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Ancient Egypt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the British history magazine, see Ancient Egypt (magazine).

The Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza are among the most recognizable symbols of the civilization of ancient Egypt.

Map of ancient Egypt, showing major cities and sites of the Dynastic period (c. 3150 BC to 30 BC) Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology)[1] with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh.[2] The history of ancient

Egyptoccurred in a series of stable Kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of theMiddle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age. Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power during the New Kingdom, in the Ramesside period, after which it entered a period of slow decline. Egypt was conquered by a succession of foreign powers in this Late Period. In the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death, one of his generals, Ptolemy Soter, established himself as the new ruler of Egypt. This Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt until 30 BC, when it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province. The success of ancient Egyptian civilization came partly from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River Valley. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which fueled social development and culture. With resources to spare, the administration sponsored mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions, the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, and a military intended to defeat foreign enemies and assert Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, and administrators under the control of a Pharaoh who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs. The many achievements of the ancient Egyptians include the quarrying, surveying and construction techniques that facilitated the building of monumental pyramids, temples, and obelisks; a system of mathematics, a practical and effective system of medicine, irrigation systems and agricultural production techniques, the first known ships, Egyptian faience and glass technology, new forms of literature, and the earliest known peace treaty. Egypt left a lasting legacy. Its art and architecture were widely copied, and its antiquities carried off to far corners of the world. Its monumental ruins have inspired the imaginations of travellers and writers for centuries. A new-found respect for antiquities and excavations in the early modern period led to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy.

Ancient Egyptian Civilization Main Events

The course of the ancient Egyptian civilization, starting with the pre-dynastic period till the Ptolemaic period, has a series of events that highlight it. The dynastic period, being the main chunk of ancient Egyptian history, provides some of the most interesting insights into the ancient Egyptian civilization. Ancient Egyptian history is divided into 31 dynasties, which are then further subdivided into three main kingdoms with intermediate periods in between. Click here to see the timeline.

The Pre-dynastic Period (approx. 5500-3100 BC) During this period the nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers that were scattered all over the country were started settling down near the Nile. These settlements were divided into nomes (provinces).The main division in Egypt was that of the Upper and Lower Egyptians (the two lands). The two were very different.At around 3100 BC, the dynastic period began with the reign of King Narmer. He managed to unify (through battle) the provinces and the two lands, and Egypt became a single state.This was the real beginning of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

Early Dynastic Period (approx. 3150-2686 BC) This was a sort of stepping stone period, where the Egyptians started settling into the idea of a unified Egypt. It only lasted 2 dynasties and was called "the Archaic period".This period was when the administrative capital of Egypt became Memphis. It is also when elaborate tombs became popular.The architecture, religious beliefs and art of the ancient Egyptian civilization became more prominent during this period.

The Old Kingdom (approx.

2686-2181 BC)

This period was all about pyramids. In fact, it's called "The Age of the Pyramids". It was a time of wealth and progress for the Egyptians.During the third dynasty King Djoser builds the Step Pyramid in Saqqara - the first pyramid ever built. The famous Imhotep was the architectural engineer for this big project.The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt's main landmark and the only surviving ancient wonder of the world, was built by King Khufu in the 4th dynasty.There were also other beautiful pyramids built during this dynasty, such as the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur.The funerary texts called the Pyramid Texts, which provide us with much information about the ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, were formed in this period.By the end of this period, the nobles had gained more power and wealth than the royal family itself. Civil wars weakened the kingdom. But what finally ended this dynastic period was the drought, which brought about famine and disease.

The First Intermediate Period (approx. 21812040 BC) Egypt's version of the Dark Ages, it was a time of chaos and famine.The poor who were hit worst with famine and disease began to rise up against the kings. There was anarchy and unrest all over, with plundering and vandalizing of the monuments.The rule became divided, and conflicts between the kingdoms began, until finally at the end of this period the Theban king Menuhotep conquers and unifies Egypt again.

The Middle Kingdom (approx. 20401782 BC) After the re-unification of Egypt with Thebes as the capital, much of the power was still not entirely in the hands of the Pharaohs. The king depended on the local governors to conscript soldiers from their provinces to pull together an army. Then during the 12th dynasty, Egypt's army was strong enough to begin a series of invasions to expand the territory. They would build fortresses in the new areas to secure them.The middle kingdom also saw a rise to trade connections with Nubia. A large migration of foreign settlers from Assyria happened during this period, which

gave rise to many changes in the ancient Egyptian also gave rise to the Hyksos. The Second Intermediate Period (approx. 17821570 BC) So now the Syrians and Palestinians that had migrated gained power and gave rise to the Hyksos kings. And then even when the Hyksos allowed Egyptians to be kings, they were only puppet rulers and had to do as theyre told. One of those puppet kings however was not very "puppet-y" at all. He and most Egyptians had had enough of these immigrants taking over! So he called forth the Egyptians to war against the Hyksos King Apopis. King Seqenenre Tao died in battle with head wounds. His son, Kamose, took over and managed to take back most of Egypt. But then Kamose died young and his brother Ahmose I continued battling the Hyksos until they left completely. This signals the end of this turbulent intermediate period, and the start of a luxurious time in ancient Egyptian civilization.

The New Kingdom (approx. 15701070 BC)

After so many wars and so much chaos, the ancient Egyptians thought it would be smart to have a full-time army. Instead of conscripting men when they needed them they would have well-trained, fully-armed soldiers ready to fight.They also reinforced their borders and even expanded them.With this change plus a few other smart moves, the New Kingdom gave rise to an Egyptian empire.Some of the most famous pharaohs come from this period, such as Rameses II (picture on the left) and King Tut. Also the mysterious Nefertiti was from the New Kingdom too.Another drastic change in ancient Egyptian civilization that took place during the New Kingdom was the introduction of a type of early monotheism.King Akhenaten flipped everything upside down when he changed the religion of Egypt from worshipping hundreds of gods to just one... the sun disc Aten. Not too many Egyptians were happy with this.One of the most important battles of the New Kingdom was the battle of Kadesh. The ancient Egyptians fought the Hittites for years over control of the area, which had an essential trade route of the near east.Other battles took place in the New Kingdom with ancient Libyans and the Sea People. But the Egyptians did well both on land and on sea.Even though the New Kingdom had made a great empire and most of the battles had been won, the ancient Egyptian civilization began to be riddled with division, invasions and economic problems. Ancient Egypt started to decline and slowly fade away. The Third Intermediate Period (approx. 1080525 BC)The trouble began when once again Egypt fell to divided rule. Economic problems weakened the unification and kings from different regions fought - this exposed Egypt to foreign invasions.Sure enough, Nubia eventually conquered a divided northern Egypt. And to make matters worse, the Assyrians were also expanding in the near east.The Assyrians ended the Nubian dynasties and their king became the king of a once again unified Egypt. The Assyrians chose to do as the Hyksos did, and enlisted Egyptians as puppet kings.But then the Assyrian empire began falling, as empires usually do.Who was there to pick up the pieces? Another, very powerful empire the Persian.This marks the start of the late period, the last of the dynastic periods.

Ancient Egyptian Culture And Society

The ancient Egyptian culture and society was very well-organized and divided according to class, status, wealth and locale. Each nome (or province) had its own temple, deity, beliefs, capital, practices and even ethnic origin. People who were born into a social class usually stayed in it till death. Wealth, social status and even careers were inherited. The individual's roles in life heavily depended on his/her family's class.

Most of the population was working class, but unfortunately the majority of the information on this class comes from the tombs of the elite. Not much information was recorded directly by them since they were usually illiterate and could not afford luxurious tombs and monuments that would last till now.The information we do have that comes from the tombs and temples is sometimes biased or incomplete. But Egyptologists have gathered enough research to paint a picture of what the ancient Egyptian culture and society was like. The Egyptian Social Pyramid is an illustraion of the pyramid-like structure of ancient Egyptian society.

The Egyptian Social Pyramid High Classes

The King: As the top dog of them all, the king was the most powerful person (usually) in ancient Egypt.The king either inherited the throne, or got it by force. He usually got divine status and was named Pharaoh. He was also the high priest of Egypt, a title he could delegate. The Vizier: As the right-hand man of the king, he is second most powerful person in ancient Egypt.He assisted the king, was the secretary of state, presided over the courts and governed the police force.Quite the power house! King beware... The Priesthood: Not all priests were extremely powerful, but some had become so wealthy and popular that they accumulated power that threatened the kingship. The high priest was chosen by the king in order to carry out all the religious rituals the king is meant to do.As men of the Gods the priests collected offerings, were given honors and titles, and they were presented with gifts and wealth. Even the king himself had to appease them in order to have them be on his side. What a position! The Army Generals: When the army was made permanent in the New Kingdom, the king chose two generals (one for the Upper Egyptian army, one for Lower).They were usually chosen from the royal family... this prevented one general from becoming too powerful and also kept the power in the family. They answered to the king. The Officials: The king had a number of advisors who took care of many political and religious activities and could also help in the decision making. Some were from the royal family, and some were from the elite class. The Mayors: Called nomarchs, these people were governors of their nome (province). Egypt had many provinces each with its own economy, taxes, and culture. The nomarchs had to answer to the king and hand in their reports and payments to him.And up until the New Kingdom, they were called upon to conscript eligible males to the army when needed. This put the king in a position where he had to appease them in order to form a useful army.

The Working Class of Egypt

The ancient Egyptian culture and society is mostly preserved in the monuments, statues, temples and tombs; this made knowing the top classes easy.They loved to tell their stories in order to live forever.But, the working class is what made these monuments.The working class fed the population, built the temples, cleaned the houses, served the nobles, washed the clothes, entertained the masses, etc...There were many different careers an ancient Egyptian worker could have, the majority were farmers. Experience more ancient Egyptian culture and society! Click on the following links to learn about:The ancient Egyptian women of the working class, how they had many more rights than the royal women.The system for ancient Egyptian marriage and divorce. Ancient Egyptian animals had so many uses. They were worshiped as forms of gods, kept and cared for as pets, used for food and farming, and ridden during wars and hunting.

Ancient Egyptian children - how they had to choose a career and learn their craft in order to continue the civilization.

Egyptian Life - From Pharaoh to Farmer

These two very different kinds of ancient Egyptian daily life existed - depending on who you were born to.Rank, career, social status and role were pretty much passed down from parents to children (although there were exceptions).There were many other roles at that time: priests, scribes, soldiers, craftsmen, artists, dancers, farmers , etc... And although you would be quite limited to what you would do for the rest of your life depending on your social rank, you still had some choice depending on your ability.

Egyptian Villages, Temples and Tombs

The reason most of the information we have on Egyptian life is from tombs and temples is because of the way they were built. They were made to last (for eternity). The temple walls were carved and painted with stories; the tombs carried treasures and mummies.Villages on the other hand were meant to be temporary - ancient Egyptian houseswere made of mud-brick. Some villages did somehow survive, and you can still visit some of them today. They make for quite adifferent ancient Egyptian touristic experience than the pyramids and temples.Unfortunately, not much of the story-telling on walls and in scrolls was about the average Egyptian... It was mainly a testimony of the rich. Many stories were exaggerated, and some were purely fable.Luckily however, some information was recorded on the working class and some information was derived by research.

Were They So Different?

Well, the answer to that question is yes and no. Even though they did have traditions that are obsolete today and many beliefs that are quite "out there", you can kind of see their progression into the more modern traditions and beliefs.Mummifications and pyramids may be outlandish these days, but the theories behind them are quite similar to many beliefs today. They cherished life and living so much that they hoped to continue on in the afterlife.They did what they could to secure a good life after death.Ancient Egyptian life had much in common with the modern days. They had systems for marriages, divorces, inheritance, careers, medical care, etc...And although ancient Egyptian medicine had some bizarre treatments, much of the practices still form the basis of modern medicine today.They also loved having fun, playing board games , celebrating and drinking (especially Egyptian beer!) .Even more similar were their fears, hopes, desires and weaknesses. They wanted to live life to the fullest (life expectancy back then was mid 30's).They fell in love, they wanted their children to have better lives, they took care of the elderly, they had affairs, and they even protested work conditions.Priests shaved off all their body hair, men and women wore wigs and they had different Egyptian Hairstyles for different occasions and fashion trends!

Ancient Egyptian Art

Ancient Egyptian art was a practical and necessary part of the lives of ancient Egyptians; it wasn't for pleasure or beauty. They carved and painted tomb walls with religious images and texts to bless the dead on their journeys through the afterlife. They also may be a romanticized story of the deceased's accomplishments in life.The paintings and carvings on temples were a form of religious worship; they told the myths and stories of the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Egypt.Still, you can tell a lot about ancient Egyptian history by deciphering their art...Some of the most important historical and medical records are found onEgyptian Papyrus Art. Ancient Egyptian writing, especially hieroglyphics, was a form of art. The glyphs are little pictures of things such as snakes, water, vultures and women. Their combinations and directions had different meanings and they were a major part of wall reliefs explaining stories and relaying incantations. Ancient Egyptian Pottery is another archaeological goldmine as it helped us put many pieces of our history together - it was an art form with so many important uses.All in all, although Egyptologists deciphered many historical events through ancient Egyptian art, it is not really an honest depiction of what really happened. The ancient Egyptians hardly recorded the lives of anyone other than royalty - and with royalty they usually exaggerated or even made-up the stories. One of the earliest forms of propaganda, I'd say!

Understanding Egyptian Art

The large art compositions were organized into registers (or parts). Each register would have its own base line which represents the floor or ground.Then you have larger scenes and figures that are usually placed on the ends of the walls and can take up several registers.Pharaohs, for example, are usually depicted much larger than other Egyptians.The other thing to note is that the scenes in a composition are not always related or flowing. Registers were sometimes not even connected to the larger scenes... The overall theme though is usually the constant - like a battle or building theme.Paints and equipment in ancient Egyptian painting were quite limited, yet until today you can still see some beautifully preserved scenes with bright colors! Check out the different Egyptian Painting Techniques. One of the most unique traits of ancient Egyptian art is the way the figures are shown. The way the human body is arranged is of course unrealistic you really can't "walk like an Egyptian!" The head is shown in profile, with the features clear; then the shoulders and chest facing you (although the nipple or breast is then in profile on there). The arms and legs are in profile, but the hands are usually shown in full view...Sometimes the hands and feet are on the opposite arms and legs just to change it up a bit! Actually, it wasn't a mistake, the artists did that on purpose to make sure the full view of the hand is visible in certain positions (such as carrying weapons).Sadly, we don't know as much about how ancient Egyptian music and dancing - but we do have information on the instruments and musicians themselves.

Les Artistes!
Being an ancient Egyptian artist was a tough job. You had to train from childhood, usually following your father's path. You were taught and then supervised. At first you had to practice on pieces of broken pottery and stones; then your teacher would correct you with a different color. Some say that correcting mistakes with the color red like we do today came from the ancient Egyptians!You had to work in a team and you were ultra specialized in a particular skill and area. You had to follow a very strict work plan and you couldnt let your creativity get away with you!Art was produced in something like a production line, with a team of approximately 30 workmen. A team was made up of:

The master craftsman who designs the composition and supervises the work The plasterers who prepared the walls for painting The stone masons who prepared the walls for carving Outline scribes who drew the outlines Sculptors that carved the outlines Painters

Hieroglyphics - The Sacred Writing

Contrary to popular belief, hieroglyphics was not the first writing system in history. Egyptian hieroglyphs came right after the Sumerian script, which was formed in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq).Mesopotamian history is also fascinating, and very much worth a read if you have the time.We don't know for sure whether the formation of hieroglyphs was inspired by this earlier Sumerian script or not.Hieroglyphics were around for almost 3,500 years before their meaning was lost for another 2,000 years. The first hieroglyphs appear sometime around 3100 BC and then became obsolete around 394 AD.For the longest time, people tried to decipher this ancient writing. Many succeeded in making minor break-thoughs, but still no one could read or understand much of it - until the Rosetta Stone was discovered and decoded.Since that day in 1799, Egyptian history has been unfolding before our eyes.The ancient Egyptians also had a relatively advanced system for numbers and math! Click here to learn about Egyptian Numbers, Fractions and Math.

So What Exactly is a Hieroglyph?: There were about 700 different hieroglyphs during the Middle Kingdom,
and this number expanded to thousands later on. Each hieroglyph is a picture/sign that could represent a letter, a combination of letters, or a word.There are 4 different types that divide them:

Unilateral signs that represent a single letter (or sound). Bilateral signs that represent two-letter sounds. Trilateral signs that represent three-letter sounds. Determinative signs that represent the meaning of a whole word.

And with so many signs with many uses and meanings, it would seem impossible to form an alphabet. But, The whole language could have been written using the 24 unilateral signs (like we do in the English language).Still, the ancient Egyptians did not form a simple alphabet for their own use even though they could have.Although hieroglyphs form a complete language, the ancient Egyptian language had other forms of writing which were more simplified versions of hieroglyphics. Those were the Demotic and Hieratic systems.

The Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs Men and Gods

How far would ancient Egypt have gotten without belief in the divinity of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs? That's a question that can only be answered by understanding what a Pharaoh does and what he represents to the Egyptian people. A Pharaoh is usually born into the role. He inherits the throne of Egypt and hands it down to a son.He was not only the King of Egypt, but he was also seen as there incarnation of the God Horus. Being a reincarnation of such a powerful God gave the Pharaoh immeasurable power and respect - which got a lot of things done. That may be one of the reasons that such unbelievable accomplishments were the norm in ancient Egypt. They didn't need slaves to build pyramids - the people were "asked" to go to work for their king whom they considered a God in his own right. Of course they would comply ;) As Gods on Earth, ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had many responsibilities that went along with the immense power of such a title. They were the military, political and religious heads of state. They were also expected to vouch for their people to the Gods whom they communicated with. Alive they were reincarnations of Gods; after death they became true Gods...You probably noticed that I've been referring to them as male thus far, and that's because that is mostly the case. However, there were a few exceptions of ancient Egyptian queens who ruled Egypt and became Pharaohs themselves.

But for the majority of the royal women, that was not their reality. The usual roles of Egyptian Queens were very limiting. Another thing that I'd like to mention is that although the Pharaohs were deified automatically, there were kings of ancient Egypt who were not - while there were Egyptians who were not kings that were deified. Also, it is difficult for Egyptologists to give exact dates and accounts of reigns and events in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians didn't have a standardized calendar system, and they were not very objective in their record-keeping. So keep this in mind, but on this site I'll be using the most commonly accepted dates and facts.

The Egyptian Pyramids Symbol Of Ancient Egypt

A pyramid is basically a structure with triangular sides, all of which meet at the top. Pyramids have either three, four or five sides. Since the weight is greatest at the bottom and least at the top, the center of gravity of pyramids is very low - which makes for very stable buildings. That's why many of the ancient pyramids have survived till today. The most famous of which, of course, are the Pyramids of Giza. These are the pyramids that have set many imaginations ablaze with so many amazing theories and stories; from the very plausible to the completely quirky. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built around 2570 BC, is the only ancient wonder of the world still standing. Other than ours (which number over 110) there were other ancient pyramids built in Mesopotamia, Greece, Mexico, Rome and other places. And these days there are many modern structures built to resemble these old ones, such as the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas.The oldest pyramids were those of Mesopotamia, not Egypt. But they were built with mud-brick and not much of them survived. The oldest Egyptian pyramid is the Step Pyramid of King Djoser. The largest number of pyramids built was that of the Nubian civilization, over 200 of them. They were inspired by the Egyptians and were used as royal tombs also. The functions of pyramids differed from civilization to civilization. Those in Mexico were used for human sacrifice.The pyramids of ancient Egypt were used as tombs for royalty. Many of them were built into complexes containing mortuary temples and some even included pits with buried ancient Egyptian boats used for the king's journey in the afterlife.

Function of the Egyptian Pyramids

The ancient Egyptians first constructed pyramids to use as tombs for the kings and queens; their function later changed to be resting places for the souls of the deceased. Pyramid building was also later expanded to include pyramids built for non-royal (yet wealthy) individuals.The shape of the pyramids (serving as tombs) has a lot to do with religious symbolism. First of all, they reflect the shape of the primordial mound of creation "benben". According to the Egyptian creation myth, which describes how the world was born, benben was an earthly mound that appeared out of the water and produced the first God. They derived this shape after originally covering pit graves with mounds of dirt, later refining the technique and style until reaching the final pyramid shape. How the pyramids were built is still a very popular topic today. Click here to learn about the Construction of the Pyramids. Other than Giza and Sakkara, there are many scattered around the entire country. Three other beautiful and wellknown Pyramids of Egypt are described here.

Egyptian Religion in Everyday Life

Egyptian religion during the time of the ancients was not something they remembered on occasion. Religion was part of everyday life and everything they did was infused with it.Medicine was part physical part spiritual.There were over 700 Gods and Goddesses each with a unique role. A very early form of Monotheism developed in ancient Egypt.

There were usually two capitals of the country; one administrative and one religious.Every home had a shrine.The temples were a main center in the cities and villages.Some priests were of such high rank that their power sometimes surpassed that of the king himself......And then there were the mummies and tombs - an obsession with theEgyptian Afterlife.

Almost All the Traditions Revolved Around a Deity

The people of ancient Egypt may seem like a superstitious bunch (and rightly so), and in reality Egyptian Magic was a big part of religious rituals. Egyptian religion included cultish traditions, sacrifices, offerings, spells, curses, and strange depictions of religious figures - all of which seem like a sort of voodoo.But they did actually have logical reasons for these practices.

For example: although the Gods and Goddesses took strange forms (often with animal features), the Egyptians believed the deities to be formless.These appearances were a tool for identifying them from each other. They also helped in understanding the main characteristics of each God or Goddess.

Egyptians Used Elaborate Myths to Understand Their World

From the Egyptian creation myth to legends of heroism and resurrection, tall tales were told for their meaning. They used mythology to symbolize their deities' roles, and also as explanations of what were then natural phenomena.They also had numerous writings called Funerary Texts that contain rituals to help the deceased reach the afterlife. The most famous of which is theEgyptian Book of the Dead. It's actually quite amazing to refer to our current beliefs and note the similarities as well as the differences. I dare say that I believe many of today's spiritual practices have their origin in these ancient traditions, including the ancient Egyptian.

To risk stating the obvious, it seems that since time immemorial humans have longed for something bigger and more powerful than themselves to reach out to. Something that could give meaning to an otherwise random existence. Something that can protect and redeem.

Egyptian Mummies: Ancient Egyptians Hoping for a Second Chance

Preserving the dead as Egyptian mummies was one way they ensured the continuation of life. It was not some morbid fascination with death, although it could seem that way.

On the contrary, the ancient Egyptians hoped for resurrection and an eternal afterlife in the Egyptian Heaven. Keeping the physical body preserved, and providing the deceased with materials necessary for the long journey, was how the mummy came to be. The organs were also preserved in Canopic Jars. The wrapped mummy was put inside a coffin, and the coffin was put inside an Egyptian Sarcophagus for further protection and preservation. Of course, I'm not sure being preserved in a museum is what they had in mind. And the fact remains that by uncovering tombs and unearthing bodies, we are kind of desecrating the dead. But there was no other way to find out so much about the ancient Egyptians... ...besides, isn't being remembered one of the ways you can live forever?

By Sand or By Hand?
Unfortunately for many, the afterlife heavily depended on the funerary budget. Affording a tomb and a proper Egyptian mummification process was kind of difficult on a farmer's salary. And without those, the chances of a prolonged afterlife were greatly diminished. And not only were the tombs painted and embellished - but they were packed with foods, drinks, pets, clothes and treasures... all to make the journey more pleasant.In fact, they even fashioned figurines and cast spells on them to do the deceased's work in the afterlife (who wants to work after death?!). TheseShawabti were buried in the tombs too. And so, Egyptian mummification was mostly for those that were rich or noble in life.The poorer individuals were buried in the sand, which did a surprisingly good job of preserving their bodies too. So, Egyptian mummies are now split into two categories - those who were naturally preserved, and those who were mummified by a man-made process. Still, even with the expense and effort it took, it was an all-important ritual for the ancient Egyptians. It's estimated that in the 3000-years, more than 70 million mummies were made in Egypt. They only stopped the tradition between the fourth and seventh century AD, when many Egyptians became Christian. An Egyptian Tomb of a rich or an elite was filled with treasures, which gave rise to quite an aggressive period of tomb-robbery. So many precious pieces of history were destroyed and stolen in the early 20th century. Tomb robbers were not the only problem. The truth is, even the early scientist and archeologists working to uncover the mysteries of Egypt were not very experienced with mummies. They may have unintentionally destroyed important artifacts.One of the first man-made mummies, that of King Djer, was found completely deteriorated except for an arm. And as that arm was beautifully decorated with jewelry, the jewelry was taken for a museum display while the mummified arm was thrown away. Egyptian mummies were also sold by the hundreds for different purposes. Some were ground into powder and sold as medicines. Some were stripped of their wrapping that was used to make paint for artists. Some were sold to aristocrats as a centerpiece for unfolding during high society gatherings.Even mummified Egyptian cats were sold as fertilizer.

Afterlifestyles of

The Rich and Famous

The Pharaohs usually being the richest, most powerful and most famous of Egyptians, had elaborate tombs and many of their mummies are still well-preserved.The most popular of which is the King Tut Tomb , but there are a few other very famous burials. Since, to the ancient Egyptians, the social structure and the division of classes were maintained in the afterlife the Pharaohs held on to their God status. And so a common practice was the defacing of Royal tombs by rival successors. Queen Hatshepsut was a victim of tomb desecration. Fortunately though, her successor replaced her name with his own on the monuments she built, instead of destroying them completely.But even after being robbed, sold, studied, exhibited, poked at, ingested, and God knows what else - Egyptian mummies still hold the respect and admiration of all of us. They capture our imaginations time and time again.

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, however, are so many and so specialized that they make the ancient Egyptian belief system even more mysterious. And to make things even more complicated, the Gods themselves often changed forms and roles!The Great Ennead of Heliopolis, which is the group of 9 Egyptian Gods and Goddesses significant to the creation of the world in ancient Egyptian mythology. And you'll also find information on Heliopolis, another religious capital of ancient Egypt.

The God Ra The Forms, roles and worship of the Sun god. Head of the Great ennead, pilot of the solar boat, creator of the universe, lord of heaven and Earth. The first of all Egyptian Gods.

God Shu and Goddess Tefnut Forms, roles and worship of the offspring of Atum (Ra). God of Air and Goddess of Mist, brother and sister, husband and wife. Parents of the Earth God Geb and Sky Goddess Nut. Shu held up his daughter the sky up above his son the earth.

God Geb and Goddess Nut Forms, roles and worship of the Earth God Geb and the Sky Goddess Nut. Children of the God of Air Shu and the Goddess of Mist Tefnut, they formed the earth with its beings and sky with its stars. Created to please Ra. Parents of Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

The God Osiris Forms, roles and worship of The God of Death. God of the Underworld, Death and Resurrection. God of Fertility and Vegetation. Son of Geb and Nut, husband of Isis, father of Horus and Anubis. Murdered by his brother Seth.

The Goddess Isis Forms, roles and worship of The Great Mother. Goddess of wifely and motherly love, sorceress, healer of the sick, daughter of Geb and Nut, wife of Osiris, mother of Horus, step-mother of Anubis.

The God Thoth Forms, roles and worship of the God of Wisdom. Ra's assistant, creator of writing, math and astronomy. God of science, medicine and knowledge. Healer of the sick, bull of justice and messenger of the Egyptian Gods. He helped resurrect Osiris long enough to father Horus.

The Goddess Hathor

Forms, roles and worship of the Lady of All, daughter of Ra and the apple of his eye. Goddess of beauty, love and joy. Avenger of Ra, destroyer of man, and nourisher of the dead. She is the epitome of femininity and womanhood, represented by the Cow.

The Goddess Nephthys Forms, roles and worship of the Lady of the House, wife of Seth, sister of Isis and mistress of Osiris. Goddess of darkness, death and night. Mother of Anubis and protector of Canopic jars and Coffins. She helped her sister Isis locate the pieces of Osiris's body.

The God Seth Forms, roles and worship of the Red God. Lord of the desert and storms. Brother and murderer of Osiris, enemy of Horus. God of evil, darkness and chaos.

The God Horus Forms, roles and worship of the Sky God. Protector of kings, guide of souls, son of Isis and Osiris, avenger and ruler of Earth. God of Order.

The God Anubis Forms, roles and worship of the Jackal. Watchdog of Isis, care-taker of bodies, Lord of mummy wrapping, weigh-er of hearts, greeter of souls, Lord of the Holy Land. God of Death.

The Goddess Maat Forms, roles and worship of the Goddess of Truth, Justice and Fairness. She is represented by the feather of Truth that she wears on top of her head; the same feather used in the weighing-of-the-heart ceremony.