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History of Ancient Egypt (4,500 BCE to 664 BCE in 10 mins)

Written by Oadeye

Ancient Egypt is known for many things: its monuments, its inventions, and its extensive historical records. Its historical records are among the oldest top 2 in the world.

MONUMENTS

Five of the most visited monuments in Egypt are:

The Great Sphinx

The great sphinx is carved out of limestone, believed to be built over 4,000 years ago. The Sphinx is about 288 ft long, 68 ft high and one of the oldest huge sculpture in the land of the Pharaoh.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops, this pyramid is situated in Cairo, Egypt’s capital. The Pyramid is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Pyramid has a base of 754 and rises to about 474 ft in the air. The Pyramid comprises of more than 2 million blocks and is one of the preferred sites for a destination for tourists.

Abu Simbel

Believed to be built by arguably the most popular Pharaoh, King Rameses the second in the banks of the river Nile. It was often said the beautiful sculpture was Ramses pride, and that’s why he built it to extol himself, his wife Nefertari and other gods. The two temples, the great and small are the two constituents in Abu Simbel.

Karnak Temple

This temple is considered as the largest religious building ever built. This complex structure has a main hall called Hypostyle and other smaller temples. Part of the temple has collapsed in recent times.

White Desert

The amazing thing about this dessert is when driving through it. You think you are in the middle of nowhere. It has been developed to become a beautiful sight for tourists.

INVENTIONS

The contributions of the Egyptians are numerous, spanning: the 365-day calendar, the Sothic calendar, the lunar calendar, Astronomy, Beer, Black Ink, Body parts , Breath Mints, Military Buffer Zones, Central banks, Clocks: based on both the Sun and Water, Construction, Cosmetics, Door Lock, Engineering, earliest Female rule, Ancient fortifications, Glass, Government, Graffiti, Hair Comb, Hair Dye, Hair Extensions, Hair Weaves, Hair Wigs, Haircuts, High Heel Shoes, Ink Pen, Linen, Makeup, Mathematics, Medicine, Medical Schools, Needle, Organised Labour, Paper (papyri), Paved Roads, Perfumes, Police Roles, Prosthetic, Ramp, Royal Tombs, Sea-Faring Vessels, Scissors, Shaving, Shoes, Sky-Scrapers, Straightening Combs, Surgical Instruments, Temples, The Chisel, The Plow, Toothpaste, Vase, Veterinary Medicine, Wine, and Writing.

EGYPTIAN SOCIETY

Egyptian society was made up of hierarchy of leadership who were assigned different positions to govern the nation of Egypt in various capacities. The non-exhaustive hierarchy of leadership in Egypt included;

  • Pharaohs
  • Vizers
  • Nobles
  • Priests
  • Scribes
  • Soldiers
  • Farmers
  • Medjay

Pharaohs

Pharaohs held the highest position in the land and were responsible for making and upholding different laws, in accordance with ma’at – fairness, justice and order. Pharaohs were idolized as representatives of the gods in human form and did everything they could to please the gods. The inundation of the Nile was considered a sign of whether the gods were pleased with each Pharaoh. The term “Pharaoh” meant the “Royal House”. A rarely known fact is that many Pharaohs were co-rulers with their wives.

As kings do, Pharaohs ensured they kept the enemies of the nation at bay by defending any form of invasion if any province is attacked or responding to natural disasters. Protecting and safeguarding his own people was one important vow they always kept. Pharaohs could make different appointments and assign essential duties to his appointees. Pharaohs took counsel from their Viziers, Governors, Generals and Priests.

The House of Pharaoh collected taxes in the form of time, shares of farming products to be stored in the warehouses of the palace in case of eventuality like famine, beer, and other goods and services. The government paid for the army, exempt religious orders from taxes, funded international trade and acted as middleman between rest of Africa (with the exception of Cyrenaica and Carthage which were also Sea-faring regions) and the Middle East.

Viziers

Viziers helped manage the affairs of the country. A Vizier was like a Prime Minister in British terms, a Secretary of State in American terms, and Viziers were appointed to ensure that all forms of projects were carried out without delay or setback. They had to provide reports to the Pharaoh. They also ensured the collection and payment of taxes, keeping all administrative documents and resolving disputes between nobles. The story of Joseph in the bible demonstrates that some Pharaohs may have been willing to elevate even slaves to leadership positions and that slaves were capable of gaining property if they demonstrated a skill.

Nobles

The nobles made and enacted all the local laws while maintaining decorum and tranquility in the society. They governed provinces (also referred to in academic circles as ‘nomes’) and received a share of the profits paid to them as taxes to the Pharaoh.

Priests

They acted as the servants of the gods, officiating over essential rituals and sacrifices, and interceded on nobles, the Pharaoh or the Nome, depending of the deity in question, whether a national or local deity. They performed rituals, ceremonies and other functions in temples.

The Scribes

These men were probably the most literate and worked for hand in hand with Viziers in keeping track records of administrative duties. They fully interpreted what each record meant, wrote with other scribes or leaders as their intended audience, and kept an updated database of all documents. The roles of scribes overlapped with the role of military leadership, engineering, religious leadership and other administrators in some instances.

Soldiers

These men were called war machines. They were responsible for protecting the country from external threats or suppressing treason. They also involved themselves in the supervision of building structures and other monumental buildings.

Farmers

These are the common people whose primary profession was cultivating the land. They were sometimes involved in building works.

Medjay

This tribe wasn’t part of the Egyptian territory but from the northern part of Sudan. They got incorporated because of their skills in war. They were sent as spies by the Egyptian army to the neighbouring borders for information. Some of them worked in the palace as servants.

CONVENTIONAL CHRONOLOGY

The political structure and culture that has fascinated the world for millenia has been categorized into seven time periods, commonly known as the Old kingdom, First Intermediate kingdom, Middle kingdom, Second Intermediate Period, New kingdom and the Third Intermediate Period.

Naqada Period

The time before the old kingdom was known as the Naqada period, spanning: Naqada I from c. 4,500 BCE to 3,500 BCE), Naqada II (also known as the Gerzeh culture covering c. 3,500 BCE to c. 3,200 BCE) and Naqada III (c. 3,200 BCE to c. 3,000 BCE). The earliest evidence of pre-dynasty Egyptian culture lays deeper within Africa: for instance, at Deir Tasa in Upper Egypt, el-Amra in Upper Egypt, el-Badari in Upper Egypt.

The Old Kingdom

The old kingdom of Egypt saw the rise in the buildings of the Pyramids, a pride every Pharaoh had in mind to build as a burial tomb for himself or his favourite wives. Hence, this period was called “the age of the Pyramids.” The earliest Pharaohs practiced retainer burials, the burial of favourite servants or wives alive to accompany them into the afterlife. This era was between 2686 BC – 2181 BC. This age saw other monumental structures and designs laid. One notable King, however, Sneferu built a true pyramid that didn’t collapse after his time as Pharaoh. Other Pyramids built by other kings one way or the other collapsed. The 4th dynasty in the old Kingdom most especially recorded a huge success when it comes to economic and political instability, security and peace till it’s a collapse.

First Intermediate Period

This period follows after the fall of the old Kingdom. Often referred to as the “dark period” because this period saw many monuments destroyed, architectural designs and public properties vandalized amidst others. Also, few architectural pieces of evidence were left in this period, although some papyri were produced.

The Middle Kingdom

This period follows after the chaotic political tussle between in the first Intermediate Period. This period spanned from 2,050 BC to 1,750 BC. The “Reunification Period” as it was popularly called – of Lower and Upper Egypt – involved the re-centralisation of government under Intef the Elder, son of Iku, a Theban Prince and Nomarch, and a gradual return to stability after the fall of the old Kingdom under the then Pharaoh Mentuhotep the second from the eleventh dynasty till the twelfth dynasty where Amenhemat the First reigned as Pharoah. Administrative positions were given, and appointments were made. This period saw a return to the convention appointments of Viziers (one for the North and the other for the South), nobles and the rest.

Second Intermediate Period

This period followed after the fall of the middle period between c. 1650 BCE to c. 1550 BCE. Thebes rulers were conquered by Hyksos. The Hyksos unlike the Thebes they dethroned didn’t have a particular leader in charge of Egypt then. The Hyksos at some point tried to encourage the kingdom of Kerma to the South to aid it in crushing Egypt for ever. The number of Hyksos kings (meaning ‘foreign’ kings) that reigned is believed to have been six and six is merely a best estimate based on the existing evidence.

New Kingdom

This followed after the Second Intermediate Period and was the most prosperous time in Egypt. Native rule was re-established and Egypt was re-conquered from the South by Thebans, under Ahmose I (1549 BCE – 1524 BCE), creating the eighteenth dynasty. The New kingdom period saw the construction of the Valley of kings under Hatshepsut. The kingdom of Kerma and the Hyksos were driven back under the 18th dynasty, resulting in Egypt creating defensive buffer zones all the way into the Near East.

The New kingdom also saw the rise of the popular Rameses generation. The 19th Dynasty was started by Rameses the first. Egypt also became influential during this period. Reforms were enacted, and this saw Egypt rise to prominence again.

During the intermediate periods (both the first and the second), some men would want to lay a claim on the throne after the fall of preceding reigns. Some of them were the sons of the Pharaoh’s minor wives, some weren’t but from a popular tribe and would want to take their opportunity to seize the throne. Most especially, the son of the previous king would want to fight against the son of the incumbent to regain what he considered “the loss of the throne.” These problems continued to linger till the new Kingdom was born, and this plagued the authority of people appointed to various positions by the Pharaoh.

Third Intermediate Period

This covered 1069 BCE to 664 BCE. It was a period marked with decline and flash-points of political instability. It covered Twenty-first dynasty to Twenty-fifth dynasty. The Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth dynasties are remarkable Egypt’s oldest enemies, Nubians below the Third Cataract, taking pity on it and for attempting to restore the entire culture and political structure of Egypt back to its peak during the New kingdom. The Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth dynasties re-established the religious, artistic and architectural practices of the Old, Middle and New Egyptian kingdoms including the building of pyramids, at el-Kurru and Nuri.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/17/Ancient_Egypt_map-en.svg/800px-Ancient_Egypt_map-en.svg.png

DATING EGYPTIAN REIGNS

Abydos List

This is a long list that contains all the names of the seventy-six of Ancient Egyptians kings (the old kingdom). It consists of three rows of thirty-eight cartouches in each row. The upper two rows contain names of the kings, while the third row merely repeats Seti I’s throne praenomen. The list consists mainly of kings in the seventh and eighth dynasty, excluding kings that were born illegitimately.

The Karnak List

The Karnak king list is a list of early Egyptian kings (sixty-one) engraved in stone, which was situated in the southwest corner of the Thutmose hall in the Karnak Temple Complex.

The Turin List

The Turin King List, also known as the Turin Royal Canon, is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus thought to date from the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, now in the Egyptian Museum. The papyrus was very detailed when it comes to naming Kings.

Amarna Letters

The Amarna letters are historical records between 1360-1332 BC, written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom.

The Papyri

Papyri is a cellular fiber material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface as far as the third Millennium. There are many papyri scattered around the world from extensive looting by Europe, and local Egyptians as well as some legitimate archaeology digs.

The Valley of the Kings

This was where Pharaohs and powerful nobles who governed provinces were buried in the period of the New Kingdom from 16th century BCE to 11th century BCE. The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile opposite Thebes.

ALTERNATE CHRONOLOGIES

An alternate historical chronology is a historical re-assessment of the conventional chronology that dismisses or changes the estimates of the generally accepted timing of history and civilizations and replaces them with new narratives or theories, often propagated by advocate of the new chronology. Most of these claims can be false, ideological or otherwise to create a diversion and controversy. Some alternative chronologies are proposed to resolve unaddressed weaknesses in the conventional chronology.

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Oadeye

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