FilmQ01b2_Beginnings of Civilization: River Valley Civilizations (Ancient Egypt: The Gift Of The Nile)
Timeline: 4th-2nd Millennium BCE (Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age)
FQ: How did environment and religion permeate ancient Egyptian daily routines?
Much of what remains of ancient Egypt is dripping with religious significance. Is it possible that this society placed so much emphasis on the importance of faith that it dedicated huge quantities of resources and human labor to ensure that traces of its faith was preserved for all eternity? Themes addressed in this lesson (geography, political systems, and culture) will remain important when studying the river valley societies of Mesopotamia, the Indus, and the Huang He.
I: The Nile River
A. Ancient Egypt was referred to by Herodotus as “the gift of the Nile”. How would you describe the Nile’s importance to Egypt based on this reference? Be prepared to offer evidence in support of this description.
B1. News accounts of a flood often instills a sense of sadness because of the loss of life and property damage that may result. Why was the flooding of the Nile river rarely viewed in such a manner?
B2. Didn’t people living along the banks lose their homes?
B3. Unlike the Tigris-Euphrates rivers, the Nile observed a natural ‘routine’ that contributed to Egyptian civilization. Identify this special characteristic. Ponder how it contributed to the greatness of Ancient Egyptian civilization. (1)
C. What do the terms ‘Upper’ and ‘Lower’ Egypt refer to?
II: Kingship (Monarchy) (2)
A. The Narmer Palette is an artifact that helped archaeologists (Egyptologists) reveal ‘secrets’ of the Egyptian view of Kingship. (3)
How did the palette’s images offer an account of the formation of an Egyptian kingdom we’ve come to know?
B. Recent archaeological finds notwithstanding, there is a record of 31 Egyptian dynasties that spanned ~3000 years. Identify the three chronological divisions historians use to categorize these dynasties. (3)
III: Pyramids & the Passage into Eternity
A. All ancient Egyptians are believed to have adhered to a universal concept. The concept explains how all things coexist in a ‘harmonious order’. Identify the term used to represent this concept.
B. How might you explain the divinity of the Pharaoh? How did this monarch acquire that trait?
C. Which concern may have contributed to the use of pyramids as tombs and then their eventual abandonment? (4)
D. Why were tombs filled with valuables and supply of daily necessities if the monarch was dead?
E1. Describe what the Ka is and its role in Egyptian religious beliefs.
E2. What are the requirements to keep the Ka from being ‘lost’.
E3. Why would the need for mummification be a logical ‘parallel belief’ in an Egyptian faith that holds the concept of ‘Ka’ and ‘Maat’ as important? (5)
E4. By the 16th C. Egyptian mummies became targets of looters. How did looters reap wealth by desecrating these corpses? (6)
F. How did a stone pyramid evolve from a single mud-brick Mastaba? (7)
G. Why were the tombs in the Valley of the Kings as appropriate as tombs placed in pyramids?
1. Ponder: To think about and consider the importance of a thing or idea.
2. Kingship: That which makes one a king. Qualities or roles that is befitting a monarch.
3. Within the decade of the 1990s, archaeological finds in Egypt indicate that there may have been a king (Pharaoh) of a unified Egypt that predates Narmer.
4. By familiarizing yourself with the ancient Egyptian creation myth (Ex.: Atum), you’ll be introduced to the significance of the ‘pyramidal shape’ as a divine symbol.
5. The myth of Osirus is an example of how myths answer questions concerning matters lost to time.
6. Looter: In this context, anyone who enters a tomb (‘breaking in’) for the purpose of stealing items of material or spiritual value.
7. Mastaba: Arabic for ‘Step’ or ‘Bench’.
● Handouts: Stars Said to Tell Age of Pyramids and assorted myths.
● PBS Video: PYRAMID, hosted by David Macaulay. ©1988. A Unicorn Projects, Inc. Production. [~30 min. for edited version]