strips of linen cloth were used to preserve the outline of the body and clay was used to model the features of the face, genitals, and breasts with nipples. Around 2600 BC, bodies had the organs most susceptible to rapid corruption removed. These included the lungs, liver, intestines, and stomach (which were extracted through an incision
One thing is certain: the long and somewhat messy procedure is unlikely to have been carried out in. There were numerous 'pure ones.Mummification and Priests
in the left side of the body). These performed their duties on a full-time basis and their positions eventually became hereditary. they simply learned the correct observance of rituals as laid down by the Great House.' ordinary members of the community who underwent certain purification ceremonies in order to serve in relays as servants in the 'house of god. Queen Hetepheres. A 'lector priest'
.' There were others who were bound by rules of cleanliness and became custodians of sacred order. but not the heart and kidneys. The body cavity itself was rinsed to remove the remaining natron and filled with herbs and resins to retain the shape. after which linen strips dipped in resinous material were molded on the shrunken frame and individual ringers and toes carefully wrapped. The only extant 'mummification beds' are those of the sacred Apis bulls at Memphis. as employees of the state they served a function. sacred shrines or mortuary temples. The body cavity and the intestines were then washed in natron. There is no indication of where mummification was carried out. Desiccation took up to forty days to complete. a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate found naturally at several sites throughout Egypt. By the end of the Fifth Dynasty embalmers encased the body in an elaborate linen and plaster shell modeled to look like the human form and painted in lifelike colors. The earliest known use of natron comes from the remains in the canopic jars of Khufu's mother. Although priests did not form a distinct class of society until toward the end of the Old Kingdom. The internal organs were subsequently wrapped in linen and placed either in a box with four compartments or in four canopic jars placed beside the coffin in the burial chamber. which date to a late period in Egyptian history. Priests were not required to have any theological knowledge. or near.
' a poem written by an anonymous poet hundreds of years after the fall of the Old Kingdom. There was also the task of drawing up contracts and wills. written in flowing language. could be a member of the lay public. ever present to provide the necessary aura for worship. who were looked upon as persons of importance. for the upper classes. A scribe was called upon to write petitions for the illiterate and to prepare properly addressed petitions. Records were needed of quantities of materials used. he could read from the scroll in mortuary services or whenever called upon to do so.158
was a government official (literally the 'bearer of the festival roll') and his main qualification was literacy. which theoretically was the responsibility of a person's heirs. Income from private property was referred to in the will (literally 'order from his living mouth'). workers recruited.' however.
. the scribal profession was described as the best. Literacy was an essential qualification for a successful bureaucratic career.
Scribes and the Law Scribes comprised a special class of society. Although wills largely concerned the maintenance of tombs. The profession was one of the most respectable. In what is known as the 'satire of the trades. and rations consumed for large-scale building projects. He was the theoretical leader of rites even when they were carried out by his representatives. The 'incense burner. and although the bulk of the population had no incentive to be literate it was one way to escape the drudgery of labor. In both the political and religious hierarchies there were positions open for bookkeepers and clerks. it was foreseen that some laxity was to be expected with the passage of time. The official existence of the priests rested entirely on the delegation of royal power. The cults in temples throughout the land were all practiced in the name of the king. and safeguards were made.
the endowments were extremely large. who frequently inscribed in his tomb that he "judged two partners until they were satisfied. Some of the documents were simple contracts such as the "contract for the sale of a small house. Khafre's son." The most famous legal case was that of the vizier Kheti. There is one remarkable case of treason in the royal harem which was heard by two provincial judges in place of the 'chief judge' (the vizier). It indicated that under certain circumstances an appeal might be made directly to the central court. he made the will with the aid of a scribe. Nekure. Written briefs were submitted to a high-ranking official. for an unbiased decision." The fact that no written law has been found in ancient Egypt should not undermine documentary evidence of legal practice." Among surviving Old Kingdom legal documents is one referring to litigation between an heir and an executor. In the case of royalty. "while he was alive upon his two feet without ailing in any way." Kheti was involved in a lawsuit in which members of his own family were party. whose name lived on until the New Kingdom as "the judge whose case was more than justice. his judgment was against
. the entire income of which was to go toward the maintenance of his tomb. bequeathed to his heirs a private fortune including fourteen towns and two estates at the royal residence.Scribes and the Law
in which the owner outlined that it was to be put toward the care of the tomb and the continued supply of food and offerings.
what we would recognize as books. Later they were bound together into codices.pliant yet durable . The archives also show that seals on storerooms were regularly inspected. laying them side by side and crosswise. soaking and compressing them.160
his own relative. so he could not be accused of partiality. An appeal was made. The sheets were sometimes glued together in strips and wound around wooden rods. and documenting various activities. Even then. Egyptian papyrus remained for centuries the main vehicle of Greek and Roman written thought.
Papyrus Production and the Bureaucracy Two rolls of papyrus in a box dating to the reign of the First Dynasty king Den are the earliest evidence of its production. Duty rosters
. They point to a particular skill in the administration of resources based on measuring. The sheets were made by slicing thin sections of the papyrus stem. records of ancient Egypt have survived in vast number. especially those on doors to rooms where sacred boats were stored. yet Kheti persisted and his second ruling was the same as the first. Thanks to scribes and the invention of papyrus paper. inspecting.that was lighter than stone and clay tablets and more plentiful than leather. checking. The Abu Sir archives reveal that the equipment of temples was carefully classified. and beating and drying them. the new material derived its name from its Egyptian predecessor. It was an excellent writing material . that inspection was carried out to trace any deterioration or damage. and that exact details of what was needed for replacement were recorded. until the eighth century when it was gradually ousted by the use of a new writing material from the east: paper made from old rags. Papyrus paper was one of Egypt's most flourishing industries.
Artisans worked as members of a team under the direction of a master craftsman. The powerful and lifelike statues of the kings Khafre and Menkaure show mastery of materials. possibly for the pilgrimage to Buto. so stone as well as wood were painted.Art and Architecture
were tabled in the archives. tough material suitable for sandals. There was strict maintenance of standards. The stalks were woven and used as mats. and relief decoration. These creations were not transient but were expected to stand for all eternity. however. Apart from its use in paper production. Most statuary. many of the pyramids showing changes in the original design as the use of stone was mastered. Great strides were taken in the field of architecture in the Third and Fourth dynasties. In the Fifth Dynasty tombs at Saqqara are scenes of craftsmen making papyrus boats. They floated by virtue of the lightness of the material of which they were built. was meant to be lifelike. and a supervisor or overseer saw to the progress of work. statuary. as well as income of the temple and details of sacrificial animals for various festivals. These 'papyrus craft' were not boats but rafts. and lightweight skiffs used for hunting in the marshes were made by binding long bundles together. along with relief decoration. the vegetable fibers were transformed into a pliable.
Art and Architecture A great deal of what we know about the ancient Egyptian civilization comes through its monumental architecture. Sculptors frequently gave a striking effect to the faces by inserting pieces of quartz in the eye sockets with a copper stud for the pupil. The finish was achieved by the use of an adze followed by polishing with an oval stone. A strict canon had long been worked
. Royal statuary was another major industry. the papyrus plant served other purposes.
All available wall space was filled. The coloring. reading or writing on a roll of papyrus on his lap. a variation in the placing of inscriptions. animals. Unfinished tombs like that of Ptahhotep at Saqqara provide evidence of the method and progress of relief decoration. leaving the figures in low relief. Into these sections figures of people. After the background was cut away. Reliefs were fashioned with extraordinary delicacy. It seems probable that there was a common stock of themes from which the noble tomb owners chose. or a scene. for similar scenes are represented in different tombs . is a representation of an atelier with artisans polishing and carving statues in his likeness. Private statues were also made: scribe statues. were introduced at the end of the Fourth Dynasty. and hieroglyphic characters were drawn. a frisky calf. Then a chief artist prepared each surface for decoration by separating the different registers with the aid of cords dipped in red paint.162
out. subdividing these further into rows or squares. These relief-carvings were then painted. standing figures were nineteen units high. Continuity in style was due to the careful maintenance of the codified rules laid down in the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom. a spotted cow. and the seated figures were fifteen units.
. which involved a team of artists. State artisans reached the highest rank. showing a man in cross-legged posture. the distance between the knees and the soles of the feet was twice was long as the feet. the feet were the same length as the height of the head and neck. Drawing to scale. In the famous tomb of Ti. for example. the artist could accurately enlarge a statue. or the adding of such details as might please the artist: a bald man. The arrangement was apparently guided by the chief artist's preference (within the broad outlines of the customer's wishes) and by the size of the tomb. The wall of the tomb was first rendered smooth. each row representing a single activity. a Fifth Dynasty court dignitary. a sculptor would carve the fine detail.with a reduction or increase in the number of individuals.
pale brown. Red and yellow were obtained from ochers from the desert. and the palette for mixing the paint was either a ceramic bowl or a conch shell. Pink was made by mixing red ocher with chalk. red ocher was used for the sunburnt bodies of men. but with profile body. and feet. The freshness and brightness of Egyptian tomb paintings have often been commented on.Art and Architecture
while not entirely true to nature. Because the chief Old Kingdom burial grounds were in areas of high quality limestone. Early drawings on pottery were probably made with a reed brush with the fibers teased out. artists and painters used similar reed-stems. reliefs were more common than mural decorations (which were painted either directly on the smoothed surface of the wall or on a plastered surface). Although relief and mural decoration may appear to have been a mechanical art. The main figure was traditionally represented with head in profile (full-view eye and eyebrow. and a sideview nose) with shoulders shown full-width from the front. clothing was usually white (left without paint on the limestone wall). legs. especially in representations of figures
. was not exaggerated. Blue was obtained from azurite. but minor figures are represented in a variety of informal poses. but close study shows that no two are exactly alike. There was endless modification. They have retained their color because the pigments are natural. For example. the extremely high level of technical and artistic skill . was the source of green. while pink. chalk (calcium carbonate) or lime provided white. and black was obtained from carbon in some form (soot or powdered charcoal) or a black manganese found in Sinai. One might have the impression of similarity of subject matter.should not be overlooked. which is a blue carbonate of copper. Tempera technique was used: natural powdered pigments mixed with water and bound with acacia gum to adhere to the wall surface. malachite. or yellow was used for women. a half mouth. Later. and the scenes may appear to be uniform.and the harmonious final effect . another copper ore.
Shipbuilding Shipbuilding was one of the most important and oldest industries (see chapter v). they could have served a funerary. it had been dismantled to fit into the pit. a corpulent overseer is given a drink. it is clear that boat construction had developed into a national art. He inspects every stage of the work being carried out. Such ships (there is a second in an as yet unexcavated pit near the first) may have served the king in his capacity as king of Upper and Lower Egypt during his lifetime. This was the first royal barge discovered. and scientific examination suggests that it might actually have sailed. the nobleman presiding over them both. Careful reassembly produced a flat-bottomed vessel with a massive curving hull rising to elegant prow and stern posts. being designed to transport his spirit. workers move energetically over the hull of a ship. Built of cedar from Lebanon. Alternatively. from the early stages of shaping and sawing the wooden planks to the last stages of completion. to a life everlasting. later to be buried as part of his funerary equipment. Steering oars (each five meters long) were also found. The tomb of Ti contains two shipbuilding scenes. and coils of rope. solar function. In Khufu's mortuary complex at Giza is an intact vessel that was discovered in a rockhewn pit to the south of the Great Pyramid. The planks were 'sewn' together by a system of ropes through holes. By the Fourth Dynasty. One scene shows the entire shipbuilding process.164
in the subsidiary scenes. where boatmen play games. which was too short for it. now reconstructed and in a special museum. absorbed by the sungod. or a lame farmer leads his flock. Poles on the deck proved to be the supporting palm-shaped columns of a large roofed cabin. with workmen milling
. It is a magnificent barge 44 meters long.
and drilling. less common method was to separate the coarser particles. Several different techniques were employed: most vessels were hand-formed entirely. nails. some were hand-formed initially and then finished on a stand. Deftly guiding the swirling vessels with their hands. In many nobles' tombs at Saqqara. and bolts were made of copper. decorated tableware. as were the workers' tools. and they were able to fulfill the demand for storage and eating vessels. carving. Another. at first with flint borers and later by a cranked brace with weights acting as a flywheel for hollowing. Two methods of preparing the clay have been recorded.
Stone and Pottery Vessels Although serving a utilitarian purpose. All the hinges. potters can be seen at work fashioning vessels and stacking them up. sawing. most of the products manufactured in ancient Egypt were fashioned with a fine sense of balance and a desire for beauty. their rate of production was much higher. Decorative cosmetic containers. hammering. This was particularly necessary in the case of marls. shows the accumulated clay being soaked in a pit with water to make it workable. or to mix in a tempering material such as sand or crushed limestone.Stone and Pottery Vessels
over the curving hulls. as revealed by tomb reliefs. Stone vessels from Predynastic graves were created in perfect symmetry.
. The skills and methods of the ancient potter can be traced for over five thousand years. Conical lumps were delivered to the potter. The clay was then kneaded or trodden to produce an even texture and remove excess air. The ancient industry of stone-vessel manufacture was largely superseded by the potters when they began to fashion their ware with the aid of a horizontal wheel. and fancy vessels were sometimes formed in the shapes of animals and birds. One.
the potter had rows of closed kilns with a simple updraft to achieve uniform firing. and straw. A skill was developed such that by the beginning of the dynastic period. The
. with straight or concave sides. or pigment mixed with clay and water. Clay was also used for bricks. carrying the clay from its sources. Pottery was left to dry in the open air to what is usually called the 'leather-hard stage. water. They were made of a combination of mud. a potter's wife and other members of his family helped out in various ways: collecting fuel for the kilns. Although pottery was primarily the occupation of men. the days of irregular burning in an open fire at the mercy of the wind had passed. Brick-manufacture by this same method can still be seen practiced in many parts of Egypt today. The mixture was then poured into molds and left in the sun to dry. The earliest show that they flared to the top. and from hieroglyphic signs.' It was then smoothed by the potter's hand. models. These coatings made the surface less permeable. and were loaded from the top. when dressed skins were replaced by woven garments. The pottery was stacked on openwork platforms that separated them from the fire located in a small chamber below. By the Fourth Dynasty.166
and use was also made of the hand-wheel. and improved the appearance of the vessel.
Textile Manufacture Spinning and weaving were major industries practiced from Predynastic times. could be added to the surface before the pottery was fired. which were not fired. Egyptians were producing very fine linen. or with a cloth. after which a coating of a pigment and water. Our knowledge of the kilns derives from a few samples that have survived in tomb reliefs. and adding finishing touches to a pot before it was placed in the kiln.
and its fibers tough. superintendent of the weaving workshop. Flax yielded long threads. and stalks was placed in canvas bags with staves fastened to each end. due both to the method of pressing and to the high summer temperature. The residue of skins. who also made tapestries. placed in vats and trodden until the liquid ran through holes into a waiting container. by a monkey) lever these apart to squeeze out any juice remaining. and weaving (on both upright and horizontal looms) was carried out by women. it could be woven into soft linen: surviving remnants show that the fabric was sometimes of such gossamer fineness as to be almost indistinguishable from silk. Two men (aided. Fermentation probably occurred naturally. When the flax was ripe. It identifies the deceased as 'assistant. This was particularly the case with royal linen. and . Both spinning (entirely by the spindle). seeds. The vat was canopied against the heat. in several tomb representations.'
Viticulture The first wine-press hieroglyph dates from the First Dynasty. and the chanting workers pressing the grapes held on to ropes hung from rafters. though coarser textiles were woven on a more widespread scale. it was suitable for mats and ropes. If cut when the stems were green.to judge from the ever-growing demand for linen-it was as painstakingly cultivated as grain. The earliest evidence of textile workshops is an inscription found on a royal Fifth Dynasty mummy at Abu Sir. Later representations show that grapes were picked by hand. which were intended either for hanging on the walls of nobles' villas or to form the shade of a roof garden.Viticulture
invention of the loom was another early triumph of ingenuity. the wine was siphoned into tall pottery vessels
. and there is evidence that even at this early date wine was transported across the country in sealed jars. When partly fermented.
and allowed to mature. There is some evidence that the vessels were coated on the inside with a resinous substance to prevent the liquid being lost through the porous pottery.
Other Industries Workers in other industries included carpenters, who produced the highest quality furniture for the Great House; coppersmiths, who made pipes and bowls as well as tools; and goldsmiths, who fashioned jewelry. All were strictly organized, with the work supervised by overseers, themselves under the direction of a 'chief overseer.' There was a tendency for children to ply the trades of their parents, at first making themselves useful around the workshops and then working as apprentices. In making furniture, carpenters used hammers and mallets, saws with teeth slanting toward the handle - indicating that they were pulled not pushed - and bow-drills for making holes. Leather-production had long been mastered and the curing of hides produced soft, fine-quality skins. The hides were first stretched taut on a board, then left to soak in oil. In the Old Kingdom no other tanning process was used. After the skins were removed, and when they started to dry, the leather was hammered to ensure that the oil was completely absorbed. The leather was then dyed in various colors and used to cover stools, chairs, beds, and cushions. Apart from its use in furniture, leather was also used to produce sandals, satchels, and sheets of parchment for official use. The tomb of Ti records the goldsmith's factory and the different stages of production of jewelry. Ti himself watches the head goldsmith weighing the precious metal, which was brought from the alluvial sands of the Eastern Desert or from Nubia, while scribes record it. Workers are depicted casting, soldering, and fit-
ting together a rich assortment of fine jewelry. Six men direct their blowpipes to the flames in a clay furnace. Beside them, a workman pours the molten metal. On the extreme right four men beat gold leaf. Some of the engravers seated on low benches are dwarfs. Turquoise, cut or ground- into tiny pieces, are inland with precision, soldered and fitted into exquisite necklets and other items of adornment. Glass was produced from silica-sand, lime, and soda; the earliest glass beads and amulets were found in Predynastic graves.
Wages Workers were paid wages in the form of bread, beer, clothing, oils, and grain in large amounts. Nobles frequently recorded their relationship with their foremen and workers by claiming that "whether craftsmen or quarrymen, I satisfied them." One Fourth Dynasty nobleman, Memi, was more explicit: in an inscription on the base of his statue he declared that the sculptor who fashioned his statue "was satisfied with the reward I gave him." Terms of employment are not clear, although some inscriptions imply that contracts were made. The lintel above an official's tomb entrance at Giza records that "the necropolis man Pepi is content over the contract which I made with him." The term 'necropolis man' was used for unskilled labor, whether quarryman or stoneworker. "Never did I use force against any man, for I wanted my name to be good before god and my repute to be good before all men." "Never did I do an evil thing." Such inscriptions were common in the tombs at Saqqara, and may have reflected the tomb-owner's wish to stress his qualities so that his name would shine before the 'great god,' the king. But they do encourage us to view with at least some reservation Herodotus's description of hordes of oppressed and overworked slaves, whipped by merciless overseers,
toiling and dying in the scorching sun in order to raise a monumental pyramid for the glorification of the king. There were in fact few slaves in the Old Kingdom, since foreign conquest was at a minimum, and no worker revolts are recorded until later periods. Indeed, the marks made on some of the casing stones delivered from the quarries for the great pyramids indicate a spirit of pride and competition among the workers. They gave themselves team names such as Vigorous gang' and 'enduring gang.'
The Farming Masses The bulk of the population was employed on the land. There are no Old Kingdom titles specifically connected with irrigation works, nor do we have written regulations regarding water control. This was undoubtedly because there were natural flood basins that needed the minimum of work, and competition for water was never an issue, except at the local level, because all settlements had direct access to the Nile. Presumably, until famine struck at the end of the Sixth Dynasty, no need was felt to organize irrigation. The flood came regularly and the farming communities had learned, from long experience, how to cope with the diversities of nature and improve the quality of the land. It was once believed that the fertility of the fields was entirely the result of the annual deposits of Nile silt from the sources of the Blue Nile. But now it is known that a certain amount of careful land management was also practiced in ancient times, including crop rotation, fallowing, and allowing cattle to pasture on the stubble and fertilize the soil. Some rare scenes of field workers being organized into crews suggest that smallholders may have joined forces with neighboring families for water distribution and harvesting. With the inundation of the floodplain, farmers made sure that
The Farming Masses
their cattle were safely housed on higher, dry land; with other agricultural activities suspended, they cared for the cattle and provided them with food already laid in storage. They carefully directed the water from the main canals to smaller branches traversing the fields in straight or curved lines, and controlled it by means of embankments. When the water level began to fall these natural reservoirs retained a residue of mineral-rich sediment that was ready to receive seed without further preparation. Reliefs show that oxen dragged simple wooden plows to till the soil and then lines of sowers would cast grain on the surface from baskets. This was usually trodden in by goats. Where the earth dried hard, however, a plow was used. The hoe - one of the most ancient of agricultural tools - consisted of a broad, pointed blade of wood attached to a handle at an acute angle and held in position in the center by a slack rope. The plow was a hoe enlarged by adding two long wooden arms on which the plowman could lean to keep the furrow straight and also to pressure the blade into the soil. A pole was provided with a yoke for attaching to draft animals. Although the Nile Valley and the Delta were fertile, full exploitation of the land only came with continuous toil. Farmers manufactured their own tools and household possessions. From scenes in nobles' tombs it is apparent that the harvest was the season of most strenuous activity. The ripened wheat was reaped with the aid of a sickle, tied in bundles, and loaded on to donkeys to be carried to the threshing floor. The wheat was then piled in heaps to be trodden by oxen, goats, or donkeys. The threshed grain was piled in a heap by means of three-pronged forks and sifted and winnowed with small boards or scoops used in pairs to toss the grain into the wind. Sometimes girls of ordinary families, too young to manage the household, lent a hand in the fields, gathering and winnowing. Finally the grain was placed in sacks and transported to the granary. Flour for bread, the staple food of rich and poor alike, was a
which has been left to sour. was also produced there. A great many scenes show the exchange of food and drink. sacks. and in another pouring honey from a jar into a storage vessel. vegetables. The goods traded among the working classes were by no means luxury products. the byproduct of the bread. After the mixing and kneading of the dough it was shaped into ovals. a favorite drink among the masses. Bread was leavened by adding more flour to the residue of dough from the previous day. Perhaps some of these people. slanting slab of limestone and sliding a crossbar of sandstone across it. then powdered in a stone mortar and sifted. especially those that carry shoulder bags. Such hives were made of reed or rush bundles coated with mud. To make flour the grain was first cleaned. The ground flour gradually worked downward and was caught in a tray at the lower end. and domestic bees can be traced to the Old Kingdom. were itinerant traders. Bread dough was also used in the brewing of beer. the rest was ground by placing it at the upper end of a slightly hollowed. Another salesman offers fish from his basket to a seated man engraving a seal. and boxes.172
taxable commodity. especially fruit. and indented squares or placed in molds of various shapes and sizes. A third trades a fan for a drink. Among the tomb scenes of the colleagues Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep are two men measuring and discussing the price of a bale of cloth.
. and beer. Egyptians acquired a taste for honey from early times. Nyuserre's sun temple at Abu Sir shows a farmer kneeling in front of a row of hives in one scene. From the newly discovered bakery at Giza there is evidence of assembly-line production: baking pots and lids were manufactured at the site of the bakery where they were fired. The bran was kept for the animals. and market scenes show grain in bags being used for barter. One of the most common shapes of bread was a conical white loaf much used in offerings. and fish. triangles.
The butcher then bled the animal to
. Care of animals came naturally to people who. and hyena along with tame species. which must have improved the breeds. There are scenes showing a young farmhand feeding the animals. Veterinary medicine was practiced and the obvious health of the herds indicates proficient rearing. The experiments seem to have been successful. This forced the roped leg off the ground and threw the animal off balance. before they settled down. touchingly depicted in many tombs. milking a cow. to follow. The slaughter of cattle was part of temple ritual and there are many scenes in Old Kingdom tombs that depict the manner in which this was carried out. fishers. Selection of temple herds was made from all parts of the country. The left foreleg of the sacrificial animal would first be caught in a slip knot. In the tomb of Ti is a scene of a bald-headed farmer leading his animals through a canal by taking a calf on his shoulders to encourage its mother. The care of livestock was a talent handed from generation to generation. Attempts were made to domesticate wild creatures like the antelope. the two hind legs and roped foreleg were roped together. The ancient Egyptians knew their animals intimately and although there are scenes of herders driving rams across a canal with raised whip. and cattle-breeders. and a third lift one of its hind legs. and (in the tombs of Ptahhotep and Ti) helping a cow give birth. had been hunters. none shows an animal being beaten. gazelle. especially of cattle and sheep.Animal Husbandry
Animal Husbandry Environmental conditions in the Delta and in the marshlands afforded excellent conditions for cattle-breeding. and animals were raised with care. A man would sit on its neck and pull its head backward. As soon as the animal was on the ground. Several stockmen were involved. another would hold onto its tail. the other end of the rope being thrown over its back and pulled by a second man. the victim left powerless. and the rest of the herd.
the 'answerers' or shawabti figures. and sometimes not even part of the local herd. there was a concept of the afterlife as a rural environment. moral principles. There were figures of farmers who carried agricultural implements. and watering of crops ensured eternal abundance. burial traditions. visualized workers toiling for them for eternity.
. reaping. architecture. Plowing. It stimulated their thought.i/4
death. This was believed to lie in the path of the setting sun. art. upper and lower classes alike. The animals sacred to the various temples. To most of the population. artisans with the tools of their trade. small wooden or faience funerary statuettes. They were simply fine animals with particular markings. the focal point of the ancient Egyptian outlook. carefully chosen and ritually installed in the temple. and beliefs. were placed in their tombs. where the deceased would be ferried across the 'lily lake' and gain admittance to a blessed place of peculiar fertility where wheat grew seven cubits high. usually each group of ten under an overseer. desiring an extension of their experience on earth. The noble classes.
The Bucolic Afterlife Belief in the afterlife was. and with a long-handled knife and a whetstone hung from the corner of his loincloth proceeded with his task. as we have seen. collecting the blood in a vessel. like the Apis bull of Memphis. and even a sailor to man the model vessel placed with oars near the coffin of a deceased nobleman. were not necessarily the calf of a sacred animal.
hunting in the undulating plains of the desert. exceptional opportunities. Harps were small and usually played by a seated musician. each with accompanying hand-clappers. One such scene. a line of women clapped in unison. and fishing in canals and lakes. The ancient Egyptians had a great sense of rhythm and love of music. Two or three musicians. A piper or singer often entertained fishers and farmers while they worked. In the tomb of Mehu at Saqqara female dancers raise their arms in
. shows both male and female performers.' depicted on his mace-head).VIII Leisure
Entertainment Leisure was made possible by the economy. at meals. During important events (such as the breaking of ground by the 'scorpion king. A full orchestra comprised two harps and two flutes. in the tomb of Ti. and during leisure hours. It seems that among the greatest pleasures were venturing into the marshes in search of aquatic birds. friends. who perform separately. flutes were in two sizes. we find the wealthy classes enjoying music at all times of day: at their morning toilet. The panorama of everyday life indicates how vitally conscious the people were of the animal and bird life teeming around them and how much they esteemed outdoor life. or relatives beneath an arbor enjoying the mild north breeze. And. not surprisingly. and favorable climate of ancient Egypt. Many tombs at Saqqara and Giza contain scenes of the deceased seated with family. often accompanied lithe young women as they performed dances. as well as singers and clappers.
purely for the entertainment of the deceased and their families in the afterlife. as once supposed. where the dancers do a high kick. They were ceremonial dances. A more energetic performance is depicted in the tomb of Ankhmahor. were transmitted from generation to generation. returned with exotic products and a dancing pygmy as a gift for the king. plaited into a pigtail with decoration on the end. Hathor. which are commonplace in ancient Egyptian tombs were not. the cow-goddess of love and nourishment. a gesture probably repeated to the rhythm of the music. was associated with music and dance.176
a circular motion above their heads while their feet move forward. During the second year of his reign Harkhuf. for example. Hathor's sacred emblem. The fact that the ancient Egyptians had no known system of musical notation is somewhat surprising. like the popular stories. In the tomb of Kagemni an acrobatic dance is performed by young girls who are depicted with the left foot placed flat on the floor. head dropping backward until the hair. and with great enthusiasm Pepi sent a letter of thanks to Harkhuf requesting him to take every precaution that the pygmy should ar-
. One of the most appealing tales of the Old Kingdom is the story of the pygmy brought from the 'land of Yam' to amuse the young king Pepi II. Such scenes. He sent messengers ahead to inform the Great House. the sistrum. hangs down in perfect symmetry. Pepi was only six years old when he ascended the throne. Perhaps tunes. Music and religion were closely linked. torso curved. particularly in view of the development of an independent system of writing at an early date. was an ancient musical instrument that eventually became an architectural feature in temples. probably suggesting a ritual of rebirth. her son Ihy became a god of music and patron of the chorus. the nobleman of Elephantine who made many journeys to the south. We do know that early visitors to Egypt from the Greek mainland around the sixth century BC were particularly impressed with the harmony of Egyptian melodies.
Irtjet. with hair well braided. A magician recommended that he row on the palace lake in the company of "all the beauties who are in your palace chamber. and other animals. and that twenty women be brought."my majesty desires to see this pygmy more than all the gifts of Setjru. and let these nets be given to these women when they have taken off their clothes. Then it was done according to all that His Majesty commanded..where he recorded the episode and quoted the king's letter in his biographical text . The working classes chased gazelle." wrote Harkhuf in his tomb . and Yam. deer. not yet having opened up to give birth. with firm breasts. Harkhuf was instructed to put trustworthy persons in charge to ensure the pygmy should not fall overboard. and they rowed up and down. for." A legend in the Westcar Papyrus. antelope. and you can see the beautiful fields around it (and) your heart will be refreshed at this. wild oxen."
Outdoor Sport Outdoor recreations were popular among all classes of society. The heart of His Majesty was happy at the sight of their rowing.. "the most beautiful in form. You can see the beautiful fish ponds of your lake." Senefru forthwith ordered that twenty oars be made of ebony fitted with gold and silver.
. and that when he slept guards should sleep on either side of the cabin and make an inspection "ten times a night. King Sahure was depicted in his sun temple hunting gazelle. Let there be brought to me twenty nets.Outdoor Sport
rive in Memphis in good condition. tells of the aged king Senefru's entertainment. oryx. the heart of Your Majesty shall be refreshed at the sight of their rowing as they row up and down. which relates events in the Old Kingdom. and most nobles' tombs contain scenes showing the pursuit of wild game and capture of various species.
It was decorated with two feathers and notched for the bowstring. The bow was no more than a meter in length and the arrows. came in several varieties. These. a frame with gazelles bound together in groups. showing the hunter enthusiastically pursuing game in an obvious display of pleasure. Long bow and arrow. Sometimes a hunter. Ptahhotep is depicted watching men dragging cages containing lion. the cord would twist round the legs or neck of the animal and hinder its movement. Hunting scenes were extremely spirited. numerous specimens of which may be found. Every effort seems to have been made to save the game animals from being hurt and to capture them alive. the one preferred for hunting (which served into the New Kingdom) had an agate arrowhead cemented to a sturdy stick. others ended in a knob. A good hunter could bring down an animal with a careful throw. lasso. and smaller cages containing hedgehogs. and ostrich with equal enthusiasm. Hounds were specially trained for hunting and following wounded beasts. When thrown. perhaps after killing its mother. After the waters of the annual flood receded. as well as the canals and the river. would take a young gazelle back to the village. They varied in shape. which a hunter points out to his two hounds before setting them loose. ponds were left in the open country. carried in leather quivers. Some were semicircular. and bola were the most common hunting weapons. Some scenes indicate how bait was used. The Egyptians were avid fishers. and fitted into a hollow reed shaft. Considerable ability must have been required in the handling of the throwing stick. throwing sticks. The bola consisted of a rope or strap about five meters long with a single rounded stone attached to the end. usually ebony.i/8
hares. In Ptahhotep's tomb the muzzle of a young tethered heifer is being seized in the jaws of a lion. whether gazelle. wild goat. or ostrich. yielded an inexhaustible supply of mul-
. The noose of the lasso was thrown round the neck of the running victim.
in view of the warm weather and the prox-
. the fish were attracted to the bait and swam inside but could not emerge. turtledove. had to stand firmly in his boat with legs wide apart and. catfish. children. These were wicker baskets with narrow necks. The upper classes penetrated deep into the thickets in their firmly constructed papyrus skiffs.sometimes two-pronged but never angled. using as many as five hooks on a single line. wild duck. indicating that the boat made its way quietly through the thickets to creep up on the fowl. and cormorants. They include quail. pelicans. The ancient Egyptians' familiarity with bird life is particularly apparent in the tomb of Ti. which needed skill: the hunter. their feet squarely placed on the central plank. Wading in the reedy swamps near the river are flamingos. where various marsh species are depicted in families near their nests. sometimes curving inward. Birds were most often caught in clap nets. and goose. swallow. In fact. often accompanied by his wife. Some of the men with him hold decoy-birds. partridge. pelican. trawl nets were used in larger canals and the river. They pursuedfishwith spears . tilapia. Mongooses were trained to catch small aquatic birds. and trap nets were also used. each drawn with characteristic features and easily identifiable (although not drawn to scale). when they were dropped into shallow water. and servants. Hippopotamus-hunting with spears was popular among all classes. It is not surprising. Hunting them with a throw-stick was also an extremely popular sport. fling the missile at the fowl as they took to the air. The common folk on the other hand sometimes speared fish like their masters but more often angled from small boats. indigenous and migratory waterfowl were so plentiful that the ancient Egyptians likened a crowd to a bird pond during the inundation. while maintaining his balance.Outdoor Sport
let. heron. and other varieties of fish. perch. Harpoons were used with great dexterity. Dragnets were drawn from the shore in small canals. barbel. magpie. considered a great delicacy.
were punted in the same direction. They would then either board the 'enemy' boat or tip it over. Moreover. Ptahhotep's tomb shows wrestling scenes." "my team is stronger than yours. and fencing with sticks were also popular." and "hold fast. which may have been either an exhibition contest or a race. In many tombs the owner is depicted watching boatmen's games. that the ancient Egyptians were swimmers from early times. A game requiring skill was played by boys with sharp-pointed sticks. while two or three men stood in each boat equipped with long poles with which they tried to push their opponents into the water. A 'tug-of-war' trial of strength was accompanied by such inscriptions as "your arm is much stronger than his. A girls' game is depicted in Mereruka's tomb: two players in the center hold either two or four partners with outstretched
. only children (identified by the side-lock of youth) are depicted playing games. Learning to swim may. indeed. comrades. for a biographical inscription of a Middle Kingdom nobleman refers to the encouragement his king gave him and declares that as a youth "he caused me to take swimming lessons along with the royal children. It is evident from these and other representations that the crawl was the common stroke." Confrontation sports like wrestling. most of the games are played by boys. boxing. Early Dynastic seals show swimmers in action. in which many elements common in Japanese martial arts have been detected. often filled with produce. have been necessary training for children among the upper classes. Light reed boats. which they raised and threw at a target on the ground between them.180
imity of the river. and (with few exceptions) boys and girls did not play together. leaping over an obstacle formed by two of their comrades sitting opposite each other with the soles of the feet and tips of the fingers touching. In the tombs of the Old Kingdom." Boys played a high-jump game.
horn. A game that appears to have been popular in the Old Kingdom was played with a series of discs about ten centimeters in diameter. made in wood. ivory. The earliest gaming piece (in the shape of a house with a sloping roof) was found in the tomb of the First Dynasty king Den. the latter lean outward so that only their heels touch the ground. stone. When children died. Predynastic game pieces made of clay coated with wax." Though there are no reliefs of children playing ball in the Old Kingdom. as well as dolls. Each had a hole in the center. dogs. and lizards. We do not know how the game was played. A favorite game was senet. A large number were found at the tomb of Ptahshepses at Abu Sir. Some were covered in leather cut into sections and sewn together and filled with fine straw or reeds.
The ancient Egyptians were also imaginative in their indoor recreation. there is no indication of the rules of the game. which appears to have been similar to checkers. tortoises. have also been found. played on a rectangular board divided into thirty squares in three rows with carved black and white pieces. The text reads "turn around four times. along with a checker-board table of unbaked clay held up by four thick. Others were made of wood or clay. Perhaps
. in one or more colors.Indoor Games
arms. through which a fifteen-centimeter pointed stick was inserted. short legs and divided into eighteen squares. Although the players are depicted facing each other. have also been found. They also made toys fashioned of clay: crude human figures and animals like sheep. rattles. these 'treasures' were buried with them. Some dolls seem to have been made by the children themselves from pieces of wood swathed in cloth. which can be clearly identified. and blowpipes. Tops. even in prehistoric graves. balls have been found. or copper.
these were kept in an ebony box when the game was not being used. Farmers would put aside their hoes. While the Great House was striving for political control. The deeds of gods and kings were not written in early times and only found their way through oral tradition into the literature of a later date. the life of the peasant farmer was shaped. and five red-and-white balls. their society. and noble fathers were teaching proverbs and behavior to their sons. its surface displaying an engraved or inlaid coiled snake. The pieces for this game comprised three lions. Each evening when the sun set. This treasury of popular tales was based on an ageless tradition in ancient Egypt. Narmer. sickles. and their institutions were molded by the environment and by nature's changeless cycles.
Folk Tales and Myths Storytelling played an important part in the lives of the ancient Egyptians. Some of the games of the Old Kingdom did survive its fall. and winnowing forks. The permanence of the physical environment meant that the lives of the rural Egyptians remained stable. three lionesses. the head situated at the center of the board and the body divided into transverse lines forming segments.
. As we have seen. and sit with their friends in the village or on the rocky outcrop overlooking the valley. knew how to exploit the waters of the Nile. They related tales of the good and kindly king Senefru. who. some told. like themselves. and tell tales. diverted the great river at Memphis through an artificial channel and constructed a moat around the city that was fed by the river. They related all they knew of their ancestors. by the rise and fall of the Nile. farm work was over. as in times long past. One was played on a low table. the people.182
the stick was rotated between the palms of the hands to make the discs spin like a top.
Popular and magical tales were closely bound together in a frame narrative. It preserves the undercurrents of what might have been a most inspired. and successful campaign to disseminate sun worship by the Heliopolitan priests. which provided a reason for their telling. once they became part of the stockpile of oral tradition. The repulsing of Apep. For example. until finally set to writing. of the wicked Khufu who constructed a mighty tomb in the shape of the sacred ben-ben. it was passed through the generations. the Westcar Papyrus relates three stories that mention the names of kings and princes in the Old Kingdom in chronological order. builder of the great pyramid. becoming part of the oral tradition. The eldest of these children. The first two magical feats recounted took place in the reigns of the Third Dynasty kings Zoser and Nebka. If the sky was clear. and the fourth in Khufu's own reign. the wife of a Heliopolitan priest. who were destined for the throne. would also be High Priest of Heliopolis. was another popular tale. but the sun was the victor and there was always a new dawn. the evil dragon-like creature that lurked on the horizon. The Egyptians told tales of the world around them: how the sky was held aloft by mountain peaks or pillars that rose
. conceived by the sungod Re by immaculate conception. The tales end with the prophecy of the imminent birth of three sons by Reddedet. a blood-red sunset showed a desperate battle between the forces of good and evil. at sunset. imaginative. it tried to stop the passage of the setting sun through the underworld. Whether or not this was based on propaganda by the central government is not important. it indicated an easy passage. asked his sons to tell him tales of wonders. the third in Senefru's reign. The purpose of the tale (to show that the kings of the Fifth Dynasty were sons of the sun-god) was preceded by appealing stories of wonder and magic. and of Menkaure who was. good and just and compensated the poor.Folk Tales and Myths
who helped the poor. Each evening. The text reveals that Khufu. In this form.
with a narrow belt holding in a large belly and heavy breasts. the god of fertility and water. Horus became healthy. like the cow that gave nourishment. casting life-giving rays upon the earth and causing the crops to grow again. of Isis his wife who taught them how to weave and grind grain for bread. until Horus was cured. their son. How Set. how the sky was a mother-goddess. They told how. and the sun-god resumed his journey across the heavens. just as the sun-god 'died' each evening and was reborn the next morning. and of Horus. in despair. darkness. Kheper. and the 'boat of millions of years' drawing the sun-god across the heavens heard her. And they told tales of their land: how the vegetation that died with the harvest was reborn when the grain sprouted. They told tales of Osiris who taught them how to produce grain for their nourishment. They described Hapi as a boatman or fisherman like many of their own. He informed her that the boat of the sun-god would stand still. and how the earth was Geb. there would be no food. They told many tales about their river: how Hapi the Nile-god dwelt in a grotto on an island where the Nile gushed out of the eternal ocean that surrounded the earth. secretly aspired to the throne of Osiris. darkness would reign. and from where he controlled its flow to Upper and Lower Egypt. who sprouted vegetation.184
above the range that formed the edge of the world.
. who had taken the form of a poisonous snake. reborn each year as their great ancestor Osiris had been given life after death. he was bitten by Set. and evil. when Horus was a child and was hidden with his mother Isis in the marshes of the Delta. and the people of the earth would suffer. who was the king who had power over the forces of nature. or was pushed by the beetle. how the sun was a disc of fire that sailed across the heavens in a boat. They told how the evil Set was overcome. the personification of drought. Re sent Thoth the moon-god to speak to Isis and offer help. Isis. called to the heavens for help. Nut.
Rural Festivals Rural festivals were a great source of pleasure to the masses. the bearing of the crop to the granary .
. and sometimes more. They were closely linked to the working patterns of the people: celebrations heralding the rebirth of the crop. In the Old Kingdom. These were not gestures of piety so much as a self-imposed duty. The magician Djedi. Many include elements of magic. or for a longer journey to be undertaken to the holy site of ancestors to make a sacrifice. described in the Westcar Papyrus as having performed feats of wonder. the people were not necessarily aware of it. a solution to a problem provided. was "one hundred and ten years. the solver of problems. a gratification.all were accompanied by hand-clapping. people suffered no apprehension of the hereafter. singing. the supernatural. and optimistic (since the nature-worship of Osiris had not yet developed into a 'cult of the dead.' there was no need for the growth of priestcraft to help defend against the awesome powers of the underworld). All festivals were of a religious nature in the sense that it was an appropriate time for pilgrimages to be made to the graves of the departed to present offerings." the moon-god who was the finder of secrets. hard-working (a reflection of a stable and organized government). and a familiar and recognized pattern of behavior. sometimes distorted or exaggerated form. a trick overcome. the reaping of the first sheaf.Rural Festivals
Myths and legends are a memory of the past carried forward in ever-elaborated. or a reality explained." and one who knew "the number of the secret chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth. In the Old Kingdom the people were confident (they had not yet known war or foreign occupation). the opening of a new canal. if some of the tales had long served a politico-religious purpose.
There would be no hunger or want. In this blessed place of peculiar fertility. they would breathe the fresh air along the river banks. paddle boats along the river.'
. fish in the bulrushes. along with the necessary provisions for the hereafter.186
When they died and were buried on the west bank of the Nile.' where they would live again as on earth. they were confident that they would go to the 'godly west. and enjoy fowling and hunting for ever and ever in the'field of reeds.
There were many reasons that made Egypt a country unique in providing an unbroken story of human progress longer than can be traced anywhere else on earth. it continued to influence the political and social institutions. Hieroglyphic writing was formalized. Tradition became so deeply rooted in the first eight centuries of ancient Egyptian history (from 3000 to 2145 BC) that despite the fall of the Old Kingdom (and. In addition. other 'great periods'). the title 'repeating of births' (that is. art forms codified. religious beliefs and rituals. art and architecture for thousands of years. a mythological tradition with strong political. In the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC). and a drama performed that traced the story of the creation of the physical world up to the triumph and coronation of the king. mortuary ritual standardized. This was based on the establishment of local cults at strategic positions by means of which royal monopoly over raw materials was assured. This paved the way for the emergence of a court-centered culture. Builders and artisans with an aptitude for translating a range of ideals into their artistic creations were employed by the state. social. They are based primarily on the security and sufficiency of the land with predictable seasons and no scarcity of basic resources. the second of Egypt's three great periods. A festival was planned in which distant communities could actively participate. as well as on the political organization of the country. renais-
. indeed. and religious ramifications was developed. and a national religion formulated.
and verses in praise of the Aten contained little that had not been sung in earlier verses to the sun-god Re. and the solar cult of the Pyramid Age. Stress was once again placed on maat. in a record dating to the reign of Senusret III we find the king searching the ancient records "to ascertain the form of a god. Indeed. that he might fashion him as he was formerly. He built his sun temples on the same lines as the Fifth Dynasty temples at Abu Sir. But the empire was lost." The king himself was still regarded as the 'son of the sun-god' and the traditional title ReHarakhte. was reminiscent of the description of the sun-god in the Pyramid Texts: "The arm of the sun beams. the country went into a period of decline. when they made the statues in their council. and there was grave discontent among the upper classes." The Saite rulers recopied ancient texts. The priests of Amun-Re came back to power and for a time basked in a period of unequaled splendor.188
sance) was applied to kingly rule.' "for lo. the Aten. and the kings maintained their control over the reunited country by reviving the methods practiced in the Old Kingdom: the construction or restoration of temples at cult centers. During the brief Twenty-sixth Dynasty revival known as the Sake Period (664-525 BC). The priests of Amun-Re of Thebes became extremely powerful. and there is even evidence that
. their words abide in writing. in order to establish their monuments on earth. Egypt entered an age of unparalleled wealth and grandeur in the New Kingdom (15 50-1070 BC). And the symbol of the Aten. conscientious effort was made to recapture 'the time of the ancestors. the performance of national festivals." After the war of liberation from the Hyksos and the creation of an empire. 'Horus of the Horizon. and the monopoly of trade. the orb of the sun. Akhenaten's revival was short-lived. When Akhenaten came to the throne he emphasized a connection between his worship of the living sun. open that thou may read and imitate knowledge.' was not at first discarded.
a time in which the hard core of Egyptian thought was formulated. and a time that the ancient Egyptians themselves regarded as a Golden Age.Conclusion
they excavated a gallery beneath the Step Pyramid at Saqqara to see how it was built. The Old Kingdom became a classic standard. a model throughout their history.
KAMIL. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. HAYES. Cairo: Egyptian International Publishing .
. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. FRANKFORT. ERMAN. EMERY. 1978.: The Pyramids of Egypt. MICHAEL A.: The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts.For Further Reading
EDWARDS. Tirard. Revised and updated. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. HENRI: Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. 1965. I. 1980.E. 1988.M. 1996. London: Penguin Books. W. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. New York: Dover Publications.: Most Ancient Egypt. New. ADOLF: Life in Ancient Egypt. WILLIAM C. HOFFMAN.: Archaic Egypt. 1961.Longman. Translated by H. Faulkner. 1971.O. R. JILL: Sakkara and Memphis: History and Guide. completely revised edition. 1969.: Egypt Before the Pharaohs.B.S.
D. London and New York: Routledge. RICE. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press. WEEKS.: Early Egypt: The Rise of Civilization in the Nile Valley. London: British Museum Press. TRIGGER. 1958.: Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. London: Methuen. London and New York: Penguin Books. M. A. Translated by Ian F.: Ancient Egypt: A Social History. SIEGFRIED: Egyptian Religion. KEMP.For Further Reading
KEES. 1979. TRIGGER. SPENCER. 1993. 1989. 1983. Egyptology and the Social Sciences..: The Pyramids and Temples ofGizeh. B. W. 1993. Keep. PETRIE. BJ. A.B.: Early Civilizations: Ancient Egypt in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.J. 1961. BRUCE G. O'CONNOR.: The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt. MICHAEL: Egypt's Making. MORENZ. 1990. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press. Morrow Chicago and London: Faber and Faber. 1960. LLOYD.
. STEVENSON SMITH.C. D. FLINDERS W. 1990. London and New York: Routledge. New and revised edition. BARRY J. Translated by Ann E. KEMP. HERMANN: Ancient Egypt: A Cultural Topography. KENT. London: History and Mysteries of Man.
31 Badarian culture 13. 28.63. 75 Dakhla Oasis 8 Den 46. 27. 33. 58. 63 Djet 42 Eastern Desert 5. 21-22.97. 7°. 52.45. 119 Asyut 8. 112.Index
Abu Ghurab 104 Abu Sir 99.123. 86> 95. 53> 55> 5 8 > 6°. 119. 107 cult centers 2.23 Battlefield Palette 27 ben-ben 92
Book of the Dead 111 Bubastis 86 Buto 16 Byblos 26. 69. 105. 22 animals 8. 105. 138 ankh 64.102. 51. no Dimeh 12 Djedi 185 Djedkare 106 Djer 42. 48. 83. 52.43 Africanus 36 Afterlife 128 Aha 42.49. 40. 106. 109. 172 Abydos 17. 52 Apep 183 Aswan 31. 119 tomb of 44 akh 35 Akhenaten 188 ancestor worship 2. 114 Atum-Re 89. 115 cults 50.17. 21. 9 Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus 155
. 90 Badari n. 85 Dahshur 74. 52.124 class-based society 17 Coffin Texts 111 Coptos 53. 9 Aten 188 Atum 89. 121 Byblos ship 121 Cataract region 120. 51. 56.19. 150 Anubis 33-34. 160.
112. i% 137 Elephantine 53.77. 36. 90. pyramid of 71 Khafre 80.91. 57. 97. 98.92.Index
Egyptian Museum 37. 112 Gebel al-Arak 21 Gerzean culture 22.8 3.92. 98.184 hu 96 Hyksos 188 Imhotep 65. 6061.114. 129. 123. 41. 151. 70. 106.89. 101.106. 55. 184
ka 51 Ka 28. 48.63 Khenti-Amentiu 53 Kheti 159 Khufu 5 7. 85.97. 27. 56.87 pyramid of 71 statue of 161 valley temple of 8 5 khamasin 10 Khasekhem(wy) 45. 57.40. 155 Great Pyramid 74. 91 Isis 90. 83. 23-24. 28.130.183 pyramid of 71
Hammamiya n Harishef 52 Harkhuf 125.81. 49. 156 Giza Plateau Mapping Project 74 Great House 3.11. 127.95.114
. 157 Hierakonpolis i.9. J 54 Heliopolis Doctrine 89. 149
Helwan 45.62. 148. 59. 129 Hemaka 56 Herodotus 6.99. 79.105. 176 Hathor 86. 121 Heb Sed see Sed festivals Heliopolis 16. 1 64 Great Royal Wife 99.15 o. 146 Hetepheres 150. no. 69. 84. 3.12.109. 74.61.101. 11 Horus 21. 20 hieroglyphic script 28 High Dam at Aswan 6.22 fellahin 19 Flinders Petrie i
Geb 89.97. 96.79.106. 164. 131. 148.13. 119. 63 Ka-aper 146 Kagemni 134 Kanufer (son of Senefru) 75 Khaba. 113. 76. 124 Ennead 112 Fayyum 8. 52 Giza 79.14.115. 65.91.
20.3. 60 mastaba 24 Mefdet 49 Meidum 22 Memphis 36. 95.45. 30 Nofir 146 Nubia 25. 26-27. Luxor 17 Maadi 16. *8. 105 Omari 18.104.22.168.36-38. 135 Orion 94 Osiris 22. 90. 78 Neferirkare 102. 151 Naqada i. 51. 19. 112. 1 1 Lebanon 26 Lower Egypt 5. 151 Nekhen i. 149 Nekhbet 61 Nekhebu 105. 22.214.171.124. 103. 129. 41. 63 Nekure 159 Nekure son of Khafre 77 Nemathap 149 nesw-bit 46. 105.27. 119. 17. 112. 147. 37. 14 Meryetneith 149 Mesopotamia 21.123. 89.26. 180 Meresankh III 93 Merimda n.28.80.184 flood 10. 85. 21-22.170. 149
Narmer 1. 43. 53. 42. 37. 70.
IIO. 20-22.99. I I I .60. 17.39. 124 Mereruka 139.77.120. J ^3 pyramid of 71 statue of 161 Merenre 108. 97 Nyuserre 102. 3.194
valley temple of 84 Kom Ombo 8 Lake Qarun 9.28. 26 Methen 132.182 natron 32. 113 Menes 1. 94.11.110 Meni 143 Menkaure 86.31. 157 nebty 46. 105.32. 62.123 Palestine 25
. 50.37. 154 Memphite Drama 48.110. 60. 123-26 Nut 89.36. 156 Neith 52 Neithhotep 45. 78 neter 52 Netjereperef (son of Senefru) 75 Nile 5. 148
Palermo Stone 48. 97.11718. in. 25 maat 96 Manetho 3. 27.
no. temple of 39 Shabaka Stone 112. 89. 99. 147.111. 122 pyramid of Meidum 71 PyramidTexts 48.53. 101. 103 Seheil Island 126 serdab 33
serekh 38. 112. 52. 179 Towns Palette 28
. no Red Sea 17 Sabni 141 Sahure 109.14244. 39. 165 seasons n Sed festivals 46.92. 175. 176 Per-ibsen 60 Petti 82 Ptah 50.49. 85 Re 62.56-58.139.94. 92. 6869. 60-61. 62. 152-53. 97. 60 Set 21.140. 28 Tell al-Kabir 27 Tell Samara 27 Teti 151 Thinis 27 Thoth 97. 42. 164.83. 130. 114.tombof 134. 65.151. 102. 126. 104. no Ti. 184 Seti I.128. no Shunet al-Zibib 119 sia 96 Sinai 26 Sohag 10 Son of Re 101 Sothis 30 Sphinx 86-88 Step Pyramid of Saqqara 64-67. 115. 168.189 Tasa n Tefnut 89 TellBasta 86 Tell al-Fara'un 26 Tell Farkha 27 Tell Ibrahim Awad 27.162.91. 135 pyramids of Giza 71 Rahotep 137 Ramses II 39. 62. 68.140. 113. 121 Saqqara 44. 173. 180 Ptolemy II 37 Punt 117.142 Shamm al-Nasim 147 Shepseskhaf 99 Sheshat 49 Shu 89. 65. 112. 57 Pe 41 Pepi I 106-8. 114 Ptah-Shepses 105 Ptahhotep 138. 151 Pepi II 108.Index
Palette of Narmer 3 7. 28.
Zoser 64-69. 56. 71. 8. 6. 26.95. 27.110 Two Lands 36. J I 4 Userkhaf 100. n. 105 WadiDigla 25 Wadi Hammamat 117
Weni 126. 25. 151 Wepwawet 126.96.36.199. no
.177. 67 Weshptah 156 Westcar Papyrus 57. 36.95 Umm al-Qaab 43 Unas 3. 91. 82. 119 Upper Egypt 5.196
Tura 79 Turin Papyrus 3. 70.185 Western Desert 5.91.