The ancient Egyptians enjoyed many natural barriers. There were deserts to the east and west of the Nile River, and mountains to the south. This isolated the ancient Egyptians and allowed them to develop a truly distinctive culture. • The Nile is the world's longest river. It is over 4000 miles long! It is shaped like the lotus flower so often seen in ancient Egyptian art. Each spring, water would run off the mountains and the Nile would flood. As the flood waters receded, black rich fertile soil was left behind. The ancient Egyptian called this rich soil The Gift of the Nile. • Fertile soil for crops was not the Nile's only gift. The Nile gave the ancient Egyptians many gifts. Thanks to the Nile, these ancient people had fresh water for drinking and bathing. The Nile supported transportation and trade. It provided materials for building, for making cloth for clothes, and even for making paper - made from the wild papyrus weed, that grew along the shores of the Nile. • Because of the annual flooding of the Nile, the ancient Egyptians enjoyed a high standard of living compared to other ancient civilizations. Without the Nile, Egypt would be a desert.
The early people who settled along the Nile River banded together into two main groups. • One group lived around the mouth of Nile River, near the Mediterranean Sea. Their king wore a Red Crown. Their land was called Lower Egypt. • The other group lived near the mountains to the South. Their king wore a White Crown. Their land was called Upper Egypt. • These two groups had much in common. They spoke the same language. They worshipped the same gods. They had the same culture. But, they did not get along. They were always fighting. • Around 3000 BCE, King Menes (also known as King Namer) ruled Upper Egypt. He conquered Lower Egypt. These two groups continued to fight. One day, King Menes had an idea. If the color of a crown was so important, why not invent a new crown?! King Menes created the Double Crown, a mix of white and red. His idea worked. Both Lower and Upper Egypt respected the Double Crown. They called their land "The Two Lands". Over time, The Two Lands became known as Egypt.
Over 5000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians wrote things down using a picture writing called hieroglyphics. The people who did the actual writing were called scribes. The scribes had a problem. The ancient Egyptians wrote everything down, absolutely everything! Although hieroglyphics were very pretty, it took time to write in pictures. • Hundreds of years later, archaeologists discovered beautiful hieroglyphic writing on the walls of ancient Egyptian pyramids and tombs. The archaeologists had a problem. They knew hieroglyphics had meanings.
It was not until quite recently, a mere 200 years ago, that a stone was found in Egypt. This stone had the same short story written on it in Greek, in Demonic, and in hieroglyphics. Scientists could read Greek. Scientists could read Demonic. And now, scientists could begin to read hieroglyphics. They named this stone the Rosetta Stone. • Today, the Rosetta Stone is on display for everyone to see. Currently, it makes its home in the famous British Museum in London. • http://egypt.mrdonn.org/hieroglyphics.html
The Old Kingdom (2700 BCE-2200 BCE): Pharaohs had absolute power and were considered gods on earth. But that's not why this kingdom is nicknamed "The Pyramid Age". Pharaohs were buried in pyramids only during this time period in history. After building a few pyramids, at great expense to the state, it occurred to pharaohs that pyramids were rather easy to spot, and thus, much easier to rob than a hidden tomb. Things changed during the middle kingdom. • The Middle Kingdom (2100 BCE-1800 BCE): The middle kingdom was Egypt's Golden Age. Trade flourished, arts and literature flourished. Egypt built strong armies to defend herself against her neighbors. During the time period of the middle kingdom, pharaohs were expected to be good kings and wise rulers. And pharaohs were buried in hidden tombs, all over the place. Most probably, there are tombs yet to be discovered because they were hidden so well.
The New Kingdom (1500 BCE-1000 BCE): The new kingdom was Egypt's expansion period. Egypt expanded her borders through military conquest and became a world power. During the time period of the new kingdom, pharaohs were all powerful, and pharaohs were all buried in the same geographic area called the Valley of the Kings.
The Great Sphinx is a large human-headed lion that was carved from a mound of natural rock. It is located in Giza where it guards the front of Khafra's pyramid. Legends have been told for many years about the Great Sphinx. These stories tell about the powers and mysteries of this sphinx. Some people even believe that there are hidden passageways or rooms underneath the Great Sphinx, but nothing has been found yet. The beginning of one story about the Great Sphinx is written on a stele between the sphinx's paws. The story reads that one day, a young prince fell asleep next to the Great Sphinx. He had been hunting all day, and was very tired. He dreamt that the Great Sphinx promised that he would become the ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt if he cleared away the sand covering its body (the Great Sphinx was covered up to its neck).The rest of the story is gone, so you will have to use your imagination to work out the ending. This stele was put up by the pharaoh Thutmosis IV who lived around 1400 B.C.
Several million people lived in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh owned everything. More importantly, he was in charge of everything. To help him do a good job, he had helpers. Some helpers were members of the royal family. Others were people who had worked their way up the government ladder. Each pharaoh had an organized army, a police force, and a huge number of ministers and government officials to assist him. • Government officials gave themselves all kinds of titles. But in ancient Egypt, the only title that mattered besides the title of Pharaoh was that of Vizier. The Vizier was Pharaoh's right hand man. Everyone reported to the official above them. The top officials reported to the Vizier. The Vizier reported to the Pharaoh every day on what was happening all over Egypt. • This system of government worked successfully in ancient Egypt for hundreds and hundreds of years.
The ancient Egyptians worshiped over 2000 gods and goddesses. Unlike other ancient cultures, whose gods looked somewhat like people, most ancient Egyptian gods had animal heads. The ancient Egyptians built temples to honor their gods. Each temple was home to one or more temple gods. • The Book of the Dead is not a book. It's a nickname for a bunch of different magical spells written down in various ways by the ancient Egyptians. Nearly all of the magical spells that have been discovered to date were written to help the ancient Egyptian safely reach their Afterlife. Egyptologists have found about 200 different spells so far, most written on piece of papyrus, some written on tomb walls. • Everyone in ancient Egypt wanted to safely reach the Afterlife. They believed the Afterlife was a real place, and they believed magical spells would help them get there. • Wealthy Egyptians hired scribes to write down all their personal favorite spells on papyrus sheets. Once prepared, this collection of spells was packed carefully away with their other grave goods, to be placed in their tomb someday. • If you did not have a lot of money, you could buy a ready-made version that included several of the most popular spells. A space was left on the sheet of papyrus for your name. That way, you not only had several spells on hand to use, but you also had your name written down, which helped your spirit find its way home each night to your tomb.
It was only during the time of the Old Kingdomthat the ancient Egyptians built pyramids to hold the royal tombs of their kings. Pyramids were huge structures. Pyramids had storage rooms, courtyards, secret passageways, and all kinds of fancy traps designed to catch robbers who tried to break into the pyramid to rob it. • Pyramids were full of treasures. The average person created grave goods to take with them to their afterlife. Imagine the treasures a pharaoh might feel were necessary to bring along! • The first pyramid, the Step Pyramid, was built around 2700 BCE, nearly 5000 years ago! Pyramid construction was abandoned after the time of the Old Kingdom. It was simply too easy to find a pyramid. Grave robbers knew exactly where the pharaohs were buried, and thus knew exactly where to find riches and wealth. If you were caught, the penalty for grave robbing was death. • The ancient Egyptians did not simply build a pyramid, bury a pharaoh, and walk away. A whole city grew up around a pyramid during its construction. These cities were called pyramid cities. The pharaoh provided homes for everyone who worked on the pyramid construction. People were paid for their work in goods and food and homes. • After a pyramid was finished, the pyramid city continued to exist. Some of the people who stayed had jobs maintaining and guarding the pyramid. Others, like bakers and basket weavers, were merchants who created needed goods.
Tut was only nine years old when he became Pharaoh. He was only 18 years old when he died. The people did not have a lot of time to build Tut's tomb. Tut's tomb was very small compared to the tombs of other pharaohs. Because his tomb was so small, it was overlooked for thousands of years. • In 1922, a British archaeologist named Howard Carter entered King Tut's tomb. It was almost like entering a time machine. Robbers might have been there because a bag of gold rings was found on the floor, as if dropped in haste. But they did not take everything because Carter and his team found many treasures inside the tomb including a solid gold mask of King Tut's face.