In this week’s readings we covered the spread of Christianity into Egypt and the final end of the rule of Pharaohs. For this week’s blog I wanted to discuss the transition from the acceptance of Christianity, as a result of Constantine, to the reduction of Egyptian priesthood and the effect that had on the ancient Egyptian people. Once Constantine accepted Christianity there was some time that Pharaohs and Egyptian priests still remained but within a century of that acceptance they were non-existent. Prior to this happening the Egyptian pharaohs and priests were very much the center of political and economic power. In the third century a very famous, young King by the name of Alexander was elected King of Greece and he continued his reign down Asia minor freeing many of these countries from Persian rule. As Alexander freed many countries from Persian rule he continued his journey into Egypt. During that time the Persians had taken over much of Egypt. He defeated the Persians in Egypt and took the control of the ancient Egyptians into his own hands. Alexander was crowned King in Memphis and his time in Egypt did not last long as he continued his journey north to conquer more states. Following his death the ruler Ptolemy took over Egypt and this was the beginning of the Ptolemic Kingdom. This era was significant because of the many accomplishments that scholars had on Egyptian life. Unlike previous eras in Egyptian history that focused on the accomplishments of the Gods and priest, Ptolemy founded Mouseion a learning institution that that housed a library that had collections of the works of 70 scholars and these were translated in many different languages. Although Christianity spread there was still much evidence of the importance of keeping Egyptian culture and beliefs alive and this was present in the Mouseion.
In this week’s blog post I decided to discuss the New Kingdom’s temples. The new kingdom temples were new structures but represented the old traditions through the restoration of the old cults and the construction of new temples for the Egyptian gods. One of the monumental structures included Sety’s temple located in Abydos. This temple was an important cult center for the god Osiris. Osiris was the god who judged all in the afterlife. The temple has the shape of an L and has rooms dedicated to the most important state gods and also important Memphite gods. A second structure that Sety constructed was the tomb used to symbolize Osiris. The sarcophagus rose up from surrounding waters and mimics a mound of creation arising from primeval waters. In addition to Sety’s temple, the temples of Karnak and Luxor were also constructed during the New Kingdom. Resembling Sety’s temple, the temple at Karnak surrounded a single god. The god Amen was the central focus and represented the largest temple in Egypt. In addition to Amen there were also structures found in the Karnak temple that surrounded the Theban triad gods which included Mut and Khonsu, in addition to Amen. These gods had temples within Amen’s temple dedicated to them. North of Amen’s precinct was a temple dedicated to the cult of the god Montu which was an ancient hawk or falcon god. At the Luxor temple, which was dedicated to Amenope, there were structural representations of the Theban triad of Gods. Structures at Karnak were dismantled later but the standing architecture found at Luxor date to the New Kingdom and represents the most important gods during that time. Columns and triad shrines dedicated to the gods are still found today and represent only some of the structures erected during the New Kingdom.
In this week’s blog post I have decided to talk about how between the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom the transition to a centralized government affected Egypt. In the Old Kingdom the people who possessed the most power were often Pharaohs. During the Middle Kingdom this was no longer true as more nomarches came along representing various areas. I found this to be interesting because as we learned more about the unification of Egypt I wondered what happened to the Pharaohs. The Pharaohs became no longer existent and the power they had once possessed during the Old Kingdom was no longer evident. The beginning of the Middle Kingdom there were nomarches and the Pharaohs that were still present tried to decrease their power and did succeed in some cases. However the Middle Kingdom did not exhibit a continuation of Pharaohs or nomarches but of peaceful kings that reigned for a very long time. These kings were unlike the Pharaohs in many ways. These differences in power translated to the changes that were happening in regards to Egyptian society. The societies in Egypt during the Old Kingdom were very secluded, there were not many immigrants and the areas were segregated from one another. Along with the unification of Egypt, many foreign immigrants found Egypt as their new home. This mixture in society brought on economic changes as well. Both the presence of economic and social changes was found in the tombs of many Egyptian tombs. These tombs lied under some of the pyramids constructed during that time. These pyramids were unlike the ones constructed during the Old Kingdom due to the changes in power. The pyramids constructed during the Old Kingdom were built using strong materials that lasted very long, and the pharaohs were able to get the labor forces as well to construct such monumental structures. The Kings that reigned during the Middle Kingdom didn’t rule such large areas and couldn’t call upon the same labor forces and the items used to build their pyramids were mud and brick which did not last and today look like sand dunes. These changes throughout the Old Kingdom into the Middle Kingdom represent only some of the many changes Egypt was going through during that time.
In this week’s reading I was most intrigue by the building of the pyramids. What I found to be very interesting was that to this day we are not sure of why a step pyramid form was used and what it symbolizes. The ruler Djoser represented a whole new style of royal monuments. He unlike other rulers before him in the Second Dynasty designed the earliest stone step pyramid complexes. This was unlike the others before Djoser due to the use of stone. Prior to stone use all monuments were constructed using mud-bricks, which was less labor intensive, but also produced less monumental structures. The use of stone to create Djoser’s complex provided him with the ability to build the largest stone monument at that time. In addition to building ground-breaking architecture Djoser represented a new royal control of the state. Djoser’s pyramid complex was unique compared to Old Kingdom pyramids. His pyramid was a step complex, with six steps, although it was originally only designed to be four. This pyramid was also rectangular in shape and not square. Surrounding the pyramid were dummy buildings and they were actually buried so that Djoser could use the buildings in his afterlife. Connecting the underground buildings to the pyramid were corridors and chambers. The walls of the pyramid were also decorated with designs carved into the stone; these images were to mimic more organic forms such as reeds and wooden beams. The stone elements of the pyramid and carvings represent the eternal nature that Djoser was trying to achieve. Djoser’s monument was one of the few during the third dynasty to be completed. It was also one of the few to use step pyramid architecture but it has held the test of time well and although it has not been completely excavated the monument still remains and we can still learn a great deal from it.
In this week’s reading and lectures the focus was on the beginning of Egypt’s complex society and the emergence of a unified state. The “Theories of State Formation” by E. Christiana Köhler discussed how Egypt became a state and with the collection of archeological and historical evidence we can see how Egypt became unified as well. In the readings I was very interested in the very beginning of the formation of the Egyptian state because to go from separate cultures living in a vast area of land to becoming an organized and complex society is very difficult. The very first king of Egypt was Menes was responsible for unifying Egypt under his rule. At that time unifying a state meant that the land was ruled and unified under one king’s rule and they followed God-given laws. This was complicated, as was the unification of a divided Egypt. Overall this development of a unified state took a long time and was a multi-linear process, meaning that each area did not develop at the same time as the next, instead each division of Egypt developed at their own pace.
Now that I have discussed the basic outline of the formation of Egypt as a state I wanted to talk about how the state was a successful economic entity. This came from the specialized craft production and the trade of such items. This provided a basis of interactions between civilizations across Egypt. Much of the trade production relied on the Nile as a resources for fertile lands and transportation. Pottery, ceramics, tool production and agricultural commodities all were examples to the items produced during this time. As these items became greater in demand the production increased and overtime the economic value increased as well. The combination of economic success and development of complex societies lead to Egypt becoming the world’s first territorial state.
During this week’s reading I was intrigued by the various differences of the Predynastic civilizations Buto-Ma’adi culture of Lower Eqypt and Naqada culture of Upper Egypt. Although these cities were approximately 600km away from each other along the Nile they exhibited differences in culture, settlement size, economic trade and ceramic traditions. Buto-Ma’adi areas showed less evidence of major settlement and the burial sites were far fewer than in Naqada.
The Buto-Ma’adi settlement sites were better preserved while the Naqada settlement sites were not and their culture was greatly depicted through excavation of burial sites. Through analysis of burial sites the differences between the cultures became apparent. Buto-Ma’adi sites were very simple and showed little cultural significance. This differed from the Naqada burial sites which showed higher levels of social complexity and varying social levels. These differences in burial sites represent a continuation of the Predynastic culture into ones that were more material based, evident in the Naqada culture. The materials being referred to are agricultural items, ceramics, pottery, mud-brick architecture and others that were used to develop a trade between civilizations.
As depicted earlier there were many differences between Buto-Ma’adi and Naqada cultures, however even in the Naqada culture itself there were varying degrees of social complexity. In the Naqada area there were several cemeteries, the Great New Race cemetery, Cemetery B and Cemetery T. These began with very small burial sites with few grave goods ranging to the social elite burial sites of Cemetery T which possessed many grave goods and any artifacts.
As I continued to read more about these cultures I found it very interesting to find that from burial sites archaeologist were able to depict so much of the society and the status of the burial inhabitants. Although not much has been preserved and many areas have been tarnished through robbery and weathering we can still learn a great deal about historic cultures from archeology.
My name is Christine LaLonde I am 23 years old and this is my last course at Michigan State University! At the end of this class I will have my Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology with a concentration in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology. I transferred to MSU in fall 2010 after obtaining my Associates in Science at Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia. I am taking this class because I have always had an interest in archaeology. After taking intro archaeology class last year I really liked it and have always been drawn to Egyptian History and I am now taking this class to complete my last elective requirements. Once I am done with this course I am considering transferring (again) to Wayne State University for another program for veterinary technology. Although I might take the next year off to look for internships and research experience. I am considering Wayne State due to financial reasons and because it is much closer to where I currently live now and am working, which is the Metro Detroit area.
In addition to being a MSU student I am a waitress at a local restaurant/bar in Dearborn Heights, MI. I love animals and I volunteer with the Michigan Humane Society and I hope to one day make a career out of my love of animals. I have been a vegetarian for the past six years and I enjoy going outdoors, bike riding, kayaking, camping and enjoy relaxing whenever I can.
This is my third online class at MSU and so far it is unlike anything I have taken so far, but I am very intrigued and can’t wait to get started. I am a little nervous about all the writing so after we submit if anyone has an comments or critiques please do so, I welcome all the help I can get!