Egypt is wholly the gift of the Nile

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Ancient Egypt


  • According to historians, “Egypt is wholly the gift of the Nile,” While the desert protected Egypt from invasion, it limited where people can settle.

  • Farmers took advantage of the Nile Valley to grow wheat and flax, a plant whose fibers were used for clothing.

  • The Nile rises in the highlands of Ethiopia and the lakes of central Africa.

  • In ancient times, people awaited annual flood, which soaked the land with life-giving water deposited a layer of rich silt, or soil.

  • Ancient Egypt had two distinct region, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt

  • Upper Egypt stretched from the first cataract (waterfall) of the Nile northward within 100 miles of the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Lower Egypt covered the delta region where the Nile empties the Mediterranean Sea.

  • The Nile river served as a trade route. Merchants traveled up and down the Nile exchanging products of Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean world.

Egyptian Religion

  • Inherited from their earliest ancestors a variety of religious belief and practices.

  • Amon-Re was the chief god of the sun.

  • The pharaoh were viewed as gods as well as monarch

  • Osiris ruled the underworld and god of the Nile. He controlled the annual flood that made the land fertile.

  • Isis was believed to:

  • Teach women to grind corn.

  • Spin flax

  • Weave cloth

  • Care for children.

  • The gods promised the faithful they would have a life after death.

  • Scholars debate that Akhenaton was trying to introduce a new religion based on worship of a single god.

Belief in an Afterlife

  • Egyptians believed that each soul would pass a test in order to win eternal life.

  • According to legend, Osiris would weigh the dead person’s heart against the feather of truth

  • The Book of the dead contained spells, charms, and formulas for the dead to use in afterlife.

  • Mummification is the preservation of the dead.

  • At first, mummification was a privilege reserved for rulers and nobles. Eventually, Egyptians won the privilege.

  • Many pharaohs are buried in the desolate Valley of the Kings.

Egyptian Society

  • As both a god and earthly leader, the pharaoh stood at the top of society.

  • Directly underneath were high priests and priestesses, who served the gods and goddesses.

  • Most Egyptians were peasant farmers.

  • Peasant men were expected to:

  • Serve the pharaoh

  • Laboring to build palaces, temples and tombs.

  • Peasant women were expected to:

  • Working in fields

  • Raising children

  • Collecting water

  • Preparing food.

  • Trade offered new opportunities to the growing merchant class

  • Foreign conquests brought riches to Egypt, more business for artisans.

  • Under Egyptian law, women could inherit property, enter a business deals, buy and sell goods, got to court, and obtain a divorce.

Egyptian Learning

  • The ancient Egyptians developed a form of picture writing called Hieroglyphics. Carved on stone.

  • Earliest were pictograms that depicted objects.

  • Egyptians developed new forms of writing:

  • Ideograms are pictures that symbolized an idea or action

  • Demotic simpler form of writing for everyday use; were made of papyrus (paper would not be invented until 100 A.D. in China)

  • Rosetta Stone, discovered by Jean Champollion in the 1800s, contained messages in hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek.

Art and Literature

  • The arts of ancient Egypt included: statues, wall paintings, and carvings on temples.

  • Show everyday scenes of trade, farming, family life, and religious ceremonies.

  • Pharaohs and gods were much larger than any other human figures.

  • Some human figures have animal heads that represent special qualities. Example: Great Sphinx

  • The oldest literature of ancient Egypt includes: hymns and prayers to gods, proverbs, and love poems.

  • The Tale of Sinhue helps us see how Egyptians viewed both themselves and the people of the surrounding desert.

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