Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
What was the “SOUL” of Ancient
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Gods and Goddesses
Creation Story
Website: Gods and Goddesses
Religion: How did it
contribute to stability?
• The Egyptians were deeply religious people
• religious roots were in the worship of nature
deities – their first gods were in animal
• Those responsible for creation were the most
important gods (Atum is the creator God)
• They later developed national gods around
the Middle Kingdom (Amon- local god of
Thebes; gods of Dead: Osiris, Anubis,
Horus and Thoth)
• Religion was instrumental to stability of
Egypt (life, social structure, education,
laws, rule of Pharaoh, economy, death,
Geography: Populated Areas
There were three main areas that were populated
in Egypt:
1. The Nile Valley
sole source of water for Egypt
Predictable flooding provided rich fertile soil
Both revered and feared (too much flooding
or droughts)
The Nile Delta
Area were Nile empties into Mediterranean
Largest piece of fertile land
Encompassed major centres of Egypt
Lake Moeris lies at end of branch of Nile is
centre of oasis called Faiyum
Irrigation from Nile made Faiyum the third
most populated land
Geographic Effects on
Egypt’s stability and
• Fertile soil
• deserts provided protection
and shelter from outside
• Access to Mediterranean
increased and expanded trade
and culture
• culture was one of stability
and not rapid change
• Deserts were an important
source of minerals and
building supplies (copper, tin,
gold and natron, the drying
agent used in mummification)
Highlights of Ancient Egyptian History
•UNIFICATION OF EGYPT: King Menes unites Upper and Lower Egypt and wears double
crown in 3100 BCE. Following Menes came 31 dynasties over 3000 years.
•AGE OF PYRAMIDS: Era of the Old Kingdom (2690 BCE), Pharaohs were absolute rulers
and viewed as a god holding absolute secular and religious power. Stone monuments were
embodiment of Pharaoh's power and a medium of immortality. Pyramids evolved from
mastabas, then Step Pyramids, most known are Pyramids at Giza (2600-2500 BCE)
•IMHOTEP: not a ruler but revered and his life was recorded (architect, medicine, right
hand to Pharaoh Djoser (2686-2613 BCE)
•NATIONAL GOD “AMON-RE”: Middle Kingdom: Under Theban Kings (south), the
Theban god “Amon” merged with sun god “Re” which became Egyptian national god
•EXODUS: under the leadership of Moses, Hebrew slaves under Rames II leave Egypt in
mass migration called Exodus (end of 13th century BCE). Moses receives the 10
Commandments at Mount Sinai but never find the “Promised Land”
•1470 BCE – Reign of Hatsheput (one of four female Kings)
•1350 BCE – Reign of Akhenaton (Wanted to change religious beliefs to
•1334 BCE – Reign of Tutankhamun (Religious revolution is reversed)
•1297 BCE - Reign of Ramses II. He had over 200 wives and concubines,
approximately 90 sons and 60 daughters and reigned over 67 years! His reign
saw massive building projects in Egypt. The Exodus of Jews from Egypt also
occurred during his reign.
•525 BCE – Persians conquer Egypt
•332 BCE – Alexander the Great defeats the Persians and
considered savior of Egypt
•50 BCE – Cleopatra VII is crowned Queen of Egypt
•30 BCE – Egypt becomes part of Roman Empire after death of Cleopatra
VII and Mark Anthony
How did Pharaoh's rule?
•absolute rulers of the land
•believed to be the earthly embodiment of
the god Horus who was the son of Amon-Re
•Therefore they had the divine right to rule
•This allowed them to move between god
and their people
•People followed their orders because they
believed they were from god
•No one would challenge the King’s
authority and he could rule in relative peace
•The throne passed on to eldest son of
Principal Queen who was usual the eldest
daughter of the previous king therefore the
king’s sister
•Pharaohs owned all the land – they had a
hierarchy of government officials to help
him rule
•Second to the Pharaohs were the scribes
who would record the doings of the Pharaoh
What were the legal
• Law was governed by religious principle of
• GODDESS MA’AT represented truth,
righteousness and justice= balance and order
• Laws were applied equally to all classes
specifically protected the family (children and
• Punishments could be quite severe- act as a
deterent or disgrace the guilty (Examples:
minor crimes had 100 lashed; rapist were
castrated; corrupt officials had their hands
amputated; crimes that resulted in a death
sentence could have choice= devoured by a
crocodile, suicide, burning alive)
Social Roles
Role of Women
• Well treated and had
considerable legal rights
compared to other
• Same legal rights as men (land,
property, divorce)
• Left women to be economically
• Primary role was in domestic life
• Common title for a married
women in ancient Egypt was
“nebet per” meaning “the lady of
the house”
• Bear and raise children
Role of Men
• Head of the family
• Men could have numerous wives
but economically men had only 1
• Labourers, craftsmen
• Jobs were hereditary
• Labour required for construction
projects and was mostly filled by
poor, serfs
• Stability of Egypt thrived as skilled
trades were passed from father to
• Children always learned the trade
from parents; seldom could choose
What determined Egypt’s
economic prosperity?
Agriculture made up most of Egypt’s wealth
– grain, vegetables, fruit, cattle, goats, pigs and fowl
• Abundance and management of food supplies
(not royal treasury) was the measure of Egypt’s
wealth = full granaries, plenty of wildlife and fish,
and thriving herds were the signs of prosperity.
These were the images used in the tombs of the
Pharaohs to illustrate the wealth of their reigns
• Simple economy based on food production and minerals from desert
• access to the Mediterranean their routes extended trade as far as Northern Europe, subtropical
Africa and the Near East
• Trading was done by bartering goods (grain, oil, wheat)
• Taxes, salaries and loans were all paid entirely on goods
• extensive trading made Egypt a powerful influence on culture, art, ideas and technology (ie.
Western calendar was taken from the Romans who had borrowed it from the Egyptians)
• Trade eventually grew and expanded, bringing new ideas and goods into Egyptian society
• Contributed to stability and continuity of Egypt
• All children, regardless of social class, received some
• Followed a moral and ethical guide “Instructions in
• Goal for education was to ensure youth exhibited self
control and good manners
• At 14, young boys followed fathers in jobs, and girls
learned from mothers in the household
• Children of priests were schooled more formally
• Literacy was stressed for government jobs
• Education respected for creating a well rounded
• History of Writing:
1) pictograms (sun= sun)
2) ideograms (sun = sun, daylight,
warmth, light)
3) phonograms: symbols that suggest a
particular sound; related ideas and also
sound (Sun = sun, son, Sunday)
• Each hieroglyph found in pyramids and
tombs often symbolized more than one
consonant. Not only that, but actual
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a combination
of sound-signs, pictograms, and
ideograms. No wonder it was so hard to
decode them!
• New Kingdom= 700
hieroglyphs in common
usage, while rest were
• 100 were strictly visual,
while rest were
• Eventually scribes
adapted hieroglyphic
• By 700 BCE, script was
refined to the demotic
(or popular script) was
used for secular matters
such as letters, accounts
and record keeping
Rosetta Stone
What is the Rosetta Stone?
• The Rosetta Stone is a stone with writing on it
in two languages (Egyptian and Greek), using
three scripts (hieroglyphic, demotic and
Greek). It was carved in 196 BCE.
Why is it in three different scripts?
• The Rosetta Stone is written in three scripts
(hieroglyphs for religious documents;
demotic- common script of Egypt; Greeklanguage of the rulers of Egypt at that time)
• The Rosetta Stone was written in all three
scripts so that the priests, government officials
and rulers of Egypt could read what it said.
When was the Rosetta Stone found?
• The Rosetta Stone was found in 1799 by
French soldiers who were rebuilding a fort in
Egypt (in a small village in Delta called
Rosetta (Rashid)
What does the Rosetta Stone say?
• The Rosetta Stone is a text written by a group
of priests in Egypt to honour the Egyptian
pharaoh. It lists all of the things that the
pharaoh had done that were good for the
priests and the people of Egypt.
Life and Death
• Life and death was measured in accordance to Ma’at: the goddess
and symbol of equilibrium of the universe and the king had to rule
according to her principles
Death viewed as a new beginning
• Afterlife common to all, regardless of social status
(preparation varied as well as goods stored in tombs)
-symbol of
the equilibrium
• 2 Common Principles:
of the universe
1) body preservation in a lifelike form
2) the deceased must have items necessary for life in the afterworld
• Personal belongings were usually placed in the tomb to make the Ka more at
home and to assist the dead in their journey into the afterlife.
• Text was read from the 'Book of the Dead' which was a collection of spells,
charms, passwords, numbers and magical formulas for the use of the deceased
in the afterlife.
This scene depicts what occurs after a person has died, according to the
ancient Egyptians.
• panel of 14 judges
• Ka (soul /spiritual duplicate), ba (personality) ankh (form mummy took in
afterlife / the key of life)
• Weighing of the heart vs Ma’at
• Judgment of scale
• record of the outcome
• Mummification focused
on Egyptian belief of the
importance of
preserving the body
• Afterlife would be spent
enjoying best of life
• Body covered with
natron and dried for up
to 70 days
• Body wrapped in linen
coated with resins and
• Middle Kingdom
became customary to
place a mask over the
• Removal of organs (lungs, stomach,
intestines, liver) in Canopic Jars were
closed with stoppers fashioned in the
shape of four heads -- human,
baboon, falcon, and jackal representing the four protective
spirits called the Four Sons of Horus.
• brain was sucked out of the cranial
cavity and thrown away because the
Egyptian's thought it was useless.
Ancient Egypt: Why so stable?
• Ancient Egypt
lasted for 3500
years due to
factors in:
• Geography
• Politics
• Social structure
• Education
• Economy
• Religion
= Stability was
goal and change
slow and