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Chapter 3 Egypt. The Natural Environment. Valley of 4000 mile long Nile River Benevolent river, floods regularly, deposits silt to renew soil Year-long growing season, 3 crops per year. Egypt’s Isolation and Uniqueness. Egypt’s Protective Isolation

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Chapter 3 egypt

Chapter 3Egypt

The natural environment
The Natural Environment

  • Valley of 4000 mile long Nile River

  • Benevolent river, floods regularly, deposits silt to renew soil

  • Year-long growing season, 3 crops per year

Egypt s isolation and uniqueness
Egypt’s Isolation and Uniqueness

  • Egypt’s Protective Isolation

    • Protected from invasion by deserts, cataracts, sea

    • Invasion only possible from Sinai Peninsula

    • Civilization developed in almost unbroken safety

  • Egypt’s Uniqueness

    • Egypt had many advantages

    • Believed gods smiled on them, had best of all worlds

    • Security eventually turned into weakness

    • Lost ability to adapt to external changes

The pharaoh egypt s god king
The Pharaoh – Egypt’s God-King

  • Decisively unified about 3100 BCE under a pharaoh

  • Foundation period (3100-200 BCE) – greatest triumphs, cultural achievements


  • Pharaoh was a god who chose to live on Earth

    • Reincarnation of god Horus

    • He did the will of the almighty gods

    • Wife and family shared some glory, but he alone was divine

  • Government Under the Pharaoh

    • Officials were noble landlords, great local power

    • Two periods when pharaohs were weak

      • 2200-2100 BCE – First Intermediate Period

      • 1650-1570 BCE – Hyksos Invasion

    • After each period, new dynasty appeared, restored control

    • Pharaohs kept power because of many benefits in Egypt

Egypt s kingdoms
Egypt’s Kingdoms

  • 31 dynasties (rule by one family)

  • Old Kingdom (3100-2200 BCE)

    • Most successful period

    • Art, architecture, religion, stability, prosperity

  • Middle Kingdom (2100-1650 BCE)

    • Political stability, continued refinement of arts, crafts

    • Trade became more extensive

    • Religion became more democratic

  • New Kingdom (1500-700 BCE)

    • Tried to convert neighbors to their lifestyle, government

    • Did not last – military reversals, internal dissent

    • Subjected to foreign invasions

    • Life of ordinary people saw no marked change

Cultural achievements
Cultural Achievements

  • Pyramids

    • Designed as tombs, built while pharaoh was alive

    • Possessed huge religious significance

  • Statues and Temples

    • Some of temples still stand

    • Vandalism, tomb robbers have destroyed much

    • Tomb of Tutankhamen

    • Statues have graceful lines, great dignity

    • Had only primitive tools to do this work

Cultural achievements1
Cultural Achievements

  • Other art forms

    • Painting

    • Ceramics

    • Jewelry

    • Miniature sculpture for tombs

  • Hieroglyphics (“sacred carvings”)

    • Pictographs representing ideas, phonetic sounds

    • Never developed into an alphabet

    • Their use confined to small groups of educated people

Religion and eternal life
Religion and Eternal Life

  • Polytheistic religion – at least 300 gods

  • Amon and Ra, Isis, Osiris were most important

  • Believed firmly in afterlife, life-essence (ka) could roam at will

  • They expected reward in afterlife

  • Priests played powerful role

  • Akhnaton’s experiment

    • Tried to change from polytheism to monotheism (“one god”)

    • Unsuccessful, not seen until appearance of Judaism

    • People went back to old ways after his death

Egypt s people and their daily lives
Egypt’s People and Their Daily Lives

  • Population overwhelmingly peasant, most of them tenant farmers

  • Many small merchants, craftspeople

  • No real cities

  • Large-scale trade, relatively unimportant

  • Small middle class

  • Daily life changed remarkably little

  • Slavery

    • Slavery increased during Empire

    • Mostly result of owing debts

    • Serfdom and sharecropping

  • In general, people were better off most of the time

Egypt and mesopotamia contrasts
Egypt and Mesopotamia - Contrasts

  • Egypt – enormous stability, predictability; Mesopotamia – subject to violent change

  • Egypt – protected by natural barriers, could choose cultural influences to adopt; Mesopotamia – crossroads, constant new introductions

  • Egypt – unified nation, false sense of security; Mesopotamia – outsiders arrived with enough power to establish themselves, no stagnation

  • Egypt – “an island in space and time” with little permanent influence; Mesopotamia – major cradle of civilization

Discussion questions
Discussion Questions

  • 1. Akhnaton tried a revolutionary idea when he introduced monotheism. Why do you think it failed? Why did the Egyptian population not convert to this radical new approach to religion?

  • 2. Egypt and Mesopotamia both developed along major river systems, yet a comparable civilization did not apparently develop in North America along the Mississippi River Valley. Why do you thin this did not occur? What necessary factors for the rise of civilization were missing? Or was it simply a matter of accident?