Giza.  Giza Cemetery, Giza Plateau, Cairo, Egypt.  Side view of the Great Sphinx with the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Khufu) rising in the background.  The sides of the three pyramids of Giza are all oriented astronomically to be from north to south, and from east to west (see notes).

Ancient Egypt | History, government, culture, map and facts

Life in ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt can be thought of as an oasis in the deserts of Northeast Africa, dependent on the annual flooding of the Sahara. Nile River to support it The country’s chief agricultural population Wealth came from the fertile floodplains of the Nile Valley, where the river flows between groups of limestone hills, and the Nile Delta, where it flows into several branches north of present-day Cairo. Between the floodplains and the hills is a variable strip of low desert that supports a certain amount of game. The Nile River was the only transportation artery in Egypt.

The first waterfall at Aswan, where the riverbed is cut into rapids by a belt of granite, was the only well-defined boundary of the country within a populated area. To the south lies the much less welcoming region of Nubia, where the river flows through low sandstone hills, which in most areas have left only a very narrow strip of arable land. Nubia was important to Egypt’s periodic southward expansion and access to products from farther south. West of the Nile was the arid desert, bisected by a series of oases about 125 to 185 miles (200 to 300 km) from the river and lacking in all other resources except a few minerals. The Eastern Desert, located between the Nile River and the Red Sea, was more important, as it supported a small Bedouin population and desert fishing, contained many mineral deposits, including gold, and was the route to the Red Sea.

To the northeast was the Isthmus of Suez. It was the main route of contact with the Sinai, from which turquoise and possibly copper came, and with Southwest Asia, the most important area of ​​cultural interaction in Egypt, from which stimuli were received for artistic development and crop varieties. The immigrants and invaders eventually crossed the isthmus into Egypt, drawn to the country’s stability and prosperity. From the end of the second millennium B.C.E. Subsequently, many land and sea attacks were launched along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.

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At first, there was relatively little cultural contact via the Mediterranean Sea, but from early on, Egypt maintained trade relations with the Lebanese port of Byblos (present-day Byblos). Egypt needed few imports to maintain basic living standards, but quality timber was essential and unavailable within the country, so it was usually obtained from Lebanon. Minerals such as obsidian and lapis lazuli were imported from as far away as Anatolia and Afghanistan.

Agriculture focused on the cultivation of grain crops, mainly wheat (Tricom decocum) and barley (tacky crowd). The fertility of the land and the general predictability of flooding ensured a very high yield from a single annual crop. This productivity made it possible to store large surpluses to meet crop failures and also formed the main basis of Egyptian wealth, which existed until the establishment of the great empires in the first millennium AD. B.C.E.greater than any country in the ancient Middle East.

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Pond irrigation was achieved by simple means, and polycropping was not achieved maybe Until later times, with the exception, perhaps, of the lakeside region of Fayyum. As silt was deposited in the river, raising the level of the floodplains, and the land was reclaimed from the swamps, the area available for agriculture increased in the Nile Valley and the Delta, while grazing slowly decreased. In addition to grain crops, fruits and vegetables were important, irrigated throughout the year on small plots. Fish was also vital to the diet. Papyrus, which grew abundantly in swamps, was collected wild in later times cultivated. It may have been used as a food crop, and it was almost certainly used to make rope, mats, and sandals. Above all, it provided the material for the distinctive Egyptian writing, which, together with grain, were the chief exports of the country in the late Egyptian and then Greco-Roman periods.

Cattle were probably domesticated in northeastern Africa. The Egyptians kept many different draft animals and their products, showing some interest in the breeds and individuals that exist to this day in Sudan and East Africa. It is likely that the donkey, which was the main animal of transport (the camel did not become common until Roman times), was domesticated in the area. The original Egyptian sheep breed became extinct in the second millennium B.C.E. It was replaced by an Asian strain. Sheep were primarily a source of meat. Their wool was rarely used. Goats were more numerous than sheep. Pigs were also raised and eaten. Ducks and geese were kept for food, and many of the huge numbers of wild and migratory birds found in Egypt were captured and captured. Desert game, especially various species of antelope and mule deer, was hunted by the elite; Hunting wild lions and cattle was a royal privilege. Pets included dogs that were also used for hunting, cats, and monkeys. In addition, the Egyptians had a great interest and knowledge of most species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish in their country. environment.

It is likely that most Egyptians are descended from settlers who moved to the Nile Valley in prehistoric times, as the population increased due to natural fertility. In different periods, there were immigrants from Nubia, Libya and the Middle East in particular. They have been of historical importance and may also have contributed to population growth, but their numbers are unknown. Most of the people live in the villages and towns of the Nile Valley and the Delta. Dwellings, usually built of adobe bricks, have long since disappeared under the rising water table or under the sites of modern towns, obliterating evidence of settlement patterns. In ancient times, as now, the most favorable location for settlements was the slightly higher ground near the river bank, where transportation and water were readily available and floods were less likely. until the first millennium B.C.E.Egypt was not as civilized as Mesopotamia. Instead, a few centers, notably Memphis and Thebes, attracted the population, especially the elite, while the rest of the people were spread relatively evenly over the land. Population size is estimated to have increased from 1 to 1.5 million in the third millennium B.C.E. Perhaps twice that number in the late second and first millennium B.C.E.. (Much higher levels of population were reached in the Greco-Roman period.)

Almost all people were engaged in agriculture and were probably tied to the land. In theory, all land belonged to the king, although in practice it was not easy to remove those living on it, and some classes of land could be bought and sold. Lands were allotted to high officials to provide them with income, and most lands required large dues to be paid to the state, which had a strong interest in preserving the lands for agricultural use. Abandoned lands were returned to state ownership and re-allocated to agriculture. The people who lived and worked the land were not free to leave and were forced to work the land, but they were not slaves; Most of them paid a percentage of their production to senior officials. Free citizens appeared, working the land for their own account; The terms applied to them originally tended to refer to the poor, but these farmers may not have been poor. Slavery was never common, limited to captives, foreigners, or people forced by poverty or debt to sell themselves into service. Sometimes, slaves married into their owners’ family members, so that those who belonged to the families tended to do so in the long run. absorbed to a free society. In the New Kingdom (from about 1539 to 1075 B.C.E.), large numbers of captured slaves were acquired by major state institutions or incorporated into the military. Punitive treatment of foreign slaves or local deserters from their obligations included forced labor, exile (in the oases of the Western Sahara, for example), or conscription in dangerous mining expeditions. Even non-punitive labor, such as quarrying in the desert, was dangerous. The official log of one of the expeditions shows a fatality rate of more than 10 percent.

Just as the Egyptians improved agricultural production by simple means, so their crafts and techniques, many of which originally came from Asia, rose to extraordinary levels of perfection. The most astonishing artistic achievement of the Egyptians, the monumental stone construction, also exploited the potential of the centralized state to mobilize a huge labor force, made available through efficient agricultural practices. Some of the technical and organizational skills involved were impressive. build the great Fourth pyramids Dynasty (c. 2575–c. 2465 B.C.E.) has not yet been fully explained and would be quite a challenge to this day. This expenditure on skills contrasts with sparse evidence indicating a Neolithic lifestyle for the rural population at the time, while flint tools continued to be used even in urban areas. environments At least until the end of the second millennium B.C.E.. The metal was scarce, however, as much of it was used prestige instead of everyday purposes.

urban and elite contextsThe ideal Egyptian model was the nuclear family, but on the ground, even within the central ruling group, there is evidence of extended families. The Egyptians were monogamous, and the choice of marriage partners, for which no formal ceremony or legal sanction is known, did not follow a set pattern. Cousin marriage was not practiced during the dynastic period, except for the occasional marriage between brother and sister within the royal family, and this practice may have been open only to kings or heirs to the throne. Divorce was easy in theory, but it was expensive. Women had a slightly lower legal status than men. They can own and dispose of property in their personal capacity, and they can initiate divorce and other legal proceedings. They rarely held administrative positions but increasingly became involved in religious communities as priestesses or “prayers”. Married women bore the title of “lady of the house”, a title which is not known precisely. At the bottom of the social ladder, they may have worked the land as well as at home.

The unequal distribution of wealth, labor, and technology was associated with the only partially urbanized character of society, especially in the third millennium. B.C.E.. The country’s resources were not fed by the many regional cities, but were instead largely concentrated around the capital—itself a sporadic series of settlements rather than a city—and centered on the central figure in society, the king. In the third and early second millenniums, the elite ideal, expressed in the decoration of private tombs, was rural and rural. It was not until much later that the Egyptians developed a more distinctly urban character.

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