Even today history celebrates the chronicles of ancient Egypt. The great Egyptian empire was concentrated on parts of northeastern Africa along the coast of the river Nile. Ancient Egyptian empire included areas under the Southern Levant, the Eastern desert, Red Sea coastline, the Sinai Peninsula and the oases of Western desert during different phases.
The Egyptian empire spanned for at least three and a half millennia. The embryo was the unification of the Nile polities around 3500BCE. This ancient civilization reached its zenith in second millennium BCE. The traditional date indicating the end of the Egyptian empire is 51 B.C when the Roman Empire absorbed Egypt as its province.
The Chronicle Of Ancient Egypt
Archaeological excavations suggest that the seed of the early Egyptian civilization can be traced back to the settlements of the nomadic hunters along the coast of river Nile during the Pleistocene age. This is the Pre-dynastic Egypt.
There are archaeological evidences of a gradual replacement of grain grinding people who used the earliest type of sickles by a hunter tribe who used stone tools around 10th millennium BCE.
Archaeology also indicates traces of human habitation in the Sudan border of Egypt before 8000 BCE. Probably climatic changes and overgrazing dried out the pastoral sources forming the Sahara desert around 2000BCE. The people migrated to the fertile coast of Nile and developed an agro-based civilization.
During 3300 BCE Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, the Upper Egypt (Ancient Egyptian- Ta Shemau) and the Lower Egypt (Ancient Egypt-Ta Mehu).
Around circa 3000 BCE ancient Egypt rose as a proper unified empire. Narmer was the first Egyptian king of the unified Egyptian empire who amalgamated Upper and Lower Egypt.
The Egyptian history slowly turned to the mighty pharaohs who ruled Egypt from 3000 to 30 BCE.
The Origin Of The Egyptian People
The ancient Egyptians traced their origin to the land they called ‘Punt’ or ‘Ta- Neteru’ (Land Of Gods). According to the scholars of Egyptian history these area encompasses Eritrea, Ethiopian Highlands and Somalia.
The Administration In Ancient Egypt
The Egyptian empire was divided into ‘nomes’ (district or ‘sepat’ in ancient Egyptian) or autonomous city-states probably from the pre-dynastic period around 3100 B.C and continued till the pharaohnic period. Ancient Egypt was divided into 42 ‘Nomes’. A ‘Nomarch’, vested with regional authority, governed each ‘Nomes’. The ‘Nomarchs’ held their posts either hereditarily or were appointed by the pharaohs.
The Tax System
There was no currency in ancient Egypt so the taxes were paid ‘in-kind’ as per the craft or duty of the people. Numerous taxes were imposed on the people and the Vizier (tjaty in ancient Egypt) controlled the taxation system. One person from each household was required to do public work for a few weeks in a year known as ‘corvee’ or labor tax. However, rich people could hire laborers to do his public work.
The Language Of Ancient Egypt
Hieroglyphs, the Egyptian writing system are the oldest writing systems of the world. Hieroglyphics are partially syllabic and to some degree ideographic. Hieratic is a cursive form of hieroglyphs. Until recently the first known hieroglyphic inscription was the Narmer Palette dated to 3200BCE excavated in Hierakonpolis (modern Kwam-al-Ahmar) during the 1890s. But recent archaeological excavations have found the Gerzean pottery dated to circa 4000B.C as the earliest forms of hieroglyphs.
Egyptian language is one of the oldest documented languages of the world, which was scribbled from circa 3200 BCE. Egyptian, is an independent linguistic branch of Afro- Asiatic language.
There are six major chronological division of Egyptian Language:
Archaic Egyptian (before 3000 B.C)
The pre-dynastic and early dynastic period inscriptions are examples of archaic Egyptian language. The Naqada pottery vessels are the earliest evidence of hieroglyphics.
Old Egyptian (3000-2000B.C)
The pyramid texts and the tomb walls containing autobiographical writings are inscriptions of Old Egyptian. It was the language of the old kingdom.
Middle Egyptian (2000-1300 B.C)
This is known as the classical Egyptian comprising hieratic texts and hieroglyphics of the middle kingdom. Some examples are:
- Coffin texts inscribed on sarcophagi
- Ancient Egyptian philosophy like the Ipuwer Papyrus
- Adventure story of an individual for example the story of Sinuhe
- Medical and science texts – Edwin Smith Papyrus and Eber Papyrus are two famous examples
- Poetic texts praising the gods or the pharaoh
Late Egyptian (1300-700 BCE)
Language of the New Kingdom termed as the ‘Golden Age.’ Late Egyptian comprises a prosperous array of secular and religious texts like the ‘Instructions of Ani ‘or ‘The Story of Wenamun’.
The Demotic script and language followed the late Egyptian.
Then the Coptic language came into the picture and survived as the spoken language in the Middle Ages.
During 2700 B.C the Egyptian used pictograms representing vocal sounds. The oldest alphabet developed around 1800B.C known as ‘abjad system’ was derived from the unilateral signs and the Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Culture And Religion
The Egyptian mythology contains the chronicles of Egyptian pantheism starting from the pre-dynastic to the Greco Roman and the Arab eras. Indigenous African animals were worshipped in ancient Egypt.
Temples were considered as most sacred places where the priest and priestesses were allowed to enter. Only on special occasion people could enter the temple yards.
Egyptian art evolved round their rich religion with the depiction of gods, goddesses and the pharaohs. The focus was on the idea of order.
The pyramids and mummies speak of the tilt of Egyptian culture towards the pre-history.
The History Of Medicine
The Egyptians were much progressed in the field of medicine. The Egyptians could perform surgeries, could set bones and had thorough knowledge of pharmacopoeia. The mummies are the existing edifices of the accurate knowledge of human anatomy and the mummifying process proves the surgical skill of the ancient Egyptians.
The Advancement In Science And Technology
- The polygonal Egyptian pyramids tickle the sense of our wonder still today. Ancient Egypt reeled on the pinnacle of engineering glory. The Egyptians outlined the pyramid bases by determining the exact position of points and distance between them. The ‘golden ratio’ has been used in the architecture of pyramids signifying harmony.
- The Egyptians are credited with the invention of Hydraulic cement.
- Ancient Egypt stored water for dry season as during the 12th dynasty, the natural lake of Fayyum was used as reservoir.
- Egyptians mined turquoise in the Sinai Peninsula
- Glass making was also a prominent industry in ancient Egyptian empire.
- Modern discovery has illuminated the technical brilliance of ancient Egypt. Scientists have identified ‘tet’ or ‘djed’ of ancient Egypt as battery.
- The advent of some important scientific method and mathematical formulas like the decimal system are attributed to ancient Egyptian scholars.
This grand civilization came to an end with the invasion of the rising Roman Empire during the 51 BCE.