Week 5 blog – Emma Greene

For this week’s blog post, I decided to combine the information I learned in two videos and elaborate on it. I focused on the end of the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period this week, mainly because I didn’t know that much about either of those topics to begin with. As a historian-in-training, I often wonder what exactly makes an era collapse or segue into a new one. The end of the Middle Kingdom was especially interesting to learn about this week because one would think that the arrival of the Hyksos people would foster some degree of conflict. However, it seems like they Hyksos just drifted in and assimilated with the Egyptians by adopting their name style as well as their royal titles. It wasn’t long before the Hyksos were dominant over Lower Egypt and the Nile Delta, leaving the pharaohs with Upper Egypt.

It makes sense that there would be some turmoil during this time. According to several king’s lists found in Egypt, there were 175 rulers during the Second Intermediate Period. On the other hand, the number of viziers stayed relatively low, showing that while the seat of power was unstable, the administration behind the seat was almost unmovable.

One of the many things I found interesting was that the Egyptians were unnerved because of the Hyksos’ alliance with the Nubians, a people that Egypt had previously come into contact with. Essentially, the Egyptian pharaohs were caught between a rock and a hard place (the Hyksos and the Nubians, respectively). It wasn’t until the 18th dynasty, under the reign of Ahmose, that the Hyksos would be permanently expelled from Egypt, thanks to a siege that lasted for three years at Sharuhen (or Tell el Ajjul).

Despite the tension between the Hyksos and the pharaohs, the Hyksos contributed new ideas to modern warfare in Egypt, with inventions like the horse-drawn chariot, the battle-axe and a fancier compound bow.

Week 4 Blog Post

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.

Who Built the Pyramids?

The pyramids of Ancient Egypt are some of the most recognizable and amazing structures on earth. You have to look at them in awe due to the sheer size and the amount of resources that must have gone into building each one. So who built them? It was originally thought that slaves were forced to build the pyramids. Recent findings, however, have pointed towards free citizens that were hired labor. These are two very good theories, but let me tell you how it they were really built. Aliens.

A long ago there was a race of super aliens known as the Anunnaki. They specialized in mind control and conducted extensive genetic engineering studies and created a super-race of reptilian beings. Before they even came to Earth, they had already conquered the Pleiades and Mars. Obviously, these super-aliens built the pyramids 20,000 years ago to be used as launching pads for their spacecraft.

Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but the so-called ‘evidence’ for aliens building the pyramids is easily explainable. One of their biggest pieces of evidence is how hard it would have been for people with relatively little technology to move these huge stones across the land. They are totally right about that: it would have been hard. However, several modern teams have shown a couple different ways that regular old human beings can move sandstone blocks that weigh a literal ton. One way is to create some sort of sled out of timber or to create a “conveyor belt” made out of logs. These are all technologies that they would have had back in Ancient Egypt.

The pyramids were important to all Egyptians. The common people were building a place for their great leader to be transported to the afterlife and there was also a chance (if they worked on certain parts of the build process) that they would be transported to the great afterlife with them. These people knew that they were creating a great monument that would last for many years so they would try very hard to create something amazing.

It sure is crazy what average human ingenuity can create.

Week 4-Adam Longo

This week I am going to focus on explaining the Rise of Complex Egyptian society and early civilization(mostly the Predynastic section).  The introduction of farming and herding in Egypt, in combination with the booming successful Neolithic economy in the lower Nile valley laid the foundation and groundwork for the bureacratic order and the rulers and Pharohs become dependent on the production of this Neolithic economy to function correctly and supply work to most of the non-ruling citizens.  The 5th millenium B.C. was the time that the spread of the farming and herding lifestyle replaced the nomadic-style hunting and gathering that had previously been the prevalent way of life for Egyptian survival and everyday life.  Also, surpluses of crops that were left with the farming families were used essentially as trading currency/utils that were converted from surplus crops into trading utils used to obtain goods, services, and materials that were highly valued in society such as jewelry, carved stone pallets and vessels and other sacred objects that were commonly found in tombs of pharohs and other places with similar significance. 

There were two periods of the pre-dynastic culture: the Buto-Ma’ adi which was designated as the culture of lower Egypt and the Naqada culture of upper Egypt.  The division between these two distinctly different ancient Egyptian cultures was based on different ceramic tradtions, and other cultural differences.  For example, the Naqada were known for burying their dead in ways that represent increasing social complexity and difference in size and number of goods.  Also the Buto-Ma’adi were extremely more simple and had far less socio-cultural significance. 

At the excavations of the remains of the Buto-Ma’adi archaelogical dig site, there were many pottery remains of globular style bowls and jars which indicated the people were advanced in cermaic making and had evolved to the point were there circle style was symbolic of their culture.

Funerary Texts

After this week’s readings and lectures, I found myself particularly intrigued with the concept of the “Old Kingdom” and the documentary evidence we have from that time period. If not more than anything else I thought it was very interesting that there is more documentary evidence from the Old Kingdom than from the Unification. By means of texts such as pyramid texts, funerary texts and biography texts, we get a full picture of what is going on during this period.

However, I was specifically interested in funerary texts, as this is something that although I was familiar with the concept of tombs, I did not know they got information from the time period through funerary texts. I did a little bit of research and found that the first funerary texts date back to the fifth dynasty tomb of King Unas.

The Egyptians believed that the pharaoh had the ability to live after death as a Deity of sorts, and that after death he would either take on the role of the sun or of the God of Death, Osiris. In these funerary texts, spells, prayers and instructions of how he would achieve this transformation were inscribed in the king’s tomb. The Egyptians believed that in supplying these ritualistic texts in the tomb of the king, that they were ensuring him a safe “journey” to his new role in his afterlife.

During the Old Kingdom, it was believed that the king was the only person to which afterlife was possible, however, after the collapse of the Old Kingdom, the rights to this belief in afterlife was available to everyone. Because of this shift in beliefs, after the collapse of the Old Kingdom, Egyptologists began to find these “afterlife instructions and rituals” carved into coffins of common people, too, and not just in the tombs of the Pharaoh.

I find it especially interesting that beliefs of people shifted after the collapse of the Old Kingdom and when the political situation changed that people began to feel empowered and we find evidence of this through these funerary texts. Also, and more elementary, in reading some of these texts, I am blown away that we were able to translate them. It really just blows me away how advanced this society was for the time period in which they lived.

Sources:

Johnston, S. I. (2004).  Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Watrall, Ethan. (2012). The Old Kingdom. Lecture.

Week 4 Blog – Emma Greene

For this week’s blog, I would like to take a look at the first pharaohs of the 1st dynasty. For starters, I did not realize that Abydos played a large part in the religious life and funerary practices of the Archaic Egyptians. It makes sense, though, because Abydos was the legendary burial place of Osiris, god of the dead and rebirth.

When it comes to the chronology of the pharaohs, it could get confusing for some because of the fact that Menes might not be the actual name of the king, it might have just been the title used by him. Knowing this, it could be said that Menes and Narmer were the same person, and Narmer used Menes as his title. According to one of my books about Egypt, it lists the first pharaoh of the first dynasty as Narmer. Clearly, there is still some debate over what to call the first pharaoh. Moving on to Aha (or Horus-Aha/Hor-Aha), he was most likely the son of Narmer. His name appears on the Palermo Stone, which can also be called the Royal Annals of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. Essentially, it lists all the rulers from the first dynasty through the fifth.

Next on the list was Djer, and, again, whether he was the third or fourth pharaoh is up for debate. Archaeologists have stated that he was buried next to a woman named Merneith, so she was presumably his wife. In addition, she also allegedly gave birth to Den, who would succeed Djer. Den was the first pharaoh to wear the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt together (the double crown was called the pschent). He was also the first pharaoh to go by the title of the Ruler of the Two Kingdoms. I found it interesting that the Egyptians system of writing was further standardized under his rule: I would have thought that it would be a system used throughout the entire united land.

Week 3 Blog Post

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.

Week 3 Post: Trade Networks

The unification of Lower and Upper Egypt was the result of many processes that worked together over several hundred years to bring forth one centralized state. One of the processes that aided in this fusion was the presence of a long distance trade network that was very well-established. This trade network allowed for the many governments throughout Egypt to trade various aspects of their cultures with one another including different styles of pottery. This shows archaeologists how ceramics that were made in Lower Egypt were found to be crafted in the Upper Egyptian style and this would not have been possible unless there was some sort of network between the two areas where ideas and customs could be introduced and shared (Watrall, Evidence for Unification lecture).

The Necropolis of Helwan is a good representation of the evidence archaeologists have found in support of this long distance trade network (Kohler, 41). The 10,000 tombs located at this site suggest that it was first a cemetery for the elite population and then started to be filled with individuals from the different social classes including several unnamed commoners (Kohler, 45). This may show us that there happened to be an increase in the population that occurred at that time which indicates why their bodies had to be buried there. What is interesting to me about this site though is that the presence of imported goods was usually a sign that the occupant of the tomb was a person of higher social status, but at Helwan even the tombs of the lower class individuals had imported goods inside them. How did these individuals get imported goods into their possession if they did not have the means to obtain them? Archaeologists to this day are not sure. However, we do know that this trade network did help in the development of their economic system that collected taxes and redistributed that money to state officials and the royal treasury (Kohler, 41). I don’t know much about economics so I was surprised to read that there is evidence to show that Egyptians had been able to create a tax system so long ago especially over an area so large.  Now we know that the creation of the trade network in Egypt gave rise to an increase in social stratification as well as how much it assisted in the creation of a unified state.

References:

Kohler, E. Christiana (2010). Theories of State Formation. In Willeke Wendrich (Ed.), Egyptian Archaeology (pp. 36-54) Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Watrall, Ethan. (2012). Evidence for Unification. Lecture.

 

The Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt

One of the most intriguing topics when considering the unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, is the lack of heavy military conquests.  Military conquests are so often a huge factor in other unifications and/or conquests in other civilizations throughout history.

Perhaps one of the more interesting things for me personally is that material culture played as large as a role if not larger of a role in the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt than military action.  However, it is puzzling that many of the people studying the unification process have theorized that military action was only a minor part of the process, because of the major influence of power in the evidence of unification.  For instance, the Narmer Palette shows Narmer in two extremely dominant positions: the first being himself standing over a kneeling slave or captive and about to strike him, and the second being him watching over rows of decapitated captives, and finally the picture of a bull attacking a walled city which is [allegedly] Buto.  Another example that I find quite interesting is the Scorpion Mase Head, which shows dead rekhyt birds, common to and symbolic of Lower Egypt hanging from specifically Upper Egyptian standards.  Finally, the Town’s Palette, although not provenience like the other two documents, it depicts Upper Egyptian native animals attacking fortified towns of Lower Egypt. (Watrall, Unification of Egypt: The End of the Predynastic lecture).

Although I do not doubt that military action was only a minor factor in the unification process of Upper and Lower Egypt, I find it extremely interesting that there appears to be a struggle to establish power and dominance between the leaders of Upper and Lower Egypt. The Naqada II burials of Upper Egypt also are evidence of this possible competition between Upper and Lower Egypt.  The Naqada II burials started to become larger and began to reflect higher status.  (Kohler). This, to me, shows an example of the other process, which is trademark of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, which was the spreading of material cultures.  Although the funeral processes were becoming more ornate in Upper Egypt, it appears as though it was done to be competitive with Lower Egypt, meaning that the staples in funerary processes would change as did ceramic pottery.

It is so interesting to me how the factor which is more of a minor influence on the unification appears to be much more pronounced in the evidence, however, when you really look at it, it almost seems as if the materials [ceramics, palettes] are almost showing the competitive tension between the areas and perhaps not war or military action itself.

References:

An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Chapter 5: The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization; pp 104-108.

Kohler, E. Christiana (2010).  Theories of State Formation.  In Willeke Wendrich (ed.), Egyptian Archaeology. (pp. 36-54)  Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Watrall, Evidence for Unification. Lecture.

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>.