Bonus Blog: Symbolism in Egypt

I have found that this class in general has been very interesting and quite resourceful for future reference.  However, it does lean heavily on the political factions of each kingdom, dynasty, etc. This is not a bad thing by any means as it is one of the best ways to understand how Egypt changed from the beginning to modern day.  The topic that would interest me the most, which we did not really cover, is the symbolism that exists in the writings, hieroglyphs, temples, and so on.  I find that even though this topic is deeper than the physical archaeology itself, it still is a recurring theme throughout the different political factions that took over.  Now I originally stated that one of my largest interests in Egypt was its link to alchemy.  I still believe this is true because of the shared themes between the two.  Such themes as the Egyptians opinions on gold, their use of the colors red and white, and also the fact that a man can rise to the status of a deity.  Since alchemy is a much later studied subject (around the 16th century) it would make more sense to say that alchemy originated from themes of Egyptian context.  Though at the same time, alchemy follows the Christian based religion more than any others.  So, as we recently found out with the conquest of Alexander the Great, a more Christian based people resided in Egypt.  This would further explain certain principles that are found in alchemy.  Now the purpose of viewing this symbolism and its link to alchemy is not necessarily to say that “Oh, Egyptian magic is alchemy!”, but more so to say that an entire scientific religion like alchemy resided from Egypt.  This would show that many brilliant people such as Isaac Newton, who was a known practicing alchemist, may have had ties with Egypt.  This whole subject interests me as it takes a chronological symbolism and backtracks to a known ancient destination.  It almost creates a missing link as to why specific religions or religious practices came into existence.  All in all, there is a lot of symbolism that exists in Egypt, and I feel that it is important to look at the parallels between then and now.

Greek Influence on Egypt

The appearance of Greek influence in Egypt is a fitting subject to end this class.  Most of the readings that I have done in different classes that relate to Egypt almost always end up describing the Greeks.  Most specifically is the city of Alexandria.  The influence is so prominent that it almost seems like Greece more than Egypt.  I have read about magical practices that were performed in Alexandria especially by an alchemist known as Cleopatra, although not the royal one.  This evidence is huge from an alchemical view since there was so much symbolism found in ancient Egypt, yet there are many readings in Greek.  The fact that both countries had a single city which is essentially a hybrid of the two, shows that a direct link in the alchemical readings were probably based off of information that originated from the Egyptians.


Although there is no real way to prove this unless there is specific evidence that says this link exists, the speculation leads to many interesting ideas of other influences that the Egyptians may have had on the Greeks.  It seems that during the reign of Alexander the Great, being that he stopped the Persian forces in Egypt, the Egyptians were very grateful.  The country started to thrive again for several dynasties.  However, I cannot imagine that there was no exchange in ideas and beliefs between the two cultures.  There were most definitely international relations and the birth of a new culture, or rather a different view on teachings.  Like any kind of war, there is always an influence of the enemy on the people.  Through this violence, cultures begin to merge with one another and old traditions are forgotten while new ones begin.  I truly believe that the Greek influence that Alexander had on the Egyptians is a direct result in a thriving city like Alexandria, but more importantly the creation of new beliefs.


Family vs. Politics

After listening to lectures this week, there seems to have been a lot of changes in who had power of Egypt during the New Kingdom as well as the Third Intermediate Period.  However, it was not until reading about the tomb styles that I noticed something interesting.  It seems as though to me that the new generation of Pharaohs followed a more “modernistic” style when building tombs, temples and so on.  We have already learned that there are hieroglyphs and writings that describe the royal families as being more family-oriented than focused on ruling.  I feel that with this new take as a Pharaoh being open with his family, the buildings were bound to change.

Such examples of these structures include what the readings considered as “rest homes” or rather places where kings would go to stay when traveling.  They were also active as hunting lodges.  Since these New Kingdom kings were so involved with their personal life, it seems that the balance between it and there political life was one sided.  Many of the great accomplishments of the previous Pharaohs were to build great tombs such as the pyramids, but this seemed to die out for the new age.  In particular is the Valley of the Kings.   The fact that the new kings were buried in a secluded naturally guarded area shows that their image after death would not be nearly as unique as the Pharaohs buried in pyramids or large temples.  As the name suggests, the Valley of the Kings is plural to signify many kings, but none in general whereas the Great Pyramid of Khufu clearly designates that Khufu is buried in there.

Some of the chambers that exist in each tomb in the valley, shows that there was extra room for the family of the King; another indication that family was of great importance to the kings during this time.  However, it may be that this growing interest in family is what ultimately led to yet another decline in political structure and thus loss of power throughout the lands.

Restoring the Political Power Through Magic

After reading about the re-unification of the Egyptian political structure, I found that the link between the appearance of magical amulets throughout the social hierarchy with that of the government quite interesting.  My first thought when reading about the magical pieces, such as the knives, was that everybody should have the capability of making these pieces since they were all artifacts that had some sort of deity carved into the blade.  It is hard for me to imagine that any blade with a deity carved into it would be considered a magical item.  For instance, holy water is not tap water that is called holy water; it is blessed by a priest.  For that reason, I believe that these magical items were only magical if blessed by some magic man in ancient Egypt.

To address the situation of ancient Egyptians throughout all social classes having these magic pieces, it is important to look at the Pharaoh himself.  The three dimensional scarab that was used as a seal and inevitably becoming a symbol of the Pharaoh.  Since this scarab was found throughout the common-man, it is possible that the Pharaoh adopted the piece as his own since it was so recognized by his subjects.  Another example between ancient Egypt and modern day would be that Twitter has been recently adopted by the President of the United States.  I mention this because it shows that to connect better with your people, you need to have common ground.  With a suffering political government in ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh and his viziers needed to connect with the people to show their presence in their everyday lives.  This could have easily been accomplished by sending these magical amulets throughout the social hierarchy and letting the people establish commonality with their Pharaoh and hence allowing the bureaucracy to grow.

There are probably other interpretations as to why these magical items came into the possession of the people and why the government adopted specific seals such as the scarab.  It is an obvious challenge that although there are many texts that describe the life in ancient Egypt, there is still plenty that is needed to be understood.  The above post is only an opinion based on the way I feel the Egyptians related to their government.  The fact that there are modern examples relating the current thought process of our government to the Pharaoh is just to show that although time has passed a great deal, the thought process of the human mind has not necessarily changed so much.

The Reign of a Pharaoh

What I take away from this week’s lectures/readings is the shear power that a Pharaoh and the rest of the bureaucracy that governs the state.  I was aware of the fact that the pyramids were constructed under the Pharaoh’s command and that it would typically be his tomb, but I was unaware of the outlying graves that were his political followers.

Another interesting aspect from the readings in particular was the fate of those who served some Pharaohs.  In particular around the 1st Dynasty when Pharaohs would have their servants sacrificed to serve them in the afterlife.  It would have been a tough life being a servant to a Pharaoh.  The vast number of possessions which were included in the pyramids for the Pharaoh is also an interesting concept.  I understand that the Egyptians were large believers in their life in the Underworld, but I like to believe there is more to the story of them keeping their possessions.  It would be nice to think that they preserved these goods for the future archaeologists to eventually find them, but then again that would be like grave-robbing which most pyramids were built to prevent.

After learning about how the political hierarchy in ancient Egypt, the fact that many of the viziers were buried around the Pharaoh tells me that the political power was intended to be kept localized as a single entity.  I would imagine that when a Pharaoh passed on, he imagined that he would continue to reign in the afterlife and thus wanted to keep his administration close as to not have to find them in the Underworld.  This is especially true with the fact that the servants were sacrificed as I mentioned before.  A Pharaoh could not have believed that he would have been stripped of power upon death and so I think it is absolutely plausible to believe that an “Underworld Hierarchy” could have been envisioned by the people of Egypt.

Political Endeavors in the Unification

After reading “Theories of State Formation” by E. Christiana Kohler, I found the political views most interesting.  It has already been mentioned in both the readings and the lectures that there was no single moment in which both Upper and Lower Egypt were joined.  However, there were different factors (crafts, politics, social norms) that changed thus resulting in the unification.  The interest that I have in this week’s discussion is that of the political power that was maintained throughout the change.

I found that given the ever expanding trade routes and agricultural improvements, certain groups came into an area of power.  These individuals were referred to as elites by Kohler, but I like to visualize them as powerful businessmen.  I say this because they had control over there own personal wealth and were concerned with their own advancement as well as their kin.  However, as the political unification became apparent as well, the idea of a single entity governing both regions was formed, the Pharaoh.

The interesting part of the Pharaoh’s position was the initial split that was between Upper and Lower Egypt.  However, the split seems to merge as there is Narmer wearing both the red crown and the white crown as depicted by the Narmer palette.  As time went on, the country became whole and with it there existed a single governing Pharaoh.

Researching the different names of the Pharaohs that existed in ancient Egypt, many if not all adopted the name of a deity.  The reading suggested this as a way of showing superiority to the followers.  I would agree with this statement as it seems to me, in a time where magic was not easily disproved, the Pharaoh could declare himself to be a supreme being and none would question it.  This in turn, would cause the people of Egypt to respect the Pharaoh just by the fear that the position of Pharaoh puts on the people.

With all of the evidence suggesting the timeline of which the unification occurred, it is still obvious in many artifacts that they position of supreme authority was evident in both upper and lower Egypt and carried through even after Egypt was whole.

Methods to Dating Ancient Egypt

Being that I am majoring in chemical engineering and computational chemistry, I find the methods used to date materials found in the archaeological sites fascinating.  Obviously, before there were any current scientific methods available, the dating was done logically.  Given that Flinders Petrie used his sequence dating on pottery, it ended up that he was fairly accurate.  However, with the current methods that are used, a much more accurate date can be assigned to specific sites.

I already knew about radiocarbon, 14C, dating and so it was no surprise to me that it was used to date the materials.  I did not realize though, that this method is intended only for organic matter.  Now with the variety of artifacts that are dug up in a site, it does seems unlikely that there would be nothing organic that was found on site.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case and there has to be other methods involved in calculating an accurate date.

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Introduction of Chris Hershey

Well first off, I should say that I am really excited for the layout of this class.  I am currently a senior, dual majoring in chemical engineering and computational chemistry while minoring in mathematics.  It seems like a lot, but I do enjoy the material that I learn.  I guess I should comment on the fact that I live in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan and that I am an only child.  I am taking this class as a part of my University requirements through the Honors College, but I have always been interested in Egypt especially mythology.

Being a student who studies mainly chemistry, I find the history behind it to be quite interesting.  I honor the founders of today’s chemistry, who were in their time known as alchemists.  To learn more about alchemy, I took REL 275 “Magic and Mysticism”, which had a large section dedicated to alchemy.  I bring all of this up because of the Egyptian history that it contains.  Being that Hermes Trismegistus included in his scriptures the fundamentals of alchemy, these principles were in an essence, carried through to today’s modern chemistry.  So I feel a certain connection in my studies to those who started down the path of science in Ancient Egyptian times.  That is why I feel it is important to maintain an understanding of the past, as to not forget certain sacrifices that were made in an effort to further the knowledge that we have today.

All of that aside, I am excited to have a better understanding of the material that will be discussed in this class.  However, if you were to read any astrological description of Virgo, that would be me exactly.  So, I barely ever blog/tweet because I have no interest in sharing with people what I am currently doing; this will be a new experience for me, but I am excited for it.  I look forward to working with everyone in this class.