Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ancient Egypt Essay Example for Free

Ancient Egypt Essay Ancient Egypt was a civilization that emerged in eastern North Africa, and was centered along the banks of the lower part of the Nile River. Beginning around 3100 B. C. , this dynamic civilization would exist for over 3,000 years, only ending with its fall to the Roman Empire. Yet, during its existence, ancient Egypt developed a rich history, as well as a rich culture that greatly influenced the rest of the ancient world and the modern world. Ancient Egyptian culture encompassed many things, but the most important was the spiritual aspect. Ancient Egyptians had no separate word to describe what modern society now calls religion, mainly because their spirituality was an integral part of their life. Therefore, it was believed that Egypt was part of a â€Å"universal cosmic scheme†, and on Earth, it was the responsibility of the pharaoh to maintain stability within that cosmic scheme (19). Another aspect of this cosmic scheme was the multitude of gods that ancient Egyptians worshipped. All the gods were associated with either heavenly bodies or natural forces. However, two groups of gods came to have particular importance. They were the sun gods and the land gods, and considering the fact that nature played such a vital role in the survival of ancient Egypt, it makes perfect sense that these groups would take precedence over the rest of the gods. The sun god commanded the greatest respect and devotion of all the gods because it was the sun that served as the source of life. He also had the ability to take on different forms and names. Thus, he was worshiped in human form as Atum, and in half man-half falcon form as Re (19). Land gods included Osiris, Isis, and Horus, all of whom represented some particular aspect of nature, as well as aspects of the afterlife. Such was the case with Osiris, who represented resurrection and judgment of the dead. The next main aspect of ancient Egyptian culture was its architecture. As proven from the ruins that exist today, ancient Egyptian rulers built large-scale monuments to demonstrate their power and strength, both militarily and politically. Yet, of all the architecture that remains from this civilization, it is the pyramids that still evoke awe in all. Built during the Old Kingdom period, the pyramids were often part of a large complex that was dedicated to the dead. The complex would include not only the pyramid for the burial of the pharaoh, but also smaller pyramids for his family, and rectangular structures called mastabas for his noble officials. Within these pyramids, everything that one needed for the afterlife was there. This was done because it was believed by ancient Egyptians that humans had two bodies: a physical one and a spiritual one, called the ka. The items placed in the pyramid with the physically dead pharaoh were meant to his ka to live on in the afterlife as it had in its earthly life (20-21). Naturally, pyramids cannot be talked about without referring to the process of mummification, which can be considered to be part of the spiritual aspect of ancient Egyptian life. A 70-day long process, mummification involved emptying the dead body of its internal organs, of which the lungs, liver, stomach, intestines, and heart were placed into special jars to be buried alongside the body. The body was then covered in salt, to draw out all the water from the body. Once this was done, the body was then filled with spices and wrapped in layers of linen that had been soaked with resin. The final step was the placing of a mask over the head of the mummy, and then its burial. Through this process, the pharaoh, his family, and his officials were all preserved, with the ultimate goal being they would reunite again in the afterworld (21). The final main aspect of ancient Egyptian culture was its art and writing. Egyptian art was largely functional, often being commissioned by kings and nobles for use in the temples and tombs of Egypt. With regard to the temples, wall paintings and statues of the gods and the pharaohs were meant for spiritual purposes only, in that they played integral roles in the performance of various rituals done by the temple priests. With regard to the tombs, wall paintings and statues were meant to aid the deceased along into the afterworld, serving as a type of guide for the person (21). Egyptian art was also extremely formulaic, meaning artists and sculptors had to follow a strict set of rules regarding proportions for the form and presentation of their works. As a result, Egyptian art had a distinctive appearance that would span the entire existence of ancient Egyptian civilization. One particular characteristic was the technique implemented by artists and sculptors alike, in which profile, semi-profile, and frontal views of the human body were combined to represent the whole image of the body accurately (21). Egyptian writing emerged during the first two dynasties, but did not have a name until given one by the Greeks, who called it hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics, meaning ‘priest carvings’ or sacred writings, were signs that depicted objects. Eventually, they were simplified into two scripts to make them easier to write, but were never developed into an actual alphabet. Initially carved into stone tablets, but the more simplified versions were written on papyrus. As a result, most of the Egyptian literature that exists today is either on stone tablets or papyrus rolls (22) As previously stated, ancient Egyptian culture was quite unique and vibrant. It was also greatly influential, as various aspects of it were adopted by other civilizations. Ancient Egypt served as an early example of how great a culture and civilization could be, and those that followed after it would not have been as successful were it not for the existence of ancient Egypt. Source: Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. Belmont: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2006.

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