Over the semester we covered pretty much everything I would expect to cover in an Egyptian archaeology class. However, I feel that discussion of some pseudo-archaeology may have been appropriate. As I understand it, there is an entire course on this subject so it may not seem economical to cover it twice. But I feel that it still applies to our conversations in the class. We spoke about misconceptions of Egypt, and the effects of Egyptomania and these forms of pseudo-arch are a direct extension of that. My only other suggestion is in regards to the blog entries. I enjoyed the format and purpose of the blogs, but I feel that they may have served more of a purpose for the class if they were given a little more direction. For example a chosen prompt on which to write that corresponds to a specific idea covered in class. We were given liberty to pick a topic that we found interesting, yet that applied to our conversations about Egypt, and I think that was fine. It could be perhaps an option for those who can’t find anything better to comment on. But all in all the class was fun and enjoyable, and I gained plenty of useful knowledge (pertinent even to my field, as my final paper can attest to.)
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!
I believe that the most important aspect of Egyptian archaeology is the Nile River. Without the Nile, this society would have failed to existed from the beginning. ‘The Gift of the Nile’ was Heroditus’ nickname for Egypt. Its inundations provided a lifeline for the citizens of ancient Egypt and allowed the society to pursue agriculture, advancing the growth of the empire. The Nile River also allowed Egyptians to access simple trade routes via boat, a practice that continued to lead to the expansion of Egypt throughout the centuries. The Nile River is also particularly interesting because of its historical implications. The Bible has stories of the Nile turning red and the floods that occurred.
Another aspect of the Nile River’s importance that is often overlooked is its use as a means of keeping track of time. Through the use of a Nilometer, a structure with marked points that the water would reach during inundation, Egyptians were not only able to create a decently accurate calendar for their time but also able to predict the floods that would occur to focus their activities around this process.
The Nile also created the Nile River Delta, a large patch of fertile land that Egyptians were able to exploit and use for agriculture. They were able to cultivate anything from wheat to fruit to barley that was used to create beer. This delta housed the locations of many of the most important cities in Egypt and allowed for the expansion of the empire outward as the years progressed. The Nile also allowed Egyptians to fish for meat and obtain necessary nutrients in the middle of the desert.
While it can easily be said that Egypt would not have existed without the Nile, it cannot be more simply put. For this reason, I believe that the Nile River is by far the most significant and important factor in Egyptian archaeology.
The most important topic that we covered in my opinion, was the concept of identity in Egypt. We briefly touched on the fact that Egyptians had isolated themselves for several centuries and had limited contact with those outside of their world. We begin to see the formation of an ethnic identity when foreigners began to interact with the Egyptians during the Middle Kingdom, as ethnicity is partially self ascription and partially an awareness of the how outsiders view oneself. The depictions of these foreign people are found on the walls of Egyptian tombs and temples. As immigrants migrated into Egypt and took on roles in the community scholars note the adoption of Egyptian cultural practices by those immigrants. This adoption of cultural practices creates an interesting discussion on what it means to be Egyptian and how we as anthropologists should determine ethnicity for an individual and a population.
This topic of the concept of ethnicity was the catalyst to my research paper where I was able to look deeper at the archaeological evidence of the interactions between the people at the border area between Nubia and Egypt. This territorial area was not unique as there were likely similar cultural interactions between the eastern and western borders of Egypt as well as across the Mediterranean Sea. The extensive Hellenization of Egypt also illustrates how identity of individuals, communities and the entire region continuously evolves.
The ties to higher theoretical questions about Egyptian life in this time period are incredible important to consider. While studying the history of Egyptian anthropology scholars are now beginning to study the history of what it meant to be Egyptian. Both of these histories are incredibly dynamic and complex, but shed so much light on what life was like and how these people saw themselves and their foreign neighbors.
After the semester’s worth of knowledge I have acquired from this anthropology course, I personally believe script and language to be the most important aspects of Ancient Egyptian archaeology. Without the preservation of the Egyptian language, the archaeology of the whole area would be FAR less developed than it is today. Together, language and script have put everything we know about Ancient Egypt into context as opposed to just placement in horizontal stratification.
One of the key factors in deciphering chronology for example, are the king lists carved into the walls of desert ruins. These king lists literally chart the succession of pharaohs in the Ancient Empire complete with gaps suggesting periods of embarrassment in reference to a specific ancestral line or time frame. With the ability to associate meaning with hieroglyphs archaeologists have been able to develop an understanding of the Ancient Egyptian culture in not only modern terms, but of those pertaining to the actual citizens of the time. The ability to understand a culture within its own context has always been a core priority in the field of anthropology, and archaeological finds including king lists have aided the study of Ancient Egypt extensively.
Another example perfectly demonstrating the value of language and script in terms of Ancient Egyptian Archaeology is, of course, the internationally known, Rosetta Stone. The analysis of Ancient Greek to Demotic then Hieroglyphs marked a huge turning point in the study of the Ancient Empire. The successful translation of the Rosetta Stone allowed archaeologists to place a value or meaning with hieroglyphs, which of course allowed those studying Egypt to acquire a much more robust knowledge of the civilization. Without the Rosetta Stone translation, the knowledge and understanding, and thus the society as we know i now would not have been possible.
The examples I mentioned above are only to that exist among a slew of other cases in which script and language prove themselves as imperative aspects to archaeological study. For this reason, I believe that script and language to be validated as the most critical aspect of Ancient Egyptian archaeology.
I’m sure most people won’t immediately think this, but I would have to say one of the most important topics we covered in class, and unfortunately didn’t get to spend that much time on, is Roman Egypt, and how Rome impacted Egypt. I definitely have a biased opinion; I studied abroad in Rome over the summer and took an ancient Roman history class, so it was interesting to me to apply what I had already learned about Rome’s interaction with Egypt with what we learned about in class. This is one of my favorite things about education, taking what you learn in one class and applying it to another, and eventually getting the bigger picture.
I think it is very crucial to understand how one society takes over another, so that we can take this knowledge and apply it to our lives now. There is no better way to do this than look at past societies, and analyze what happened. That way, depending on the conclusions we come to, we can promote or avoid future events that might hinder or benefit our own societies. As they say, history repeats itself, and I know it’s a cliché thing to say, but human beings need to learn from the past to better the future. Spending time learning about Roman Egypt in this class in ANP 455 has contributed to this. For example, we learned how Egyptian worship was altered by what the Roman’s believed. Religious conflicts have repeated themselves over and over again, and learning about them can perhaps change the ways humans solve conflict. Ideally, anyway.
And of course, like I said, I am extremely interested in Roman history. When combined with ancient Egyptian history, of course I’m going to say that this is an important topic. However, I do stand by what I said; our knowledge of the undertakings of past societies will help us avoid unwanted events in our own societies.
After looking more into the material discussed throughout class this week, I decided to take a particular interest in Alexander the Great and his relationships with other ethnic groups. During my digging on the internet outside of class, I found that Alexander was followed by both the Greek and jewish populations. Before this discussion and interest, I assumed his only connection was to the Greek people living in his native country. I actually had no idea he was supported by any other group who had not been previously forced to do so. With this new information, I continued to research the siege of Gaza, considering that is the main focus of our particular area of study. I’m not sure I realized how theatrical his “conquer style” was.
After his battles with numerous Mediterranean cities were won, rapidly adding to his growing empire, Alexander the Great approached his end- sights set on Gaza. He and his army of nearly 45,000, despite two initial failed attempts, stormed the city of Gaza for a third time wen they finally met success. He was strategic, but cockily persistent, the latter of which I personally believe may have lead him into his own death. Choosing to flank the city’s southern side, of course being its weakest, Alexander devised a plan to pillage the town disregarding its plateaued location 60 feet above he and his men. Constructing ramps to storm then take the city would have been enough, but as his style suggested, it is evident that was not enough. Taking the initiative to tie Gaza’s King to the back of your chariot and prance around that defeated town took matters a little overboard. Then you go and kill every single male resident and sell the rest into slavery.
I understand that Alexander the Great holds great respect in modern times, but I was not at all familiar with his tactics. Times were different back then, but my statement still stands that the man was a bit theatrical. I am always so intrigued, and sort of blown away, when I look further into the characters of history I have only ever known a line or two about. Things are so different than they seem, and perception really is everything. Alexander the Great definitely fits into that unknown category… Who knew he was such a drama queen?
The Ramesside period is a very interesting section in the chronological history of the Ancient Egyptians. In this time period great battles were fought in attempts to control the borders of Ancient Egypt and expand the Egyptian Empire. Rameses II was the most notable Pharaoh in this time period and arguably the most successful Pharaoh of all time. At the age of 30 Rameses II had inherited the throne of Ancient Egypt as fourth Pharaoh in the 19th Dynasty. Rameses II is an important Pharaoh in the chronological history of the Ancient Egyptians because during his reign we see many changes occurring in the economy and culture of the Egyptians.
Through military campaigns, Rameses II had strengthened the economy of the Ancient Egyptians. However, the oldest documented battle on earth had great effects on this powerful economy as well as the culture of the Ancient Egyptians. The battle of Kadesh is an important battle to take note because even though there was no victor in the end, the Egyptian Empire had gained an alliance with the Hittites by making a treaty. The agreement was that neither side will invade each other’s territories and they would work as an alliance against other foreign rulers such as the Syrians. Later on, Rameses II had married the daughter of the Prince of the Hittites that had further legitimized the bond between these two powerful nations. This act of marriage is an example of change occurring in the culture of the Ancient Egyptians because marriage in earlier dynasties were blood related to maintain the royal bloodline. Rameses II had also caused problems for modern day Archaeologists and Egyptologists because as Pharaoh, he had removed the names of prior Pharaohs on monuments and replaced it with his own name. Because of this act, it is difficult to understand the chronological list of previous Kings. He had also made depictions of him winning the battle of Kadesh, which throws scholars off track from the real history of the Ancient Egyptians.
When we began to discuss the third intermediate period in ancient Egypt in class on Tuesday, the brief explanation of The Story (or Misfortune) of Wenamun seemed to spark my interest. This is the first time I have come across a fictional story from ancient times (in this case, 1100 BC) and was incredibly curious to delve further into the background of the story. The Story of Wenamun is a literary text, written in the Late Egyptian language on papyrus paper. It is only known because of a discovery of an incomplete copy in 1890. It was then purchased by Russian Egyptologist Vladimir Goleniscev in 1891 during his time in Cairo, Egypt. Upon its discovery, many believed that this story was an actual account of Wenamun’s life and travels, written by him. Literary analysis since then has indicated that it is actually a work of historical fiction, composed during the 21st Dynasty, which is now the general consensus. Research has also pointed to two different hands, showing that this may not be the original document – it may be possible that this copy may have been written as long as 150 years after the original. This conclusion came from two observations: post-script it used (which was often used in the 22nd Dynasty) and where the document was found (in al-Hibah, Egypt). al-Hibah did not become a prominent city in Egypt until the reign of Pharaohs in the 22nd Dynasty. The Story of Wenamun is often used as a primary literary source for the study of Late New Kingdom and the Early Third Intermediate Period – many scholars perceive this story to be “the most vivid and descriptive narrative of Pre-Classical times”. The story describes Wenamun’s journey to the city of Byblos (sent by the High Priest of Amun) to acquire cedar wood to build a ship for transportation of a cult artifact of Amun. Though this is a fictional story, it is clear to see the crumbling Egyptian power in this time, dealing with the Eastern Mediterranean states. From this document, one can see “common attitudes toward religion (especially the cult of Amun), the state of Mediterranean shipping practices, and even attitudes of foreign princes to Egyptian claims of supremacy in the region”. This knowledge is unparalleled in other period of ancient Egyptian history. Since this is a work of historical fiction, it may be based on actual events, especially since research has shown how this story is almost identical to what was happening in Egypt during this period of decline.
“Egypt’s former greatness abroad has now collapsed and the difficulties which Wenamun encountered with foreign Princes and officials illustrate all too vividly that Egypt was no longer feared or respected by other peoples of the Near East”
I know I’ve blogged on the afterlife once already, but the reading for this week triggered many more thoughts to write about. I guess one of the things I never realized was how much afterlife beliefs and practices varied. I suppose it makes sense; humans are the same way today. For example, our beliefs on religion, even for those who belong to the same church, differ even if in the smallest ways. I guess this is just one more kick I’ll have to give myself for automatically assuming things about a culture.
Anyway, going back to what I was saying: I find it interesting that their beliefs varied. Some saw death as a “threatening enemy,” while others viewed it as a “welcome homecoming.” I always assumed their society as a whole welcomed the passing on to a new phase of being, but just like today, some were more comfortable with the idea of death, while others seemed to fear it. I also found it interesting that there were different methods of providing sustenance to the dead. Some of the dead were provided offerings by means of a cult who visited regularly and replenished, while other buried Egyptians were given sustenance through “magical” models and images. I wonder if this difference had to do with social status? Or perhaps it had to do with the region they were buried? The chapter doesn’t seem to answer the question and it left me wondering why the difference.
There were also variations between the burial practices, but as the chapter states, this was due to the differences in social class. The elite obviously had more resources to work with, therefore their dead were buried with grander items and material, while the non-elite had a “miniaturized version of the grand sepulcher of a high official.” Like I said, however, there are many other areas of the afterlife that had varying beliefs about them, and it is fascinating to me to read about this subject, and understand the differences between our views today and their views years ago, not to mention their own views that differed from one another.