W7 Blog: Alexander the Great

In all of my years of schooling, from kindergarten until my fourth year of college, I have never had an in-depth lesson on Alexander the Great. When he came up in lecture this week as an important detail of the Ptolomaic Period, I knew I wanted to take the opportunity to educate myself a bit more. There are two parts of his story that interest me most: how he was welcomed by the Egyptians as he conquered their land and the mystery of his death.

During fall of 332 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. It marked the start of the Ptolomaic period, which was the Greek period in Egyptian history. Neither the Egyptians nor the Persians resisted his rule. There was even a festival in celebration of his arrival, thrown in Greek style by the Egyptians. He had freed them from Persian rule, and his actions were greatly appreciated. He was also honored because he was believed to be the son of Amun Re, an extremely important god in Egyptian theology. Amun Re was known as the sun god as well as the, “God of Kings and King of Gods,” (MCA). Although he was only present in Egypt for about six months, he left a lasting impression. He pushed into action many reforms and connected the Egyptians with Greek society. The next time he was in Egypt was after his own death, in which his body was transported by carriage to be buried.

To this day, the question about Alexander’s cause of death of remains unanswered. Some researchers suggest that the possibility of poison or an infection, as well as other causes. Recently, West Nile Virus has been suggested. After two weeks of suffering from a raging fever, whatever had been bothering him was enough to kill him, and he passed away on June 7th, 323 B.C. at just 32 years of age. His illness was so quick and unexpected that he did not even get the chance to appoint his successor to rule over the Macedonian Empire.

Sources:

Eternal Egypt (2005). Alexander the Great in Egypt. Retrieved from: http://www.eternalegypt.org/EternalEgyptWebsiteWeb/HomeServlet?ee_website_action_key=action.display.module&story_id=&language_id=1&module_id=330&text=text

Historyofmacedonia.org (2001). Alexander the Great: Alexander of Macedonia Biography. Retrieved from: http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/AlexandertheGreat.html

Marr, John S., Calisher, Charles, H. (December, 2003) Retrieved from: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/9/12/03-0288_article.htm

MCA Egypt (2007). Amun Ra. Retrieved from: http://www.mcaegypt.org/amunra.html

 

Blog #6: Queen Nefertari

The Armana period brought many important changes. Evidence of Queen Nefertari is proof of the increasing religious role of the queen. She was the first wife of Ramses the Great, and although he had eight principle wives in total and over a hundred children, he always described Nefertari as the most beautiful and perhaps was his most beloved. The queen’s birth parents are a mystery to this day but it has been concluded that her family was a noble one. In 1312 B.C., her and Ramses married, and soon after she gave birth to their first son. In total, she had 11 children, a mix of boys and girls.

Nefertari’s importance goes far beyond being adored by Ramses. The abundance of images of the queen throughout Egypt as well as her noted titles are evidence of her role in religious and state affairs. It cannot be said for sure whether her personality had a major influence or strictly her title and affiliations but her importance is obvious despite the reasons. The most inspiring feature we have discovered is a temple located in the Valley of the Queens, west of the Nile and south of Thebes. Carved into the cliffs are two tombs, a smaller one for her and the larger for her husband. Ramses dedicated the temple to, “the Chief Queen Nefertari…for whom the sun shines,” and paid to cover its costs, according to an inscription.The inside is decorated with elaborate paintings of various colors, as well as relief carvings, a more difficult art in which the carvings pop out from the wall when the rest is cleared away.

The temple wasn’t all romance though. Another proposed function of the temple was propaganda. Ramses needed to stress his power and make it known. He did this by having four large statues of himself built at the front, surrounded by smaller statues of Queen Nefertari. The intimidating but magnificent structures provide an instant visual of the King’s political power, which is probably exactly what he was going for.

Sources:

KingTutOne.com, (2005). Nefertari queen of Egypt. Retrieved from: http://www.kingtutone.com/queens/nefertari/

McDonald, John K., (1996). House of eternity: The tomb of Nefertari. Los Angelos: The J. Paul Getty Trust.

PBS, (Mar 15, 2006). Egypt’s golden empire: Nefertari. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/empires/egypt/newkingdom/nefertari.html

 

 

Who were the Hyksos?

The end of the Middle Kingdom marks the period’s decline, a time of decentralization of political rule. With this breakdown came an increase in immigration, and one important group that had an influence of Egyptian life was the Hyksos. Manetho was the first to refer to these people using the Greek term, which is incorrectly translated as “shepherd kings.” The Egyptians referred to them as hikau-khausut, or “rulers of foreign countries.” Although we do not know their definite origin, they most likely came from Western Asia, perhaps Syria or Palestine.

In the opinion of Manetho, they had a very negative impact on the Egyptians but from archaeological evidence, it appears that they made very useful contributions. Some believe that they first introduced the horse-drawn chariot but this is debatable due to the lack of solid archaeological evidence. They may have also shared their skills in bronze-working, the production of pottery, and weaving, as well as unique music styles and various instruments. Egypt is sometimes referred to as lagging behind in some cultural respects, and the Hyksos may have helped push the Egyptians forward.

Not only did they bring cultural traits with them to Egypt but they also took ideas from the Egyptians. There was a slight mixing in their religions as the Hyksos adopted the god Seth while contributing Astarte and Rashef to the Egyptian repertoire. Reshef was the god of war and thunder. He is portrayed holding a battle-axe, a spear and a shield. He fathered Min, the god of fertility, and his wife was Itum. Memphis is the site of his temple, where he was worshiped mainly by immigrants. Astarte, the goddess of fertility, beauty, war and love, was often identified with Isis and Hathor. Although she was revered by the Hyksos and similarly by the Egyptians, she was kept ‘alive’ and important by the Phoenicians, who built temples devoted to her in Cyprus.

Although they may have not welcomed immigration entirely, we now see through archaeological evidence and preserved records that the Hyksos had a positive impact on the cultural advancement and productivity of Egypt from the end of the Middle Kingdom to the Second Intermediate period and beyond. As written in Who Were the Hyksos?, “until the Hyksos invasion, the history of Egypt and Asia were mostly isolated, while afterwards, they would be permanently entwined. The Hyksos brought more than weapons to Egypt…”; they brought with them a whole bundle of ideas, and without them, they may have only have been worse off.

 

Sources:

Dunn, J. Who Were the Hyksos, (n.d.) Retrieved from: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hyksos.htm

Kjeilen, T. Hyksos, (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://i-cias.com/e.o/hyksos.htm

Kjeilen, T. Reshef, (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://i-cias.com/e.o/reshef.htm

Stuckey, J. Goddess in the Spotlight, (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.matrifocus.com/IMB04/spotlight.htm

The Potsherds of Abydos

My blog this week will focus on Abydos and a few of its interesting traits. In lecture, it was briefly mentioned how the ground is covered in broken pottery. On a quest to find out why there were once so many pots there, I discovered a few other interesting facts about the place and wanted to share.

We also learned in lecture that Abydos was believed to be one of many entrances to the under world. For this reason, many pharaohs chose to build their tombs here. In an article from National Geographic, I read about an archaeologist by the name of David O’Connor. He came looking for several things at Abydos, and after spending several years at the site, discovered a fleet of boats, each buried in its own mud-brick lined tomb. There were 14 boats total, and they measured up to 75 feet long. It was also noted that they had been completely functional and in good shape when buried. They were probably buried to serve as transportation for the kings so that they could reach the underworld successfully.

Along with the boats, servants’ bodies were also discovered. The presence of so many bodies dating back to dying at such close times is very good evidence of the Egyptians’ practice of human sacrifice. Research suggests that there may have been physical movement even after the bodies were buried which could mean that the individuals were only unconscious (not necessarily dead) at the time of burial. Drugs or strangling may have been used to put them down. The sacrificial practice ensured that the kings would be assisted by their servants in the afterlife.

Although Abydos was not always the most popular place for kings to build their tombs, the Middle Kingdom saw another spike in popularity. Osiris, king of the afterlife, was known to be the first king of Egypt, according to legend. Priests were sent by pharaohs to locate Osiris’ tomb, finally designating Djer’s tomb as the one. This process led Abydos to become the “mecca of Ancient Egypt.” Several thousand Egyptians made the pilgrimmage every year to visit the ‘tomb of Osiris’ and to celebrate his resurrection. This is where the potsherds come in. Offering pots full of fruit and burning incense were laid out in hopes of receiving Osiris’ blessing to pass through to the afterlife. Now they lay scattered, in a billion pieces.

Source: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0504/feature7/text2.html

Evidence of Unification

I think the most interesting piece of evidence of the unification of upper and lower Egypt is the spread of cultural-specific items. This wide spread trade is proof that societies were expanding, showing how successful these groups of ancient peoples were becoming. The Naqada cultures expanded bringing with them pottery styles, burial practices, etc. It’s important to remember that this expansion may not have been welcomed by the other groups, especially those living in the Ma’adi settlement. Their site was abandoned which may be a sign of that intimidation.

I think it’s interesting to see how slowly things change (but also significantly) because it is so closely related to how globalization shapes our modern world. Just as exotic pottery styles were incorporated into others, our products today also reflect the spreading of culture and ideas. A current example of this, and an extreme one, is the presence of imported goods in our stores today. You don’t have to go to China to buy oriental looking vases or travel to Mexico to buy a sombrero. Our trade is so advanced that we can appreciate other cultures’ ideas without having to let go of our own (necessarily).

I find the Narmer palette interesting as well because it shows the political changes taking place during the time. We still record political history to this day, perhaps not through drawings on stone but through writings in our textbooks, etc. It’s always refreshing to find connections between ancient peoples and ourselves.

Intro: Amanda Dixon

Hey guys,

My name is Amanda and I will be a super senior this fall. I will be graduating in December with a B.A. in anthropology. After school, I hope to enroll in the Peace Corps and do some traveling while making a difference in the world. I love being around new people and learning about different cultures, which is why Anthropology has been such a good fit for me. Although I haven’t come to a complete decision on what path I would like to take, career-wise, I am interested in archaeology and hope to get a better grasp on the specifics of the field through taking this course. I took ANP 363: Rise of Civilization with Ethan this past spring and it has definitely been my favorite anthropology class so far. The way his classes are run makes learning easy, and he’s a laid back and funny professor as well.

I am from Jackson, MI which is only about 35 miles south of Lansing. I grew up there my entire life, where I attended Northwest schools. I am very close with my family, especially my mom and older sister. I love MSU and East Lansing but can’t wait to get out of here and explore the rest of the world.

Good luck to everyone this semester and nice meeting you!