Aug 9, 2009
The land of the pharaoh
Egypt, the mysterious land where it seems that anything is possible. The land of the pyramids, mummies and over 3000 year worth of history. Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization in eastern North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern nation of Egypt. The civilization began around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh, and it developed over the next three millennia. Its history occurred in a series of stable periods, known as kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods. After the end of the last kingdom, known as the New Kingdom, the civilization of ancient Egypt entered a period of slow, steady decline, during which Egypt was conquered by a succession of foreign powers. The rule of the pharaohs officially ended in 31 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered Egypt and made it a province.
The kingdoms of Egipt are the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms:
The Old Kingdom
The Old Kingdom was the first kingdom in Ancient Egypt. Up until the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh wore a crown that represented his rule over the two parts of Egypt. This crown was made up of the Red crown of Lower Egypt and the White crown of Upper Egypt. The pharaoh wore this crown up until 2650 B.C. This was when the Old Kingdom began. This kingdom lasted until 2450 B.C. The kings of Egypt’s first dynasties were extremely powerful. During this time, Ancient Egyptians believed that the pharaohs or kings were the only ones who could speak to the gods and make make peace and stability throughout Egypt.
The greatest legacy from the Old Kingdom rulers are the pyramids. The pyramids were built in a part of Egypt called Giza. King Djozer had built the first step pyramid. Later in the Old Kingdom, the Great pyramids were built in 2550 B.C. The three Great pyramids are the pyramids of Khufu, Menkaura, and Khaefra. The pyramid of Khufu was the biggest pyramid, it was 481 feet tall. These Great pyramids were built from limestone, with granite burial chambers and fine limestone outer castings. Nobody today is exactly sure how the Great pyramids were built. All we know is that more than two million blocks were used for a Great pyramid alone, each block weighing about two and a half tons. Those are the three Great pyramids.
The pharaohs or kings of Ancient Egypt in the Old Kingdom also needed a city good enough to control the primary part of Egypt. They chose a place that they named Memphis. Memphis was built on the River Nile, close to the point where Upper and Lower Egypt meet. That is the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.
The Middle Kingdom
The Middle Kingdom was a time in Ancient Egypt that was after the Old Kingdom. This kingdom was from 2040 to 1750 B. C. A different life began for Ancient Egyptians when traditional and central government under a single king fell apart. When order finally began again by the pharaohs and kings of the Middle Kingdom, Ancient Egyptian society began to turn around. These kings and pharaohs came from Thebes and they brought their local god with them when they began to gain power. Their local god was Amun, who worshipped throughout Egypt as king of the gods. Even though the kings were still believed as godlike, ordinary people had begun to become fond of more privileges and wealthy people started to create expensive tombs. They created tombs because they believed that it was very important that the mummified body must be undisturbed to attain safe passageway to the afterlife. Tomb builders also made many things to avoid tomb robbers, such as false doors and secret passage ways. Unfortuantly, many tombs have been evacuated by robbers.
Besides tombs, people in the Middle Kingdom believed that writing contained great power. From the time of the pharaouh Unas throughout the Old and Middle Kingdoms, the walls of the royal burial chambers were covered in heiroglyphics. These pyramid texts were spells to be used by the dead king to help him travel to the afterlife. That is the Middle Kingdom in Ancient Egypt.
The New Kingdom
The New Kingdom was from 1550 to 1070 B.C. The New Kingdom was a time after the Middle Kingdom. During this kingdom, Ancient Egypt was ruled by foreigners. These foreigners were called the Hyksas kings. They had introduced the horse, the chariot, and new bronze weapons. These weapons were very useful to the warrior- kings, who dominated the New Kingdom. The Hyksas kings were determined to make Ancient Egypt as powerful as possible, and waged war against their neighbors creating the most powerful empire of the ancient world.
When pharaoh Thutmosis II died, his wife, Hatshepsut, acted as a regent for her nephew Thutmosis III. A regent is a person that rules as pharaoh for another person who isn’t old enough to rule yet. When Thutmosis III became old enough to rule, Hatshepsut refused to give up the throne. Because she refused and she had done many great things for Egypt, she had ruled until she died. Once she died, Thutmosis III destroyed all the statues and monuments of her in Egypt.
The tombs of the New Kingdom pharaohs, lie across the Nile from Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings. Over time, most of these tombs have been robbed and destroyed. An English man named Howard Carter was fascinated in Ancient Egypt, and he was convinced that the tomb of Tutankhamen had escaped discovery and a robbery. Carter had searched for this tomb for 6 years, and finally in 1922 he found steps leading to a tomb entrance. In the heart of the tomb, he found Tutankhamen laying in his coffin, undisturbed. Those are the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt.
About the Pharaoh:
The ancient Egyptian Pharaoh was believed to have received his authority from the gods. He was not only the political leader of ancient Egypt but he was the religious leader as well. The Pharaoh, being a king-priest, helped keep a balance to what the ancient Egyptians referred to as Maat. According to the ancient Egyptians, Maat would be in tact so long as the Pharaoh and the people kept up with their religious ceremonies, and also obeyed the laws set for them (Kristensen, 2002).
‘Lord of the two lands’
The Pharaoh’s responsibilities as the political ruler of Egypt can be compared to almost any monarch around this time. The Pharaoh’s duties ranged from commanding the army, to settling legal disputes. The Pharaoh, Menes, is credited with uniting Upper and Lower Egypt into one nation, therefore the Pharaoh is known as ‘Lord of the two lands
‘High Priest of every Temple’
The Pharaoh was the religious leader of Egypt, therefore he was known as ‘The High Priest of every temple.’ As the religious leader of Egypt, it was the Pharaoh’s responsibility to lead sacred rituals. Also, the Pharaoh decided on the religion for his people. Egypt was a generally polytheistic society, until the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. Akhenaten imposed a monotheistic religion on the people of Egypt, when he tried to make them worship the god Amen. After Akhenaten died the Egyptian society went back to their polytheistic religion and tried to wipe of every trace of Akhenaten.
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