Bonus Blog: The Importance of the Pyramids

My view in this regard is obviously biased due to the fact that I spent a great deal of time while crafting my research paper thinking about it, however I believe that perhaps the most important topic in Egyptian Archaeology is the issue of the Pyramids.

It is true that, in many ways, the study of the Pyramids has been overdone compared to many other aspects of Egyptian Archaeology (and indeed, archaeology overall), however this is precisely why it is so important.  I would highly doubt that there is anyone in the world today that has not heard of the Great Pyramids of Giza.   They have become such a source of wonder and awe, and have been since the time of Herodotus, how could they be anything but important?

The Pyramids are therefore significant because they inspire a sense of wonder in people, and therefore an interest in archaeology generally.  I remember when I was in elementary school, I liked to write a lot, and one of the rather horrible stories that I wrote included the Great Pyramids and the Sphynx.  While I would not consider myself to have been a totally normal child, my perception of Egypt, and the past generally, was very much informed by a knowledge of the Pyramids.  In many ways, they were some of the things that got me interested in history and archaeology in the first place.  Therefore, simply for trying to get people interested in history and archaeology, the Pyramids can serve as a very valuable topic.

The Pyramids are also significant as far as combating pseudoarchaeologists, who are intelligent enough to realize that the Pyramids inspire such a sense of awe in the average person.  Because of the fact that everyone and their mother know about the Great Pyramids, they use them as a prime source for all of the whacky ideas that they develop, and since everyone has an interest in the Great Pyramids, they can use this to spread their ideas.  Thus teaching about what archaeologists know about the Great Pyramids, and the other pyramids that have been created throughout Egyptian history, is a significant way to combat pseudoscientific ideas.

I will admit that, as far as the overall field of Egyptian archaeology in itself, the Pyramids may not be the most important topic, however when one considers archaeology as a whole, they are very significant.  If we wish to continue to learn about the past, and inspire people to inquire about the past in the future, then we have to develop ways to get people interested in the first place, and the Great Pyramids are one way to do that.

Bonus Blog: Roman Egypt

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.

Bonus Blog Post: Language and Documentation

Over the past semester, one aspect of Ancient Egyptian society that has stood out to me is the amount of documentation and writing left depicting Ancient Egyptian culture. The inscriptions of Pharaohs and Gods/Goddesses in temples, papyri demonstrating the use of pi when constructing pyramids, and the infamous Rosetta stone – a decree made by Ptolemy V written in three languages – Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek.

As a history major, the existence of such written materials is really interesting – especially since the topics of the writing are so diverse. Through written materials and inscriptions, we can learn about science and technology in Ancient Egypt, religious culture, decrees and governmental organization, and one of the most fundamental features of culture – language.

File:Rhind Mathematical Papyrus.jpg

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus demonstrates the use of pi when constructing pyramids.

I feel like we touched on a lot of the larger archaeological finds regarding written works, and the use of language in Ancient Egypt in this class, and I admire that decision. When talking about archaeology and Ancient Egypt, it’s easy to get caught up in the mummies and the statues and forget about the importance of language and the written evidence left behind.

One topic that I would have liked look more into was the use of language in everyday life, especially in regards to trade. Was it common for people to speak more than one language, and what languages were more popular? Was this division separated by social classes? How did Egypt’s use of language differ from that of other societies, like the Syrians and the Nubians?

While we can learn a lot about Ancient Egypt from human remains, mortuary contexts, and other archaeological finds, we can infer additional information from written documents. Someone – probably an Ancient Egyptian – had to write those legal documents or carve/paint the inscriptions in the temples.

Bonus blog: The Importance of the Mundane

Which aspect (topic, etc.) in Egyptian archaeology (that we either covered in class or didn’t cover in class) do you think is the most important?  Why?  Make your argument!

The traditional Egyptological perspective on the study of ancient Egypt, as has been noted throughout this course, has focused on historical sources and elite practices.  Historical sources and state-sponsored propaganda as seen on temple and tomb inscriptions project an idealized notion of the beliefs and behaviors of the populace. They are not necessarily reactive, displaying the beliefs of the people, but prescriptive, telling a narrative with a political agenda, often the legitimization of pharaonic or elite power. I argue, however, that a focus on the lives and ideology of the populace is the most important aspect of Egyptian archaeology. Two excellent examples of this are the excavations at the Heit el-Ghurab Giza worker’s village (see Bard 2007 Chapter 6, Lehner 2002 and 2010, and Class notes 10/30/12) and Deir el-Medina Valley of the Kings artisans village (See Bard 2007 Chapter 8, Lehner 2010, Class notes 11/08/12 and 11/13/12).

Through these two residential sites, one from the Old Kingdom and one from the New Kingdom, scholars investigate how ideology and worldview map onto the landscape and are enacted by individuals. Household and village architecture concretely demonstrate the abstract notions depicted and described in ancient texts, as in the “birth brick,” a newly identified artifact that had been known previously only from writings (Wegner 2010). The Wall of the Crow is another example of the archaeological evidence of ideology – this physical barrier between sacred and mundane space (abstract notions) was not predicted by historical sources, but represents a critical distinction made in ancient Egypt between these two types of spaces.The ubiquity of this “sacred vs. mundane space” concept throughout the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms is one reason that the residential burials of (Libyan) pharaohs ruling from Tanis is so ideologically significant (Taylor 2010).

Mortuary archaeology has comprised a large portion of Egyptian archaeology, but insight into views on death  alone cannot illuminate how individuals lived their lives. Common burials contain a biased message much as Pharaonic burials do – the survivors portray the dead in a positive light and include grave goods in a burial that were not possessions during the individual’s life. As Ethan mentioned (class lecture 12/4/12), household architecture is becoming increasingly recognized as a key focus for the future of an anthropological Egyptian archaeology. Although there is much to be gained from research on burials and ancient elites (such as large-scale regional and inter-regional patterns of trade and State administration/bureaucracy), an anthropological approach attempts to understand the culture as a whole. This requires investigating the lives of the rest of the population.

References

Bard, K. A. (2007). Introduction to the archaeology of ancient Egypt. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Lehner, M. (2002). The Pyramid Age Settlement of the Southern Mount at Giza. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 39, 27–74. doi:10.2307/40001149

Lehner, M. (2010). Villages and the Old Kingdom. In W. Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 85–101). Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

Taylor, J. (2010). Changes in the Afterlife. In W. Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 220–240). Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

Wegner, J. (2010). Tradition and Innovation: The Middle Kingdom. In W. Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 119–142). Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

Bonus Blog Post

Which aspect (topic, etc.) in Egyptian archaeology (that we either covered in class or didn’t cover in class) do you think is the most important?  Why?  

I believe that the Language and Culture section of the class is very important. With the analysis of the hieroglyphs and cartouches, we are able to learn more about how the ancient Egyptian society was structured. The analysis of their written language also allows us to learn about the ancient Egyptian’s religion and cultural practices. The ancient Egyptians written language has been found in so many different places, showing its importance in their society and traditions. We revisited the Rosetta Stone and the demonic language this week in class. I found that going back to how language is essential to understanding the ancient Egyptians tied the class discussions together.

Another section of the class that I found very important was the discussion about the importance of the NIle River and how it was essential to the way of life for the Ancient Egyptians. Before the class began, I was unaware of all of the resources that the Nile River provided. I also did not realize how all the Ancieint Egyptian settlements were all based on the location of the Nile River and its delta and fayums. Transportation, food, and water would have been much harder to obtain without the benefits of the Nile. Agriculture would also have been much harder to have consistent production.  I was also interested to learn about the structures that the Ancient Egyptians created to measure the level of the Nile River.

When most people think of Egypt and the ancient people who once lived in the region, the Great Pyramids appear in their mind, but there are several other portions of Ancient Egyptian life that are essential to understand.
Overall, I feel that the language section and the Nile River portion of the class discussions were critical to the understanding of the Ancient Egyptians lives. Without the analysis of their written language and how the used the Nile River, we would loose a great deal of information about the Ancient Egyptians.

 

Alexander

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?

Fake Egyptian Toes

I came across a really neat article about fake toes in the ancient world, “Ancient Egyptian Fake Toes Earliest Prosthetics”. Two fake toes were confirmed as being the world’s oldest prosthetics from Ancient Egypt. These two wooden toes were found at the necropolis of Thebes. These artificial toes were made of a paper mache like mixture using linen, glue, and plaster called cartonnage. The Greville Chester toe, currently housed in the British Museum, dates back to 600 BC. It is in the shape of a right big toe and part of the right foot. The Tabaketonmut toe is kept at the Egyptian Museum in Ciaro and dates back to somewhere between 950-710 BC. This toe was also a right toe. It was thought that this girl lost her toe to gangrene caused by diabetes. Both toes had holes in them so they could be laced up round the foot or a sandal. Because both toes had significant wear to them, it is believed that they were used in everyday walking unlike other cases of artificial body parts that were made for burial.

I found this article really interesting because I never really thought about how ancient Egyptians would have dealt with a missing body part. These ancient false toes are evidence of medical advancements I was unaware existed in the ancient world. Earlier in the semester I posted an article about ancient fillings, proving that Egyptians of the ancient world were pretty skilled in fixing health problems. These articles have shed some light on the subject. Medical practices of the Egyptians is a topic that seems to spark my interest more and more as time goes on. I’m very impressed by the creativity the ancient people had when dealing with medical issues, especially given the period of time they lived in and the limited resources they had. I hope to learn more about ancient medicine and find out what other neat tricks they had for coping with health problems.

http://news.discovery.com/history/ancient-egypt-wooden-toes-prosthetics-121002.html

Alexander the Who?

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).

The Effects of the Battle of Kadesh

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.

The Story of Wenamun

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”

 

Source: ancient_egypt.enacademic.com/1359/wenamun