"Searching For Eternal Life"
Egypt is one of the most mysterious civilizations. Culturally and artistically it is very different from Ancient Mesopotamia and Greece. Ancient Egypt is argued to be older than Mesopotamia. It is considered the oldest civilization to have ever existed spanning from 3200 B.C. to 30 B.C. with the death of Cleopatra. When the Greek traveler Herodotus finally visited Egypt in 450 B.C. Egypt was a distinctly advanced civilization. Egyptians could boast mathematical prowess in engineering, achievement in medicine, hieroglyphs as one of the first writing forms of the ancient world, and a unique artistic and architectural approach to city design and temple construction. Hence, the pyramids of Egypt are know world wide for their austere beauty and distinctive form. The binding factor of Egyptian achievement and inspiration is their funerary culture. The religious practices of the Egyptians is considered by many to be strange and mysterious. Magical spells, mummies, megalithic tombs called pyramids held the preserved bodies of Egyptian kings and queens called pharaohs waiting for ressurection. However, this funerary culture, unique to Egypt, was integral to the social structure, government, art, and architecture of Ancient Egypt. The funerary culture of Ancient Egypt could have never come into fruition with the Nile river. The Nile provides life to Egypt, a land accosted by desert and a harsh unforgiving climate.
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The Nile River
The Nile River is the the source of life of Egyptian civilization. It was necessary for Egypt to become a civilization. Its annual floods and rich black silt brought stability and agriculture to a people surrounded by desert. The floods of the Nile enriched the soil making it ideal for farming. The black soil left from the flooding was called by The Egyptians "The Black Land." The deserts outside of The Black Land were called "The Red Land" by the Egyptians. The river also provided fresh water and a system of transportation.
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The Social Structures of Egypt
A representation of Egyptian social structure
Ancient Egypt is composed of various social structures that were bound by the religious beliefs of the Egyptians and the power of the pharaoh. At the top you had the pharaoh. Followed by the viziers, nobles, and priests. Then there was a middle class that was composed of shop keepers, merchants, and artisans. Towards the bottom of the triangle you had farmers and herders. At the very bottom of the Egyptian social classes were unskilled workers and slaves.
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The pharaoh was the most powerful person in Egyptian society. Pharaohs had absolute power. They were the head military commander and the chief priest of Egyptian society. They were seen as living gods and the reincarnation of the god Horus.
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The Pharaoh Menes
The Pharaoh Akhenaten The Heretic P
The Pharaoh Ramses II
The Pharaoh Tutankhamun
A vizier of Egypt
Viziers were advisers and helped govern different regions of Egypt. In addition, they helped serve as judges and arbiters for the pharaoh. They often wore white to signify their neutrality.
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Egyptian Priest relief
Magic, spirituality, advising, and embalming were the domains of the priest. They would shave themselves completely and would not wear animal products in order to stay purified. The process of embalming entailed that the brain had to be removed through the nasal cavity with the use of a hook. All organs were removed, except the heart. It was seen as the center of intelligence and spirituality and was weighed by Anubis, the jackal headed god, to see if the individual was worthy of the afterlife.
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Egyptian scribes at work
Scribes wrote in hieroglyphs and copied and recorded the lives of the pharaohs. Only males were allowed to do this job. They also recorded taxes, grains, and censuses.
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Egyptian artisans built crafts, reliefs, and tombs. They were partly responsible for the creation of the pyramids. Murals located within the pyramids were attributed to their hard work.
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Peasants and Slaves
Egyptian peasants harvesting.
Egyptian peasants and slaves were last on the social status of Egyptian civilization. They maintained civilization through farming and creating a stable food supply. Often they served as the manpower necessary to build the monolithic pyramids.
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The ancient civilization of Egypt produced many great achievements in antiquity. Egypt produced one of the first examples of a highly structured government. Great feats in engineering such as the construction of the pyramids and city design were products of Egyptian genius. The study and practice of medicine stems from the embalming and mummifying practices of Ancient Egypt. In addition, Egypt was responsible for creating one of the first writing systems called hieroglyphs. Egyptian contribution was myriad.
Pyramid at Giza and The Sphinx
The pyramids served as the monolithic tombs of the pharaohs. They attested to the awesome power of the pharaoh and were able to be seen miles away.
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An example of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Hieroglyphs in Egyptian means sacred writing. Much of what we know about Egypt is contributed by the wealth of writing the Egyptians left behind in the form of hieroglyphs.
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Mummification strikes the average observer as strange and perhaps morbid. However, Egyptian mummification was integral to the Egyptian understanding of the afterlife. Hence, Egyptian funerary culture could not be understood without a proper understanding of mummification.
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The Mythos of Ancient Egypt
Osiris and Isis