Ancient Egypt is often recognized as the world’s first major civilization; the modern world owes much to Ancient Egypt. This civilization has influenced the modern world across a spectrum of influences, including art, architecture, culture, and the development of the written word. Ancient Egypt as a civilization lasted over 2,000 years. During that time, Egypt was ruled by powerful ruler kings, who eventually came to be called Pharaohs.
Generally, sources describe Ancient Egypt as divided into three historical epochs. These epochs are known as the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. Several different kings ruled in succession during each of these intervals, eventually becoming known as Pharaohs. Beginning about 3,000 B.C.E, official Egyptian religion regarded Pharaoh as descended from Ra, the sun god.
The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt began in 2650 B.C. Ancient Egypt as a civilization continued until 332 B.C.E., when Alexander the Great conquered the kingdom.
Sources may also further divide Ancient Egypt into additional epochs between these major periods, known as the “Dynastic” and “Intermediate” periods. As with the Kingdom periods, successions of multiple kings ruled during each of these historical intervals.
The first true king of Egypt was Narmer, also called Menes. In 2920 B.C., Narmer/Menes united Lower and Upper Egypt.
Ancient Egypt boasted both a strong, united national government and a thriving economy. Pyramid building would not have been possible with either of these conditions missing from the Egyptian civilization.
The first pyramids the Ancient Egyptians built were “step pyramids.” Later in the history of Ancient Egypt, the Egyptians began constructing the smooth-sided pyramids that have become more known to the modern world than the earlier pyramids.
Khufu’s pyramid is 450 feet high. It is both one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the largest stone building on Earth. This pyramid is built from more than 2.3 million limestone blocks, with each block weighing about 2.5 tons.
The different pyramid styles reflected different religious perspectives among the Ancient Egyptians. Earlier step pyramids reflected a religion whose orientation was toward gods associated with the stars. The later smooth-sided pyramids (sometimes known as “true” pyramids) signaled a change in the Egyptians’ religious orientation towards worship of gods associated with the sun.
Ancient Egyptians regarded dreams as significant and believed that dreams contained important messages from a range of divinities. Ancient Egyptians had many temples devoted to Serapis, a god of dreams. They also believed that another dream-god, Bes, protected households from nightmares. People sometimes went to the temples to sleep, expecting to get special dreams that would give problem-solving messages.
The complex at Karnak, which included a sacred pool, library, warehouse, residential quarters and a school, was the most important Ancient Egyptian religious center in the New Kingdom era. Completed during the reign of Ramses II with the addition of the Hypostle Hall, this holy place evolved over an interval of centuries from humble shrine to vast temple complex.
- "Ancient Egyptian People"
- Sightseers Essential Travel Guides to the Past: Ancient Egypt; Kingfisher, New York, 1999
- People in the Past: Ancient Egyptian Homes, Brenda Williams, Heineman Library, Chicago, Illinois, 2003