I know it would not be very academic but one area or topic I wished we would have learned about or I would have looked into further is the Mythology that sometimes goes along with ancient Egyptian archaeology. Just rumors and whether they are true or not and what crazy people started them in the first place. I really did enjoy this class though. I learned alot from the lectures and readings. But also new ideas and ways of thinkings from the other students in class by reading and responding to blogs every week. I hope everyone took as much away from this class as did. Good Luck to everyone next semester or who are graduating!
As cheesy as it sounds, the more I learn about ancient Egypt the more this culture blows my mind. Between the language and writing they used and the structures they engineered everything about this ancient culture is amazing. Especially since this was so long ago. But sometimes, in the readings or lectures, I see similarities in our culture in the present and the Egyptian one so long ago. In the reading it talked about personhood and identity in ancient Egyptians. The reading said a person can define their identity by how they act with others, family, race, gender, religion, location, profession and social status. This is not very different with how we see ourselves today. Most of us in this class are Anthropology majors. This is one way we can identify ourselves. If we wanted to go into a broader description, we could say we are students or Spartans. This is part of an identity that others can perceive us through. We can tell ancient Egyptians identity by archeological evidence found. Just like in our culture today, the identity of a person was different when they were living compared to the afterlife. People always have the nicest things to say at their funeral when someone has died. It is a chance for the people who knew them best to pay their respect with nice words. These are the people within their “identity”. As we saw in ancient history with rulers and slaves, identity is often pushed on us or we are born into it or it is passed on to us. We cannot help if we are the Presidents children or choose if we were born into poverty. Although technology has certainly come a long way, there are some things that are not very from these 2 cultures even though they are thousands of years apart.
Starting in the 1770s, the French had grown interested in Egypt. They saw this country as a tremendous commercial and agricultural potential because of the Nile Valley. Egypt also had strategic importance to the Anglo-French rivalry. This meant under French control, Egypt could be used to threaten British commercial interests in the region and to block Britain’s overland route to India Before the French Invasion, the country was part of the world’s most powerful empires. Because of low Nile floods, plagues, famine and loss of trade and revenue which in turn caused an economic devastation and civil unrest. France saw this as the perfect time to attack. In May 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte sailed with 328 ships and came to land with 38000 soldiers. With him he also brought a group of 167 scholars which he picked himself. These were mathematicians, zoologists, chemists and engineers. They spent about three years exploring and learning everything about Egypt’s history, culture, environment and resources. By bringing researchers, this was the first large scale systematic study of Egypt. These scholars were later to be known as the Scientific and Artistic Commission, researching for the Institute of Egypt. This research they found wrote the Description de L’Egypt, the most comprehensive information on the monuments and antiquities of Egypt. The researchers did topographical surveys, studied animals and plants that were native to Egypt, collected and classified minerals, and looked at how the country dealt with industry and trade. Through all of this many other discoveries were made that we still study today. Napoleons excavations found the Temple of Luxor, Temple of Philae, and the Temple of Dendera. He also found the Valley of the Kings. As each site was discovered, they were mapped, measured and drawn out to record how they were found.
Even though the military invasion did not follow through, this was a major turning point for the history of Egyptian archeology. Napoleon had a vested interest in the culture and ancient history of Egypt therefore he paved the way for Egypt to be seen in a new light and ensured the history of this new land to be preserved. He had created a new excitement in the people of Europe to learn about the culture and ancient history of Egypt. Napoleon’s appreciation toward the Egyptian culture and history shaped how Europe saw Egypt in the late 1700s and 1800s and how museum studies are done still to this day.
At this time, Egypt was still a mystery to the majority of Europeans. They had seen evidence of mummies, hieroglyphs and the ancient Egyptian monuments that were found. The fact that ancient Egyptians mummified people instead of traditionally burying their dead made the country look even more “exotic” to the Europeans because it was such a foreign idea to them. It was not until after the French invasion that the hieroglyphs were no longer unreadable and were able to be translated. Also I was incredibly hard to believe that men, even thousands of men, were able to create and engineer such grand structures in a time with basically no technology. This all added to the mystery of the culture and its people.
From our lecture on Tuesday October 16th, I learned how significant the ancient site Abydos is. This archeological site is split up into two area. The northern part is pre-dynastic with cemeteries containing circular graves. However the southern part has been dated to the dynastic period. Another name for it is “Land of the Dead”. This site got its name because there are a lot of kings that are buried in the area. This royal necropolis contains many tomb and tomb complexes. Fortunately we have been able to identify a few of them. Iri-Hor, Ka, Narmer, Horus and also Aha. Along with the royal tombs, boat graves have been found as well. The northern portion of Abydos is excavated by Germans and the southern portion is excavated by the University of Pennsylvania.
The other fact I learned from lecture was that there has never been any evidence found of an associated settlement. Not only do I find this odd because it is near another city, but also because of economic advantages. It is very strategically located for a settlement. It is right at the interception of the Nile so that means it is in the perfect position to control trade from the Red Sea. This site had the potential to have been a major contributor in the expansion of trade in Egypt. This surprised me because with a lot of the other things we have looked at, the ancient Egyptians have seemed so advanced and I would have thought that they would have made the most of the land they had. Especially since the city had such a promise for a growing power hungry country. I also wonder if the unification of Egypt would have come around sooner if this site would have been built up and used as a major trade city for the rest of Egypt?
In today’s class, we got a visual understanding of what our lectures and readings this week were all about. In the film series Egypt Uncovered, Chaos and Kings it told us that order, not chaos were the will of the gods. Set versus Horus, the ruler of chaos versus the ruler of the skies. These gods were to determine the destiny of the Egyptian civilization. Before there were pharaohs, the people of Egypt were said to have been ruled by the spirits of the dead or demi gods.
We also learned that the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt did not happen overnight. Studies show there is not just one person or event that can be identified as the final straw in unifying Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Egyptologists are finding it is because of many different events all over Egypt as a whole country over a long period of time. A fun little fact I learned from the film today was about King Menes. He was the first king listed in the royal dynasties records and his whose reign lasted 60 years before he was run off with a hippo and killed.
One other thing I found interesting from the film was learning about the damn ancient Egyptians tried to build. Even though they did not succeed in their plans, their attempt was evident in the thought and engineering that was put forth when building it. The goal was to protect the city from the flash floods in the rainy season. It was 42 ft tall, 300 ft long at the bottom and 100 ft across at the top. The wall of the damn was then supported by three cross-sections. This structure took ten years and numerous manual labor hours to complete. I would like to think because of all the other inventions ancient Egyptians were able to engineer, this damn would have served its purpose if it had been finished when floods came.
Sometimes I find myself wondering what this world will be like hundreds or thousands of years from now. Today we have archaeologist looking at places all over the world to see what people were like and how they lived their lives hundreds of years ago. We have evolved so much from the civilizations we look at and study. Relying more on technology and the luxuries we have and less on our “survival of the fittest” skills and nature.
If someone was going to go digging around in the East Lansing area five hundred years from now, I am sure they would find similar things to what we find in ancient civilizations much like we find in Egypt. It makes me sad to say but they even might consider the “artifacts” of our civilization today works of art just as we do other civilizations from hundreds of years ago. Today we find different kinds of ceramics for different uses in Egypt. We come to the conclusion they were used for mortuary purposes and household uses. Future archaeologists would find glass and plastic Tupperware. (I would not consider my Ziploc Tupperware a work of art but definitely my Pyrex ware). I am sure they would find large amounts of beer and other numerous alcohol bottles if there was a site around certain residential areas in the city. Future archaeologists will also notice we have clearly marked graves that are set away from our homes. Last week we talked about different mortuary practices that would sometimes include burying the dead under the houses of their relatives. Their graves would also include little trinkets to help them through their journey in the afterlife. Our culture decorates the headstones themselves and around the grave site such as flowers and vases. In my opinion, our culture is very boring compared to the culture and artifacts of ancient Egypt.
In class this week, all of this mortuary talk has got me thinking how incredibly different our culture today thinks of death compared to how the ancient Egyptians viewed it. I love my family but I would never want to bury them under the floors of my house. This mortuary practice I had heard about. The one that I found crazy was the fact that Egyptians would do with their dead family member’s heads. I cannot imagine cutting off the top of a relative’s head, removing the cranium, and then pouring plaster in to make a mold. The creepiest thing is putting shell in the eye sockets. I think that could be used in the next horror movie. But it was perfectly normal to have these plaster heads of your deceased family members in the household proper during this time. Now you would get put in jail.
In 1971 archeologist Louis Binford looked at the mortuary practices of 40 different societies. He believed that the more lavish the gravesite, the higher the status was of the person buried there. Later his post-processual colleagues pointed out that this was not true for every culture. Many cultures believed that you can take things into the afterlife with you but there are many others that don’t believe in material objects after you pass on.
As with all cultures they grow and change overtime. Absorbing different practices from other cultures change as cultures would collide. During the same time upper and lower Egypt were doing different mortuary practices. From burring them under your house or burying them a mile away from the village, they all had their own beliefs. 1000 years from now, when people are studying our culture, they will probably think how we burry and remember our loved ones is weird also.
In my post from last week I stated how sad it was that looters and antiquarians were carting off so much of the history and culture of ancient Egypt. I believe that much of this history would be lost forever if it were not for August Mariette. His passion for the history of Egypt developed before he had ever even been there. After he arrived in Egypt and became a rouge excavator, I was thinking he was going to be like every other treasure hunter and wanted to find “the next big thing” so he could “get rich quick”. But then I learned all the work he did was for the love of the artifacts and the history they held. By pointing out that the Egyptians had a right to keep their cultures history within the country, he led the way for new laws to be put in place. By helping create these new cultural heritage laws Egypt was able to keep their artifacts from leaving the country, made sure the credit went to Egypt and also ensured the Egyptian government would be able to conserve antiquities so others could not destroy them. This guaranteed the Egyptian past was safe for Egyptians and also others in the world to learn about. The Egyptian Service of Antiquities, which August Mariette also oversaw, contributed to Egypt managing its cultural heritage as well.
As I said last week, I think we know quite a bit about this ancient civilization compared to others which their history has been completely lost and that is mostly thanks to August Mariette. He did so much for the country simply because he loved the history. I am happy to see that his efforts have lasted as long as they have. Because of them the museums have kept growing and expanding its collections, needing to move to bigger and greater museums. Hopefully one day I will be able to see one of them.
To be quite honest, I get the question “Why are you studying anthropology anyway?” or “So what are you going to do with that” a lot now that I have been in school for a while. As unrealistic as it would be for me, I would love to go to Egypt and study its history and the archeological sites. Before I decided to major in anthropology I was always fascinated with Egypt and its history. I loved all the movies or TV shows and series that were about treasure hunters and Egypt. As bad of an actor Brendan Fraser is, I was a sucker for The Mummy or The Scorpion King. Now that I have taken more classes and especially after this lecture I realize most of what directors and producers embellish on the history and actual events and glorified the fact that their characters were robbing the country or “the rapping of Egypt”. I can believe people would see Egypt’s commercial potential. It had not only biblical and religious but “new world” appeals as well.
I did not realize Napoleon played as important of a role as he did before today’s lecture. I also learned he had an interest in Egypt’s history. Because he brought a variety of historians, artists and scientists, we have documents and sketches of the Nile Valley and the sites surrounding it. These documentations and pictures were then turned into the Description de LEgypt. It is a good thing Napoleon had such an interest because all that information might not have carried through over the years like it has and we wouldn’t know what we do.
In a way it makes me sad to think of how much history and culture has been lost to antiquarians and treasure hunters. But at the same time I think we know quite a bit about this ancient civilization compared to others which history has been completely lost.
As I was listening to lecture today, a thought ran through my mind. Our everyday lives are filled with smartphones, internet, computers and many other technological objects that today we cannot imagine our lives without. Most of us are so dependent on the luxury of all of this technology that we forget there was a time when there was no such thing. It amazes me that some of us need to have our schedules kept straight by our phones but the ancient Egyptians were able to use hash marks on the walls of the nilometer what the days were by the height and rate of the river.
Ancient Egyptians also designed two separate calendars keeping the state’s business and the religious holiday’s separate of each other. Today our calendars have combined both state and religious holidays in one calendar. Back to the technology differences if we forget what day it is or want to know what day our birthday falls on this year, all we have to do is check our phones calendar. We don’t have to run down to the river to see.
It was important for the ancient Egyptians to know what month they were in not only for the religious reasons but also for agricultural reasons. Egyptians knew that after the floods season came you could plant your crops then the harvesting season would come after that. They also realized every two to three years the calendar need an adjustment to compensate the gradual change in seasons. So because of this they decided to add a thirteenth month to the calendar.
We have come so far with all of our technology and although I am one person that enjoys the advancements, even though I cannot figure out half of it, I am fascinated learning about groups of people that built themselves into civilizations without any of it.