Monday, March 24, 2008

Basic intro to Pharaonic Egypt

My sister & I were writing this article for a bunch of young students who have no idea about Pharaonic Egypt.

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in North Africa that includes the Sinai Peninsula, a land bridge to Asia. Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. The Northern coast borders the Mediterranean Sea; the Eastern coast borders the Red Sea.

Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most famous monuments, including the Giza pyramid complex and its Great Sphinx.

Life in Ancient Egypt

Daily life in ancient Egypt revolved around the Nile and the fertile land along its banks. The yearly flooding of the Nile enriched the soil and brought good harvests.

The people of ancient Egypt built mud brick homes in villages and in the country. They grew some of their own food and traded in the villages for the food and goods they could not produce.

Most ancient Egyptians worked as field hands, farmers, craftsmen and scribes. A small group of people were nobles. Together, these different groups of people made up the population of ancient Egypt.

Pharaoh

The most powerful person in ancient Egypt was the pharaoh. The pharaoh was the political and religious leader of the Egyptian people, holding the titles: 'Lord of the Two Lands' and 'High Priest of Every Temple'.

As 'Lord of the Two Lands' the pharaoh was the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt. He owned all of the land, made laws, collected taxes, and defended Egypt against foreigners.

As 'High Priest of Every Temple', the pharaoh represented the gods on Earth. He performed rituals and built temples to honor the gods.

Many pharaohs went to war when their land was threatened or when they wanted to control foreign lands. If the pharaoh won the battle, the conquered people had to recognize the Egyptian pharaoh as their ruler and offer him the finest and most valuable goods from their land.

Pyramids

The ancient Egyptians built pyramids as tombs for the pharaohs and their queens. The pharaohs were buried in pyramids of many different shapes and sizes from before the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom.

There are about eighty pyramids known today from ancient Egypt. The three largest and best-preserved of these were built at Giza at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. The most well-known of these pyramids was built for the pharaoh Khufu. It is known as the 'Great Pyramid'.

Historic development of Pyramids

Tombs of early Egyptian kings were flat mounds called mastabas. Around 2780 B.C., King Djoser's architect, Imhotep, built the first pyramid by placing six mastabas, each smaller than the one beneath, in a stack to form a pyramid rising in steps. (The step pyramid at Sakkara) It was designed to serve as a gigantic stairway by which the soul of the deceased pharaoh could ascend to the heavens. Like later pyramids, it contains various rooms and passages, including the burial chamber of the king.

The transition from the Step Pyramid to a true, smooth-sided pyramid took place during the reign of King Snefru, founder of the Fourth Dynasty. At Medum, a step pyramid was built, then filled in with stone, and covered with a limestone casing.

The largest and most famous of all the pyramids, the Great Pyramid at Giza, was built by Snefru's son, Khufu, known also as Cheops, the later Greek form of his name.

Also located at Giza is the famous Sphinx, a massive statue of a lion with a human head(possibly that of the Pharaoh Khefrem himself whose pyramid it stands in front of). Pyramids did not stand alone but were part of a group of buildings which included temples, chapels, other tombs of nobles and massive walls.

Mummification

The earliest ancient Egyptians buried their dead in small pits in the desert. The heat and dryness of the sand dehydrated the bodies quickly, creating lifelike and natural ‘mummies'.

Later, the ancient Egyptians began burying their dead in coffins to protect them from wild animals in the desert. However, they realized that bodies placed in coffins decayed when they were not exposed to the hot, dry sand of the desert.

Over many centuries, the ancient Egyptians developed a method of preserving bodies so they would remain lifelike. The process included embalming the bodies and wrapping them in strips of linen. Today we call this process mummification

The level of mummification depended on what one could afford. The most fully developed form involved four basic steps:

1. All of the internal organs, except the heart, were removed. Since the organs were the first parts of the body to decompose but were necessary in the afterlife, they were mummified and put in canopic jars that were placed in the tomb at the time of burial. The heart was believed to be the seat of intelligence and emotion and was therefore left in the body. The brain, on the other hand, was regarded as having no significant value and beginning in the New Kingdom, was removed through the nose and discarded.

2. The body was packed and covered with spices and natron-a salty drying agent- and left to dry out for forty to fifty days. By this time all the body's liquid had been absorbed and only the hair, skin, and bones were left.

3. The body cavity was stuffed with resin, sawdust, or linen and shaped to restore the deceased's form and features.

4. The body was then tightly wrapped in many layers of linen with numerous good luck charms or amulets wrapped between the layers. The most important amulet was the scarab beetle which was placed over the heart. Jewelry was also placed among the bandages. At each stage of wrapping, a priest recited spells and prayers. This whole procedure could take as long as fifteen days. After the wrapping was complete, the body was put into a shroud. The entire mummification process took about seventy days.

Once preserved, the mummies were laid to rest in a sarcophagus (coffin) inside a tomb, where it was believed that the mummy would rest eternally.

Temples

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.

There were two main categories: the cult temple, dedicated to the worship of one or more deities and the funerary temple, in which rituals were celebrated to ensure the well-being in the afterlife of a dead king.

Gods and Goddesses

The ancient Egyptians believed in many different Gods and Goddesses. Each one with their own role to play in maintaining peace and harmony across the land

Some Gods and Goddesses took part in creation, some brought the flood every year, some offered protection, and some took care of people after they died. Others were either local gods who represented towns, or minor gods who represented plants or animals.

1 comment:

Angela Brown said...

Thanks a million ...

I really found the info you provide us with very fabulous....
And I am particularly interested in the Egyptian civilization which had marks at Giza Plateau and the world-famous Sphinx there...
there's a whole network of tunnels, and chambers under the Giza plateau near the Sphinx…….
And I know that Many legends and myths exist about the Sphinx. And it represents the guard of the eastern and western parts of the world or it might be representing the King himself. It was covered with a layer of stucco or limestone and then painted.

Nice Photos of Sphinx

And I learnt that The nose of the Sphinx was not deliberately broken, as has been usually believed, but the break was due to the long course of time it has till now survived. Nothing except the statue's neck was seen since it was wholly covered with sand during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Later, the sand was cleared up in the reign of Thutmosis IV. Till the end of the Nineteenth century, the Sphinx was covered with sand, and was exposed to all natural air conditions.

Information About Sphinx

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