Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ancient Egypt

Prehistoric Egypt
Egypt is famous for its pharaohs with all their wealth, pomp  and pyramids , but people were living along the narrow oasis of the river Nile long before pharaohs, and their complex religious cults, came into being.

The Sahara
I was amazed to learn that between 8,000 to 9,000 years ago, the Sahara was savannah grassland and not dry desert. This Sahara-savannah supported herds of gazelles, giraffes, elephants and other wild animals; and small bands of people, hunter-gatherers, moved in the hunt the wildlife.

Climate changed, and about 4800 years ago the Sahara began to get drier. As water became scarce, people and animals moved away and, inevitably, some ended up in the Nile Valley.

Next on the scene was agriculture, probably introduced from the Levant. This new technology changed life forever.

I find it difficult to imagine what life would have been like without wheat - no bread for one thing (and no cookies either!). Farming tied people to the land, population slowly increased and hamlets, then villages, then towns grew up along the life-giving Nile.

Pottery came into use and some examples can be seen here. It is simple and yet so beautiful.

Early Villages and Towns
The early Egyptian peoples are grouped together into the 'predynastic' period - that time in Egypt's past before pharaohs started their long rule over Egypt. It is possible that each town had its own leader. Does this copy of a wall painting from a tomb show those first town-dwellers of the Nile going about their business?

The upper part of the  Libyan palette shows small crennelated squares - thought to represent towns - with pictures within (maybe early hieroglyphs, perhaps giving the name of the town). Above each 'town' is an animal; it is thought that leaders/early kings were associated or represented by animals.

King Scorpion
That life-like scorpion occurs in other places and has been linked to 'King Scorpion'. More about him and what he got up to next week.

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