10 Questions about Ancient Egypt

10 Questions about Ancient Egypt

 

10 Questions about Ancient Egypt

tutankhamun
Tutankhamun Mask by OpenClipartVectors, PD image.

Where is ancient Egypt located?

Egypt_Itinerary_Map
Image credit: gregw66, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ancient Egypt was one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. It is a country in North Africa. A civilization that thrived along the lower reaches of the River Nile, which is ‘modern Egypt’ today.




When was ancient Egypt Founded?

King_Menes
1st Dynastic King of Egypt, Narmer. PD image.

Egypt’s history starts from c. 8,000 BCE. Since most of the land, even then, was arid and hostile, the earliest settlers of Egypt sought the cool waters of the Nile and settled along the river (sometime prior to 5500 BCE.). However, Egypt was not one single country then. The two lands, Upper and Egypt, were first united as one nation, ‘Egypt’, at around 3150 BC under the rule of the first pharaoh of Egypt – King Menes (also known as Narmer).


How old is ancient Egypt?

Name_of_Alexander_the_Great_in_Hieroglyphs_circa_330_BCE
Name of Alexander the Great in Egyptian hieroglyphs (written from right to left), c. 330 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum. Image credit: PHGCOM, cc3.0

Ancient Egypt was a civilization that prospered for thousands of years. From the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt as a single nation in 3150 BC to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Egypt was the leading civilization in the Mediterranean.


What did they eat in ancient Egypt & what was the food like?

Ramses_III_bakery_ancient_egypt_food
The court bakery of Ramesses III. “Various forms of bread, including loaves shaped like animals, are shown. From the tomb of Ramesses III in the Valley of the Kings, Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt.” Scanned from The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Egypt ISBN 0-19-510234-7, PD image.

For both the rich and the poor citizens of Ancient Egypt, the staple food was bread and beer. In addition to the bread and beer, they also ate vegetables and fruits. Dates were the most common fruits they found, and other than that, they ate figs, grapes, palm nuts etc. Domestic animals, game and poultry were used for meat. Various spices were used to as flavorings and also for many other reasons. Sugar was unknown in Egypt so honey was used as a sweetener and since it stays fresh, nearly, forever it was jarred and put into tombs. Three thousand years later, the honey is still edible (provided the jars were not broken).

For the bread making, emmer wheat was used almost exclusively. Emmer wheat was harder to turn to flour than other types of wheat. Barley was also used for bread making. Quern stones (a primitive grinding mill used for grinding by hand), was used to grind the wheat into flour. The grit from the stones mixed in with the bread and was the cause of many dental problems in that time; it wore out the tooth enamel. To flavor the bread, ancient Egyptians used flavoring ingredients such as coriander seeds, dates etc.

Water from the river or irrigation ditches and canals contained a lot of water snails and other impurities that spread diseases. For this reason, the Egyptians people did not usually drink water from those sources and as an alternative, they usually obtained drinking water from form wells in their houses or villages. Beer was a much safer option, even if it was made from river water. This is because, the process of beer making involves boiling the water and malt mixture and this kills the bacteria and parasites in it. Then the ethanol (alcohol) in it prevents the impurities from growing back. Beer was a crucial item in the Egyptians life; it was even used as currency. Beer was a great source of proteins, minerals and vitamins. It was so important that beer jars were often used to measure values and beer was also used in medicine.

Fresh milk would go sour within a few hours due to Egypt’s hot weather. Therefore, the left over milk that was not going to be drunk within a few hours were made into butter, cheese or a yogurt-like drink.

In years that produced good harvest, the surplus grain was stored in granaries (large mud-brick containers). When years of poor harvest came, the stored grain was then used to prevent the people from starving. Rats and mice would eat the grain in the granaries, therefore Egyptians kept cats to control them.


Family life in ancient Egypt – what was it like?

Akhenaten,_Nefertiti_and_their_children
Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children. Image credit: Gerbil. GFDL.

For the people of ancient Egypt family life was very valuable. An Egyptian wife and mother were greatly respected in their society. When parents died, the sons in the family inherited the land while the daughters were given household items such as jewelry and furniture. Nevertheless, if there were no sons in the family then the daughter could get the land. In ancient Egyptian society, respect for one’s parents was the basis of morality. The eldest son (or sometimes the daughter) had to care for the parents in their last days and ensure that they are given a proper funeral; this was the most essential duty of the eldest son.

Children were a treasure to the Egyptians and were considered a blessing. In lower class families the children were raised by the mother, but with the wealthy and nobility there were slaves and servants to care for them. A couple would pray and seek the help of gods if they did not have any children. In addition, they would place letters in the tombs of their relatives requesting them to use their influence with the gods to help them. They would try to have children through magic as well. Adopting a child was also an option for childless people.

Peasant girls married at around the age of 12 and the boys when they were a few years older. Females in wealthy families did not marry as young as 12. Divorce was also an option for the Egyptians. Egyptians had a tendency for brother-sister marriages, in both wealthy and poor families. The reason for this was unsure, however it was probably done to keep the property in the family or for inheritance. When Egypt converted to a Christian nation this practice stopped. Later on when Egypt converted to an Islam nation, still this practice was not allowed. Islam did not allow marriages between brothers and sisters.


The fall of ancient Egypt – how did it happen?

Siege_of_Gaza_painting_-_David_Roberts
Siege of Gaza. Part of Wars of Alexander the Great. Painting of Gaza by David Roberts. PD image.

Egypt’s first pharaoh was king Narmer and the last was Cleopatra VII. After Cleopatra’s demise, Egypt was taken over by the Romans. Egypt was a powerful ancient superpower. Despite its strength, compared to most other conquerors that shook the world, Egypt was more benign. They were wiser in their land governing. Cities that were seized were considered the pharaoh’s property and so Egyptians troops did not sack or burn them down. When the other countries of the world started to build weapons out of iron, Egypt could not compete with them.

There is no exact cause for the end of this great civilization. Throughout its history, Egypt recovered from several falls in its rule i.e. the period known as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Intermediate Periods. Through all those falls, Egypt managed to recover, but after the third and last intermediate period, no pharaoh rose to recover Egypt from its plight. Then the foreign ruler period began and over the centuries, many foreign nations invaded Egypt.


Why were the pyramids built?

Giza-pyramids
The Giza-pyramids and Giza Necropolis, Egypt, seen from above. Photo taken on 12 December 2008. CC-ZERO

The pyramids were built as tombs for the Egyptian pharaohs. The most famous and largest pyramid remaining is the Great Pyramid of Giza, built for the pharaoh Khufu.


Why did the ancient Egyptians mummify things?

Anubis_Sarcophagus_wood_Egypt
Anubis, supervisor of the mummification process. Image credit: andrevanb, cc2.0

The preserved dead body of person or animal is called a mummy. Egyptians strongly believed in life after death; they believed that death was only a temporary pause to life, and it continued after death. Therefore they preserved the bodies of the dead, so that it can be used in the afterlife.


Who were the pharaohs?

Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut, Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, c. 1473-1458 B.C. by Postdlf, GFDL.

The king or queen of Egypt was called the pharaoh. Pharaohs were mostly male, but there were famous female pharaohs as well like Hatshepsut, Cleopatra VII etc. The pharaoh was the most important and powerful figure in ancient Egyptian society and was considered half-god, half-human. The first pharaoh of Egypt was Narmer, also known as Narmer. And the last pharaoh was Cleopatra VII.




Whom did the Egyptians worship?

Aten_disk
Pharaoh Akhenaten (center) and his family worshiping the Aten, with characteristic rays seen emanating from the solar disk. PD image.

Ancient Egyptians worshipped and believed in multiple gods. Their gods were both in animal and human form. Their religious system was very complex, with some gods appearing in many manifestations and some having many mythological roles. When Pharaoh Akhenaton came into rule, he abolished the worship of multiple gods in favor of Aten the Sun God. However, after his death, the old cult of polytheism was replaced.

To learn more about the Ancient Egyptians, visit:


Ancient Egypt Complete History from 8000 BC to 30 BC Documentary

27 COMMENTS

Leave a Reply