Portal:Ancient Egypt

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Introduction

Golden funeral mask of king Tutankhamun, a symbol for many of ancient Egypt.

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

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River - geographically Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, in the place that is now occupied by the countries of Egypt and Sudan. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes (often identified with Narmer). The history of ancient Egypt occurred as 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 the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power in the New Kingdom, ruling much of Nubia and a sizable portion of the Near East, after which it entered a period of slow decline, during the course of its history Egypt was invaded or conquered by a number of foreign powers, including the Hyksos, the Libyans, the Nubians, the Assyrians, the Achaemenid Persians, and the Macedonians under the command of Alexander the Great. The Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom, formed in the aftermath of Alexander's death, ruled Egypt until 30 BC, when, under Cleopatra, 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 for agriculture. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which supported a more dense population, and 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.

Selected article

Mummified pre-dynastic man in reconstructed Egyptian grave-pit (photo taken in 2008)

The Gebelein predynastic mummies are six naturally mummified bodies, dating to approximately 3400 BC from the Late Predynastic period of Egypt and were the first complete pre-dynastic bodies to be discovered. The well-preserved bodies were excavated at the end of the nineteenth century by Wallis Budge, the British Museum Keeper for Egyptology, from shallow sand graves near Gebelein in the Egyptian desert. Budge excavated all the bodies from the same grave site. Two were identified as male, one female with the others being of undetermined gender, the bodies were given to the British Museum in 1900. Some grave-goods were documented at the time of excavation as "pots and flints", however they were not passed on to the British Museum and their whereabouts remain unknown. Three of the bodies were found with coverings of different types (reed matting, palm fibre and an animal skin), which still remain with the bodies, the bodies were found in foetal positions lying on their left side. From 1901 the first body excavated has remained on display in the British Museum.

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Did you know...

Pyramid of Sahure

  • ... that the mortuary temple of the pyramid of Sahure (pictured) was decorated with over 10,000 sq. metres (107,640 sq. ft) of fine relief carvings?
  • ... that Iry-Hor is the earliest ruler of Egypt known by name?
  • ... that Qakare Ibi was the last pharaoh to have a pyramid build for himself in Saqqara?

Selected picture

Rosetta Stone.JPG
Credit: Hans Hillewaert

The Rosetta Stone is a fragment of a granite stele containing a decree written in Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek. Discovered in 1799, the stone contributed greatly to the process of hieroglyph decipherment.

Selected biography

Outline tracing of the figure representing Darius in the Behistun Inscription

Darius I, known as Darius the Great, was the third "king of kings" (emperor) of the Achaemenid Empire. Darius held the empire at its peak, then including Egypt, northern India, and parts of Greece, the decay and downfall of the empire commenced with his death and the coronation of his son, Xerxes I.

Darius ascended the throne by assassinating the alleged usurper Bardiya with the assistance of six other Persian noble families; Darius was crowned the following morning. The new emperor met with rebellions throughout his kingdom, and quelled them each time. A major event in Darius's life was his expedition to punish Athens and Eretria for their aid in the Ionian Revolt and subjugate Greece. Darius expanded his empire by conquering Thrace and Macedon, and invading the Saka, Iranian tribes who had invaded Medes and had previously killed Cyrus the Great.

Darius organized the empire, by dividing it into provinces and placing governors to govern it, he organized a new uniform monetary system, along with making Aramaic the official language of the empire. Darius also worked on construction projects throughout the empire, focusing on Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and Egypt. Darius created a codification of laws for Egypt, he also carved the cliff-face Behistun Inscription, an autobiography of great modern linguistic significance. After becoming aware of the Persian defeat at the Battle of Marathon, Darius began planning another expedition against the Greek-city states. Darius had spent three years preparing men and ships for war when a revolt broke out in Egypt, this revolt in Egypt worsened his failing health and prevented the possibility of leading another army himself; soon, Darius was dead. In October 486 BC, the body of Darius was embalmed and entombed in the rock-cut sepulcher which had been prepared for him several years earlier.


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News

January 2011: Archaeologists discovered a tomb - KV64 - in the Valley of the Kings, the coffin found in the tomb contained an intact mummy of Nehmes Bastet, a temple singer during Egypt's 22nd Dynasty.(1)


November 2010: The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt says archaeologists have unearthed 12 more sphinx statues along the ancient avenue connecting Luxor and Karnak temples.(2)


April 2010: A new 19th Dynasty tomb in Tell el-Maskhuta is discovered, the tomb belongs to a noble named Ken-Amun


March 2010: A new translation of the Philae Victory Stele reveals the name of Augustus in cartouches.


March 2010: More statues of Amenhotep III are found at Kom el-Hettan.


March 2010: The ruins of the pyramid of Queen Behenu are discovered.

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Things to do

  • Needed articles.

We should have an article on every pyramid and every nome in Ancient Egypt. I'm sure the rest of us can think of other articles we should have.

  • Cleanup.

To start with, most of the general history articles badly need attention. And I'm told that at least some of the dynasty articles need work. Any other candidates?

  • Standardize the Chronology.

A boring task, but the benefit of doing it is that you can set the dates !(e.g., why say Khufu lived 2589-2566? As long as you keep the length of his reign correct, or cite a respected source, you can date it 2590-2567 or 2585-2563)

  • Stub sorting

Anyone? I consider this probably the most unimportant of tasks on Wikipedia, but if you believe it needs to be done . . .

  • Data sorting.

This is a project I'd like to take on some day, & could be applied to more of Wikipedia than just Ancient Egypt. Take one of the standard authorities of history or culture -- Herotodus, the Elder Pliny, the writings of Breasted or Kenneth Kitchen, & see if you can't smoothly merge quotations or information into relevant articles. Probably a good exercise for someone who owns one of those impressive texts, yet can't get access to a research library.

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