Bonus Blog Answer

I wish I could say that the burials as well as their remains, the buildings and Egyptian architecture are the most important aspects of Egyptian culture because they are what I enjoy most while reading and learning about ancient Egypt, but after listening to the lectures and doing the assigned reading I would have to say that the most important aspects of Egyptian culture are their politics and religion.

These two aspects are intrinsically linked to one another at certain times in Egyptian history. They show the significant changes and/or power shifts of the pharaohs and the foreign rulers that followed them. Some of the rulers attempted to change their people’s religious beliefs, but once their reigns were over the people went back to their original beliefs; at least until the Greeks and/or Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. The information discovered within tombs and on papyri show the diverse amount of people the Egyptians came in contact with as well as any conflicts that emerged between them.

The political aspect shows the changes and interactions between their neighboring cities and towns. These interactions show the changes or adaptations within differing cultures and the growth and diversity of their economy or trade. They even tell us about how cities were run and how they functioned individually and collectively and how rulers overthrew other rulers to expand their territories and melded the cities together.

The religious aspect informs us about their beliefs about life, death, and everything in between. It also allows us to see any minor or major shifts in religious beliefs; most times it was based on who was ruling at the time. We are also able to study their religious evolution from paganism or a polytheistic society to a monotheistic society of Christianity as well as their intolerance and ultimate acceptance of different religions.

These two aspects allow us to study and even possibly gives us more information about how their societies successfully functioned and gives us the chronological procession of pharaohs/rulers and the subsequent changes that took place, while the remains and buildings excavated actually only tell us more about the people themselves and their practices and/or techniques for any given time period. Politics and Religion by far are most important aspects for understanding Egyptian culture.

Week 7: Valley of the Golden Mummies, Alexandria and Philae Island

I found the “Valley of the Golden Mummies” particularly interesting this week. This cemetery was discovered in Bahariya Oasis and contains over 105 mummies from the time of Alexander the Great to the 4th and 5th centuries AD (308). This cemetery was found on accident, and fortunately there are a lot of things that have been discovered by accident throughout our history and I always end up wondering if it weren’t for that chance occurrence or accident would we still have discovered any of these things at some point? I find it interesting because the mummies were dated from at least three different centuries. There were four different kinds of mummies discovered here, mostly likely based on the individual’s social class. Some of the mummies had gold-covered masks on their casings and others had gold foil on their chests. The next kind found had linen wrapped around their upper body and had facial features and depictions of deities painted on them and others were wrapped in linen that was arranged in geometric patterns, the lowest class burials were poorly wrapped in linen (308-309). I also find these mummies interesting because of the applied implications for genealogical and/or genetic study as well as studies into possible disease prevalence and cause of death based off of the analysis of the paleopathology of the mummies (309).

I also found the city of Alexandria and Philae Island interesting as well. I always liked Alexandria because of the library that was and still is there, but its university, houses, theaters, cemeteries, Roman baths, and a lighthouse complex have also been excavated from Greco-Roman times. It was founded by Alexander and was originally a Greco-Roman city and was later an Islamic city. The cemetery of the Gabbari district had 250 burial niches that were discovered and each niche had sometimes at least 12 skeletons in each (302). Why did this happen? Did they run out of or need more room as time went on or could there have been some type of mass burial that took place and they could not build more tombs? It suffered and with stood damage from invading Muslim armies and riots between pagans and Christians. I wonder how Christianity’s intolerance towards pagans arose? Did it start because pagans originally persecuted not only Christians, but also Jews or was it just part of their fundamental beliefs, since, I believe, Christianity has always been a monotheistic religion? I think Philae Island interesting just because it was built on an island in the first place and that UNSECO disassembled and reassembled it on higher ground on another island (307), which is impressive and many different rulers had buildings constructed that contributed to the temple complex and its temple of Isis even co-existed with the churches that were built and was allowed to stay in use.

Week 6: Daily Life, Mummification, and Animal Burials

I was surprised to read in chapter 8 of the text that the weeks in ancient Egypt were 10 days long, I’m not quite sure I can fathom how a 10 day week could even work given our time scale today. I was interested to read about the daily lives of the workmen; they worked 8 out of 10 days a week and they were given rations by the appointed scribe. I was also surprised that attendance was recorded and that days were allotted for illness or personal time and holidays, today many jobs also do this for their employees. The workers were divided and all the high level workers and some normal workers had to know how to read and write. I think this knowledge of their daily lives is important for understanding their society and the workmen’s role in it.

I was also interested in reading about the process of mummification, in chapter 8. The overall process seems advanced for the times. The removal of the brain after the removal of the ethnoid bone and the removal of all the organs except for the heart, I assume would take some knowledge of physiology/anatomy and some chemistry would be needed for the preservation of the body with the natron and the embalming of certain organs. I wonder how they decided on mummification for their burials and how they worked out a process that was successful. Was the natron in combination with the body initially an accident or a chance occurrence that they then started using or did they use trial and error until they found the right components to preserve the bodies? I liked reading about all the things you can learn from the bodies about the individual and their life from the use of CT/MRI scans, x-rays, rehydrating tissue, and DNA/genetic testing.

The animal burials excavated at Saqqara, in chapter 9, were also intriguing, I thought. The large number of cats that were found along with other large animals were supposedly buried and preserved by pilgrims as offerings to certain gods. But could there possibly be other reasons or explanations for people burying them? Could they have been pets or were they important to whatever city/town they were used in or from? Could their burials have been an ordinary person’s way of showing the importance or their love/loyalty for these individual animals, like the kings/queens being buried with their animals?

Week 5: Expeditions and Medicinal Texts/Depictions

This week’s reading mentioned the various expeditions that the ancient Egyptians conducted. I thought it was interesting that the boats were made in Coptos, which was not near the port on the Red Sea that they used, and then they were disassembled, roped together, carried to the port, and then were reassembled. In a previous post I wondered why their boats were not made with nails and joints, perhaps this process for the expeditions was the reason they constructed their boats this way. I also found these expeditions interesting because they brought exotic materials to cities not near the coast in addition to the materials obtained by trade. Other expeditions that were mentioned were those of mining expeditions. These expeditions allowed the people to mine for their own precious stones, metal ore, and other raw materials that they needed so that they did not need to rely solely on trade for these materials. Some of these mines showed evidence of settlements that were built for the miners and they were imperative to Egypt, so that it could better control Eastern Nubia because of the placement of some of these mines.

I also found the archaeological evidence for the process and rituals of childbirth interesting because I did not think that it would be something that would be important for a society like ancient Egypt.  I am glad that something like the birth bricks and the depictions were preserved and found because it sheds light on the women’s view and beliefs about this private part of their lives. They had their own process, rituals, and goddesses that were worshipped and/or depicted. The text of veterinary medicine and medical papyrus of problems that women face that was discovered is interesting because it shows that they saw these things as problems and were trying to find ways to fix and document them, so that they could help other animals and women who may have been suffering. These texts also show that they possibly had scientific knowledge of medicine and/or a medical part to their culture.

Week 4: Architecture/Building Techniques and the Pre-burial Process

This week I found the building techniques by far the most interesting thing to read about. The ancient Egyptians built these extraordinary pyramids, temples, and buildings with very simple tools and techniques and they were built with precision. The manpower needed to achieve these structures is an amazing and impressive feat all by itself.  They knew about the wheel and still went along and used ramps and workmen to drag the blocks of stone to where they needed to be, using the wheel could have saved them time and would have required less manpower for the actual movement of the stone blocks; I wonder why they never implemented the wheel in their construction techniques or did they use it in other aspects of construction and there is just no evidence left today for us to find? Or was moving the blocks with workmen a guarantee that the blocks were safely moved with very little damage? The in depth description of the complex in Lehner’s article was interesting because it showed the exact layout of the complex and all the excavated building’s assumed functions. It showed that their settlement/complex schematic is similar to how we design cities today and it gives you a picture into the day-to-day lives of those who lived there.

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Week 3: Specialized Production and Trade

I always find it fascinating to read about ancient civilization’s engineering, architectural, and specialized production techniques because these people were ahead of their time, in my opinion, and I often wonder how they ever thought to invent or do these things. Kohler’s article discusses the specialized production of crafts and the trading of Ancient Egypt during the Neolithic, the Chalcolithic, and the Early Dynastic Periods. During the Neolithic, populations relied on animal husbandry, fishing, agriculture, and sometimes hunting to maintain their subsistence economy. In this kind of economy families produced enough product for their families alone. When the Chalcolithic began their economy became a wealth-and-staple-financed economy, with this economy the people were able to conduct specialized production techniques and produce product surpluses.

They created full-time industries, regional centers, and workshops for pottery/ceramic products, making stone vessels and flint tools, and for other luxury goods. They began using the technique of metallurgy, mining, and smelting copper ore. During the early Dynastic they made various goods from agricultural produce, like textiles, oils, beer/wine, and bread. These populations imported many goods, like cooper ore and ingots, different types of wood, oils, wine, precious stones, gold, silver, exotic animal skins, etc. Their trade routes networked through the Mesopotamia, Levant, Anatolia, Nubia, and other parts of Africa, Sinai, and the Eastern Desert. Merchants and donkey caravans traveled these routes, and later routes to the Mediterranean and Levant were traveled by ship. They participated in direct, indirect, and down-the-line trading. These routes began to contribute and become very important for the sustainment of their economy.

I often wonder how these people began trading; did they just take their goods and start walking until they found other cities with something they wanted? Or did they begin trading only after other travelers came to their city and exchanged goods? I also wonder, when I read about their craft production and other techniques, about what event(s) led them to think or consider these techniques? Did some other population teach them? Were they accidents or chance occurrences, or did individuals think them up or engineer them? These are questions that we or I may never know the answers to, but I have read of other civilizations inventing and/or using the same or similar techniques (and others that may not have be seen in Ancient Egypt) as the populations of Ancient Egypt and they all seem to suggest that these same techniques developed independently within each civilizations. I find that a rather large coincidence that every civilization throughout their own growth/evolution all came up with almost identical techniques independently from one another. I would hope that further research of these civilizations would solve these questions, but I am unsure if it will be able to in the future.

Week 2: Burials and Societal Differences

There were a couple things that I found interesting from this week’s reading. One was the burial practices or the placement of the bodies. Upon reading that the bodies from Wadi Digla and Naqada were oriented in the same direction, but with the heads facing different directions; I wondered what side of the Nile each was settled and the map a couple pages earlier in the chapter shows that they are on opposite sides of the Nile. So it made sense that the bodies were oriented to the Nile’s beginning as well as facing it, they seem to be paying homage to the Nile because it was so important for their survival and development. I also found the fact that at Ma’adi only infant and stillborn burials were found. It made me wonder if the infant mortality rate was high or if that was normal during that time; if the infant mortality rate was unusually high I wonder why, could it possibly be from malnutrition/starvation or other diseases that are often seen when societies adopt agriculture and populations increase.

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Hi, I’m Sam Carpenter and I’m a senior, graduating in December, double majoring in psychology and anthropology. I like to read, watch movies, and spend time with my family and friends, the usual stuff I guess. On weekends I normally would be up north at my family’s cabin to go fishing, just relax and get away or whatever else we find to do, but there’s no internet and not a lot of cell service up there; so, now I mostly just go back home to Bay City whenever I can (parents finally got high speed internet).

I am taking this class as an elective for my anthropology degree (all requirements for psychology are done). I’m fascinated by ancient civilizations, as well as history in general and have already taken a class on Mesoamerican civilizations/archaeology and in the fall I’m taking a European archaeology class. I am interested mostly in physical/forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology, but I have a small passion for archaeology as well. In the future I hope to go to grad school for either physical anthropology or public health/epidemiology; if its possible I would incorporate archaeology and/or historic preservation into any anthropology degree I pursue, and my backup plan is counseling or child/developmental psychology. Overall I’m still not exactly sure what I want to when I’m done with school, but I have a few options to try and figure it out.

I’m excited to start this semester and learn about the history, civilization, and the archaeology of ancient Egypt and to work with all of you. Since, I’m the type of person who would rather type or text to people instead of talking to them I usually prefer online classes but I have never had one with this format before, so it will be a learning experience in itself.