Ancient Egypt --- a subject which has always interested me, even from a very young age. The information we learn at school just skims the surface, and even what is taught in the Bible, gives us a mere glimpse into this very real ancient world. I remember many times going to the museum and staring at the beautifully coloured objects that have been discovered in the Egyptian tombs, even the everyday objects, such as combs or plates, hold my attention as I remember that these very items were physically and actually used every day, thousands of years ago. Even this study probably will just touch the surface of the very deep well of history. A culture of Master and Slave, even as we have had Upper-class and Lower-class. How the Pharaohs treated these slaves and who the slaves were is a massive subject all of its own. The clothes that were worn, who wore them and what they were made of we can, not only read about, but also can see on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs. The beautiful jewellery, so colourful, each piece meaning something, we have even copied in our time. The food of the rich, the food of the poor, very different and how the food affected the Egyptians health. The Gods and Goddesses which/who affected every aspect of life back then --- rich and poor! If I were to write down my own knowledge of Ancient Egypt, it would seem like a page compared to the thousands of books that we can read and learn from today. For such a massive subject, where do I start? Which God/Goddess? Which Pharaoh? Which part of Egypt? This study of Ancient Egypt is not meant to be “The Complete History of Ancient Egypt,” just my own “study of Ancient Egypt.” I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed researching it.
TO START WITH
1/ most ancient Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for Pharaohs and their families. To date, over 130 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt.
2/ the afterlife was incredibly important to the Egyptians. They believed that by preserving a dead person’s body --- Mummification --- their soul would live on in the afterlife forever.
3/ the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza is the largest Egyptian pyramid. This incredible structure weighs as much as 16 Empire State buildings.
4/ both the Egyptian men and women wore make-up. The eye-paint was usually green (made from copper) or black (made from lead). As well as offering protection from the sun, the Egyptians believed make-up had magical powers too.
5/ unwrapped, the bandages of an Ancient Egyptian mummy could stretch for 1.6km.
6/ the Egyptian alphabet contained more than 700 hieroglyphs.
7/ Ancient Egyptians believed in more than 2,000 deities. They had gods for everything, from dangers to chores. Each had different responsibilities and needed to be worshipped so that life could be kept in balance.
8/ Cats were considered to be a sacred animal by the Ancient Egyptians. It’s thought that most families kept a cat as a pet, which they believed would bring the household good luck.
9/ one popular game was “Senet”, which was played for over 2,000 years. The game involved throwing sticks to see how many squares to move the piece forward on the board.
10/ the ancient Egyptians invented lots of things we still use today, such as paper, pens, locks, keys and toothpaste.
11/ the ancient Egyptians left paintings and carvings (which can still be seen today) of large animals like elephants, hippos, leopards and cheetahs. Once common in Egypt, these animals are now rare or even extinct due to hunting and habitat loss.
12/ around 3100 BC, the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were unified under a powerful Pharaoh.
13/ Egypt thrived for thousands of years (from c.8000BCE to c.30BCE) as an independent nation whose cultural was famous for great cultural advances in every area of human knowledge, from the arts to science to technology and religion.
14/ one of the reasons for the enduring popularity of Egyptian culture is its emphasis on the grandeur of the human experience. Their great monuments, tombs, temples and art work all celebrate life and stand as reminders of what once was and what human beings, at their best, are capable of achieving. Although ancient Egypt if often associated with death and mortuary rites, something even in these speaks to people across the ages of what it means to be a human being and the power and purpose of remembrance.
15/ to the ancient Egyptians, life on earth was only one aspect of an eternal journey.
16/ from the Pre-Dynastic Period (c6000 – c.3150BCE) a belief in the gods/goddesses defined the Egyptian culture. Heka was the primal force which infused the universe and caused all things to operate as they did. Ma’at, harmony and balance. All of the gods/goddesses and all of their responsibilities went back to Ma’at and Heka.
17/ during the period known as the Old Kingdom (c.2613-c.2181BCE), architecture honouring the gods/goddesses developed at an increased rate and some of the most famous monuments in Egypt, such as the pyramids and the Great Sphinx at Giza, were constructed.
18/ in ancient Egypt, men and women were treated as equals, as long as they were of “equivalent social status.” Women could own, earn, buy, sell and inherit property. They could live unprotected by male guardians and, if widowed or divorced, could raise their own children. They could bring cases before, and be punished, by the law courts. They were expected to deputize for an absent husband in matters of business.
19/ hieroglyphic writing was a script of many hundreds of intricate images and was/is beautiful to look at, but very time-consuming to create. It was reserved for the most important texts; the writings that decorated the tombs and walls, also the texts recording Royal achievements.
20/ Tutankhamun has the smallest Royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
20 simple facts about ancient Egypt, the people, the culture, the Pharaohs.
Possibly the most well-known of the ancient Pharaohs because of the media attention given to him, how much do we really “know” about Tutankhamun?
Tutankhamun was a Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty during the New Kingdom. He was born c.1341BCE and died c.1323BCE, at the young age of 18/19. Tutankhamun’s father was Akhenaten and mother was “The Younger Lady.” He married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten and they had two stillborn daughters. Tutankhamun ascended the throne in 1333BCE when he was nine/ten years of old. In his third regal year, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father’s reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The bam on the cult Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capitol was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned. This is when the young Pharaoh changed his name to Tutankhamun meaning “Living image of Amun” reinforcing the restoration of Amun.
When Tutankhamun took over the throne, the country was economically weak and in turmoil following the reign of his father. Tutankhamun sought to change this, restoring diplomatic relations with the other kingdoms. His reign was close to the apogee of Egypt as a world power. “Apogee” means “the highest point in the development of something.”
This young Pharaoh was slight of build, being roughly 5ft 6in tall. He had large front incisors and an overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid Royal line to which he belonged. Research shows us that Tutankhamun had (possibly) a mild case of “scoliosis”, a medical condition in which the spine deviates to the side from the normal position. Examinations also show that he had deformities in his left foot, caused by “necrosis” of the bone tissue. This explains why there were a number of walking canes found in his tomb. Tutankhamun contracted multiple malarial infections. “The malaria would have weakened his immune system and had interfered with the healing of his foot. All of these factors, combined with the fracture in his left thigh-bone, may have been what killed him.
Tutankhamun’s reign was one of the greatest periods of restoration in the history of Egypt. The rich array of objects found in this young Pharaoh’s tomb, speak to the opulence of the Egyptian court and the pampered life this young Pharaoh lived. There were 5,398 items found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, including a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, archery bows, trumpets, a lotus chalice, food, wine, sandals and fresh linen.
Tutankhamun is one of the best known Pharaoh’s mainly because his tomb was among one of the best preserved.
The daily life of the ancient Egyptians revolved around the Nile and the fertile land along its bank. The yearly flooding of the Nile enriched the soil and brought good harvests and wealth to the land. The people 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 worked as field hands, farmers, craftsmen and scribes. A small group of people were nobles. There were skilled and semi-skilled artisans as well as soldiers, sailors, doctors and scribes. Then, of course, came the elite and the Royal Family. The Pharaoh alone was said to communicate with the gods, being a “god” himself, superior to everyone in ancient Egypt.
The family was the backbone of this ancient world. Even the gods and goddesses married and had children. The marriage was more practical than romantic, designed to create a visible economic unit. To be unmarried was to be incomplete. “School” boys were encouraged to marry young and have as many children as possible. Boys followed their fathers by being trained in the trades and professions, the girls followed their mothers, staying at home and learning how to be a wife. Girls married in their early teens, the husband worked outside the home, earning the “rations” that fed the family, the wife stayed at home running the house, cleaning, cooking and sewing. Most married women spent their life either pregnant or breastfeeding. With very little medical knowledge when compared with today, the “gods/goddesses” would protect the unborn and the mother. These gods/goddesses were the pregnant hippopotamus goddess Taweret and the dwarf demi-god Bes.
The mother prepared for childbirth by removing her clothing and loosening her hair. The wealthy mother would have retreated to a specially constructed birthing hut. The mother squatted on birthing bricks for the delivery, and a midwife used a sharp obsidian or flint knife to cut the umbilical cord. If something went wrong, very little could be done. For the babies that lived, the mothers breastfed them for up to three years.
Egypt was a fertile land and (normally) no one went hungry. Food was home-grown, hunted, fished or bartered at the market. Water was obtained from wells, the Nile or irrigation canals built by the Egyptians. Grain (wheat or barley) was the principle source of carbohydrate. Bread was eaten in vast quantities, even by the gods/goddesses who received offerings every day. Vegetables and fish were widely available, the typical peasant family ate a healthy diet rich in bread, fish, onions and pulses supplemented by occasional small game and fowl. The elite, of course, ate meat on a more regular basis. Chicken was not available, unlike today. Beer was a mild, thick, slightly sweet beverage best drunk through a filtering straw and was the main drink of the masses, consumed at every meal. Wine made from grapes grown in the Nile Delta was for the privileged elite.
Egypt’s doctors were considered the best in the ancient world. They used a combination of scientific methods and magical rituals. Patients were sometimes treated with a prescription, human milk being considered an effective ingredient, or by minor surgery. Their understanding of the human body was not correct but it was all they knew back then.
The gods/goddesses ruled every aspect of the ancient Egyptians lives. The Egyptian pantheon included thousands of gods/goddesses. There were nationally recognized state gods/goddesses, local ones and demi-gods. The Pharaoh and the priests worshipped the “top” or important gods/goddesses. Magic was a real power back then to protect the innocent and ward off harm. It could not be separated from religion or science.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Death was part of the journey for the ancient Egyptians. If the corpse was preserved in a lifelike form, it might form a bridge between the spirit of the deceased and the land of the living. For these Egyptians, their attitude towards death was influenced by their belief in immortality. To ensure the continuity of life after death, people paid homage to the gods/goddesses, both during and after their life on earth. When they died, they were mummified so the soul would return to the body, giving it breath and life. Household equipment and food and drink were placed on offering tables outside the tomb’s burial chamber to provide for the person’s needs in the after world. Written funerary texts consisting of spells or prayers were also included to assist the dead on their way to the after world.
To prepare the deceased for the journey to the after world, the “opening of the mouth” ceremony was performed on the mummy and the mummy case by priests. This elaborate ritual involved purification, censing (burning incense), anointing and incantations, as well as touching the mummy with ritual objects to restore the senses --- the ability to speak, touch, see, smell and hear.
The journey to the after world was considered full of danger. Travelling on a solar bark, the mummy passed through the underworld, which was inhabited by serpents armed with long knives, fire-spitting dragons and reptiles with five ravenous heads. Upon arriving in the realm of the Duat (Land of the Gods), the deceased had to pass through seven gates, reciting accurately a magic spell at each stop. If successful, they arrived at the Hall of Osiris, the place of judgement.
Here the gods of the dead performed the “weighing of the heart” ceremony to judge whether the person’s earthly deeds were virtuous. The weighing of the heart was overseen by the jackal-headed god Anubis, and the judgement was recorded by Thoth, the god of writing.
Forty-two gods listened to the confessions of the deceased who claimed to be innocent of crimes against the divine and human social order. The person’s heart was then placed on a scale, counterbalanced by a feather that represented Moat, the goddess of truth and justice. If the heart was equal in weight to the feather, the person was justified and achieved immortality. If not, it was devoured by the goddess Amemet. This meant that the person would not survive in the afterlife. When a Pharaoh passed the test, he became one with the god Osiris. He then travelled through the underworld on a solar bark, accompanied by the gods, to reach paradise and attain everlasting life.
This sounds like a fairy-story to us but the Ancient Egyptians really believed it, from the Pharaoh down to the lowliest Egyptian. The Pyramids and Statutes are concrete proof of this belief.
These Egyptians regarded “Beauty” as a sign of holiness. Even the make-up had a spiritual aspect to it. In tombs, cosmetic palettes have been found buried in gold with the deceased as grave goods which further emphasized the idea that cosmetics were not only used for aesthetic purposes but also for magical and religious purposes.
The two main forms of eye make-up were grepond eye paint and black Kohl. The green eye paint was made of malachite, a copper carbonate pigment, and the black Kohl was made from galena, a dark grey ore. Crushed charcoal was also used in this lining of the eyes and were revealed to bring along potent health benefits in the form of protection from disease, bugs and sun rays. Some of the common cosmetics included:
A/ malachite, a copper one, which provided the green eye make-up colour so greatly favoured at the time.
B/ Kohl, used to draw thick, distinctive black lines, giving an almond shape to the eyes.
C/ red ochre, which was used as rouge or lip colour.
D/ henna, which was widely used to stain the fingertips and toes.
Once the ingredients were gathered, time-consuming preparation was needed to make them ready to apply. Minerals were ground into powder and then mixed with a carrier agent (often animal fat) in order to make it easy to apply and stay on the skin.
Eye make-up was applied using ivory, wood or sticks made of metal. Make-up became a source of personal power. It was a way to imitate the gods, to protect the skin from the sun (Kohl was believed to repel flies and ward off infections), and offer protection against evil (eyes without make-up were thought to be vulnerable to the Evil Eye).
The rich and poor wore make-up, the main difference was in the applicators and storage used. All had access to make-up, the poor relied on clay pots and sticks. The rich used ivory containers and applicators that were beautifully carved and bejewelled.
Attention was also drawn to the lips. This was done with the use of red ochre. It was often applied alone but in many cases was mixed with resin or gum for a longer lasting appearance. Popular colours were red, orange, magenta and blue-black. Members of Royalty and the upper class wore lip paint to showcase their status in society. It became a symbol of sophistication and importance, rather than just a beauty item. Well-off women were often buried with two or more pots of lip paint. Living in a hot and sandy climate meant their skin were often in danger due to extreme weather conditions and the harsh rays of the sun. Regular application offered both style as well as daily skin protection.
The Egyptians used a type of henna (a dye made form leaves from the henna shrub) to paint their nails. Since the length and colour was often linked to social status, upkeep was especially important. Not only sis the Pharaohs and members of the upper class have manicurists, people used henna to tint the nails yellow or orange.
High importance was placed upon scents and skin care. Egyptians would keep their skin smooth, hydrated and wrinkle free by applying creams and oil made from animal fats. Fragrances were also very important as it was believed that good scents were godly. As a result, they made scented products derived from flowers like sandalwood, lilies, iris and Frankincense.
Every god and goddess has make-up on, whether human or animal, also the Pharaohs and their family members --- who are depicted on every wall inside every pyramid.
The ancient Egyptians may have lived over 5,000 years ago but their style and design affects us today. Their jewellery was stunning and extremely colourful. Gold, ceramic and semi-precious stones were mounted on the most elaborate necklaces, rings, earrings and so on. The jewellery, like make-up, was worn not just for beauty but also for personal protection and health. Both men and women wore jewellery which included earrings, necklaces, collars, rings, bracelets and hair ornaments. Many examples are depicted on carvings and tomb paintings, but it has to be remembered that the one painting tried to show the taste and beauty of the one who had died. The jewellery was worn for personal decoration, as a status symbol, for protection and even health, for the ancient Egyptians strongly believed in the power of gems and magic symbols which affected their lives. Each gem and bead was different, although “workshops” produced a number of common types.
BODY ADORNMENTS = the body was adorned with jewellery, for example, a gemstone belt was popular.
BRACELETS = these were armlets or cuff styles. The Pharaohs are famous for their extensive jewellery collections. The armlets belonging to Rameses III are now showing in the Cairo Museum. The cuff bracelets often had gold, glass with semi-precious stones within them.
NECKLACES = ranged from simple beads strung on linen thread with a carved fly, and amethyst and garnet stones to spectacular pieces like the New Kingdom’s King Tut falcon pendant.
COLLARS = consisted of hundreds of beads, strands of gems and inlay work. These gold sheet collars used glass beads to imitate gemstones. Gold was more prevalent than silver since Egyptians had more access to the sunny metal, silver was more precious than gold. Collars and other jewellery was used to adorn the dead. The broad collar of Wah was such a type of collar, the lack of a strong clasp signifies that it was placed on Wah’s mummified remains (rather than worn in life). It is made from glazed ceramic beads and linen thread.
RINGS = and earrings came in gold, silver, inlaid, gems and glass. Sometimes they were carved with prayers to the gods/goddesses or magic incantations for protection. A ring owned by a temple priest chows the goddess Isis with her son Horus.
PECTORALS = hung down over the wearer’s chest. One example (from King Tut’s tomb) has the protective eye, scarab beetles, cobras, vulture/falcon wings, lilies and papyrus blooms, all which represented the Pharaoh and his power over Egypt. This type of jewellery showed off the skill of the goldsmith and bead maker. Some of these Pectorals were made of gold, carnelian, Lapis lazuli, turquoise, garnet and green feldspar. Thus, only the very wealthy could afford this kind of jewellery.
WIG DECORATIONS = for sanitary reasons, the ancient Egyptians shaved their heads. However, for celebrations and religious ceremonies the wealthy lady wore a wig, decorated with gold, glass and gems.
AMULETS = were small objects carried or worn to protect the wearer from harm, preserve their health or bring luck.
SYMBOLISM = a necklace with a falcon represented Horus and was protected by Horus. Colours had a meaning too.
Red = blood / strength
Blue = rebirth
Yellow = the sun / gods
White = purity and was used for religious observances
Black = death / rebirth
THE SCARAB BEETLE = meant rebirth
ANKH = meant immortality / the breath of life. It was used in jewellery for protection.
HORUS EYE = offered protection to the wearer. The six sections of the eye represented smell, hearing, taste, sight, touch and thought.
URAEUS = a rearing cobra was a sign of power and magic. The Pharaoh wore this symbol on his crown, an important piece of jewellery.
ISIS KNOT = somewhat resembling a knot of fabric or rope, the “Tyet” was used as an amulet for protection after death.
The ancient Egyptians ate well when compared to the other ancient civilizations. Most of the information we have on this subject comes from the many pictures found in the tombs and the scrolls of hieroglyphic writings. The pictures depict growing, finding, preparation, hunting, fishing and working in the fields.
POULTRY was popular with both the rich and the poor. Geese, swan, ducks, quails, cranes, pigeons, doves and ostriches. The rich favoured pigeons, geese, ducks and other domestic poultry. The hard-earned kills of the poor were cranes, swans and wild ostriches. Duck, crane and goose eggs were regularly eaten. Poultry was usually preserved with seasoning and rarely eaten straight away.
MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS. Bulls were used only for farming whereas other live-stock such as goats, sheep, and cows were raised for their milk. Curd, whey and cream became popular delicacies. However, certain dairy products were forbidden in certain temples.
VEGETABLES were a common food among the poor who lived nearer the Nile, which flooding, made the land fertile. The rich also are vegetables along with meat and bread. Onions, garlic, leeks, lentils, cabbage, radishes, turnips, legumes and cucumbers were the vegetables mostly grown.
FRUIT was grown and eaten. Fruits high in sugar and protein became popular. Apple, olive and pomegranate trees were brought to Egypt around the reign of Hyksos (possibly later). Grapes and figs were popular. Coconut was a luxury fruit which were imported and usually only eaten by the rich.
JUICES, especially fruit juices, was enjoyed by a number of Egyptians. Citrus fruits were primarily used, grapes and figs were pressed for every single drop of juice. Honey was used, also the syrup made from unfermented grape juice and other fruits such as raisins, dates, figs, carob and the root of chuba, which had a nice sweet flavour.
FOOD ADDITIVES and seasoning was used a great deal in cooking. They had 21 different names for the different vegetable oils, obtained from sources like sesame, castor, flax seed, radish seed, horseradish, safflower and colocynth. Also, salt, aniseed, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugeek, marjoram, mustard and thyme was very popular. Sugar did not appear at this time, but syrups made from dates, grapes and figs were used for sweetening purposes.
MEAT. Game was hunted. Some kept various kinds of domesticated animals for meat such as geese, cattle and Oryx antelopes (which were used for temple offerings). Beef was expensive and mainly for Royalty. The poor preferred poultry. Most of the edible fish from the Nile was eaten, except the species that were connected to the Egyptian God Osiris.
WINE and ancient Egypt have a very rich history. The Egyptian word for wine “jrp” predates any other known word for wine. Both red and white wines were available to everyone. For most of ancient Egyptian history, wine was mostly drank at the courts of the Pharaohs. It was a “common” drink for the rich and powerful.
BREAD was a staple food, and because it was made differently to today using crude utensils, several unwanted ingredients were mixed in, thus the bread was rougher and harder, but still the biggest part of the ancient Egyptians’ diet.
BEER was the most popular drink. Beer was the preferred drink for everybody, from the gods to the children, rich and poor. Beer was drunk with every meal and was a part of the workers “wages”. It was considered healthier to drink than water from the Nile, rivers and canals which were often polluted.
From the rich to the poor, all enjoyed being fed well, with several food options available. Food was baked, boiled, grilled, stewed, fried, roasted and served with seasoning, along with beer and occasionally wine.
Clothing and fashion cantered around the hot, dry climate. Light colours and light feeling fabrics were a necessity in the desert of Egypt where temperatures often soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). From Royalty to peasants, Egyptian clothing did not vary too much from the basic loincloth and dress. What distinguished someone who was a higher social status in Egyptian culture was mainly the quality of the fabric and the decorations. The typical ancient Egyptian dress included linen tunics with hanging fringes called “Kalasiris.” The length of the skirt varied depending on what was fashionable at the time. Although worn for thousands of years, no actual Kalasiris have ever been discovered. With the tiny exception of tiny bits of silk, wool and cotton, linen was predominantly used in ancient Egyptian clothing for thousands of years --- throughout the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. Children often did not wear clothing at all until about the age of six. At that age, they wore the same clothing as men and women.
Most of the clothing was made of linen, which is produced from the fibres of the flax plant. The men were usually responsible for the first portion of the linen making process which included harvesting the flax plant by manually pulling it from the ground. After soaking the flax stem for several days, the men beat the fibres that they separated so that it could be spun into thread by the women. Sometimes the linen was left in its natural colour, sometimes plant dyes were used to produce colourful thread that would then be weaved unto linen. Early ancient Egyptian weaving was done on a horizontal loom which usually required two women. Later, during the New Kingdom, vertical looms came into use. The ancient art of spinning, the process where flax plant fibres are twisted into strong thread, was considered women’s work. Since sewing was not only labour intensive, nut also required some degree of skill, stitching was limited to basic techniques. The clothing was relatively simple. The linen was cut into rectangles, wrapped around the body and tied with a belt. Simple hems kept fraying to a minimum.
The quality of the linen is what separated Royalty from the poor. Extremely fine, almost see-through linen was used for the wealthy and Royalty while a much more coarse cloth was used for those lower down the social scale. At one point it was common for the Upper class woman to wear dresses that were pleated horizontally. Each time the dresses were washed, the intricate pleating had to be redone. The trend of horizontal pleating gave way to vertical pleating during the New Kingdom. The Upper class woman sometimes wore a shawl in addition to the dress. The shawl required a bit of sewing, as did the sleeves and shoulder straps which the wealthy woman sometimes added to their dresses. For the wealthy, their clothes were decorated with beads, feathers, and other items. Both men and women wore jewellery and headdresses. Ancient Egyptian priests and Pharaohs often wore animal skins, particularly leopard skins.
THE PHARAOH was believed to be a God on earth and the most powerful person in Egypt. He was responsible for making laws and keeping order, ensuring that Egypt was not attacked or invaded by enemies and for keeping the gods/goddesses happy so that the Nile flooded and there was a good harvest.
THE VIZIER was Pharaoh’s chief advisor and was sometimes the High Priest. He was responsible for overseeing administration and all official documents had to have his seal of approval. He was also responsible for the supply of food, settling disputes between nobles and the running and protection of Pharaoh’s household.
NOBLES ruled the regions of Egypt. They were responsible for making local laws and keeping order in their region.
PRIESTS were responsible for keeping the gods/goddesses happy. They did not preach to people but spent their time performing rituals and ceremonies to the god of their temple.
SCRIBES were the only people who could read and write and were responsible for keeping records. They recorded how much food was produced at harvest time, how many soldiers were in the army, number of workers and the number of gifts given to the gods/goddesses.
SOLDIERS were responsible for the defence of the country. Many second sons, including those of the Pharaoh, often chose to join the army. Soldiers were allowed to share the riches captured from enemies and were also rewarded with land for their service to the country.
CRAFTSMEN were skilled workers such as --- pottery, painters, weavers, jewellery makers, shoe makers, tailors. Groups of craftsmen often worked together in workshops. Farmers worked the land of Pharaoh and nobles and were given housing, food and clothes in return. Some rented land from nobles and had to pay a percentage of their crop as their rent.
SLAVES were prisoners captured in war and could be found in the households of the Pharaoh and nobles, working in mines and quarries and also temples.
The ancient Egyptians loved to play board games. Several different games were played, including “Mehen” and “Dogs and Jackals”, but perhaps the most popular was a game of chance known as “Senet.” This game dates back to 3500BCE and was played on a long board painted with 30 squares. Each player had a set of pieces that were moved along the board according to the rolls of the dice or the throwing of sticks. This game was extremely popular. Paintings depict Queen Nefertari playing “Senet”, and Pharaohs like Tutankhamun even had board games buried with them in their tombs.
It was a part of the “Royal Wife’s” duty to produce as many heirs as possible but sometimes she achieved co-regency and ruled the land. These wives ere powerful and highly related, a few achieved the status of “Sole Ruler” of Egypt. Some went to great lengths to achieve this, trying to strengthen their claim on the throne. All played a significant role in the history of ancient Egypt.
QUEEN MERNEITH is believed to have risen to power after the death of her husband, King Djet. At the time, her son (Den) was too young to rule so Queen MerNeith became the very first female ruler of ancient Egypt. He name means “beloved of Neith.”
QUEEN NEITHIKRET likely rose to power c.2148-2144BCE. Although little is known about this Queen, also known as “Nitiqret and Nitrocris”, she is mentioned in many historical writings.
QUEEN SEBEKNEFERU ruled Egypt during the 12th Dynasty from 1806-1802BCE. She rose to power after her husband (and brother) Amenemhat IV died. This Queen built structures at Herakleopolis Magna, and also continued the funerary complex of Amenemhat III. Sobekneferu means “Sobek is the beauty of Ra.”
QUEEN HATSHEPSUT holds the title for the longest reign of a female ancient Egyptian ruler. She lived from 1500-1458BCE and ruled over Egypt for 21 of those years. As a “fully Royal woman”, her less Royal half-brother married her to secure his right to the kingship once his father (Thutmose I) had died. Her brother (and husband), Tutmose II, rose to kingship only because three of his older brothers died prematurely. Hatshepsut went to great lengths to become Queen of Egypt. She used her “bloodline” and concocted a story about being co-regent with her father, Thutmose I. The Royal Steward, Senemut, named her “God’s Wife, King’s Daughter, King’s Sister, Great Royal Wife Hatshepsut” in an inscription at Aswan. She also claimed that her father declared her his heir before he died. To further instil the idea of the ancient Egyptians’ minds that she was no less a king (Pharaoh) than any other, this Queen dressed up in “men’s clothing” and wore a false beard. She also insisted that people address her as “King” and “His Majesty.” Hatshepsut is known for her peaceful reign and for the building of many monuments, including the mortuary complex at Dier el-Bafri.
QUEEN NEFERTITI is known as one of the most “beautiful and powerful” Queens of Egypt. Her name means “The beautiful one has come.” She was born around 1370BCE and likely died around 1330BCE. She gave birth to six daughters. Nefertiti played a key part in the cult of Aten, and was a priest during the Amarna period. It is possible that she was murdered because of her scandalous religious ideals.
QUEEN TWOSRET was married to Seti II. When the King (Pharaoh) died his son, Siptah, took over the throne. Siptah was sickly and unable to rule effectively. Twosret, who still owned the title “Great Royal Wife,” took over co-regency with Siptah. When Siptah died six years into his reign, Twosret took over as sole ruler of Egypt for two years. Her reign was cut short by civil war.
QUEEN CLEOPATRA. There were several Cleopatras, the most famous was Queen Cleopatra VII Philopator. Born in 69BCE, Cleopatra had two older sisters who eventually seized control of Egypt. Their father, Ptolemy XII, regained power and when he died, Cleopatra married her twelve-year old brother Ptolemy XIII. They started a c-regency. Cleopatra was the last ruler of Egypt.
QUEEN NEFERTARI was the “Great Royal Wife” of Ramses II. She was highly educated and played a great part in diplomacy. She was very important to the Pharaoh as he built her luxurious tomb in the Valley of the Queens, and there may have been a romance between them. Ramses himself addressed her as “The one for whom the sun shines.” Nefertari is portrayed in statutes of the same height as the Pharaoh (an unusual practice in ancient Egypt).
QUEEN ANKHESENAMUN is the known as the wife of king Tut, the “boy King” (Tutankhamun). Although they were both very young when Tutankhamun ascended to the throne, preserved depictions show them in a loving, romantic relationship.
The wives of the pharaohs held titles such as “Great Wife”, “great Royal Consort”, “and God’s Wife.”
The word Pharaoh refers to the title of the ancient Egyptian Kings. The title “Pharaoh” means the “Great House” and refers to the Royal Palace. Through-out the 30+ dynasties in ancient Egyptian history, it is speculated that some 170 more rulers reigned over Egypt during a three thousand year time span. The Pharaohs were the God Kings of ancient Egypt who ruled between 3150BCE and 30BCE. While rulers often intermarried with daughters, granddaughters, sisters and brothers to keep the throne within the family, the throne still managed to shift hands multiple times; creating a dynamic and complex Pharonic history. Thirty-one Dynasties ruled from the Early Dynastic Period to the Ptolemaic Period.
TEN FAMOUS PHARAOHS
TUTANKHAMUN (KING TUT) restored the capitol to Thebes after the death of Akhenaten and restored the worship of the old gods. Scholars found his tomb’s goods intact in the 1920s.
CLEOPATRA VII was the last Pharaoh of Egypt. She ruled beside three Pharaohs, including her younger son.
RAMSES II ruled during the New Kingdom for 66 years. He built all over Egypt and many of his statutes and temples are still standing today. His probably the most prolific of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, siring over 100 children with more than a dozen wives.
RAMSES III was the last Pharaoh of the New Kingdom and is considered the last great Pharaoh. He was murdered by one of his wives.
HATSHEPSUT ruled during the New kingdom for around 20 years. She organized military campaigns and sent out trade expeditions to bring exotic goods to Egypt.
AKHENATEN ruled during the New Kingdom for less than 20 years. Scholars call him the hieratic Pharaoh because he forbade the worship of the old gods. He built Amarna as the centre for the worship of his god, Aten.
KHUFU is also known as CHEAPS. He ruled during the Old Kingdom and built the Great Pyramid.
DJOSER ruled during the Old Kingdom and built the first stone Pyramid, the Step Pyramid.
THUTMOSE II was the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. He ruled Egypt for 45 years and created the largest empire ever in Egypt. Thutmose was buried in the Valley of the Kings.
AMENHOTEP III was the son of Thutmore IV and was the 9th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. He ruled during the peak of ancient Egypt’s power.
SYMBOLS OF KINGSHIP
Symbols were used by the Pharaoh to show his/her kingship. Images of the Pharaoh show him/her wearing a crown or headdress with the Uraeus (Cobra) over the forehead. He/she had a bull’s tail coming from his/her belt to show personal power and wore a false beard which was a sign of divinity.
WHITE CROWN = the crown of Upper Egypt symbolized control over this region. The Pharaoh wore it on occasions that concerned only Upper Egypt. It resembles a tall white mitre or a white bowling pin without a bottom.
RED CROWN = the crown of Lower Egypt that symbolized control over this region. Pharaoh wore it on occasions that concerned only Lower Egypt. The bottom of this crown is circular with a tall thin part sticking up at the back and has a long curl attached to its base.
DOUBLE CROWN = the combined crown of Upper and Lower Egypt which symbolized the Pharaoh’s control over them. This Crown combined the Red and White Crowns, with the White crown inside the Red crown.
BLUE CROWN = a headdress made of blue cloth and decorated with discs of bronze or gold. Pharaoh wore it in battle and during some ceremonies.
ATEF CROWN = a white crown decorated with ostrich feathers and topped by a small sun disc. Pharaoh wore it while performing religious ceremonies.
NEMES HEADDRESS = a blue and gold stripped head-cloth falling down both sides of the head, the front of each shoulder and the back. This headdress is part of some Pharaohs’ death masks and sarcophagi (coffins) and King Tut wears it in his death mask.
CROOK = a blue and gold stripped staff with a hook on one end. Pharaoh holds it in statues and on sarcophagi, with the flail, crossed over his/her chest.
FLAIL = came from a manual threshing device that had a long handle with a free-swinging stick that farmers used to beat wheat.
CARTOUCHE = loop of rope with a knot on one end and that contained some of the Pharaoh’s names in hieroglyphic inscriptions. It symbolized “that which the sun encircles” and meant that the Pharaoh ruled everything the sun encircled.
SEREKH = written sign for kingship resembling a palace and containing one of the Pharaoh’s names.
THE LIFE OF THE PHARAOH
The crown Prince began training to become the Pharaoh as a young child through a series of lessons. Many of these lessons focused on building physical strength because the Pharaoh often fought at the head of his army. Princes went to the Royal stables where they learned how to ride and break wild horses. They also ran long foot races to build endurance and went on hunting and fishing expeditions.
Inheritance of the throne usually passed from a father to his son but there were exceptions. Sometimes, a brother would become the next Pharaoh after the previous Pharaoh’s death if there was no son to inherit. If the only heir was a woman, her husband could become the next Pharaoh. Sometimes, a high official became Pharaoh after the previous pharaoh’s death.
A new Pharaoh always attended the burial of his/her predecessor and the Coronation of a new Pharaoh began on the first day of a new season. During many Dynasties a new Pharaoh’s coronation began after the death of his/her predecessor. In some Dynasties the old Pharaoh presided over his/her successor’s coronation before his/her death.
The Coronation was not a single event but a collection of ceremonies and festivals that could last an entire year. For this reason, the coronation year was not counted as part of the years a Pharaoh reigned. The first year of a reign began after the coronation ended.
THE LIST OF CORONATION CEREMONIES AND FESTIVALS
UNIFICATION OF UPPER AND LOWER EGYPT: a ceremony that was the symbolic reunification of the Two Lands of Egypt.
APPEARANCE OF THE KING: a ceremony held after assuming the throne and repeated every two years thereafter. It had three steps: 1/ Pharaoh appeared wearing the White Crown as king of the Upper Egypt 2/ Pharaoh appeared wearing the Red Crown as king of the Lower Egypt 3/ Pharaoh appeared wearing the Double Crown as king of Upper and Lower Egypt.
SED FESTIVAL: meant to restore the Pharaoh’s vital life force but the details of its events are not well documented. It was first held during the coronation and the Pharaoh repeated it during the thirtieth year of his/her reign. After this point, the pharaoh held it every three years but some performed it more often.
SOKAR FESTIVAL: a celebration involving the construction of a sacred boat that the Pharaoh pulled to the Nile or a sacred lake. After its celebration during the coronation year, this festival took place every six years. Sokar was a god of the underworld and a guardian of Royal cemeteries.
NAMES AND DUTIES OF THE PHARAOH
After becoming Pharaoh, the king received four new names besides his/her birth name. The first name was the Horus name which scribes wrote inside a Serekh. The Nebty name showed the Pharaoh had the protection of the patron goddesses of the Two Lands and the Pharaoh’s rule of both lands. The Golden Horus name emphasized the Pharaoh’s divinity. Scribes wrote the final two names inside Cartouches. The Prenomen was the Pharaoh’s given name and it is the name scholars use today with a numeral added if necessary. As an example, below are the five names of Ramesses I:
Horus name Kanakht Merymaat
Nebty name Mekkemetwafkhasut
Golden Horus Name Userrenput-aanekktu
Nomen Ramessus (meryamun)
As king, the pharaoh had many duties that were civic and religious. The people saw him/her as the living Horus and son of Ra. They believed only Pharaoh could sacrifice to the gods/goddesses. Only the Pharaoh could appoint the priests to serve the gods in his/her place. The people believed that he/she became Osiris after death and would continue to help his/her people in the afterlife. Pharaoh was the Commander-in Chief of the army and the highest judge in the land. The people saw the pharaoh as essential for keeping their lives in balance and keeping harmony in Egypt. As the living embodiment of Ma’at, the Pharaoh ensured that order and justice existed in Egypt.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TECHNOLOGY
Much can be attributed to the ancient Egyptians, even some of the earliest forms of technology and inventions that we still use today. They were innovators in astronomy, mathematics, medicine, language and even architecture. A great number of ancient Egyptian inventions are still used in our every-day lives.
HIEROGLYPHICS the ancient Egyptians were among the first group of people to write and keep records of events that happened in their lives. The earliest form of writing was in the form of hieroglyphics, which, simply put, were drawings that portrayed a story. Hieroglyphics are some of the oldest artefacts in the world today, and the Egyptians used them to keep accurate records and maintain control of their empire.
PAPYRUS was the first form of durable sheets of paper to write on, and the ancient Egyptians were the ones to develop it. The material was termed “Papyrus” because it was made from the papyrus plant. The ancient Egyptians primarily used papyrus for recording religious texts and other important documents. Papyrus was mass produced in Egypt and sold to other ancient civilizations, such as ancient Greece, for their record keeping.
INK one of the surprising inventions from ancient Egypt is “Black Ink!” The Egyptian people were very talented at creating not only black ink, but many multi-coloured types of ink and dye. The process and depth of colour utilized in the Egyptian invention of ink and dye was so marvellous that these brilliant hued colours can still be seen today, thousands of years later.
CALENDARS the ancient Egyptians calendar was invented more than 5,000 years ago and was originally based on the 12-month lunar cycle. This calendar wasn’t accurate enough though. After noticing that the river’s flooding and rising coincided with the helixal rising of the star “Sirius”, they based their entire year on the cycle of this star’s reappearance, effectively applying astronomy principles to develop a more accurate calendar by which to track the days of the year. We still use ancient Egyptians’ calendar model in our tracking of the days today.
CLOCKS ancient Egyptians were also one of the first groups of people to divide days into equal parts through the use of “timekeeping” devices. Some of the earliest forms of clocks were sundials, shadow clocks, merkhets and obelisks.
IRRIGATON the ancient Egyptians developed “Irrigation” systems using “hydraulic engineering” principles. Such systems were designed to replace rainfall during periods of drought. Early evidence indicates that irrigation systems were used in ancient Egypt as early as the 12th Dynasty, using the lake Fayum, as the reservoir to store water surpluses.
GLASS ancient Egypt had advanced knowledge of “glass-working.” They supposedly crafted glass beads of different colours as early as 1500BCE during the time period of the New Kingdom. Their glass working abilities gave them advantages in trade since such works were viewed as highly valuable. BEADS were made by winding molten glass around a metal bar and were believed to have had magical powers. They also crafted glass jars and bottles as well as glass thread and cast glass that was placed into a mould.
MATHEMATICS the great pyramids that the ancient Egyptians built required some knowledge of “Mathematics”, especially of “geometry.” Mathematical principles were applied in the invention of simple machines, as well as for transactions and record keeping. Math and numbers were used to record business transactions, and they even developed a “decimal” system. All their numbers were factors of 10, though, such as 1, 10, and 100 and so on. Therefore in order to denote 3 units, they would write the number “1” three times.
The pyramids are some of the most magnificent man-made structures in history. Their massive scale reflects the unique role that the Pharaoh played in ancient Egyptian society. Though pyramids were built from the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the close of the Ptolemaic period in the fourth century AD, the peak of pyramid building began with the late third dynasty and continued until roughly the sixth (c2325BCE). More than 4,000 years later, the Egyptian pyramids still retain much of their majesty, providing a glimpse into the country’s rich and glorious past. The pyramid’s smooth, angled sides symbolized the rays of the sun and were designed to help the pharaoh’s soul ascend to heaven and join the gods, specially the sun god Ra.
THE EARLY PYRAMIDS From the beginning of the Dynastic Era (2950BCE), Royal tombs were carved into rock and covered with flat-roofed rectangular structures known as “Mastabas”, which were precursors to the pyramids. The oldest known pyramid in Egypt was built around 2630BCE at Saqqara, for the third dynasty’s King Djoser. Known as the “Step Pyramid”, it began as a traditional mastaba but grew into something much more ambitious. The pyramid’s architect was Imhotep, a priest and healer who some 1,400 years later would be deified as the patron saint of scribes and physicians. Over the course of Djoser’s nearly 20 year reign, pyramid builders assembled six stepped layers of stone (as opposed to mud-brick, like most earlier tombs) that eventually reached a height of 204 feet (62 meters), it was the tallest building of its time. The Step Pyramid was surrounded by a complex of courtyards, temples and shrines, where Djoser would enjoy his afterlife.
After Djoser, the stepped pyramid became the norm for Royal burials, although none of those planned by his dynastic successors were completed (probably due to their relatively short reigns). The earliest tomb constructed as a “true” (smooth-sided, not stepped) pyramid was the “Red Pyramid” at Dahshur, one of three burial structures built for the first Pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, Sneferu (2613-2589BCE). It was named for the colour of the limestone blocks used to construct the pyramid’s core.
THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA The Great Pyramids of Giza are located on a plateau on the west bank of the Nile River, on the outskirts of modern-day Cairo. The oldest and largest of the three pyramids of Giza, known as the “Great Pyramid”, is the only surviving structure out of the famed seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built for Khufu (Cheops, in Greek), Sneferu’s successor and the second of the eight Pharaohs of the fourth dynasty. Though Khufu reigned for 23 years (2589-2655BCE), relatively little is known of his reign beyond the grandeur of his pyramid. The sides of the pyramid’s base average 755.75 feet (230 meters), and its original height was 481.4 feet (147 meters), making it the largest pyramid in the world. Three small pyramids built for Khufu’s Queens are lined up next to the Great Pyramid, and a tomb was found nearby containing the empty sarcophagus of his mother, Queen Hetepheres. Like other pyramids, Khufu’s is surrounded by rows of mastabas, where relatives or officials of the Pharaoh were buried to accompany and support him in the afterlife.
The middle pyramid at Gaza was built for Khufu’s son Khafre (2558-2532BCE)> A unique feature built inside Khafre’s pyramid complex was the “Great Sphinx”, a guardian statue carved in limestone with the head of a man and the body of a lion. It was the largest statue in the ancient world, measuring 240 feet long and 66 feet high. In the 18th dynasty (c1500BCE) the Great Sphinx would come to be worshipped itself, as the image of a local form of the god Horus. The southern pyramid at Giza was built for Khafre’s son Menkaure (2532-2503BCE). It is the shortest of three pyramids (218 feet) and is a precursor of the smaller pyramids that would be constructed during the fifth and sixth dynasties.
Approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone (averaging about 2.5tons each) had to be cut, transported and assembled to build Kufu’s Great Pyramid. Archaeological evidence suggests that the workforce might actually have been around 20,000. The workers were probably native Egyptian agricultural labourers who worked on the pyramids during the time of year when the Nile River flooded much of the land nearby.
THE END OF THE PYRAMID ERA Pyramids continued to be built throughout the fifth and sixth dynasties, but the general quality and scale of their construction declined over this period, along with the power and wealth of the Pharaoh’s themselves. In the later Old Kingdom pyramids, beginning with that of Pharaoh Unas (2375-2345BCE), pyramid builders began to inscribe written accounts of events in the Pharaoh’s reign on the walls of the burial chamber and the rest of the pyramids interior. Known as pyramid texts, these are the earliest significant religious compositions known from ancient Egypt.
The last of the great pyramid builders was Pepy II (2278-2184BCE), the second Pharaoh of the sixth dynasty, who came to power as a young boy and ruled for 94 years. By the time of his rule, Old kingdom prosperity was dwindling, and the Pharaoh had lost some of his quasi-divine status, as the power of non-royal administrative officials grew. Pepy II’s pyramid, built at Saqqara and completed some 30 years into his reign, was much shorter (172 feet) than others of the old Kingdom. With Pepy’s death, the kingdom and strong central government virtually collapsed, and Egypt entered a turbulent phase known as the first Intermediate Period. Later Pharaohs, of the 12 dynasty, would return to pyramid building during the so-called Middle Kingdom phase, but it was never on the same scale as the Great Pyramids.
THE PYRAMIDS TODAY Tomb robbers and other vandals in both ancient and modern times removed most of the bodies and general goods from Egypt’s pyramids and plundered their exteriors as well. Stripped of most of their smooth white limestone coverings, the Great Pyramids no longer reach their original heights; Khufu’s, for example, measures only 451 feet high. Nonetheless, millions of people continue to visit the pyramids each year, drawn by their towering grandeur and the enduring allure of Egypt’s rich and glorious past.
THE GODS AND GODDESSES
The ancient Egyptians worshipped over 2,000 deities with each god and goddess an integral part of the people’s everyday life. The ancient Egyptian culture grew out of an understanding of these deities and the vital role they played in the immortal journey of every human being. The gods and goddesses affected these ancient people during life and in the afterlife. These gods/goddesses controlled every aspect of life, from the movement of the sun to the flooding of the Nile River to childbirth and the afterlife. The gods/goddesses were often shown as humans with animal features. These gods/goddesses were all connected by “family”, some even having a “family tree.”
Each god and goddess had their own role to play in maintaining peace and harmony across the land. Some took part in creation, some brought the flood every year, some offered protection, and some took care of people after they died. Others were either local gods who represented towns, or minor gods who represented plants or animals. The ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to recognize and worship these gods and goddesses so that life continued smoothly.
AMUN was a man with a ram-head, wearing an ostrich plumed hat. Amun was one of the most powerful gods and was called the “King of the Gods.” When combined with the sun god Ra, he was even more powerful and was then called “Amun-Ra.” A large and important temple was built at Thebes to honour Amun.
ANUBIS was a man with a jackal head. Anubis was the god of “embalming” and the dead. Since jackals were often seen in cemeteries, the ancient Egyptians believed that Anubis watched over the dead. Anubis was the god who helped to embalm Osiris after he was killed by Seth. Thus, he was the god who watched over the process of “Mummifying” people when they died. Priests often wore a mask of Anubis during the mummification ceremonies.
ATEN was a sun disk with rays which end in hands. Aten was a form of the sun god Ra. During the reign of Akhenaten, the Aten was made the “King” of the gods.
ATUM was a man with a double crown. Atem was a creator god. The ancient Egyptians believed the Atum was the first god to exist on earth. This god rose from the waters of chaos (Nun) and created all the gods.
BASTET was a woman with the head of a cat. Bastet was a protective goddess. This goddess was usually seen as a gentle protective goddess. However, she sometimes appeared with the head of a lioness to protect the Pharaoh in battle. The cat was a symbol of Bastet. The ancient Egyptians made many statues of cats to honour Bastet. Bastet was one of the daughters of the sun god Ra. A great temple was built in her honour at Bubastis in the Delta.
BES was a dwarf with lion and human features and would wear the skin of a lion. Bes was the protector of pregnant women, new-born babies and the family. Bes also protected against snake and scorpion bites. “Amulets” of Bes was popular at all levels of Egyptian society.
GEB was a man lying down below the arch of the sky goddess Nut and was also a man with a goose on his head. Geb was the god of the earth. He was the husband and brother of the sky goddess Nut, and was the father of Osiris, Isis, Nepthys and Seth. When Seth and Horus fought for the throne of Egypt, Geb made Horus the ruler of the living. The ancient Egyptians believed that earthquakes were Geb’s laughter.
HAPY was a man with a pot belly, shown with water plants. Hapy was the god of the “innundation.” This god was especially important because he brought the flood every year. The flood deposited rich silt on the banks of the Nile, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops.
HATHOR was a woman with the ears of a cow / a cow / a woman with a headdress of horns and a sun-disk. Hathor was a protective goddess. She was also the goddess of love and joy. Hathor was the wife of Horus, and was sometimes thought of as the mother of the Pharaoh. She was connected with foreign places and materials. She was the goddess of the desert and the turquoise mines in the Sinai. A large temple was built to honour Hathor at Dendera.
HORUS was a man with the head of a hawk / a hawk. Horus was a god of the sky. He is probably most well-known as the protector of the ruler of Egypt. The Egyptians believed that the Pharaoh was the “living Horus.” One of the most common beliefs was that Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris. After Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, Horus fought with Seth for the throne of Egypt.
Horus lost one of his eyes. The eye was restored to him and it became a symbol of protection. After this battle, Horus was chosen to be the ruler of the world of the living. One of the best preserved temples in Egypt today was dedicated to Horus. It is located in Upper Egypt at a town called Edfu.
ISIS was a woman with a headdress in the shape of a throne or a pair of cow horns with a sun-disk. Isis was a protective goddess. She used powerful magic spells to help people in need. Isis was the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus. Since each Pharaoh was considered the “living Horus”, Isis was very important. This goddess is often shown holding Horus on her lap. Isis is associated with thrones because her lap was the first “throne” that Horus sat upon. An amulet called the “Isis Knot” is a symbol of protection. A temple was built to honour Isis at Philae and is still standing today.
KHEPRI was a man with the head of a scarab / a scarab beetle. Khepri was a god of creation, the movement of the sun and rebirth. The scarab beetle lays its eggs in a ball of dung. Then, it rolls the ball along the ground until the young beetles are ready to hatch. When the young beetles are ready, they crawl out of the ball. The ancient Egyptians believed that the beetles just appeared from no-where --- as they believed that their creator god had appeared from no-where. Thus, they thought that the scarab beetle was special. In certain creation stories, Khepri is connected with the god Atum. He is also connected with the sun god Ra who pushed the sun through the sky every day.
KHNUM was a man with the head of a curly-horned ram. Khnum was a creator god, and a god of the “innundation.” He was a creator-god, moulding people on the potter’s wheel. Since potters used Nile mud, Khnum was also connected with the innundation.
MA’AT was a woman with a feather on her head. Ma’at was the goddess of truth, justice and harmony. She was associated with the balance on things on earth. She was the daughter of the sun god Ra. Pharaohs are frequently shown in wall reliefs making an offering of Ma’at to the gods --- showing that they are preserving harmony and justice on earth. The “vizier” who was in charge of the law courts was known as the “priest of Ma’at”.
NEPHTHYS was a woman with a headdress showing her name in hieroglyphs. Nephthys was a protective goddess of the dead. She was the sister of Isis and Osiris, and the sister/wife of Seth. She was also the mother of Anubis. Nephthys is often shown on coffins, or in funerary scenes.
NUN was a man carrying a bark. According to an ancient Egyptian creation myth, Nun was the Waters of chaos. Nun was the only thing that existed on Earth before there was land. Then the first land (in the form of a mound) rose out of Nun. He was also associated with the chaos that existed at the edges of the universe.
NUT was a woman whose body arches across the sky, wearing a dress decorated with stars. Nut was the sky-goddess, whose body created a vault or canopy over the earth. She was the sister/wife of Geb, the god of the earth. She was also the mother of Isis, Osiris, Nepthys and Seth. The ancient Egyptians believed that at the end of the day, Nut swallowed the sun-god Ra, and gave birth to him again the next morning.
OSIRIS was a mummified man wearing a white cone-like headdress with feathers. Osiris was the god of the dead, and ruler of the Underworld. He was the brother/husband of Isis, and the brother of Nepthys and Seth. He was also the father of Horus. As well as being a god of the dead, Osiris was a god of the resurrection and fertility. The ancient Egyptians believed that Osiris gave them the gift of barley, one of their most important crops. A large temple was built to honour Osiris at Abydos.
PTAH was a man wrapped in a tight white cloak carrying a staff. Ptah was the god of craftsmen. In one creation myth Ptah was a creator god. He spoke the words and the world came into being.
RA was a man with a hawk head and a headdress with a sun-disk. Ra was the sun god. He was the most important god of the ancient Egyptians. They believed that Ra was swallowed every night by the sky goddess Nut, and reborn every morning. They also believed that he travelled through the underworld at night. In the underworld, Ra appeared as a man with the head of a ram.
RA-HORAKHTY “Horus in the Horizon” was a man with the head of a hawk, with a sun-disk headdress. Ra-Horakhty was a combination of the gods Horus and Ra. Horus was a god of the sky and Ra was the god of the sun, thus he was thought of as the god of the rising sun.
SEKHMET was a woman with the head of a lioness. Sekhmet was the goddess of war.
SESHAT was a woman wearing a panther skin dress and a star headdress. Seshat was the goddess of writing and measurement.
SETH was a man with the head of a “Seth animal.” Seth was the god of chaos. He represented everything that threatened harmony in Egypt. He was the brother of Osiris and Isis, as well as the brother/husband of Nepthys. He murdered his brother Osiris, then battled with his nephew Horus to be the ruler of the living. Seth has been associated with Egyptian Royalty.
SHU “He who rises up.” Was a man wearing a headdress with feathers/a lion. Shu was the god of the air. He held up the figure of Nut so that the earth and the sky were separated.
SOBEK was a man with the head of a crocodile and a headdress of feathers and a sun-disk. Sobek was a Nile god. He was connected with the Nile, and protected the Pharaoh. Live crocodiles were kept in pools at temples built to honour Sobek.
TAWARET “The Great One.” Head of a hippopotamus with the arms and legs of a lion, the back and tail of a crocodile, and the breasts and stomach of a pregnant woman. Tawaret was a goddess who protected women during pregnancy and childbirth. This goddess was worshipped by people in their own homes, who also wore or kept the amulet of Tawaret.
TEFNUT was a woman with the head of a lioness. Tefnut was the goddess of moisture. She was the wife of Shu and the mother of Nut (the sky) and Geb (the earth.)
THOTH was a man with the head of an ibis holding a writing palette/an ibis/a baboon. Thoth was the god of writing and knowledge. The ancient Egyptians believed that Thoth gave them the gift of hieroglyphic writing. Thoth was also connected with the moon.
29 of the 2,000+ gods/goddesses that the ancient Egyptians used to worship. Their whole lives were about the gods/goddess. It seemed to be the very foundation of the ancient Egyptian lives.
The lives of the ancient Egyptians fascinate us, and no matter how much we read about them, it’s never enough! What I’ve written here just scratches the surface and yet, how interesting it all is. My thirst for this subject is still unquenched --- where do I stop! If I may, a visit to the British Museum will not disappoint, as it is one of the best that holds artefacts of ancient Egypt, outside of Egypt Itself.
INFORMATION HAS COME FROM THE FOLLOWING:
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS
HISTORY EXTRA WIKIPEDIA
EGYPTIAN LIFE CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HISTORY
LOVE TO KNOW
HISTORY ON THE NET --- ANCIENT EGYPT
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN FACTS
ANCIENT EGYPT ON LINE