Lecture 1 - Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Cultural History

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University of Toronto St. George
Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations
Zoe Mc Quinn

NMC343 -Ancient Egypt I Thursday September 13 Lecture 1 - Introduction toAncient Egyptian Cultural History Geography • Where a society is set (their environment) has a great affect socially, culturally and economically • Contact effects its history • Egypt had three major areas of contact - touchingAsia,Africa (Nubia), and is across the Mediter- ranean from Europe • But it also had buffer zones - the Mediterranean and the Lybian, Sudanese andArabian Deserts • These are barriers to direct contact, and it takes great effort to establish such contact (though of- ten worth it) • They flourish in their security, where contact is filtered Concept of the Universe • Ancient Egyptians thought that Egypt was the center of the Universe • Nun, the waters • Shu, the air or atmosphere • Nut, the sky (also known as pt) • Geb, the earth (also known as tA) • Duat, the underworld • Ra, the sun • Akhet, the horizon • Together they form a bubble, surrounded by water, expanded by air, with the sky as the circum- ference, which is held up by shu The heavens and the earth are married • • Heavens female, Earth male (interesting as it is usually opposite in other etiological tales) • If the Earth and Heavens meet, the world would be destroyed, so shu stands between them • You inhabit the Earth in your first life, and in Death you move downwards to the other world (your second life) • The Sun gives all life • When Earth is in darkness, the other world (the Underworld) has light • The horizon separates our lives - it is where the sun sets and rises • This time is dangerous • Horizon is a contact point, and the time when the sun sets or rises is magical and dangerous Geographical Terms • Egypt was called several things: • tA-mri, Ta-meri - “the land of the hoe”. Basically an allusion to the ability to grow food there - often there is a concern regarding access to food in the ancient world • TAwi, ta-wi - “the two lands”. Duality is very important in Egyptian religion and society; emphasis on balances parts of a system where you can’t have one without the other.Also, 2 is an important and powerful number • kmt, kemet - “the black land”. Meaning fertile • Desert, Deshret - “the red land”. There is death in the desert • tA-SmAw: ta-shemau - Upper Egypt “land of the reeds”. The Nile and the riverlands. Often represented by reeds • tA-mhw: ta-mehu - Lower Egypt “land of papyrus” NMC343 -Ancient Egypt I Thursday September 13 Lecture 1 - Introduction toAncient Egyptian Cultural History • The nile area was geographically different from Egypt - it was a lush green land with flouring crops • Delta always lush and fertile • Other Terms: • Nubia: nbw, nebu - “Gold” • Mediterranean Ocean: wAD-wr, wadj-wer - “great blue-green”. The ocean was a little scary to them The Nile: iTrw, itchru “the river”. Only one word for the Nile, which is at odds with the • rest of their vocabulary Society • Hydraulic civilization • Without the Nile, Egypt would not exist • Every year like clockwork the Nile flooded • No matter how bad it is in Egypt it is still better than anywhere where in times of drought/famine • EgyptianAgricultural Calendar Divided the year into 12 months and 3 seasons • • Axt-Akhet (the inundation) from mid-July to mid-November • prt-Peret (literally “coming forth”, the growing season) from mid-November to mid-March • Smu-Shemu (harvest time, and the hottest time) from mid-March to mid-July Each season was 4 months of 30 days • • Month = Abd • Day = sw • Along with the agricultural calendar there were also the solar, lunar and regnal calendars Measuring the yearly flood is vital • • Cannot be too high or too low • Need it to be consistent • Fluctuations can destroy • Nile-ometer measures flooding, dates from the Early Dynastic • How the Nile floods determines history • When there is a strong pharaoh who plans well (stores food) then Egyptians survive, otherwise they go into dark ages (intermediate periods) Climate • 400,000 BC paleolthic period in north eastAfrica is very wet. Not many people lived in the Nile because they didn’t need to as food was easily come by • 25,000 BC onset of drier climate and people are forced int a smaller area around the Nile. This changes how people deal with one another • 10,000 BC - 5,000 BC mesolthic period - starting to domesticate vs hunting and gathering • 6,000 BC - gradual moistening of the clima
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