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Introduction to Egyptian Archaeology


Geography

Artifacts

Chronology

Pharaohs

Pyramids

Mummies

 

 

 

 

Introduction

When most people think of Archaeology, Egypt is the country that most often comes to mind. While there are archaeological sites all over the world Egypt is clearly the most famous. It is most known for pyramids and mummies but it has a lot more than these. One reason Egypt is such an archaeological gold mine is its dry climate being mostly desert which helps preserve artifacts. Egyptian Archaeology is not without its issues including the fact that Egyptian pharaohs had a tendency to exaggerate their accomplishments and down play or remove references to their failures. They also had a tendency to engage in history revisionism by rewriting the history of other pharaohs even to the point of removing them from history. Despite these issues Egyptian Archaeology remains an interesting topic.

Geography

Egypt is located in the upper eastward corner of Africa. Since the land is mostly desert, its most important feature is the Nile River. Since ancient times Nile River as server  for drinking water, arrogation and transportation. In fact the Nile River in many ways is Egypt since without out it.  Egypt would be a total waste land.

Egypt also has the Sharia Desert to west and the Red Sea to the east. The Nile River flows between the two, producing a fertile corridor on both sides of the river This fertile corridor and the Nile River delta make up the majority of fertile land in Egypt.

By Jeff Dahl (Wikimedia Commons) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The climate of Egypt is to put it simply is hot and dry. It is mostly Desert with summer temperatures averaging around 112o F (44o C) but getting as hot as 114o F (46o C) with almost no rain.  In the Nile River Delta it averages a cooler 90o F (32o C) with an annual rainfall of 200mm (8in) to 20mm (0.8in) This why the Nile River is has always been Egypt's life's blood and important to the point of being worshiped. It needs to be noted that during the Ice age Egypt received a lot of rain.

 Chronology

The standard Egyptian chronology consist of 30 Dynasties from about 3100 -400 BC. This Egyptian chronology is based mainly on a list of pharaohs compiled by the 3rd century priest Manetho. His list of pharaohs  includes the lengths of their reigns.  A key assumption of  the standard Egyptian chronology is that these pharaohs reigned sequentially but some seem to have have reined at the same time in different areas of Egypt such as north and south. Not only was Manetho’s pharaohs list not intended as chronological account of Egyptian history, but it does not agree with other 3rd century Egyptian sources. Since the standard Egyptian chronology is used to date sites around the Mediterranean it has resulted in an unexplained dark ages.  This and other problems have prompted efforts to revise the Egyptian chronology.

 

  • Based on chart in Creation Magazine 6-8/06.
  • OK = Old Kingdom
  • FIP = First Intermediate Period.
  • MK = Middle Kingdom
  • SIP = Second Intermediate Period.
  •  NK = New Kingdom
  • TIP = Third Intermediate Period.
  •  LP = Late and Persian Period.
  • C = Creation.
  • F = The Flood.
  • B = Babel.
  • A = Abraham.
  • J = Joseph.
  • M = Moses and the Exodus.
  •  DS = David and Solomon.

This chart shows the standard Egyptian and revised Egyptian chronologies and how they compare to the Biblical chronology. In the shift of the revised Egyptian chronology Biblical events are not only shifted into different dynasties, but different periods as well. When you consider the fact that Egyptian pharaohs have sometimes engaged in history revisionism exaggerating their own accomplishments while the Bible on the other hand is incredibly honest showing the flaws of even the most godly of men, it becomes clear that the Biblical chronology is more likely to be accurate than the standard Egyptian chronology. When this revised Egyptian chronology is couple with a short ice age following the Genesis flood it explains water carve features associated with the Great Sphinx of Egypt by placing pharaoh that built it at the end of this short ice age.

Pharaohs

Pharaoh was the title of the kings of Egypt. They were powerful rulers often worshiped as gods. Most of what we know of them are from the temples, tombs and other monuments they left behind. Some of the temples, and monuments also have kings lists, the most important of these lists was by the 3rd century B.C. Priest Manetho.  The fact that pharaohs were the original graffiti artists has been helpful. This tendency to cover almost every wall in  temples, tombs and other monuments with picture and writing about their favorite topic (themselves) is also useful, though caution is needed since they were not always honest in their reporting of events and often revised historical record to make themselves look better or earlier pharaohs look bad or even to remove them from history. The fact that they also believed in taking it with them caused them to load their tombs with many artifacts that end up being quite well preserve. It is because of the pharaohs as well the dry climate that we have so much archaeological material to work with.

Pyramids


Great Pyramid of Giza
By H. Grobe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

When most people think of Egyptian Archaeology the first thing to come to mind are the Pyramids and particularly the biggest of then all, the Great Pyramid of Giza. They are mainly thought to be the tombs of pharaohs. However there are those that have questioned this standard view because they tend to lack the hieroglyphic inscriptions typical of Egyptian tombs and no mummies or the usual assortment of stuff  have ever been found in one. It is however generally thought that grave robbers were the reason for the lack of mommies and other items usually buried with later pharaohs. This makes sense give the fact that pyramids are rather obvious structures that are all but engraved invitations to tomb rubbers. The lack  of these items however has left room for speculation, some seem reasonable like storing grain; while other come across as loony like contacting aliens. One of the biggest mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids is how they were built. These structures consist of thousands of stones fit tightly together and usually with highly accurate astronomical alignments.

Mummies

While the term mummy can refer to any well preserved corps, they are most often associated with ancient Egypt.  Mummification was common in ancient Egypt because preservation of a person's dead body was important to their view of the after life. Egyptian mummification involved removing the internal organs including the brain but excluding the heart which was thought to be the center of reason. Egyptian mummies have provided a large amount information about the people of ancient Egypt that can not be found in written documents. Some royal mummies have even had enough DNA to discover that royal family relationships were not always what was found in the official records.

Artifacts

Egyptian artifacts
By Tilemahos Efthimiadis from Athens, Greece
 [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Egyptians left plenty of artifacts this is partly a result of the fact that as part of their religion, they believed in taking it with them. As a result they tended to load their tombs with stuff to make them as comfortable as possible in the after life. This particularly true of royalty and other nobles. The fact that all this stuff was for the person's after life resulted in the items found in tombs including a lot of every day items. One of the untended  consequences of practices is that Egyptian tombs tend to be time capsules of ancient artifacts, when they were not looted by tomb robber that is. 

Conclusion

Because ancient Egyptians left so much behind Egypt is an archeological gold mine. The fact that they often buried their dead with stuff needed for their idea of the after life is a main reason for it. This fact coupled with a dry climate make Egypt ideal for archeology, However while the ancient Egyptians left many artifacts and ruins they were not always honest historians. Sadly the pharaohs had a tendency to down play their failures and exaggerate their accomplishments. There were even attempts to remove other pharaohs form history. This means that one needs to be careful about how accurate accounts are when compared to other sources. Despite these problems Egypt Archeology does yield lots of results. Ancient Egypt was the perfect combination of climate and culture to preserve lots of artifacts, ruins and even human remains.

 



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