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Lewis Fuller Hill

on 27 June 2014

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Transcript of Egypt

Ancient Egypt

In Egypt, days are commonly warm or hot, with cool nights. There are only 2 seasons in Egypt- mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. In coastal regions, temperatures range between an average of 14 C in winter with an average maximum of 35 C in summer.

Inland, temperatures vary drastically, especially in the desert areas. In the summer period temperatures can range from 7 C at night to 43 C during the day. The average annual temperatures increase to the south of Egypt, but to the north, in Alexandria, temperatures are much cooler.

A wonder of Egypt's climate is the hot spring wind that blows across the country. The winds, known to Europeans as the sirocco and to Egyptians as the khamsin, usually arrive in April but occasionally occur in March and May. The winds form in small but violent low-pressure areas in Suez and sweep across the northern coast of Africa. With no disturbance, the winds reach high velocities and carry great quantities of sand and dust from the deserts. These sandstorms can cause temperatures to rise as much as 20 C in two hours.

The climate was very important to the Egyptians, as when it rained, the waters of the Nile would rise and flood the land, bringing new life to the country, which Egyptians believed to be work of the gods.

Rain was very scarce in Egypt, so if all of the rain that Egypt had received in one year was measured in a cylinder, the water would reach fewer than 8 centimetres, with most rains falling along the coastal city of Alexandria.
Egypt, at the northeast corner of Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, is bordered on the west by Libya, on the south by the Sudan, and on the east by the Red Sea and Israel. Egypt's boundaries also include the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt's topography consists mainly of desert plateau but the eastern part is cut by the Nile River valley. The highest point in Egypt is Mount Catherine at 2,629 m, while its lowest point is the Qattara Depression at -133 m. Egypt's total area of 1,001,450 sq km makes it the 30th largest country in the world.

Egypt is divided into two unequal, extremely arid regions by the landscape's dominant feature, the northward-flowing Nile River. The ancient Egyptians thought of Egypt as being divided into two types of land, the 'black land' and the 'red land'. The 'black land' was the fertile land on the banks of the Nile, and received it's name from the colour of the soil deposited there every time the Nile flooded, so this part of Egypt was mainly used for farming. The 'red land' was the barren desert that protected Egypt on two sides. These deserts separated ancient Egypt from neighbouring countries and invading armies. They also provided the ancient Egyptians with a source for precious metals and semi-precious stones.
The Nile
The Nile river starts 100 mi (161 km) south of the Mediterranean and fans out to a sea front of 155 mi between the cities of Alexandria and Port Said. The Nile is 6853km long, and is the longest river in the world.

The gift of the Nile enabled the Egyptians to cultivate wheat, barley, beans, lentils, peas, leeks and onions, as well as fruits such as dates, figs, grapes and melons. The Egyptians believed that the god Osiris showed people how to get the best from the Nile by the art of cultivation. Farmers designed and built irrigation channels for the farmlands, which the Nile would flood each year, irrigating the crops and bringing new life to Egypt. There were many varieties of fish in the river and cattle, sheep and goats were plentiful too. Geese and birds of all types populated the island floating in the mouth of the river.

The river was also the main means of transport between places in ancient times. Although donkeys were also used to transport people and goods, everyone took to the river as a means of transport. The river was a means of defense for the Egyptians too, as those who tried to invade Egypt needed to cross the Nile first, which gave the Egyptian people the advantage, as they could shoot down the boats and ships while they were still in the water, and vulnerable.
Religion governed every aspect of Egyptian life, from the natural forces like the rise and fall of the river Nile and the journey of the sun, to death, healing and new life. Ancient Egyptians believed that all of these were caused by the gods and their magic. The Ancient Egyptians also had a tendency to merge old beliefs with new ones rather than replace them, so their religion was very complex.

Religious practice focused on the Pharaoh, as he was believed to be a god who had journeyed to the earth, and was a messenger for the other gods. Sacrifices were often made to please the gods, via the Pharaoh. The Egyptians believed that if they didn't please the gods, they would become angry and wreak havoc on Egypt, with plagues, floods and the sun dying.
Egyptian belief centered around gods who controlled everything in life and death.
A particular god would be associated with a certain aspect of nature, like the sun or the land or the sky, and sacrifices would be made to appease that god, for a good harvest or good health. There were over 2000 gods in Egypt, and all had a particular association.

Some, such as Amun, were worshipped throughout the whole country, while others had only a local following. Often gods and goddesses were represented as part human and part animal, as the animals were thought to embody the personality and aspect of that god.

In 1352, however, a new religion surfaced in Egypt, brought about by the Pharaoh Akhenaten. The religion was based on worship of one god, in this case, the sun disk Aten. All previous gods in Egypt were destroyed, their temples burned and their monuments reduced to rubble. Egyptians were forced to worship Aten or become outcasts. Akhenaten had introduced a new religion to Egypt, but it was not accepted by all. Akhenaten's rule lasted for only 16 years, by the end of which the old religion was restored, and Egypt returned to it's former glory.
The Egyptians believed that after death, they would journey to the world of the dead, evident of the artwork on the walls of their tombs, but before this, the soul had to go through many stages of examining.

In the afterlife, Egyptians believed that the soul must pass 12 gates, each guarded by a demon. The soul had to recite the demon's name in order to pass the gate.

After the 12 gates, the soul entered the Hall of Judgement, and the heart was weighed by the jackal- headed god Anubis on a set of scales in comparison to the Feather of Truth, called Ma'at. If the scales were balanced, it would mean that the person had lived a life of good and honesty, and could proceed into into the afterlife. If the scales tipped however, the person had lived a life of evil, and the heart was eaten by Ammet, or the Devourer, a creature with a hippo's body and the head of a lion.

Then the soul had to plead Osiris to enter the Afterlife, and only if the god agreed, could it pass through.

After these trials, the soul could now enter Aaru, or the Field of Reeds, a place of peace and harmony, where everything was provided for.

After a person died, the body went through a special process of mummification, where all the internal organs of the body were removed, and the body stuffed with drying salt, resin, and linen. After the body was stuffed, it was wrapped in linen, with charms placed within the bandages. The body was then sealed in coffin, inside a tomb deep underground.

The Egyptians always sealed their dead within tombs beneath the earth, with painted walls and special objects surrounding the body to help him on his way to the Afterlife. Families who were poor simply sealed their dead in caves, but the Pharaohs devised a new type of tomb- the Pyramids. The Pyramids were triangular and tapered to a point, but were extremely large. Some pyramids in Egypt consisted of 2,300,000 blocks of stone and required 100,000 workers to build them, and were one of the greatest feats of engineering in the ancient world, but the tomb was buried underneath the pyramid. The tomb was filled with everything the Pharaoh might need in the Afterlife, such as food, servants and furniture, and the walls filled with scenes of everyday life for the dead Pharaoh. The Pharaohs believed that the soul of the deceased would journey through the top point of the pyramid and into the Afterlife.
Significance of Egypt
Egypt's significance in the ancient world was mainly due to the country's location and trading routes.

Since Egypt is located between Syria and Africa, the country was a major trading channel between both regions, and caused Egypt to be a country of many cultures. Egypt also had the Mediterranean to trade overseas, and the Nile river taking resources up and down Egypt.

Egypt not only was a trading channel, the country had a major part in the import of resources, such as wood from Africa, tin and iron from Asia, oil from Turkey, and animals and their products from Syria. Egypt also was a major exporter of goods as well, with grain exported to Rome, papyrus to Europe and artefacts to neighbouring countries.

Trade was also prominent up and down the Nile, as the river was the only quick means of ferrying resources between the two regions of Egypt.

Egypt was an influential country in the ancient times, as it was such a large empire with enormous armies and powerful leaders conquering neighbouring regions, had enormous monuments like the Pyramids, but it was also a civilised empire, and gave ideas to the Greeks, who eventually conquered Egypt.
Egyptian Lifestyle
The Egyptians lived a very simple lifestyle, but they valued family life, and regarded children as a blessing. In the poorer families, the mother raised the children, but in the wealthier families, the children were raised by servants and slaves that would attend to their daily needs. If a couple did not have a child, they would pray to the gods for help, and magic was often used, but adoption was also an option.

Although women were expected to obey their fathers and husbands, they were equal to men in many ways. They could participate in business deals, own land, and represented themselves in court cases. Sometimes women were the real ruling power in government affairs, unknown to common people, and were highly respected in society.

Young boys learned a craft from their fathers, and girls worked and received their training from their mothers at home. Those who could afford it sent their son to school at the age of 7 to study religion, writing, reading and arithmetic. Some girls were taught at home, and even became doctors, though very few were accepted. Those who learned to read and write could become scribe, who were well renowned.

Egyptian homes were built from sun-dried mud brick, called adobe, since wood was very scarce. Commoner houses usually had two- three storeys, built in narrow alley ways. The first floor of the house was the business area, while the two upper levels were reserved for the family. A noblemans' home consisted of three rooms- a reception area, a hall, and the private quarters. Families slept on the roof when it was hot.
Egyptian Lifestyle
Ancient Egyptian clothing was usually made of linen, ranging from coarse to fine textures. Men usually wore a short skirt called a kilt, while women wore a straight fitting dress held up by straps. The wealthy men wore pleated kilts, and older men wore longer kilts. When doing hard work, men wore a loin cloth and women wore a short skirt. Noblewomen sometimes wore beaded dresses.

Egyptians did many things for entertainment, but the most important source of entertainment and relaxation was the Nile river. Activities on the river included fishing, swimming, hunting crocodiles and boat games. Hunting in the desert was another great pastime, especially for the noblemen. Men first hunted on foot however, by the New Kingdom, men were hunting on horse and chariot. Egyptians usually hunted foxes, hares and hyenas. Egyptians also held extravagant parties, with acrobats, singers and dancers, and plenty of food provided. Children kept themselves entertained with carved ivory animals, wooden horses and balls.
Social Pyramid
Egyptian Lifestyle
Ancient Egyptian society was divided into six tiers, which were- the Pharaohs, the Government Officials, the Priests, the Scribes, the Artisans, and the Peasants.

Pharaohs were the most important people in society as they ruled over the country, and lived a wealthy life, with royal parties and entertainment.

The Government Officials were the second important people in society, and were the group of loyal assistants that advised the Pharaoh about matters of society. These officials lived a life of luxury, with banquets and feasts, and were mostly generals of armies or treasurers.

The Priests were the third important group in society, and were in charge of religious rituals and temples, and were well respected in society, as all religious leaders are.

The Scribes were the fourth important group in society, as they were the official group of writers that recorded information about the city, were well employed and had a good education. Scribes recorded taxes, censuses of the population and kept track of the food supply. Scribes were well renowned and respected for their intelligence.

The Artisans were the lower group in society, but still earned an income. They were the craftsmen of Egypt, and were carpenters, painters, potters and weavers. This group was highly skilled, but had little social status apart from being hard workers. The most skilled of this group were the stone carvers, who created the statues, engravings and reliefs on temples, tombs and monuments.

The Peasants were the lowest of the low in society, and were the farmers, construction workers and unskilled labourers. Peasants lived with the fewest comforts of society, and lived in simple mud- brick homes. Peasants had a simple diet, and sometimes had to eat papyrus if food was scarce.
The Pharaohs
The Pharaoh was the ruler of Egypt. He governed all the laws of his kingdom and was the most important person in society. The Pharaoh was an enormous figure in government, and had all the power in Egypt. He could destroy whatever he chose, and was feared by many. The Pharaoh was thought to be a god in human form, and was sacrificed to and worshipped. The Egyptians believed the Pharaoh could stop the day and night, and burn the sky if he chose, so the people rarely rose against him. He was a religious and political leader and collected taxes from his people, and so was very wealthy. The Pharaoh usually passed his rule down to his son, or closest male relative, as men were thought to be superior to women. Pharaohs wore ceremonial clothing, and held symbols of his power, like the flail- symbolising power over the people, the pukhent- red and white crowns symbolising a unified Egypt, his false beard- symbolising manly power, the heka- hooked crook symbolising authority and the king, the cureus- cobra headress symbolising protection from enemies, and the shemset- apron with a bull's tail, symbolising strength.
Egyptian belief centered around gods who controlled everything in life and death.
A particular god would be associated with a certain aspect of nature, like the sun or the land or the sky, and sacrifices would be made to appease that god, for a good harvest or good health. There were over 2000 gods in Egypt, and all had a particular association.

Festivals were often held to honour the gods, with performances and joyful activities filling the streets of Egypt. Dancers and singer were involved in theatrical acts based on stories about the gods, and feasts were held and sacrifices made.

The Nile also was a powerful symbol for the Egyptians' religion and beliefs, with the annual flooding taking place at the same time symbolizing law and order, which was the foundation for their beliefs. The Egyptians also personified the Nile through the god Hapi, who flooded the Nile annually, nourishing the land.
by Lewis Fuller Hill
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