ANCIENT EGYPT: THE FIRST MAJOR CIVILIZATION
COLLEGE OF SOUTHERN NEVADA
ANCIENT EGYPT: THE FIRST MAJOR CIVILIZATION
The world's first major civilization developed in Egypt more than five thousand years ago. It flourished longer than almost any society in human history. Its many achievements, preserved in its art and monuments, hold a fascination that continues to grow as archaeological finds expose its secrets. This research paper will focus on Egypt from its prehistory through its unification under Narmer in the third millennium BCE and up to the Islamic conquest in the seventh century A.D. I will also be describing some of the archaeological sites found in Egypt as well.
Egypt lies in the northeastern corner of the African continent, along the Nile River. The Nile flows through a vast desert, including the Sahara, which separates Egypt from most of Africa. It is impossible to talk about ancient Egypt without talking about the Nile River, the center of Egyptian life. Just as a person's body is built around their spine, the Nile was the spine of Egypt; without it, there would have been no pharaohs or pyramids or any Egyptian civilization of any kind, only desert. Not only is the Nile the world's longest river, at 4,160 miles about 6,695 kilometers, it is also the only major river on Earth that flows northward (Knight et al. 2000). At the Sudanese capital of Khartoum two rivers come together to form the Nile as the ancient Egyptians knew it. These two bodies of water are the White Nile, which flows up from the south; and the Blue Nile, which originates to the southeast, in Ethiopia. The White Nile has a relatively stable flow, whereas the Blue Nile experiences a dramatic rise and fall during the course of the year because it comes from an area prone to heavy summer rains. In ancient times, the Blue Nile caused flooding from July to September. These floods, rather than being disasters, were essential to the life of Egypt. As the floodwaters receded each year, they left a deposit of silt, a type of soil rich in minerals. Silt has a consistency somewhere between that of sand and clay. The enriched earth was perfect for growing wheat and barley. Most years the farmers of Egypt had bountiful harvests. Not only was the Nile the source of all life in ancient Egypt, it was also the principal highway for commerce and other transportation.
Most ancient cultures placed a strong emphasis on gods or deities, which they used as a means of explaining things in the natural world such as the ocean and the thunder. With the exception of the Hebrews, virtually all ancient cultures had a pagan belief system, that is, they worshiped many gods. These beliefs were certainly held by the Egyptians, who usually represented their gods as beings with bodies of men or women but the heads of other creatures. The Ancient Egyptians believed in hundreds of gods, each with its own priests, temples, and rituals. And then there were the men who the Egyptians believed were close to gods: the pharaohs. In America, people are used to following the lives of celebrities, stars they read about in magazines and see on television shows. In ancient Egypt, by contrast, there was only one "star," and he was the pharaoh. The word pharaoh means "great house" or "one who lives in the palace." This was the title for the king of Egypt, but the pharaoh was much more than a mere king. He was seen as a link between the gods and humankind, and the people viewed him more as a divine being than as a human (Knight et al. 2000).
The Predynastic period in Ancient Egypt lasted from 5500 BCE to 2195 BCE. During this time period Ancient Egypt witnessed significant advancements in virtually every aspect of culture. Of these, two areas were of particular importance were politics and religion. Much of Egypt's predynastic history remains shrouded in mystery. Archeological evidence suggests that hunter-gatherers from various locales...
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