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THE ANCIENT EGYPT PORTAL

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Golden funeral mask of king Tutankhamun, a symbol for many of ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC (according to conventional Egyptian chronology) with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes (often identified with Narmer). The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power in the New Kingdom, ruling much of Nubia and a sizable portion of the Near East, after which it entered a period of slow decline. During the course of its history Egypt was invaded or conquered by a number of foreign powers, including the Hyksos, the Libyans, the Nubians, the Assyrians, the Achaemenid Persians, and the Macedonians under the command of Alexander the Great. The Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom, formed in the aftermath of Alexander's death, ruled Egypt until 30 BC, when, under Cleopatra, it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province.

The success of ancient Egyptian civilization came partly from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River valley for agriculture. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which supported a more dense population, and social development and culture. With resources to spare, the administration sponsored mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions, the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, and a military intended to assert Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, and administrators under the control of a pharaoh, who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs.

The many achievements of the ancient Egyptians include the quarrying, surveying and construction techniques that supported the building of monumental pyramids, temples, and obelisks; a system of mathematics, a practical and effective system of medicine, irrigation systems and agricultural production techniques, the first known planked boats, Egyptian faience and glass technology, new forms of literature, and the earliest known peace treaty, made with the Hittites. Ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy. Its art and architecture were widely copied, and its antiquities carried off to far corners of the world. Its monumental ruins have inspired the imaginations of travelers and writers for centuries. A new-found respect for antiquities and excavations in the early modern period by Europeans and Egyptians led to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy.

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Mummified pre-dynastic man in reconstructed Egyptian grave-pit (photo taken in 2008)

The Gebelein predynastic mummies are six naturally mummified bodies, dating to approximately 3400 BC from the Late Predynastic period of Egypt and were the first complete pre-dynastic bodies to be discovered. The well-preserved bodies were excavated at the end of the nineteenth century by Wallis Budge, the British Museum Keeper for Egyptology, from shallow sand graves near Gebelein in the Egyptian desert. Budge excavated all the bodies from the same grave site. Two were identified as male, one female with the others being of undetermined gender. The bodies were given to the British Museum in 1900. Some grave-goods were documented at the time of excavation as "pots and flints", however they were not passed on to the British Museum and their whereabouts remain unknown. Three of the bodies were found with coverings of different types (reed matting, palm fibre and an animal skin), which still remain with the bodies. The bodies were found in foetal positions lying on their left side. From 1901 the first body excavated has remained on display in the British Museum.

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Giza pyramid complex
Credit: MesserWoland

Map of the Giza pyramid complex, located 20 km (12.5 mi) southwest of Cairo, Egypt. This Ancient Egyptian necropolis consists of the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with a number of smaller satellite edifices, known as "queens" pyramids, causeways and valley pyramids, and most noticeably the Great Sphinx. The site has attracted visitors and tourists since classical antiquity, when these Old Kingdom monuments were already over 2,000 years old.

Did you know...

Pyramid of Sahure

  • ... that the mortuary temple of the pyramid of Sahure (pictured) was decorated with over 10,000 sq. metres (107,640 sq. ft) of fine relief carvings?
  • ... that Iry-Hor is the earliest ruler of Egypt known by name?
  • ... that Qakare Ibi was the last pharaoh to have a pyramid build for himself in Saqqara?

Selected biography

Outline tracing of the figure representing Darius in the Behistun Inscription

Darius I, known as Darius the Great, was the third "king of kings" (emperor) of the Achaemenid Empire. Darius held the empire at its peak, then including Egypt, northern India, and parts of Greece. The decay and downfall of the empire commenced with his death and the coronation of his son, Xerxes I.

Darius ascended the throne by assassinating the alleged usurper Bardiya with the assistance of six other Persian noble families; Darius was crowned the following morning. The new emperor met with rebellions throughout his kingdom, and quelled them each time. A major event in Darius's life was his expedition to punish Athens and Eretria for their aid in the Ionian Revolt and subjugate Greece. Darius expanded his empire by conquering Thrace and Macedon, and invading the Saka, Iranian tribes who had invaded Medes and had previously killed Cyrus the Great.

Darius organized the empire, by dividing it into provinces and placing governors to govern it. He organized a new uniform monetary system, along with making Aramaic the official language of the empire. Darius also worked on construction projects throughout the empire, focusing on Susa, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Babylon, and Egypt. Darius created a codification of laws for Egypt. He also carved the cliff-face Behistun Inscription, an autobiography of great modern linguistic significance. After becoming aware of the Persian defeat at the Battle of Marathon, Darius began planning another expedition against the Greek-city states. Darius had spent three years preparing men and ships for war when a revolt broke out in Egypt. This revolt in Egypt worsened his failing health and prevented the possibility of leading another army himself; soon, Darius was dead. In October 486 BC, the body of Darius was embalmed and entombed in the rock-cut sepulcher which had been prepared for him several years earlier.


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News

5th September 2018. At Lisht was discovered a rock cut tomb of an Egyptian official, dating to the 12th Dynasty. Rock-cut Tomb in a 4000-year-old Elite Cemetery Discovered


26th August 2018 An Egyptian team under the direction of Fahima El Nahas discovered several Ptolemaic tombs in the west of Alexandria. Ptolemaic rock-cut tombs discovered in Alexandria


August 2018: in the tomb of the mayor of Memphis Ptahmose who dates around 1300 BC was found well preserved cheese, more than 3000 years old. [1]


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