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.
For this weeks discussion post, I will discuss The Third Intermediate Period as studied and interpreted in this week’s assigned reading. The Third Intermediate Period is symbolic of a transition from the traditional pharaonic rule of the Early Dynastic Period, and the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms in which the entire country of Egypt was controlled by a dynasty of Egyptian Kings. The leaders in Thebes recognized the 21st Dynasty kings located at Tanis in the northeastern Delta, but there was still a divided rule between the north and south. To accentuate this division, there was a Border constructed at el-Hiba in Middle Egypt which contained fortresses that were built by the Theban rulers who put their faith and allegiance in the oracles of the Theban gods. At this point in time, Egypt no longer had legitimate colonies in southwest Asia or in Nubia. This newly emerged political order become blatantly obvious in the “Tale of Wenamen”, a fictional book where an agent of the Temple of Amen at Karnak is dispatched to Byblos to get cedar for the god’s bark.
-The actual geographic location and importance of the Delta became visible in the 19th Dynasty when Rameses II built a new capital there named Piramesse. After the dawn of the Third Intermediate period, with the sole exception of the Kushite Dynasty, the bureaucratic power and central control in Egypt focused increasingly on the Delta. The 21st century kings were able to establish a new royal city at Tanis, and to gain the essential momentum needed to to get this construction off the ground and started, earlier monuments and architecture from Piramesse and other locations in the north were removed and re-erected at Tanis.
-At the end of the New Kingdom there were many Libyans living in northern Egypt, mostly former mercenaries in the western Delta, etc.
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.
This week we learned about the mortuary practices of the New Kingdom and the Valley of Kings. The Valley has always been interesting to me because there is an incredible amount to learn from such a small area. With 61 tombs and multiple people buried in most tombs the number of people originally buried in the Valley is huge. Unfortunately, due to the threat of grave robbers, priests were forced to open several of the tombs and remove the mummies for safe keeping. While it is great that we still have these mummies to study today, you have to wonder what kind of evidence was destroyed by these helpful priests. What knowledge could we have gained if we had found these mummies in situ?
Grave robbing is perhaps the biggest detriment to archaeological work today when trying to understand ancient Egypt. Grave robbers took whatever they could, and the Valley of the Kings is no exception. While it might be thought that it was poor Egyptians that did most of the grave robbing but it was often pharaohs as well. Today, we generally don’t go around looting the graves of our founding fathers and former political leaders. In ancient Egypt, there must have been a strong sense of political and social unrest amongst the poor that would make them destroy a “holy” site. Meanwhile, the richest of the rich were also grave robbing to get better things to put in their own tombs. This can lead to some confusion amongst archaeologists of basic timelines and what everything actually means together.
Something that I was surprised to learn was that pharaohs occasionally would take over a previously built tomb and share it with the previous body. I’ve always thought that pharaohs were a bit egotistical and wanted to create a great space for themselves for when they died (be it a pyramid or a regular tomb). Apparently, some of them were content to not create anything at all and just live off of what the people before them had done. This brings up the question of why? Perhaps some of these pharaohs died a sudden death and had no time to build. Or perhaps they were not well liked and so a tomb was never built for them.
For this week’s post, I chose a topic that greatly interested me upon first glance, Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. In my opinion, this topic was essentially interesting to me because from my prior experience and knowledge of the ancient Egyptian society, I have learned that the Egyptian ruling elite such as Pharaohs, Kings, Queens, etc. were treated with intense respect and waited on all day every day on hand and foot by servants and the lower classes. This leads me to believe that the burial tombs and arrangement for this elite ruling class must have been an extremely time-consuming and tediously intense process involving a large amount of forced labor among the masses of the poor in order to serve the purpose of constructing tombs for the Kings and Queens.
Because this ruling Egyptian class was such an essentially big deal, the royal tombs of the “New Kingdom” were hidden in locations to the west of the royal mortuary temples. In reality, the kings were buried in one of two valleys, most in the East Valley and a few in the West Valley, known collectively as “The Valley of the Kings”. A lot of new knowledge, artifacts, and assumed behavior deduced from these recovered artifacts has been discovered since the 1970’s when the Theban Mapping Project of the American University in Cairo started systematically mapping and investigating tombs there.
Unfortunately, the mummies of the New Kingdom Kings (with the exception of Tutankhamen’s mummy) have been robbed of their valuable jewelry and relocated to two new caches. The end of the 20th dynasty marked the period that the royal burials began to get systematically robbed, most likely by the Theban rulers in order to provide state funds. These mummies were later re-located and re-buried to their original caches.
The Theban hills is also home to the “Valley of the Queens” which also included the burial of many princes and princesses. The two main groups of tombs dated to the reigns of Ramses II on the northern slope and Ramses III on the southern slope.
One of the topics that was talked about in this week’s lectures that is actually quite popular is the Valley of the Kings. However, I realized that before this week’s lectures and blog post, I really only knew of the Valley of the Kings rather than really knowing anything about it. So for my week six post, I decided to do a little outside research and to learn a little more about this archaeological goldmine.
After the shift into the New Kingdom, there was less interest from the nobles in the ornate and lavish burials that were characteristic of the Old Kingdom [and the burials marked by the pyramids]. One of the reasons behind this shift in interest was possibly the economical situation of the New Egyptian Kingdom. With the New Kingdom came a time of wealth, and thus, more grave-robbings. The noble people lost interest in these lavish burials likely knowing they would be robbed. So they began building tombs for their nobles and kings in two desert valleys [the East and the West valleys] on the west bank of Thebes.
It is theorized by many archaeologists that the Valley of the Kings was chosen as a burial site because it is a small, easily guarded, close to the river, and perhaps most of all, because of a pyramid like natural mountain known as al-Qurn. It was believed that instead of building more extravagant pyramids which beckoned robbers, the royalty and noble people saw al-Qurn as a symbolic pyramid which marked the significance of the Valley of the Kings, without being an obvious site for robbers [as it was a natural landmark and would not be so obvious].
There are 62 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, holding both royal and private noble mummies. Perhaps the most famous of these is the tomb of Tutankhamen, which was discovered in 1922. The tombs were elaborate underground mausoleums filled with everything from clothing and jewelry to pets and furniture, and even feasts of wine and food.
Most of the tombs have been excavated and were found around the same time as King Tut’s tomb was found, however there was a discovery of a new tomb as recent as 2005. This tomb, although archaeologists are unsure of who was buried here has been named “KV 63” and contains sarcophagi, flowers, and even an embalming chamber.
After researching the Valley of the Kings, I not only have a new understanding of the level of importance that this discovery has for all of archaeology and Egyptology, but it truly does give you a better understanding of the shift of logic and economic understanding of the New Kingdom of Egypt. I see their shift from the lavish monumental burial tombs to the hidden and underground mausoleums as a more logical and possibly secular thinking man. Instead of building these huge monuments to themselves, they began building secret tombs that were not even meant to be seen. By changing their mortuary culture in attempts to guard their belongings, they have used a problem solving technique that has altered their entire process surrounding noble death and funerary processes, which is of great significance as a growing civilization.
- Handwerk, B. (2012). The Valley of the Kings: Gateway to Afterlife Provides Window on the Past. Retrieved from: http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/valley-of-the-kings/
- Kinnaer, J. (July 25, 2009). The Valley of the Kings. Retrieved from: http://www.ancient-egypt.org/index.html
- The Theban Mapping Project (1997-2006). The Valley of the Kings. Retrieved from: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_450.html
I have always been interested in the shift between polytheism and monotheism during the eighteenth dynasty, so that is what this week’s post will focus on. First of all, I was not aware that Amenhotep IV (otherwise known as Akhenaten) was not even supposed to take the throne as pharaoh, but that he was destined to be a priest. Every other reference piece I have read about the subject fails to mention that. The fact that Amenhotep III, Akhenaten’s father, ruled for thirty-eight years is quite remarkable, considering the average life expectancy for an Egyptian back then was only thirty years. Amenhotep III put such a large emphasis on one particular deity, the sun disk of Re Horakty, I am sure that he brought up his children to worship the same deity. Under his father’s influence, Akhenaten sought out on a quest to make the Aten the supreme deity, with every other Egyptian god and goddess placed significantly below it. I found it surprising to learn that this period was not just one of religious reform, but economic as well: Akhenaten placed a tax on a number of temples and cities throughout the country to help support his new cult.
The one thing that sticks out to me is the fact that Amenhotep IV deliberately changed his name to Akhenaten to turn his back on monotheism. The name Akhenaten can be translated to “the one who is beneficial to Aten”, which is a far cry from his previous name, which translated to “Amun is satisfied”. One fact I found interesting was that Akhenaten’s son, Tutankhaten, changed his name to Tutankhamun, so it went from “the living image of Aten” to “the living image of Amun”, in an attempt to lead the Egyptian people back to polytheism. It was successful, and almost every carving or relief of Akhenaten was destroyed after his reign.
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.
After completing the lectures and readings for week 5, I decided to write my post on the city of Kahun. Kahun is an important site, and it was the first ancient Egyptian town that was ever excavated (Chapter 7). Kahun is unlike other towns in that it was not a town that was meant for regular life and the general population. Kahun was a temporary living site for the workers building the pyramid, Al-Lahun, and was abandoned on its 13th century completion. This worker’s village was build under the reign of King Senusret. Similarly to Antinoopolis, was disturbed after its abandonment.
Kahun was first excavated by Sir Flinders Petrie in the late 19th century, where he found papyri stating, “King Senusret is at peace”, signifying that the completion of the pyramid is what prompted these worker’s to be in Kahun. Sir Flinders Petrie found Kahun to be especially interesting in that it was much larger and more intricate than many other worker’s villages. Structures such as beamed houses and even porticoes were found in Kahun. There was also evidence that the King’s mortuary procedures took place in Kahun as religious figures were found to live in Kahun.
The village housed many people, and notably contained many lavish mansions including quarters that were suited for royalty. We know that Kahun is a worker’s village as many of the artifacts excavated were tools such as: fishing nets, hoes, rakes, mallets, flints, chisels, and knives. However, Kahun still had a functioning political and legal side as well. Kahun had not only a mayor, but also a house of legal proceedings and administrative offices. Documents such as land transfer deeds and wills were also found.
There were many documents and papyri found like the ones previously mentioned, but perhaps most interesting were the medical papyri found in Kahun. The medical papyri contain passages which outline examined conditions and treatments used to treat them by the people of Kahun [and likely other people of the time period]. These conditions range from tooth aches to sore muscles and even infertility.
The town of Kahun was a large working village that unmysteriously just disappeared after the completion of the Pyramid for Senusret. They left behind not only their advanced buildings and infrastruction, but their legal and periodic documents and medical papyri that tell us so much about the city and people of Kahun in the Middle Kingdom.
-Britannica Encyclopedia. Kahun, Egypt. 2012.
-Chapter 7: The Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period
-Parsons, M. Egypt: Kahun, Middle Kingdom Worker’s Village. African Travel Association, 1996.
For this week’s discussion post, I am going to examine and discuss the portion of the week 5 assigned reading that focuses on the content about tradition and innovation in the Middle Kingdom. In my opinion, the portion that contains the discussion about “re-formation”, referring to when state systems that have fallen victim to the decline and fall of empires regroup and rebuild themselves into new and improved systems of authority and class structures is extremely interesting because it highlights the tendency that the Ancient Egyptian society had in terms of sustaining their traditions and society through out the centuries undisturbed by the cultures, traditions, and threats of societies outside of their own in. By this, I mean to communicate that despite lots of internal dilemmas and additional constantly evolving global influences, the Ancient Egyptians managed to keep their civilization un-altered by intruding outside cultural forces. This is a great accomplishment that displays the great will-force and power of the ancient Egyptians in the field of conserving and persevering their great culture that is remembered and cherished by millions of people today and will continue to be featured as one of the greatest hallmarks of world history.
The task of remaining an un-influenced and un-changed culture from outside civilizations was centralized around the ancient Egyptian’s form of central bureaucratic control. This was referred to as the “great tradition”, a central political ideology that featured the respected and all powerful pharaoh who was considered the divinely sanctioned ruler of the ancient Egyptians. His role included the vitally important and key task of sustaining Egypt in a state of existence called “sema-tawy”(binding together of two lands), through maintenance of “maat” (divine order) against the chaos and threat of “isfet”. To me, this is symbolic of an ideology held by the ancient Egyptians that valued internal order and allegiance against outside threats and cultural forces that would alter or change the culture of the Egyptians. This demonstrates that the Egyptians loved and cherished their culture so much that they strongly desired to be defensive about their cultural lines and did not compromise or have an open head to outside foreign influences, which indicates that their spiritual order and culture was a strong one similar to that of Old World Asia that did not like to mix with other cultures and highly valued its own ways. Also, the Egyptians had a wonderfully functioning system/culture because they lasted and endured so many millennial periods in the times of B.C. without succumbing to persuasion or influence of outside cultural ways.