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Egyptian Civilization


It is an ancient civilization of North Africa concentrated along the lower reaches of River Nile.
The Nile river rises form the lakes of central Africa as a White Nile and from the mountains of
Ethiopia as a Blue Nile. The white and Blue Nile meets at Khartoum and flow together
northward to the Nile delta, where the 4000 mile course of this river spills into Mediterranean
Sea. The Nile flows from south to north.

Less than two inches of rain per year falls in the delta and rain is relatively unknown in other
parts of Egypt. Most of the land is uninhabitable. These geographical factors have determined the
character of Egyptian civilization. People could farm only along the banks of the Nile, where
arid sand meets the fertile soil. Of course each summer the Nile swells as the rains pour down
and snow melts down on the mountains. The river overflows its banks and floods the land with
fresh water and deposits a thick layer of rich alluvial soil. The land would then yield two harvests
before winter. This yearly flood determined more than just the agriculture needs of early Egypt.
It also determined the lifecycle of society and helped to create the world view of Ancient
Egyptian civilization.

Uniting Egypt (the History of Egypt begins with Menes)

 The civilization began with the unification of upper and Lower Egypt.
 A number of races such as Libyans, (descendants of early European man) Semites (from
Asia) and Nubians (from the warmer parts of Africa) gathered along the Valley of Nile
river probably as early as 5000 BC.
 This mixed population settled in two separate areas known as Upper Egypt and Lower
Egypt until in about 3100 B.C.
 Menes, the king of Upper Egypt invaded Lower Egypt joining the two into a united
kingdom. By doing this, Menes establishes the first Egyptian Dynasty.

The Old Kingdom 2700-2200 B.C.

 The Old Kingdom was a period of great prosperity.

 During the early centuries of united Egypt, Upper Egypt and -Lower Egypt kept their
identities separate. But in time, strong national government was built.
 This time is also called the pyramid age, because the great pyramids were built during
this time.
 Egyptian kings came to be known as Pharaohs and were considered as gods who ruled
over all Egyptians. Pharoah was political as well as religious head.
 As god king performed many duties believed to benefit the entire kingdom such as
cutting the first ripe grain to ensure a good harvest.
 As a political leader, the king wielded absolute power, issuing commands regarding the
law of land. , but used advisors to help them.
 The Chief advisor to the Pharaoh was the Vizier.
 Through vizier and other bureaucrats king controlled trade and collected taxes
 Pharaoh was seen as divine, or godlike. The people believed that the Pharaoh controlled
many things including the flooding of the Nile itself.
 King indirectly supervised building of dams, canals and storehouses for grain.

The Pyramids

 Pyramids were built during the Old Kingdom

 They were designed to be tombs for the Pharaoh
 Originally there were step pyramids, and then the pyramids evolved into the ones that are
at Giza
 The Pyramids were designed to protect the mummies of the Pharaohs.


To preserve the body so that the soul could stay in the afterlife, the Egyptians perfected the
process of mummification. Mummification was expensive, however, and during the Old
Kingdom was a luxury of the rich.
 First the body was washed and the internal organs including the lungs, stomach, liver and
intestines were removed. The heart was left in the body because the Egyptians viewed it
as the center of emotion.
 The Brain was removed through the nose and thrown away. The Egyptians didn’t think it
served any purpose. The Body was packed in Natron (a drying agent) and left for 70
days. After that the body was wrapped in linen with tree resin for glue. Magical amulets
and other treasures were buried with the body.
 Writing began in Egypt around 3000 B.C.
 There were different types of writing for different occasions.
 Hieroglyphics were ideograms used for formal writing
 Hieratic Script (Demotic) was a simplified version of Egyptian writing.
 The Egyptians carved their writing on stone, or wrote on papyrus, a form of paper made
from a reed that grew along the Nile River.
 The Rosetta Stone For a long time archaeologists were unable to translate hieroglyphics.
The discovery of the Rosetta stone allowed for the translation of Hieroglyphics.
 It contained the same passage in three languages Hieroglyphics, Greek, Demotic

The Middle Kingdom

 After the fall of the Old Kingdom there was a period of chaos for about 150 years as
ambitious leaders fought each other for control of Egypt.
 A new dynasty took over in Egypt, bringing a period of stability.
 Egypt expanded into Nubia to its south. Rulers became so powerful that brought local
government under their control.
 Kings of this dynasty Supported irrigation projects that added thousands of acres to the
land already under cultivation.
 The government seized new property for Egypt by sent troops into Palestine and Syria
and sent traders to Kush, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Crete.
 Canal was constructed between Nile and Red sea as a result Egyptians traded along the
coasts of the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.
 In the kingdom the Pharaoh took new interest in the common people. The Pharaoh also
implemented many public works projects.
 In the 1700 BC, local leaders began to challenge the kings’ power shattering the peace
and prosperity of Middle kingdom.
 At the same time, Egypt faced the invasion by Hyksos ( a people from western Asia)
 Hyksos easily conquered Egypt as he had new tools for war such as bronze weapons and
Horse-drawn chariots unlike Egyptians who fought on foot with copper and stone
 Hyksos established new dynasty that ruled for about 110 years.

The New Kingdom 1567-1085 B.C

 Eventually the Egyptians learned the use of Hyksos weapons and adopted horse-drawn
chariots to overthrow the Hyksos and established the New Kingdom.
 The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom devoted their energies to rebuilding Egypt and
reopening the avenues of trade.
 Swift and large armies were used for conquests of father east and in rest of Africa then
had the kings of Middle kingdom and Egypt became the most powerful state in
Southwest Asia.


 Around 1480 BC Queen Hatshepsut came to power.

 She was the daughter of a Pharaoh and the mother and regent of a Pharaoh. She took
power for herself.
 She built many monuments and temples which included a great funeral temple and a
tomb into the valley of kings.


 Akhenaton resumed power about 1370 BC

 Akhenaton wanted Egypt to worship the god of the sun, Aton, as the only god.
 He closed all of the temples to the other gods and caused major social and political
 He and his wife, Nefertiti, become unpopular rulers.
 After his death Tutankhamen (King Tut) restored the old ways of worship.

King Tut:Tutankhamen

 Became Pharaoh after the death of Akhenaton.

 Restored the old religious practices
 Has the only tomb to be found intact

Ramses II (The Great)

 Ramses II, reigned from 1279 until 1213 B.C. One of the longest reigns in
Egyptian History
 He sought to increase the size of the empire and went on many military conquests,
but he was unsuccessful. He was only able to gain the area of Palestine.


 Egypt fell into a period of decline and foreign invasion.

 Egypt was ruled by many different people and eventually defeated by the
 The last Pharaoh of Egypt was Cleopatra VII, who committed suicide rather than
surrender to the Romans.

Life in Ancient Egypt


 In cities upper class family was consisted of husband, wife, and children. Outside the city
and poor families also included grandparents and other relatives


Political Framework
 The pharaoh was at the top of social hierarchy. Next to him, the most powerful officers
were viziers, the executive head of the bureaucracy.
 Under them were the high priests followed by the royal overseers (administrators) who
ensured that 42 districts governors carried out the order of Pharoah.
 At the bottom of the hierarchy were scribes, Artisans, farmers and laborers.

Writing Development

Throughout their more than 3.000 year long history, the Ancient Egyptians used three kinds of
writings to write religious and secular texts: hieroglyphic, hieratic and, from the 25th Dynasty
on, demotic.

Egyptian Hieroglyphics

The word hieroglyph originates from the Greek word heiros meaning sacred and glyphs meaning
sculpture. This was due to the fact that they were almost exclusively inscribed on the walls of
sacred temples and public monuments.

 Writing began in Egypt around 3000 B.C.

 There were different types of writing for different occasions.
 Hieroglyphics were ideograms used for formal writing
 Hieratic Script (Demotic) was a simplified version of Egyptian writing.
 The Egyptians carved their writing on stone, wood, or wrote on papyrus, a form of paper
made from a reed that grew along the Nile River.
 The Rosetta Stone For a long time archaeologists were unable to translate hieroglyphics.
The discovery of the Rosetta stone allowed for the translation of Hieroglyphics. It
contained the same passage in three languages Hieroglyphics, Greek, Demotic


 The word papyrus comes from the Greek word payros, which is believed to have come
from the ancient Egyptian word papuro which means "the royal". This name is believed
to have originated due to the great monopoly the Egyptians had in the manufacturing of
 The writing medium most common to the ancient Egyptians was papyrus.
 This paper-like material was easy to use, handle, transport, and make.

Egyptian Society

 Egypt had a hierarchical social structure

Daily Life

 The people had a positive attitude toward life.

 Monogamy was the rule, and women had more rights in Ancient Egypt than the rest of
the Ancient world.
 Women could own property, business, and request a divorce.

Life in Ancient Egypt


 In cities & upper class husband, wife, children. Outside the city & poor families = also
included grandparents & other relatives

Women status in ancient Egypt

 Relatively high status for that time in history.

 Could buy and sell property.
 Could seek divorce.
 Property inherited through female line.
 Role of wife and mother was important.
 Girls did not attend school.
 A women status increased when she had children.
 Sometime women were considered property but were treated kindly.
 Queen might rule with Pharaoh.(A women was Pharaoh)
 If Pharaoh had more than one wife, first wife was more important.
 Her son would be the next Pharoah.
 Conducted legal business and deals etc.
 Both males and females attended social occasions together.
 Possible occupations were servant, laundrywomen, shop manager, singer, dancer, and
worked in the fields with husband.


 Very important to early Egyptians

 Polytheistic believed in more than one god
 Gods were often half human, half animal
 Believed in an afterlife – burial rituals reflect this


 The creator of all things was either Re (Ra), Amun, Ptah, Khnum or Aton (also
Atum, Aten), depending on which version of the myth was currently in use.
 The heavens were represented by Hathor, Bat, and Horus. Osiris was an earth god
as was Ptah. The annual flooding of the Nile was Hapi.
 Storms, evil and confusion were from Seth. His counterpart was Ma'at, who
represented balance, justice and truth.
 The moon was Thoth and Khonsu.
 Re, the sun god, took on many forms, and transcended most of the borders that
contained the other gods. The actual shape of the sun, the disk (or, aten), was
deified into another god, Aten.

The Afterlife

 The Egyptians had a very clear idea of the afterlife. They took great care to bury
their dead according to convention and supplied the grave with things that the
departed would need for a pleasant life after death.
 The pharaoh and some nobles had their bodies preserved in a process of
mummification. Their tombs were decorated with paintings, food was provided at
burial and after. Some tombs even included full sized sailing vessels for the
voyage to heaven and beyond.
 At first, only pharaohs were thought to achieve eternal life, however, nobles were
eventually included, and finally all Egyptians could hope for immortality.

Egyptian Advancements in Math and Science

 The Egyptians used math to calculate area and volume in building the pyramids and in
surveying flooded land for farming.
 The Egyptians developed an accurate solar (365 day) calendar.
 The practice of mummification and embalming led to advances in medical knowledge
including how to set broken bones, wounds, and disease.
 Education
 Original purpose of the school was to train priests, they were taught reading
writings, math and religious rituals.
 Eventually temple school provided more general education.
 Usually school attended only by the wealthy.
 Girls did not attend school.(taught domestic skills at home)
 Language remained a mystery until discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 (Greek
writing matched the hieroglyphs on the Stone)
 Students took notes on scraps of pottery_ papyrus was expensive and only used
by advanced students.