Controlling Chaos

The film shown in class today kept coming back to the theme of the ancient Egyptians trying to control chaos. The Nile and its annual flood was a large part of that chaos, but also incredibly important to the everyday life of the Egyptian people providing them with food and a route of transportation.

The Egyptians relied heavily on religious rituals in all aspects of their lives, so it is not surprising that they also used rituals to try and control the chaos of their lives. What struck me was the attempt to build a dam that was so large and quite an undertaking in both manpower and engineering. In light of the pyramids and numerous temples, perhaps this is not the finest piece of ancient Egyptian work. It is interesting that so much time and effort was spent on the construction of the dam which would have benefited the people of that area in being able to control the waters of the Nile. Although this likely would have also benefited the elites who were behind the construction, it appears that it is one example of civil engineering as opposed to the individual benefits for the construction of pyramids and large temples.

I also find it interesting that the ancient people were motivated to step outside of their religious rituals to control chaos and attempt to build something that would physically control the chaos. Perhaps the construction of this dam was triggered by divine inspiration. It is a shame that such a large undertaking was destroyed so quickly which I am sure affirmed the Egyptian’s belief that these forces were greater than man. I do wonder about how this dam if it had been completed and functioned, would have changed the history of Egypt. Would the surrounding area grow in power, as the inhabitants were able to finally control chaos?

2 thoughts on “Controlling Chaos

  1. You bring up an interesting point about the ruined dam in the video we watched. I thought about it strictly as a feat of engineering and social organization without acknowledging the more symbolic notion of trying to control the chaotic Nile. It is interesting how religious ideologies influenced so much of daily life in ancient Egypt; the gods were praised if the crops grew well, but chaos was blamed if the Nile flood was too large and destroyed the crops. The ability to control and tame the river was likely of extreme importance to the elites and commoners constructing the dam.
    I also wonder what would have happened to that region if the dam had successfully been built. Would a large lake have formed behind the dam altering the climate, flora, and fauna of the region? Would the dam have blocked the flow of the Nile completely or was the goal to narrow the path of the river through that location? Had the dam been completed, would it actually have provided a sense of control over the Nile, and in turn, chaos? It is interesting to think about, and as you said, would it have changed the course of Egyptian history or would it simply have been another example of incredible architecture.

  2. I too never really thought about the “big picture” of what the construction and engineering of this damn would have meant for the future of the surrounding area. If these ancient Egyptians who built this damn succeeded, I am sure the history of Egypt would have at least changed a little. Jennifer, you questioned in your post “would the surrounding area grow in power, as the inhabitants were able to finally control chaos?” Other Egyptians might have looked at this feat as an act of the gods because they were now able the control the chaos that may or may not wreak havoc on the lands (The Nile) during crop season. Because of this they could have thought they deserved to rule Egypt. And as Julie said we could today look at it as another example of an incredible architecture. I know this other possibility is reaching but, could the other Egyptians have seen it as rebelling against the god of chaos and go against what the gods wanted to happen? I guess we will never know because the damn did not survive. But if it did, I am sure the way we see ancient Egypt now would have been pretty different.

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