The Magic Kingdom
The civilisation of ancient Egypt has fascinated humanity throughout the ages. Although its origins were more than 5000 years ago, the social structures and technical innovations achieved and practiced left a lasting legacy that continue to be closely studied and admired today.
Ancient Egypt was a civilisation that flourished along the lower Nile, from around 3100 BC up until 300 BC, a period of some 2,800 years. This extended period of relative stability was largely the result of successful agriculture that evolved through controlled irrigation of the Nile River. This, in turn, generated a reliable food supply and promoted social and cultural development unique across the ancient world.
The political structure of the day also promoted stability, with government administration directing a strong military force, as well as overseeing religious leaders and a well-developed bureaucracy. This hierarchy was led by a Pharaoh or king, who was recognised as the human representative of the numerous deities that were worshipped at the time.
The achievements of Ancient Egypt were astonishing, with one of the more obvious being the monumental structures that survive today, including the Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza. These advanced building techniques are only some of a number of great achievements, including the development of a mathematical system, accurate surveying techniques and formal records through the invention of the hieroglyph writing system . Ancient Egypt is also noted for the development of a distinctive artistic style involving painting and jewellery, a style that remains popular today.
The burial customs of the ancient Egyptians are particularly fascinating, with a strong belief in the afterlife leading to elaborate procedures in which bodies were preserved for posterity through mummification. This involved desiccating the corpse and then wrapping it closely with linen strips. With wealthy individuals, such as Pharaohs, valuable items made of gold and jewellery were interred with the corpse, designed to make existence in the afterlife more comfortable.
Over the last 200 years interest in Ancient Egypt has intensified, following the decoding of the hieroglyphic system in the 1820’s by the French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion, the sensational discovery of the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922, and the more recent use of carbon dating to accurately describe various key events.
Image: The tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.