Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Riddle of the Sphinx

After 25 centuries the history of the great Sphinx at Giza was so forgotten that many believed it had been placed in its position, as guardian of the pyramids, by the Gods. Indeed, the Sphinx is such an impressive work one, even today, might easily believe it must have been created by supernatural means.
The statue, with a man's head and a lion's body, stands 66 feet high and 240 feet long. The head measures 19 feet from forehead to chin. Each paw extends 56 feet forward of the body. The face is over 6 yards wide.
The lion was a powerful symbol in ancient Egypt as it represented strength and courage. The great cat was also considered the supreme guardian and tamed lions sometimes accompanied kings into battle. Not just as a mascot, but as the physical presence of a god meant to protect troops.
The Sphinx was the combination of two symbols, a lion god, and the king pharaoh/god, into one icon. In fact, the Great Sphinx at Giza probably bears the face of the ruling pharaoh at the time of construction: Chephren.
The symbol wasn't limited to Egypt, but was also found in ancient Phoenician, Syrian, and Greek societies. In Greek legend, the Sphinx devoured all travelers who could not answer the riddle it posed: "What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?"
The hero Oedipus gave the answer, "Man," causing the Sphinx's death.
The Great Sphinx at Giza started as a natural outcropping of rock. The ancient Egyptians carved the giant statue into the stone around 2500 B.C..
To make it even taller than the height of the outcrop they chipped out a depression around the base of the statue.
The paws were constructed from stone blocks.
The entire statue was painted in ancient times: red for the face and body, yellow with blue stripes on the headress. Finally, a temple was built in front of the statue as a place visitors could offer gifts to the "living image" of the creature the Egyptians sometimes referred to as "Horus-in-the-Horizon."
As time passed the statue was given less attention and, after a few centuries, desert sands covered the Great Sphinx up to its neck. Legends claim that visitors would press their ear to the statue's lips seeking wisdom. Around 1400 B.C. a Egyptian prince, on a hunt, came to rest in the shadow of the Sphinx.
While napping he heard the Sphinx tell him it would make him ruler of Egypt ahead of his older brothers if he promised to clear the sand away. On waking the prince vowed to keep the bargain. Sure enough, as the story goes, he ascended the throne as Pharaoh Thutmose IV and quickly had the statue uncovered.
Historians beleive that Thutmose IV concocted the dream to cover up murder. Thutmose had his brother killed so that he could gain the crown. While the Egyptian people might not have been able to forgive Thutmose the slaying for personal gain, they could overlook it if it seemed like it was the will of the gods.
By the 19th century, when European archaeologists started taking a close look at Egyptian monuments, the statue was again covered up to it's neck in sand. Efforts to uncover and repair the statue were undertaken early in the 20th century.
Preservation work continues even today.
There have been rumors of passageways and secret chambers surrounding the Sphinx and during recent restoration work several tunnels have been re-discovered.
One, near the rear of the statue extends down into it for about nine yards.
Another, behind the head, is a short dead-end shaft.
The third, located mid-way between the tail and the paws, was apparently opened during restoration work in the 1920's, then resealed. It is unknown whether these tunnels were constructed by the original Egyptian designers, or were cut into the statue at a later date. Many scientists speculate they are the result of ancient treasure hunting efforts.
Several attempts have been made to use non-invasive exploration techniques to ascertain if there are other hidden chambers or tunnels about the Sphinx. These include electromagnetic sounding, seismic refraction, seismic reflection, refraction tomography, electrical resistivity and acoustical survey tests.
Studies made by Florida State University, Waseda University (Japan), and Boston University, have found "anomalies" around the Sphinx. These could be interpreted as chambers or passageways, but they could also be such natural features as faults or changes in the density of the rock.
Egyptian archaeologists, charged with preserving the statue, are concerned about the danger of digging or drilling into the natural rock near the Sphinx to find out if cavities really exist.
Are these "anomalies" secret chambers? And is it worth risking damage to such a work as the Sphinx in order to find out? That's the modern riddle of the Sphinx the Egyptian authorities must solve.

Alexandria History-3

Shortly after its capture Alexandria again fell into the hands of the Greeks, who took advantage of 'Amr's absence with the greater portion of his army. On hearing what had happened, however, 'Amr returned, and quickly regained possession of the city.
About the year 646 'Amr was deprived of his government by the caliph Othman. The Egyptians, by whom 'Amr was greatly beloved, were so much dissatisfied by this act, and even showed such a tendency to revolt, that the Greek emperor determined to make an effort to reduce Alexandria.
The attempt proved perfectly successful. The caliph, perceiving his mistake, immediately restored 'Amr, who, on his arrival in Egypt, drove the Greeks within the walls of Alexandria, but was only able to capture the city after a most obstinate resistance by the defenders.
This so exasperated him that he completely demolished its fortifications, although he seems to have spared the lives of the inhabitants as far as lay in his power.
Alexandria now rapidly declined in importance.
The building of Cairo in 969, and, above all, the discovery of the route to the East by the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, nearly ruined its commerce; the canal, which supplied it with Nile water, became blocked; and although it remained a principal Egyptian port, at which most European visitors in the Mameluke and Ottoman periods landed, we hear little of it until about the beginning of the 19th century.
Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon's Egyptian expedition of 1798. The French troops stormed the city on the 2nd of July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of the British expedition of 1801.
The battle of Alexandria, fought on the 21st of March of that year, between the French army under General Menou and the British expeditionary corps under Sir Ralph Abercromby, took place near the ruins of Nicopohs, on the narrow spit of land between the sea and Lake Aboukir, along which the British troops had advanced towards Alexandria after the actions of Aboukir on the 8th and Mandora on the 13th.
This document is part of an article on Alexandria from the 1911 edition of an encyclopedia that is out of copyright here in the U.S. The article is in the public domain, and you may copy, download, print and distribute this work as you see fit.
Every effort has been made to present this text accurately and cleanly, but no guarantees are made against errors. Neither Melissa Snell nor About may be held liable for any problems you experience with the text version or with any electronic form of this document

Alexandria History-2

On the mainland life seems to have centred in the vicinity of the Serapeum and Caesareum, both become Christian churches: but the Pharos and Heptastadium quarters remained populous and intact.
In 616 it was taken by Chosroes, king of Persia; and in 640 by the Arabians, under 'Amr, after a siege that lasted fourteen months, during which Heraclius, the emperor of Constantinople, did not send a single ship to its assistance.
Notwithstanding the losses that the city had sustained, 'Amr was able to write to his master, the caliph Omar, that he had taken a city containing "4000 palaces, 4000 baths, 12,000 dealers in fresh oil, 12,000 gardeners, 40,000 Jews who pay tribute, 400 theatres or places of amusement."
The story of the destruction of the library by the Arabs is first told by Bar-hebraeus (Abulfaragius), a Christian writer who lived six centuries later; and it is of very doubtful authority.
It is highly improbable that many of the 700,000 volumes collected by the Ptolemies remained at the time of the Arab conquest, when the various calamities of Alexandria from the time of Caesar to that of Diocletian are considered, together with the disgraceful pillage of the library in A.D. 389 under the rule of the Christian bishop, Theophilus, acting on Theodosius' decree concerning pagan monumcnts (see LIBRARIES: Ancient History).
The story of Abulfaragius runs as follows:--
John the Grammarian, a famous Peripatetic philosopher, being in Alexandria at the time of its capture, and in high favour with 'Amr, begged that he would give him the royal library. 'Amr told him that it was not in his power to grant such a request, but promised to write to the caliph for his consent.
Omar, on hearing the request of his general, is said to have replied that if those books contained the same doctrine with the Koran, they could be of no use, since the Koran contained all necessary truths; but if they contained anything contrary to that book.
they ought to be destroyed; and therefore, whatever their contents were, he ordered them to be burnt. Pursuant to this order, they were distributed among the public baths, of which there was a large number in the city, where, for six months, they served to supply the fires.

Alexandria History-1

Founded in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great, Alexandria was intended to supersede Naucratis (q.v.) as a Greek centre in Egypt, and to be the link between Macedonia and the rich Nile Valley. If such a city was to be on the Egyptian coast, there was only one possible site, behind the screen of the Pharos island and removed from the silt thrown out by Nile mouths.
An Egyptian townlet, Rhacotis, already stood on the shore and was a resort of fishermen and pirates.
Behind it (according to the Alexandrian treatise, known as pseudo-Callisthenes) were five native villages scattered along the strip between Lake Mareotis and the sea. Alexander occupied Pharos, and had a walled city marked out by Deinocrates on the mainland to include Rhacotis.
A few months later he left Egypt for the East and never returned to his city; but his corpse was ultimately entombed there. His viceroy, Cleomenes, continued the creation of Alexandria. The Heptastadium,
however, and the mainland quarters seem to have been mainly Ptolemaic work. Inheriting the trade of ruined Tyre and becoming the centre of the new commerce between Europe and the Arabian and Indian East, the city grew in less than a century to be larger than Carthage; and for some centuries more it had to acknowledge no superior but Rome.
It was a centre not only of Hellenism but of Semitism, and the greatest Jewish city in the world. There the Septuagint was produced.
The early Ptolemies kept it in order and fostered the development of its museum into the leading Greek university; but they were careful to maintain the distinction of its population into three nations, "Macedonian" (i.e. Greek), Jew and Egyptian. From this division arose much of the later turbulence which began to manifest itself under Ptolemy Philopater.
Nominally a free Greek city, Alexandria retained its senate to Roman times; and indeed the judicial functions of that body were restored by Septimius Severus, after temporary abolition by Augustus.
The city passed formally under Roman jurisdiction in 80 B.C., according to the will of Ptolemy Alexander: but it had been under Roman influence for more than a hundred years previously.
There Julius Caesar dallied with Cleopatra in 47 B.C. and was mobbed by the rabble; there his example was followed by Antony, for whose favour the city paid dear to Octavian, who placed over it a prefect from the imperial household. Alexandria seems from this time to have regained its old prosperity, commanding, as it did, an important granary of Rome.
This latter fact, doubtless, was one of the chief reasons which induced Augustus to place it directly under the imperial power.
In A.D. 215 the emperor Caracalla visited the city; and, in order to repay some insulting satires that the inhabitants had made upon him, he commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms. This brutal order seems to have been carried out even beyond the letter, for a general massacre was the result.
Notwithstanding this terrible disaster, Alexandria soon recovered its former splendour, and for some time longer was esteemed the first city of the world after Rome. Even as its main historical importance had formerly sprung from pagan learning, so now it acquired fresh importance as a centre of Christian theology and church government.
There Arianism was formulated and there Athanasius, the great opponent of both heresy and pagan rcaction, worked and triumphed.
As native influences, however, began to reassert themselves in the Nile valley, Alexandria gradually became an alien city, more and more detached from Egypt; and, losing much of its commerce as the peace of the empire broke up during the 3rd century A.D., it declined fast in population and splendour.
The Brucheum, and Jewish quarters were desolate in the 5th century, and the central monuments, the Soma and Museum, fallen to ruin.


The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria, known as “The Pearl of the Mediterranean”, has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern;
its ambience and cultural heritage distance it from the rest of the country although it is actually only 5 km. from Cairo.

The Great Sphinx -6

In fact, the sand has been its savior, since, being built of soft sandstone, it would have disappeared long ago had it not been buried for much of its existence.
Nevertheless, the statue is crumbling today because of the wind, humidity and the smog from Cairo. The rock was of poor quality here from the start, already fissured along joint lines that went back to the formation of the limestone millions of years ago.
There is a particularly large fissure across the haunches, nowadays filled with cement, that also shows up in the walls of the enclosure in which the Sphinx sits.
Below the head, serious natural erosion begins.
The neck is badly weathered, evidently by wind-blown sand during those long periods when only the head was sticking up out of the desert and the wind could catapult the sand along the surface and scour the neck and the extensions of the headdress that are missing altogether now. The stone here is not quite of such good quality as that of the head above.
Erosion below the neck does not look like scouring by wind-blown sand.
In fact, so poor is the rock of the bulk of the body that it must have been deteriorating since the day it was carved out of the stone.
We know that it needed repairs on more than one occasion in antiquity.
It continues to erode before our very eyes, with spalls of limestone falling off the body during the heat of the day.
So, today
much of the work on the Great Sphinx at Giza is not directed at further explorations or excavations, but rather the preservation of this great wonder of Egypt.
This is the focus, and while some might even today have the antiquity authorities digging about the monument looking for hidden chambers holding the secrets of Atlantis, that is not likely to happen any time soon

The Great Sphinx -5

In the more modern era, when Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, the Sphinx was buried once more with sand up to its neck, at by this point,
we believe the nose had been missing for at least 400 years. Between 1816 and 1817, the Genoese merchant, Caviglia tried to clear away the sand, but he only managed to dig a trench down the chest of the statue and along the length of the forepaws.
Auguste Mariette, the founder of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, also attempted to excavate the Sphinx, but gave up in frustration over the enormous amount of sand.
He went on to explore the Khafre Valley Temple, but returned to the Great Sphinx to excavate in 1858. This time, he managed to clear the sand down to the rock floor of the ditch around the Sphinx, discovering in the process several sections of the protective walls around the ditch,
as well as odd masonry boxes along the body of the monument which might have served as small shrines. However, he apparently still did not clear all the sand.
In 1885, Gaston Maspero, then Director of the Antiquities Service,
once again tried to clear the Sphinx, but after exposing the earlier work of Caviglia and Mariette, he also was forced to abandon the project due to logistical problems.
Between 1925 and 1936,
French engineer Emile Baraize excavated the Sphinx on behalf of the Antiquities Service, and apparently for the first time since antiquity, the great beast once again became exposed to the elements.

The Great Sphinx -4

This was, as far as we know, one of the very first of the Egyptian sphinxes, though there is at least one other, attributed to Djedefre, that predates it.
The rules of proportion commonly employed on later and smaller examples may not yet have been formulated at the time of the carving of the Great Sphinx of Giza.
In any case, the carving of sphinxes was always a flexible formula, to an unusual degree in the context of Egyptian artistic conservatism.
Then again, the Sphinx may have been sculpted to look its best when seen from fairly close by and more or less from the front.
There is also the possibility that there was simply insufficient good rock to make the head, where fine detail was required, any bigger.
Also, the fissure at the rear of the Great Sphinx may have dictated a longer body, rather than one much too short.
There remains the possibility that the head has been remodeled at some time and thereby reduced in size, but on stylistic grounds alone this is not likely to have been done after the Old Kingdom times in ancient Egypt.
There are three passages into or under the Sphinx, two of them of obscure origin. The one of known cause is a short dead-end shaft behind the head drilled in the nineteenth century. No other tunnels or chambers in or under the Sphinx are known to exist.
A number of small holes in the Sphinx body may relate to scaffolding at the time of carving.
The figure was buried for most of its life in the sand.
It was King Thutmose IV (1425 - 1417 BC) who placed a stela between the front paws of the figure. On it, Thutmose describes an event, while he was still a prince,
when he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the sphinx.
During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and told him to clear away the sand.
The sphinx told him that if he did this, he would be rewarded with the kingship of Egypt. Thutmose carried out this request and the sphinx held up his end of the bargain. Of course, over time, the great statue, the only single instance of a colossal sculpture carved in the round directly out of the natural rock,
once again found itself buried beneath the sand.

The Great Sphinx -3

There is a hole in the top of the head, now filled in, that once provided support for additional head decoration.
Depictions of the Sphinx from the latter days of ancient Egypt show a crown or plumes on the top of the head, but these were not necessarily part of the original design.
The top of the head is flatter, however, than later Egyptian sphinxes.
The body is 72.55 meters in length and 20.22 meters tall. The face of the sphinx is four meters wide and its eyes are two meters high.
The mouth is about two meters wide, while the nose would have been more than 1.5 meters long.
The ears are well over one meter high. Part of the uraeus (sacred cobra), the nose, the lower ear and the ritual beard are now missing, while the eyes have been pecked out. The beard from the sphinx is on displayed in the British Museum.
Below the neck, the Great Sphinx has the body of a lion, with paws, claws and tail (curled round the right haunch), sitting on the bedrock of the rocky enclosure out of which the monument has been carved. The enclosure has taller walls to the west and south of the monument, in keeping with the present lie of the land.
When viewed close-up, the head and body of the Sphinx look relatively well proportioned, but seen from further away and side-on the head looks small in relation to the long body (itself proportionally much longer than is seen in later sphinxes).
In its undamaged state, the body is likely to have appeared still larger all around in relation to the head, which has not been reduced as much by erosion.
The human head is on a scale of about 30:1, while the lion body is on the smaller scale of 22:1. There could be a number of explanations for this discrepancy.

The Great Sphinx -2

The bedrock body of the Sphinx became a standing section of the deeper limestone layers of the Giza Plateau. The lowest stratum of the Sphinx is the hard, brittle rock of the ancient reef, referred to as Member I.
All of the geological layers slope about three degrees from northwest to southeast, so they are higher at the rump of the Sphinx and lower at the front paws. Hence, the surface of this area has not appreciably weathered compared to the layers above it.
Most of the Sphnix's lion body and the south wall and the upper part of the ditch were carved into the Member II, which consists of seven layers that are soft near the bottom, but become progressively harder near the top.
However, the rock actually alternates between hard and soft. The head and neck of the Great Sphinx are made of Member III, which is better stone, though it becomes harder further up.
The Sphinx faces the rising sun with a temple to the front which resembles the sun temples which were built later by the kings of the 5th Dynasty. The lion was a solar symbol in more than one ancient Near Eastern culture.
The royal human head on a lion's body symbolized power and might, controlled by the intelligence of the pharaoh, guarantor of the cosmic order, or ma'at. Its symbolism survived for two and a half millennia in the iconography of Egyptian civilization.
The head and face of the Sphinx certainly reflect a style that belongs to Egypt's Old Kingdom, and to the 4th Dynasty in particular.
The overall form of his face is broad, almost square, with a broad chin. The headdress (known as the 'nemes' head-cloth), with its fold over the top of the head and its triangular planes behind the ears, the presence of the royal 'uraeus' cobra on the brow, the treatment of the eyes and lips all evidence that the Sphinx was carved during this period.
The sculptures of kings Djedefre, Khafre and Menkaure and other Old Kingdom Pharaohs, all show the same configuration that we see on the Sphinx. Some scholars believe that the Great Sphinx was originally bearded with the sort of formally plaited beard. Pieces of the Sphinx's massive beard found by excavation adorn the British Museum in London and the Cairo Museum.
However, it seems to possibly, if not probably be dated to the New Kingdom, and so was likely added at a later date.
The rounded divine beard is an innovation of the New Kingdom, and according to Rainer Stadelmann, did not exist in the Old or Middle Kingdom. It may have been added to identify the god with Horemahket.

The Great Sphinx -1

In a depression to the south of Khafre's pyramid at Giza near Cairo sits a huge creature with the head of a human and a lion's body. This monumental statue, the first truly colossal royal sculpture in Egypt, known as the Great Sphinx, is a national symbol of Egypt, both ancient and modern.

It has stirred the imagination of poets, scholars, adventurers and tourists for centuries and has also inspired a wealth of speculation about its age, its meaning, and the secrets that it might hold.
The word "sphinx", which means 'strangler', was first given by the Greeks to a fabulous creature which had the head of a woman, the body of a lion and the wings of a bird. In Egypt, there are numerous sphinxes, usually with the head of a king wearing his headdress and the body of a lion. There are, however, sphinxes with ram heads that are associated with the god Amun.
The Great Sphinx is to the northeast of Khafre's (Chephren) Valley Temple. Where it sits was once a quarry. We believe that Khafre's workers shaped the stone into the lion and gave it their king's face over 4,500 years ago. Khafre's name was also mentioned on the Dream Stele, which sits between the paws of the great beast.

However, no one is completely certain that it is in fact the face of Khafre, though indeed that is the preponderance of thought. Recently, however, it has been argued that Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid, may have also had the Great Sphinx built.
The Great Sphinx is believed to be the most immense stone sculpture in the round ever made by man. However, it must be noted that the Sphinx is not an isolated monument and that it must be examined in the context of its surroundings.

Specifically, like many of Egypt's monuments,

it is a complex which consists not only of the great statue itself, but also of its old temple, a New Kingdom temple and some other small structures. It is also closely related to Khafre's Valley Temple, which itself had four colossal sphinx statues each more than 26 feet long.
The material of the Sphinx is the limestone bedrock of what geologists call the Muqqatam Formation, which originated fifty million years ago from sediments deposited at the bottom of sea waters that engulfed northeast Africa during the Middle Eocene period

An embankment formed along what is now the north-northwest side of the plateau. Nummulites, which are small, disk-shaped fossils named after the Latin word for 'coin', pack the embankment.

These were once the shells of now extinct planktonic organisms. There was a shoal and coral reef that grew over the southern slope of the embankment. Carbonate mud deposited in the lagoon petrified into the layers from which the ancient builders, some fifty million years later, carved out the Great Sphinx.
To do so, they trenched out a deep, U-shaped ditch that isolated a huge rectangular bedrock block for carving the Sphinx.
This enclosure is deepest immediately around the body, with a shelf at the rear of the monument where it was left unfinished and a shallower extension to the north where important archaeological finds have been made.
The good, hard limestone that lay around the Sphinx's head was probably all quarried for blocks to build the pyramids.
The limestone removed to shape the body of the beast was evidently employed to build the two temples to the east of the Sphinx, on a terrace lower than the floor of the Sphinx enclosure, one almost directly in front of the paws, the other to the south of the first one.
It is generally thought that quarrying around the original knoll revealed rock that was too poor in quality for construction. Therefore, some visionary individual conceived of the plan to turn what was left of the knoll into the Sphinx.
However, the Sphinx may equally well have been planned from the start for this location, good rock or bad. The walls of the Sphinx enclosure are of the same characteristics as the strata of the Sphinx body and exhibit similar states of erosion.

The Giza

Giza is, of course, the home of Egypt's best known pyramids, including the largest one in Egypt, that of Khufu, the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. This is were the Egyptian pyramids matured.
Giza is actually one of several necropolises that served the ancient city of the White Walls, otherwise known to the Greeks as Memphis.
In addition to the major pyramids, there are also at least six pyramids built for queens, together with even smaller cult pyramids
There are also many tombs, a number of temples, worker villages and the famous Great Sphinx.
This is one of the major tourist attractions for Egypt, and a monumental heritage site for the world.

Egyptian Pyramids

There are no more famous ancient sites within Egypt, or for that matter elsewhere in the world, than the Great Pyramids at Giza. They are, without question, the icon most associated with the Egypt. They have been both the main destination for tourists, and a source of imaginative thought to the world for over three thousand years.
However, there are actually over 100 pyramids in Egypt, many of which are relatively unknown to anyone who is not an ancient Egypt enthusiast. All but a very few are grouped around and near the City of Cairo, just south of the Nile Delta. Otherwise, only one royal pyramid is known in southern Egypt (at Abydos), that being the one built by Ahmose, founder of the 18th Dynasty and Egypt's New Kingdom.
It may have also been the last royal pyramid built in Egypt.
Hence, major pyramids were not built throughout Egypt's ancient history. The Pyramid Age began with a burst of building, starting with the 3rd Dynasty reign of Djoser. Some of the early kings, most specifically Snefru, built more than one pyramid. Almost all of the kings added to their number through the end of the Middle Kingdom, with the possible exception of the First Intermediate Period between the Old and Middle Kingdoms.
After the first Pharaoh of Egypt's New Kingdom, Ahmose, royal pyramid building by Egyptians ceased entirely. Somewhat abruptly the kings of the New Kingdom chose, rather than making their tombs completely obvious, to hide them in the hills of the West Bank of Thebes (modern Luxor).
However, smaller pyramids were constructed, for example in the Deir el-Medina necropolis, by private individuals. The Late Period Nubians who ruled Egypt also built relatively small pyramids with much steeper sides, though these were in fact constructed in Nubia itself.
This tradition was carried on in Nubia after these southern rulers lost control of Egypt, and eventually, more pyramids were actually built in Nubia than Egypt, though on a much smaller scale.
Other pyramids in the world certainly exist, but their purpose, for the most part, was different than those of ancient Egypt.
The most famous outside Egypt are probably those located in Mexico and to the south of Mexico, but these appear to have been built more as temples. In Egypt, all but a select few of the pyramids were built as tombs, sometimes to hold the physical body of a pharaoh (as well as other individuals), or to hold the soul of the deceased (as in the case of the small cult pyramids built next to the larger ones).
Otherwise, the purpose of only a few small, regional stepped pyramids remains elusive.
While pyramids were, for the most part, tombs for the Pharaohs of Egypt, one must nevertheless question the reason that Egyptian rulers chose this particular shape, and for that matter, why they built them so large.
Today, we believe that they chose the shape in order to mimic the Benben, a pyramid shaped stone found in the earliest of temples, which itself is thought to symbolize the primeval mound from which the Egyptians believed life emerged.
This also connected the pyramid to Re, the Sun God, as it was he, according to some of the ancient Egypt mythology, who rose from the primeval mound to create life.
As far the great size of many of the pyramids in Egypt, we can really only surmise that the Pharaohs were making a statement about their own power and perhaps, about the glory and strength of their country.
However, it should also be remembered that many of the latter pyramids were not nearly as large as the Great Pyramids at Giza (and elsewhere).
Pyramids evolved. The first of them was not a perfectly formed pyramid. In fact, the first Pyramid we believe that was built in Egypt, that of Djoser, was not a true pyramid at all with smooth sides and a point at the top. Rather, its sides were stepped, and the top of the pyramid truncated with a flat surface (as best we know).
As the Egyptian pyramids evolved, there were failures as well glorious failures until finally, they got it right with what was probably the first smooth sided true pyramid built at Meidum. In fact, pyramids continued to evolve throughout their history, perhaps not always in outward appearances, but in the way that they were built and in the theology surrounding their construction. For example, towards the latter part of Egypt's Pyramid Age, Osirian beliefs seem to have had more and more impact on the arrangement and layout of the subterranean chambers.
However, soon after the first pyramids were built, their form became somewhat standardized. Royal pyramid complexes included the main pyramid, a courtyard surrounding the main pyramid, a much smaller cult pyramid for the king's soul, a mortuary temple situated next to the main pyramid, an enclosure wall and a causeway that led down to a valley temple. Some pyramid complexes included subsidiary, smaller pyramids for family members, and most were surrounded by some sort of tombs for family members.
Our thinking on pyramids has evolved considerably over the years. Many of us who are a bit older were taught that the pyramids were built using Jewish slave labor, which is a fabrication of immense proportions. Most of the pyramids were built long before the Jews made their appearance historically and currently, many if not most scholars believe they were not built using slave labor at all (or perhaps a nominal number of slaves).
we can also dismiss offhand alternative theories related to aliens or some lost culture being responsible for pyramid building. There is just far too much evidence, including tools, drawings, evolutionary changes, and even worker villages that rule these farfetched ideas obsolete.
However, some mysteries remain, even in some of the best well known Pyramids.
The most famous of them all, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, continues, year after year, to give up a few more secrets, and there doubtless remains much to learn from these Egyptian treasures. There may even be one or more pyramids yet to be discovered.

Ancient Egypt

For many, the scope of Egypt's history is difficult to comprehend. Its history covers some five thousand years, and encompasses the origin of civilization, the rise of the Greeks and Romans, the establishment of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions, the colonial era when first France and then the English ruled the country, and finally, a return to independence.
Egypt has played an important role through all of these eras, and today one can find monuments that evidence Egypt's role in most of the world's historic events, from the beginning of mankind until the present. More and more,
we are not only learning about the history of mankind in Egypt, but also about his prehistory, the way that he migrated and finally began to organize communities that eventually lead to a civilized world.
In Egypt, we find the earliest detailed records of warfare recorded thousands of years ago, but we also find the cemeteries and monuments of the world's last global war, World War II. In Egypt, we find some of the first written words of civilization, but we also find great thinkers and writers through the Greek period, into the Christian era, the archaic Islamic period and even modern Nobel Literates.
In Egypt, we find ancient pyramids and giant columns supporting massive temples, but we can now find these architectural elements spread throughout the world. Here, along with the first monumental buildings made of stone, we also find the first paved roads, the first wines and beer and even the first peace treaties between organized governments.
However, we also find the world's first scientists, doctors, architects and mathematicians.
Egypt is our window to humanity's distant past and in understanding its history, we find both mankind's greatest glories and achievements, as well as his often repeated mistakes.
We may follow along with the building of empires, only to see them collapse again and again. We find great men and rulers of renowned, but we often also see their ultimate demise.
And here, we learn about religion, its evolution and, as the world grows older, its replacement with newer religions.
Yet, the ancient Egyptian religion has never really completely died out. Even today, many Egyptians continue customs, including some aspects of religion, held over from thousands of years ago. In fact, throughout the world, aspects of the ancient Egyptian religion, particularly funerary, continue to effect our modern lives.
We hope you enjoy our efforts to bring Egyptian history and its monuments to your fingertips. Here one will find just about every aspect of ancient Egypt, from culture to people, from monuments to knowledge.
Take the time to understand ancient Egyptian history, and we feel certain you will find, within this knowledge, a better understanding of this modern world in which we live.

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Military Technology

Throughout ancient Egyptian history its military underwent many significant changes. During the Old Kingdom, a standing army was not kept but if there was a conflict, an army would be called and organized, composed of older, untrained men. During the First Intermediate Period, the core of the army consisted of house troops. This core was made up of conscripts (men who were drafted into the army) and was supplemented by troops of an allied kingdom.
Mercenaries from Nubia with their bows and arrows were also used. The same type of army was used during the Middle Kingdom. During the Second Intermediate Period, the core of the army was made up of house troops, who were the personal troops of the king, .supplemented by conscripts. During the Late Period, the army was basically a Greek mercenary unit.
The most important thing that changed throughout Egypt's history was the technology of the military. During the Pre-dynastic Period, the army used weapons such as spears, cudgels, clubs, throwing sticks, daggers, bows, maces, and shields. During the Old Kingdom, the quiver was used and the battle-axe with a semi-circular head was invented. During the Middle Kingdom, the scalloped axe-head battle-axe was invented. During the Second Intermediate Period the chariots, composite bow, and narrow axe-headed battle-axe were invented. Most importantly, during the New Kingdom, the scimitar or sickle sword and body armor was invented.
The ancient Egyptian army was organized differently throughout time. From the Old Kingdom through the New Kingdom, the main fighting units of the Egyptian army were organized into battalions. During the New Kingdom, they were organized into divisions named after principal gods. The Egyptian infantry was divided into regiments, very similar to the Greeks; and these were formed and distinguished according to the army they bore. They consisted of bowmen, spearmen, swordsmen, clubmen, slingers, and other corps, disciplined according to the rules of regular tactics. The regiment was divided into battalions and companies, each officer had his particular rank and command.
When you consider all of ancient Egypt's great military, the most notable among the Pharaohs were Ramesses, Pepi, Thutmose, and Ahmose. The most notable soldiers were the composite bowmen, remembered even by the Romans. The composite bow was introduced by the Hyksos who came from Asia with the technology. The bow, nearly twice as strong as a regular bow, was invented by the Semites. It was of a long, slender strip of bullhorn, with a wood beam on either sides of the horn. This made a very springy yet sturdy bow. The horn and wood was covered with a strip of bark so the archer could have a firm grip on the weapon. Composite bowmen usually wore light clothes and little if any armor in order to give them greater flexibility. The Pharaoh had a war helmet that was made of leather with small metal rings. It bulged out in the front and there was a backside to protect the Pharaoh from a sweeping attack of a sword.
The Egyptian chariot charged the enemy in an orderly line. After the initial volley of enemy arrows, the enemy line disbanded. Given the broken line, the chariots dispensed over the battlefield, crushing the fugitives beneath their wheels and trampling them under their horse's feet. Another piece of military equipment that had a great impact was introduced by Thutmose III. It was wagons drawn by oxen to transport boats for the crossing of the Euphrates, and afterwards oxcarts formed part of the equipment of the Egyptian army.
Throughout Egyptian history, the battleship remained unchanged. They were built of bundles of reeds lashed together to form a narrow, sharp-ended hull and coated with pitch. These ships were fitted with a bipod mast and a single, large square sail. The ships had more than twenty oars on each side with two or more steering oars. Features were added to war galleys to make them more efficient for battle. Elevated decks were added for archers and spearmen. Planks were fitted to the gunwales to protect the rowers. Some galleys also had a projecting ram positioned well above the water line, which may have been designed to crash through the gunwale of an enemy or to ride upon deck.
The Egyptians had involuntarily become a war machine from the New Kingdom all the way through the Late Period. Ancient Egypt became a well trained, respected military force. They conquered many people and at one time their empire stretched all the way to the Euphrates River.