Today, desert covers much of Egypt. It hardly ever rains in Egypt • 12,000 yrs. Ago, much of the area was covered by swampland. • Since then, Egypt has been getting drier. • Egypt has been mostly desert for at least 5000 yr. • The most important feature is the Nile.
The Nile was the main source of water in Egypt. • “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”. – Herodotus • Without the Nile, Egypt would have been a desert, with very little life. Because of the Nile, it was a land of great fertility, and one of the cradles of civilization. • Black Land: land on each side of the Nile river, which receives water. It is rich and fertile. • Red Land: land just beyond the Black Land. It is desert.
Nile is the longest river in the world-4160 miles • The White Nile starts at Lake Victoria. The Blue Nile starts in the highlands of Ethiopia. • They come together in what is now Sudan, to form the Nile.
Upper Egypt is in the south • Lower Egypt is in the north • Mediterranean Sea • Red Sea
Cataracts: rapids You could not navigate through the cataracts. Ancient Egypt-750 miles from the first cataract to the Nile delta.
The Nile flows from south to north • The wind blows from north to south. • This made travel easy in both directions
Inundation (flood) of the Nile • Each year, in late June, the water level of the Nile River began to rise. The star Sirius appeared above the horizon just before dawn on June 21. • The flood was caused by spring rains farther south in Africa, where the Nile river begins. • The water level continued to rise until it reached its maximum in September. In October the water level began to fall, and within a few weeks was back to its original level. • As the flood water receded, it left a layer of rich, fertile black silt, which was ideal for crops.
Inundation: means covered with water; the term for the flood of the Nile. • Nilometer: an ancient device for measuring the height of the Nile flood waters. These were located at a number of places on the Nile.
Life in Egypt followed the cycle of the Nile • Egyptian farmers divided their year into three seasons, based on the cycles of the Nile River: • INUNDATION (FLOOD SEASON)(June-September): No farming was done at this time, as all the fields were flooded. Instead, many farmers worked for the pharaoh (king), building pyramids or temples. Some of the time was spent mending their tools and looking after animals. • GROWING SEASON(October-February): After the flood receded, in October, this fresh, fertile soil was ploughed and seeded. The crops, including wheat, barley, flax, figs & pomegranates, grew. • HARVEST SEASON (March-May): The fully grown crops had to be cut down (harvested) and removed before the Nile flooded again. It was also the time to repair the canals ready for the next flood.
The annual flood of the Nile determined the rhythm of life in Egypt: Inundation, Growing Season, Harvest. • The annual flood left rich silt made Egypt almost magically fertile. This meant the Egyptians could produce a lot of surplus food, which allowed them to do many things other than farming. • This cycle gave the Egyptians a deep sense that life follows a cycle, and that life is renewed.
Other advantages of the Nile Valley • Sunny, frost-free climate • Easy travel by boat on the Nile in both directions. • Plenty of stone for building. • A location protected from invasion. • Deserts provide protection on the East and West. The Isthmus of Suez was the only land-bridge to Asia • The Mediterranean Sea provided protection on the North. • The cataracts helped protect from invasion from the South. • Because of this natural protection, Egypt was not often invaded in the early period. This helped allow their culture to develop.
Very Early Developments • By at least 6000BC, there were farming villages along the Nile. • By 3800BC, the Egyptians mined copper, and soon learned to make bronze • By 3100BC, there were two kingdoms in Egypt: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Also by this • Also by 3100BC, Egypt began developing a vast irrigation system to bring Nile water to crops in the dry season.
3100BC-Unification • In 3100BC, Menes (Narmer) , the ruler of Upper Egypt, conquered Lower Egypt, and united the 2 kingdoms. • Thus Egypt became the world’s first unified country. • To show this, Menes combined the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt into one crown • He established Memphis as the capital. • According to legend, Menes was killed and eaten by a hippopotamus.
Pharaohs & government • Dynasty: family of rulers. 30 Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. • Pharaoh: Ruler of Egypt, who was regarded as a god. The position was passed down usually from father to son. They were absolute rulers, and in theory owned all the land of Egypt. They were human forms of the god Horus. • To help them rule, the pharaohs created a complex bureaucracy. • Vizier – assistant to the pharaoh. • Governmental departments to handle the various functions of government. Many scribes worked in each department to carry out the tasks of government.
Egyptian writing-Hieroglyphics • Oldest form: Hieroglyphics • It was fully formed by about 3000BC, although some written symbols were used as early as 3400. • “hiero”-holy; “glyphics”-writing • About 600 picture signs. Some represented whole words. Some represented syllables. • At first, it was carved on stone.
Papyrus • Soon a paper-like material called papyrus was invented. It was made from the papyrus plant. • Peel the stalk. • Cut the stalk into strips. • Soak the strips. • Lay them out. Press them. • They used ink made from soot, water, and sometimes plant juice
Egyptian writing • After hieroglyphics, more simplified forms of writing were invented. Hieroglyphics continued to be used for very formal writing. • Hieratic: also used pictures, but they were simplier • Demotic: uses simple strokes.
What happened to Egyptian writing • Eventually, by about 300AD, many years after the period we are studying, all three forms of Egyptian writing went out of use. For a while, the Egyptians used Greek or Latin. Later, the Egyptians used Arabic. The meaning of the old symbols was forgotten. No one knew how to read them.
HOW HIEROGLYPHICS (and hieratic and demotic) were finally translated: • In the 1700s, interest in Ancient Egypt increased, and people wanted to be able to read hieroglyphics. • 1799AD – a stone was found by Napoleon’s soldiers near the town of Rosetta, Egypt - - the “Rosetta Stone”.
Rosetta Stone • It happened to have a royal proclamation written in 3 different ways: Hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Ancient Greek. • Ancient Greek was still well known by many people. • In 1822, a French linguist named Francois Champollion used the Rosetta stone to decipher the hieroglyphics and demotic. He knew the Ancient Greek language and used it as a key to the others.
Periods of Egyptian History • About 3100BC-2700BC: Early Dynastic Period • About 2700BC-2200BC: OLD KINGDOM • About 2200BC-2100BC: 1st Intermediate period • About 2100BC-1700BC: MIDDLE KINGDOM • About 1700BC-1600BC: 2nd Intermediate Period • About 1600BC-1100BC: NEW KINGDOM • * All dates are rounded up to the nearest century
3100BC-2680BC: EARLY DYNASTIC • Unified Upper & Lower Egypt & established a strong central government, the first unified country in world history • Established the position of king or pharaoh (he wasn’t actually called pharaoh until the new kingdom) • Developed a tradition of mummifying & burying rulers in mastaba (rectangular) tombs. • Developed hieroglyphic writing. • Established the irrigation system
OLD KINGDOM (2680BC- 2180BC) • Improved the irrigation system • Made the government highly centralized and highly organized • Build the great pyramids and sphinx
SOCIAL CLASSES • 1)Pharaoh & the Royal Family • 2) Government officials, nobles, priests & scribes. • Government officials who governed the provinces of Egypt-Egypt was divided into 42 provinces called Nomes, and these officials were called Nomarchs. These officials gradually became a small but powerful group of hereditary nobles; • Priests; Scribes (people whose profession was reading and writing). • 3)Skilled artisans and merchants • 4)Peasant farmers (these were the majority) • (In Old Kingdom Egypt, there were few slaves. Later, in Middle and New Kingdom periods, the number of slaves greatly increased.
PYRAMIDS • There are over 100 pyramids in Egypt, built during the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom periods. • The largest and oldest pyramids were built during the Old Kingdom. They are located on in lower Egypt, near present day Cairo, in three locations: Giza, Saqarra, and Dashur.
Pyramids • The purpose of the pyramids was to provide a tomb that would protect the body and soul of the Pharoah. • They believed that the soul (composed of ba and ka) needed its body in order to have eternal life, and the body therefore had to be preserved and protected. • Most Pharaohs started building their tombs many years before they died.
It used to be thought that the pyramids were built by slave labor. However, now historians have determined that they were built by free Egyptian citizens who were drafted by the government to spend a certain time building pyramids. • They were organized into work-groups and lived in a village set up near the pyramid. • Some groups even had nick names for their group and signed the part of the pyramid they built.
PYRAMIDS • The early Pharoahs had rectangular tombs called Mastaba tombs. They were buried in a shaft beneath them.
Pyramids-1st Pyramid • The PharoahDjoser reigned in 2630-2611BC, during the Old Kingdom. • His vizier and architect was an man named Imhotep. Imhotep designed Djoser’s tomb. • Djoser’s tomb started off as a Mastaba tomb. Then (to make it grander) Imhotep added a series of progressively smaller Mastabas on tomb. Thus we have the first pyramid: the “Step Pyramid”