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Ancient Civilizations

Historical Overview
Ancient Egypt was the birthplace of
one of the World’s greatest civilizations. It
was far more advanced than European
tribes of the same time period, who were
still in the Stone Age.
Located in the northeast corner of
Africa, Egypt grew to be an important
civilization for over three hundred years
because of the Nile River.
Egypt was originally divided into two
kingdoms: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.

Egypt: Daily Life

Ancient Egypt was a narrow strip of land along the Nile River.
Each year the river flooded its banks, leaving behind a fertile
fringe of soil they called "the Black Land," while the desert all
around the Nile valley was called "the Red Land." It was here
the Ancient Egyptians built their homes.

Family Life
The people of ancient Egypt highly valued family life. They treasured children
and regarded them as a great blessing. In the lower class families, the mother
raised the children. The wealthy and nobility, had slaves and servants that
helped take care of the children by attending to their daily needs. If a couple had
no children, they would pray to the gods and goddesses for help. They would
also place letters at the tombs of dead relatives asking them to use their
influence with the gods. Magic was also used as an attempt to have children. In
event that a couple still could not conceive a child, adoption was also an option.

Peasant girls usually married around the age 12, the boys were a few years older than the girls.
Girls of more affluent families married a few years older. The marriages were arranged by parents
of the children although some young people chose their own spouse. While the ordinary man
normally had one wife, the kings always had several. Before the marriage ceremony, an agreement
was signed by the couple. The pre-nuptial agreement stated that the wife was to receive an
allowance from her husband. The contract also stated that any material good the wife brought into
the marriage was hers to keep if the marriage ended for any reason. Both could own land separate
from each other but the wife usually let her husband administer her land along with his.
Divorce was an option, although it was not common. If a husband treated his wife badly, she
would go to her family for help.
The divorce was a simple procedure consisting of making a simple statement to annul the marriage
in front of witnesses. The wife was given custody of the children and was free to remarry.

Food and Cooking
• Cooking was done in clay ovens as well as over open fires. Wood was used
for fuel, even though it was scarce. Food was baked, boiled, stewed, fried,
grilled, or roasted. What is known about kitchen utensils and equipment is
from the items that have been found in the tombs. Storage jars, bowls, pots,
pans, ladles, sieves, and whisks were all used in the preparation of food.
Most of the commoners used dishes that were made of clay, while the
wealthy used dishes made of bronze, silver, and gold.
• Beer was the most popular beverage, and bread was the staple food in the
Egyptian diet. The beer was made with barley. The barley was left to dry,
and then baked into loaves of bread.

• Cleansing rituals were very important to the Egyptians. Most people
bathed daily in the river or out of a water basin at home. The wealthy
had a separate room in their home to bath. Servants would pour jugs of
water over their master (the equivalent of a modern day shower). The
runoff water drained away through a pipe that led to the garden.
Instead of washing with soap, a cleansing cream was used. This cream
was made from oil, lime, and perfume.

• Hair styles were very similar to that of today's. The common folk wore
their hair short. Young girls usually kept their hair in pigtails while
boys had shaved heads, except for one braided lock worn to one side.
Wigs were worn by both men and women. The wigs were made of
sheep's wool or human hair for decoration and for protection from the
heat. Wigs were usually worn at parties and official functions. Hair
pieces were also added to real hair to enhance it. When not in use,
wigs were stored in special boxes on a stand inside the home.

• Everyone in Egypt wore some type of jewelry. Rings and amulets
were especially worn to ward off the evil spirits and injury. Both men
and women wore pierced earrings, armlets, bracelets, and anklets. The
rich wore jeweled or beaded collars, called a wesekh, necklaces, and
pendants. For the rich, jewelry was made of gold, silver, or electrum
(gold mixed with silver) and inlaid with semi-precious stones of
turquoise, lapis lazuli (a deep blue stone), and carnelian (a copper or
reddish orange stone). The poorer people wore jewelry that was made
of copper or faience (made by heating powdered quartz).

• Egyptian clothing styles did not change much throughout ancient
times. Clothes were usually made of linens ranging from coarse to fine
texture. During the Old and Middle kingdoms, men usually wore a
short skirt called a kilt. Women wore a straight fitting dress held up by
straps. The wealthy men wore pleated kilts, and the older men wore a
longer kilt. When doing hard work, men wore a loin cloth, and women
wore a short skirt. Children usually ran around nude during the
summer months, while in the winter, wraps and cloaks were worn.
Noblewomen sometimes wore beaded dresses.

Housing and Furniture
• Egyptian homes were made from bricks of sun dried mud, called
adobe, because wood was scarce. A nobleman's home was divided into
three areas: a reception area, a hall, and the private quarters. The
windows and doors on the house were covered with mats to keep out
the flies, dust, and heat. The inside walls were decorated with wall
hangings made of leather, and the floors were covered with tile.
Sometimes there was a room on the roof with three walls where the
family slept on hot summer nights.

• The commoners lived in town houses usually two to three stories high.
The first story of the town home was usually reserved for businesses,
while the second and third floors provided the family living space.
Many people slept on the roof during the summer to keep cool.
Sewage had to be disposed of by each household in pits, in the river,
or in the streets. Most all people had some furniture consisting mostly
of a stool, small boxes for jewelry and cosmetics, chests for clothing,
pottery jars, and oil lamps. Each home was equipped with at least one
fly catcher.

• Egyptians spent their spare time doing a wide variety of things, and
many of these activities are shown on the tomb walls. Dramatizations
were held in the temples, but the most important source of
entertainment & relaxation was the Nile river. Activities on the river
include fishing, river boat outings, swimming, hunting crocodiles and
hippopotamuses, and boat games where two teams of men in boats
with long poles, would try to push each other into the water. Hunting
in the desert was another great pastime, especially for the noblemen.
Men first hunted on foot, however, by the time of the New Kingdom,
men used horses and chariots.

• In the pre-civilization time, people found living in the Nile River
Valley provided them a safe environment. The Nile River Valley was
a rich area because of the annual flooding of the river. Over time the
various groups organized themselves into two separate governments
called the Upper Kingdom and the Lower Kingdom. About 3100 BC.,
Menes, the ruler of Upper Egypt, conquered the Lower Egyptian
Kingdom. Menes united and became the first ruler of both Upper and
Lower Egypt.

• Many officials were appointed to supervise the details of the government. The
most important was the vizier, also known as the Chief Overseer (he was like
a Prime Minister) His job was to carry out the orders and decisions of the
pharaoh, and he acted as a diplomat in the royal court, was in charge of tax
collection and public works.
• Under the vizier were the governors who controlled the local nomes into
which Egypt was divided. Beneath the governors were the scribes and
overseers. The scribes were the keepers of the records. The overseers
supervised the farming of the land, and the peasants. Government and religion
were inseparable in Egypt.

 Pharaoh was believed by the
Egyptians to be the supreme
ruler chosen by the gods to lead
his people. They believed that
when a man became a pharaoh,
he also became a god. To keep
the bloodline of the gods pure,
pharaohs often married their
sisters, mothers, and cousins.

A Biblical Overview of Egypt
• Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, was the favorite child. His
father made him a coat of many colors. His brothers were
jealous of him. They were going to kill him, but sold him as a
slave. He found favor with the Pharaoh Potiphar. He
interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh. Joseph’s brothers came to
Egypt to buy grain where they ran into Joseph. They did not
recognize him. He tested them and revealed his identity. He
forgave them for sending him away. He said it was God who
sent him to Egypt to save people’s lives.

•When a new Pharaoh ruled Egypt, he was worried that the
Israelites would rise up against him. He decided that every
baby boy should be thrown into the Nile River. One woman
was determined to save her son. She kept the baby boy
hidden for three months, then she put him in a basket she
had made and let him float down the river. The Pharaoh’s
daughter found the baby boy and called him Moses, which
means “pulled out or the water”.
•Moses was commanded by God to ask the Pharaoh to release
the people of Egypt. He obeyed God’s command and asked
Pharaoh to let his people go. God knew that Pharaoh would
deny the command and he did. God sent ten plagues to Egypt
to curse the land.

Egyptian Religious Beliefs
• Belief that many gods and goddesses ruled the world and the afterlife.
Amon-Re was the sun god.
Osiris was the god of the underworld
and of the Nile.
• The pharaoh was believed to be a god as well as a monarch.
• Belief in eternal life after death.
Relied on the Book of the Dead to help them through the
Practiced mummification, the preservation of the body for use in the
next life.
• They built temples and shrines to honor their gods.

Man with a ram-head
A ram
Man wearing an ostrich plumed hat

Amun was one of the most powerful gods in ancient

At the height of Egyptian civilisation he was
called the 'King of the Gods'.

Amun was important throughout the history of ancient Egypt.

However, when Amun was combined with the sun god Ra he
was even more powerful. He was then called Amun-Ra.
A large and important temple was built at Thebes to honour

A sun disk with rays which end in hands

Aten was a form of the sun god Ra.

During the reign of Akhenaten, the Aten was made the 'king' of
the gods

'The All' or 'Perfection'
Man with the double crown

Atum was a creator god.

The ancient Egyptians believed that Atum was the first god to exist on

The ancient Egyptians believed that Atum rose from the waters of chaos
(Nun) and created all the gods.

Woman with the head of a cat

Bastet was a protective goddess.

* Bastetwas usually seen as a gentle protective goddess.

However, she sometimes appeared with the head of a lioness
to protect the king in battle. * Bastet was one of the
daughters of the sun god, Ra. A great temple was built in her
honour at Bubastis in the Delta.
* The cat was a symbol of Bastet. The ancient Egyptians made
many statues of cats like this one to honour Bastet.


The ancient Egyptians believed that temples were the homes of the gods and
goddesses. Every temple was dedicated to a god or goddess and he or she was
worshipped there by the temple priests and the pharaoh.

The large temple buildings were made of stone so that they would last forever.
Their walls were covered with scenes that were carved onto the stone then
brightly painted. These scenes showed the pharaoh fighting in battles and
performing rituals with the gods and goddesses.

Three Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt



Pharaohs organized a Powerful pharaohs created

strong central state, were Large drainage project a large empire
absolute rulers, and were created arable farmland. that reached the Euphrates
considered gods. River.
Traders had contacts with
Egyptians built pyramids at Middle East and Crete.
Giza. Hatshepsut
Corruption and encouraged trade.
Power struggles, crop rebellions were
failures, and cost of common. Ramses II expanded
pyramids contributed to Egyptian rule to Syria.
the collapse of the Old Hyksos invaded &
Kingdom. occupied the delta Egyptian power
region. declined.

• Pyramids
 There were about 80 along the banks of the Nile River.
 The largest is the Great Pyramid, built by King Khufu in about 2600 B.C.
 It stands about 481 feet high and covers 13 acres.
 The pyramids functioned as huge burial tombs for the Egyptians’ dead pharaohs
and queens.
• Ship-building
 They used the Nile River like a highway to transport people and goods to
foreign lands.
 The first ships were made out of bundles of papyrus reeds tied together to make
a canoe-like vessel.
 As the ship trade flourished, the hulls of the ships were made of cedar, and oars
and sails were added for greater speed.
• Hieroglyphics
 These were pictures and symbols that served as one of the first written
languages in the world.
• Calendar
 Calendars were developed in 4241 B.C. with 365 days in a year.
 It was based on the flooding of the Nile River.
 New Years was on June 1, not January 1!

Class System in Ancient Egypt
Earthly leader; considered a god


Served gods and goddesses

Fought pharaoh’s wars


Made furniture, jewelry & fabrics for
pharaohs & nobles, & provided for other needs


Worked in the fields and served the pharaoh

Daily Life of Workers
 The poor worked long hours for goods that they could exchange in the
marketplace for the products they needed.
 Agriculture was a major trade and many workers were farmers.
 Boys learned a trade from their fathers, and girls were taught to care for
the home and family by their mothers.
 Women and girls wore straight, sheath-like dresses of rough,
unbleached linen.
 Men and boys wore short cloth kilts.
 Their homes were usually one-story made out of sun-dried brick. There
would be a basement and four rooms. They had little furniture. Stairs
led to the flat rooftop so that the family could enjoy the cool night air
after the sun went down.


Craftsmen in ancient Egypt were usually trained and skilled laborers.
They were often well-respected in the community and had a
comfortable lifestyle. Yet every craftsman's lifestyle and social
standing depended on the quality of his skills and experience. Thus,
some craftsmen had more difficult lives than others.
• Most craftsmen worked in workshops with other craftsmen. Objects
for temples or the pharaoh were made in temple workshops or palace
workshops. Objects for ordinary people were made by local craftsmen
in small workshops.

Slaves & Servants

• The lowest class of Egyptian society, these

workers were often foreigners. They worked
in the household or in the fields. Slaves could
be bought and sold like property. People
could also sell themselves into slavery and
buy themselves out of it.

Daily life of the Wealthy

 Men were busy all day as merchants, trading along the Nile River.
Others supervised the daily workings of gigantic farms.
 Many of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Egypt were priests.
 Boys were taught to read and write.
 Women could own land, run businesses, testify in court, and bring charges against men.
 Women oversaw the running of the households and gave the servants instructions for daily
menus and child care.
 Children were allowed much playtime. Girls practiced singing and dancing. Boys wrestled
and played army.
 Women and girls wore straight dresses of beautiful lined and a lot of jewellery. At parties,
they wore cones of incense on their heads that melted slowly giving off a pleasant smell.
 Men and boys wore linen kilts
 Both men and women wore eye make-up made from black ashes.
 Their homes were brick and wood containing many rooms, as well as walled garden and a
shrine for a favourite god.


• Because the pharaoh could not perform

ceremonies at all the temples throughout Egypt, he
appointed high priests to carry out the sacred
rituals at each temple. Priests often passed down
their positions from father to son. They enjoyed
great power and wealth in Egyptian society.

Life after Death
• The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife of beauty,
peace, and contentment.
• Since most of their lives were filled with hard work, they
looked forward to death as a release from this lifetime.
• They believed their souls would need to use their bodies
again, so the Egyptians invented a process to embalm
their bodies called mummification.
• Wealthy could afford better mummification than the poor

Steps in Mummification
• After the body was washed and covered with scented oils, the liver and kidneys
were removed and placed in jars that would be put in the coffin later.
• The brains were removed carefully, but the heart was left in the body because
they believed it was the mind and would be needed immediately in the next life.
• Then the body was wrapped in either linen or rough cotton strips and a sticky
tar-like mixture was poured over the cloth strips forming a protective outer
covering for the body.
• When the mixture hardened, the mummy was placed in a wooden coffin, which
was carved and painted to resemble a person.
• Then the mummy was laid in its tomb, along with many objects the Egyptians
thought it would need for daily use in the next lifetime, such as tools, jewellery,
furniture, religious statues, and food.

Painting and Sculpture

• Egyptians reached a highly advanced level of sculpture.

Beautiful figures sculpted from wood, ivory, bronze, gold, and
turquoise have been found in tombs.
• One of the most famous sculptures in the world is the head of
Queen Nefertiti.
• Another famous work of art is the Great Sphinx, a huge statue
of a man’s head on a lion’s body, which guards the pyramids
near Giza.

Ancient Picture Writing . . .

• Hieroglyphs , one of the oldest forms of writing, are found on

monuments almost 5000 years old! There were around 700 different
hieroglyphic signs -- no wonder only about 1% of the population knew
how to read and write! Some signs, or pictures, stand for words; others
simply stand for a sound and are joined with other signs to make a
word. Hieroglyphs were carved on buildings and written on papyrus
documents. For letters, business contracts, and other documents,
scribes used another form of writing called Hieratic . Later, an even
quicker form of writing developed called Demotic .

King Tut
• Tutankhamen, or King Tut, for short was called “The Boy King”.
• He became pharaoh when he was nine years old. During the year 1350
• He lived in a beautiful palace in the city of Thebes. He had servants
who did everything for him. They believed him to be a god.

• A typical day for him began in the audience chamber of his palace,
where he sat on a throne of gold, silver, and jewels, and wore a heavy
gold headpiece shaped like a flame. Ambassadors from foreign
countries came to bow before him and bring him riches. Egyptians
came to him to settle their disputes. He led his people in a three-hour a
day worship ceremony. He had a formal dinner in the evening, then
visited with his wife, Ankheshamen, who was two years younger than
• King Tut died when he was only nineteen years old. No one really
knows if he died from an accident, illness, or his enemies. His burial
chamber was found by Britain's Howard Carter in 1922. The treasures
of King Tut’s tomb can be seen today in Cairo, Egypt.

• AMULET: A piece of jewelry used to ward off evil, a good luck charm.
• ARCHAEOLOGIST: A person who studies a civilization by examining the artifacts left
behind. These remains may be tools, weapons, jewelry, and even the bodies of its people.
• CARTOGRAPHER: A person who makes maps.
• CARTOUCHE: A carved inscription of a pharaoh's name. The inscription is contained in
an oval symbolizing an official scroll.
• CATARACT: A waterfall. There were six cataracts on the Nile River in ancient Egypt.
• DELTA: Deposited soil at the mouth of a river.
• DESHRET: An Egyptian word meaning the red land, the desert.
• HIEROGLYPH: One of the symbols used in Egyptian writing.
• KEMET: An Egyptian word meaning the black earth, the fertile soil of the Nile River

LOWER EGYPT: The area of Egypt north of Thebes, including the delta.
MUMMY: A preserved or embalmed body.
PAPYRUS: A reed that grows on the banks of the Nile river. It is weaved into
baskets and sandals. Most importantly, it is still used to make paper.
PYRAMID: A building or object having four triangular sides meeting at point on
the top.
SARCOPHAGUS: A stone coffin.
TOMB: A structure for the burial of the dead.
UPPER EGYPT: The area of Egypt south of Thebes.

Questions to Review

1) Egypt is located in which continent?

2) What is the famous river in Egypt?
3) What were the name of the three period of times into which Egypt
was divided?
4) Name the four most remembered accomplishments from the
5) Briefly name the steps of mummification. You may list them.
6) How old was King Tut when he became Pharaoh?
7) What is the reed that grows on the banks of the Nile river. It is weaved into baskets
and sandals. Most importantly, it is still used to make paper.
8) A stone coffin is?
9) A piece of jewelry used to ward off evil, a good luck charm is?

10. Which of the following was an achievement of the Middle Kingdom?
a) The Egyptians drained land for farming.
b) The Egyptians built the pyramids. c)
Ramses II expanded Egyptian rule to Syria. d) The Egyptian
empire reached the Euphrates.

• 1- Africa
• 2- Nile River
• 3- Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom
• 4- Pyramids, Ship-building, Hieroglyphics, Calendar
• 5-
• 6- Nine (9)
• 7- Papyrus
• 8- Sarcophagus
• 9- Amulet
• 10- A