General Introduction to Ancient Egypt

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1 Name Date Period General Introduction to Ancient Egypt The Geography of the Nile The Nile flows north from East Africa to the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way there are rough, rocky areas called cataracts. Near the Mediterranean, the river turns into a fertile delta. Egypt s natural boundaries mountains, deserts, and the Mediterranean Sea protected ancient Egypt from invaders. Away from the Nile, the land of Egypt is dry desert. So the live of the Egyptians depended on the Nile River. Here are some of the gifts that the Nile gave the ancient Egyptians: Seasonal floods watered the farmers fields. Farmers also built dams and irrigation systems to take advantage of the floods. The Nile left behind thick, black mud when it flooded. This dark mud made the soil very fertile, and helped to create a surplus of grains. Egyptians ate fish from the Nile and ducks, geese, and other birds that lived in the nearby marshes. The Egyptians used papyrus reeds that grew along the Nile s banks to make baskets, boats, sandals, and paper. Explain how water, mud, plants, and animals were all gifts of the Nile to the ancient Egyptians. The Union of Two Lands Ancient Egypt had two main parts. Upper Egypt was the southern part. Lower Egypt was the northern part. Each part had a king. Legend says that King Menes of Upper Egypt defeated the king of Lower Egypt in about 3100 B.C.E. King Menes started the first Egyptian dynasty. The history of ancient Egypt is divided into three periods: The Old Kingdom (2686 B.C.E B.C.E.) The Middle Kingdom (2055 B.C.E B.C.E.) The New Kingdom (1570 B.C.E B.C.E.)

2 Before the beginning of the Old Kingdom, the ancient Egyptians slow began to create and develop there own unique culture. During this time, the ancient Egyptians developed complex irrigation systems, formed a system of government, developed a system of writing called hieroglyphics, and created a religion that was highly based on a belief in the afterlife. During the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians built the pyramids. During the Middle Kingdom, they created great literature, art, and architecture. During the New Kingdom, they built an empire. What were some important accomplishments of the Egyptians during each of their time periods? The Egyptian Religion The Egyptian religion was based on a belief in an afterlife. To prepare for the afterlife, the Egyptians royalty build pyramids, or huge tombs. Before a body was placed in a pyramid, it was embalmed. Embalming protected the body from decay and changed the body into a mummy. Many everyday objects went into the tomb along with the body. Such objects included food and drink, jewelry, games, and sometimes even an embalmed pet. The walls of the tomb were decorated with scenes from the life of the person who had died. A priest would ask the gods to guide the person to the next world. The priest might say hymns, prayers, or read from the Book of the Dead. Egyptians believed in many gods. Some like Osiris, were linked with death and the afterlife. Some, like Ra and Amon, were creators and rulers of the world. There were gods of music and dancing, love and beauty, healing and learning, and family. Each Egyptian village had its own special god. Ordinary Egyptian homes included shrines to the family s favorite gods. What religious beliefs account for the pyramids and mummies of ancient Egypt?

3 A Writing System Ancient Egyptians invented a kind of picture writing called hieroglyphics. Like the cuneiform writing of Mesopotamia, it was very complex and hard for historians to figure out. The key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphics was a stone slave found near the Egyptian village of Rosetta in The stone had writing in hieroglyphics and in two other languages. Scholars decoded the hieroglyphics by comparing them to the other languages. Historians could then read the many writings the ancient Egyptians had left behind. Compare and contrast the writing systems of the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians. A Social Pyramid The social system of ancient Egypt was like a pyramid. At the top was the king, who owned all the land and had complete control over the people. Priests and government officials also belonged to the upper levels of society. Artisans and skilled workers made up the next level of society. They included carpenters, painters, jewelers, brick makers, and stonemasons. Farmers formed the next level of the Egyptian social pyramid. By raising food, farmers supported all the other levels of Egyptian society. When they were not working in the fields, farmers worked on irrigation systems, pyramids, and temples. At the bottom of the social pyramid were the slaves who were often prisoners of war or individuals were had sold themselves into slavery because of debts. What were the occupations of the people at the top, middle, and bottom of the Egyptian social pyramid? New Kingdom Rulers During the New Kingdom, Egyptians began to call their rulers pharaohs as a sign of respect. Pharaoh meant great house. Two great pharaohs of the New Kingdom were Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. Hatshepsut was the half-sister of Thutmose II. When Thutmose II died, his son was too young to rule. Hatshepsut took over the government in his place, and she continued to rule for 20 years. Hatshepsut was an intelligent and skillful ruler. She sent out trade expeditions that returned with gold, ivory, rare woods, and other valuable items. She also built a great temple and put up obelisks. When Hatshepsut died, her nephew, Thutmose III, became pharaoh. Thutmose III was a successful military leader. He extended the empire from Nubia to the Euphrates River. His victories brought great wealth

4 to Egypt. Under Thutmose III, Egypt became one of the Mediterranean s most powerful kingdoms. Later rulers continued to enlarge his empire. Compare and contrast the two strong rulers Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. Achievements of the Egyptians The ancient Egyptians were skilled architects, sculptors, and engineers. But they excelled in other areas, too. For example, they created an accurate lunar calendar. The Babylonians had also invented a calendar based on the moon s cycles, but the Egyptian calendar was more accurate. The Egyptians had noticed the cycles of the moon. But they also noticed Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Sirius disappeared for several months every year. It always reappeared just when flood season began. By basing their calendar on both the moon and the star Sirius, the Egyptians could measure time in a way that almost exactly matched the seasons. The world s oldest scientific document was written in Egypt in the early 1500s B.C.E. The document seems to be a handbook for surgeons. It describes common injuries and illnesses, their symptoms, and their treatment. The writer s attention to detail and the accuracy of his observations were remarkable for that time. Ancient Egypt is also known for its art. Egyptian artists trained for many years. Their tomb paintings are among the finest achievements of ancient Egypt. What were some important achievements of the Egyptians during the New Kingdom period? Important Vocabulary 1.) Cataract: 2.) Delta: 3.) Papyrus: 4.) Dynasty: 5.) Afterlife:

5 6.) Embalm: 7.) Mummy: 8.) Hieroglyphics: 9.) Pharaoh: 10.) Obelisk:

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