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Ancient Egypt Geography of Ancient Egypt The ancient Egyptians thought of Egypt as being divided into two types of land, the 'black land' and the 'red land'. The 'black land' was the fertile land on the banks of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians used this land for growing their crops. This was the only land in ancient Egypt that could be farmed because a layer of rich, black silt was deposited there every year after the Nile flooded. The 'red land' was the barren desert that protected Egypt on two sides. These deserts separated ancient Egypt from neighboring countries and invading armies. They also provided the ancient Egyptians with a source for precious metals and semi-precious stones. Look at this map and notice where the cities in ancient Egypt were located. Ancient Egyptian civilization developed in the delta and valley regions of the Nile River, isolated and protected by vast deserts on either side. This fertile strip along the Nile was never more than 12 miles wide. Rich agricultural and mineral resources along with protection provided by the desert allowed a long-lasting civilization to develop in Egypt. Ancient Egypt: Predynastic Period (3100 BCE - 2650 BCE) The first and earliest portion of ancient Egyptian civilization was called the Predynastic period, when the separate kingdoms Upper and Lower Egypt were united for the first time. The late Neolithic period in Egypt began in the sixth millennium (6000 BCE), and ended with the unification of Egypt in 3100 BCE, which marked the start of the historical Predynastic period in Egypt. Memphis becomes the capital of the united Egypt, the first nation state in the world. Hieroglyphics are developed and irrigation systems are first developed. The inhabitants of Egypt first lived in settlements during the Predynastic period. Cemeteries were located in the low desert near the settlements. Finds from settlements and cemeteries suggest that the north and south of the country were culturally distinct. The burials of this time were simple pit graves, in which the dead person was laid in a crouched position. The bodies were naturally dried by the hot sand. In later burials, the bodies were sometimes wrapped in mats. Sometimes the person's head and limbs were bound with cloth. The objects placed in burials, such as items of jewellery, slate palettes and pots are the main sources of information about this time. Ancient Egypt – Old Kingdom (2650 BCE – 2134 BCE) While the unification of Egypt was the single most important event in Egyptian history, it was a long and drawn-out affair. Although Narmer is credited with unifying the country, all the kings of the first two dynasties had to fight constant wars against considerable opponents all along the Nile. But the third dynasty Egypt became powerful enough to control the whole of the country. Egypt had, meanwhile, prospered and grown beyond everyone's wildest dreams. Agricultural production had been revolutionized by the building of massive irrigation projects; trade had ballooned to super-human proportions; the population had grown large. Suddenly Egypt found itself wealthy; the country literally exploded with creativity for the next several generations. This period, from 2650-2134, the Old Kingdom, was the richest and most creative period in Egyptian history. All the pyramids were built at this time; the growth in population and wealth allowed the kings to apportion vast amounts of labor and materials to these monuments to themselves. Pharaohs are seen as living gods at this time and Egypt is divided into provinces, with each headed by a governor. During this time Memphis falls into neglect and hieroglyphics improve. During this time the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the Great Pyramid at Giza were both built. It was also during this time that government began to regulate farming and trade. Ancient Egypt – Middle Kingdom (2040 BCE – 1640 BCE) The Middle Kingdom is the period in the history of Ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the 11th Dynasty to the end of the 14th Dynasty, although some historians include the 13th and 14th dynasties in a later period. The period comprises two phases, the 11th Dynasty, which ruled from Thebes and the 12th Dynasty onwards which was centered around el-Lisht. During this time pharaohs are threatened by the independence of local governers. Luxor (which would later become Thebes) gains prominence. Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open air museum", as the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. At this time Egypt recruits a standing army as Asians seize control of the delta region. Foreign culture influences increase when trade is promotes with Palestine and Syria and renewed interests in learning take place, which allows literature to flourish and workshops begin to produce fine crafts. At this time horse drawn chariots, copper arrowheads and daggers, curved-blade swords, and compound bow first appeared. Ancient Egypt – New Kingdom (1550 BCE – 1070 BCE) The New Kingdom includes the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties. This family began a period of unprecedented success in international affairs for Egypt. There was a succession of extraordinary and able kings and queens who laid the foundations of a strong Egypt and bequeathed a prosperous economy to the kings of the 19th dynasty. During this era you had the magnificent Amenhotep III, so began an artistic revolution. Akhenaton and Nefertiti began a religious revolution - the concept of one god. Finally there was Tutankhamen who is so famous in our modern age. During the 19th Dynasty Seti I's reign looked for its model to the mid-18th dynasty and was a time of considerable prosperity. He restored countless monuments. His temple at Abydos exhibits some of the finest carved wall reliefs. His son Rameses II is the major figure of the dynasty and rules as the empire of Egypt begins to crumble under pressure from Hittites. During this time the Hittites had become a dominant Asiatic power. An uneasy balance of power developed between the two kingdoms, which was punctuated by wars and treaties. Hatshepsut becomes a powerful female pharaoh (1479 BCE – 1457 BCE). She also promotes the arts in Egypt. Tutankhamen also restores the old religion of Egypt. Ancient Egypt – Late Dynastic Period (1070 BCE – 332 BCE) During this period a struggle for royal power sets in among priests and nobles in Egypt. The Saite kings begin a century of dominance in Egypt, but the region would see the Persian dominance in Egypt in 525 BCE. The Late Dynastic Period starts with the Assyrian conquest of Thebes in 664, and Egypt became an Assyrian province. A new capital was established in Saïs in the north. This would be the last great period referred to as Pharonic. Although a province subject to a foreign state, it was still marked by cultural and technological advances. The canal built between the Nile and the Red Sea is an indicator of this. A second period starts with the Persian invasion in 525. A period of 150 years of Persian influence and weak rulers star Ancient Egypt – Greek Period (332 BCE – 48 BCE) Alexander the Great of Macedonia takes control of Egypt in 332 BCE. The Ptolemaic Period starts with the fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great in 332. Before his death 9 years later, Alexander had divided his empire between his Macedonian generals. Alexandria becomes the most brilliant metropolis of the Greek speaking world. Ptolemy became the ruler of Egypt, and this would mean that Egypt regained its independence. Cleopatra VII becomes the last Ptolemy to rule Egypt in 51 BCE. Ancient Egypt – Roman Period (48 BCE – 395 CE) The Roman Period starts with the military defeat to Rome at the Battle of Actium. Cleopatra VII forms an alliance with Julius Caesar in 48BCE. Egypt now became a Roman province, but Egyptian culture would survive. The temples at Dendera and Esna belong to this period. In the 1st century CE, Christianity was introduced to Egypt, and would come to replace Ancient Egyptian religion, although the latter would have permament influence on Christianity. Cleopatra VII forms an alliance with Mark Anthony in 41 BCE, but Mark Anthony is defeated by Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Cleopatra VII is believed to have committed suicide in 30 BCE. From this point on Egypt is ruled as territory of the Roman Empire. Ancient Egypt – The Life of Rameses II King Ramses II , who reigned for 67 years during the 19th dynasty of the 12th century BC, was known as "Ramses the Great". He is known as one of Egypt's greatest warriors, but also as a peace-maker and for the monuments he left behind all over Egypt. He was the first king in history to sign a peace treaty with his enemies, the Hittites, ending long years of wars and hostility. King Ramses reigned for 67 years (1292–1225 B.C.). Under him Egypt acquired unprecedented splendor. His empire extended from Syria to near the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. King Ramses left monuments throughout Egypt. The principal ones are probably the temple at Karnak, which he completed; the Rameseum, his mortuary temple, at Thebes; the temple at Luxor; and the great rock temple at Abu Simbel with four seated figures of the king on the facade. The period of his rule was characterized by great luxury, increased slavery, and the growth of a mercenary army, all of which led to the final decline of Egypt. He was given the throne at the age of about 20 and ruled for 67 years. This allowed him to be the second longest-ruling Pharaoh. Successor to Harmhab and ruler of ancient Egypt during the XIX and XX dynasties King Ramses I was grandfather to Ramses The Great. The tomb of Ramses II is located in the Valley of the Kings and remains empty. After years or being looted and weathered, it remains destroyed. Great amounts of effort are in progress with the hope of returning the tomb to a somewhat presentable stage. Although the tomb remains empty, the mummy of the Pharaoh has been found. Ramses II’s mummy is thought to be one of the best-preserved mummies ever found. In his tomb there were many jewels and a lot of gold. His favorite designed shoes were there also along with his servants. There was a horse and one of his 5-6 wives that he had. Two of Ramses II's projects, on the west bank of the Nile that cut deep into the cliffs at Abu Simbel, are perhaps the most famous. These temples, considered Ramses' greatest achievements, were erected in honor of Egypt's major gods and their local variants. After ordering the artisans to carve impressive images of him onto the facade and pillars of these temples, King Ramses' perception of himself changed forever. The temples' scenes of the gods were ordered to be re-carved to include the great king, and he gained eminence equal to that of his fellow gods. Ancient Egypt – The Importance of the Pharoahs The Pharaoh role was important in Ancient Egyptian life. Pharaohs, to Egyptians, were believed to be living gods. The name pharaoh means great house, and originally referred to the palace. In early Ancient Egypt there were two pharaohs, one that ruled Upper Egypt and one that ruled Lower Egypt. King Menes, Pharaoh of Upper Egypt, conquered the king of Lower Egypt; uniting the two, and he called himself pharaoh. A pharaoh's life wasn't all easy, pharaohs often went to war to protect their land. If the pharaoh won, the challenger would offer him goods or parts of his land. Egyptians dedicated their lives to their death. Egyptians believed that there was an afterlife, a life after they die that is supposed to be a continuation of their life on Earth. Pharaohs spent most of their lives preparing for their death. A pharaoh's tomb or pyramid's construction usually began as soon as they became pharaoh. Instead of a pyramid, pharaohs of the New Kingdom had tombs cut deep in the rock of the Valley of the Kings, in Thebes. When a pharaoh died he was mummified and placed in his sarcophagus. The sarcophagus resembled the pharaoh inside, because if he wasn't recognizable he wouldn't be accepted into the Afterlife. Often a Pharaoh's tomb was robbed by tomb robbers. Many times there was nothing left, except maybe fragments of the mummy. This often made it difficult for archaeologists to find artifacts. Through the years archaeologist have uncovered many tombs, but rarely were they not robbed. Some great pharaohs were King Tut, and Hatshepsut. Tutankahmen was famous for being the youngest Pharaoh, and his tomb was the biggest tomb discovery in archaeology. Hatshepsut, however, was famous for being the most well known female pharaoh, and one of the only ones. Pharaohs' tombs are to this day being discovered, and archaeologists love the mystery of the hunt for the perfect tomb. Ancient Egypt – The Building of the Pyramids The earliest form of pyramid, the step, dates back to the 3rd Dynasty, and consists of several steps. A descending passage from the north leads to the burial chamber. Underground galleries surround the pyramid on all but the south sides. The first, and probably the only step pyramid ever completed, is that of King Djoser at Saqqara. The Step pyramid is not near as pleasing to the eye as the True pyramid, which could explain the quick abandonment of this type of pyramid. The true pyramid is a natural development and improvement on the step pyramid. The first true pyramids were introduced in at the beginning of the 4th Dynasty. The structure of a True Pyramid is virtually the same as a step pyramid. Packing blocks are stacked until the dimensions were right, and then finishing blocks (usually limestone) were the last touch. The aesthetics are much more pleasing than the step pyramid, but the construction isn't really that different. A major problem facing the builders of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids, was that of getting the large stone blocks to the height they required, the method shown below is the only one proven to have been used. The ramps were built on inclined planes of mud brick and rubble. They then dragged the blocks on sledges to the needed height. As the pyramid grew taller, the ramp had to be extended in length, and its base was widened, else it would collapse. It is likely that for the construction of each pyramid, several ramps were probably used. The arrangement of the ramps used for building is in much dispute. Assuming that the step pyramid was built before the outer structure, and then the packing blocks were laid on top, the ramps could have run from one step to another rather than approaching the pyramid face at right angles. Some of the pyramids indicate an accurate understanding of Pi, but the mathematical knowledge of the Egyptians did not include the ability to arrive at this by calculation. It is possible that this could have been arrived at accidentally The internal construction of most true pyramids consists of a series of buttress walls surrounding a central core. The walls decrease in height from the center outwards. In other words, the core of the true pyramid is essentially a step pyramid. The internal arrangement added stability to the structure. Packing blocks filled the "steps" formed by the faces of the outermost buttress walls and casting blocks (often Limestone) completed the structure of the true pyramid.
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