Ancient Egypt Essay
Egypt is a well-known country, with a history dating back over five thousand years. It is located in the north-eastern part of the African continent. Egypt is famous for many things: The Great Pyramids; The Sphinx; The Nile River; Hieroglyphics; Pharaohs, such as King Tutankhamen and his golden sarcophagus, and Mummies. Egypt's long history has always interested me and my year-long fondness for an Egyptian character in one of my most favoured programs has only increased my interest in Egypt; this is why I chose to study ancient Egypt for this project. I've set myself focus questions, along with sub questions. The following questions are a few of the questions I chose: 'Was Ancient Egypt considered one of the most powerful and advanced civilizations of its time?', 'How did the Ancient Egyptians survive in such harsh conditions?' and 'Were there booby-traps in Egypt's Pyramids?' I've answered these questions, plus more, and shall now share with you the information I gathered.
When one thinks of Egypt they picture an advanced and unconquered civilization, but was this truly the case? It is indeed true that ancient Egypt was one of the most powerful civilizations of its time. It was also the most advanced civilization of its time for several millennia. Ancient Egypt's great success wouldn't have been attainable had it not been for the great Nile River that runs through the heart of Egypt as well as the ancient Egyptians knowledge and ideas of using the Nile River to their advantage. Ideas such as digging ditches and building canals connected to the Nile River. The ditches transported water into the drier land, further from the lush banks of the Nile, by means of either the canals or Nile River directly. This water was now easier to access for farmers, so they could water their crops. Because of this ingenious idea, the land that was once dry was now land worthy of growing crops. Farming was an important part of everyday life in ancient Egypt. No other country – not even China or India – has such a long, unbroken history as Egypt. Nearly three thousand years before Christ, the Egyptians had reached a high stage of civilization. They lived under an orderly government; they carried commerce by ship; they built great stone structures and, perhaps most important of all, they had acquired the art of writing.
One may wonder how the ancient Egyptians became such a powerful nation when the majority of Egypt is desert, far from water. The ancient Egyptians built their cities along the banks of the Nile River. Ancient Egyptians depended on said river and the fertile land along its banks for growing crops, fishing, travel –their trading boats used the river for transport– and, naturally, water. The yearly flooding of the Nile enriched the soil and brought good harvests and wealth to the land. As the great nation grew, their dependence on the Nile River also grew. Soon, it was a centerpiece of their religious practices and their belief in the afterlife as they prayed to Osiris, God of the Nile River, for the Nile's yearly flood. The people of ancient Egypt built mud brick homes in villages and in the country. They grew some of their own food and traded in the villages for the food and goods they could not produce. Most ancient Egyptians worked as field hands, farmers, craftsmen and scribes. A small group of people were nobles. Together, these different groups of people made up the population of ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians had an orderly government: they paid taxes by means of food, liquid and such because money wasn't invented; they had systems in place for wrong-doers, and punishments for crimes were decided, too.
Referring to natural resources, the greatest resource available to the ancient Egyptians was the Nile River – as made clear earlier. Other resources are metals, plants and stones. The main metal used in Egypt was Copper, which comes naturally mixed with other minerals in an ore form. The ancient Egyptians devised an effective method in order to separate the Copper from the mixture of minerals. Flint was an important stone for ancient Egyptians. It was used for making weapons as well as for making sickles, used to harvest crops. Steatite, another type of stone, was used in making scarabs. Scarabs were inexpensive charms which held a religious meaning to the ancient Egyptians. Egypt lacked good trees for wood because of the dry climate, so Cedar wood had to be imported from Lebanon to meet the Egyptians' needs. Flax was another natural resource that Egypt utilized. Flax grew well in the fertile Nile Valley. It was pulled out by the roots and then dried. Seeds were removed, and the core of the plant was placed in water for a week or more. Then they beat and separated it into parts that were spun into linen cloth, used for clothing by both commoners and royals alike. Another naturally grown crop in ancient Egypt was papyrus. It was made into writing material, a predecessor to paper. The papyrus plant grew in several feet of water. It was pulled out, and the stem was cut into strips. The strips were overlaid in vertical and horizontal layers and put under pressure by pounding it together. The sap of the plant acted like a glue after it dried, holding the strips together in a white loose-textured paper.
The Great Pyramids, one of ancient Egypt's most famous accomplishments, were the tallest structures on Earth for several millennia. The ancient Egyptians built Pyramids as tombs for the pharaohs and their queens. The pharaohs were buried in pyramids of many different shapes and sizes from before the Old Kingdom began till the end of the Middle Kingdom. There are about eighty pyramids known today from ancient Egypt. The three largest and best-preserved of these were built at Giza at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. As soon as a Pharaoh took over the throne, he or she began construction on their tomb, which ancient Egyptians called a 'House of Eternity'. The most well-known Pyramids are the Pyramids of Giza, near Cairo. They were built for Pharaoh Khufu; the most famous of these three Pyramids is known as the 'Great Pyramid'. Like the Pharaohs before him, Khufu began planning his 'House of Eternity' as soon as he took the throne. The construction of the Great Pyramid took around twenty years and required thousands of men. These men were not slaves, but villagers and farmers, who contributed to building the Great Pyramid as payment for their taxes. Farmers would work on building the pyramid during the flood season when their fields were under water. There have been arguments for many years about how the Egyptians could've built such structures and many came to the conclusion that Aliens built, or assisted the Egyptians in building, the Pyramids; however, Archaeologists have begun to unravel the mysteries and answer the many questions those ask about how these structures will built. They've even thought through a possible method, and most likely the correct method, the ancient Egyptians could've used to build the Pyramids. A spot was chosen for building on the west bank of the Nile. Cemeteries were usually built on the west bank because the sun 'died' on the western horizon every night. Khufu's architects were wise and experienced men. They knew the importance of building the pharaoh's final resting place so that its sides faced directly north, south, east and west. They planned a large pyramid – the largest one ever built in ancient Egypt. The outlines of the pyramid were measured and marked in the desert sand, and then the building began. Building materials such as Granite were transported by boat, along the Nile River, and large blocks of limestone were cut from the quarries, about two hundred meters away from the building site. They were dragged by groups of men to the site of the pyramid and set in place. For about 20 years, hundreds of men worked on building the pyramid. As they built each level, they also built up the ramps around the pyramid. When the pyramid was almost finished, a special block covered in shining metal –either gold or electrum– was placed on the top of the pyramid. Then, blocks of white limestone from quarries across the Nile were used to cover the pyramid. The blocks were trimmed to make the outside of the pyramid smooth. Finally, the pyramid was finished.
Many think there are deadly, dangerous booby-traps inside the Pyramids, but this most certainly isn't the case. There weren't booby-traps in Egypt's Pyramids; especially not to the extent that movies like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones would make us believe. The intricacies of many Pyramids were very confusing for those exploring them, due to the many winding passageways and dead ends. There are deep pits dug into the passageways of tombs, but these were primarily to stop the Nile River's flood waters from entering into Pyramids' main chambers. These pits are always in basically the same position in every tomb and it's a fact that no one has fallen into them in this modern era. Archaeologists have never come across rolling boulders or spikes set off by unwary feet and such. Also, ancient Egyptians would likely have written of booby-traps in hieroglyphs on the walls of Pyramids, Temples and such. They needn't worry about tomb robbers reading the Hieroglyphics, should they be from Egypt, because very few (mostly scribes) could read and write Hieroglyphics. Many tour guides are renowned for telling tall tales, such as Napoleon's troops shooting the face of The Great Sphinx, causing the nose to break off, and the Scarab of Amenophis at Karnak bringing true wishes if you walk around it three times. Booby-traps as one would imagine them to be are simply Hollywood fantasies and nothing more.
I believe that the information I've gathered and shared with you clearly shows that ancient Egypt was most definitely one of the wisest, most powerful and advanced civilizations of its time. I also believe that with ancient Egypt's many accomplishments and ideas, they deserve every ounce of fame given. I hold no doubt that, although the ancient Egyptians are long gone, their legacy will live on and continue to awe modern civilization. I'm pleased that their amazing accomplishments and ways of life have been preserved for many millennia, so that we can learn about and appreciate one of the most powerful civilizations to ever live on Earth.