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§2.1 Egypt and the river the Nile

Egypt is a hot and dry country. The crops can only grow along the banks of the river Nile. That river flooded each year from July to October.  This is called: The Inundation. When the water went back down,  there remained a fertile layer of mud (silt). The mud dried into a soil that crops grew well in. The Nile is also the best way of traveling. To the south was quicker than to north because of the wind. The Nile flowed also from south to north. The ancient Egyptians saw Egypt as 2 lands: The red land was the desert. The black land was the fertile land by the Nile.

Timeline:

  • Early period – 3100-2686 BC
  • Old kingdom
  • Period of unrest, more than 1 pharaoh, no one can control Egypt
  • Middle kingdom
  • New kingdom
  • Period of unrest, more than 1 pharaoh, no one can control Egypt
  • Late Period
  • Ptolemaic Period – 332-30 BC

§2.2 The Egyptian people

People specialised in one job. Boys did the same work as their fathers.

Some jobs were more important than others = gave more status.

Status is a person’s importance in the place they live, often affected by birth, job or familyUpper Egypt is near the MediterianSea. Lower Egypt is far inland. The pharaoh ruled Egypt. The people saw him as a god in human form with absolute power. He was the Lord of the two countries (upper and lower Egypt joined in 3100 BC). And he was the High priest of all the temples. The country was divided into as many as 42 parts called nomes.An official is a person chosen to work for the government, they made sure the government’s orders are carried out. They were trained as scribes because they had been able to write laws, rules and make written instructions so that they can send it all over Egypt. The most important officials were govenors who ran different parts of Egypt (nomes) for the pharaoh. They lived in towns all along the Nile. They were rich and powerfull. Less important officials had to measure fields, count the animals so the pharaoh could tax (payment you have to pay to the government) the owner.By the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650BC) all towns had at least 1 scribe school. But ordinary people didn’t need to write. Scribes were only people who could work as official or priest. The first pharaoh was Narmer he united Upper and Lower Egypt in 3100BC

Social classes.

  • pharaoh
  • priests/noblemen
  • officials
  • scribes/merchants
  • craftsmen/artists
  • farmers
  • unskilled workers
  • slaves

Writing

The earliest ancient Egyptian writing was pictographs: pictures showing what you want to say. By 3200 BC his had become more complicated hieroglyphs. Hieroglyphs showed the sounds of 26 letters and 150 groups of letters. It took a long time to write. By 2500 BC the scribes write in a simplified kind of writing: hieratic. Hieroglyphs were still used in tombs, temples and monuments.

 

The Rosetta stone

It was found in 1799 by French soldiers anddecoded by Champollion in 1822.It is named after the town it was discovered in.It was written to honour the Egyptian pharaoh. It took 20 years to decode it. It was written in 3 languages.

§2.3 Farming and food

The ancient Egyptian had 3 seasons.

  • The Planting season – November to April – Planting
  • Harvest season – May and June – Hold much as possible water, clear the ponds and irrigation canals.
  • Inundation – July to October – Repair their tools and weapons, look after their animals, do duty work for the pharaoh.
     

The people lived mostly in villages and towns with farmland around the Nile. The most important crop the farmers grew was grain, wheat and barley. They planted date balms, fig trees and grape vines. Farmers kept ducks, geese, cows, sheep and goats for eggs, milk and meat. Also they kept bees for honey. They used animal skins for clothes and sandals. People ate their main meal in the cool of the evening. Normal people ate mostly bread, porridge and vegetables (like onions, garlic, leeks, beans, cucumbers)  and drunk beer and milk. They ate salted and fresh fish but not meat very often. Rich people ate the same but more of it. They ate meat more often and they drunk wine. At special events they also ate rare meat like giraffe and ostrich.

Duty work

Everyone in Egypt had to spend a set number of days working for the pharaoh. That was a kind of tax people paid others to work for them. Farmers could not afford to do this. They had to do the work. Duty work included doing building work on tombs and temples. Rich people who had spare time also went hunting. Partly for meal and partly for sport.

§2.4  Gods and goddesses

The ancient Egyptians believed in ± 2000 different gods and goddesses. They often had a human body with an animal head. There were differences in how important the gods were. They believed that the gods/goddesses control the life in Egypt. So they had to worship them to keep them happy. Some gods/goddesses were worshipped all over Egypt. For example: Ra (the most important god) he was the god of the sun. Everybody needs the sun so everybody worshipped him. But for example Sobek (he was the god of the Nile and crocodiles) was only worshipped in places around the Nile because if you never had seen a crocodile it is not necessary to worship him. The people saw the pharaoh as a  link between themselves and the gods. The pharaoh needed priests to run Egypt’s religion (just like the officials who help him to run parts of the country). The people had shrines (sort of altar) in their homes to worship the gods everytime. But on festivals they went to temples for religious ceremonies. But the ordinary people weren’t allowed to enter the temple, only the priest were allowed to enter the temples. The pharaoh often rebuild the temples to show their respect for the gods.

The ancient Egyptians believed in ± 2000 different gods and goddesses. They often had a human body with an animal head. There were differences in how important the gods were. They believed that the gods/goddesses control the life in Egypt. So they had to worship them to keep them happy. Some gods/goddesses were worshipped all over Egypt. For example: Ra (the most important god) he was the god of the sun. Everybody needs the sun so everybody worshipped him. But for example Sobek (he was the god of the Nile and crocodiles) was only worshipped in places around the Nile because if you never had seen a crocodile it is not necessary to worship him. The people saw the pharaoh as a  link between themselves and the gods. The pharaoh needed priests to run Egypt’s religion (just like the officials who help him to run parts of the country). The people had shrines (sort of altar) in their homes to worship the gods everytime. But on festivals they went to temples for religious ceremonies. But the ordinary people weren’t allowed to enter the temple, only the priest were allowed to enter the temples. The pharaoh often rebuild the temples to show their respect for the gods.

List of gods and goddesses

  • Ra wasthe God of the sun.Ra was the most important God. He was usually shown in human form with a falcon head, crowned with the sun disc encircled by a sacred cobra.
  • Bastet (or Bast) was the Goddess of joy, love, pleasure and dance. Bastet was one of the daughters of the sun god, Ra. The cat was a symbol of Bastet.
  • Anubis was the god who watched over the process of mummifying people when they died. Priests often wore a mask of Anubis during mummification ceremonies. He was usually shown in human form with a jackal head.
  • Osiris was the god of the dead and ruler of the underworld. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side
  • Sobekwas god of the Nile & crocodiles. Live crocodiles were kept in pools at temples built to honour Sobek.
  • Thoth was the god of writing and knowledge. The ancient Egyptians believed that Thoth gave them the gift of hieroglyphic writing. He was usually shown in human form  with the head of an ibis.
  • Tawaretwas a goddess who protected women during pregnancy and childbirth. She was usually shown with a head of a hippo, the arms and legs of a lion, the back and tail of a crocodileand the big breasts and stomach of a pregnant woman.

§5 The afterlife

The Egyptian people believed in afterlife. They thought that the people who had led a good lifewould go to the heaven. They called the heaven the Fields of iaru (it looked like the black land). They wanted to preserve the body to use in the afterlife. They buried their dead with as many grave goods as possible. The earliest people buried the bodies directly in the hot sand. This absorbed the fluid from the body and preserved it. Later people were buried in coffins (doodskist). The sand could not dry out the body so it rotted. So they found a new way to preserve the bodies: mummification.

The weighting of the heart

The weighing of the heart was in the Egyptian mythology the name for the ceremony which was thought a deceased person who immediately after his death would be held in the Hall of the Two Truths. In the middle of the hallway, a large scale. On one side of the scales was the Feather of Truth. On the other hand, the dead his heart lay. Anubis, God of the dead, was in the balance. Thoth, the god of wisdom, writing the outcome of the test and Osiris, the god of the underworld and fertility, oversaw the whole.

If the heart was as heavy as the spring, if the dead through the gates of Yaru, the afterlife. If the heart was heavier, and could hit the scales by the monster Ammit at heart and they ate it. Another sample at the house of the soul and the soul alone was eternal wandering over the earth.

Stages of mummification

  1. Embalmers (persons who were trained to make bodies into mummies) wash the dead body with water from the Nile.
  2. They make a small cut in the left side of the body. From there they remove the liver, lungs, stomach, bowels. They put a sort of pin/fishhook into a nostril and smashed the brains on the hook and they pulled the brains out of the head without cutting open. They threw the brains away. It was not important according to them.
  3. Then they cover/stuff the body with natron (kind of salt/soda). The body will dry out.
  4. After 40/70 days the body was completely dried and the embalmers wash it again with water from the Nile.
  5. They stuff the body with dried leaves/linen/sawdust (zaagsel) so it became a little more thicker (the organs were out of the body so it looked empty). And they cover it with oil to keep the skin elastic.Finally the body is covered again with good-smelling oils. It is now ready to be wrapped in linen
  6. The organs that were removed (not the brains [they threw them away], heart [it was still in the body] ) were put in canopic jars (that is a kind of pot).
  7. The mummy is wrapped with strips of linen.  The priests said prayers and put amulets in the wrapping. Pharaohs were wrapped in over 400sq m of linen. And poor people in just a few metres.
  8. The mummy was put in a human-shaped coffin (mummy case)

The family had to get the tomb and grave goods. Most people began to get their tombs ready while they were young & healthy. Poor people still buried their dead into hot sand &their grave goods were simple (beads, a loaf of bread)Shabti= were models of servants, were put in tombs to work for the dead person in the afterlife.

§6 Empathy

Empathy is being able to understand how people feel.  It is often difficult, especially to understand people with different ideas/beliefs or people from other countries or from another time. You have to try to put yourself in the place of another person.

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