Ancient Civilisations: Egypt

History

Egypt is part of the great Sahara Desert. However, unlike in the Sahara the land in Egypt is quite fertile because of the Nile River. The Nile River basin was home to many different types of animals, as opposed to the Sahara, which few animals inhabited. Ancient Egyptians built most of their towns and grew crops like barley, emmer wheat, beans, chickpeas, flax and other types of vegetables. They were also able to raise different farm animals like chickens and cattle. 

In addition, the Nile supplied the Ancient Egyptians with a year-round supply of fish to eat. Egyptians did not use their grain crops only for food. They also made different types of oil, which were used in Egyptian society as a form of money!

THE HISTORY
The civilisation of Ancient Egypt flourished for more than 3,000 years. It survived years of war and political struggle. Ancient Egyptian history is organised according to the kingdom or dynasty that was in control of Ancient Egypt at the time.

Era: Archaic Kingdom

Dates: 2,950-2,636 BC
Significant Events: Unification of all Egypt

 

 

 

Era: Old Kingdom
Dates: 2,636-2,031 BC
Significant Events: Construction of the pyramids begins

 

Era: First Intermediate Kingdom
Dates: 2,031-1,941 BC
Significant Events: Political chaos

Era: Middle Kingdom
Dates: 1,941-1,736 BC
Significant Events: Political stability

Era: Second Intermediate Kingdom
Dates: 1,736-1,517 BC
Significant Events: Invasion of ancient Egypt by the Hyksos

Era: New Kingdom
Dates: 1,571-1,055 BC
Significant Events: Creation of the Egyptian Empire 

 


HOMES
There was very little wood in Egypt, so the Egyptians built their homes from bricks of sun-dried mud. These were called 'adobe homes'. The houses would have several rooms and windows covered with curtains to keep out flies and dust. During the summers, many people slept on their roofs to keep cool. Egyptians had very little furniture - usually only small stools and jewellery boxes.


FOOD
The Ancient Egyptians relied on the Nile River for drinking water, fish and water to grow crops. They used clay ovens to bake bread, which was the most common food. They made the bread out of wheat and used honey, fruit and herbs to flavour it. Wealthy families ate on plates of bronze, silver and gold. Common families used dishes made of clay.

 


 

ENTERTAINMENT
The Nile River was the place where most people in Ancient Egypt went to relax. They used it for fishing, boating, swimming and boat games. The Ancient Egyptians loved music and they often had parties and festivals with music and dancing.

 

 

EDUCATION
Education was very important to the Ancient Egyptians. Educated Egyptians could move up to a more respected position in society. Getting a respected job, however, meant learning how to read and write. Egyptian writing or hieroglyphics is probably one of the first known forms of writing. It consists of little pictures instead of the letters of our alphabet. School children spent hours copying these hieroglyphs in order to get their education. Egyptian children also learned a lot about mathematics in school. Egyptians were known to take very exact measurements of stone blocks they cut from the eastern hills of Egypt to build pyramids.

 

 

THE LANGUAGE
The language spoken by Ancient Egyptians changed a bit over time. Basically, the Egyptian language came from the languages spoken to the east of Egypt including semitic languages like Hebrew, and languages spoken to the south including Hamitic languages like Somali. The words in these languages are mostly made up of consonant sounds, unlike the vowel sounds we use today in English.

 

Old Egyptian is the language that scientists believe was being spoken at the time when the pyramids were built. Middle Egyptian came a bit later and has been found on many recently discovered business and government documents. Coptic is the last known stage of the Ancient Egyptian language. It used a lot of the Greek alphabet, with only a few additional letters from the older Egyptian languages. Coptic was mainly used by the Egyptian Christians towards the end of the Ancient Egyptian era.

 

 

CLOTHING AND APPEARANCE
Most Egyptians bathed in the Nile River. Wealthy families had separate rooms in their homes for baths. Everyone in ancient Egypt wore makeup and perfume - even men! Hair styles were much like the ones we see today, but on special occasions men and women wore wigs.

 

Clothing was made out of linen. Both men and women wore skirts and children usually didn't wear clothes at all in the warm weather. Wealthy women sometimes wore beaded dresses and wealthy men often wore decorative robes.

 

PYRAMIDS
The Ancient Egyptians are best known for their pyramids. They built two kinds of pyramids - step pyramids and "true" pyramids.

 

 

WHY DID THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS BUILD THE PYRAMIDS?
Pyramids were built in Ancient Egypt as tombs or burial places for Egyptian pharaohs or kings. The Ancient Egyptians believed in an after-life, so it was very important to them to protect the bodies of their pharaohs. The bodies were thus mummified. In order to keep the body of the pharaoh safe, the insides of the pyramids were built like mazes with secret doors and dead-end passages. The pharaoh would be near the bottom or even underground. Other rooms contained things like jewellery and furniture that the pharaoh might want in his next life.

 

 

 

HOW DID THEY MAKE THEM SO BIG?
In Ancient Egypt, there were no tools to build with or trucks to move things with. The Egyptians had to use their hands to make big blocks out of different kinds of sand, clay and stone. After they made the blocks, they pulled them up big ramps onto the pyramid.

 

The largest pyramid ever built was over 450ft high! It is called Khufu, but most people just call it the Great Pyramid. It is taller than the Statue of Liberty!

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