3: Egypt


Mesopotamia & Ancient Egypt
A larger map of the Near East is here

  • To outline how early civilizations of the ancient Middle East laid the basis for Western culture.
  • To examine the artistic and intellectual contributions of early, major civilizations of the ancient Middle East.
  • Know the works of the Sphinx, and The Book of the Dead.
  • Know the contributions of Imhotep and Tutankhamen.

I. Historical Context

Key Terms

Howard Carter

  • A. What made Ancient Egypt so powerful and memorable?
    • Unified
    • Consistent
    • Resistant to change
    • Affected surrounding cultures
  • B. Overview of Ancient Egypt
    • Cities located on the Nile
    • Luxor, modern day site of ancient capital, Thebes
    • 31 dynasties divided into 4 main groups
    • The Old Kingdom c. 2700 BCE
    • The Middle Kingdom c. 1990 BCE
    • The New Kingdom c. 1570 BCE
    • The Late Period 1185 BCE - 500 BCE

The Pyramids (6 min)

II. Politics

  • A. Role of Pharaoh
    • Pharaoh has absolute power over central government, said to be a living god
    • Head of military, diplomacy, religion
  • B. Chefren - Old Kingdom
    • Pyramid of Giza
    • Sphinx
  • C. Akhenaton - New Kingdom
    • Institutes monotheism, worshipping Aton, the sun god
    • Married to Nefertiti
  • D. Tutenkhamen - New Kingdom
    • The boy Pharaoh
    • Dies mysteriously
  • E. Ramses II - New Kingdom
    • Leads Egypt for over 60 years
    • Used propaganda to improve reputation and is considered the greatest of all Pharaohs
    • Massive construction campaigns with art and written works

The Egyptian Gods (9 min)

Egyptian Hieroglyphics (4 min)

The Rosetta Stone (2 min)

III. Religion

  • Priests - monitor the people, preserve religious beliefs
  • Preoccupation with immortality
  • Multiple gods/deities - Osiris, Isis
  • Pharaoh is a living god and has absolute power over the kingdom
  • To reinforce religion, art is used in places of worship

IV. Historical Events

  • Conflict with surrounding nations
  • Discovery of gold in the Nubian desert to the south

V. Key Texts

  • A. Importance of Writing
    • Frequent records
    • Personal letters, diplomatic communications, legal documents, tax records
    • Tutankhamen had writing equipment in his tomb
  • B. Rosetta Stone
    • Rediscovered in 1801
    • Legal decree written in three languages
    • Allowed translation of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Demotic script

VI. Art and Contributions

Pyramid at Giza and the Sphinx

The Nubians (4 min)

  • A. The Old and Middle Kingdoms
    • Purpose of sculpture is to produce statues and temples in honor of gods
    • First architect known to history - Imhotep
    • Pyramids - monuments for pharaohs
    • Mummification - the process of creating mummies to preserve the body so that the soul can survive forever
    • The Sphinx - guardian for Pharaoh Chefren’s tomb
    • Sculptures of Pharaohs - reinforce divinity, Chefren
  • B. The New Kingdom
    • Akhenaton - Pharaoh who decided there is only one god
    • More realistic sculptures and paintings - Queen Nefertiti
    • Tomb of Tutankhamen discovered by Howard Carter 1922
    • Temple of Ramses II

VII. Historical Context

  • Invaded by the Nubians 750-720 BCE
  • Nubians kept Egyptian culture alive and did not destroy monuments