I think that the most important aspect of Egyptian archaeology that we discussed in class is the pyramids. Besides being enormous feats of architectural genius for the time period, these structures offered a fairly steady time table with which to follow religious practices as well as pharaonic reigns. What they contain gives a clue to what was important to the people and also the royalty. The villages surrounding these pyramids that housed the workers who built it also gives a window into what life was like for the everyday Egyptian. The size and structure of a pyramid gives a hint as to how successful, wealthy, and powerful said ruler was. These structures have stood the test of time unlike any other and will continue to be a shining symbol for all to recognize the world that was and is Egypt.
Like most ancient famous people Alexander the Great is known by a general description. So he conquered a lot of land and named every city Alexandria. He is mostly known for his military might and victories, but I bet that most don’t know he had an intellectual side as well. His father hired the philosopher Aristotle to tutor Alexander for 3 years. Aristotle taught Alexander and a few of this friends philosophy, drama, poetry, science, and politics. Alexander had an affinity for impersonating the warrior Achilles and was inspired by Homer’s Illiad so much that Aristotle created and abridged version for him to carry on his military campaigns.
Alexander had a famous horse named Bucephalas who was a magnificent black stallion with a while blaze on his forehead. His mother was also a freak; she claimed that instead of King Phillip impregnating her that it was a serpent (often associate with the god Xeus).
Most of what the general populous knows about the “legendary” pharaoh Tutankhamun does not pertain to his rule over Egypt. This is because he was not very impressive compared to rulers such as the various Ramses. His wide spread fame is due to the discovery of his basically untouched tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter. Even so, there are some interesting aspects about the boy king that people are not generally aware of.
Tut ruled from 1336 BC to 1327 BC. Through examination of his remains he is thought to have been around the age of 17 when he died, but he gained the throne of pharaoh at about the age of 8 or 9. It is commonly thought that he was the sun of Akhenaten. His wife and queen was Ankhesenamun who was the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Tut and his administration had a lot of work to do after his father left the Egyptian state in quite a mess. The old religion was restored and construction began to rebuilt destroyed temples of deities. Also, the capital was moved from Akhtaten back to Thebes.
Even though he is often thought not to be, Tut did have some historical significance. He could have continued with his father’s administration instead of going back to the old ways. This would have definitely had an impact on the Egyptian state. The best answer for why this did not happen is because Tut was so young when he ascended the throne. What does an 8 year old know about ruling such a vast and powerful kingdom as Egypt? For awhile, things were basically run by the viziers and administration. The priesthood also saw this time as a perfect opportunity to reestablish their authority in helping the rule Egypt.
Of course there is the controversy over how Tut died. Was it murder? Assassination? People are constantly working to discover the answer to this but it reality, does it matter?
The one thing that has always kept Egypt constantly thriving is also the one thing that can hurt it the most: the Nile. This river has the ability to sustain life while simultaneously being able to destroy the past. Archaeologists have been locked in a constant struggle for ages trying to protect and preserve archeological sites threatened by the watery powerhouse. This is a massive subject to cover; therefore, this paper will specifically focus on the effects caused by the building of the dam at Aswan.
There are some very important questions to be considered on this topic. Why is cultural heritage being destroyed by the Nile, why specifically the Aswan Dam? As a result, what of significance has been lost? What, if anything can be recovered? What is being done today to prevent any further annihilation of archeological sites surrounding the dam?
Why does this matter? Because of the building of the Aswan Dam, numerous sites were about to be compromised and as a result some of them were dismantled, transported to a new location, and then reassembled for permanent residence. This massive effort also aided in the discovery of sites that may have never been found if not for the Nubian campaign held by UNESCO. Since the effort for removal and preservation was so expansive, there was an impact on the development of different, new, and improved archaeological field methods.
One of the main focuses of this rescue effort was the two temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel. The carved temple itself and four colossal statues of the pharaoh were sawed into huge blocks and reconstructed on higher ground. The smaller temple, four statues of Ramses II, and two of Nefertiti were subject to the same process.
Another site that was removed from its original location was the temple complex on Philae Island. This site was a little more complicated because it was submerged by the construction of the first Aswan Dam and had to be fortified and the water pumped out before the relocation to Agilkyia Island could begin.
Equally as important as the temples of Ramses II and the complex on Philae Island is the site of Qasr Ibrim in Lower Nubia. Why? Because it is the ONLY ancient settlement not forced underwater by the forming of Laker Nasser during the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Even so, it is not entirely safe forever as some of the site has been affected by high lake levels in the recent past.
This was an effort of rescue archaeology and was the first large-scale effort to do so anywhere in the world. Such a process was increasingly used into the 20th century because of the growing danger caused by population expansion and economic development.
Hopefully this paper will bring home the thought that Egypt’s cultural heritage is still important and must be saved at all costs. The Nile has done wonders for Egyptian society and life but it cannot be allowed to simply destroy significant archaeological sites without an effort to prevent the damage.
Bard, Kathryn. (2008). An Introduction to the Archeology of Ancient Egypt. Malden: Blackwell.
Egypt’s Cultural Heritage under Threat of Destruction. Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organisation. Retrieved from http://www.e-c-h-o.org/News/LatestNews5.htm
Hassan, Fekri. (2007). The Aswan High Dam and the International Rescue Nubia Campaign. New York, NY: Springer.
Neher, Kelly. (2005). Assessing the Impact of the Aswan High Dam on Archeological Monuments in Egypt. University of Wisconsin.
Neville, Tove. (1960). Past Threatened by Aswan Dam. Washington, D.C.
Probably my earliest memory of ever seeing the Sphinx comes the Disney movie Aladdin. During Aladdin and Jasmine’s magic carpet ride they fly past a man working on the Sphinx. The man become startled when he sees them waiving at him and accidentally chips off the nose. But what else is there to know about this structure other than it being a massive architectural feat of the ancient world.
At a length of 236 feet, the Sphinx is the largest remaining structure of the ancient world. The head is human (thought to be the face of the Pharaoh Khafre) and the body of a lion and was built using natural bedrock and blocks of limestone. Why was it built? No one knows the real answer but it is thought that it may stand as a symbolic guard over the Giza plateau. The Sphinx faces the rising sun and was worshiped by some Egyptians as an aspect of the sun god. Egyptians would come to the small chapel in between the giant paws to honor the god.
As great as it would be, it was not Aladdin’s fault that the Sphinx no longer has a nose. There are many theories such as it being Napoleon’s fault or getting blown off by a lucky shot during target practice. However, the most accepted answer is that Sufis in the 8th century AD saw it as a blasphemous idol and removed the nose to deface it (haha get it. . . de”face”).
Some fun facts about the Sphinx:
- In antiquity, its face was painted dark red
- It used to have a stone beard and a cobra on its forehead.
- For a long time the face was interpreted as a woman because of these missing pieces.
The Sphinx was not an easy task to complete. Being that it is still standing relatively intact to this day there is no “wonder” that it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
One of the most intriguing parts of an ancient culture is their myths, religious figures, and religious practices. Egyptian religious practices is one of the most interesting, aside from Greek mythology. There is an interesting theory modeled Jesus Christ after the Egyptian god Amun Ra.
Jordan Maxwell wrote that the reason “Amen” is said at the end of each prayer is because the Vatican church wanted to pay tribute to this kings of the gods. Supposedly the Bible and Jesus are just a fictitious fabrication actually describing the life of Ra. He is he king of the gods and is often equated to Zues within Greek mythology.
Just like Christians have the Bible as their official text, the Egyptians had what was known as the Book of the Dead. It contained the major beliefs and ideas of the ancient Egyptian religion.
This is an image of another important Egyptian religious entity known as Anubis. He is jackal-headed and is associated with mummification and the afterlife. When I saw this image I was intrigued because in his left hand he holds and ankh which was a popular Egyptian symbol and talisman meaning life. I always thought that it meant physical life but I now realize that it represents future life or life after death. It makes sense because the afterlife was a very big concern to Egyptians. It was almost more important than their actual lives. They tried to live their lives in such a way to would reflect positively on their physical death.
It was believed that each person had 3 souls: the “ka,” the “ba,” and the “akh.” Death was only a transitional stage that lead Egyptians to a better, more perfect life. This is why so much time and wealth was spent on preparing for the next world.
Quick Fun Fact: Egyptians worshiped (collectively) as many as 2000 gods and goddesses.
Egypt and all of its aspects has been something that has interested me ever since I was a little girl, especially clothing. Which is why when I started thinking about Halloween costumes this year I decided that I wanted to go as Cleopatra. But come to think of it, what do people really know of Cleopatra? Either it’s very little knowledge or what they do know comes from the 1963 movie about her.
By the those who do not know much about her she is generally painted in the Roman view “as a dangerous harlot who employed sex, witchcraft and cunning as she grasped for power beyond what was proper for a woman.” But really, she was much loved by her people and did everything in her power to be seen as a true Egyptian (she was ethnically Greek descended from an Alexandrian general).
She was a very ambitious woman. Originally a co-ruler with her husband/ brother, she devised and played out an excellent plan that gained her the help of Julius Caeser in defeating her husband. After becoming sole pharaoh, “Cleopatra set about the business of ruling Egypt, the richest nation in the Mediterranean world, and the last to remain independent of Rome.”
Even though she is another aspect of ancient Egyptian history that has been dramatized by Hollywood it is said that she shared many qualities of the actresses that have portrayed her like Elizabeth Taylor. She was a queen whole loved costume and pageantry and “could reinvent herself to suit the occasion.” She was a bold yet mysterious woman that kept the people fascinated with her.
During her lifetime she may have seen in a not so positive light for many of her actions but it seems pretty incredible that she could do all of this while being the mother of not only Julius Caeser’s son but 3 of Mark Antony’s children as well. Two words: major multitasking.
It is interesting to consider how much of an effect that weather and environmental conditions can have on a society and its way of life. The Neolithic Sub Pluvial (or Wet Holocene) was an extended period of time characterized by a wet and rainy climate. Because of this, Neolithic populations were able to inhabit areas of the Western Desert that today are as dry as bones. However, near the end of this period the rains began to move southward leaving the desert dessicated. As a result, the existing populations left and began to inhabit the Nile Valley which laid the basis for Upper Egypt. The basis for Lower Egypt came from Fayum Neolithic populations.
This period of time formed the foundation for the separation between Upper and Lower Egypt. But to think, what if the rains had not shifted until much later,or if the populations had followed the rains south instead of moving toward the Nile? The entire timeline of ancient Egyptian culture would have been completely different. This transition was obviously not quick but happened over a period of time, but it is a small section of time that was absolutely crucial to that portion of the world as it is known today.
Even though on a larger scale, it makes me think of the Ice Age. That was also a period of time that was characterized by the climactic conditions and shaped the way in which our world existed thereafter.
There is this idea known as North African climate cycles which is dependent on the North African Monsoon. “When the North African Monsoon is at its strongest annual precipitation and subsequent vegetation in the Sahara region increase, resulting in conditions commonly referred to as the green Sahara. For a relatively weak North African Monsoon the opposite is true, with decreased annual precipitation and less vegetation resulting in a phase of the Sahara climate cycle known as the desert Sahara.”
Today, a museum is one of the best ways to preserve artifacts and history. And it is thanks to August Mariette and the ordinance passed in August of 1854 that much of Ancient Egyptian culture and history is around to be seen. Before this, expeditions sold what they could to private collectors or kept their finds to themselves. The Egyptian Museum was established in 1835 to assure that antiquities would have a home. Since that time, it has been constantly growing. And it’s not just a place for antiquities to be put on display or in storage, within its walls is held a great since of Egyptian pride in its culture.
This brings me to the importance of museums as a general principle. Museums are places for people to take an adventure, learn something new, appreciate even more what they already know, and even to have fun. As an entity, a museum must change and follow the flow of time. Egypt is doing just that with the construction of its new museum at Giza.
Under construction right now, is a new museum in Egypt known as the Grand Egyptian Museum. It’s architecture is on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the Cairo Museum (reminds me of the new Broad Arts Museum at MSU). It is curious to wonder what Egyptians think about this new museum and its VERY modern architecture? Do they see it as offensive, being as it’s a museum for ANCIENT Egypt? It just doesn’t seem like it meshes well with the lay of the land. Or perhaps it is an exciting change.
An idea struck me that something really amazing would be for there to exist a reconstruction of the inside of a pyramid (if it doesn’t already have that) because not just anyone is allowed inside them. It would be like a “real live” museum.
The Greeks were kind of like an ancient version of Martha Stewart. They could and did just about everything and also created new methods for everyday question, problems, etc. Not only did they give us the structure for modern day democracy and just about every modern day scholarly discipline, they also laid down the basis for everything we now know about ancient Egypt.
The way in which our modern knowledge of ancient Egypt occurred in almost a chain reaction sort of way, and it all started with the Greeks. They were the first people to take interest in Egypt. Traveling all over and seeing everything that Egypt was, the Greeks wrote vast accounts of every detail. Probably the most famous of these being The Histories by Herodotus. But for awhile, none of this collected information had a major impact. Not until these Greek scholars began to be studied by Europeans during the Renaissance/Age of Enlightenment. These studies sparked European interest to go and see Egypt for themselves and gather all they could, but also to be the first and best to do so. Large expeditions traveled from Europe to Egypt; once such of these was led by Napoleon. He and his group found the Rosetta Stone which basically held the key to unlocking everything that wasn’t already known about ancient Egypt. That key was Greek. Without the Greek text on the stone, Champollion would never have been able to decipher the hieroglyphics at the top.
So even though all of that is just a recap, it must first be known to consider a silly yet interesting question. Who should be considered as responsible for “finding” Egypt as we know it today. The Greeks? Napoleon? Someone else? A conglomerate? I don’t believe that it can be pinned on just one group or person. It was a collective, yet competitive, effort of sorts; however, I do believe that none of it would have been possible without help from the Greeks. And who said they couldn’t be geeks?
Greeks? Napoleon? Someone else?