Greek and Roman Influences

What interested me the most in the readings for this week were the differing approaches by the conquering Macedonians and Romans.  After King Alexander had taken over Memphis in Egypt, he founded the great city of Alexandria.  Under his rule, Governor Ptolemy, who later became King Ptolemy I set up his Ptolemaic kingdom.  This kingdom became the most powerful of Alexander’s empire of three kingdoms.  Ptolemy I founded a great library, which not only consisted of collected Greek works, but also of papyri in Egyptian.  Many Egyptian documents were also translated into Greek  Even though Alexandria’s dominant culture was Greek, the works of the Egyptians were still treasured and thought of as important.  The Ptolomies also even learned about the Egyptian gods and even adopted some of the local gods. However, the worship of Egyptian cults helped justify their dominance.

While the Ptolemies had much more in contact with Egypt, it was surprising to me that the Roman emperors never set foot in Egypt.  They had a well set up bureaucracy that was ruled by a governor.  The country was greatly exploited by the Romans.   Egyptians were expected to pay an annual poll tax and the country had a substantial military presence to enforce the tax laws and to prevent rebellions and to ensure Roman protection.  Even as early as the 1st century AD, the Romans persecuted the Jews for not sharing their polytheistic views, and later attacked Christians.  It’s interesting to me how poorly Jews and Christians were treated as the Roman Empire began expanding.  And then later in the 3rd century AD, Constantine made Christianity the official religion and every previous persecuted monotheistic believer seemed to be forgotten as the empire still rose in power. It boggles me how in a relatively short amount of time, under the influence of one leader, the belief system of a state can change and be accepted so quickly.

Wonders of Mummification

I found it interesting that just as the tombs of the Egyptians become more complex throughout time, the practice of preparing the remains for the afterlife had also evolved over centuries of time.  Instead of just positioning the bodies, preparing and treating the outer shell of the of the body in a certain way, the ancient Egyptians began to also modify the interior of the body by extracting the organs. It’s amazing that the process of mummification took up to 70 days. The idea that the heart was the “seat of intelligence and emotions” was an interesting idea because today we believe that the heart is associated with emotions and a we “listen to our hearts” when resolving moral issues.   It is also neat how x-rays of these bodies provide us with valuable information, such as both ante and postmortem evidence of some Egypiians.  Also, it even shows us of any physical ailments, such as arthritis or illnesses that the Egyptians had. I thought it was really advanced that we can figure that out now with forensic anthropology and crimes today (relatively recent bodies found), but we can even find out information from these preserved bodies from thousands of years ago.

In part of this book called Chariot of the Gods, the author claims that there are still living cells within some mummies.  In 1963, the University of Oklahoma discovered that there were still living skin cells in the body of the Egyptian Princess Mene, who has been dead for several thousands of years!  The mummification process kept these Egyptians so well preserved that there are still living cells within the mummy!  Instead of just admiring these well-preserved specimens, this may actually help create further breakthroughs in science.  Today we are able to clone living animals, such as sheep and cats. If sometime in the future, we are able to clone these skin cells, perhaps we could somehow bring these Egyptians back to real life and not just speculate about their spirits of  their afterlives.

Middle Kingdom Advancements

During the Middle Kingdom, quite a few advancements had occurred.  The most interesting advancement that I read about was the emergence of Egyptian literature.  The texts provide us with a firmer grasp on Egyptian life such as the social unrest, famine, and every day life.  A variety of texts developed over this time period.   Egyptian literature was not only used for entertainment in story form, but it was used for many other things such as coffin texts, instructions, and discourses.  More Egyptians were able to write and read with the establishment of the first school during the 12th dynasty.   Those who were in lower ranks may have been able to read as well because coffin texts were found in graves of private individuals and not just in the ones for the royal family, as pyramid texts were during the Old Kingdom.
Also, Instead of reading about the literature that was discovered, I would like to actually read a translation of one of the Egyptian stories.  As much as it is interesting to hear about excavations and artifacts discovered, it would be nice to be able to interpret Egyptian literature ourselves and get a better understanding in what they thought and felt.
Another advancement/adjustment that was made during the Middle Kingdom was the sea-faring expeditions.  During this time, the Middle Nile was under control by the Kerma Kingdom and in order to obtain goods from Punt, the Egyptians had to make a new sea route to reach their destination.  These sea-faring expeditions required thousands of men and careful planning to avoid disruption with Kerma.
Irrigation was another important project that took place during the late 12th dynasty.  The irrigation helped this area (the Faiyum region) prosper with increased crop yields and benefited from the high Nile floods.
During the Middle Kingdom period, more aspects to the culture had developed/had been modified.  I’m interested to see how ancient Egypt changes during the future dynasties we will learn about in the next lessons.

The Life Revolved Around the Afterlife

I enjoyed learning about the Pyramid Age during the Old Kingdom.  What I found most interesting is how much the ancient Egyptian culture is surrounded around the ruling dynasties. Over time, as funerary complexity increased, the ultimate projects of building monumental pyramids had to come next.  Everything in a city would revolve around this cult, as Professor Watrall described it in the lecture.  The Pharaoh and his family had the privilege to be interred into a pyramid that required a labor party of 10,000 people to construct.  It is most interesting that as soon as someone was appointed new Pharaoh during the Old Kingdom, it was necessary to start planning the build of a grand tomb.  With such a high amount of resources and power, the construction and time put into building the pyramids was counterproductive for people as a whole, during the Old Kingdom.  With a city at the Pharaoh’s whim, it had to do whatever was necessary to keep the king happy in his afterlife.  The Pyramid of Sneferu was commissioned to be built when a new Pharaoh came into power and didn’t like the one that he claimed.  In some of the tombs, hundreds of people consisting of the Pharaoh’s servants, body guards, and wives were sacrificed and were placed in the corridors of kings’ tombs.  Even thousands of cattle were slaughtered for sacrifice for the cause of a good afterlife.   Life during this time must have not been all too great if every one’s mind was focused on the afterlife during his/her time on Earth.  I haven’t come across this information yet and I will inquire further, but I wonder if there have been Pharaohs that are killed right after the tomb/pyramid was built, so that they can make a quicker journey into his afterlife.

Unification of Lower & Upper Egypt

I found the unification process of Upper and Lower Egypt very interesting.  I originally thought that the unified state was just the outcome of Pharaoh’s conquest, like that of other empires in history.  However, the process was greatly more complex and it wasn’t political aspects that solely contributed to the unification.   Both economic and social factors also played a large role in the process. Economically, both Upper and Lower Egypt, especially Upper Egypt, benefited from the trade network.  Before the unification during the predynastic and neolithic period, there was only self-subsistence through agriculture, some hunting, fishing, and pottery making from the different area’s surrounding materials. Later during the Chalcolithic period, the Egyptians developed a wealth-and staple-financed economy.  This allowed skilled craft specialization and a surplus of goods to emerge, especially for the wants and needs of the elites.  For example fish- tail and rhomboidal flint knives, which had limited function and relatively scarce, were created as luxury goods for the upper class.  The developed trade network, which consisted of many other goods, such as pottery, resin, and oils, strengthened the economic system  and centralized government.  Stratification of the classes increased with the established trade network and skilled craft specialization. Government officials, who collected taxes and redistributed the income to the state and royal treasury, ranked pretty high up in the social class.    As more commodified goods entered the trade market, it became much more evident between the wealthy and the poor Egyptians.  The higher class Egyptians were buried with many more items from many different places.  Trade also created new jobs and policies in the Egyptian society, such as the production and storage of the goods. As Egyptians had increased needs for certain goods, such as cast copper ingots, metallurgy became an industry for the unified state.  In addition to the social and economic contributions to the unification process, political elements were also important to the unification.  Upper Egyptian rulers named Scorpion and Narmer are present on ceramic vessels at Minshat Abut Omar, an Lower Egyptian site.  As shown in the Narmer Palette, also, it depicts King Narmer as being greatly responsible for the unification.  In conclusion, social, economic, and political factors were all essential steps for the unification to occur.

On Predynastic/General Ancient Egyptian Chronology

I find it interesting that most of the documented chronology of Ancient Egypt come from the various different reigns of Pharaohs.  Because these documented reigns are official and royal, there were definitely political and/ or religious biases.  These biases greatly affect our knowledge of Ancient Egypt today.  For instance, in the Tjenry list, it lists 58 kings from the first to the ninth dynasty, but omits those who reigned from the Second Intermediate Period and rulers, the Hyksos, who had close relations with Akhenaten.  Also, the Seti I king list has 76 ancestors of this Seti I’s lline, but excludes the names of Pharoahs who were removed for political reasons.  Seti I also omitted certain rulers who were viewed as unpopular in later times.  During the phase of Naqata III,The Pharoah who was credited for the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt King Narmer, was depicted in the the  Narmer Palette.  It shows him conquering Buto in Lower Egypt.  T

Blog #1: A Little Bit About Me..

Hi, I’m Faith and I’m an anthropology major.  I am very interested in the sociocultural and linguistic sub-fields within my major.  This will be my fourth year here at State and I’m excited to graduate and spend some time in the real world.  It has taken me a few years of significant major changes to finally find what was right for me.  I spent my freshman year at Western Michigan University for aviation flight science.  Ever since I was in the 3rd grade I had always wanted to become a commercial pilot.  During high school I attended flight school and successfully completed a few solo cross country flights.  After spending time at Western, however, I realized that a pilot’s lifestyle was not for me and I wanted to pursue something else.  My sophomore year I studied advertising and public relations and went on one of MSU’s study abroad programs last summer in Italy and France.
Now, as an anthropology major, I am not sure exactly what I want to do with this degree, but I have so many interests and passions that I am positive I will find something that I love doing.  But, I’ve been looking into doing something dealing with cultural transition and adjustment for international students/employees.  I enjoy tutoring international students in English and do quite a bit of tutor volunteering currently.  As of now, my plan is to apply to teach English in South Korea  for a year after I graduate.  I was adopted from Daegu and I hope to take a personal pilgrimage back to where I was born!
Some of my interests and activities outside of school include being active outside in the sun, taking long walks, boating, writing, reading and much more!  I love trying new things, whether it be different foods or cliff jumping.  I also very much enjoy traveling and learning new languages.   🙂