The Egyptians - SCF Faculty Site Homepage

3000 YEARS
The most prevalent
color of the desert,
is a decidedly
ochre. The
Egyptians called
the desert
”Deshret," meaning
"red," and this
endless carpet of
sand covers an
estimated 95 % of
Egypt, interrupted only by the narrow band of
green carved by the waters of the Nile.
Ancient Egyptians
called their land
"Kemet," which
meant "black,"
after the black
fertile soil left
behind each year
with the annual
flooding of the
Neolithic Period: 6000-3100 bce
 Slow development of civilization from 6000-3100 bce
 Introspective character: sense of cultural superiority
 Awareness of cyclical pattern supported by annual
flooding of the Nile and knowledge of the sun’s
 Concentration of population on Nile banks led to
development of agricultural villages
 Writing began to be developed ca. 3300 bce
Palermo Stone
 Old Kingdom Annals:
earliest Egyptian historical
writing: 25th c. bce
 A dark stone containing
information from the early
 It is inscribed on both sides
with a list of kings from PreDynastic Egypt to the middle
of the 5th Dynasty.
 The exact creation date is not
known, the earliest possible
date being the middle of the
5th Dynasty.
Manetho, a Greek-speaking Egyptian priest, wrote the
Ægyptiaca, a collection of three books about the history of
Ancient Egypt, commissioned by Ptolemy II in the 3rd c. bce.
As a temple priest, Manetho had access to the archives which
contained a vast number of different kinds of writings from
mythological texts to official records, from magical formulas to
scientific treaties.
With such sources, myths and folk-tale are mixed with the facts
of the Egyptian history.
Manetho divided Ancient Egyptian history in 30 dynasties, a
division not always based on historical facts, but partly on
mythology and partly on divisions of ruling families already
established in the past.
Ægyptiaca Papyrus
Divine Invention
In ancient Egypt, the
invention of writing is
attributed to the god
Thoth or Tehuti (Dhwty
in Egyptian), the scribe
and historian of the gods,
who also kept the calendar
and invented art and
Egyptian Hieroglyphs
 Hieroglyphs were called by the Egyptians "the words of God"
and were used mainly by the priests.
 The painstakingly drawn symbols decorated the walls of temples
 Hieratic script was used for conducting day to day business
 Hieroglyphs are written in rows or columns and can be read from
left to right or from right to left. The direction in which the text is
to be read is indicated by the human or animal figures which
always face towards the beginning of the line.
 The upper symbols are read before the lower.
History of
Rosetta Stone, 196 bce
 30th century BCE: The
hieroglyphic system is developed.
 500 BCE: A slow revolution of
hieroglyphic writing starts, as new
signs are introduced. The number of
available signs grows over the
centuries from around 700 to several
 394 CE: The date of the last case of
hieroglyphic writing.
 1799: The Rosetta Stone is
discovered, which contained the
same text in two languages (Egyptian
and Greek), and in three writing
systems (hieroglyphic, demotic and
 1822: The French scientist JeanFrancoise Champollion completes
the decipherment of the hieroglyphs.
Hieroglyphs from the Valley of the Kings
History of Hieratic Script
 Around 2750 BCE: First examples of hieratic script.
 Around 2000 BCE: Writing direction changes from
vertical to horizontal read from right to left
 Around 600 BCE: Demotic script replaces hieratic script
for use with secular writing. Hieratic continued to be used
for religious texts.
 Around 100 CE: Last examples of hieratic script.
 Developed from the hieroglyphic
 Hieratic comes from Greek denoting
"priestly", since it was used only for
sacred texts in the last 1000 years of its
 Hieratic script was used in carved or
painted inscriptions, normally written in
ink with a reed pen on papyrus.
 Hieratic script lasted for about 3200
years, but through the last 1000 years it
was challenged by demotic script.
 Hieratic script was taught in school,
while hieroglyphs were only understood
by a small minority of priests in the
History of Demotic Script
 660 bce: First known example of demotic script.
 5th century bce: Demotic script is in use all over Egypt.
 Beginning 4th century ce: Demotic script is starting to be
replaced by Greek writing.
 425 ce: Last known example of demotic script.
 Demotic script lasted for about
1000 years, during the last period
of ancient Egyptian history.
 The term "demotic" comes from
the Greek word for people, or
 Demotic script was used for
business and literary purposes,
while hieratic was used for
religious texts.
 Demotic was the most
abbreviated and cursive script
developed by the ancient
 Most demotic texts were written
in ink on papyrus. It was also
written on wood or linen or
carved in stone or metal.
Demotic Script
The Scribe Heti
Dynasties 1 & 2: ca. 3100-2700 bce
 The culmination of the first stage of the Ancient Egyptian
civilization that had begun centuries before during Prehistory
 The goal was to gain stable, superior status in Mid-East
 Establishment of divine kingship as Egypt's form of government
 Writing evolved from a few simple signs to a complex system of
several hundreds of signs with both phonetic and ideographic
values: Hieroglyphs
 Structures built in brick, wood and reeds were copied in stone,
giving birth to the typical Ancient Egyptian architecture.
 According to Ancient Egyptian
tradition, Menes was the first (human)
king to have ruled over the whole of
 Menes, a Southern (Upper Egyptian)
king conquered the North (Lower
Egypt) and united Upper- and LowerEgypt.
 He is considered the first king of the 1st
Dynasty and credited with many deeds:
 the founding of Memphis as the united
country's new capital
 the building of dams
 the founding of new cults and temples.
 The identification of Menes is
problematic: he is often identified with
Narmer, first king on the ancient King
Red Crown of
Lower Egypt
White crown of
Upper Egypt
Unification of
Upper and Lower Egypt
protector of
Lower Egypt
protector of
Upper Egypt
2. Deshret
3. Pshent
The Sema
 A rendering of the lungs attached to the windpipe: a symbol
of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
 Other symbols further illustrate unification:
 The Sema bound with two plants, the papyrus and the lotus. The
papyrus represents Lower Egypt and the lotus represents Upper
 In other representations we find two gods binding the Sema together
using papyrus and lotus.
 Earliest tombs -- originally made
from mud brick and built for only
the most important Ancient
Egyptians. Later they were also
made from stone.
 The dead person was placed into the
Mastaba with his or her worldly
 To ensure a continued afterlife, a
statue of the person was placed into
a special room in the Mastaba called
the Serdab.
 The Chapel had paintings on the
walls which showed the dead person
in life.
 In the Chapel there was a false door
for the ka of the dead person to use
when coming and going from the
 The Mastabas were robbed no
matter how they were designed.
The Age of the
“The Age of the Pyramids”
Dynasties 3-6: ca. 2700 -2150 bce
 All the provinces were united united under the king/pharaoh, but
there was no central army.
 Powerful provincial governors, appointed by the king, collected
taxes, defended borders, and promoted and improved agriculture.
 Egypt was regularly attacked from the East and West by
Bedouins and from the South by Kush (Nubia)
 Bedouins were defeated in 2600 bce in the Sinai Desert
 Saqqara became the site of nobles’ tombs and the first pyramids:
reliefs and paintings revealed sophisticated, elegant lives
 Pyramids and temples were built by paid labor during the flood
time: public works projects
 Pyramids and Temples
 27th c. bce -- Djoser’s Step Pyramid
 Experimentation in the 4th Dynasty
One-step pyramid
Bent pyramid
True pyramid
“he who is coming
in peace”
 Served King Djoser 2630-2611 bce
 The high priest of Ptah, vizier and
the "overseer of works," architect,
 Responsible for the construction of
Djoser’s Step Pyramid and
surrounding funerary complex at
 Introduced the use of limestone in
 Substituted stone for papyrus and
palm in columns
 Deified as the patron of medicine,
of writing and of knowledge
Six levels, over 200 feet high
Originally surrounded by courts and buildings
Part of the earliest known
building to have been
completely constructed in
stone, this already has all
those elements that make
Ancient Egyptian
architecture so typical:
 post and lintel construction
 flat roofs
 “doorways” for
presentation of figures
Heb-Sed Chapels
and Ritual
 This court and its chapels
provided the pharaoh with the
means for his rejuvenating
jubilee, called Heb-Sed.
 The ritual allowed the living
pharaoh, after he had ruled for
some years, to magically refresh
his physical powers and thus
continue to reign.
 For the deceased pharaoh, the
ritual could be repeated
endlessly in the Netherworld,
enabling him to have an eternal
Note the introduction of relief columns
 The earliest funerary texts inscribed on a pharaoh's pyramid are found at
 The Pyramid Texts, were written on the inner passages and the walls of the
burial chamber.
 They were intended to help the pharaohs travel through the afterworld, to
secure the regeneration and eternal life of the king.
 The Pyramid Texts are considered the oldest body of religious writings in the
 The Pyramid Texts are
made up of 750
utterances or spells.
 Some of the utterances
are hymns and
addresses to various
gods; others are
magical formulae
designed to assure
resurrection and
ward off malign
 Their purpose was to
ensure a happy
afterlife, and through
the power of the
written word ensure
that the deceased
would be provided
with food and drink.
architecture was
the first to use
stone columns
A column usually
a capital
a shaft
a pedestal
Egyptians had the widest variety of
capitals in the ancient world.
originally made
palm and papyrus,
bound around
with string, were
imitated in
Palm-leaf column
by Nature...
Lotus column
Papyrus column
by the
The temple at Dendara
 The Great Pyramid, the tallest building in the world until early in the 20th
century,was built in just under 30 years.
 It is the last survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World.
 Five thousand years ago Gizeh, situated on the Nile's west bank, became the
royal necropolis, or burial place, for Memphis, the pharaoh's capital city.
 Gizeh's three pyramids and the Sphinx were constructed in the fourth dynasty
of Egypt's Old Kingdom, arguably the first great civilization on earth.
 Canons or conventions for
Egyptian art were set during the
Old Kingdom and generally
adhered to throughout Egyptian
 Frontality
 Body proportions
 Rigid, erect stance
 Dignity
 Differing conventions for
aristocrats, commoners and
Statue of Demedji and Hennutsen, ca. 2465–26 B.C.E.;
early Dynasty 5; Old Kingdom
The pre-eminence of RA
 Most aristocratic of the gods -- prefers offerings of
gold, silver and slaves
 Huge offerings were burnt on obelisks
 Priests used the offering money for their own
 Mummification was very expensive and limited to
the aristocracy
 Religious rites consumed a huge part of the
country’s budget
 At the end of the 4th dynasty the power and
authority of the priest of RA reached its height
when the high priest married the heiress princess
backed by bribed provincial governors
Dynasties 7-10: ca. 2150 -2040 bce
 Civil war erupted at the end of
the 6th Dynasty caused perhaps
by drought and inadequate
flooding from the Nile
 Priests of RA were blamed for
 Worship of OSIRIS became
more prominent:
 more egalitarian
 popular with commoners
 rise of ethical and moral
religious concepts
Relief of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep, ca. 2040–2010 B.C.E.; reign
of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep; Middle Kingdom
Dynasties 11-13: ca. 2040-1640 bce
 Country reunited under Menuhotep II of Thebes
 Less centralized government with more authority given to
regional governors
 Golden period of agriculture: land reclamation and
irrigation products led to highest crop yields in the
 Worship of AMON became pre-eminent
 Use of mud brick for building rather than stone
 Rock-cut tombs came into use
 Classical age of Egyptian literature: prophecies,
hymns, narrative prose tales: Tale of Sinuhe
TOMBS: Grave Goods
 Mud-brick pyramids and mastabas have largely
 Some rock-cut tombs remain at Beni-Hasan,
ca.2100-1800 bce
 Layout of tombs similar to homes
 Paintings of domestic scenes and farm life
Statue of an Offering
Bearer, ca. 1985 bce
Model of a Riverboat,
ca. 1985 bce
Coffin of Khnum-nakht,
ca. 1900–1800 bce
Cat, ca. 1991–1783 bce
Statuette of a Hippopotamus, ca. 1991–1783 bce
Dynasties 14-16: ca. 1640-1450 bce
 A group of Asians, known as the Hyksos, established their own
dynasties in Egypt.
 It is commonly assumed that they invaded Egypt and overtook it
by force. Egyptians called the Hyksos: "rulers of the foreign
 There is no real proof of military conflicts between the Egyptians
and the Hyksos at the end of the Middle Kingdom.
 It is possible that Asian settlers who had been coming to Egypt for
some generations had become so powerful, that they were able to
gain political control and establish their own dynasties, without a
military show of force.
to Egyptian Civilization
 Introduction of copper
and bronze
 Upright loom
 Musical instruments:
long-necked lute, lyre,
oboe, tambourine
 Weapons: chain
armor, battle axes,
bronze swords, high
velocity composite
bows, horse-drawn
chariots, military
Imperial Egypt
Dynasties 18-20: 1550-1070 bce
 After the expulsion of the Hyksos during the 17th and 18th
dynasties, Egypt set out on a series of conquests to secure
the borders and create an Empire
Spoils of war and the tributes owed by the many conquered
states increased Egypt’s wealth and prosperity
New temples were built, older ones were restored or
Especially favoured were the god AMON and his great
temple at Karnak, in the capital Thebes.
Egypt’s stability was briefly ruptured the late 18th Dynasty
with the Amarna-revolution.
New Kingdom
Amarna Revolution
King Tut
ca. 1450 bce
Karnak at Dawn
Valley of the Kings
necropolis of rock tombs
built during the New
reigned c. 1479--c. 1458 bce
 She acted for several years as regent
for the young Tuthmosis III, her
nephew and stepson,
 She assumed pharaonic titles and
styled herself as the senior partner of a
 Unlike previous women who had ruled
Egypt, she was consistently portrayed
in sculpture and relief as a male to
legitimize her claim to the throne.
 She built extensively at Karnak, but
her architectural masterpiece is her
mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, a
monument whose plan foreshadows the
later funerary temples of the New
Seated Statue of
Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–
1458 B.C.E.; Dynasty 18;
reign of Hatshepsut and
Tuthmosis III; New
The earliest datable royal tomb in
the Valley of the Kings.
Approximately 20 years after her
death, her name and figure were
hacked from her monuments and
her statues broken into fragments
by order of Tuthmosis III
 Amenhotep IV, also known as
Akhenaten, changed the Egyptian
religion and had most temples closed.
 Established a new capital at
Akhetaten, now Amarna
 Akhenaten favored one new god, the
solar-deity ATEN.
 Amarna-style painting and sculpture
were characterized by a greater
realism and artistic freedom.
 During this period of turmoil and
upheaval, Egypt lost most of its
former influence in Asia and Nubia.
and Nefertiti
Decorated balustrade fragment
Amarna, Great Palace
Reign of Akhenaten, 1353–1336 B.C.
Stela of Wesi, Memphis
Reign of Amenhotep III, 1390–1353 B.C
Naturalistic and
idealized plaster
kohl pot
silver mirror
21-31: 1070-332 bce
Also known as the 3rd Intermediate Period (1070 - 712
or 1070 - 525): Dynasties 21 through 24 or 26 and the
Late Period (712 - 332 or 525 - 332)
Often described as a period of decline and chaos as there
was more than one centre of power in Egypt.
 A period of relative peace and stability. The 21st
Dynasty royal tombs, unearthed in Tanis, are among the
richest finds indicating the increasing wealth of private
persons, such as the Theban high-priests.
Nubian Dynasty: Kush
770 – 657 bce  Dynastic rivalry brought an end to
the new found unity and power.
 Not only was Egypt divided between
the Delta and Thebes, now the Delta
itself would be divided as well.
 Taking advantage from these internal
conflicts, a new power arose in the
South, in Nubia.
 A dynasty had come to power intent
on conquering Egypt.
 The 25th Dynasty would be a Nubian
 The Nubian monarchs of the 25th
Dynasty would rule the larger part of
Egypt -but they would rule it
following the old Egyptian traditions.
 The peace and stability resulting
from the Nubian conquest was
ended by the Assyrians.
 Although the presence of the
Assyrians in Egypt was a short
one, its results were devastating.
Thebes was plundered,
ransacked and many temples
were destroyed.
 Fortunately for Egypt, the
Assyrians were forced to return
to Assur, leaving Psamtek I the
opportunity to take control over
the whole of the country.
 With him began the 26th
Dynasty and a new era of
stability and prosperity in Egypt.
Egyptian Warrior King
Assyrian Warrior King
525-332 bce
 The latter part of the Late Dynastic Period starts and
ends with a Persian occupation. The first Persian
occupation, also known as the 27th Dynasty, lasted for
more than a century (525 – 404).
 The second Persian occupation only lasted for 10 years
(343 – 332), but it was one of the darkest pages in the
history of Ancient Egypt: temples were plundered, holy
animals were butchered and the people were subjected
to demanding tributes.
 Egypt’s ordeal made it ready to welcome the Alexander
the Great as its liberator.
 With the "conquest" of Egypt by Alexander, Egypt
would become a Hellenistic state and a new era had
332 bce-395 ce
 When Alexander the Great entered Egypt, he was welcomed as
the son of the god Amon and immediately accepted as the new
king of the country.
 He founded a new city on the shores of the Mediterranean, the
first of many to bear the name of Alexandria. He also began to
restore all the damage done by the Persian occupation.
 Upon his death, his empire was divided between his generals.
Egypt was taken by Ptolemy, who conquered Syria-Palestine.
 The Ptolemaic pharaohs continued Alexander’s policy of
restoration in Egypt and supported the building of new temples
throughout the country to ensure the support of the Egyptian
clergy and the Egyptian people.
Cleopatra (69-30 bce)
 The dynastic rivalry of the later Ptolemies
finally resulted in an intervention by the
 They again intervened in favour of
Ptolemy XII’s daughter Cleopatra VII,
a few years later.
 Cleopatra, a capable and a politically gifted ruler, became
involved in the power struggle of the Romans, Octavian (later
Caesar Augustus) and Marc Antony, and unfortunately, she
chose the wrong side.
 When her fleets were destroyed at the Battle of Actium, she
committed suicide, and Egypt became a Roman province.
 Her son Caesarion (fathered by Julius Caesar) was probably
killed by orders of Octavian; her 3 children by Marc Antony
(Cleopatra Selene, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy
Philadelphus) were brought to Rome to be raised.