Bonus Blog- Egyptian Deities

Similar to most African cultures, Egyptian history is deeply rooted with the existence of deities.  The appearance of such religious figures begins in Pre-dynastic times.  The Old Kingdom showed the most highest respect to their deities by constructing temples that had cults to accompany them, incorporated the representative symbols of the gods in to the names of the elitist, and had many rituals. The people of Egypt also had evolved the theory that their kings and queens were semi-divine and acted as the middlemen between the deities and the common man.  The symbol of Horus, the falcon god and protector of pharaohs, appears in the cartouche of pharaohs to symbolize their divinity.  Another name that was incorporated into royal names was that of the protector of women, Neith. The queens that usually use her name were mainly from the Western Delta which was were a huge cult had been established to pay respect to her.  Two Early Dynastic queens that used her name are Neithhotep and Merneith.

During the New Kingdom there was a king, Akhnaten, that unsuccessful created a deity.  The new deity, Aten, was suppose to replace the well-founded sun god, Amun.  The sun god was considered the father of gods.  Akhnaten wanted to reestablish the sun god because he felt the cult of Amun was becoming to strong.  Although he did somewhat convert Egyptians to Aten, it was only during his lifetime and once he died so did his fantasy deity.  As time continued to past other deities took on essential roles in the Egyptian history including Hathor who symbolized fertility and welcoming the dead to the afterlife, Isis who stood for fertility, Seth who was the god of storms, and many others.  During the Late Dynastic Period when there was a lot of Greco-Roman influence there were multiple deities created to merge the two cultures together.

As you can see deities were more than just religious figures.  Many times their creation was a political tool to control the country better and to increase the authoritative position for the government.  The people in power were generally successful at making Egyptians follow the new deities but their popularity seemed to fade after that person in power had left, like when Aten was created.  The deities that remained central roles to the kingdom were those that had strong roots in the Egyptian history and had been passed down through many generations like Amun and Neith.

Analysis of Western Desert and Eastern Desert

The Western and Eastern Deserts were both unique and fascinating.  In our readings there were multiple comparisons made that mainly dealt with how the land was used efficiently during the Greco-Roman times.  To my understanding the Western Desert was mainly used to receive goods from across the Red Sea and then the goods were sent to Roman and vise-versa.  The Western Desert was home to much lively activity including wineries, cult activity, trade, and a possible palace location that would have brought political and military affairs to the area.  This area also shows the possibility of great wealth since it is home to the Valley of the Golden Mummies.  It has been seen throughout the dynastic periods that elites constructed tombs that were distant from their true area of power and in dry areas that preserved all burial remains, but was this also true for these elites?  The remains from houses in the area suggested a diverse community that included written text in Greek, Coptic, and Syriac.  Along with the discovery of this widely diverse group of people was the “East Churches” which is believed to include churches of both Christian domination and a eastern religion.  The foreign influence on the nation continued to grow and is evident in the Eastern Desert. The Eastern Desert also had a widely diverse group of people, but they had to overcome the more harsh and mountainous region. In addition to that difference from the western Desert, the Eastern Desert was home to more military activity and trade.  Much trade occurred across the Red Sea and therefore the need for security was necessary.  Unlike in earlier dynasties, the Greco-Roman period had permanently settled ports which allowed the area to prosper.  A major problem of this area was receiving freshwater.  I found it quite interesting that they dug large wells to solve this problem, and it was very effective.  The mining of gold and quartz also allowed the area to take on a more exotic trade of goods with foreign countries.  It is odd to think that these desert regions were able to create such wealth for themselves when there were so many troubles that they first had to overcome.  The technology of the Greeks seems to have been a good influence for the country and helped it advance above neighboring countries.

Ramesside Period

The Ramesside Period had much prosperity.  The succession of kings coming from one family had many advantages for the people of the 19th and 20th Dynasties.  It allowed for a somewhat stable flow of rules which in exchange benefited the land.  I found that during the early Ramesside Period there was a great push to redefine the country under that of Amen cult.  There was even dismantling and smashing of statues that represented the Amarna Period (p 225).  That time period represented the worshiping of Aten vs. the traditional Amen.  These acts of destroying sacred statues generally was seen as a crime but allowed because it was items that represented the false Aten.  The reformation of this time period called on everyone to reestablish their faith so that the country could once again be of one liking.  I find this a very powerful tool, and in Egyptian history seems to be the forefront of creating a strong kingdom.

Also during the Ramesside Period the kings did many extensions to existing royal tombs.  One example is when Rameses II added a peristyle forecourt to Amenhotep III’s pylon and created a triple shrine for the gods of Thebes (p 238).  This also shows that during this time period the people greatly respected the traditional customs of the land and wanted to visually show that through making royal tombs more elaborate.

This idea of making things very exquisite is also true about the living royal family tombs.  During this time period the tombs became secretive and well designed with multiple chambers and paintings on the walls as well as decorated with religious text to help the dead pharaohs travel through their afterlife.  Interestingly, the queens were also given similar treatment.  The role of the chief queen became even more so influential and is seen in the decoration of their tombs, such as Nefertari’s tomb that held texts from the Book of Gates and the Book of the Dead (p 251).  Furthermore, the idea of family became very important.  Both Sety I and Rameses II had scenes of the Battle of Qadesh in their tombs which may have been a representation of a very close kinship between the two of them.  Later on Rameses II built an enormous tomb for a number of his sons with well over 100 chambers and corridors (p 246).  These physical structures are evidence that family and life on earth was valued by the people of this period.  There is also evidence of this in the lifestyle of the workers.   Many artifacts are from Deir el-Medina which had a culture built around documenting activities and thoughts on ostraca.

The Alliance

During the Second Intermediate period there was an alliance between the Hyksos of Avaris in northern Egypt and the people of Kerma in middle Egypt because of archaeological/historical findings.  Both had cultures that showed they were outsiders.  Interestingly their cultures resembled each other and were adaptive to the Egyptian culture.

The Hyksos had methods that were similar to that of the Middle Bronze Age Syria-Palestine.  This allowed for a connection to be made about where these peoples’ roots were from and who they may have traded with.  The power of trading continuously comes up in the Egyptian history.  During the Predynastic Period the Upper Egyptian culture slowly spread and conquered Lower Egypt.  In a similar way that is what the Syria-Palenstine people may have been trying to do.  During the reign of the Hyksos, Egypt did expand some reaching farther into Asia and the culture began to merge.  The time when this transition occured most is unclear. There is evidence of 13th Dynasty Eygptian kings with Asiatic employers found at Tell el-Dab’a through the tombs of the employees that have animal burials.  Later, during the 15th Dynasty, burials were found in Avaris with young female remains. This strongly suggest that they were sacrificed which is a very un-Egyptian practice. The exact origins of such methods are suspected to be of southwest Asia.

Interestingly, in Kerma a similar sight was found within the burial methods.  A man was buried with a herd of sheep and seven sacrificed children.  The burial practice of having scarifical animals and young children is not Egyptian.  As mentioned before this is thought to be Asiatic.  Moreover, the people of this region were probably of similar heritage as the Hyksos.  Their alliance with each other makes sense even though quite some distance separated them.  There is evidence that they were not fond of the Upper Egyptian Theban rulers.  An excuvation at Kerma uncovered a 15th Dynasty Hyksos king seal.  Could Kerma have been a secondary state of the Hyksos?

The invasion of these thought to be Asiatic people is quite interesting.  The land that they decided to conquer as their own is also interesting and shows that they were skillful in their planning.  The Delta is a very rich area as well as the region that the city of Kerma is located on.  Through archaeological findings of these regions as well as that of Syria-Palenstine regions, it has been concluded that the people had multiple similarities.  Those people that resided on Egyptain land were more likely integrate this culture into Egyptain practices.  The merge caused many changes for the occupied areas and helped shaped a new path for Egypt.

Meat Production

There is evidence that point at the Hypostyle Hall being one for the cleaning, salting, and drying fish (p 44).  The location of benches and troughs have many fish bone remains such as Tilapia and schal.  Surprisingly similar practices of preparation have survived to the present day.  Of course the practice is not as widely used considering the high salt content, and generally only practiced within Upper Egypt and the Delta (p 46). Besides the benches and troughs where fish salting may have occurred there is a parallel wall structure.  Through much debating and exploration of multiple sites, excavators have reason to believe that the area was used for slaughtering domesticated and wild animals (p 46).  The slaughtering of these animals would have lead to the salting, drying, and smoking of the foods for general consumption.  This leads to the idea that the Hypostyle Hall mall have been a communal dining hall (p 46).  Along with thoroughly investigation of the hall structure, there were multiple bowl sets and covered with lids that suggest an ongoing process of food consumption (p 46).  I always find it especially interesting when things are found as if people had to leave in a hurry, but then again what is the use in storing it away if it’s never going to be seen again.

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Social Complexity

I really enjoyed how multiple times Kohler talked about the social makeup of Early Egyptian civilization.  I have a huge interest in how people lived before our time.  Since this time period lacks a understandable written language it makes it challenging for scholars to understand how people functioned day to day.  Kohler simply takes us through her interpretation of how Egypt became one kingdom.

In the beginning people were most likely nomadic and the typical layout of these small groups of people had very little complexity with status.  In most societies the oldest members are considered more wise and therefore more respected.  The settling in a location allowed for the people to specialize in certain activities.  Kohler writes that increasing social segmentation is possibly indicated by specialized activities (pg 43).  This is a reasonable prediction given that the people are settled and are able to make a legacy for themselves that doesn’t have to do with hunting and gathering.  As people began to create names for themselves, leadership positions become important and respected similar to that of elders. Although the author did not address this point I do believe she would somewhat agree.

As groups of people became more populated in a location, a new and more defined society evolved.  Kohler describes it as one that has more access, control, and distribution of resources in the hands of high-status people, the elites (pg 43).  Those traits create what many refer to as a chiefdom society.   Once this society has been formed it seems like it would only take a few generations for one family to takeover the populated location and then gradually increase the size of the region controlled.

I found it remarkable that in the south, chiefdom societies were so popular.  The popularity is evident because of the large tomb sizes and the types of goods found within them.  A good example of this is the extremely large U-j tomb from Abydos that had hundreds of imported wine bottles form Syria-Palestine (pg 44). Both characteristics suggest that the owner of the tomb was wealthy, highly respected and powerful.

I am disappointed that not more was discussed about the day to day atmosphere of these societies but not much can really be configured since much of the information is based off of basic artifacts.  I hope that more information of the daily life of the people will be discussed as a written language increases in popularity.

Regional Similarities

While I was reading the text for week two I noticed many similarities within the practices of the different regions discussed of Egypt.  Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt shared the idea of importing goods to their communities.  Both regions received imported goods like oil, wine, and beer in pottery containers.  As the time passes, the differences within pottery styles merges and Upper Egypt craftsmanship is used in Lower Egypt.  Along with the migration of pottery came that of burial rituals.  By the Naqada III times communities of Lower Egypt had began using burial techniques such as burying the dead with animals and physical objects that were thought of as luxuries.  This change in cultural makes sense with the Nile flowing as it does.

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Introduction: Alexis

Hello Everyone! My name is Alexis.  I will be starting my junior year in the fall as an Anthropology B.S. major (pre-med focused).  I transferred to MSU this past January and I absolutely love the campus!  I’m originally from Ann Arbor and yes, I’m a HUGE University of Michigan fan! I decided to come to MSU because of the excellent programs that are offered and I needed to broaden my horizons by leaving the city I’m in love with, Ann Arbor.  After graduation I hope to attend medical school and eventually become a dermatologist.  I would like to use Anthropology towards my career goals of improving skin disorders for multiethnic people.  I strongly believe that our country will be one with mainly individuals of multiethnicities during my lifetime and the time to prepare for medical treatments for this diverse group of people is now.  The best way in mind to make this happen is to understand how the environment has affected humans, and how we have used it to better our lives to create a plan for the present and future generations.

This summer I am at University of Kansas participating in a Molecular Biology research internship with four other students from across the nation.  Every weekday I work a full day in the lab with an immortal cancer cell line called HeLa.  It’s a really famous cell line and if anyone has the time they should read the book about how it all began (“Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”).  I’m reading it now and really enjoying it.

I’m hoping to learn a lot in this class.  As a little girl I was obsessed with the famous Queen Cleopatra and Egypt.  Now that I am older and understand the nation better, I would like to understand the roots to the people and culture.