Guide to Egyptian Civilization

More than 12.8 million tourists visited Egypt in 2008. Officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, this country has monuments and history which rewind to 3 millenniums! It is often heard from visitors that in the midst of the Egyptian moon and sand, they feel like they've gone back in time to the rich and happening historical Egyptian Civilization. This civilization developed along the fertile land of the River Nile; and was one of the most prosperous and remarkable civilizations of its time.

Of all the early civilizations, Ancient Egypt is one of the most exotic and fascinating. It is famous for Pyramids, Mummies, Queen Cleopatra, The Number System, Divine Pharoahs. Reading about Ancient Egypt's development, history and culture inspires a casual reader and motivates an enthusiast. It makes one think how those people could build such impressive buildings and structures without having the tools and technology that we do nowadays. Egyptian history is definitely breathtaking and a testimony to amazing human potential.

History of Egyptian Civilization

Egypt was a very fertile land and began attracting a population around 3100 BC. This resulted in two kingdoms: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. With time, prosperity became evident and it became important to unify Egypt and its government. Around 3000 BC (5000 years ago), at the beginning of the Bronze Age, the king of Upper Egypt conquered the land of Lower Egypt and made Egypt into one kingdom.

Egyptian civilization's history is divided into 3 broad periods:

  • Old Kingdom: lasted 500 years (2700 - 2200 BC)
  • Middle Kingdom: lasted 200 years (2000 - 1800 BC)
  • New Kingdom: lasted 500 years (1600-1100 BC)

These periods were interrupted by shift of rule and foreign invasions. Egyptian Civilization became a part of the Persian Empire at the time of the Persian Conquest. Later, when Alexander the Great conquered Persia, Egypt fell into his rule. The Romans claimed Egypt after Alexander, and later it finally became a part of the current Arab world.

These resources trace the history of Egyptian civilization:

Egyptian Civilization History
Two detailed chapters on Egyptian dynasty, religion and geography

Brief History of Egypt
A look at the different kingdoms and ages of Egyptian civilization

History of Egypt
Discover how the Nile became the lifeline for ancient Egypt in seven pages of Egyptian history

Early River Civilizations
Information on the Nile river valley civilization along with other river civilizations such as Mesopotamia and the Harappan civilizations

The Egyptian Civilization Learning Module
Pages on all aspects of the civilization from its pre-history to dynasties and hieroglyphics to more resources on the subject

Ancient to Modern Egypt
Traces Egypt's history from the pre-historic dynasty till the recent rule of Hosni Mubarak

Egyptian Civilization Library
A list of books on vast aspects of Egyptian Civilization for a true history enthusiast

Ancient Egyptian Timeline
A detailed timeline about important events in Egyptian history like the development of hieroglyphics and the Persian conquest

Art, Culture and Ideas of Ancient Egypt

What was the religion of these Ancient Egyptians? What were Hieroglyphics and what did they depict? What did science mean to Egyptians? Was technology important for them? The following resources will help you understand the art and culture of Egyptian Civilization in great detail.

Ancient Egyptian Art and Culture
Brief history of the art and culture of Egyptian civilization

Ideas and Art in Egyptian Society
Different aspects of life within Egyptian society like farming, architecture, mathematics and science

Egyptian Kingdoms
Detailed information about the history, culture and architecture of the Old, Middle and New Egyptian Kingdoms

Ancient Civilizations
A brief presentation about important aspects of culture, burial, rituals and architecture of the Egyptian civilization

Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt
Published in 1976, this book is a fundamental contribution towards understanding the culture and ecology of Egyptian civilization. It discusses agricultural origins, environmental factors, technological developments, settlement and demographic distribution of the Egyptian dynasty through different times

Ancient Africa
Five detailed parts on the development of Africa from 2.5 million BC onwards. There is a timeline along with links to related resources. Since Egyptian civilization is a part of ancient Africa, its culture, literature, religion and development are also covered

Worship in Egyptian Civilization
An essay on ancient Egyptian culture and their worship

Archaeology, Society and Occupation in Egyptian Civilization

How were social groups classified in the Egyptian Civilization? The social ladder was as follows:

  • Pharaohs: They were believed to be in direct connection with Gods and were greatly respected and even feared.
  • Viziers: These were the powerful officers and the executive heads of bureaucracy.
  • Royals and Nobles: Amongst these were the Priests, followed by the Administrators, who in turn had District Governors reporting to them.
  • Workers: at the bottom of the social hierarchy were Artisans, Laborers, Scribes and Farmers.

Archaeology in Early Egypt
Quick facts about famous archeological sites and people in early Egypt. The home page leads to more interesting facts about Egyptian civilization

Marketplace for Ancient Egyptian Civilization
Though developed for students, an excellent resource with 100 plus PowerPoint presentations on all topics related to Ancient Egypt including death rituals and rites

Egyptian Odyssey
Excellent resource for information on ancient Egypt. Sections include: people, mythology, daily life, death & burial, writing and archeology
Ancient Egypt
A home base for information on ancient Egypt. It covers everything from Egyptian dynasties to art, geography, government, technology, religion and society

Egyptian Civilization Presentation
84 slide presentations on all aspects of Egyptian civilization: its geography, architecture, government, writings, pyramids, daily life and sciences. An excellent resource for quick learning for all age groups

Status of Women in Egyptian Society
A research on the rights and roles of women in the Egyptian civilization

Egypt beyond Books
Articles on various focus topics related to Egyptian civilization like mummies, pyramids, dynasties and social life in ancient Egypt

Egyptian Pharaohs and Tombs

An interesting development that Egyptian civilization witnessed over time was the tombs. Initially, these tombs were not as extravagant as the ones developed in the later kingdoms. The outer appearance of the pyramids and tombs quite evidently explained who they belonged to:

  • Pharaohs: Pyramids were designed for Pharaohs with the thought that this home would help the King through life after death. It would be decorated with scenes of the journey that the king (or queen) would take as they moved from this life to the afterlife.
  • Noblemen: These people were buried in mastabas. These mastabas were decorated with non-religious scenes depicting the daily life and official duties of the nobleman.
  • Workers: Their tombs were modest and smaller in size as compared to those of others. Since their contribution to society was considered valuable, they were allowed to have a house of eternity for their own.

Ancient Egyptian Tombs
A brief history of Egyptian tombs written by two Egyptian traveling enthusiasts. Also has a link to a virtual tour of these tombs!

List of Egyptian Pharaohs
A list of Egyptian pharaohs in different dynasties along with small descriptions of each

Egyptian Valley of Kings
Monuments and sites of ancient Egypt with an interactive map where one can hover over tombs and learn their history and about their occupants!

Kings and Queens of Egypt
An article about the different kings and queens of Egyptian civilization with pictures

Inventions and Contributions of Egyptian Civilization

Ancient Egyptians are believed to have been very intelligent and thorough people. Research into their lifestyle reveals that they developed quite a few tools to make their lives easy and efficient. A few Egyptian inventions which we use even today in developed forms are:

  • Shadoof: a see-saw type tool with a bucket on one end of the pole and weight on the other. It is used to pull water from wells and rivers.
  • Paper: Egyptians invented paper. Their paper was made of papyrus, a plant abundant in the Nile. The word paper is even derived from papyrus.
  • Ox-Drawn Plot: A vehicle pulled by an ox is an Egyptian invention and is used in countries like India and Pakistan till today, especially in their rural areas.

Exploring Africa
A resource for high school students, but equally useful for history lovers and adults to learn about the Egyptian civilization and ways in which it contributed to African development

History of Number Systems
Information on the ancient Egyptian numbering system and their use of fractions

Mathematics of Ancient Egypt
What is the origin of mathematics? Did the Egyptians discover math? Information on ancient Egyptian use and development of maths

Ancient Egyptian Inventions
Brief write ups on remarkable Egyptian inventions like locks and even make-up, which we use even today in developed forms

Ancient Irrigation
A study of the irrigation system of the Egyptian civilization and Nile River

Mummy Research
The Yale Museum of Natural Research shares surprising results on human and animal mummies

Comparison of Egyptian Civilization

There have been four very popular river civilizations through time: Egyptian Civilization, Mesopotamian Civilization, Chinese Civilization and the Indus River Valley Civilization. For history enthusiasts, it is very interesting to study the ways in which these civilizations were similar and whether they contributed to each other's development. The following links include researches, studies, articles and presentations which compare Egyptian civilization with other river civilizations.

Comparison of Egyptian Inventions
A comparison of the differences and similarities between the inventions of the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian civilizations

Ancient Civilizations to 300 BC
A study by the University of North Carolina highlights all known ancient civilizations and describes their essential features including the Egyptian civilization

Pre-History and Ancient Civilizations
A short presentation on four important ancient civilizations: Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese

Important Points on Ancient Egypt
Bulleted lecture points cover basic facts about the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Western civilizations

Comparison of Early Civilizations
An easy-to-read table detailing the differences between Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Indus Valley civilizations

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