Early Egyptian Civilization Development Early Cities Writing

Early Egyptian Civilization
Early Cities
• Nile river valley, to the west of the red sea.
– 7000-simple farming and cattle domestication.
– By 5000 small kingdoms and villages dotted the valley.
• Proto-Kingdoms of Upper Egypt
– Nagada, ca. 5500.
• walled town with cemetaries.
• capital of a major chiefdom.
– Hierakonpolis, ca. 5500
• “City of the Falcon”
• city-states with royal tombs.
– Maadi, ca. 5650.
• outskirts of modern Cairo
• major trading center.
– This, ca. 5500.
• little is known.
Unification of Upper and Lower
• ca. 5000 B.C.
– Rulers of Hierakonpolis conquered the
– Gradual process of Egypt formed into
political and social units.
• Intensification of Agriculture
– may have been a consequence of
– irrigation became more complex
•The Nile River rises from
the lakes of central Africa as
the White Nile and from the
mountains of Ethiopia as the
Blue Nile.
•The White and Blue Nile
meet at Khartoum and flow
together northward to the
Nile delta, where the 4000
mile course of this river ends
at the Mediterranean Sea.
© 1998 Oriental Institute,
University of Chicago
Farming and The Nile
• 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
• These geographical factors have
determined the character of Egyptian
– People could farm only along the banks of the
Nile, where arid sand meets the fertile soil.
– 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
Nagada (4200-3050 BC)
• Nagada was a city in pre-dynastic Upper Egypt, representing
a major culture of that time.
• Flinders Petrie unearthed three cemeteries at Nagada that
contained 2200 graves, the largest mortuary in pre-dynastic
– Along with the human remains, Petrie found mudbricks, dog
bones, and pottery. In later excavations, piles of mudbrick from
collapsed walls were found.
– This suggests that Nagada was the precursor to the burial
monuments constructed by later Egyptian civilizations.
– Other items included copper, ivory, bone and shell jewelry, and
small model figurines of humans, oxen and boats, together with
model weapons and food. These item were believed to have
magical purposes and helped with ensure that the dead would
have a content afterlife.
• The people who lived in Nagada were followers of the god
Seth, the god who killed Osiris, the god of the dead. Nagada
is considered to be the center for the followers of Seth.
• Hierakonpolis was one of the most important
settlement along the Nile – a city with many
features that would later come to typify Dynastic
Egyptian civilization.
• Stretching for over 2 miles along the edge of
the Nile flood plain, it was a city of many
neighborhoods and quarters.
Hierakonpolis Mummies
• Over the past five years the Hierakonpolis
Expedition has been excavating a cemetery
(HK43) of Predynastic Hierakonpolis’ working class
• Among the 260 burials so far uncovered we have
found some which revealed evidence for what may
be the very beginnings of artificial mummification.
• This took the form of wrapping the head and hands
with pads of linen. Pottery found in association with
these burials indicates a date not later than
Nagada IIb (c. 3600BC)-a good 500 years before
the next evidence of mummification will be found in
a tomb of a king.
Burial 71
•Burial 71was found covered
in matting and buried with
seven pots.
•In one pot there were round
loaves of bread almost 6000
years old.
•Beneath the matting, her body
was covered in a linen shroud,
her neck and her hands were
found bound in linen.
•Further examination of her
remains has revealed what
appears to be one of her
internal organs also wrapped
in resin-soaked linen before
being returned to the chest
cavity where it was recovered.
•Aged 20-25 at the time of her
death, she had the second
richest burial with regard to
the number of grave goods so
far found.
Maadi (3600-3000 BC)
• In Lower Egypt, a predynastic site was
uncovered in the 1930's by Menghin and
• Maadi is a unique predynastic site. It is
located on what used to be the Wadi el-Tih,
an historical route to the copper mines of
the Sinai Peninsula.
– There is also evidence of foreign house styles
and pottery, domesticated donkeys, intricate
storage facilities and an advanced copper
– In 3600 BC, foreign trade goods started to reach
Egypt having a great effect on the communities
in Lower Egypt. The prosperity of the trade
networks later lead to vast settlements in Egypt
such as Memphis and the settlement at Cairo.
Maadi con’d
• The Maadi settlement covered about 45 acres of
– Almost all of the houses were oval in shape and
constructed with post walls and mud-daub wicker frame.
– These homes had entrances through a slanting passage
with steps that were faced in stone.
• Unlike many of the grave sites in Egypt, the Maadi
culture had very simple burials.
– These types of burials have distinguished the Lower
societies from the Upper societies in Egypt.
– The grave sites are located south of the settlement about
1 km. In the 1950s, 468 burials were discovered over an
acre of land.
Maadi location
Maadi South Cemetery
• Narmer unified Upper and Lower Egypt and
established his capital at Memphis (Thebes) around
3000 B.C..
• Considered to be divine, he stood above the priests
and was the only individual who had direct contact
with the gods.
• The economy was a royal monopoly and so there
was no word in Egyptian for "trader."
• Under the king was a carefully graded hierarchy of
officials, ranging from the governors of provinces
down through local mayors and tax collectors.
• The entire system was supported by the work of
slaves, peasants and artisans.
Chronology of Egypt
Archaic Period
3100-2700 B.C.
Old Kingdom
2700-2200 B.C.
Intermediate Period
2200-2050 B.C.
Middle Kingdom
2050-1800 B.C.
Intermediate Period
1800-1570 B.C.
New Kingdom
1570-1085 B.C.
1085-332 B.C.
Old Kingdom
• The Old Kingdom reached its highest stage of
development in the Fourth Dynasty.
• The most signs of greatness are the three enormous
pyramids built as the tombs of kings at Giza between
2600 and 2500.
• The largest, Khufu (called Cheops by the Greeks),
was originally 481 feet high and 756 feet long on
each side.
• Khufu was made up of 2.3 million stone blocks
averaging 2.5 tons each.
– In the 5th century B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus tells us
that the pyramid took 100,000 men and twenty years to
Middle Kingdom
• During the period of the Middle Kingdom (20501800 B.C.) the power of the pharaohs of the Old
Kingdom waned as priests and nobles gained
more independence and influence.
• The governors of the regions of Egypt (nomes)
gained hereditary claim to their offices and
subsequently their families acquired large estates.
• About 2200 B.C. the Old Kingdom collapsed and
gave way to the decentralization of the First
Intermediate Period (2200-2050 B.C.).
• Finally, the nomarchs of Thebes in Upper Egypt
gained control of the country and established the
Middle Kingdom.
12 17 Dynasty
• The rulers of the Twelfth Dynasty restored the power
of the pharaoh over the whole of Egypt although they
could not control the nomarchs.
• They moved the capital back to Memphis and gave
great prominence to Amon, a god connected with the
city of Thebes. He became identified with Re,
emerging as Amon-Re.
• The Middle Kingdom disintegrated in the Thirteenth
Dynasty with the resurgence of the power of the
• Around 1700 B.C. Egypt suffered an invasion by the
Hyksos who came from the east (perhaps Palestine
or Syria) and conquered the Nile Delta.
• In 1575 B.C., a Thebian dynasty drove out the
Hyksos and reunited the kingdom.
New Kingdom
• Egyptians begin burying their Rulers in the Valley of
the Kings.
• When young Amenhotep IV (1367-1350 B.C.) came
to the throne he was apparently determined to resist
the priesthood of Amon.
• He moved his capital from Thebes (the center of
Amon worship) to a city three hundred miles to the
north at a place now called El Amarna.
• Its god was Aton, the physical disk of the sun, and
the new city was called Akhenaton.
• The pharaoh changed his name to Akhenaton ("it
pleases Aton"). The new god was different from any
that had come before him, for he was believed to be
universal, not merely Egyptian.
• Akhenaton’s chosen successor was put aside and
replaced by Tutankhamon (1347-1339 B.C.), the
husband of one of the daughters of Akhenaton and
his wife, Nefertiti.
• The new pharaoh restored the old religion and wiped
out as much as he could of the memory of the
worship of Aton. He restored Amon to the center of
the Egyptian pantheon, abandoned El Amarna, and
returned the capital to Thebes.
• The end of the El Amarna age restored power to the
priests of Amon and to the military officers.
Horemhab, a general, restored order and recovered
much of the lost empire. He referred to Akhenaton as
"the criminal of Akheton" and erased his name from
the records.
The Boy King
• King Tutankhamun was not even in the
same category of achievement as the
great Egyptian kings such as Khufu,
Amenhotep III, or Ramesses II.
• On November 26, 1922, Howard Carter
made archaeological history by unearthing
the first Egyptian pharaonic tomb that still
contained most of its treasures.
• This tomb also yielded something else that
had never been found in modern history –
the mummy of an Egyptian king, laying
intact in his original burial furniture.
Carter outside Tut’s tomb
Tut’s sarcophagus
And funeral mask
Some Jewelry and Ornaments
from King Tut’s Tomb
Bracelets, Possibly
Ivory and Stone
Openwork Gold Buckle
Pendant Depicting the
Solar Beetle Flanked by
Gold Pendant with
Various Deities
Bracelet with Scarabs
and Netjer-ankh Holding
the Symbols of Infinity
Composite Udjat Eye
Vulture Pendant
• The priests, an important body within the
ruling caste, were a social force working to
modify the king's supremacy.
• Yielding to the demands of the priests of
Re, a sun god, kings began to call
themselves "sons of Re," adding his name
as a suffix to their own.
• Re was also worshipped in temples that
were sometimes larger than the pyramids
of later kings.
• 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 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.
God Horus (from Tut’s tomb)
God Ptah
(from Tut’s
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
• A period of seventy days was required for the
preparation of the mummy, and each step in the
procedure was co-ordinated with relevant priestly
• The embalmers' shop might be a fixed place, as
in the case of those connected with the larger
temples. Often, however, it was a movable tent which could be set up near the home of the
• Removal of those parts most subject to
putrefaction was the initial step in preparing a
corpse for mummification.
• The liver, the lungs, the stomach, and the
intestines were each placed in a separate jar, the
Canopic Jars.
Canopic Jars
• Next came the preservation of the body itself.
– Natron, a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium
bicarbonate, with sodium chloride (common salt) and
sodium sulphate as impurities, was used. Natron occurs
in Egypt in a few places. Water containing natron in
solution comes to the surface and is evaporated, leaving
the natron as surface deposits.
• Small parcels of natron wrapped in linen were
placed inside the body. The outside was covered
with loose natron or packages of linen-wrapped
natron. The dry atmosphere of Egypt accelerated
the desiccation process.
• The skin was coveredwith coniferous resins, and
the body cavity was packed with wads of linen
soaked in the same material.
Wrapped Mummy
And Sarcophagus
• Pyramids
• Valley of the Kings
• Valley of the Queens
King Sneferu’s Bent
The Pyramid of Menkaure, son
of Khafre.
Khufu, son of King Sneferu. The Great Pyramid is the only
surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World (Height:
138.75 m (455.21 ft) Length of Side: 230.37).
Valley of the Kings
Entry to the Valley of the
The central area of the Valley of the
Tutankhamun's tomb is just left of
the shelter in the centre.
Mortuary Temple of Ramesses
III at Medinet Habu
The Queen
• Nefertari, the favorite Queen of
Ramses II, is known from myriad of
her representations in the temple
reliefs and colossi of the great king.
• The dedication to her, jointly with the
goddess Hathor, of the small rock
temple to the north of the great temple
at Abu Simbel, shows how great her
influence with Ramses II must have
Some Egyptologists
think she was
probably a daughter
of King Seti 1, and
thus sister or half
sister of Ramses II.
Other Egyptologists,
however, think that
her designation as
Princess" might be in
some way connected
with her being
representative of the
Egyptian Hieroglyphics
• The Egyptians used many materials and
had a much different writing system than
their neighbors of Mesopotamia.
• Egyptian texts in hieroglyphs were
inscribed in wood and/or stone, and written
on papyrus.
• 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.
Hieroglyphic Writing
• Documented around 5100, may have
been traded in from Mesopotamia.
• Hieroglyphics which are pictographs
and phonetics.
– written on papyrus, clay, buildings.
– Egypt developed its own script.
Rosetta Stone
• The Rosetta Stone:
- A royal decree
promulgated by
Ptolemy V in 196 BCE,
written in hieroglyphic,
demotic and Greek.
- Found by the French
at Rosetta (el Rashid) in
the Delta in 1799.
- Was crucial for the
decipherment of
hieroglyphs by
Champollion in 1822.
• The writing medium most common to the
ancient Egyptians was papyrus.
• This paper-like material was easy to use,
handle, transport, and make. 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 papyrus.
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.
signs on stone at
the Louvre
Hieroglyphic Cursive
The Papyrus of Ani uses a special,
more cursive form of hieroglyphic
The 'Satire of Professions', boasting the
profession of scribe, found on a wooden board
in Deir el-Medina, written in hieratic.
26th Dynasty contract,
written in demotic.
Changes in Writing
• It is important to note that no type of writing would
entirely replace another, but it would merely restrict
the other writings to specific domains and be
restricted itself to other domains. Thus demotic
would become the writing of the administration
from the 26th Dynasty on, but it did not entirely
replace hieratic as a handwriting, which was still
being used in religious texts.
• Hieratic, did not replace hieroglyphic either. From
its beginnings, hieratic was hieroglyphic, but more
cursive and written by a speedier hand. As the two
writings evolved, practicality caused hieratic to be
used when a text need not be written in the slow
but detailed hieroglyphic signs and was used in
administrative texts, texts that were not to be
inscribed on monuments or on funerary objects
Cleopatra: An Ancient Soap
• Cleopatra VII, daughter of Ptolemy XII (r.51-30) ruled
jointly with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII for three
years, when they had a falling out which developed
into a civil war.
• The Roman general Pompey, pursued by Julius
Caesar, came to Egypt in 48 BCE and was murdered
by Ptolemy's courtiers. Caesar sided with Cleopatra,
whose lover he became and defeated Ptolemy.
• He left Egypt for Rome, where Cleopatra followed
him with their son Caesarion. After Caesar's murder
in 44 B.C. she returned to Egypt, had her husband
Ptolemy XIV murdered and tried to keep neutral in
the Roman civil war.
• In 41 BCE she met Mark Antony at Tarsus and
became his mistress (divorcing Octavian’s sister).
• In 34 Caesarion became co-ruler in an attempt to
gain popularity, while Octavian's propaganda
described them as rowdy and decadent pleasure
• At the sea battle of Actium the Egyptian navy was
decisively defeated and Antony and Cleopatra fled to
Alexandria. Almost a year later, Octavian conquered
Alexandria, Mark Antony committed suicide and
Cleopatra, when she failed to come to an agreement
with the Romans, did likewise (30 BCE).
• Her son, Caesarion (Ptolemy XV), was murdered,
and Egypt became a Roman province.