Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Egyptian Pyramids

The Egyptians continued to construct taller and taller pyramids and started smoothing out the jagged edges of stepped pyramids. One of the earliest attempts was the Meidum pyramid, in 2570 B.C. It had seven steps progressing to eight, but
it collapsed and was abandoned.
Pyramid designers learned that if pyramids were going to be higher and have steeper slopes, their bases needed to be wider.
At Dahshur, further upstream along the Nile from Saqqara, laborers started the construction of a pyramid for the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Sneferu. Unfortunately, the designers chose a poor foundation, and the pyramid began to lean inward upon itself when it was about two-thirds complete. The builders reduced the angle of the upper portion to complete it and make it more stable, and it is now known as the Bent Pyramid (2565 B.C.).
Unsatisfied with the Bent Pyramid, Sneferu ordered another pyramid at Dahshur. The designers chose a better foundation and made this pyramid the same height as the Bent Pyramid, but with a wider base and a shallower angle. The Red Pyramid was completed in 2560 B.C.

How Pyramids Work-3

The pyramids were built of limestone, granite, basalt, gypsum (mortar), and baked mud bricks. Limestone blocks were quarried at Giza and possibly other sites. Granite likely came from upriver at Aswan.
Alabaster came from Luxor and basalt from the Fayoum depression
Iron tools were not available, so workers used copper and stone-cutting tools to carve out the blocks in the quarries. They then used levers to move the stone blocks away from the quarry site.
Transporting building materials
Again, no one knows how laborers were able to get the 2.5-ton stone blocks from the quarries to the building site. Wheels wouldn't have been useful on the desert sand and gravel, so they most likely dragged the blocks with wooden sleds and ropes.
Some think that workers used quarter-circle wooden sleds that fit around a rectangular block. They attached the sleds to the block, and a crew of about eight men rolled them along the ground, much like rolling a keg of beer. Others say the laborers used wooden rollers.
For long-distance transport, the blocks were loaded on barges and transported down the Nile. Workers dug canals to get the barges nearer to the site
­­Egyptologists estimate that workers placed­ about 300 stones a day during pyramid construction. Several theories -- lever systems, ramps and kites, for example -- attempt to explain how the huge blocks got into place. Those in the know generally accept the ­ramp idea, but they debate the exact ramp configurations.
The ramps could have been long and straight, perpendicular to the sides or wrapped around the core.
While laborers placed stones in the core, stone cutters were making the chambers, passageways and shafts in the pyramid's interior. Artists inscribed the designs that adorned the chamber walls. Let's take a closer look at the workers who built the pyramids.

The Greek historian Herodotus described the building of Khufu's pyramid by more than 100,000 slaves. Hollywood seized upon this image of slaves and their taskmasters in movies like "The Ten Commandments." But when Harvard archaeologist Mark Lehner led an expedition to uncover clues about the people who built the pyramids, he found no evidence of housing for such a large population. Instead, his group discovered housing and food storage places for small gangs of workers.
It appears that at any one time about 2,000 workers were on site, divided into two large divisions and smaller groups of about 200 men. The evidence indicates that they were probably paid and well fed. The working groups were periodically rotated over the years of pyramid construction, and the total workforce may have been about 30,000 [source: Harvard Magazine].
Pyramid building stopped in Egypt long ago. When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs and Mayans, the Central American pyramids were abandoned in the jungles until archaeologists uncovered and studied them.
Archaeological research continues on these structures today to resolve the many mysteries of how they were built

How Pyramids Work-2

How Were the Pyramids Built?
Pyramid construction is a continuously debated topic. There are no existing records of building plans or discussions of construction methods, so no one knows exactly what happened. Of course, archaeologists and engineers have plenty of ideas -- some sound far-fetched and others seem more reasonable. We'll use the Giza pyramids as an example because we have the most information on them.
Let's break the task of building the pyramids into components:
Surveying and excavation: choosing a suitable site, orienting it and preparing the foundation
Obtaining building materials: quarrying rocks or making huge stones
Transporting building materials: transporting from the quarrying site to the pyramid
Workforce logistics: finding skilled workers, feeding them and housing them
Surveying and Excavation
Egyptian builders probably made plans and models of the pyramid. The projects were overseen by the pharaoh's master builder, or vizier.

The collapse of the Meidum pyramid and the shift of the Bent Pyramid taught builders that foundations were important. Once engineers found a suitable site with a good foundation, they had to lay out the site.
Pyramid sides always ran parallel to the north-south and east-west axes. The builders didn't have compasses, and there was no North Star at the time (the Earth's rotation wobbles like a top, and the position of true north in the sky changes over a 40,000-year cycle). So, they used the movements of circumpolar stars or the sun to figure out true north. Using sighting rods and circles, they could trace arcs of the rising and setting stars or the sun's shadow, measure the angles to the ends of the arc, and calculate true north. Once they established that, they could find the other directions with lines and right angles.
The ancient Egyptians used "cubits" (the length from the tip of your middle finger to your elbow) and "hands" (the width of your hand with the thumb on the side) for measurements. They dug post holes at regular intervals (10 cubits) along the base outline and laid out the site in a grid.
Then, laborers excavated and leveled the foundation. No one is sure of the exact method, but they were extremely exact -- the base of Khufu's pyramid is level to 2 centimeters (less than an inch).
There are two main theories about leveling methods:

1) Workers poured water into the excavated site and leveled all material above the waterline. Then they lowered the water level and removed more material, continuing the process until the foundation was level.

2) The builders installed posts at regular intervals. A line, leveled with plumb bobs, was pulled taut across the posts at a reference mark to ensure alignment. Then they could excavate the foundation down to the reference marks.

How Pyramids Work -1

The Great Pyramid of Khufu
The Giza pyramid complex, on the west bank of the Nile, is the most famous group of pyramids in the world. As we discussed earlier, the grandest pyramid was built for Sneferu's son, Khufu, in 2540 B.C. The two smaller pyramids nearby were for Khufu's son, Khafre, and his grandson, Menkaure. After this dynasty, great pyramid building stopped, probably because of the time and expense of these massive state projects.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu on the Giza plateau in Egypt is the largest and most elaborately constructed pyramid in existence, representing the most advanced aspects of pyramid construction. Khufu's pyramid has the following features:
The primary burial chamber, or king's chamber, contains the sarcophagus (tomb) that held Khufu's body, and the walls are adorned with hieroglyphs (writing) depicting various aspects of ancient Egyptian history and religion.
The smaller queen's chamber (actually a misnomer -- it was not intended for the queen) lies within the pyramid, while another unfinished secondary burial chamber lies underneath the pyramid.
Weight-relieving chambers above the king's chamber distribute the weight of the overlying rock and prevent the king's chamber from collapsing.
The gallery is a large passageway with a vaulted, corbelled ceiling (the walls are layered upward, and each vertical layer sticks out further than the one below to form a primitive arch).
Descending and ascending passageways connect various chambers to each other and to the outside.
Air shafts connect the king's chamber to the outside. They may have been designed as a way for Khufu's spirit to exit the pyramid and rise to the heavens.
The entrance was sealed after the pharaoh's body was placed inside.
White limestone rocks line the pyramid's exterior, giving it a smooth face. These rocks have eroded away over time, but we know they existed because the Pyramid of Khafre still has some on its peak.

Pyramid of Userkaf

There are over 100 pyramids in Egypt. Many, like the pyramid of Userkaf located near the step pyramid of Djoser, have become piles of rubble.This pyramid was built during the 5th dynasty

Inside The Red Pyramid

Now, you enter the Red Pyramid for the first time.The original height of the pyramid was approximately 343 feet, while each side measured 722 feet. Modern steps have been installed to ease the ascension to the opening which is 94 feet above the ground level and between 12 - 13 feet east of center. Here is the internal layout of the pyramid, which consists of three chambers:
The first passageway descends at an angle of approx. 27 degrees at a length of approx 206 feet.

The end of the descending passageway empties into a level corridor that is approx. 25 feet long. This corridor leads into the first of three chambers.
The first chamber has a magnificent corbelled ceiling consisting of 11 courses and climbing to a height of approx. 40 feet.
At the south end of the chamber there is a opening into a second short passageway, which leads to the second chamber.
The second chamber has similar dimensions to that of the first. It is exceptional in that it is one of the only pyramid chambers to lie directly beneath the centerpoint or apex of the pyramid. At the south end, a staircase has been installed to allow access to the final chamber, the entrance for which is located approx. 25 feet above the floor of this second chamber.

The top of the stairs lead to a final passageway which is about 23 feet long. This passageway ends at the third and final chamber.
The final chamber is believed to have been the actual intended burial chamber. It's dimensions are approx. 14 x 27 feet with a final corbelled ceiling rising to a height of 50 feet. The floor has been systematically removed to a depth of 14 feet in a search for other passageways and chambers in this pyramid. No such other features were ever found.

Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid was built by Senefru and is 105 meters tall. It is the third tallest pyramid in Egypt, after the Cheops and Chefren pyramids in Giza.
The Red Pyramid is considered to be the first true pyramid and is made of sandstone.
The entrance is made of red stones.

Step Pyramid of Djoser

The step pyramid of Djoser is located at Saqqara, just south of Memphis. The pyramid started out as a mastaba. It was then expanded six different times to six levels to the height of over 200 feet.
The architect credited with it's designs was the kings vizier named Imhotep.
This marks a large step in architectural design and size of buildings among early people. The pyramid was built during the 3rd dynasty around 2630 B.C.

Bent Pyramid of Dashur

The Bent Pyramid in Dashur was built during the end of the reign of Humi of Dynasty III into the beginning of Sneferu's reign which started the Forth Dynasty.
The uniqueness of this pyramid is in the fact the angle of the wall was changed in mid-construction. It started at 55° up to 154 feet.
The angle then was changed to 43° from there to the top of the pyramid. The total height of the pyramid was almost 344 feet.

Pyramid of Menkura

This third built for Menkura, grandson of Khufu, is much small then the other two on the Giza plateau. It's height is 218 feet, less than half of the other two pyramids.
The base measures 343 feet. Next to the pyramid are three much small pyramids.

Pyramid of Khafre

The second largest pyramid is that of King Khephren, son of Khufu. This originally stood 473 feet high. It appears to be taller than Khufu's pyramid, because it is built on higher ground.
The pyramids base is about 706 feet long. In front of the pyramid is a causeway which leads to a valley temple.
Near the valley temple the famous sphinx was carved out of an outcrop of limestone.

Great Pyramid of Khufu

The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is one of the largest structures built by man even today, 4,500 years later. It is estimate that 2.3 million blocks averaging 2.5 tons a piece were used in the building the pyramid.
Weight of the block ranged from 2 to 15 tons. The pyramid sits on 13.5 acres of land and is a height of 480 feet.
The length of its sides are 756 feet. It is estimated to have taken 100,000 men over 25 years to build the pyramid


The great pyramids of Giza are located just south of present day Cairo. The three pyramids were built during the 4th dynasty of Egypt.
They pyramids are those of Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), and Menkure (Mycerinus). They were constructed over 4,500 years ago and show us the power and wealth of the pharaoh in the Old Kingdom. Each had a mortuary temple and causeway.
Below is a basic map and lay out of the area on which these three pyramids were built.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Egypt's Colonial Period

French Occupation

Napoleon Bonaparte sailed to Egypt in the 1790's while on his way to India.
The French and the British had been fighting and having wars, trying to expand their borders for foreign trade. When Napoleon landed in Egypt, the farmers and peasants fought him. He finally made it to Cairo and demanded to set up a ruling government of 10 people to oversee the country. The Egyptians were shocked by their new rulers, not knowing that the previous Mameluke rulers had failed to defend their country.
Napoleon brought the city of Cairo into civil war, the people fighting against him and against themselves. Muslims and Jews, as well as some women were sentenced to death and visibly killed as Napoleon tried to hold onto his rule in Egypt.
The Syrians and Turks were giving some trouble to the French, and more wars erupted. French Occupation of Egypt ended with Mohammed Ali of Albania being elected pasha, because of a revolt against the Turks.

British Occupation

The British did not get control of Egypt until 1882, when they took on Alexandria. There were no outward changes, because by then, Britain had been ruling Egypt indirectly for many years. The British did not do anything to try to promote the Egyptian people.
No pure water wells were drilled, no medical services were created, and no education was in place, all while the Europeans in Cairo lived very well. It was during World War II that the Egyptians finally began to receive some training and education, because the British were unable to get all of their supplies shipped from Britain.
As the War ended, Egypt lost a lot of the glamour of being supported by the British. They now had to work on liberating and ruling themselves.

Egypt's Archaic Islamic Period

Islam started in the Arabian Peninsula about the same time the Christians were being persecuted by the Romans for their beliefs.
Islam spread quickly, and it was not long before the Arab Islamic State was able to free Egypt from the horrible reign of terror by Rome. Amr Bin Al Aas conquered the Romans in 640 AD and Egypt was bound to Islam as its greatest supporter.

There were several different periods to the Islamic rule of Egypt:
Abbasid Era
Fatimid Era
Ayyubid Era
Mameluke Era
Bahri Mameluke Era
Burgi Mameluke Era
Ottoman Turk Era

Egypt's Greco-Roman Period

Alexander the Great's liberation of Egypt from Persian rule was the end of the Egyptian kings for quite some time. He built a new capital in Egypt where the Nile meets the Mediterranean sea, and called it Alexandria.
After Alexander's death the empire split into many parts, with the most powerful generals each ruling a section. Egypt eventually fell under the reign of Ptolemy. The Greeks did adopt some of the Egyptian customs and traditions, but they still spoke Greek and held onto their Greek customs.
"Egypt" is a Greek word that has survived the centuries. The Egyptian word for "Egypt" is "kmt" or "kemet." The Greek rulers and people thought that they were better than the lower class Egyptians.

The Romans became involved when Cleopatra VII argued with her half-brother as to who should succeed the throne. She invited Julius Caesar and the Romans to step in to settle the dispute. Cleopatra sided with Mark Antony and lost against Augustus Caesar and Rome took over Egypt's rule. No foreigners were hated as much as the Romans were. Christianity in Egypt came about because of Roman rule.
The early Egyptian Christians were called Copts. It was the Copts who used religion as a tool to stir up trouble in the Roman empire.

Egypt's Dynastic Period

Predynastic Period (5500 - 3100 BC)
In the Predynastic Period of Ancient Egypt, people evolved from hunters and gatherers using stone weapons into an organized central society.
Animals such as donkeys are tamed and used in daily life, not just for food. Egyptians trace their roots back to a land they called Punt. At first, Egypt is ruled by many kings, each one fighting with others to try to take over and rule more kingdoms.

Early Dynastic Period (2920 - 2650 BC)
Ancient writing came about during the Early Dynastic period in the form of hieroglyphs. By the end of the Early Dynastic period, Egypt will be unified into one kingdom and ruled by a pharaoh.The Early Dynastic period consists of dynasties 0 through 2 usually, and lasted about 300 years. There were at least 30 kings during the Early Dynastic period and some of the first monuments and temples were built at Saqqara and Abydos during this time.

Old Kingdom (2650 - 2152 BC)
The Old Kingdom contained the 3rd through the 6th Dynasties, or about 500 years of rule. The capital was in Northern Egypt, in Memphis, and the rule was held solidly by the pharaohs. During this time, some pharaohs were even considered to be gods, and were worshipped as religious figures. The first pyramids were built as step pyramids of mud bricks early in the Old Kingdom period. The true pyramids were later constructed of stone blocks, forming the ancient monuments that we still study today. Ancient doctors knew quite a lot about the body, antiseptics and surgery. Artists were showing great talent in painting, carving and sculpting.

First Intermediate Period (2150 - 1986 BC)
All of the successes of the Old Kingdom began to fall apart during the First Intermediate Period. The Nile River was flooding, causing trouble for those living off of the land there. Crops were either being washed out from the floods, or not getting any water at all due to issues with irrigation. There was widespread hunger and death. The pharaoh had lost control of the lands to the local governments, some of which were corrupt.

Middle Kingdom - (1986 - 1759 BC)
Intef and Mentuhotep from Luxor were able to reunite the broken lands under local rule into rule by one king again. This began the 11th Dynasty. While the pharaoh never really regained power over the local governments, foreign trade started to happen again. Irrigation projects were fixed and completed. In fact, it could be dangerous to be the pharaoh. One of the Middle Kingdom kings was killed by a group of local governors who wanted to keep their power. It was well into the Middle Kingdom before power was restored to the pharaoh. Egyptians enjoyed wealth again, and the population began to grow.

Second Intermediate Period (1759 - 1539 BC)
Immigration of people who weren't born as Egyptians eventually led to the Second Intermediate Period. These people moved to Egypt from their countries and set up towns and communities which followed their own rules. They did not live by the Egyptian laws, nor did they recognize the rule of the pharaoh. During the Second Intermediate Period, Egypt was ruled by a string of foreign kings. Amosis, a military general, set off wars against these foreigners and the foreign rule, and eventually put Egypt back under Egyptian control, starting up the 18th Dynasty.

New Kingdom (1539 - 1069 BC)
After the Second Intermediate Period, the kings of the 18th Dynasty vowed that they would never want to see Egypt under a foreign king again. The kings of the 18th Dynasty were fierce military generals, fighting to keep Egypt ruled by Egyptians. They fortified the Egyptian borders to ward against foreign attacks. Egypt became wealthy and powerful again, and the kings taxed all foreigners and foreign trade heavily. Foreigners were treated badly.As the 19th Dynasty started, Egypt began to fail again. Foreign relations were not good, and the foreign rulers were waging war on Egypt. The strongest king of the time was Ramses II, but after his death there were many weak kings, pushing Egypt back into political chaos and disorder.

Third Intermediate Period (1070 - 657 BC)
Upon the death of Ramses XI, a man from Tanis named Smendes assumed the throne of Egypt. No one was really in charge at this point, and there was much chaos and confusion. The 22nd Dynasty was made up of Chiefs from Libya, and they ruled at the same time as the pharaohs of the 23rd Dynasty. This political strife lasted for several hundred years.

Late Kingdom - (664 - 332 BC)
Egypt was invaded by Nubia, as the southern Nubians rushed the northern Egyptians. The Nubians won, and for a short while began to restore old Egyptian traditions and religious practices. It was not long before the Assyrians conquered the Nubians.An Egyptian leader was put on the throne and the 26th Dynasty began.Peace came about by the second or third generation of kings, but Egypt never returned to the power and glory that it once had. Egypt was then conquered by Persia, and the Egyptians suffered badly.During this time the Greeks conquered Persia, and the rule of Egypt passed to Greece. Alexander the Great was welcomed into Egypt and recognized as the liberator of Egypt from Persian rule. It would be 2000 years before another Egyptian would hold the throne of Egypt again, in the 18th Century AD.

Egypt's Prehistory

The prehistoric times of Egypt were a very long time ago. It was the time before the pharaohs, and before anyone knew how to write.
Prehistory dates from as far back as you can imagine, think millions of years, to about 3000 B.C. when the 1st Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs began their rule.
There is not much that is known about prehistoric Egyptians. Egypt was not one big desert with a river giving it life such as it is now.
The land was green and grassy and there was rain. The people hunted with stone axes and bone spears, in search of fresh game to eat.
They made their clothing from the skins of these animals. These tribes of people lived in groups of about 8000 and learned to grow crops to add to their diet of hunted meat. Over thousands of years it began to rain less and less in Egypt, and the crops would no longer grow.
The grasslands died out from lack of water, and sand slowly replaced the plains, turning Egypt into the sandy desert that we know it as today.

Egypt's Past

We can divide up Egypt's past into a number of parts, but it is important to remember that there is history, and the time before history, called prehistory. History is the period of time when humans made records by writing about events, while prehistory, is the time before people could write. Overall, we can divide Egypt's long past as:

Prehistory - The time before writing
The Dynastic Period - The time of Egyptian Pharaohs or Kings
The Greco-Roman Period - Egypt ruled by Greek Kings and Roman Emperors
The Archaic Islamic Period - After the Arab Invasion
The Colonial Period - Egypt ruled by Europeans

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


By 3100 BC, Egypt had a centralized government controlled by a line of hereditary rulers. These kings, called pharaohs, kept a royal court of advisors and nobility, and oversaw the governors of the provinces of the kingdom. They were also commanders of the Egyptian army. Even the priests and priestesses who officiated at the complex religious ceremonies and attended on the gods served the pharaohs. The rule of the pharaohs is considered dynastic; it can also be considered absolute in the truest sense of the word. The pharaohs came to be considered as the representatives of the gods on earth and even as gods themselves. [1] Most importantly, it was Pharaoh’s duty to ensure truth and justice. According to Egyptian mythology, Ma’at was the goddess of truth, justice, and order.The most famous Egyptian pharaoh today is, without doubt, Tutankhamun. The boy king died in his late teens and remained at rest in Egypt's Valley of the Kings for over 3,300 years. The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 is considered the most important archaeological find of the century. After years of painstaking work in the Valley of the Kings, Carter's patron, Lord Carnarvon, had warned him that that would be the last season of work because nothing significant had been found. On November 22 of that year, Carter's persistence finally paid off. Tutankhamun became a household name, and his magnificent treasures became the measuring stick for all future archaeological discoveries. The mysteries surrounding his life and death are gradually being solved. And his story continues to unfold as new theories are proposed in an attempt to explain what really happened to the boy behind the golden mask.

Computer Directory

Egyptian Interaction with the Middle East

Egypt has a rich and fascinating history with the Middle East. Although Egypt is the best known and most researched empire in the area, the others in the Middle East contributed to its grandeur. No culture has ever began with only its own traditions and methods.
Other cultures from the area contribute to all the things that distinguish one culture from another.
Interaction between Egypt and its neighbors has added many different aspects to Egyptian culture that we study today.
The most apparent interactions take place directly. These interactions are those that make direct connections from one culture to another.
Trade route that intersect areas and wars involving two or more cultures are examples of direct interaction.
Indirect interaction is less apparent, but none the less, it is just as important. Indirect interaction is the dealings that cultures have with others that don�t directly go from one popular culture to the next.
As ideas and goods are exchanged indirectly, they are modified to fit the culture that has adopted them. Indirect interaction with Egypt�s Middle Eastern neighbors was very influential in making Ancient Egypt what it was

Egyptian Pharaohs

Egyptian Pharaohs were the Ancient Egyptian secular and spiritual leaders of ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were responsible for safeguarding the well-being of all Egyptians in ancient times. The term 'Pharaoh' is a Greek interpretation of the Egyptian word Per-aa literally meaning 'Great House'.
Pharaoh is a title used to refer to the rulers of ancient Egypt in the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic period. The term 'Pharaoh', as in the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, is a Greek interpretation of the ancient Egyptian word Per-aa literally meaning 'Great House', used in the Old Kingdom as part of phrases like 'smr per-Aa' literally meaning 'Courtier of the Great House', with specific reference to the buildings of the court or palace itself. From the Twelfth Dynasty onwards the word appears in a wish formula 'Great House, may it live, prosper and be in health', but only with reference to the buildings of the court rather than the king himself. The earliest certain instance where 'Per Aa' is used specifically to address the king is in a letter to Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty (1539-1292 BC) which is addressed to 'Pharaoh, given life, prosperity and health, the Master'. From the Nineteenth Dynasty onwards it is used as regularly as hm.f 'His Majesty'.
Ancient Egypt was a long-lived ancient civilization geographically located in north-eastern Africa. It was concentrated along the middle to lower reaches of the Nile River reaching its greatest extension during the second millennium BC, which is referred to as the New Kingdom period. It reached broadly from the Nile Delta in the north, as far south as Jebel Barkal at the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. Extensions to the geographical range of ancient Egyptian civilization included, at different times, areas of the southern Levant, the Eastern Desert and the Red Sea coastline, the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert (focused on the several oases).
Ancient Egypt developed over at least three and a half millennia. It began with the incipient unification of Nile Valley polities around 3500 BC and is conventionally thought to have ended in 30 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered and absorbed Ptolemaic Egypt as a province. (Though this last did not represent the first period of foreign domination, the Roman period was to witness a marked, if gradual transformation in the political and religious life of the Nile Valley, effectively marking the termination of independent civilisational development).
The civilization of ancient Egypt was based on a finely balanced control, by ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, of natural and human resources, characterised primarily by controlled irrigation of the fertile Nile Valley; the mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions; the early development of an independent writing system and literature; the organisation of collective projects; trade with surrounding regions in east / central Africa and the eastern Mediterranean; finally, military ventures that exhibited strong characteristics of imperial hegemony and territorial domination of neighbouring cultures at different periods. Motivating and organizing these activities were a socio-political and economic elite that achieved social consensus by means of an elaborate system of religious belief under the figure of a (semi)-divine ruler (usually male) from a succession of ruling dynasties, Egyptian Pharaohs, and which related to the larger world by means of polytheistic beliefs channeled through the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs

King Akhenaten

18th Dynasty
Perhaps the height of Egyptian wealth and power came between 1550 and 1290 BC. The dynasty began with the expulsion of the Palestinian Hyksos rulers from the north of Egypt by King Ahmose I - an event that may have inspired the Biblical story of the Exodus. Carrying forward the momentum of this act, subsequent rulers, in particular Thutmose III, established an empire of client states in Syria-Palestine, and dominions stretching towards the heart of Africa. War booty and lively international trade founded on Egypt's highly productive gold mines made Egypt a major world player.

Around 1350 BC, however, King Akhenaten (formerly known as Amenhotep IV - see above) turned Egypt on its head by abolishing all the nation's gods, and replacing them with a single sun-god, the Aten. The new faith was accompanied by a radical new art-style, as seen in the statuette above, currently owned by the Louvre.
The cult of Aten, however, barely survived the death of its patron. Within a few years, orthodoxy had been re-established and Akhenaten's very dynasty had died out, leaving the throne to a series of generals, the last of whom, Ramesses I, was the founder of a new 19th Dynasty.