The geography of Egypt is deeply important in understanding why the Egyptians centered their lives around the Nile. Both before and during the use of canal irrigation in Egypt, the Nile Valley could be separated into two parts, the River Basin or the flat alluvial (or black land soil), and the Red Land or red desert land. The River basin of the Nile was in sharp contrast to the rest of the land of Egypt and was rich with wild life and water fowl, depending on the waxing and waning cycles of the Nile. In contrast, the red desert was a flat dry area which was devoid of most life and water, regardless of any seasonal cycle.
The Nile in it's natural state goes through periods of inundation and relinquishment. The inundation of the Nile-a slightly unpredictable event- was the time of greatest fertility for Egypt. As the banks rose, the water would fill the man-made canals and canal basins and would water the crops for the coming year. However, if the inundation was even twenty inches above or below normal, it could have massive consequences upon the Egyptian agricultural economy. Even with this variability, the Egyptians were able to easily grow tree crops and vegetable gardens in the lower part of the Nile Valley, while at higher elevations, usually near levees, the Nile Valley was sparsely planted.
Agricultural crops were not the mainstay of the ancient Egyptian diet. Rather, the Nile supplied a constant influx of fish which were cultivated year around. In addition to fish, water fowl and cattle were also kept by the Egyptians. Flocks of geese were raised from the earliest times and supplied eggs, meat and fat. However, the domestic fowl didn't make its appearance until Ramesside times, and then in only very isolated places. The Egyptian farmers, in their early experimental phase, also tried to domesticate other animals such as hyenas, gazelles and cranes but gave up after the Old Kingdom. Cattle were also part of the staple diet of the Egyptians, suggesting that grazing land was available for the Egyptians during the times when the Nile receded. However, during the inundation, cattle were brought to the higher levels of the flood plain area and were often fed the grains harvested from the previous year.
The Egyptian diet was by no means limited to tree crops and vegetables, nor was it limited to an animal or fish diet. The Egyptians cultivated barley, emmer wheat, beans, chickpeas, flax, and other types of vegetables. In addition, the cultivation of grains was not entirely for consumption. One of the most prized products of the Nile and of Egyptian agriculture was oil. Oil was customarily used as a payment to workmen employed by the state, and depending on the type, was highly prized. The most common oil (kiki) was obtained from the castor oil plant. Sesame oil from the New Kingdom was also cultivated and was highly prized during the later Hellenistic Period.
Ancient Egyptian Culture
Mythology is defined as a collection of interrelated stories of a given culture. Myths tend to describe the creation of the world and give a culture an understanding of the events of nature and the world around them. Myths are also generated to tell the story of the first people to inhabit the earth. These people are elevated to gods and goddesses, which usually associate them as having supernatural and special powers. Myths also express the values or beliefs of a culture, and every culture studied has their own myths distinctive to their group.
Ancient Egyptians tried to understand their place in the universe and their mythology centers itself on nature, the earth, sky, moon, sun, stars, and the Nile River. Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, is located in the ruins of Yunu in northeast Cairo. This is where the cosmic creation of Egyptian myth began. Ancient Egyptian mythology states that in the beginning of time everything began with Nu. Nu is the description of what the planet was before land appeared. Nu was a vast area of swirling watery chaos and as the floods receded the land appeared. The first god to appear out of this watery mess was Atum. This myth was probably created because of the large source of water from the Nile River. In one interpretation, Atum is credited with the fertile land that springs up when the water's of the Nile River recedes, because he was the first to arise out of the watery mess.
Atum emerged from Nu as the sun god at the beginning of time and is the creator of the world. Since Atum was all alone he chose to mate with his shadow. The god Atum was known as the `Great He-She', and a bisexual. The ancient Egyptians found this act acceptable, as they found all types of sexual orientations acceptable. Atum gave birth to two children by spitting out his son (Shu) and vomiting up is daughter (Tefnut). Shu represented the air and the principles of life and Tefnut represented rain and principles of order. The three remained in the watery chaos of Nu and after some time Atum was separated from his children. When they were finally reunited, Atum wept with tears of joy. When his tears hit the ground men grew and he then began to create the world. Shu and Tefnut later gave birth to Geb, the god of the earth in which the throne of the Pharaoh would be decided. Nut was also born from Tefnut and Shu as the Goddess of the sky, the separator between earth and Nu. Geb and Nut then gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys. In ancient Egyptian mythology there is an established kinship of the gods and goddesses. Atum is known also as Khepri, the great scarab beetle, Ra-Harakhte, the winged-solar disk, Ra, the midday sun, Aten, the solar-disk, or Horus on the Horizon. By whatever name you call him Atum, is the one and only creator in the universe. The sun god Atum travels along Nut during the day and then is swallowed by Nut at night. At dawn it is seen as Nut giving birth to Atum as the sky opens up to the light.
One of the most famous Egyptian myths is the myth of Osiris. Osiris has been credited with many different titles, god of fertility, king of the dead, god of agriculture, and god of the underworld, controller of the Nile floods, and the rising and setting of the sun. All of these titles have one thing in common: life, death, and rebirth because the myth of Osiris is attributed to his life, murder, and eternal life after death. The myth of Osiris begins when he sets out to spread law and order across the land and to teach people how to farm. Because Osiris was a powerful king and popular with the people, his jealous brother lured him into a coffin and sealed his fate with molten lead. Seth then sent him down the Nile River in the coffin. Later the coffin washed ashore in Lebanon and a tree encased it. A king of Lebanon was impressed by the size of the tree and cut it down and put it in his palace.
Isis was the wife and sister to Osiris who gave birth to Horus and was the protector of the dead. When she received the news of Osiris's death, she knew the dead could not rest without a proper burial. Isis searched and found Osiris' body and brought it back to Egypt. Seth found this unacceptable and cut Osiris into many pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis set out again and had all the pieces she found made into wax duplicates. All the wax duplicates were placed in the temple to be worshipped. Isis preserved his body with linen bandages, used her magic and breathed life back into Osiris. Osiris then rose as a God-King and he chose to rule the underworld. This is where the roots of mummification and rebirth into the afterworld began.
Ancient Egyptian Culture
Ancient Egyptian gods:
Amen (Amon): Amen has his origin in Thebes. He is known as Lord of Creation and Protector of the Poor and Weak. His name means �The Hidden One.� He is considered the father of all gods; thus he does not have a mother or father but is husband to Mut, the Great Mother. During the Middle Kingdom, Uast became the state capitol of Egypt and since Amen was the central god of Uast, he became the state god and was later combined with Ra (another creator god) to become Amen-Ra, and worshipped as the King of Gods. Egyptians represent him in art and statue as man or the sun. His sacred animals were the ram and the goose, which were bred and kept at all of his temples throughout Egypt.
Bastet: The Egyptian cat-headed goddess, Bastet was strictly a solar deity until the arrival of Greek influence on Egyptian society, when she became a lunar goddess due to the Greeks associating her with their Artemis. Dating from the 2nd Dynasty (roughly 2890-2686 BC), Bastet was originally portrayed as either a wild desert cat or as a lioness, and only became associated with the domesticated feline around 1000 BC. She was commonly paired with Sakhmet, the lion-headed goddess of Memphis, Wadjet, and Hathor. Bastet was the "Daughter of Ra", a designation that placed her in the same ranks as such goddesses as Maat and Tefnut. Additionally, Bastet was one of the "Eyes of Ra", the title of an "avenger" god who is sent out specifically to lay waste to the enemies of Egypt and her gods. Geb: Geb was the �Father Earth� or the earth-god. He is said to live forever below his wife Nut, the goddess of the sky. He is the brother and husband of Nut and together they had five children. Geb's sign is the goose, which is thought, according to the mythological creation story, to be the form that the creator took on the day of creation. Geb is thought to be the first ruler of Kemet and some of the ancient king-lists have Geb and his immediate descendants as actual physical kings.
Horus (Heru, Haroeris, Harpocrates): Horus is the son of Isis and Osiris. When Osiris was killed by Set, Horus set out to avenge him. He is the god of the living and lord of the heavens. His name means �He who is above.� Horus is represented as a falcon or hawk-headed deity because of his status as god of the sky and horizon. There are several myths about the eye or eyes of Horus. One source says that Horus gave up his right eye in battle and that it represents strength, vigor and self-sacrifice. Another source simply says that one of his eyes represents the sun and the other represents the moon. During the time he was worshipped in Ancient Egypt, his cult-centers were Behdet in Lower Egypt, and Hierakonpolis and Edfu in Upper Egypt.
Ma'at (Maat): Ma'at was the goddess of truth, justice and harmony. Ra, the sun god, was her father. Offerings were often made of Ma'at to the gods by the pharaohs to show that they wanted to keep harmony and justice on the earth. Ma'at is represented as a woman with an ostrich feather on her head. A vizier, who was a high official in the government and advisor to the pharaohs, were often known as �riests of Ma'at�.
Nut (Nuit): Nut was the goddess of the sky. She created the casing over the earth with her body. She was the sister and wife of Geb, the god of the earth. Shu, the god of air, separated nut and Geb when he lifted Nut up to become the canopy over the earth. Ancient Egyptians believed that in the evenings, Nut would swallow Ra, the sun god, and in the mornings give birth to him. Nut appears as a goddess wearing a blue dress covered in stars.
Ptah: Ptah is the creator god of Memphis, the capital of the dual Kemetic for most of its history. Ptah is symbolized as a mummified man wearing a skullcap and holding the symbols of life, power, and stability in his arms. Ptah is sometimes seen as an abstract form of the self-created one, who effected creation through the actions of his heart and gave all things the breath of life with his tongue. Ptah represents the sun at the time when it begins to rise above the horizon and or right after it has risen. As early as the Second Dynasty, he is regarded as a creator god. He is the patron of painters, builders. architects, artists and sculptors. It was Ptah who built the boats for the souls of the dead to use in the afterlife. In the Book of the Dead we learn that he was a master architect, and responsible for building the framework of the universe. It was said that Ptah created the great metal plate that was the floor of heaven and the roof of the sky. He also constructed the supports that held it up. Some creation legends say that by speaking the names of all things, Ptah caused them to be.
Ra (Re): Another deity represented in human form with the head of a falcon, like Horus. Ra, like Amen, is also thought to be a god of creation. His cult-center is Heliopolis, where he is known as the sun god and supreme judge. Ra is also known as the father of kings and the most important gods. Followers of Ra believe that life on earth was created from the tears of Ra as he wept at the beauty of mankind and his creation. He is considered
Ancient Egyptian Culture
He is considered a living god during the day and a dead one at night. He is born at dawn as a small child, an adult in prime at midday and an old man at sunset. He dies at dark and is reborn again at next dawn.
Seth: Seth was the god of wind and storms and ruler of the deserts. He is seen as the one who brings chaos to Egypt and is the enemy of Osiris and Horus. Nephthys is the wife to Seth and sister to Osiris, Isis, and Seth. She is usually depicted as a protector of the dead. From Osiris and Isis comes Horus, the King of Egypt.
Tawaret (Thoeris, Taurt): Tawaret, or �The Great One�, is the goddess who protects women during their pregnancy and childbirth. Often temples were built to honor gods and goddesses but Tawaret was a goddess who was worshiped by ancient Egyptians in their own homes. Often an amulet of Tawaret was worn or at least kept in a person's home to keep them safe from evil spells or actions. Tawaret has the head of a hippopotamus and arms and legs of a lion. She has the back and tail of a crocodile and the breasts and stomach of a pregnant woman.
These are the gods with whom ancient Egyptians had a relationship for thousands of years. By careful study of the gods and the myths that surround them, we can develop a picture in our own minds of what the ancient Egyptians were like as emotional beings. We know what they did on an everyday basis. We know what kind of jobs they worked, how they ate, their medical technology, their government, and how they created their magnificent monuments. But within the hieroglyphs containing the myths of the gods we can learn what motivated the Egyptians spiritual lives. We can learn why they did the things that they did, what the purpose of the pyramids were, their relationship with the pharaoh, their burial practices and their belief in the afterlife. Maybe the ancient Egyptians knew something about the afterlife or the realm of the spirits that we don't know, or will never know, unless we take the time to understand their mythology as they understood it.
This post was modified from its original form on 10 Jun, 18:27
Ancient Egyptian Culture
According to the Heliopolitan Tradition, the world began as a watery chaos called Nun, from which the sun-god Atum (later to identified with Re) emerged on a mound. By his own power he engendered the twin deities Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture), who in turn bore Geb (earth) and Nut (sky). Geb and Nut finally produced Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. The nine gods so created formed the divine ennead (i.e. company of nine) which in later texts was often regarded as a single divine entity. From this system derived the commonly accepted conception of the universe represented as a figure of the air-god Shu standing and supporting with his hands the out-stretched body of the sky-goddess Nut, with Geb the earth-god lying at his feet.
Ancient Egyptian Culture
The second cosmological tradition of Egypt was developed at Hermopolis, the Capital of the Fifteenth Nome of Upper Egypt, apparently during a time of reaction against the religious hegemony of Heliopolis. According to this tradition, chaos existed at the beginning of time before the world was created. This chaos possessed four characteristics identified with eight deities who were grouped in pairs: Nun and Naunet, (god and goddess of the primordial water), Heh and Hehet, (god and goddess of infinite space), Kek and Keket, (god and goddess of darkness), and Amun and Amunet, (god and goddess of invisibility).
These deities were not so much the gods of the earth at the time of creation as the personifications of the characteristic elements of chaos out of which earth emerged. They formed what is called the Hermopolitan Ogdoad (company of eight). Out of chaos so conceived arose the primeval mound at Hermopolis and on the mound was deposited an egg from which emerged the great sun-god. The sun-god then proceeded to organize the world. The Hermopolitan idea of chaos was of something more active than the chaos of the Heliopolitan system; but after the ultimate triumph of the latter system, a subtle modification (no doubt introduced largely for political reasons) made Nun the father and creator of Atum.
Ancient Egyptian Culture
The third cosmological system was developed at Memphis, when it became the capital city of the kings of Egypt. Ptah, the principal god of Memphis, had to be shown to be the great creator-god, and a new legend about creation was coined. Nevertheless, an attempt was made to organize the new cosmogony so that a direct breach with the priests of Heliopolis might be avoided. Ptah was the great creator-god, but eight other gods were held to be contained within him. Of these eight, some were members of the Heliopolitan Ennead, and others of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad. Atum, for example, held a special position; Nun and Naunet were included; also Tatjenen, a Memphite god personifying the earth emerging from chaos, and four other deities whose names are not certain. They were probably Horus, Thoth, Nefertum, and a serpent-god. Atum was held to represent the active faculties of Ptah by which creation was achieved, these faculties being intelligence, which as identified with the heart and personified as Horus, and will, which was identified with the tongue and personified as Thoth.
Ptah conceived the world intellectually before creating it 'by his own word'. The whole Memphite theology is preserved on a slab of basalt now exhibited in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery. It was composed at an early date, and committed to stone during the Twenty-fifth Dynasty by the order of King Shabaka. Unfortunately, this stone, the so-called 'Shabaka Stone' was subsequently used as a nether mill-stone and much of the text has been lost. The document known as the Bremner-Rhind Papyrus includes, among other religious texts, two monologues of the sun-god describing how he created all things.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the "soul" is made up of three parts; the Ba, Ka, and Akh. One part of the soul couldn't live without the other, i.e. if one died they all died. The purpose of mummification was to keep all of the soul's three parts alive.
Ba: The Ba was depicted as a human headed bird. It represented the personality, character, or individuality of the deceased. The Ba lived inside the tomb, but was allowed to leave the tomb and come back at will. It could visit the land of the living where it could take on any form.
Ka: The Ka was a double of the person. It was sometimes represented as a human figure with raised arms, or just a pair of raised arms (David, 140). The creator god "Khnum" fashioned the Ka at the time a person was conceived. It was an exact physical and emotional replica of an individual, that was imprisoned within the living heart, and was only expelled by death. It had to stay close to the body at all times and could never leave the tomb. It was believed that the Ka could not live unless the body was preserved. If the body was not preserved properly the ka could live inside a picture of the body that was depicted on the wall of the tomb. The Ka was dependent on the objects and offerings that were left in the tomb. It could not survive without nourishment. It required food, drink, and clothing. It was up to the friends and family of the deceased to leave regular offerings at the tomb. Dried fish and fowl were some of the foods left by relatives to nourish the Ka.
Akh: The Akh represented the immortality of the deceased. And, like the Ba, it was sometimes depicted as a bird. The Akh made the journey to the underworld so that it could eventually take its place in the afterlife.
Cats in Ancient Egypt
Animal worship in ancient Egypt is part of the culture of daily life of Egyptians. Animals of every kind were respected and revered, as they were in close contact with deities and gods that the average Egyptian could not reach.
The cat in ancient Egypt, or miw (to see), was a sacred and respected beast. These small companions fascinated the Egyptians, and were venerated by all. It was in Egypt that the cat was first domesticated 4,000 years ago and where they were held in the most admiration and respect. There is evidence of wild felines around the banks of Egypt, but it was not until around 2000 BCE that the fully domesticated cat was brought into the houses of Egyptians.
The first domesticated Egyptian cats in Egypt were more than likely used for warding off the common asp and other snakes, and the typical chasers of rodents. Slowly though, the cat became more to the Egyptians than just a normal animal, the cat became a god.
During the New Kingdom (1540 to 1069 BC), there were many tomb scenes that started showing cats as part of everyday life. The ancient Egyptians took their cats on hunting excursions instead of dogs, The most popular excursions being the marshes where cats may have been trained to retrieve fowl and fish. Another very common scene in tomb paintings was the picturing of a cat seated underneath a woman's chair. Children had become known in their family as Mit or Miut, showing great affection not only for the child but for the cat as well. Statues of cats were placed outside the house to protect the inhabitants and to ward off evil spirits. This showed scientists that the cat had become an integral part of the ancient Egyptian family life.
Mafdet was the first Egyptian feline deity, sometimes depicted as a lynx, but the most famous cat goddesses in the world, first revered by the ancient Egyptians were Bastet (also known as Bast, Pasch, Ubasti) and the lion-headed Sekhmet.
Bastet had the roles of fertility, protector of children and the protector of all cats. Bastet became so popular infact that she became a household goddess. This goddess was called Bastet when in full cat form, and Bast when only having the head of one and the body of a beautiful woman. Bastet's counterpart was the goddess Sekhmet who represented the cat goddess' destructive force. Sekhmet is known as the goddess of war and pestilence. Together, Bastet and Sekhmet represented the balance of the forces of nature in Egypt.
In Bubastis, or Tell Basta, the cats lived a lavish life as the `embodiment' of Bastet in her temples. Here they were served upon and taken care of until they passed away, and it was here that their bodies were mummified and given as offerings to Bastet. Bubastis contains the remains of over 300,000 cat mummies. Upon being inspected, some feline mummies had severe trauma to the head or neck, signifying that they were killed on purpose, perhaps to lower the growing population or for offerings for Bastet. Giza, Abydos, and Dendereh were also feline tomb cities other than Bubastis.
When a cat died their former owners and occupants of the house would go into deep mourning and shave their eyebrows as a sign of grief. People are not the only mummies in Egypt, as the cat was also mummified significantly. The process of feline mummification had six steps:
- Removal of organs
- Body is stuffed with sand or packing material
- Feline is placed in a sitting position
- Body is wrapped tightly
- Faces and designs are painted on wrappings with black ink
- No chemicals, only natural dehydration
In the tombs of the cats were set bowls of milk along with mice and rats.
Cats were not only protected by almost every occupant of Egypt, but also by the law. So extreme infact was the devoutness of the Egyptian culture to the cat, that if a human killed a feline, either intentionally or unintentionally, that human was sentenced to death. Laws were set that also forbid the exportation of cats, though more often than not, many were smuggled to the neighboring Mediterranean countries. Documents state that armies sometimes were set out to recapture these cats from the foreign lands.
Herodotus stated a story once about a fire in a house in Egypt. The men from the house stood outside in a line to protect the cats from harm and danger. Another statement from Herodotus explains even greater the significance of the cat to Egypt. Herodotus begins with the Egyptians in war with Persia. The Persian general had decided to collect as many cats that his men could find or steal, knowing the great importance of the cat to Egypt. The soldiers then returned to the town of Pelusium and set the cats free on the battlefield. Horrified, the Egyptians surrendered the city to the Persians rather than harm the cats.
The cat held a powerful spot in the history of Egypt. While she protected his land and his people, she also protected the mystique that is and was the cat in ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian Culture
Amon (Amen, Amun): the great god of Thebes of uncertain origin; represented as a man, the sun, and sometimes as ithyphallic; identified with Re as Amen-Re; his sacred animals were the ram and goose.
Anat: goddess of Syrian origin, with warlike character; represented as a woman holding a shield and an axe.
Anubis (Anpu): the jackal-god, patron of embalmers, healers, and surgeons; in both healing and mummification ceremonies, Anubis was the patron deity which prepared the dead and healed the living. Anubis is considered to be the great necropolis-god.
Anukis (Anqet): goddess of the cataract-region at Aswan; wife of Khnum; represented as a woman with a high feather head-dress.
Arsaphes (Herishef): ram-headed god from, Heracleopolis.
Astarte (As-start-a): goddess of Syrian origin; introduced into Egypt during the 18th Dynasty. She is also known as The Queen of Heaven and her cult often times overlapped with Isian worshipers.
Aten: god of the sun-disk, worshipped as the great creator-god by Akhenaten.
Atum (Tum): the original sun-god of Heliopolis, later identified with Re; represented as a man.
Bastet (Bast): A cat-goddess whose cult-center was at Bubastis in the Delta; in the Late Period regarded as a beneficent deity. She was seen as the patron of cats, of women, and protection.
Bes: A dwarf-deity with leonine features. Seen as a domestic god, protector against snakes and various terrors; helper of women in child-birth.
Edjo (Wadjet, Buto): the cobra-goddess of Buto in the Delta; tutelary deity of Lower Egypt, appearing on the royal diadem, protecting the king.
Geb: the earth-god; husband of Nut; member of the ennead of Heliopolis; represented as a man.
Hapy: god of the Nile in inundation; represented as a man with full, heavy breasts, a clump of papyrus on his head, and bearing heavily laden offering-tables.
Haroeris: a form of Horus, the 'Elder Horus'; identified with the falcon-god and particularly the patron of the king.
Harpocrates (Hor-Pa-Khred): A late form of Horus in his aspect of being son of Isis and Osiris; represented as a naked child wearing the lock of youth and holding one finger to his mouth.
Harsiesis: A form of Horus, specifically designated 'son of Isis'.
Hathor: Goddess of many functions and attributes; represented often as a cow or a cow-headed woman, or as a woman with horned head-dress; the suckler of the king; the 'Golden One'; cult-centers at Memphis, Cusae, Gebelein, Dendera; the patron deity of the mining-region of Sinai; identified by the Greeks with Aphrodite. She was sent by Re to cleanse the land of disbelievers. After slaying all who opposed Re, she asked to rest, and became the equivalent to the Greek form of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, fertility, women, and also their protector. There are many myths surrounding the goddess Hathor.
Hat-mehit: Fish-goddess of Mendes in the Delta; sometimes represented as a woman with a fish on her head.
Heqet: Frog-goddess of Antinoopolis where she was associated with Khnum; a helper of women in child-birth.
Horus (Haroeris, Harpocrates, Harsiesis, Re-Harakhty): The falcon-deity, originally the sky-god, identified with the king during his lifetime. Known more importantly as the son of Osiris and Isis. Horus was also the avenger of his father Osirius, who was killed by Set. The eye of Horus came from a myth of his battles where Horus gave up his right eye in battle. Since then the Eye of Horus, has come to represent strength, vigor, and self-sacrifice. His cult-centers were in many places, Behdet in the Delta, Hierakonpolis and Edfu in Upper Egypt.
Imhotep (Imouthes): The deified chief minister of Djoser, and architect of the Step Pyramid; in the Late Period venerated as the god of learning and medicine; represented as a seated man holding an open papyrus; equated by the Greeks with Asklepios.
Isis: Isis is known as the divine mother, and as wife of Osiris and mother of Horus; Isis is one of the four great protector goddesses (Bast, Nephythes, and Hathor), guarding coffins and Canopic jars. Isis is sister
Ancient Egyptian Culture
Isis is sister of Nephthys with whom she acted as a divine mourner for the dead, and is divinely represented by the Ankh. In the Late Period Philae was her principal cult-center. She is also known as The Queen of Heaven (similar to Astarte), and rules over all matters concerning life, mothering, and sorcery. In the origin myth of Re and the world, it was written that she found out Re's name by enchanting a poisonous snake to bite him. The snake bit Re, and Isis could only heal him by knowing Re's true name. By knowing Re's name, she then had power equal to him and was then given all of her magical power and was thenceforth known as the divine sorceress. Another of the Isian myths concerns, both Isis, Osiris, and Horus. In this myth, Set kills Osiris and scatters his body in fourteen pieces around the world. Isis goes to find these pieces. After she find all of the peices, she reassembles Osiris and he comes back to life for one night during which Isis conceives their son, Horus. Osiris then becomes Lord of the Dead. Horus was given birth to and was committed to avenging his fathers death by killing Set. Isis from then on lived as the divine mourner on earth and in heaven.
Khepri: The scarab-beetle god, identified with Re as a creator-god; often represented as a beetle within the sun-disk.
Khnum: Ram-headed god of Elephantine, god of the Cataract-region; thought to have molded man on a potter's wheel.
Khons: The moon-god, represented as a man; with Amun and Mut as father and mother, forming the Theban triad.
Maat: Goddess of truth, right, and orderly conduct; represented as a woman with an ostrich-feather on her head. It is said that in the judgement of the dead she holds the scales which weigh the human heart.
Min: The primeval god of Coptos; later revered as a god of fertility, and closely associated with Amun; represented as an ithyphallic human statue, holding a flagellum.
Month (Munt): Originally the local deity of Hermonthis, just south of Thebes; later the war-god of the Egyptian king; represented as falcon-headed.
Mut (Mutt): The divine wife of Amun; cult-center at Asheru, south of the main temple of Amen-Re at Karnak; originally a vulture-goddess, later represented usually as a woman.
Nefertum: The god of the lotus, and hence of unguents; worshipped at Memphis as the son of Ptah and Sakhmet; represented as a man with a lotus-flower head-dress.
Neheb-kau: A serpent deity of the underworld, sometimes represented with a man's body and holding the eye of Horus.
Neith (Net): Goddess of Sais; represented as a woman wearing the red crown; her emblem, a shield with crossed arrows; one of the four 'protector'-goddesses who guarded coffins and Canopic jars; identified by the Greeks with Athena.
Nekhbet: Vulture-goddess of Nekheb (modern El-Kab); tutelary deity of Upper Egypt, sometimes appearing on the royal diadem beside the cobra (Edjo).
Nephthys (Nebet-het): Sister of Isis; one of the four 'protector'-goddesses, who guarded coffins and Canopic jars; with Isis acted as mourner for Osiris and hence for other dead people; represented as a woman.
Nun (Nu): god of the primeval chaos, the Nu was also seen as the primeval water from which the gods, earth, and humans were created from, i.e. the chaos from which order was created.
Nut (Nuit): the sky-goddess, wife of Geb, the earth-god; represented as a woman, her naked body is curved to form the arch of heaven.
Onuris (Anhur): God of This in Upper Egypt; the divine huntsman; represented as a man.
Osiris (Asar): The god of the underworld, identified as the king of the dead; also a god of the inundation and vegetation; represented as a mummified king; principal cult-center, Abydos.Osiris is seen as the great judge of the dead.
Ptah: Creator-god of Memphis, represented as a man, mummiform, possibly originally as a statue; the patron god of craftsmen; equated by the Greeks with Hephaestus.
Ptah-seker-osiris: Composite deity, incorporating the principal gods of creation, death, and after-life; represented like Osiris as a mummified king.
Qadesh: Goddess of Syrian origin, often represented as a woman standing on a lion's back.
Re (Ra): The sun-god of Heliopolis; head of the great ennead, supreme judge; often linked with other gods aspiring to universality, e.g. Amen-Re, Sobk-Re; represented as falcon-headed. Seem as the father of the gods, it was from him that all the gods and goddesses were created. He is also known by three aspects, which correspon
Ancient Egyptian Culture
He is also known by three aspects, which correspond to the positions of the sun, Amen at dawn, Re in the evening, and Set at dusk.
Re-harakhty: A god in the form of a falcon, embodying the characteristics of Re and Horus (here called 'Horus of the Horizon').
Renenutet (Ernutet, Thermuthis): Goddess of harvest and fertility; represented as a snake or a snake-headed woman.
Reshef (Reshpu): God of war and thunder, of Syrian origin.
Sarapis: a god introduced into Egypt in the Ptolemaic Perod having the characteristics of Egyptian (Osiris) and Greek (Zeus) gods; represented as a bearded man wearing the modius head-dress; the Egyptian writing of the (i.e. Osiris-Apis) may not signify the true origin of this god.
Satis (Satet): A goddess of the Island of Siheil in the Cataract-region; represented as a woman wearing the white crown with antelope horns; the daughter of Khnum and Anukis.
Selkis (Selkit, Selkhet, Serqet): A scorpion-goddess, identified with the scorching heat of the sun; one of the four 'protector'-goddesses, guarding coffins and Canopic jars; shown sometimes as a woman with a scorpion on her head.
Seshat: The goddess of writing; the divine keeper of royal annals; represented as a woman.
Seth (Set, Sutekh): The god of storms and violence; identified with many animals, including the pig, ass, okapi, and hippopotamus; represented as an animal of unidentified type; brother of Osiris and his murderer; the rival of Horus; equated by the Greeks with Typhon.
Shu: The god of air; with Tefnut, forming the first pair of gods in the Heliopolitan ennead; shown often as a man separating Nut (sky) from Geb (earth).
Sobk (Sebek, Suchos): The crocodile-god, worshipped throughout Egypt, but especially in the Faiyum, and at Gebelein and Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt.
Sokaris (Sokar, Seker): A falcon-headed god of the necropolis; cult-center in Memphis.
Sopdu: The ancient falcon-god of Saft el-Henna in the Delta; a warrior-god, protector of the eastern frontier; represented often as an Asiatic warrior.
Sothis (Sepdet): The dog-star Sirius (see the constellation Canis), defined as a goddess; shown as a woman with a star on her head.
Tatjenen: The primeval earth-god of Memphis; later identified with Ptah.
Tefnut: The goddess of moisture; with Shu forming the first pair of the Heliopolitan ennead.
Thoeris (Taurt, Taweret): The hippopotamus-goddess; a beneficent deity, the patron of woman in child-birth.
Thoth: the ibis-headed god of Hermopolis; the scribe of the gods, the inventor of writing, and the great god of all knowledge; the ape as well as the ibis are sacred to him. In the judgment of the dead he was the scribe who recorded the confessions and affirmations of the dead on his scrolls, and also kept a record of who went into paradise and who was eaten by the dogs of judgment.
Unnefer (Wenen-nefer, Onnophris): A name meaning 'he who is continually happy', given to Osiris after his resurrection.
Wepwawet (Upuaut): The jackal-god of Asyut in Middle Egypt; a god of the necropolis and an avenger of Osiris.
Most of our understanding of Egyptian astrology is contained within the Cairo Calendar, which consists of a listing of all the days of an Egyptian year. The listings within the calendar all take the same form and can be broken up into three parts: I, the type of day (favorable, unfavorable etc), II, a mythological event which may make a particular day more favorable or unfavorable, III, and a prescribed behavior associated with that day. Unlike modern astrology as found within newspapers, where one can choose whether to follow the advice there in or not, the Egyptians strictly adhered to what an astrologer would advise. As is evidenced by the papyrus of the Cairo Calendar, on days where there were adverse or favorable conditions, if the astrologers told a person not to go outside, not to bathe, or to eat fish on a particular day, such advice was taken very literally and seriously.
Some of the most interesting and misunderstood information about the Ancient Egyptians concerns their calendarical and astrological system. Of the greatest fallacy about Ancient Egypt and it's belief in astrology concerns the supposed worship of animals. The Egyptians did not worship animals, rather the Egyptians according to an animals astrological significance, behaved in certain ritualistic ways toward certain animals on certain days. For example, as is evidenced by the papyrus Cairo Calendar, during the season of Emergence, it was the advisement of the Seers (within the priestly caste), and the omens of certain animals they saw, which devised whether a specific date would be favorable or unfavorable.
The basis for deciding whether a date was favorable or unfavorable was based upon a belief in possession of good or evil spirits, and upon a mythological ascription to the gods. Simply, an animal was not ritually revered because it was an animal, but rather because it had the ability to become possessed, and therefore could cause harm or help to any individual near them. It was also conceived of that certain gods could on specific days take the form of specific animals. Hence on certain days, it was more likely for a specific type of animal to become possessed by a spirit or god than on other days. The rituals that the Egyptians partook of to keep away evil spirits from possessing an animal consisted of sacrifice to magic, however, it was the seers and the astrologers who guided many of the Egyptians and their daily routines. Hence, the origin of Egyptians worshipping animals, has more to do with the rituals to displace evil spirits, and their astrological system, more so than it does to actually worshipping animals.
The Egyptians were advanced medical practitioners for their time. They were masters of human anatomy and healing mostly due to the extensive mummification ceremonies. This involved removing most of the internal organs including the brain, lungs, pancreas, liver, spleen, heart and intestine. The Egyptians had (and this is an understatement) a basic knowledge of organ functions within the human body (save for the brain and heart which they thought had opposite functions). This knowledge of anatomy, as well as (in the later dynasties) the later crossover of knowledge between the Greeks and other culture areas, led to an extensive knowledge of the functioning of the organs, and branched into many other medical practices. Further, it was not uncommon in both early and later dynasties for scholars from ancient Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean to study the medical practitioners of Ancient Egypt. Of the most notable of these traveling scholars was, Herodotus and Pliny, both Greek scholars, whose contribution to the ancient and modern medical records, reached from the time of Ancient Egypt and into the modern era.
The practices of Egyptian medical practitioners ranged from embalming to faith healing to surgery and autopsy. The use of autopsy came through the extensive embalming practices of the Egyptians, as it was not unlikely for an embalmer to examine the body for a cause of the illness which caused death. The use of surgery also evolved from a knowledge of the basic anatomy and embalming practices of the Egyptians. From such careful observations made by the early medical practitioners of Egypt, healing practices began to center upon both the religious rituals and the lives of the ancient Egyptians.
The prescription for a healthy life, (which was almost always given by a member of the priestly caste) meant that an individual undertook the stringent and regular purification rituals (which included much bathing, and often times shaving one's head and body hair), and maintained their dietary restrictions against raw fish and other animals considered unclean to eat. Also, and in addition to a purified lifestyle, it was not uncommon for the Egyptians to undergo dream analysis to find a cure or cause for illness, as well as to ask for a priest to aid them with magic. This obviously portrays that religious magical rites and purificatory rites were intertwined in the healing process as well as in creating a proper lifestyle.
Anubis god of healers and embalmers.
Though Egyptian medical practices by no means could rival that of the present day physicians, Egyptian healers engaged in surgery, prescriptive, and many other healing practices still found today. Among the curatives used by the Egyptians were all types of plant (herbs and other plants), animal (all parts nearly) and mineral compounds. The use of these compounds led to an extensive compendium of curative recipes, some still available today. For example, yeast was recognized for its healing qualities and was applied to leg ulcers and swellings. Yeast's were also taken internally for digestive disorders and were an effective cure for ulcers.
Though the Egyptians were effective healers, they did not have a clear knowledge of cellular biology or of germ theory, so it would be inappropriate to attribute the use of Yeast's as an antibiotic; as the curative effects behind the use of antibiotics were not known until well into modern times. Yet one must admire the ingenuity of the Egyptians, which undoubtedly has it's place within the compendium of human medical history. The largest of these medicinal compendiums was compiled by Hermes (a healer of Greek origin who studied in Egypt), and consisted of six books. The first of these six books was directly related to anatomy, the rest served as a book of physic, and as apothecaries. Though Hermes was not the first to compile much of the information about Egyptian medical practices, beginning early on with the pharaoh Athothes (the second king of Egypt), the Egyptians are credited with being the first to use and record advanced medical practices.
Ancient Egyptian Quarrying
In ancient Egypt there were no known words for midwife, obstetrician, or gynecologist. But because ancient Egyptians did not have words for these things does not mean that they did not exist. In Ancient Egypt the midwife came in many forms. For peasants the midwife was a friend, neighbor, and/or family member who helped deliver the baby. For noblewomen and wealthier classes the midwife was usually a maidservant or nurse who already lived in the household. Midwives at this time did not have formal training to learn their trade. Instead they learned by apprenticeships where the knowledge was passed down from family member to family member or from friend to friend. The work of the midwife included providing emotional support, encouragement, medical care, and religious help and protection to women during their lives. The areas that midwives focused on were pregnancy, labor, fertility, and contraception.
Most ancient Egyptian women labored and delivered their babies on the �cool roof of the house or in an arbor or confinement pavilion, which was a structure of papyrus-stalk columns decorated with vines� (Parsons p. 2). In Ptolemaic times, women from the noble class gave birth in birth houses that were attached to temples. The positions that these women took when they delivered their babies were standing, kneeling, squatting, or sitting on their heels on birthing bricks, or sitting on a birthing chair. The midwife would then be positioned in front of the mother to help the delivery and catch the baby. Two other women or midwives would be placed on either side of the mother to hold her hands and arms while she was pushing and to give encouragement. Sometimes the midwife would place a dish of hot water under the birthing chair so that steam could help ease delivery. The birthing bricks that ancient Egyptian women used were 14 by 7 inches long and decorated with colorful painted scenes and figures of the birth process. Birthing chairs were made of brick and had a hole in the center. They were decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions of the owner and painted scenes of the mother, baby, and goddesses.
Since birth and delivery could be dangerous for both the mother and child, ancient Egyptian midwives used many goddesses and gods for help and protection. Goddesses and gods which ancient Egyptian midwives and women thought would help during pregnancy and birth were Hathor, Bes, Taweret, Meskhenet, Khnum, Thoth, and Amun. Hathor was the guardian-goddess of women and domestic bliss and watched over women giving birth. She took the shape of a cow. Bes was a dwarf-goddess who vanquished any evil things hovering around the mother and baby. Taweret was the pregnant hippopotamus-goddess and the chief deity of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. She carried a magic knife or the knot of Isis. Meskhenet was depicted in the shape of a birthing brick with a human head and gave strength and support to the laboring mother. Khnum was the creator-god who gave health to newborn babies after birth. The god Thoth helped the delivery along and the god Amun helped sooth severe labor pains by blowing in a cool northern breeze (Parsons, p. 3). Statues and pictures of these goddesses and gods were placed throughout room and painted on the walls, birthing bricks and chairs that the laboring women used. Another way that midwives called on divine help and protection during labor was to �lace a magic ivory crescent-shaped wand, decorated with carvings of deities, snakes, lions, and crocodiles, on the stomach of the women giving birth� (Parsons, p. 3).
On the Ebers, Kahun, Berlin, and Carlsberg papyri there are many tests and methods described for fertility, pregnancy, and contraception that ancient Egyptian midwives and women used.
Ancient Egyptian Quarrying
-Silphium, honey, and natron used for their contraceptive properties.
-Soak cotton in a paste of dates and acacia bark and insert into vagina.
-Acacia, carob, dates, all to be ground with honey and placed in the vagina.
-A woman should squat over a hot mixture of frankincense, oil, dates, and beer and allow the vapors to enter her.
-Emmer and barley seeds, the lady should moisten with her urine every day, like dates, and like sand in two bags. If they all grow, she will bear a child. If the barley grows it will be a male, if the emmer grows it will be a female, if neither grow she will not bear a child.
-Examine the blood vessels over the breasts. Smear the breasts, arms, and shoulders with new oil. Early in the morning if her blood vessels look fresh and good, bearing children will occur. If the vessels are green and dark, she will bear children late.
-Give a women milk from one who had already borne a male child mixed with melon puree. If it made the women sick she was pregnant.
-Place on the woman's abdomen a plaster of sea salt, emmer wheat, and rushes from the Nile River.
Contracting the Uterus:
-Mix the kheper-wer plant, honey, water of carob, and milk. Strain and place in the vagina.
Spells to Assist the Birth Process:
�Come down, placenta, come down! I am Horus who conjures in order that she who is giving birth becomes better than she was, as if she was already delivered...Look, Hathor will lay her hand on her with an amulet of health! I am Horus who saves her!� Repeat four times over a Bes-amulet, placed on the brow of the woman in labor.
�Make the heart of the deliverer strong, and keep alive the one that is coming.�
The calendar system of ancient Egypt is unique to both the cosmology of the Egyptians and their religion. Unlike the modern Julian calendar system, with it's 365 days to a year, the Egyptians followed a calendar system of 360 days, with three seasons, each made up of 4 months, with thirty days in each month. The seasons of the Egyptians corresponded with the cycles of the Nile, and were known as Inundation (pronounced akhet which lasted from June 21st to October 21st), Emergence (pronounced proyet which lasted from October 21st to February 21st), and Summer (pronounced shomu which lasted from February 21st to June 21st).
The beginning of the year, also called "the opening of the year", was marked by the emergence of the star Sirius, in the constellation of Canis Major. The constellation emerged roughly on June 21st., and was called "the going up of the goddess Sothis". The star was visible just before sunrise, and is still one of the brightest stars in the sky, located to the lower left of Orion and taking the form of the dogs nose in the constellation Canis Major.
Though the Egyptians did have a 360 day calendar, in a literal sense they did have a 365 day calendar system. The beginning of the year was marked by the addition of five additional days, known as "the yearly five days". These additional five days, were times of great feasting and celebration for the Egyptians, and it was not uncommon for the Egyptians to rituals, and other celebratory dealings on these days. The Egyptian calendar also took on other important functions within Egyptian life specifically in dealing with the astrology of the people.
The Ancient Egyptians had a limited knowledge of astronomy. Part of the reason for this is that their geometry was limited, and did not allow for complicated mathematical computations. Evidence of Ancient Egyptian disinterest in astronomy is also evident in the number of constellations recognized by Ancient Egyptians. At 1100 BC, Amenhope created a catalogue of the universe in which only five constellations are recognized. They also listed 36 groups of stars called decans. These decans allowed them to tell time at night because the decans will rise 40 minutes later each night. Theoretically, there were 18 decans, however, due to dusk and twilight only twelve were taken into account when reckoning time at night. Since winter is longer than summer the first and last decans were assigned longer hours. Tables to help make these computations have been found on the inside of coffin lids. The columns in the tables cover a year at ten day intervals. The decans are placed in the order in which they arise and in the next column, the second decan becomes the first and so on.
Astronomy was also used in positioning the pyramids. They are aligned very accurately, the eastern and western sides run almost due north and the southern and northern sides run almost due west. The pyramids were probably originally aligned by finding north or south, and then using the midpoint as east or west. This is because it is possible to find north and south by watching stars rise and set. However, the possible processes are all long and complicated. So after north and south were found, the Egyptians could look for a star that rose either due East or due West and then use that as a starting point rather than the North South starting point. This would result in the pyramids being more accurately aligned with the East and West, which they are, and all of the errors in alignment would run clockwise, which they do. This is because of precession of the poles which is very difficult to view, and the Ancient Egyptians did not know about. This theory is further substantiated by the fact that the star B Scorpii’s rising-directions match with the alignment of the pyramids on the dates at which they were built.
Ancient Egyptians also used astronomy in their calendars. There life revolved the annual flooding of the Nile. This resulted in three seasons, the flooding, the subsistence of the river, and harvesting. These seasons were divided into four lunar months. However, lunar months are not long enough to allow twelve to make a full year. This made the addition of a fifth month necessary. This was done by requiring the Sirius rise in the twelfth month because Sirius reappears around the time when the waters of the Nile flood. Whenever Sirius arose late in the twelfth month a thirteenth month was added. This calendar was fine for religious festivities, but when Egypt developed into a highly organized society, the calendar needed to be more precise. Someone realized that there are about 365 days in a year and proposed a calendar of twelve months with 30 days each, with five days added to the end of it. However, since a year is a few hours more than 365 days this new administrative calendar soon did not match the seasonal calendar.
Ancient Egyptian Quarrying
Women in Egypt were expected to marry around age twelve. Egyptian culture was Patrilineal and Patrilocal. Marriage was a secular activity and was regulated by custom rather than law. Instead of a marriage contract, men and women drew up property contracts at the time of marriage in the event of death or divorce. The woman then traveled to the home of her new husband.
In the home, women were responsible for the day-to-day operations and decisions. Women did (and needed to) have the same legal rights and status under the law as men who were gone from the home much of the time due to seasonal projects or warfare. The division of labor within a household evolved from environmental conditions. The men did very physical labor in the hot sun, and women labored inside or in the shade. Women attended to the household's gardens and orchards. There were no formal schools for girls, so mothers educated their daughters in the home. Women did attend professional schools, such as the school of medicine at Heliopolis and the woman's school at Sais, to learn to become doctors.
Women in Egypt were free to seek employment outside the home. Many women worked as musicians or dancers in the temples and during festivals. Wealthier households employed women as maids or nannies, and sometimes professional mourners for funerals. Women who had the time and resources would operate a small business out of their home, such as linen or perfume manufacturing. These activities could greatly increase household income, as these items were much in demand for funeral rights. Professional opportunities for women included physician or midwife, director of dance or singing troupes, and overseer. The women who became doctors mostly attended to other women as gynecologists. Their skills were such that they performed cesarean sections and surgically removed cancerous breasts.
Legal rights, responsibilities, and status were divided along class lines rather than gender lines. Within a given class, men and women had the same rights. Women were free to buy and sell property, enter and execute contracts, and file lawsuits. A woman could acquire possessions, property, and debt separate from her husband through labor or inheritance. A woman was entitled to inherit one third of their joint property on the death of her husband, the remaining estate was divided between the surviving children and siblings of the dead man.
Women were equally accountable under the law. A woman who was convicted of a capital crime in a court of law would be executed, but only after the court determined that the woman was not pregnant. If such a woman was found to be pregnant, her execution was stayed until she could give birth to the child. Then she was executed.
Ancient Egypt had games of all kinds, some for fun and entertainment and the others for fitness. Samples of these games have been found in drawings located in the tombs at Saqqara, plus many others. These pyramids were built nearly 2600b.c.e. and believe it or not we still play some of these games to this day. As well as pictures, board games have also been found in tombs from the same time period. Many of the fitness type games depicted in paintings are of common games such as hockey, which used long palm tree branches for sticks and a puck made from stuffed papyrus in between two pieces of leather. There are also pictures of various types of games that use handballs.
Various types of board games have been discovered such as Dogs and Jackals, Senet or Seega, and others such as 20-squares a similar type of game called 30 and 50 squares. Dogs and Jackals games and pieces have been found in tomb of Reny-Seneb. It’s board was made of wood, ebony and ivory and shaped like a piece of furniture and roughly measuring 15x10cm. It had 4 animal carved legs and the board was made of ivory with a palm tree carved into it with fifty five holes. There were drawers that held the ebony pawns that looked like a jackal and a dog’s head on a stick. Three coins were used to determine movements of the pieces on the board and the first person with all pieces at the end won the game.
Senet is another board game that has been found. One of these games was found in the tomb of Hesy along with painting of it and how to play. The rules of this game were very complex. It consisted of a board with 30 holes, 3 rows and 10 columns. Most of the games used 7 pawns, sticks or knucklebones for each of the two players but some only had 5. During the New Kingdom, the game of Senet had acquired a religious and magical meaning which symbolized the passage of the deceased through the netherworld with his resurrection dependant upon his/her ability to win the game. Since boards games of all quality have been discovered it is needless to say that the games were played by all classes of people in Ancient Egypt.
The typical Egyptian house had sparse furnishings by modern standards. Wood was quite scarce, so largefurniture items were not common. By far the most common pieces of furniture were small 3 and 4 leg stools and fly catchers. Stools have been found in common houses as well as in Pharaohs’ tombs. Other items of utilitarian furniture include clay ovens, jars, pots, plates, beds, oil lamps, and small boxes or chests for storing things.
The ever present stool was made from wood, and had a padded leather or woven rush seat. The stools’ 3 or 4 legs were very often carved to look like animal legs. Wealthy people had their stools and all furniture in general was richly decorated with gold or silver leaf. The more common people would have things painted to look more expensive than they were.
The Egyptian bed was a rectangular wooden frame with a mat of woven cords. Instead of using pillows, the Egyptians used a crescent-shaped headrest at one end of the bed. Cylindrical clay ovens were found in almost every kitchen, and the food was stored in large wheel-made clay pots and jars. For common people, food was eaten from clay plates, while the rich could afford bronze, silver, or gold plates. The ruling class also commonly had a throne chair with a square back inlaid with ebony and ivory. Almost everyone also had a chest for storing clothing and a small box for jewelry and cosmetics. Walls were painted, and leather wall hangings were also used. Floors were usually decorated with clay tiles.
For ancient Egyptians, appearance was an important issue. Appearance indicated a persons status, role in a society or political significance. Egyptian hairstyles and our hairstyles today have many things in common. Like modern hairstyles Egyptian hairstyles varied with age, gender and social status.
Children had unique hairstyles in ancient Egypt. Their hair was shaved off or cut short except for a long lock of hair left on the side of the head, the so-called side-lock of youth. This s-shaped lock was depicted by the hieroglyphic symbol of a child or youth. Both girls and boys wore this style until the onset of puberty. Young boys often shaved their heads, while young girls wore their hair in plaits or sometimes did up their hair in a ponytail style, hanging down the center of the back. Young girl dancers used to wear long thick braided ponytails. The edge of the tail was either naturally curled or was enhanced to do so. If the ponytail was not curled at the end, it was weighted down by adornments or metal discs.
Egyptian men typically wore their hair short, leaving their ears visible. Men often kept these hairstyles until their hair began to thin with advancing age. Another hairstyle for men was distinctive short curls covering the ears shaping a bend from temple to nape. It is doubtful that this hairstyle was natural. It was more likely a result of a process of hair curling that was done occasionally.
Women's hairstyles were more unique than those of men. Women generally preferred a smooth, close coiffure, a natural wave and long curl. Women in the Old Kingdom preferred to have short cuts or chin length bobs. However, women in the New Kingdom wore their hair long or touted a wig. Women tied and decorated their hair with flowers and linen ribbons. A stylized lotus blossom was the preferred adornment for the head. This developed into using coronets and diadems. Diadems made of gold, turquoise, garnet, and malachite beads were discovered on an ancient Egyptian body dating to 3200 BC. Poorer people used more simple and inexpensive ornaments of petals and berries to hold their hair at the back. Children decorated their hair with amulets of small fish, presumably to protect from the dangers of the Nile. Children sometimes used hair-rings or clasps. Egyptians wore headbands around their heads or held their hair in place with ivory and metal hairpins. Beads might be used to attach wigs or hair extensions in place.
Egyptians threaded gold tubes on each tress, or strung inlaid gold rosettes between vertical ribs of small beads to form full head covers. The also used combs, tweezers, shavers and hair curlers. Combs were either single or double sided combs and made from wood or bone. Some of them were very finely made with a long grip. Combs were found from early tomb goods, even from predynastic times. Egyptians shaved with a stone blade at first, later with a copper, and during the Middle Kingdom with a bronze razor.
Slaves and servants were not able to dress the same as Egyptian nobility. The way that they adorned their hair was quite different. Commonly, they tied their hair at the back of the head into a kind of loop. Another type of hairstyle was to tie it in eight or nine long plaits at the back of the head and to dangled them together at one side of the neck and face.
In ancient Egypt, men and women used to shave their heads bald replacing their natural hair with wigs. Egyptian women did not walk around showing their bald heads, they always wore the wigs. Head shaving had a number of benefits. First, removing their hair made it much more comfortable in the hot Egyptian climate. Second, it was easy to maintain a high degree of cleanliness avoiding danger of lice infestation. In addition, people wore wigs when their natural hair was gone due to old age. However, even though the Egyptians shaved their heads, they did not think the bald look was preferable to having hair.
Priests were required to keep their entire bodies cleanly shaved. They shaved every third day because they needed to avoid the danger of lice or any other uncleanness to conduct rituals. This is the reason why priests are illustrated bald-headed with no eyebrows or lashes.
There is evidence of influence from other cultures on Egyptian hairstyles. One example is the cultural union of the Roman Empire and the Egyptian empire. There is evidence of a female mummy wearing a typically Roman hairstyle yet the iconography on her death mask was plainly Egyptian. At Tell el-Daba in Egypt, there was a statue portrayed wearing a mushroom hairstyle that was typical of Asiatic males. There is a statue of young woman in the Ptolemaic periods exhibiting a typical Nubian hairstyle consisting of five small clumps of hair.
Wigs were very popular and worn by men, women and children. They were adorned both inside and outside of the house. Egyptians put on a new wig each day and wigs were greatly varied in styles. The primary function of the wig was as a headdress for special occasions, such as ceremonies and banquets.
Wigs were curled or sometimes made with a succession of plaits. Only queens or noble ladies could wear wigs of long hair separated into three parts, the so-called goddress. However, they were worn by commoners in later times. During the Old and Middle Kingdom, there were basically two kinds of wig styles; wigs made of short or long hair. The former was made of small curls arranged in horizontal lines lapping over each other resembling roof tiles. The forehead was partially visible and the ears and back of the neck were fully covered. Those small curls were either triangular or square. The hair could be cut straight across the forehead or cut rounded.
On the contrary, the hair from a long-haired wig hung down heavily from the top of the head to the shoulders forming a frame for the face. The hair was slightly waved and occasionally tresses were twisted into spirals. In the New Kingdom, people preferred wigs with several long tassel-ended tails, while shorter and simpler wigs became popular in the Amarna period.
Wigs were very expensive. People who could not afford to buy wigs had to use the cheaper hair extensions. Hair extensions were often preferred because they could be tied up in the back. Egyptians considered thicker hair as ideal, so hair extensions were also attached to the wigs to enhance ones appearance.
Wigs were meticulously cared for using emollients and oils made from vegetables or animal fats. Those wigs that were properly cared for lasted longer than those without proper care. Although Egyptians preferred to wear wigs and took care of them, they also did take care of their natural hair. Washing their hair regularly was a routine for Egyptians. However, it is not known how frequently Egyptians washed their hair. Wigs were scented with petals or piece of wood chips such as cinnamon. When wigs were not used, they were kept in special boxes on a stand or in special chests. When it was needed, it could be worn without tiresome combing. Wig boxes were found in tombs and the remnants of ancient wig factories have been located. Since it is believed that wigs were also needed for the afterlife, the dead were buried in the tombs with their wigs.
Wigs were usually made from human hair, sheep's wool or vegetable fibers. The more it looked like real hair, the more expensive it was and the more it was sought after. Wigs of high quality were made only from human hair, while wigs for the middle class were made with a mix of human hair and vegetable fibers. The cheapest wigs were made fully from vegetable fibers. Both wig making specialists and barbers made the wigs and wig making was considered to be a respectable profession. It was one of the jobs available to women. People cut or shaved their hair by themselves or went to the barbers. A barbershop scene is depicted in the tomb of Userhet at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, where young men are forming a waiting line, sitting on the folding chairs and tripods while the barber is working.
Egyptians used a material called henna (used for nails and lips, too) to dye their hair red. Scientific studies show that people used henna to conceal their gray hair from as early as 3400 BC. Henna is still used today. There is a body of evidence from paintings that depict the existence of people with red hair, such as the 18th Dynasty Hunutmehet. She had distinctive red hair mentioned by Grafton Smith.
Like today, ancient Egyptians were also facing the same problem of hair loss, and they wanted to maintain their youthful appearance as long as possible. There were many kinds of suggested remedies targeting primarily men. In 1150 BC, Egyptian men applied fats from ibex, lions, crocodiles, serpents, geese, and hippopotami to their scalps. The fat of cats and goats was also recommended. Chopped le
Chopped lettuce patches were used to smear the bald spots to encourage hair growth.
Ancient Egyptians also made use of something similar to modern aromatherapy. Fir oil, rosemary oil, (sweet) almond oil and castor oil were often used to stimulate hair growth. The seeds of fenugreek, that plant herbalists and pharmacologists still use today, was another remedy.
Ancient Egyptian Quarrying
The ancient Egyptian's diet consisted of a vast amount of grains, fish, vegetables, and fruits. They enjoyed beef and other red meats very much, but the common people could not afford them. The arid land made it very hard to raise grazing animals such as cows, therefore, beef was very expensive and only eaten at special banquets. The primary food of their diet was grain, because it could be used for many different purposes.
Grains offered an endless supply of food to the ancient Egyptians and could be stored with little spoiling. The grain raised in ancient Egypt was taken and stored in local community granaries. The grain could be used for making bread, pastries, and cakes. The process of turning the grain into usable flour was a long and daily process. The grain first had to be pounded, and then ground. The ground grain would be put into a simple mill that would refine the grain even more until it become the consistency of flour. Sour dough was often used in replacement of yeast, and even barm from the last brewing of beer would be used as a replacement. The breads would be flavored by adding honey, fruits, nuts, and oils to the dough before baking.
Fruits and vegetables were a major part of the Egyptian's diet. They could also be grown all year around because of the hot climate and irrigation. The vegetables grown included leeks, onions, garlic, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, radishes, and raphanus, a wild radish, to just name a few. Onions and garlic were a major part of their diet because they believed they were especially good for your health. Cabbage was considered to be a delicacy, boiled and eaten before the rest of the meal. Green vegetables were offen served with an oil and vinegar dressing to enhance the flavor. Few fruits could be grown in Egypt because of the hot arid climate, the most popular that did grow were grapes, figs, pomegranates, melons, and dates. Olives could not be grown and were imported for oil. The rich could have other fruits imported such as coconuts, peaches, cherries, and pears, but the common people barely saw these fruits. Some of the imported fruits did become a staple of the region, such as the apple and peach.
Fish, just like grain, was a part of most Egyptian's daily diet. Eating fish was shunned by some of the upper class Egyptians, and fish was never used as a grave offering. Throughout the history of ancient Egypt the eating of some fish was outlawed. Fish was served boiled, fried, roasted, or dried. Drying ws done by lying the meat in the sun, because this was the easiest way to preserve the food.
Meat was eaten by the common people only on special occasions, because of the high price and scarceness of cattle. The rich could afford to have meat with every meal, and did so. The different kinds of meat include beef, pork, geese, duck, various birds, sheep, and goats. Meat would be prepared in many different fashions like boiling for stew, roasting, salting, drying, and smoking.
Honey was a great addition to the Egyptians diet, used for many different applications. It was commonly used as a substitute for sugar, and would be added to different breads and cakes to enhance their sweetness. Honey was also used in many different medicines, because it was believed to have healing powers. The bee's wax was also used for mummification, medicines, ship building, and for other bonding purposes.
Making Beer in Ancient Egypt
Legend teaches that Osiris taught humans to brew beer. In keeping with this idea the Egyptians often used beer in religious ceremonies and as the meal-time beverage. Because of the prevalence of beer in the Egyptian life, many Egyptologists have studied beer residue from Egyptian vessels. For a very long time it was thought that the Egyptians made a crude beer by crumbling lightly baked, well-leavened bread into water. They then strained it out with a sieve into a vat and the water was allowed to ferment because of the yeast from the bread. It has been thought that the Egyptians flavored the beer with date juice or honey, because the straining method would not give much flavor.
Egyptian wine has an extensive history within the history of Egyptian civilization. Grapes were not native to the landscape of Egypt, rather the vines themselves are hypothesized to have been imported from the Phoenicians, though the actual origins remain in dispute. What is known, is that by the third millenium BC, Egyptian kings of the first dynasty had extensive wine cellars, and wine was used extensively in the temple ceremonies. The main consumption of wine in Egypt, took place between the king, nobles, and the priests in temple ceremonies, and is evidenced by numerous painted relief's, and other archeological evidence. The vineyards of ancient Egypt, were quite different from the modern methods of wine making today. As viticulture (or wine making), ceased to serve an exclusively ceremonial purpose, the Egyptians began to experiment with simple structures for their vines to train on, as well as found a way to train their vines so they were easy low maintenance bushes, and found ways for the soil to retain more moisture for the vines. Egyptian wine making experiments included the use of different wine presses, adding heat to the must (the grape juice ready for fermentation) in order to make the wine sweet, and differences in vat types and materials. The final finished product of wine, was poured through a cloth filter, and then into earthenware jars, where they would be sealed with natural tar and left to ferment. The Egyptians kept accurate records of their vintages, and quality of their wines, each jar of wine was clearly labeled with it's own vintage, and quality.
Making Beer in Ancient Egypt
In Ancient Egypt, women ground wheat into flour, the flour was then pounded by men to make a fine grain, and in some cases sesame seeds, honey, fruit, butter, and herbs were often added to the dough to help flavor the bread. However, it is a bit more complicated than that.
In the cultivation of grain, there were eight steps that the ancient farmer knew as well as he knew his own land. The cultivated land was ploughed with a wooden axe. Plowing may have been done with the aid of an animal, or exclusively by human strength. Sowing was done by hand, with the help of goats that walked over the newly sown fields to push the seeds out of the reach of birds looking for a quick meal. Once the grain was ready for harvesting, the fields would come to life with the harvesting process. Harvesting was done with sickles. The grain was bundled and carried on the back of donkeys to a safe and dry place to avoid spoilage. The grain was then put through the process known as threshing. It was spread in a contained area and trampled on by the hooves of donkeys. In the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, cows were often used in this process. This trampling process aided in the separation of the grain from the chaff. The next step was often depicted in the tomb paintings of ancient Egyptians. Often done by women, wooden forks were used to eliminate the light chaff and straw from the grain. Next, they would use sieves made from reeds and palm leaves to separate the longer chaff and weeds from the grain. The final step was to secure the crop of grain in bins until consumption. The ancient Egyptians were thorough in their cultivation of grain, the excess was used as export to neighboring nations. This proved to be a consistent economic push especially during times of Egyptian unrest; bread was still exported for profit.
Beer was a very popular beverage, made from bread, the staple food in the Egyptian diet. If there was a constant supply of bread, one could guess that there was a constant supply of beer. Along with the bread flakes the beer was made with barley. The barley was left to dry, and then baked into loaves of bread. The baked barley loaves were then broken into pieces and mixed with dried grain in a large jug of water and left to ferment. Wine was a drink that was produced by the Egyptians; however, it was usually found only at the tables of the wealthy. Considering the vast majority of Egyptians were not wealthy, a vast majority of Egyptians drank beer.
The bread also held a religious importance. While exploring Mentuhotep II's mortuary temple, archaeologist found a loaf of bread that was over 4000 years old. It was placed with other objects under the foundation of Mentuhotep II's temple in Western Thebes. The temple itself was believed to be a microcosm of the universe, and sitting in one of the four corners a piece of Ancient Egyptian bread. This symbolizes the important value of the dietary staple.
Contrary to popular belief, slaves did not build the pyramids. Rather, huge armies of paid workers built the ancient tombs that still stand today. These workers were paid in bread. Being the main staple of the Egyptian diet, � bread and grain were the means of payment for the workers who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, so bread was really as good as gold in ancient Egypt.�
Bread was also seen as a luxury item. For the peasant and common man, a mixture of flour and water was enough to get them through the day. For the Pharaoh and high priest, bread reflected their noble stature by adding honey, fruit and berries, and even sesame seeds.
Ancient Egyptian Quarrying
Fishing in ancient Egypt was for sport as well as for food and trade. The Nile constituted most of the fishing area for the Egyptians with an ample amount of fish. The Egyptian diet being based heavily on grains, fish were an easy source of protein for the peasant class. Some species were considered to be better than other species, such as the Nile Perch and Eel as they were considered sacred to the Nile. Other species eaten by the Egyptians were catfish, carp, mullets, tilapia, elephant-snout fish, tiger fish, and moonfish. The fish would be cleaned and prepared by either pickling, roasting, drying, or by boiling.
To catch the fish ,Egyptians used nets, traps or pens, hooks and harpoons. The hooks were simple line and hook format (later using more conventional rod and line format) in which the hook was usually made from bone. The size of the hooks ranged from eight millimeters to eighteen centimeters. By the 12th Dynasty, metal hooks began to replace bone, and barb and barb-less hooks were used. The use of nets and corralling fish was also done. There were dangers to the fisherman, the Nile crocodile could easily take fish off the lines and also make a quick meal out of any fisherman than fell over board from the canoes.
Fishing was a way for the Egyptians not only to get food but also to relax and enjoy a day by the river. Many tomb paintings show fisherman by the water catching fish and even lazily sitting in chairs by the river. Fish also played a role in temple offerings such as catfish at the temple of Amen.
Ancient Egyptian fisherman and modern day anglers have much in common, even though the technology has gotten better, the methods have stayed relatively the same. Anglers still catch fish for food and sport, the local supermarket sells fish in many of the same ways Egyptians prepared their fish for the market. Fish were a food source, a part of the economy, and a pastime for many young and old.
Ancient Egyptian Quarrying
Ancient Egypt was a paradise of many varieties of animals, including a diversity of birds, crocodiles of the Nile, hyenas, lions, leopards, gazelles, ostrich, and deer of the grassy savannahs. Ancient Egyptians used a variety of weapons on the hunt including, spears, arrows, throw-sticks, nets, and a boomerang type of weapon. Ancient Egyptians also used animals to hunt other animals, greyhound dogs were popular and tame cheetahs may have been used in the hunt. There is evidence that nobles and pharaohs kept wild animals and even tried breeding them. Queen Hatshepsut kept wild animals such as baboons, giraffes, cheetahs, and exotic birds imported from the land of Punt. King Akhenaten built a wild animal enclosure. This is the reason why animals unknown to the environment have been found in tomb paintings.
The first hunts in ancient Egypt were done on foot and close to home. After the first three dynasties extended their cultivated areas and drained the marshes, most of the larger game moved out of the area. Chariots were used after their introduction and were mainly used by the pharaoh. Pharaohs and nobleman were the only ones privileged enough to hunt large game. Since domestication of animals was occurring in ancient Egypt, hunting wild game was regarded as the sport of kings and dignitaries. The Pharaoh employed a master of the hunt along with an audience and a specialized group called beaters. The Pharaoh usually hunted gazelle, antelope, ibex, little ox, Barbary sheep, and ostriches. Although hyenas, lions, and leopards were hunted it was rare because it took a great amount of courage and skill to kill these beasts. Group hunting was common too; a mass amount of animals were killed with a volley of arrows or killed when vulnerable near a watering hole. Perhaps this was a form of commercial hunting. Hunters were familiar with the animals they hunted such as the food they ate, mating habits, and the diseases they carried ensuring a successful hunt. Ancient Egyptians were like the Native Americans in the sense that they both prayed to gods and spirits asking for safety and success of a hunt.
The peasants of ancient Egypt ate meat, but nowhere close to what the rich feasted on. The rich of ancient Egypt feasted on the most meat, simply because they were the ones hunting and they were the ones who could afford it. Peasants did hunt but it was usually geese, ducks, cranes, and quails that they ate. Both upper and lower classes ate beef, although the rich ate it frequently and the poor ate it only on festive holidays along with sheep and goats. Pork was eaten, but was looked down upon because it has an association with the evil god, Seth.
Hunting was an active sport in ancient Egypt, but large game whether it was imported or domestic was reserved for the upper class. The poor hunted but it was animals of lesser value. Hunting was entertainment for the pharaoh and nobles, but they also did consume the meat and kept the hides.