3.4 Ancient Egypt Outline

A. The Nile River
1. Flows north more than 4000 miles from Central Africa to the Mediterranean
2. Every year in mid-July the Nile flooded gradually
a. Very predictable
b. In early fall, waters would retreat leaving a thick layer of rich fertile mud
c. To predict the annual floods, the Egyptians developed a solar calendar
B. Egypt was protected from invaders by natural boundaries
1. North—Mediterranean Sea
2. East and West—Deserts
3. South—Cataracts
a. Cataract = rapids or waterfall
b. Boats couldn’t sail through cataracts
C. Natural Resources
1. Building materials: clay bricks, limestone, granite
2. Semi-precious stones: turquoise, alabaster, malachite,
lapis lazuli
3. Precious metal: gold
D. Egypt was divided into two sections
1. Upper Egypt (a.k.a. Nile Valley)
a. Southern part of the Nile River Valley
b. Only 4-10 miles wide
c. Symbols: lotus, vulture
d. Crown: White crown
2. Lower Egypt (a.k.a. Nile Delta)
a. Northern part of Nile Valley
b. Shaped like a triangle (Greek letter delta)
c. Symbols: papyrus, cobra
d. Crown: Red crown
A. Egyptian priest named Manetho (3rd century BCE) recorded 30 dynasties – divisions
Egyptologists use today
1. Dynasty = rule by a royal family
B. Egyptian history traditionally divided into 3 major periods, with intermediate periods of
1. Old Kingdom
2. Middle Kingdom
3. New Kingdom
III. OLD KINGDOM (c. 3100 – 2300 BCE)
A. Unification of Egypt: c. 3100BCE
1. At first, Upper and Lower Egypt were separate kingdoms
2. c. 3100 BCE: Narmer, king of Upper Egypt, conquered Lower Egypt: united Egypt
1) Combined the two crowns to make the Double Crown
2) Established the capital at Memphis, on the boundary between Upper and
Lower Egypt
3) Important artifact: Slate Palette of Narmer
a) Depicts Narmer defeating the king of Lower
b) Has his name in hieroglyphics
B. During the Old Kingdom, pharaohs were very powerful
1. Pharaoh = ruler of Egypt
2. Egyptians believed the pharaoh was the god Horus in human form
C. The Old Kingdom was the only period in which pyramids were constructed
1. Early tombs of pharaohs were mastabas
a. Mastaba = a rectangular tomb with a burial shaft below
2. Then pharaohs began to have pyramids constructed for their tombs
a. Built by farmers who were unemployed in the summer months while their fields
were flooded
b. Built on the west side of the Nile (sun set in the west—represented death)
c. Burial chamber hidden deep inside
1) Contained pharaoh’s personal belongings and treasures
2) All were robbed in ancient times
3. First pyramid: The Step Pyramid of Saqqara
a. Built for the pharaoh Djoser
b. Designed by architect Imhotep (first architect whose name we know)
4. Most famous: The Pyramids of Giza
a. Three large pyramids at Giza
1) Largest: Pyramid of Khufu (the Great Pyramid)
2) Medium: Pyramid of Khafre (still has limestone
cap on the top)
3) Smallest: Pyramid of Menkaure
b. The Great Sphinx
1) Huge statue carved from an outcropping of limestone
2) A creature with the body of a lion with the head of the Pharaoh Khafre
D. Developed writing
1. Hieroglyphics: picture stood for words or sounds
2. Often written on papyrus—a paper made from the papyrus reed that grew along the
banks of the Nile
3. Later scribes developed a form of cursive writing known as demotic script
(shorthand in which symbols were simplified and joined)
4. Key to deciphering hieroglyphics = the Rosetta Stone
a. Written in Greek, hieroglyphics (Egyptian) and demotic (Egyptian)
b. Discovered in 1799 by the army of the French general Napoleon
c. Deciphered by François Champollion
1) Figured out that the names of pharaohs and gods were written inside ovals
called cartouches
E. Religious beliefs
1. Gods had both human and animal characteristics
a. Most important gods:
1) Re (Ra): sun god (falcon)
2) Osiris: first pharaoh and god of afterlife (human, with green skin)
3) Isis: wife of Osiris (human)
4) Horus: son of Isis and Osiris; inhabits the body of the pharaoh (falcon, or
falcon head)
5) Seth: the evil brother of Osiris (undetermined animal with flat-topped ears)
6) Nepthys: the sister of Isis, Osiris, and Seth (human)
7) Thoth: god of wisdom (with Ibis head)
8) Anubis: god of embalming (jackal head)
2. Gods generally looked out for the good of the people and were ethical
3. Sacred items
a. Ankh: cross with a loop on top—symbolized eternal life
b. Scarab: sacred beetle
1) Scarabs roll balls of dung along the ground and then lay eggs in the dung.
2) It seemed to the ancient Egyptians that the young scarab beetles emerged
spontaneously from the balls of dung where they were born.
3) So they symbolized creation or rebirth after death
4. Life after death
a. Believed when a person died the person’s ka (soul) went to the afterlife
1) The ka needed the body for the afterlife, so bodies were preserved through
embalming and mummification
a) Embalming = drying out the body by covering it with natron (a salt
b) Mummification = wrapping the dried body with long strips of linen
1] Mummy = the wrapped body
2] Often wrapped small amulets into the linens
c) Major organs were placed in canopic jars = jars with animal heads that
contained the organs of the dead person
b. On the journey to afterlife, the ka encountered monsters and traps, but if they
had the proper spells they were able to continue
1) These spells were written in The Book of the Dead (sometimes painted on
tomb walls, sometimes on scrolls of papyrus)
c. At the end, the ka arrived in the Room of Judgment
1) The person’s heart was weighed on a balance with the feather of ma’at
a) Ma’at = truth, justice
2) If the heart was heavier, the person would be devoured for eternity by Ammit,
the Devourer, a creature combined of a crocodile, a lion, and hippopotamus
3) If the heart was lighter, the person would go to paradise
F. Towards the end of the Old Kingdom, pharaohs were weaker
1. This is clear from the poorly made pyramids
a. Made from a core of rubble, faced with limestone (Today they just look like piles
of rocks)
2. Delegated power to local governors, called nomarchs
G. Last pharaoh of Old Kingdom was Pepi
1. He was a very weak ruler and lived to be over 90 years old
2. By the time he died, the nomarchs had all the power and didn’t want a new pharaoh;
so they didn’t allow a new pharaoh to take the throne
3. End of the Old Kingdom
IV. First Intermediate Period (c. 2300- c. 2100 BCE)
A. Nomarchs ruled Egypt—no central power
B. Almost 200 years of chaos
V. MIDDLE KINGDOM (c. 2100 – c. 1800 BCE)
A. The nomarch from the city of Thebes defeated the other nomarchs and reunited Egypt
1. Named himself pharaoh
2. Made Thebes the new capital of Egypt
3. Combined the patron god of Thebes (Amon) with the main god of Egypt (Re) to
create Amon-Re as the new main god of Egypt
B. Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom were less powerful than in Old Kingdom
1. No more pyramids
a. Tombs were put underground in the Valley of the Kings
b. A separate mortuary temple was built as a memorial (contained no treasure)
2. But they cared about the people
a. Provided jobs for the poor through public works programs (jobs building roads,
bridges, temples, draining swamps)
3. Period of peace and prosperity
C. Began construction of Temples of Luxor and Karnak
1. Extensive temple complexes dedicated to Amon-Re
2. Used post and lintel architecture: columns holding up a cross-piece or ceiling
3. Home of the priests of Amon-Re
VI. Second Intermediate Period (c. 1800 – c. 1550 BCE)
A. Egypt was conquered by Hyksos (a group of Semites who invaded from Arabia)
B. Hyksos introduced new methods of warfare
1. Horse-drawn war chariots
2. Long bow
C. Egyptians learned from the Hyksos, and drove them out c. 1550 BCE
VII. NEW KINGDOM (c.1550 – 650 BCE)
A. Hatshepsut
1. Wife of Thutmose II, who ruled in the name of her young stepson, Thutmose III, after
the death of Thut II.
2. When Thut III was an adult, Hatshepsut refused to give him power
a. She assumed the title of pharaoh
b. She wore the ceremonial crown and beard of the pharaoh
3. Accomplishments of Hatshepsut
a. Trade
1) Sent a trading mission to along the east coast of Africa
2) Brought back exotic goods like ostrich feathers and ebony
b. Temple building
1) Built extensive additions to Luxor and Karnak
2) Built her mortuary temple: Dier el Bahri
c. Built many obelisks
1) Obelisk = tall pillar of granite with a pyramid on top
B. Thutmose III
1. Stepson of Hatshepsut
2. Defeated the armies of Hatshepsut in civil war
a. Once historians believed he’d had her body cremated, but now they believe they
have found her mummy
b. Thutmose III had her name and image chiseled off of many of her monuments
3. Created an Egyptian Empire by conquering Syria and Palestine
C. Akhenaton (originally known as Amenhotep IV)
1. He changed the religion of Egypt
a. Felt that the priests of Amon-Re in Thebes were getting too powerful
b. So he adopted the worship of one god: Aton, the sun disk
1) Worship of one god = monotheism
2. Changed his name to Akhenaton (means “Spirit of Aton”)
a. Moved the capital from Thebes to a new city, which he called
Akhetaton (means “Horizon of Aton)
3. Most people did not adopt the new religion
4. His wife was Nefertiti—famous bust of Nefertiti was found in the
excavation of Akhetaton
5. Akhenaton didn’t care about military affairs
a. Ignored messages from his generals warning that parts of the
empire were in rebellion
b. During his reign, Palestine and Syria broke away from the Egyptian Empire
D. Tutankhamen
1. Son of Akhenaton, became pharaoh at the age of 9 or 10
2. His advisors returned Egypt to the worship of its traditional
3. He died at the age of 19
4. He is most famous for his tomb
a. It was discovered intact (never robbed) in 1922 by
archaeologist Howard Carter
b. Contained incredible riches
E. Ramses II
1. Reconquered Syria and Palestine
2. Great war against the Hittites, ended with the Battle of Kadesh
a. So costly to both sides that they signed a peace treaty
1) Both versions of the treaty survive (Hittite and Egyptian)
3. Built temples
a. Ramesseum (in honor of his “victory” at Kadesh)
b. Abu Simbel (great temple that was moved in 1968 by the
National Geographic Society when the Aswan Dam was
built creating a great lake—the temple would have ended
up at the bottom of the lake if it had not been moved)
c. Additions to Temples of Luxor and Karnak
F. After the reign of Ramses II, the power of Egypt declined slowly
1. Power struggles between priests and pharaohs
2. Wars with neighbors
VIII. In c. 750 BCE Egypt was conquered by the Kingdom of Kush
A. The Kingdom of Kush was located in Nubia, the region to the south of Egypt
1. The residents were black Africans
2. Egypt conquered Nubia during the reign of Thutmose III and ruled it during much of
the New Kingdom
a. During this time the Nubians adopted many Egyptian ways, including writing and
b. By 850 BCE, the Nubians had formed an independent kingdom called Kush
B. About 750 BCE, a Kushite king named Kashta began the conquest of Egypt, which was
finished by his son Piye (PY) .
1. They ruled their kingdom from their capital
city of Napata (NA-puh-tuh)
a. In Napata, they built sandstone
temples and Egyptian-style
b. They also built small pyramids in which
to build their kings
C. In c. 650 BCE, Egypt was conquered by the
1. Kushites moved the capital of the Kingdom of Kush farther south to Meroë
a. Kushites learned to make iron from the Assyrians
1) Meroe became a center of iron-working and trade
b. Also had small pyramids for kings’ tombs
IX. Later Egypt was conquered by the Persians, the Macedonians (Alexander the Great) and
the Romans.