Akhenaten – a summary

More than 3,300 years ago a man named Akhenaten rose to power to rule over Egypt during the 18th dynasty. His radical belief in monotheism was cause for alarm during his reign and later rulers of Egypt tried to omit him from the official lists of kings. The Pharaoh Akhenhaten, who came to the throne in 1353 BCE, is an attractive figure to historians and archeologists: what possessed a pharaoh to abandon all the traditional gods and put so much effort into one deity? What caused his rapid fall from grace following his death? Was he the father of the boy king, Tutankhamun, and why did images of Akhenaten depict him with such strange features?

Monotheism

AkhenatenShortly after coming to power, the new pharaoh changed his name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten, meaning “He who is of service to the Aten”, in honor of what he believed to be the one true god. Although he initially allowed the continued worship of traditional Egyptian gods, he eventually forbade worship of any deity other than the Aten.

Akhenaten is believed to be the world’s first monotheist by putting his faith in a single god (although other gods were still mentioned in inscriptions). His belief in the one god, Aten, was so powerful that he moved his capitol city from Thebes, one of the largest cities in Egypt at the time, to the city of Akhetaten (modern-day Amarna). This city was to be a tribute to the sun disc god and roughly translates as “Horizon of Aten”.

Akhenaten began removing depictions of other gods as he pushed his people to follow his monotheistic view. Statues, carvings, and paintings of other deities were defaced or destroyed. Any tribute or economic gains offered to other gods were absorbed into the new belief system.

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Howard Carter and the Tomb of Tutankhamun

On 4 November 1922, Howard Carter made one of the most remarkable and important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. In the Valley of the Kings, he unearthed the tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, a boy king named Tutankhamun. Unlike every other tomb excavated in modern times, it quickly became apparent that Tutankhamun’s resting place had not been entirely ransacked by grave robbers soon after it was sealed. An unparalleled wealth of extraordinary treasures, that had lain buried for over three millennia, were about to be revealed to the world.

Years of Searching

Howard Carter was born in Britain in 1874 and developed a passion for Egypt in his youth. He first journeyed to the Land of the Pharaohs at the age of seventeen and in 1907 began working for Lord Carnarvon, a British aristocrat who often passed the winter in Egypt due to ill health. Carnarvon provided funding for excavations and was granted a license to dig in the Valley of the Kings, where Carter believed the tomb of Tutankhamun was located.

Work was put on hold during World War One, but Carter maintained that several funerary items he had uncovered, all bearing the name Tutankhamun, constituted strong evidence that there was a tomb to be found. Excavations continued from 1917 to 1922, but after five years no significant discoveries had been made. Carnarvon was losing faith and interest in Carter’s endeavours, but granted him funding for one last season in the Valley of the Kings. On 1 November 1922, Carter’s men set to work.

The First Step

Howard Carter was both methodical and meticulous in his techniques, dividing the area into rectangles and marking them off one by one. On 4 November, his patience and logic were finally rewarded, as a stone step was uncovered in one of the final spaces to be excavated. Removal of sand soon revealed fifteen more steps, at the bottom of which stood a sealed doorway.

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The Ancient Ages of Gambling

Gambling is a hugely popular activity and has been so for as long as the old tales can retell. It is one of mankind’s oldest activities and evidence of the art has been found across the globe throughout the ages. Gambling is as old as history itself.

One of the first mentions of gambling was in Ancient Roman and Greek history. Everyone, from the upper elite to the peasants and slaves enjoyed gambling and while it was illegal at the time, many still regularly practised it.

The Romans worshipped many gods, and among them, the goddess named Fortuna was considered to be the ruler of fortune and chance. Several temples were erected throughout the Velabrum and the Roman Forum in her glory and she became known as Felictas, meaning “good fortune” or “good luck”. She became a symbol of wealth and prosperity in the Roman Empire, and was called upon by gamblers when wagering and making bets.

The Greeks, much like their Egyptian predecessors, also believed that the act of gambling had been born from the Gods. According to Ancient Greek mythology, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades cast lots to win parts of the Universe. After the final wager had taken place, Zeus won the Heaves, Poseidon the sea and Hades, who got the short straw, won over the Underworld. Many mentions have been made in history as to the gods betting over the power of mere mortals.

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Ramesses the Great – a summary

Ramesses II was about twenty years of age when he succeeded his father, Sety I, a leading general, to the throne of Upper and Lower Egypt. His royal wife, Nefertari (not to be confused with Nefertiti), remained his primary wife and his great love until she died at an early age. Nefertari whose name means ‘the most beautiful’ was laid to rest in an exquisitely decorated rock-cut tomb in the Valley of the Queens.

Ramesses the Great, as he was known, ruled Egypt for sixty-seven years, coming to power, Egyptologists believe, on 31 May 1279 BCE. During his reign the Egyptian Empire was greatly expanded through both military conquests and treaties. The two great foes of the Egyptians during this period were the Hittites, who emerged from southern Turkey as a fearless and ruthless power bent on expansion, and the Nubians to the south in modern-day Sudan, whose desire always had been to campaign northwards to overthrow Egypt and acquire the fertile Nile valley for their own nation.

Ramesses and Nefertari

Ramesses the Great mounted military excursions and repelled Nubia on several occasions. He ordered a temple to be built on the banks of the Nile at Egypt’s southern border (at Abu Simbel) where four colossal statues of Pharaoh Ramesses glowered menacingly at anyone who might dare to challenge his might. On the same site he erected a beautiful temple for Nefertari, dedicated to the goddess Hathor. Nefertari is shown in statues at the front of the temple standing next to Ramesses the Great. Her statues are the same size as those of Ramesses, an almost unheard of tribute to his royal wife. The inscription reads, Nefertari, for whom the sun does shine.

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The Pyramids of Giza

Undoubtedly one of the most famous sights in the world, the three great pyramids of Giza are for many the defining icon of ancient Egyptian culture. Built in less than 100 years, between 2600 and 2500 BC, they represent the pinnacle of precision and organisation; perfection in pyramid building. As they stand today, stripped of their fine white limestone casing and having lost integral parts of their complex, the pyramids are slightly less brilliant than they once were, but no less astounding. Who were the kings who envisioned such immense structures as their eternal resting place? How did they build them?

The 4th Dynasty

4th Dynasty kings

2613-2494

Sneferu

2613-2589

Khufu

2589-2566

Djedefre

2566-2558

Khafre

2558-2532

Menkaura

2532-2503

Shepseskaf

2503-2498

Tomb location

Meidum Pyramid

Dahshur ‘Bent’ and ‘Red’ pyramids

Giza

‘Great’ Pyramid

Abu Roash (north of Giza.) Pyramid

Giza

Pyramid

Giza

Pyramid

 South Saqqara

Mastaba tomb

The pyramid form was developed in the 3rd Dynasty and was already in use as the superstructure for royals tombs, but it was Sneferu’s reign that saw the first attempts to create a ‘true’ pyramid. When Khufu (Cheops in Greek) came to the throne his father’s extensive pyramid building programme had allowed techniques to be honed and important lessons learned. (Pictured is Khufu’s ‘great’ pyramid). The ambition of Khufu would be realised because the designers, masons and labourers had the ability and the knowledge to undertake such an exorbitant project. Surely this would distinguish their king for the rest of history.

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Ancient Egypt: History in an Hour

History for busy people. Ancient Egypt in an Hour is a fascinating and concise account of ancient Egyptian history.

The history and mystery of ancient Egypt stirs our imagination and stimulates our desire to understand more about the most influential civilisation of the pre-Christian era. It was a period during which the Egyptians preserved their dead in decorated tombs and built magnificent monuments, while other nascent cultures still dressed in skins and lived in rudimentary dwellings.

The Egyptians believed in strange animal-headed gods; they mummified their dead in preparation for their journey into the afterlife; they built imposing and enduring stone structures using only Bronze Age tools and their country remained virtually inviolate, unconquered and unchanged for over more than three millennia.

Where did they come from? How did they achieve and maintain a cohesive cultural identity over all that time? What secrets have already been discovered by archaeologists and what revelations might still be waiting to be found hidden in the desert sands of Egypt? Finally, what legacy did they leave to us as we enter the third millennium AD?

This, in an hour, is Ancient Egypt.

Only 99p. Buy now from iTunesAmazonB&N and other online stores.

Also available as an audio download and an app for the iPhone / iPad.

Contents:

  • Ancient Egyptian Civilisation
  • The Old Kingdom
  • The Ancient Religion
  • First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom
  • Hieroglyphs and Writing and the Second Intermediate Period
  • Mummification
  • The New Kingdom
  • Third Intermediate Period and the Late Period
  • The Hellenistic Period
  • The Legacy of Ancient Egypt

Reader reviews:

Excellent and concise summary of ancient Egypt. Perfect introduction for anyone contemplating a trip to the archeological sights in Egypt. Well worth the money and though I am not an Egyptologist, content was consistent with what I learned from a qualified Egyptologist in Egypt. Easy, quick read. Wish there were more books like this.”

“I read this book also on my way to Egypt for a Nile Cruise and while actually on the cruise. It really helped keep me to keep my Pharaohs straight which enhanced my enjoyment of our guide’s explanations. Definitely recommend it if you’re heading to the Nile or are simply interested in Egyptology.”

Loved this little book! Great for older kids and homework as well as adults who just want the facts!! Highly recommend.”

“Found this very interesting. Easy to read and understand. The sort of reference book you can go back and re-read at a later date.”

Very good for people who just want the facts very interesting. An informative good read I found it a good book and helpful for my archaeology class.”

“Easy to read. Great book. Recommended!”

Mummies and Mummification

Mummification, the art of preserving a body, is a defining element of ancient Egyptian civilization. Mummification differs from the science of embalming. The latter is defined as delaying decomposition to keep the corpse looking natural. The traditional Egyptian mummy, swathed in bandages, is a far cry from an embalmed lifelike body such as that of Vladimir Lenin. However the two terms have become intertwined and are used sometimes interchangeably.

‘Mummy’ – Origins of the word

The word ‘mummy’ is derived from ‘mummia’, a bituminous resin found in ancient Persia; however ‘mummy’ is a relatively modern term. “Mummia” was not used in mummification, but when mummies were discovered coated with dark plant resin it was assumed“mummia” played a role and the term mummification was coined.

There are two elements to mummification, the physical process and the religious symbolism. The physical process was a secretive art. Our knowledge is derived from ‘reverse engineering’ of the many mummies that survived. Information has also been derived from the experiment in modern mummification conducted by Dr. Robert Brier of Long Island University.

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