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Research paper topic: Ancient Egypt - 1006 words
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Ancient Egypt The civilization of ancient Egypt is significant in several ways. Egyptian influence on other peoples was also significant. Ancient kingdoms of the Sudan adapted its HIEROGLYPHIC writing system and other cultural elements. The two last regions and the Bible are the most important antecedents of the modern western world that owe something to Egypt. The western alphabet is derived from a Phoenician one possibly modeled on Egyptian hieroglyphs; Egyptian ideas are found in some parts of the Bible; and Greek sciences and especially, art were originally influenced by Egypt.
Finally, archaeology and historical writing have made Egypt a subject of great public interest, stimulating many books, novels, exhibits, and movies. The image of Egyptian history moves continually closer to reality as new facts are discovered and new kinds of research - anthropological and other--supplement more traditional archaeological techniques. Egypt's well preserved pyramids and cemeteries on the dry desert, and sturdy stone-built temples, have been studied by archaeologists since the early 19th century, but river-plain town mounds and all sites in densely settled northern Egypt now receive more attention than previously. Funerary and temple inscriptions survived well, but they paint an idealized, oversimplified picture of history and society. PAPYRUS exists and pottery fragments are rarer but more realistic.
They now are better studied and are supplemented by new types of archaeological analysis. Environment strongly affected history. In a largely rainless climate, Egypt's high agricultural productivity depended on a long but very narrow floodplain; on average 19.2 km (11.9 mi) wide, it reached a maximum of 248 km (154.1 mi) in the Delta and was formed by the Nile's annual inundation. Periodic, long-term decreases in its volume might create social stress and political and military conflict; increases in volume increased food supplies and favored stability and centralized government. The deserts to the east and west had valuable stones and minerals and helped protect Egypt from much external attack or infiltration.
Continuity was very strong. Egypt's religion, its concepts of social order, and its system of strong monarchical government remained fundamentally the same for over 3,000 years. Environmental stability helped, as did ethnic and linguistic continuity; unlike other areas of the Near East, Egypt did not periodically have to absorb large new populations with languages and ideas different from those already established. Equally important did all Egyptians share a powerful and tenacious worldview--an orderly cosmos, enfolding gods, humans, and nature, had been created in complete and perfect form at the beginning of time; its perfection held off the destructive, chaotic forces that surrounded it. Adherence to traditional forms of belief, politics, and culture was believed necessary to maintain perfection and prevent the collapse of the universe.
Egyptian art and religious architecture (temples and tombs) closely followed established conventions of style and content because their role was to depict this ideal order--and thus be one of several means ritually integrating Egypt with the cosmos. Change and innovation nevertheless occurred, sometimes violently. Egypt's periodic interludes of disunity were politically disorderly and economically painful in part because inherent problems and contradictions (for example, obvious weakness in perfect institutions such as kingship) came to the surface and demanded solutions. Less obviously, change also took place in more stable periods. Bureaucracies were periodically reformed or restructured in the interests of both royal power and fairer government. Religious concepts became increasingly rich and complex.
Styles in art and architecture changed subtly to meet new needs and tastes, but all successful innovation required adherence to basic, traditional norms. Predynastic Egypt Egyptian history is usually divided into periods roughly corresponding to the 30 dynasties of kings listed by Manetho, an Egyptian chronicler of the 3d century BC. The period before c.3100 BC, a time for which no written records exist, is called the Predynastic era. Well before 5000 BC many communities of Paleolithic hunters and gatherers lived in the Nile valley and across savanna lands stretching far to the east and west. As rainfall decreased, especially after 4000 BC, the western lands became arid deserts and human settlement was confined to the valley and its fringes. However, here exotic fauna such as elephants and giraffes persisted as late as 2300 BC before finally retreating southward.
Annually inundated, and with natural irrigation basins that retained floodwaters, the Nile valley was an ideal setting for Mesolithic economies with incipient agriculture to evolve into Neolithic ones based on sedentary agriculture, with domesticated crops and animals. The process is hard to follow in Egypt because major Predynastic sites, on the floodplain, are inaccessible or destroyed and most data come from peripheral settlements and low-desert cemeteries. In northern Egypt, however, the development of Neolithic life can be traced at Merimdeh and in the Fayum (5000-4000 BC); there and elsewhere in the north the pervasive northern culture emerged, characterized by monochrome pottery using incised and applied decoration. The earliest Neolithic phases of southern Egypt are not yet identified, but two cultures existed there by c.4000 BC: the Tasian, influenced by the north, and the Badarian, which originated in the eastern desert. The former evolved into phases labeled Nakada I (Amratian) and II (Gerzean), representing a material culture very different from that of the north.
In the south, among other differences, pottery is more varied in fabric, often has a black top, and favors painted decoration (white on red and red on light-colored desert clays). Historically significant patterns can be discerned. Political elites developed, supported by agricultural surplus, partly through control over valuable resources that were beginning to be used in new technologies. Originally, tools and weapons were made of stone and organic materials, but in southern (and slightly later in northern) Egypt copper and precious metals became increasingly important. By Nakada II times, larger, more efficient river ships were built and trade along the Nile was expanding. These and other factors stimulated the emergence of an elite class whose graves are larger and richer than normal, and ultimately regional political leaders are identifiable by chieftain's tombs at several sites.
According to later traditions, by late Predynastic times (c. 3300 BC) chiefdoms had coalesced into two competitive kingdoms, northern and southern. G ...
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