Standard 7.15 ........................................................................................................................................................................................ Standard 7.17>

Summarize important achievements of Egyptian civilization.

Focus Question: What are the greatest achievements of Egyptian civilization?

Great Pyramid of Giza from a 19th century stereopticon card photo
Great Pyramid of Giza from a 19th century stereopticon card photo

Topics on the Page
A. the agricultural system
B. the invention of a calendar
C. monumental architecture and art such as the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza
D. hieroglyphic writing
E. the invention of papyrus
F. the status of women

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick here for a timeline of ancient Egypt featuring major events, dynasties, and people.

Multimedia.pngSee Egypt's Golden Empire, an interactive website from PBS, for background on Egypt's New Kingdom period.

rotating gif.gifSee also AP World History Key Concept 2.1

a. Agricultural system

Ø Egyptians formatted tools to aid with agriculture including plows, sickles, hoes, forks, scoops, baskets, shadoof, skiffs, and sieves.

Ø Invented the sail (3500 BCE) and wine cellars (3100 BCE).

Ø Fayum Irrigation: First man-made water reservoir (1900 BCE).

Ø Sickles: wood that was sharpened to cut grains.

The shaduf, an irrigation device.

Ø Shaduf: mechanical irrigation tool; brought water to and from canals; consisted of a lever with one weighted end to assist in lifting a bucket.

Ø Skiffs: made of papyrus; used for traveling the Nile and fishing.

Ø Created irrigation to get water to reach lands which were not adjacent to the Nile.

Ø Catch basins: collected excess water during floods and stored it for later use.

Ø The growing seasons were dependent on the flooding of the Nile River.

Ø Egyptians grew emmer, barley, wheat, flax, and papyrus.

More on irrigation:
  • In order to keep the system in order, every Egyptian had to move about thirty cubic meters of soil in about ten days every year.
    • In 16th century BCE, this job was done in an easier fashion when the shadouf, a heay earthen bucket, came into use.

external image Beautiful_red_apple.jpgWorld History For Us All Lesson on Farming and Emergence of Complex Societies: explains how domestication of animals and plants worked in ancient Egypt. It explains the Egyptians went from being a hunter-gatherer society to a farming society.

A good explanation of Ancient Egyptian agriculture.

b. Invention of a calendar

ØThe original calendar had twelve months in three seasons with four months each. However, this would give some years thirteen new moons.
  • A new calendar was where there were three seasons with thirty-four day months split into three “decades. Since this was only 360 days, they gave the five children of Nut, one of the oldest deities, each a day.
Ø Floods started in June and ended in October.
  • Harvest time started in February and ended with a new flood in June. The shaduf, an irrigation device.
Ø Sirius (a star) appeared within a few weeks of these occurrences - defined exact length of the earth’s trip around the sun.
  • After Sirius disappeared, the first new moon appeared after 70 days, marking the start of the new calendar year. One moon month was 29 ½ days.
Ø 70 days is also the length of the mummification process.
Ø The calendar was short by ¼ day every year, which added up, so Augustus introduced the “leap year” in 30 BCE.
  • When Egypt was taken over by the Macedonians and, eventually, by the Romans, the Egyptian calendar months translated into the Macedonian and Roman calendars.

For more, see Middle Eastern Calendars

Star Sirius
Star Sirius

c. Monumental architecture and art such as the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza

rotating gif.gifSee Who Built the Pyramids for the latest research and findings
external image Sphinx_of_Gizeh.jpg

The Sphinx:
Ø The Sphinx at Giza is a half lion and half human statue built in 3rd millennium BCE
Ø It is among the largest single-stone statues on earth, carved from limestone bedrock
Ø It faces due east
Ø “Riddle of the Sphinx”: no one knows for sure who built it, when, or what it was really modeled after
Click here for an interactive view of the Sphinx.

The Pyramids:
See Special Page on Who Built the Pyramids
  • Pyramids were built to house dead pharaohs and queens
  • 80 pyramids still stand today, while 3 of the largest and best preserved are found at Giza
  • The first pyramid was designed by Imhotep for pharaoh Djoser in the 27th century BCE
  • Imhotep's biography demonstrates how Egyptians were sometimes deified by future generations
  • The most well-known pyramid is the “Great Pyramid” was built for pharaoh Khufu
  • The second best-known is the pyramid built for Khufu’s son, pharaoh Khafra
  • The sphinx guards Khafra’s pyramid
  • The final largest was built for pharaoh Menkaure
  • Pyramids were shaped the way they were so the dead could climb up to heaven and the sloping sides represented the rays of the sun

The pyramid of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII remains unknown somewhere near Alexandria, Egypt.

View works of art depicting Egyptian royalty here and here. View an example of Egyptian sculpture here.

  • See how the pyramids would have looked when they were first built.
  • View a multimedia presentation on the excavation of royal tombs and some artifacts found in them.

Heiroglyphs at the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt
Heiroglyphs at the Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt

d. Hieroglyphics

  • Believed writing was created by the gods and called it the “the words of God” ("mdwt ntr").
  • The term hieroglyphic comes from the Greek word hieros (sacred) & glypho (inscriptions).
  • Dates back to 3400 BCE.
  • Hieroglyphic script was used mostly on tombs and temple walls
  • Hieratic script was used in everyday writing
  • Modern scholars were not able to extensively decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in the 18th century. The Stone bore inscriptions in hieroglyphs, demotic script (also Egyptian in origin), and ancient Greek. View a high-resolution image of the Rosetta Stone here.

Screen Shot 2016-10-29 at 12.06.19 PM.pngSee the Hieroglyphic Typewriter for a simplified alphabet that may be used to translate student names or to write a secret message as a class activity

external image Red_apple.jpg
  • This is a great classroom activity for students to translate hieroglyphics. It includes a helpful explanation of the origin of hieroglyphs.

e. Invention of papyrus

Writing on Papyrus
Writing on Papyrus

Ø after developing a way to write, they needed something to write on- this is where the word "paper" comes from.
Ø harvested a triangular reed found in lower Egypt that was light-weight, strong and durable that dates back to 4000 BCE.
Ø it was naturally occurring, but after finding a utilitarian purpose for it, it was cultivated on farms.
Ø papyrus plant was used for paper, food, medicine, perfume, making baskets, ropes, boats, sandals, boxes, mats, baskets, window shades, dolls, amulets, utensils, tables, and chairs.
Ø standard size was 47 cm long & 22 cm wide.
Ø it was used as a political symbol: the unity of Upper and Lower Egypt is represented by a bouquet of papyrus bound with a lotus.

Click here for a look at the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, the most famous math papyrus to have survived, from the BBC website, A History of the World.

Multimedia.pngHow papyrus was made. Multimedia from YouTube
Multimedia.pngFor a brief video on how papyrus is made from Vimeo, click here

Female_Rose.pngf. Status of Women

Pharaoh Queen
Pharaoh Queen

Click here for an online exhibit, "Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt " from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

"From Warrior Women to Female Pharaohs, " a website from the BBC provides a more extensive look at women's roles in ancient Egypt.

"Egypt's Golden Empire, Women in Power" a PBS website that explores the roles of powerful women in the New Kingdom.

Click here for more information on Queen Nefertiti. See also lesson plan from PBS, "The Queens of Ancient Egypt" that focuses on Nefertiti, Tiy, and Nefertari.

For more, see Influential Women in World History on this wiki.

Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan.

See "The Representation of Women in Egyptian Funerary Art," from Wesleyan University.

See "Reversal of Gender in Ancient Egyptian Mythology: Discovering the Secrets of Androgyny," an essay from Oglethorpe University about how ancient Egyptian views of gender and sexuality differed from our own.

book.pngBook Recommendations:
Middle School Trade book resources to accompany the study of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt and Common Core: A Booklist for Middle Grades

A resource book for projects and activities for Ancient Egypt:
Museum Series: Ancient Egypt by Diane Sylvester. The Learning Works, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0-88160-386-6