Sunday, September 7, 2008

Arts and Crafts

Egypt was a rich country, and many persons were engaged in creating luxuries for the wealthy. Goldsmiths and lapidaries produced beautiful jewelry. Sculptors carved stone and ivory into exquisite figurines and vessels. Apothecaries made ointments, lotions, and perfumes, and craftsmen shaped delicate alabaster vials to contain them.

Dynasties I and II

About 3100 B.C. a king of Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and united the Two Lands. According to tradition, the king was Menes, but a carved inscription names Narmer as the conqueror.
Rulers had several names, however, and Menes and Narmer may have been the same person.
The conqueror is reckoned as the founder of Dynasty I. Memphis was founded as the capital of the united country.
The king came to be called the pharaoh. He was considered an incarnation of the god Horus. Theoretically, he owned all the land and had complete power over all affairs, both civil and religious.

Formation of the Kingdom

Ancient man lived first by hunting and gathering wild foods. In the Nile Valley he learned very early to grow grain crops and to raise livestock.
The Nile River overflowed its banks for about half of each year, leaving a deposit of fertile silt. There was little or no rain.
To first drain the fields and to then irrigate them required men working together, and so the early Egyptians became organized into communities. Ancient Egyptian, the common language, was an Afro-Asiatic tongue related to the present-day Berber, Cushitic, and Coptic tongues. Racially, the Egyptians were a Mediterranaen subgroup of the Caucasoid race.
They have traditionally been called Hamites, but the term is no longer used by most scholars.
The country divided naturally into two parts.
The south, from which the Nile flowed, was called Upper Egypt (because it was upriver). The north, consisting of the Delta, through which the Nile emptied into the Mediterranean, was Lower Egypt. Together, the sections were known as the Two Lands.
There was easy contact between them, because boats were carried northward on the Nile by the current and were propelled southward by the prevailing north wind. Sails were invented by the Egyptians about 4000 B.C.
There was also some contact with neighboring countries.
Egyptians sailed to the Lebanon coast for cedar oil, resins, and timber. They obtained copper from the Sinai Peninsula. With copper for tools, the Egyptians learned to carve stone and soon were producing handsome stone vases as well as fine sculptures.
For trade goods the Egyptians had many products---salt from the shallow waters of the Delta; beads of glass, which they discovered how to make about 4000 B.C.; papyrus stalks for rope, baskets, and a writing material called papyrus; linen woven from the native flax; jewelry made of the gold and gemstones found in the Eastern Desert.
The Egyptians, however, often obtained their imports by sending military expeditions to take what was wanted rather than by trading.
Monarchy developed as the system of government in each of the Two Lands, and a struggle for supremacy began. Apparently Lower Egypt gained control briefly about 3400 B.C.
Around that time a new people started to appear among the Egyptians, bringing with them art forms and objects of Mesopotamian origin, and introducing Semitic words into the language. Some of the newcomers became members of the ruling class.

Introduction to Ancient Egypt part 2

Scholarly interest in ancient Egypt dates from Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of 1798. The French conquerors were astonished and awed by the pyramids, the Sphinx, and other relics of the distant past. Study of the ancient ruins and artifacts began at once, inaugurating the field of research known as Egyptology.
The Rosetta Stone, carrying the same inscription in two forms of Egyptian writing and in Greek, supplied the key to Egypt's written history.
Excavation of tombs and temples produced paintings, sculptures, inscriptions, and artifacts that gave a detailed picture of life in ancient Egypt.
Among archeologists known for their work in Egypt are Sir Flinders Petrie, who excavated very early sites and established a chronology, and Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb of Pharaoh (King) Tutankhamen. An outstanding American Egyptologist was James Breasted, who founded the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Most of Egypt's ancient history is expressed in terms of numbered dynasties (ruling houses). The three periods of greatest development are called the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom

Introduction to Ancient Egypt part1

More than 3,000 years before the Christian Era, a highly developed civilization existed in Egypt.
The country at that time consisted of little more than the valley and delta of the Nile River.
It was one of the great powers of the ancient Middle East, retaining its dominant position for more than 2,000 years---many times longer than did other strong kingdoms that rose in that part of the world.
When Egyptian antiquities, preserved by the dry climate and isolation of their desert locations, first became known to outsiders in modern times, it was believed that the world's earliest civilization had evolved in Egypt.
As scholars learned more of ancient history, they found that some important early developments apparently had originated in neighboring lands, such as Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Palestine.
However, Egyptian achievements in many fields of activity stand as milestones in the history of civilization.