Week 7: Trade

During the late dynasties, once the Greek began to enter Egypt and start to seize control, trade (already having been existed in Ancient Egypt) soon became a necessity. Trade was taking place overseas. I became interested in the fact that large vessels were setting sail. Have we recovered any ancient Egyptian ships that were en route carrying goods? If so, this could show us just exactly what they were trading and with whom? Did they have multiple ships or did they choose one ship to move from port to port? Trade was of considerable importance to the Ptolemies, and the establishment of ports on the Egyptian Red Sea coast enabled expeditions over large areas.  The two most important ports appeared to have been Berenice and Myos Hormos.

Bernice has been the subject of an excavation project, “one of the most important reasons for creating this new harbour was the need of the Ptolemies for elephants. These were used in the wars against the Seleucids in the Near East, who blocked the import of Indian elephants. The Ptolemies decided to catch African elephants in what now is eastern Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia and ship them over the Red Sea on special
ships (elephantagoi) in order to land them in southern Egypt and walk
them to the Nile valley (Byrnes, 2007).” This is just an example of one port that made up a popular trade route. Could there be possible ships that have not been recovered yet here? I tried to research ancient ships recovered in regard to this time frame and I had no luck. What I did find was that unfortunately most of the Ptolemaic layers of Berenice are still sealed beneath the Roman levels, which meant that at the moment there is very little known about the site at this time. Perhaps in the future we will know even more about trade that took place between ancient Egypt and overseas partners.

 

Sources:

Byrnes, Andie. (2007). Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine. Retrieved from http://archaeology-easterndesert.com/html/graeco-roman.html

Week 6: Changes in Foreign Policy

Throughout ancient Egypt there have been shifts in foreign policy. From predynastic to the third intermediate period we have seen significant changes and similarities in political, cultural and religious aspects. In this weeks lecture we discussed in detail about the change of foreign policy during the New Kingdom. This has led me to try to assemble how foreign policy differs from the second intermediate period to that of the third.

The Middle Kingdom arose through military and political expansion initiated by a line of provincial rulers until that is when the Hyksos, of which we learned last week, were on the verge of controlling Egypt during the second intermediate period. When the Hyksos were eradicated a new dynasty emerged, which led to the rise of the New Kingdom. During the 18th Dynasty foreign policy was aggressive, offensive, and imperialistic. Response to the occupation of the Hyksos and reaction to the change in the greater political sphere on the Near East was taking place. In order to make sure Egypt would not undergo the same empowerment of outsiders, buffer zones were established. In the eyes of Egyptians now, enemies lay close. It is during the New Kingdom that the Amarna letters would shed light on Egyptian relations with others. They represented a new sense of diplomacy that had replaced the military campaigns of the early New Kingdom. Foreign policy of the New Kingdom shifted from being overtly militaristic and imperialistic in reaction from the Hyksos occupation to a wider politic-sphere. Not only does it shift from the Near East to a more diplomatic policy which was represented by Amarna letters but  as well as economic, which was represented by voyages and economic expeditions to Punt. At the end of the 18th Dynasty, the end of the Amarna period, significant social and religious, political and bureaucratic change had taken place. The administrative capital had moved back to Thebes and the economic power of the old cults of Amun restored. This all leads up to the third intermediate period which is not like any other intermediate periods. There are long periods of stability and chronic instability. It is here we see the development of the hereditary priesthood of Amun.

Sources:

Watrall, Ethan. (2012). Lecture videos, Week 5 and 6.

Week 5: Increase Use of Emblems

The Middle Kingdom, truly to me, happens to be one of the most fascinating times of ancient Egyptian history after reading and watching the lecture videos. It was the time of relative prosperity, general peace and long reigning kings. The Middle Kingdom was also a time when trade, arts, and material in general flourished. Amongst material culture, I was fascinated by the extreme use of magical amulets as a decorum in the application of divine symbolism. Amulets have been used since the Predynastic times but underwent an extreme increase of use during the Middle Kingdom. Why the sudden change? Could it have been because of socio-economic and political changes that were taking place? Maybe, since many amulets and emblems pertained to the “after-life” it was a coping mechanism? I don’t know but it’s interesting to see the different forms of emblems they used, for instance, we all have learned about the eye of Horus (if you don’t, essentially it is the symbol of protection, royal power and good health), but another one that I have never heard of is called, Djed pillar or the back bone of Osiris. It is associated with Osiris because it’s a mythological symbol dealing with the afterlife, the underworld and the dead (a bit morbid). Ancient Egyptians fascination with death and preparing for death is intriguing. They were surrounded with death so emblems such as these was a way, to me, to become comfortable with the idea of death. Yet, it’s interesting that during the Middle Kingdom, a time of peace (somewhat) that the use of emblems would be on the rise.

With the increase of using amulets and emblems it make me wonder what else was rapidly increasing or being constructed. I researched into this and found that the pharaohs of the 12th through 18th Dynasties were credited with preserving mathematical and medical discoveries that were preserved on dozens of ancient Egyptian papyri.

If you would like more information on these the link is below and you can look into the collection.

http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/egypt02-04enl.html

Week 4: Did slaves build the pyramids?

Pyramids truly are the most fascinating piece of architecture discovered today. The elaborate planning, engineering, strength and dedication it must have taken for the people of antiquity to construct such a massive edifice. During this weeks tutorials I became astounded by the different archaeological findings of said pyramids. The pyramids in Egypt remain to me one of the finest mysteries and complexities of the modern world. I found it intriguing when we learned about the fact that slaves were not the ones who had  erected the pyramids. The Great Pyramids of Giza put forth evidence that slaves did not build these ancient monuments. There was a series of nine foot deep shafts which had held a dozen skeletons of pyramid builders perfectly preserved by dry desert sand along with jars that once contained beer and bread meant for the workers’ afterlife. Is this how they knew that it couldn’t have possibly been slaves who have constructed these ginormous monuments? According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who had once described the pyramid builders as slaves, created what Egyptologists say is a myth later propagated by Hollywood films. Graves of the pyramid builders were first discovered in the area in 1990 when a tourist on horseback stumbled over a wall that later proved to be a tomb. Egypt’s archaeology chief Zahi Hawass said that discovery and the latest finds last week show that the workers were paid laborers, rather than the slaves of popular imagination (Kratovac, 2010).

Upon researching exactly who built the pyramids I stumbled upon a theory that Jewish slaves were forced to construct. Amihai Mazar, professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says that myth stemmed from a claim by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, on a visit to Egypt in 1977, that Jews built the pyramids. Hawass said the builders came from poor Egyptian families from the north and the south, and were respected for their work – so much so that those who died during construction were bestowed the honor of being buried in the tombs near the sacred pyramids of their pharaohs (Kratovac, 2010).

It’s amazing how tabloids, hollywood and etc. can shape and mold what “we” think exactly happened in the past. It’s even more amazing that archaeological findings can eradicate these said myths.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/11/new-discovery-shows-slave_n_419326.html

Week 3: Military conquest?

The history behind the process of unification between Upper and Lower Egypt is intriguing. Upon watching lectures and reading the required text during this week, I became fascinated on exactly what went “down” during the different phases between Naqada II and Naqada III. I was particularly fascinated at the theory of a military conquest. There is no clear evidence for large-scale military activity at the time of the unification of the Egyptian state. Though, the evidence of the palettes such as the Town Palette show Lower Egyptian walled cities under attack. Or, the Narmer Palette, in which could be interpreted as the ‘king’s power sentences a law-breaker to death’ and shows scenes of the victorious king, dead enemies, and vanquished peoples or towns. I feel that many people can make generalizations and try to convince themselves that perhaps a military attack did happen, but then archaeologists uncover burial grounds and tombs. What does this have to do with military activity? When unraveling cemeteries, such as the remains uncovered from dynasty 0 and 1 cemeteries, we find no signs of violent death or possible battle injuries. There is no evidence for a class of warriors in prehistoric Egyptian society, and no burials that may be classified as
warrior graves. The only remaining evidence for a military conquest of Lower Egypt and the formation of the Egyptian state is in later Egyptian sources which state Menes founded Egypt (Gilbert). Upon researching burial grounds, what about weapons? Were there any type of weapon found that would be used if in the presence of a war? or if weapons were found, could they possibly have been possibly used for agricultural practices?

There are many unanswered questions and information we just don’t have the answers too. Perhaps with more research and soon to be uncovered sites we can find out the answers.

Gilbert, Gregory. \”The Unification of Egypt.\” N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2012. <http://www.oocities.org/timessquare/alley/4482/Uni.html>.

Week 2: Nabta Playa

Being as inquisitive as I am, I was intrigued by the archaeological site, Nabta Playa, when brought up during our lecture videos. We only touched base on exactly why Nabta Playa was so profound and exactly what the artifacts were that had been discovered, so I want to take a deeper look into those artifacts,  presumably at thee earliest known calendar circles.

The site was first uncovered miraculously when a group of scientists stopped for a short comfort break. It was there when they noticed potsherds and other artifacts sprawled across the ground. After unraveling, excavations showed that this would be the earliest known archeoastronomy site in the world. This fascinated me because I have quite the slight obsession with astronomy and astronomical events. After have learned that archaeologists have discovered such an amazing site, I had to research a little more about it and exactly what it was that it showed “us” now. Upon researching, I found that at this site, they had uncovered five alignments of megaliths (another term for a large stone).  Archeoastronomers began to draw lines along the alignments when they realized that the lines closely matched the direction of the sunrise on the summer solstice (Planet Quest). Why would this matter? Well first of all megaliths are not easy to build. First you have to move these very large rocks, then you have to carefully watch the sky and track stars as they move across the sky, and then finally these megaliths are actually carved which might have shown certain stellar alignments based on the shape of stone. In addition scientists have said that this may have helped Nabtians navigate and track stellar movements. This proves to me the people of Nabta Playa were very organized and had an abundance of skills. I feel as if their society could have been fairly advanced and if it were not for archaeological evidence or archaeologists themselves we would not have an understanding on how our world came to be what it is today.

“PlanetQuest: The History of Astronomy.” PlanetQuest Education. N.p., 2005. Web. 12 July 2012. <http://www.planetquest.org/learn/nabta.html>.

 

Introducing Dana Nyquist

Hello everyone! My names Dana Nyquist and I am now, I can’t believe it, a senior at good ole MSU! Woo! I’m majoring in criminal justice with an additional in anthropology. Although I’ll be pursuing the physical anthropology field in the near future I’ve always had a fascination with archaeology, and especially ancient Egypt.. But c’mon who hasn’t? When I’m not wrapped up in my studies I tend to have a lot of good times with great people. It could be anything from producing music videos (as we like to say it, we tend to just put together bits and pieces and voilà, a masterpiece), camping, or road trips. Which in fact, I have a few trips lined up this summer and I will be embarking on very soon. I really enjoy going to concerts, especially to see 311! I’m an avid outdoorsman and have just picked up the sport tennis this summer. Maybe Wimbledon will be in my near future as well?

I hope this class will bring some great insight on the ancient Egyptian archaeology, maybe it will even peak my interest into changing subfields. I’m excited to get the ball rolling and I hope that everyone’s summer has been just as entertaining as mine so far.